Eggplant Involtini

 

Every writer should have a desk. Having a designated space to spout ones thoughts would (and should… and hopefully will be) paramount to producing great work – right? It’s rather odd then that I’m only just getting around to buying one myself, which has made for some rather uninspiring make-shift work spaces in the past – the dining room table and sofa are often akin to an office but not having any real separation from work and relaxation has begun to take its toll. So, once we’d decided to tackle the spare room I knew we had to incorporate a little area for me to tap away … away from our living area. Being someone who is easily distracted having easy access to the telly, my vinyl collection, and most significantly, the kitchen, can frequently spell ‘where did the day go’ disaster so this new set-up is my way of ensuring I get more constructive work done during the day. Here goes!

 


 

what you’ll need

3 large eggplants (aubergines)

1 cup couscous

1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp allspice

pinch cayenne pepper

1 lemon

30g bunch flat leaf parsley

extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

 

for the sauce

1 x 400g plum tomatoes

2 garlic cloves

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

1/2 tsp brown sugar

salt and pepper

 

pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius/350 fahrenheit.

 

heat a griddle pan and brush lightly with olive oil. slice the aubergines lengthways and brush each side with oil. griddle each slice for several minutes on each side until marked. set aside until needed.

 

bring a large kettle of water to the boil. add the spices to the couscous along with a little salt and a quarter of a lemon. pour over the boiling water, stir, cover and set aside until all the water is absorbed. once absorbed, remove the lemon with a fork, squeeze over any excess juice and fluff with a fork. lightly toast the pine nuts in a dry pan, shaking it periodically. stir the pine nuts and finely chopped flat leaf parsley through the couscous, squeeze over the juice from the remaining lemon along with a drizzle of olive oil and a touch more seasoning.

 

place all the ingredients for the tomato sauce along with a 1/2 cup of water into a blender (I use a Froothie Optimum 9400) and blend until smooth. pour about a quarter of the sauce into the bottom of a deep baking dish and tilt until the entire surface area is coated.

 

place the griddled aubergine on a chopping board and distribute about a tablespoon of the couscous mixture over the entire slice. carefully roll and place in the baking dish. repeat until all the eggplant slices have been used. if there’s any leftover couscous, toss some of it over the aubergine rolls prior to adding the top layer of sauce. I also like to reserve a little couscous for serving too.

 

pour the remainder of the tomato sauce over the eggplant rolls, cover and bake in the pre-heated oven for around 30minutes before removing the foil and baking for a further 10 or so minutes.

 

serve with the leftover couscous and top with rocket (arugula)… finish with a drizzle of olive oil, a smattering of nooch and a few chilli flakes.

 

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Cruelty Free Beauty Finds

 

Cruelty free beauty is on the up and up friends. Big brands are slowly but surely seeing the light and  following suit when it comes to phasing out animal testing and I could not be more delighted. As a self-confessed beauty junkie myself I want to be able to buy the latest foundation without having to worry about the process its gone through before I smear it all over my face but for us vegans that privilege can often come with a hefty price-tag. Of course, my often meagre budget means that those expensive purchases are few and far between so I’m always seeking out more affordable options such as Superdrug and Soap & Glory. Not that I’m complaining mind because these wallet friendly items happens to be pretty wonderful anyway so I thought I’d share a few of my current favs…

 

1. Superdrug are currently stocking a brilliant range of products that mimic what all the top beauty brands are doing… the B-Pure Micellar Water I bought recently is along the sames lines as that well regarded fashion-pack fav Bioderma and in my opinion is a 3-in-1 miracle worker. The fact they label everything clearly (BUAV symbol – check!  ’Suitable for Vegetarians and Vegans’ – check and check!) ensures shopping there is an absolute pleasure.

 

Also from the B-Confident range is the Colour Correction Cream, which has an added SPF 45… essential for pale skinned peeps like myself who worry about exposing their face to the sun. Like many over-30s my skin tone is a little more uneven so this make-up bag addition has become something of a ‘must-have’. I put it under my foundation but you could easily use it on its own – kind of like a tinted moisturizer. I recommend it for a smooth finish and it’s very reasonably priced too so what’s not to like?

 

A not-so-new discovery is their own-brand make-up line but it’s still the most exciting for me. I could spend hours browsing the small but perfectly formed range (and I could list a dozen more items I’m currently coveting) with the All Lengthening Defining Mascara (basically clump-free, lengthening, easy-to-apply awesomeness) and B-Defined  Eyebrow Kit (didn’t actually realise how much I needed this!) possibly being the best. Even though my brows are pretty dark this little kit helps me reign in their unruliness, and i’ve become increasingly reliant on it for finishing off my look.

 

Oh, and how could I forget the BB 5-in-1 Eye Cream. Ideal for covering up those dark circles whilst looking completely natural too, I also love the application brush although it will require some further blending – I just use my fingers for this – before applying your foundation. I’m pretty fussy when it comes to concealers and this rates pretty well alongside more expensive brands – not bad for a budget purchase, eh?

 

And yes, I know I’ve banged on about Superdrug a dozen times before so consider this simply a reiteration of my love for this wonderful high street store. Nice one Superdrug, keep doin’ what yer doin’.

 

 

2. Soap & Glory have come a long way since I first discovered them when it comes to providing information. I remember clearly having to send emails regarding individual products and it was a lengthy, laborious process waiting on the response. Thankfully now they have a handy list on their website, which lists all the vegan friendly options and this 3-in-1 Face Soap and Clarity Facial Wash is one of them. I’d been wanting to try a new face wash for a while now and the little beads that are dispersed throughout are gentle enough to scrub away any deep seated dirt without being too abrasive on the skin. One word. Love.

 

3. Okay, so now let me remind you of a brand I have given a mention to on the blog (or was it just my vlog?) before but you may have forgotten about. Pure Nuff Stuff is a brilliant little homegrown company based right here in Penzance that utilizes all natural ingredients. I was in desperate need of a rich body moisturizer that could combat my ‘prone to dryness’ skin and so far it has exceeded all expectations. The lady in the store was incredibly attentive and was very excited to tell me she was in communication with a new vegan website (didn’t catch the name unfortunately) that will be featuring their fantastic ‘almost completely vegan’ range very soon. Having opted for the fragrance-free Shea Souffle option I wanted to give it a couple of weeks before offering up my official verdict but I can now emphatically award it a double thumbs up. I was initially a wee bit concerned when I realised how incredibly thick it was, however, I needn’t have worried because it melts into the skin like a dream and keeps it hydrated right through to the next morning – and can I just say I adore the little jar it comes in too… #justsayin

 

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Gluten Free Red Currant Bundt Cake with a Coconut Glaze

 

Well it looks like the Summer is well and truly behind us and we are now being fast forwarded into all things autumnal. Whilst I’m still rocking around in cotton skirts my thoughts have suddenly turned to stews and baked goods… and yes, maybe even pumpkins. This cake (as with most of my recipes) is a concoction of ingredients I happened to have around but I think it’s already become a firm favourite – i.e. it has the Husband stamp of approval.

 

I knew I wanted to keep it refined sugar-free. Not because I’m anti-sugar (I’m happy to consume a little of the hard  stuff now and again) but because the recent feedback I’ve been getting regarding the book is that you all love the recipes that are refined-sugar and gluten free. And so, being the helpful gal I am, I thought I’d endeavour to keep this cake as ‘healthy’ as possible – although let’s face it, no cake will ever be entirely healthy.

 

You might have noticed by now that I’m a wee bit obsessed with gram flour. I just love the texture (once cooked!) because holy heck that chickpea batter tastes somethin’ funky raw. Warning!!! Never, EVER be tempted to lick that bowl – trust me, i’ve tried and regretted it one too many times. Once baked though it magically transforms into the most gloriously moist cake with the perfect amount of crumb. The coconut glaze is the perfect compliment to the tangy redcurrants and is the first time I’ve been able to achieve the desired consistency without resorting to refined sugar. Yup, this one will definitely be getting made again.

 


 

what you’ll need

2 cups gram flour

1/2 ground almonds

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 bicarbonate of soda

2 tbsp coconut oil, melted

1/3 cup plain soya (or coconut) yoghurt

1/3 cup coconut milk

2/3 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup agave

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups red currants

 

for the glaze

1 heaped tbsp coconut oil

1/4 cup coconut milk

1/4 cup desiccated coconut

2 tbsp agave

1 tbsp cornflour

 

what you’ll do

pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celcius/350 degress fahrenheit.

 

combine the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl.

 

whisk together the yoghurt, milk, coconut oil, vanilla extract and sweeteners.

 

make a well in the flour and pour in the wet ingredients. fold gently until the ingredients are thoroughly combined before stirring through around half of the redcurrants – leaving the remainder on the stalk for presentation purposes.

 

grease your bundt tin with a little coconut oil. pour the batter into the tin and bake for around 30mins.

 

allow it to cool for around 10mins before removing from the tin and transferring to a cooling rack.

 

meanwhile, whisk all the glaze ingredients together in a pan and simmer until reduced and reasonably thick. let it cool a little before spooning around the top of the cake, allowing some of it to strategically run down the sides. leave it to cool further for around 5-10minutes before adorning with the remaining red currants.

 

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Make-do Macadamia Cream Pie

 

I can’t quite believe we’re a fortnight into September – where exactly did the summer go? Truthfully though I adore this time of year in Cornwall, as the tourist season is dying down and the county returns to its usual quiet self. There’s still a little buzz in the air, which makes evenings out in St.Ives or long walks on the beach all the more pleasurable… and lucky for us the weather is still delightful. It’s almost as if we get a sneaky extra bit of summer just before autumn properly hits – it’s nearly pumpkin time folks!!

 

I have so many recipe ideas whirring about my head at the moment but even still my blogging has taken something of an unexpected backseat – book launches and the all the excitement that surrounds them will do that. Of course, there’s another reason I can’t quite get myself into proper blogging mode again although my Dad’s illness really shouldn’t be used as an excuse for my lack of productivity of late but it’s certainly a factor.

 

Progress has been made and there is always light at the end of the tunnel but the realisation that things will never be the same again is a hard pill to swallow. At times it’s difficult not to dwell so instead I’m trying to counteract any negative thoughts with pro-active recipe making in the form of healthy, raw treats that will satiate the sweet tooth my darling Pa possesses without feeding that nasty tumour. I’ve never worked with macadamias much but had heard of their pie perfect demeanour, once soaked and blended until smooth. Plus, I was positively bursting to try out my new froothie and it definitely didn’t disappoint … also, I may have fallen in love with the curved spatula that accompanies it, which is the perfect tool to scoop out any food stuffs that may get trapped under the blades.

 

I’ve called it ‘make-do’ macadamia cream pie because I had to ‘make-do’ with just one cups worth of nuts, so I will say up-front that it could have, maybe, possibly have benefited from two, however, it’s certainly wasn’t a deal clincher. What surprised me most was the fluffy cloud-like texture of the blended nuts, which was really very different to the cashew cream I am used to … my Husband was also loving its light and fluffy credentials and practically ate the pie single handedly – er, I think we have a macadamia convert on our hands.

 

Now, on instagram I described this pie as ‘perfectly lovely’ and pondered as to whether every recipe had to be mind-blowingly, life-changingly awesome. Well, does it? I don’t know about you but I think I’m fine with some recipes merely being ‘perfectly lovely’ – even if the interweb would have you believe otherwise. Maybe then this recipe is a reflection of my current state of mind, which is all about embracing things (life, food, all the important stuff) for what they are and not what they could be … just like a ‘perfectly lovely’ pie.

 


 

for the macadamia cream filling

1 cup soaked macadamias

1 tbsp coconut oil

1/4 cup coconut water

juice 1 lime

1/4 cup agave syrup

 

for the hazelnut crust

1 cup hazelnuts (plus 1/4 cup more for the topping)

3/4 medjool dates

 

for the blueberry compote

1 cup blueberries

juice 1/2 lime

2 tbsp maple syrup

 

what you’ll do

start with the compote by blending the blueberries, lime juice and maple syrup until smooth. press through a fine mesh sieve and refrigerate until needed.

 

make the crust by blitzing together the hazelnuts and dates (remember to remove the stones!) until it comes together in a dense rubble. transfer to a pie dish and press firmly until the surface area of the dish is evenly covered.

 

blend the soaked macadamias (overnight in filtered water) along with the coconut oil, coconut water, agave and lime juice until smooth – scraping down the sides periodically and adding a little more coconut water if necessary. once it is completely smooth and creamy,  swirl through about 1 tbsp of the blueberry compote before smoothing out over the crust using the back of a spoon. refrigerate for at least an hour before serving although overnight is best.

 

crush the remaining hazelnuts and sprinkle over the top before serving. the remaining compote can also be served on the side.

 

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Roasted Cauliflower Fattoush

 

Sometimes I really wish life would slow down a bit. Right now that inimitable thing called time is a major stumbling block when it comes to me either savouring precious moments or allowing me to simply catch my breath. On the one hand I ain’t complaining (all this book launch is brilliant) and on the other we are dealing with life-changing developments that make you sit back and wonder ‘what’s it all about?’. No, really? What is it all about?!

 

I don’t suppose these bigger questions will ever truly be answered – thus is the mystery of life and all that but equally I find myself grasping tightly to anything that I hold dear or gives meaning to this existence of mine. Perhaps I’m talking in riddles here and it certainly wouldn’t be the first time, so apologies if this is all gobbledy gook… I guess you could say my head is literally all over the place right now and to be perfectly honest the only thing keeping me sane is those few snatched minutes in the kitchen.

 

As ever, food is my salvation and this Roasted Cauliflower Fattoush is a recent revelation that is satisfying and virtuous in equal measures. The creamy tahini is optional but adds another layer to its late summer awesomeness – my Sister cannot get enough of the stuff, which is high praise indeed. Feel free to play around with the spices – I only wish I had some harissa hanging around at the time, as it would’ve been the perfect addition although my little made up mix did the job just fine. Enjoy!

 

 

what you’ll need

1 small cauliflower head, broken into small florets

1 little gem lettuce

5-6 cherry tomatoes, halved

1/3 large cucumber, peeled, deseeded and cut into half moon shapes

5-6 radishes, roughly chopped

2 pittas, toasted

30g (or 2tbsp) flat leaf parsley

30g coriander

15g (or 1tbsp) mint

 

for the cauliflower marinade

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1/2 tsp allspice

pinch cayenne pepper

juice 1 lime

1 tsp agave

1 tbsp olive oil

sea salt and pepper

 

for the chilli salad dressing

1 tsp chilli paste from a jar

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp agave

juice 1/2 lime

3 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

 

for the tahini dressing

3 tbsp hummus

2 tbsp tahini

1 tsp agave

juice 1/2 lime

1/4 cup water

 

what you’ll do

pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius/350 fahrenheit. place the cauliflower florets in a baking dish. whisk the marinade together to form a smooth paste and pour over the cauliflower florets, toss until everything is coated and bake for 35-40minutes or until they brown.

 

place all the salad ingredients in a large bowl. whisk the chilli dressing ingredients together untilit emulsifies and pour about a third over the salad. gently mix.

 

lightly toast the pittas and cut into triangular bitesize pieces. drizzle over a third of the chilli dressing before adding to the salad bowl.

 

finely chop the parsley, coriander and mint together and sprinkle half over the salad bowl ingredients. gently mix.

 

whisk the tahini sauce ingredients together until smooth, adding a little more water if necessary.

 

remove the roasted cauliflower from the oven and lightly season with some seasalt. add to the salad and gently toss. serve in a bowl, drizzle over the tahini dressing and smattering of smoked paprika.


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In it to win it

 

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.

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Glimpses Of My Home

 

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.

 

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Walnut and Prune Raw Balls

 

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.

 

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Patio Palazzo

 

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.

 

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Keep it Vegan

 

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!

 

 

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