Hey Guys, just checking in to let you know that I’ve reignited my YouTube channel (feel free to Subscribe) – it’s certainly been a long time coming! As you are probably aware it’s been a difficult few weeks but we are mustering on as best as we can. For me that means putting my Dad on an uber strict cancer-fighting vegan diet that contains no sugar, virtually no wheat and gluten and placing a huge emphasis on wholefoods.
So far, it’s going well (despite the Hospital’s best efforts to feed him Beef Goulash and Tongue Salad… I kid you not!) and I’ve been able to adapt lots of my recipes from the ‘Keep it Vegan’ cookbook. For oil, I’ve been subbing out the sunflower for coconut and if I’m making a dressing, I opt for flaxseed oil due to it’s incredible omega containing qualities. It’s Alkaline all the way baby.
Obviously I’m not saying this is some kind miracle-cure but going by the enormous amount of research we been conducting over here in the Carlin household, diet, lifestyle and a positive outlook do play a huge part in staving off any further tumour growth. Stay tuned for more updates on the plan I will be drawing up for my Dad. We’re fighting this battle with food not fear and by golly we’re determined to win.
I like to think of this space as being a place for positivity. But seeing as it’s also a glimpse into my little world I can’t simply ignore events that are currently happening in my life – it would just be too weird for me to type away all chipper when the reality is quite the opposite. So, with that said, and as I sit in a hotel room in Belfast waiting for hospital visiting hours to come around again, it would only be fair for me to say that this is a bit of Debbie Downer post… you have been warned.
We all take our parents for granted, I’m sure, but none more so than me. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have had a Mum and Dad that have totally doted on me (and my Sister) and who’ve always supported me no matter what the crazy whim may have been. I had a pretty idyllic childhood and even as an adult have only ever experienced love, kindness and patience from them both. Whilst my Sister and myself no longer live at home we continue to be incredibly close and for that I am thankful – once a team, always a team.
Alongside taking their general parental presence for granted, I’ve probably taken their guaranteed health for granted even more. Perhaps it’s something we all avoid thinking about until we have no choice but to confront it, like the four of us did last Wednesday when my Dad took a turn at work. I won’t go into details but suffice to say his surgery went well and although we are just at the beginning of his recovery process we are all positive my he will be back to his usual self in no time at all.
That’s us you see. Positive to a fault. Especially my Dad. As many, many, many people will attribute he’s a pretty special person and a bit of a legend in our little town of Derry – just try walking down any given street with him and he’s sure to be stopped at least a dozen times. ‘Liked’ doesn’t even begin to cover it. Not only that but from our own close, first-hand experience we can honestly say he is the most selfless man we know…. always asking about others – even when he’s just out of major surgery. For real.
So, yes. It’s been a tough week. Emotions have run high and we’re all still in a state of shock but we know we will get there in good time. I may have created a new home with my Husband in Cornwall but I also know that I will always have a home here in Derry with my parents and Sister… it’s a bond that will never be broken.
I’ll leave you then with a few glimpses of our new home in Mousehole (it’s not quite there decoratively speaking but we like it) just because my Dad was so excited to be visiting (they were due to holiday with us until all this craziness kicked off). I know it won’t be long before he’s sitting by that harbour watching the boats bob up and down just like we had planned, and when it eventually happens it definitely will be all the sweeter.
Prunes are not the prettiest or indeed tastiest of ingredients. I can just about handle two in one sitting, which got me thinking about how I could transform this usually dull little morsel into something slightly more exciting. Now, I think there’s still a ways to go with this recipe because I find they really aren’t as sweet as I would like so perhaps next time I’ll use some raisins or dates as well. With that said, I really enjoyed the seriously sticky texture and the walnuts were the perfect pairing too.
Of course, I had to throw in a few added extras and even though it’s summer I went a wee bit wintry with my allspice and orange flavourings. A little strange for July but it worked. I upped the nutritional ante by chucking in a heaped tablespoon of hemp powder… well, why not, eh? I’m so delighted to have a mini-chopper again because I just love to have a batch of raw balls handy at all times – saves me from reaching for the chocolate. Just don’t do what I did and leave the remaining few uncovered next to some chopped peppers… that’s some funky flavour tranfusion you do not want to experience.
what you’ll need
120g prunes (about 1/2 cup)
75g walnuts (plus another 40g for coating)
1 tbsp hemp powder
1 tsp allspice (plus another 1/4 tsp for coating)
1 tsp orange extract
what you’ll do
put all the ingredients into a mini-chopper and mix until it form one solid clump, ensuring there are no bits.
turn out onto a clean chopping board, tear off teaspoon sized amounts and roll into balls.
put the remaining walnuts and allspice into the chopper and blitz. transfer to a plate. roll each ball in the chopped nut mixture not being afraid to press down slightly so it fully adheres.
keep in an airtight container in the fridge.
I’ve been wanting to shoot a little blog post in our teeny tiny patio since we moved in. Granted there’s not much to it but I simply adore the pretty arch and painted gate, and it’s just the right size for us – to be honest having any sort of outside space is a like a little piece of heaven after our garden-free London life. Not only do we have this patio but our spare bedroom also boasts a pretty sizeable balcony that probably should be used for sunbathing or something but truthfully it gets a bit too hot up there for my liking so I tend to stay downstairs.
These palazzo pants (a recent charity shop score) are a perfect manifestation of my current floral obsession – although this is the first time I’ve actually worn them. I’ve had a penchant for wide-leg trousers for years so I was thrilled to nab a pair that were able to fulfill both my need for comfort and flamboyance… even though I tried to counteract the crazy with some chambray.
The weather’s been a wee bit haywire over the last week so today was the first chance I’ve had to don these badboys – and may I say, they were the perfect option to wear to lunch… even after a hefty midday meal I had plenty of room to breath. I know I’m sporting yet another denim shirt but am I the only one who’s building a serious collection? It’s a problem that shows no sign of stopping – not that i’m complaining.
what i’m wearing… trousers, shirt and shoes/New Look … belt/vintage … jewellery/various
Afterwards, I realised that even though I’d bought the garments in separate places including ASOS they’re actually all the same brand (New Look) – unusual for me, but I guess I’m liking their collection at the moment. Not to worry though, our local vintage store has a pretty good selection right now that is bound to reset the equilibrium in my wardrobe.
I wrote a book. That’s a surreal sentence for me to be typing. Even though I had always hoped my recipes would be published, I could never have imagine how quickly that dream would become a reality… and certainly not with such an awesome publisher. Now that it’s here and I’m holding it in my hands it still hasn’t fully sunk in. I wrote that? And that’s my mug on the cover? Seriously crazy stuff.
Anyway, I thought I’d give you a bit of sneak peek of what to expect from ‘Keep it Vegan’ (that’s the title and trust me when I tell you we went through many options before deciding on that one) - I’ve obscured the actual recipes but you can get a good idea of the style, content and layout of the book, which features everything from one pot wonders to something a little more special. There are several raw recipes, as well as full on sugar-fest ones… an out-and-out health book this is not but there are still plenty of ‘healthy’ dishes in there too.
A handful have been featured here on the blog but have been updated and improved, however, most are ones you will not have come across before – although they have been staples in my kitchen for a very long while. There are oodles of brand new ‘created specifically for the book’ recipes that I am as excited about making again as I hope you are. Yes, there are several salads but even more wholesome fodder such as soups and stews, as well as a whole section on breakfast and brunch… possibly my favourite meal of the day!
I like to think of this book as an introduction to Veganism (although there will be plenty to interest the seasoned vegan too) because I felt I had to start at the beginning of my own vegan journey and work my way from there. In it, I’ll take you through my story and offer up tips I wish I had known way back when, as well as keeping a simplicity to the dishes whilst also packing them full of flavour.
What I will say is that this book is a labour of love and one I toiled over for many months with lots of incredible support from Kyle Books. I honestly can’t wait to share it with you guys when it’s released in August but in the meantime if you’d like to pre-order a copy you can do so now on Amazon. I’ll be promoting the book all over Europe in the coming months and once it’s released in the States in February next year I’ll be heading over there for a small promotional tour too… fingers crossed.
This whole process has been one of the biggest learning curves of my life but it has also confirmed in my own mind that food is my future – and for me that is beyond exciting. I’m already thinking of the next book (it’s how my head works) and have a whole heap of new recipes lined up, ready to be put into print. For now though, I’m delighted to be debuting ‘Keep it Vegan’ and really hope that it floats your boat. Thanks, as ever, for being such loyal, wonderful readers because really I owe pretty much all of this to you. Mwah!
I hummed and hawed about this post because it’s essentially a banana bread gone wrong. So eager was I to wrap my greedy lips around a slice of sweet, fruit-filled bread I boshed it together in mere minutes before popping in the oven only to realise several minutes later that in my hunger induced haste I’d forgotten to add the damn oil. Now I’m sure there are many of you who will probably be glad of this mishap – after all, less oil means less fat and a marginally healthier slice of sugar-coated bread…. wait – but I happen to be one of those people who will, on occasion, sacrifice ‘health’ for taste. I’ll just try to ensure I make better choices elsewhere to make up for it.
Anywho, it also dawned on me that maybe the real reason behind me not wanting to publish this recipe lies in the unobtainable realms of perfection. In my eyes the recipe was flawed, the images too and not far behind it was my continually wavering confidence that often has me thinking ‘why bother, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other bloggers out there who do what I do better?’. And here’s when I had my (I exaggerate) epiphany. Accidents will happen. Accidents do happen. But sometimes you come out the other side a little wiser and little less hard on yourself. Making the occasional mistake doesn’t define who you are any more (or less) than a blog does – and why should I curate this space (or any of my other social media outlets) to the extent where you don’t see all the bad bits too?
Thankfully, as I get older though I’m becoming more and more comfortable with all those flaws, and I’ve actually grown to, dare I say, like them – and I’m not just talking about recipe mishaps here either. An interesting article I read in the recent issue of Darling talks about how we are living in the age of narcissism. We’re constantly presenting a version of ourselves to the world, hoping to get some validation in return… ‘how many likes did I get? how many followers do I have? etc etc. I’m as guilty as the next girl of becoming consumed with myself and truthfully it’s suffocating and kind of horrible. So why do we do it? It’s like masochism on a daily basis and I for one am officially out. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to blog or stop posting pictures on Instagram but I want to do it because it pleases me to have a place to collect memories, thoughts and inspiration – not because I want other people to ‘like’ it and therefore ‘like’ me.
So yes, this banana bread might be lacking in the oil department but even still it was an unexpected triumph. Terrific texture, perfectly moist and packed full of flavour – the glaze wasn’t half bad either. Y’see?! Things we might initially view as failings can sometimes turn out to be a surprising (and tasty) winner – perhaps I need to apply this logic to the rest of my life too.
what you’ll need
200g wholewheat flour
100g rye flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 ripe bananas
175ml coconut milk (or alternatively add 125ml coconut milk and 50ml sunflower oil)
for the glaze
100g confectioners/powdered sugar
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp coconut milk
what you’ll do
pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius/390 fahrenheit
mix the flours, baking powder and bicarb in a large bowl. mash the banana in a separate bowl and whisk in the sugar, extract and coconut milk.
make a well in the centre of the flour and add the banana mixture. gently fold before transfering the thick batter into a greased loaf tin. bake for 30-40 minutes.
allow the bread to cool for several minute before turning out onto a cooling rack.
whisk the powdered sugar, coconut milk and maple syrup together until smooth. brush over the top of the bread whilst it’s still warm. finish with a final dusting of crushed pistachios.
When we left London around this time last year we had an image in mind of our ideal existence. It mostly involved the ocean – being near it, in it, waking up to it, and generally hanging out by it. Like when we had first attempted to make a go of our (semi-successful) Cornish reloaction several years back we imagined we’d slip immediately back into a routine that involved beach bbq’s, snorkelling, surfing and the odd bit of work (well, we have to eat y’know!) but that didn’t exactly happen off the bat. What surprised us most was how much we’d initially struggle to get into the swing of things and honestly it all became a bit overwhelming at times. There were frequent meltdowns (me mostly) and that nagging feeling that you (meaning ‘we’) may have made a horrible ill-timed mistake – were we mad to leave London just when our careers were about to figuratively take off? I mean, who does that?! I seriously began to question why we’d spent over a decade in the capital just to throw it all away right at the moment it began to get easier.
Fast forward almost a year on and we couldn’t be further from where we began our (in hindsight, ambitious) Cornish dream – all that fretting seems like a distant memory, as I sit here typing up this post at our haven in beautiful Mousehole. So much has happened since we’ve moved here I almost feel like a different person to the gal who left London all those months ago. I’ve bagged a cookbook deal, got to grips with a freelance writing career and made a home – all whilst my partner in life and crime set up the business that will hopefully sustain us for at least a few years, if not the rest of our lives.
Of course, there are busier times ahead for me too – exciting projects in the offing (and maybe Motherhood) but truthfully my main priority is simply to be happy, and nothing makes me happier than being here with my Husband and stripping things right back to basics. With this in mind we’re attempting to maintain a fairly minimalist living space, which essentially means clearing out all that unused, unwanted, unnecessary stuff that sits there cluttering your house and mind. I want rid of it. It’s a tedious process but we’re getting there, and that includes paring back my wardrobe too – because truthfully, all I really need is a handful of casual threads and a beach-friendly bag to throw all my gubbins in (cue jelly bag introduction) and I’m good to go.
This weekend cemented so many things that were just on the cusp of falling into place, i.e. it’s the simple life we’re after and it’s the simple life we shall get – which also ties in nicely with my style philosophy too… only keep/wear the things that enhance your mood – not because they’re ‘on trend’ but because they say something about you and make you happy. For me that means mixing loved ‘n’ worn garments that have a special place in my heart (this cover-up reminds me of long days lounging on the beach in Goa) or new pieces that feel like they’ve been a part of your collection forever – like this coral jelly bag that has basically already usurped everything else in my ever diminishing wardrobe. Because I try to extend my vegan philosophy to all areas of my life I loathe the idea of waste, which is why the notion of trends kinda repels me. However, sometimes the universe aligns and you end up with something that happens to be ‘happening’ but will also outlast the current wave of ‘what’s in’ paraphernalia to become a classic – again. This jelly bag is a perfect example. It’s bang on trend right now, smacks of 80′s nostalgia, but better than that will quickly become a mainstay for years to to come – and knowing it’s completely recyclable is an added bonus that increases it’s appeal ten fold. You probably don’t need Sherlock Holmes-style detection skills to deduce that I’m a tad, if not completely, obsessed.
Clearly there’ll always be a place for fashion in my life but being able to pack a picnic, don a bikini and head to our happy place (the beach) is really reward enough for all those years of stressful city living that wore us down to the point where we didn’t even recognise ourselves. It wasn’t until I finally got my head sorted down here that I realise how skewed my perspective had been for so long. What exactly was I striving for? Money? Notoriety? Success? Pffffttt, you can categorically have ‘em. Meanwhile you’ll find me with my toes in the sand, sun on my face and looking out to the horizon on a gloriously tropical Cornish summer’s day. Care to join me?
I had wholly intended to post this on Friday but then the sun came out and the last thing I wanted to be doing was sitting at home tapping on a keyboard. So, a little late maybe but delicious none the less – I am a sucker for a good risotto and this one definitely hits the spot. If you can’t tell already my demeanour has shifted significantly over the last few weeks… more frequent blogging generally means a more content me, and for that I have Mousehole to thank. I also seem to cook better and generally have more of an appetite for life when I’m happy, and there’s very little that this little house of ours (and it’s insanely beautiful) location can’t cure. With that said then, this is a very cheery risotto from a very cheery gal who can’t quite believe her current luck.
what you’ll need
1/2 cup or approx 200g risotto rice
1 small onion
3 garlic cloves
4 sundried tomatoes
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1/2 cup or approx 200g risotto rice
1 litre vegetable stock
60ml soya (or other plant) cream
3 asparagus spears
salt and pepper
olive oil and extra virgin olive oil
what you’ll do
heat a little oil in a large skillet. bring a large pan of water to boil, add the vegetable stock and reduce to barely a simmer.
finely chop the onion and add to the skillet, along with a little salt and pepper. sweat until soft. dice the courgette and add to pan and cook until just beginning to soften. mince the garlic cloves and add to pan, season and sweat for several minutes until the garlic begins to exude an aroma.
stir in the risotto rice and let it absorb the flavours for a minute or two before ladelling in the stock, just covering the rice. simmer gently until the stock is completely absorbed before ladelling in more, stirring frequently. you may not need to use the full litre so remember to taste your rice once it begins to look plump – it should be al dente in texture.
roughly chop the sundried tomatoes and add to the pan along with the chilli flakes. pour in the soya cream and stir through. check for seasoning and allow the cream to heat through before serving.
for the asparpagus spear simply coat them in extra virgin olive oil and seasoning. griddle for around 10mins on a heated griddle pan. serve on top of the risotto before finishing with a final drizzle of evoo and a smidge more sea salt.
When it comes to scones I’m a traditionalist through and through. Tea time is a big thing here in Blightly and indeed the wee place I hail from… Ireland. In fact, I read somewhere once that us Irish consume more tea than the UK combined. It wouldn’t surprise me… ‘ah, go on, go on’ – any Father Ted fans out there? I digress.
So, yes. Tea time and indeed its traditional afternoon counterpart (the humble scone) are something I am all too familiar with. Coming from a time when Home Economics was treated as an actual subject I can remember the very first thing I ever made and unsurprisingly it was the almost fail safe scone – pronounced ‘sc-ON’ not ‘sc-OWN’ where I come from although the ingredients and method are exactly the same.
Once mastering this simple skill (as most school children no doubt did) I then went on to make a habit of surprising my parents with the occasional impromptu tea and scone treat when they came home from a hard days work. They made all the right noises at the time but I’m sure the last thing they really wanted before their evening meal was a stick-to-yer-ribs scone… what can I say, I was and continue to be a ‘feeder’.
These vegan wholemeal scones aren’t a world away from those straightforward semi-sweet breads of my childhood – just subtle enough to take a heap load of sugary jam and maybe even a generous smear of ‘butter’. And, as a side note, I’m afraid the only add-in I can approve of in this instance is a handful or two of sultanas – but only in the plain flour sort mind, so don’t go throwing ‘em in here. The texture will, of course, be slightly different due to the wholemeal addition but in the best possible way… and easier on the digestion system too. Yep, there’s a spoonful or two of sugar and perhaps a slightly unusual splash of vanilla extract but crucially not enough to affect the taste, just lift the flavour a little and give it a bit of a boost.
The buttermilk bit, in case you are confused, is all down to the cider vinegar but you could easily add a little lemon juice instead. The result is a substantial yet ‘springy scone’ that possesses the perfect balance of bite and crumble (crucial in my humble opinion) making this a bit of a game changer for me – my afternoon tea’s may never be the same again.
what you’ll need
200g wholemeal flour
100g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 tbsp sugar
85g cold vegan margarine/butter
175g soya milk
1 tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
what you’ll do
pre-heat the oven the 220 degrees celsius/420 fahrenheit.
pour the soya milk (or other suitable plant milk) in a jug and add the cider vinegar and vanilla extract – set aside to curdle.
place the flours in a large mixing bowl along with the baking powder, bicarb, salt and sugar. gently incorporate.
lightly rub the butter through the flour mix using your fingertips until combined. make a well in the centre and add the soya milk mix. quickly incorporate using a metal spoon until it just comes together – the mixture will be quite wet.
generously flour a surface and your hands and turn the dough out onto it. very lightly knead the dough (turning it only several times) and flatten into approximate oval shape about 4cm thick. flour your scone cutter and depending on what size you prefer press out as many scone shapes as possible before reshaping the dough and repeating until all or most of the dough is used.
dust each scone with flour before baking for 10-15mins, depending on your oven – I baked mine for exactly 14minutes. transfer to a cooling rack and once cool slice and serve with butter (or vegan clotted cream) and a dollop of jam… oh, and don’t forget the tea!
I can’t quite decide whether I’m currently in a ‘style rut’ or developing what is most commonly referred to as ‘a signature look’. Whilst I seem to be acquiring jeans and shirts at the rate of knots these days (I promise these are different black jeans to the ones featured in my last ‘style post’) i’m still unequivocally drawn to quirky retro pieces too… it seems vintage is in my DNA – like a moth to the flame, as they say.
Take yesterday for example. There I was happily going about my daily errands in town when, whoops, all hell breaks loose in every charity shop in the vicinity – the ‘hell’ being my penchant for thrifting and the ‘loose’ being the seemingly slack reign I have on this terrible affliction/addiction. That’s not to say I don’t go through periods where the last thing I want to do is shop but there’s always that devil on my shoulder whispering sweet secondhand nothings in my ear – after all, today could be the day I chance upon that perfect pair of high waisted trews or sweet 60′s summer dress I’ve been searching for forever.
Anyway, needless to say, I didn’t chance upon that sixties dress nor indeed the perfect high waisted pants but the awesome vintage ‘Aquascutum’ midi skirt, summery pantaloons and double vinyl score (mint condition Doris Day and Judy Garland) more than made up for it – oh, and how could I forget the delightful Laura Ashley straw hat I nabbed that was practically made for those imminent summery strolls.
Truth be told, because of the samey nature of this outfit and my last offering I was a little loathed to even press publish. But! This blog is supposed to be a glimpse into my life and this somewhat uniformic ensemble is pretty much what you’ll find me in these days – simply swap the shirt for a Breton top and that’s essentially my daily attire. I have, however, been getting back into my headscarves in a major way (I have so many now it’s almost a crime not to wear ‘em) and this one is a new favourite – the subtle dusky pink hues are the perfect casual daytime option especially when the sun’s not shining. I needn’t have bothered bringing the chunky knit though because whilst the sky was somewhat overcast, it was a wonderfully humid evening – indicative of these parts but not something I’m yet used to, and so the cardigan always comes in tow.
And so, here we are then with a ‘same but different’ outfit to mull over. Not exactly awe-inspiring but one that neatly sums up my current state of mind… content and decidedly uncomplicated. Part of that mood is letting the little things wash over me (I refuse to get irate at silly nothings) and relishing in the world we are building for ourselves down here (it’s official, I’m head-over-heels in love with Mousehole). Of course, the pressures of life are never too far away but so far we are becoming pretty expert at appreciating everything we do have as well as cultivating an environment that isn’t reliant on anything other than the love and respect we have for each other. Add friends, family and a beautiful home, and that’s all that really matters. Well, that and foraging for bargains in Barnardos.