Very Berry Chia Bowl

 

What can I say. I’ve been an absent blogger of late. Life got in the way and for the first time in my blogging ‘career’ I had to seriously prioritize and this was the result. You probably don’t want to hear my excuses/reasons but suffice to say I was at home with the folks spending some much need quality time with my Dad – who, by the way, is an absolute inspiration. The way that man has faced his illness is nothing less than mind-blowing … puts all my little life niggles in perspective I can tell you. We celebrated his 70th Birthday in style surrounded by all the people he loves most. We ate, danced, laughed, celebrated. In a nutshell, it was magical. And now, here I am, back in my own little Cornish haven (our new ‘smack bang in the centre of town’ haven, which, by the way, still needs mucho mucho TLC)  and wondering … what’s next? Well, I dunno really. Another book perhaps? I have so many ideas that I’ve been secreting away but I also want to invest more time in my (equally neglected) YouTube channel, which seems to have a growing following – glad y’all seem to like it! So yeah. Work, work, work but (!) I also want to travel this year and grab life a little more by the cojones – know what I mean? I’ve come to realise I spend a lot of time planning and for what? I’m determined to live more in the here and now but for a self-confessed metaphorical fidget, this is damned hard. My mind frequently wanders to the future and I spend a disgusting amount of time worrying, which is such a waste of time. Like, the ultimate waste of time. Just do your best and leave the rest to fate is my new motto.

 

In the same vein, I’ve been aiming to simplify my life in every which way including, of course, food. Aside from clearing out my cupboards Marie Kondo style (I’ve let 70% of my wardrobe go and it feels awesome!!), I’ve also turned my attention to stripping things back in the kitchen – if you follow me on instagram/twitter you’ll know all about my current orange obsession. These chia bowls are another recent fav. Yep, nothing too revolutionary but so freakin’ tasty … I personally can’t get enough. Chia Bia sent me a bunch of their terrific products (incl. milled chia – love, love, love) so I am well and truly stocked. This Very Berry Bowl utilizes two of their products in one fell swoop – maxing out the omega 3′s yo – and is a cinch to make … when are my recipes ever not?!

 

I know ‘minimal living’ is nothing new but I am so hooked on this notion at the moment and really can’t shake the urge to purge my life of anything I don’t actually ‘need’, and this breakfast bowl really ties in with this basic philosophy. As I get older (p.s. I just turned 35 – yikes!) I’m realising how unimportant most material things are to me. I’ve always been drawn to multi-functional designs anyway and pretty much loathe ‘decorative’ items (flowers and candles are the only exception) so detoxing my house has not been difficult. In fact, it’s been more of a relief. I lost count at 20 bin bags so let’s just say I currently possess very little and am inching towards an even more minimalist existence. I’ve also put a strict ‘one in, one out’ rule in place to avoid cluttering up my life with more needless items in the future. Of course, because I work with food etc. I still have to buy props etc. but even still I’ve been able to lose certain items that have been languishing in my cupboards for quite some time. Once I get my office in order, I can have a dedicated props shelf, which I will also be keeping in check to ensure it doesn’t get too out of hand.

 

Oh, and have I told how much I’m enjoying town life? Afternoon coffee breaks a go-go!

 

what you’ll need

1/2 cup blackberries

1/2 cup raspberries

1 heaped tbsp milled blueberry & chia mix

1 tbsp maple syrup

1 cup coconut milk

3 tbsp whole chia seeds

 

to serve

1 heaped tbsp vegan granola

handful of coconut flakes

fresh berries

 

what you’ll do

place the blackberries, raspberries, maple syrup and milled chia in a blender along with the coconut milk and blend until smooth.

 

transfer to a large bowl and stir in the chia seeds. refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

 

serve with toppings of you choice … I like granola, berries and coconut

 

 

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Coffee Cacao Cake

 

What a week! Moving whilst juggling deadlines and dealing with leaks, a new flat (that needs a lot of TLC) is not for the faint hearted I can tell you. But! We made it in one piece and I’m feeling pretty good – no, make that great. In fact, to be perfectly honest with you I feel ruddy awesome … hallelujah, stop the press, she’s actually (wait. what’s that?) happy! Shifting our lives back into a bustling little town has seriously been the best thing we could’ve done. I usually get to Friday having not stepped foot outside the door … yes, there was glorious scenery but a mere dander away (and I did enjoy my afternoon walks during the summer months) however, my anxious nature did not fare well in a teeny tiny village. More on that another time when I’ve had time to properly process it all. Anyway, suffice to say, I’m much better programmed to function in a larger town surrounded by lots of people – must be all those years living in cities. I actually don’t fear big cities or towns in the slightest but put me on my own in the countryside and I’m a cowering wreck. Anyway, to celebrate my super productive week I decided to get a bakin’ … mainly because I had half a cafetiere of coffee staring at me and my first though was ‘cake’! Coffee and chocolate is an obvious but delicious combo – leftover coffee makes for a seriously awesome addition too … delicate yet moist (that word makes me shudder but I can think of no other) and utterly, utterly moreish. I even plan on having it for breakfast tomorrow smeared (make that smothered) in peanut butter and handed to me by my Husband. No shame.

 

what you’ll need

200g spelt flour

2 tbsp raw cacao or cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

pinch of fine salt

1 x banana

100g dark brown sugar

1 tbsp maple syrup (molasses would also be awesome!)

3 tbsp olive oil

200ml leftover coffee

 

what you’ll do

pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees celsius

 

whisk the dry ingredients together. in a separate bowl, mash the banana and whisk in the sugar, maple syrup and oil until combined.

 

make a well in the centre of the flour and add the banana mixture. gently fold, add the coffee a little at a time until combined.

 

grease a tin and pour in the batter. tap it firmly on the kitchen surface to get rid of any air bubbles. bake for 30 mins before cooling on a cake rack.

 

gently ease the cake from the tin. whisk together 1 tbsp of icing sugar with a splash of coffee and brush over the cake whilst it’s still warm. let the cake cool completely before slicing.

 

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Mid-Week Mash & Beans

 
I’m always striving to make dinner time easy. I love (adore, am obsessed with) cooking but sometimes I do like recipes that require minimal effort … and I know you guys are into these too, so here’s one I really think you’ll enjoy. Not any old ‘Mash & Beans’ (although my penchant for spuds and a spoonful or two of Heinz’s finest will never diminish) but a rather more upgraded version in the form of sweet potato mash and pesto coated cannellini beans – de.lish. And whilst I always have one eye on the ‘balanced meal’ meter, the ingredients here are merely a happy accident because it’s basically what I happened to have in the fridge. In my opinion the best meals are often borne out of necessity anyway.

 

I would eek this post out further having just watched the first episode of Michael Pollan’s ‘Cooked’ series on Netflix but I think I’ll let my thoughts simmer for a while longer on that – although, what is with the whole ‘let’s break the veggie and get the evidence on camera’ melarkey? Always such a low, disappointing blow especially from someone I actually really admire. Hey ho.  

 

We’re also in the midst of moving and even though we’re actually pretty organised this time (and only have a miniscule distance to travel – major novelty) I’m still feeling a wee bit (read massively) stressed – particularly now that I’ve learnt our soon-to-be landlord went against our wishes and painted the living room grey, meaning we’ll be spending the first few days with paint brushes in our hands. Wonderful. Seriously, the sooner we own our place the better – I’m getting too old for this nonsense. Anywho. Mash ‘n’ Beans. Here’s the recipe.

 

what you’ll need

 

for the mash

1 sweet potato

2 carrots

sea salt

extra virgin olive oil

 

for the beans

1 small white onion

1 x 400g can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 large garlic clove

juice 1 x lemon

pinch of oregano

2 tbsp vegan pesto

handful of roughly chopped spinach

sea salt and pepper

flat leaf parsley

 

to serve

griddled cherry tomatoes

 

what you’ll do

peel and slice the sweet potato and carrots, season with salt, cover with water, bring to a boil and then simmer until soft … about 15-20 minutes. drain, season, drizzle over some evoo and roughly mash … it really doesn’t matter if some lumps remain. keep warm on a low heat until needed.

 

heat a little olive oil in a pan. finely chop the onion and add to pan. season with salt and sweat until translucent. finely slice the garlic and add to pan. gently cook until its aromas begin to exude (and ensuring it doesn’t brown) before squeezing over the lemon juice. saute gently until completely soft.

 

add the drained and rinsed beans to the pan, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle over the oregano and gently heat through. add the pesto and about a 1/4 cup of water and gently heat. add the spinach to the pan, cover and allow it to wilt. check for seasoning before serving.

 

divide the mash and beans between two bowls and top with a few lightly griddled cherry tomatoes. finish with a smattering of finely chopped flat leaf parsley and a final drizzle of olive oil and/or spritz of lemon juice.

 

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Beetroot & Fava Bean Dip


 
With all-too familiar regularity, this Tuesday slump (as it shall henceforth be known) has reared its ugly head once again. It’s weird because I was feeling so sprightly yesterday – new week, new possibilities – but that initial enthusiasm has now been replaced with doubt, panic and all those other lovely emotions that go towards making us basically feel like crap. I think I mentioned in a vlog (oh yeah, I have YouTube channel) I made just before Christmas that I try to quash these anxieties with distraction tactics … making a cup of coffee (which, generally only serves to make me more jittery, so I’ve since switched to green tea), cleaning (there is certainly plenty of that to be getting on with – trust!) and watching endless hours of youtube vids because I’m a nosey parker and love to see what people eat in day. Once I’ve exhausted that little loop and I’m once again left with my own thoughts (and impending deadlines) I find myself wondering what I want out of life … yep, I’m a zero-to-a-hundred kinda gal and ‘the bigger picture’ is always (like a relentless whirring cog) on my mind. Of course, this approach tends to mean you aren’t always living in the present … something I am seriously guilty of. Not one for ‘settling’ or simply ‘being content’ I frequently have the bit between my teeth (pardon the non-vegan expression) quite a lot of time – not just work related, I might add. Like most people I dream of owning my own home, being able to travel more, enjoy more security in my career and maybe, just maybe, start a family at some point too … in my thirties so that clock is ticking loud and clear. These aren’t unobtainable dreams and we’re (my Husband and I) working towards achieving these life-goals all the time, however, in-between I often have to remind myself to enjoy the moment – heck, not just enjoy it but savour it. Remembering that I am, in fact, incredibly lucky (sometimes I need reminding) although seeing as everything is relative I still get caught up in everyday stresses and that definitely erodes my overall happiness.

 

Okay, so being pro-active is very much a part of the plan, and for me, plans usually start with food. Recently my focus has shifted ever so slightly in my vegan journey, as I become more and more fascinated with the raw food movement – which, is slightly ironic given the fact this recipe is so not raw. Stay with me. The power food has on our overall health (mental and physical) is really quite fascinating and as I’ve gradually erred away from food that ultimately doesn’t make me feel good (basically any shop-bought biscuits, breads, sugary yogurts, faux meats etc. which, I hasten to add, make up only a very small portion of my overall diet) I now continually question my choices to see if they comfortably fit into my current lifestyle. Luckily I’m always drawn to fresh fruit, big salad bowls, smoothies and anything that is 100% ‘natural’ and wholesome.

 

Having done quite a bit of research though, and knowing my own body, I know that 100% raw is absolutely not for me but I’d really like to find a way of upping my raw intake and decreasing my cooked food but not in a rigid ‘raw-till-4′ type way. I think being flexible will be key because I know sometimes I’ll fancy soup at lunchtime (homemade, of course!) but then maybe reach for a large, bountiful salad at dinner. Being overly dogmatic about calories and whatnot is not my thing (like, soooo not my thing) so again, I’ll be listening to my body when it comes to how much fat, protein and carbs I actually want to consume but yeah, I definitely think I can shimmy those about a bit to suit my needs – side note: 80/10/10 would not work for me either.  Equally, I don’t think totally eliminating certain foods from my lifestyle would be a good move for me or my Husband … and besides, tofu and beans are superb sources of protein (and not to be feared), which I consume regularly and totally love.

 

Likewise, grains – love ‘em. Couldn’t (wouldn’t want to) live without ‘em. Because yeah, taste, flavour, and all the stuff that surrounds ‘food’ (aside from its ‘fuel’ properties) is also really important to me. Who wants to be isolated in their eating? Not me. I like to create a mood where food is shared and enjoyed – this is so crucial to my vegan lifestyle and one that will encourage others to also embark on this journey … because, let’s face it, it’s lonely enough out there, and without the support of friends and family it can be nigh on impossible. Food is culture. Food is family. Food is joy. Food is everything. So when we make it this solitary endeavour we are missing out on so much. I’m not up for spending my life dining alone or just with my Husband – I want to make (and eat) great food that everyone will rave about (not just vegans) plus I want the freedom to be able to eat out at restaurants and cafes occasionally too. These are my current thoughts – I’ve not exactly put anything into practice just yet, I’m simply toying with ideas, recipes, philosophies and my own bizarre little mind. For now though, I’m happy to indulge in a little extra virgin olive oil action – drizzled over this fava bean dip with a few scattered pomegranate seeds for added sweetness, it is sheer heaven. Hand me a crudite, I’m goin’ in.

 

what you’ll need

1 x 400g can Hodmedod’s Fava Beans

1 x small cooked beetroot (about 50g)

1 tsp ground cumin

1 heaped tbsp tahini

juice 1/2 lemon

3tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp water

1 small garlic clove

pink himalayan salt

black pepper

 

to serve

ground cumin

hemp seeds

pomegranate seeds

extra virgin olive oil

 

what you’ll do

drain and rinse the fava beans and add to a processor along with the beetroot, cumin, tahini, lemon juice, a pinch of pink himalayan salt and some freshly ground black pepper. blend until it forms a rough puree.

 

mince the garlic with a little salt until completely smooth before adding to processor. whilst blending drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil – add the water to loosen the mixture slightly.

 

once you have achieved the desired consistency, transfer to a shallow bowl or plate and swirl with the back back of a spoon to form a groove in the dip.

 

serve with a smattering of hemp and pomegranate seeds, a dusting of cumin and a final drizzle of evoo.

 

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(Almost raw) Cinnamon Chocolate Slice

 

I almost didn’t post this recipe … not because it’s not delicious but because I often play around in the kitchen with similarly yummy results but for whatever many and varied reasons never get around to blogging about it. However, with that ‘New Year, New Me’ mantra still swirling around my head I’m determined to change that pattern, and even though (again) I’m not entirely happy with the images, they’re passable enough to warrant a post. I definitely deserve the ‘over-thinkers achievement award’, don’t you agree?

 

Brasil nuts are a new fav of mine when it comes to raw (or almost raw) desserts, particularly (especially!) for the base. The texture is almost sponge-like when ground and their wonderfully mild flavour ensures the chocolate ganache remains the star of the show – sprinkled with a little cinnamon, it is sure to blow yer socks off. In fact, I’ve been making a conscious effort to buy less and less processed food (yes, even us vegans fall into the convenience trap) and this is where raw desserts really come into their own. For me, there’s nothing more satisfying than a bliss ball or raw slice – it satiates that nagging sweet tooth and gnawing pre-dinner hunger in one fell swoop, with the added bonus that your blood sugar levels don’t sky rocket meaning you’re less likely to falter before your evening meal. Our usual routine usually involves a cup of tea with a slice of something at around 6pm because we don’t eat until 9pm, which I know sounds crazy to some people but it’s just normality to us – basically, we are night owls and we eek out every second of our evenings together.

 

I say this is ‘almost raw’ because I’ve added a heaped tablespoon of coconut milk/water (the canned variety) but if you want to skip that part and swap out the agave addition for something else then feel free – any kind of vegan syrup would also work but I do like the lift it gives the ganache in addition to the palm sugar. Just my preference but you may want to ‘rawify’ it a little further – totally up to you.

 

My urge to purge the last few ‘processed’ items currently in my cupboards and fridge has arisen again after taking a bit of hiatus. Like most people, this miserable Winter weather had me reaching for comfort foods like cookies and whatnot but with Spring (almost) in the air, my body is already telling me to ditch the oreos and replace them with something a little less toxic. Don’t get me wrong, when Ben & Jerry’s finally release their dairy ice-creams I’ll be the first in line to sample the delights but until then I’ll be dining out on slightly healthier desserts like this. I hope you’ll join me too!

 

what you’ll need

for the crust

1 cup brazil nuts

3 medjool dates

1/2 tbsp coconut oil

pinch of pink himalayan salt

 

for the topping

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 heaped tbsp coconut palm sugar

1 heaped tbsp raw cacao

1 tbsp coconut cream

1 tbsp coconut water

1 tbsp agave or other vegan sweetener

generous pinch of cinnamon salt (available from the Cornish Sea Salt Co.)

or a pinch of regular sea salt mixed with grated or ground cinnamon

 

what you’ll do

place the brazil nuts in the blender and blitz to a fine meal. stone the dates and add to the processor along with the coconut oil and pink himalayan salt. blitz until it form a fine rubble before transferring to a lined tin. press firmly with the back of a spoon or spatula and refrigerate for at least an hour.

 

melt the coconut oil in a small saucepan and add the palm sugar. allow it to slowly dissolve before adding the cacao. whisk vigorously until combined … don’t worry if it still looks a bit grainy at this stage. add the coconut cream, coconut water, agave and salt, and whisk again until smooth – you can do this over a very low heat to loosen the mixture.

 

pour over the brazil nut crust and spread out using a spatula. garnish with a generous sprinkling of cinnamon salt.

 

refrigerate for several hours (or ideally overnight) until set. slice and serve … this dessert is quite rich so a small serving will suffice.

 

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Oat Milk ‘n’ Honesty


 

Hey folks, I feel like it’s been a while since we had a proper catch up. So much has happened in the past six months I almost don’t know where to begin and even though I’ve been posting reasonably regularly I guess I do hold back sometimes on the personal stuff … I am the master of talking in riddles it would seem. With that said, here’s what’s happening in my life right now – beginning with oat milk.
 

Okay, the ‘oat milk’ (as lovely as it is) is more of a segue into how I’m feeling about the blog at the moment. Basically, I’m procrastinating way too much before posting, which invariably means I just don’t – I have many excuses ranging from ‘the photos aren’t good enough’ through to ‘haven’t I done a similar recipe before?’ or ‘what exactly am I trying to say in this post?’… the list goes on and on. And yes, I see the awesome work other bloggers are doing right now and I feel my efforts are basically crap in comparison. Ego’s are delicate little things and mine is no different … let’s just say, social media is both a blessing and curse. To counteract this (self-inflicted) negativity, I’ve tried to limit my ‘follows’ to only those who inspire me. In essence, I’ve basically deleted any and all that make me feel like a total ‘daily’ failure – guess what, this strategy actually works. If someone is totally bumming you out with their ‘perfect life’ – whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, press unfollow immediately and swiftly get on with your day, safe in the knowledge their next upload won’t inevitably end up making you question your entire life choices to date. Simples.

 

The thing about social media is that you are basically in control of what you see, so if you surround yourself with people (virtually speaking) that trigger the worst in you then eliminate their presence from your life. For the sake of your sanity, click that ‘unfollow’ button, CLICK IT! Ahem.

 

We’ve established I want to blog more frequently – and, more importantly, not fret over my uploads too much. Yes, it’s just oat milk but it’s such a handy recipe to have up your sleeve … and the pulp makes for one heck of a shake – think Ed’s Diner (pre-vegan memories) without the guilt – my fav combo is oat milk (plus pulp), banana, raw cacao, pb, maca and medjool dates. Pretty much everything I post here is something I’ve eaten and enjoyed, meaning it hasn’t been designed specifically for the blog. Remember, real life is so much better than a carefully constructed internet presence, which leads me nicely onto my favourite recent vlog/blog find, Mango Island Mamma. Um, hello?!! Why has nobody told me about this gal before? *raps collective internet knuckles* What a totally awesome chick – so content and sure of herself, and completely down to earth with it. Raising two adorable bambinos on a mostly raw vegan diet – I salute you missus, and I can confirm I’m now your newest number one fan. If, like me, you are tired of the usual internet rubbish and need something to truly feed your soul, go check out her blog and youtube channel … mahalo.

 

The next thing weighing on my mind is our current flat hunting crisis – perhaps crisis is an exaggeration but I’m certainly starting to panic. Our landlord is selling the house we’re currently renting, which means we are yet again on the move. Almost twelve years together and the longest we’ve lived anywhere is two years … I can tell you it takes its toll. So far, so bad on the flat hunting front meant I was even willing to rid myself of most of my furniture (even the stuff that genuinely ‘sparks joy’) just so we could feasibly fit inside the only decent property we viewed. It ticked so many boxes (great kitchen, high spec finish, good location, amazing seaviews etc.) but was unfortunately the size of a shoebox. Given the fact I work from home most days meant that it was only a matter of time before I went stir crazy – and that is definitely not a pretty sight. My Husband was so desperate, however, he even suggested we sell the sofa (my indigo L-shaped mid-centuryesque pride and joy… uh, hell no!) and ‘downsize’ to fit the flat. Basically, not happening. I don’t doubt we’ll find somewhere suitable (patience is key) but in the meantime I’m left feeling (reeling?) in limbo – sat in a house I no longer feel is ‘ours’ and not knowing what the future holds … and how much it’ll cost.

 

Of course, all this pales in comparison when I think about what my poor Dad is going through. Eighteenth months on and he’s still battling but it breaks my heart (and maddens in equal measure) to see what cancer can do to a person even when they have all the will in the world to live. I think feeling totally helpless is natural but the guilt that comes with living in another country is also difficult to bear … we do what we can but my Mum is the one that has to deal with it on a daily basis. It’s honestly incredible how well she has coped – they are both superstars in my eyes, and I feel lucky everyday to have such an incredible family. My Sister and I have been afforded every possible opportunity in life, which is all credit to my parents … we were always encouraged to follow our dreams and without that kind of unflinching support I know we’d be in very, very different careers. Creativity has always been at the crux of our family unit – it’s the only language we understand, and what a privilege that has been. How many people are in jobs they hate because their parents held them back whereas ours said ‘reality be damned, aim for the stars’ – but get your degree too, haha. That’s the thing, as sad as we are about my Dad’s illness we haven’t spent a lot of time brooding on it – when we’re together, we laugh, chat, eat (my family are currently all plant-based nommers), do all the things we normally would. Perhaps it’s the elephant in the room but we never really dwell on the negatives and instead focus on everything we’ve achieved … the prognosis was grim but we’ve beaten those odds and then some. Like I said to my Dad when the surgeon delivered the worst news we’ll ever hear, it’s not all doom and gloom – and I stand by that, I really do.

 

Apologies for getting so heavy on you guys but I thought you should know where I’m at right now. This has always been a ‘safe space’ for me and will continue to be so – in my opinion, honesty is always the best policy. Let’s brighten the vibe then and get back to what I arguably do best … simple, plant-based fodder that makes you smile. Onwards.

 

what you’ll need

1 cup jumbo rolled oats

pinch of pink himalayan salt

1/2 tbsp agave or 1 tbsp maple syrup (or 2 medjool dates)

 

what you’ll do

add the oats to a blender along with 2 cups of water (3 if you prefer a thinner consistency) along with the pink himalayan salt and agave.

 

blitz until smooth and then strain through a nut milk bag.

 

chill for at least an hour and serve.

 

perfect in porridge, poured over cereals or into coffee – or it’s own!

 

 

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Carlin Pea Chilli Bowl


 
It’s Fri-YAY, and I’m in the mood to part-TAY … or at the very least, hunker down with a bowl of chilli and a fridge-cold Cornish beer. My social life is pretty predictable these days but that’s just the way I like it – although I do enjoy a boogie from time to time, mostly I’m happy to stay put. Yup, mama’s lost her mojo. In other news, I apparently share my name with a pea … how cool/weird is that? Until Hodmedod’s kindly sent me some, I’d never actually come across ‘Carlin Peas’ before (also known as Black Badgers) so didn’t really know what to expect – apparently they’re popular up North and are frequently used to make mushy peas … and heaven knows, I do love mushy peas! I didn’t quite go down side dish route myself, as I was hankering after an all-in-one recipe that I could re-heat for our self-imposed Friday night hibernation.

 

Obviously I wanted to put my own spin on it though so opted for a generous dollop of harissa instead of my usual chilli spice combo (cumin, paprika, cayenne etc.) and I’m pleased to say it really worked a treat. You can easily up the spice ante with a dash more chilli if you please but one birds eye (sans seeds) was sufficient for me, especially as I didn’t want the harissa overshadowed by mega-heat. I was tempted to serve this with Hodmedods quinoa (also British grown!) but went in for my favourite chilli accompaniment instead … tortilla chips. Oh, and don’t forget that guac/avocado for added creaminess that will offset the richness of the tomato sauce.

 

Now, as for the peas. Well, what can I say other than they were a resounding triumph! Meaty, perfectly round and quite simply made for chilli – or any stew for that matter. I like to reduce the sauce until it’s super thick and scoopable … even when simmered for a long time on the stove the peas don’t lose their shape and are incredibly substantial – you certainly won’t be hungry after a bowl of this! Is that Friday night calling? Yep, methinks it is – grab a bowl (and some Carlin peas) and let’s go.

 

what you’ll need

1 tbsp olive oil

2 red onions

1 heaped tsp garlic puree or 3 garlic cloves

1 tsp red vinegar

pinch of brown sugar (optional)

1 x 400g canned chopped tomatoes

1 tbsp tomato puree

1 x 400g carlin peas

2 heaped tsp harissa paste

1 birds eye chilli

100g fresh spinach

salt and pepper

 

to serve

avocado

tortilla chips

 

what you’ll do

heat the olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan. finely dice the red onion and add to pan.

 

season and sweat until the red onion begins to soften before adding the garlic puree. cover and cook until the red onion is transparent. add the red wine vinegar and pinch of sugar (if using) and gently sweat for a few minutes further.

 

add the canned tomatoes, tomato puree and season generously. fill the empty with water or vegetable stock and swill out any excess juice into the pan. simmer gently for around 40minutes breaking the tomatoes up with the back of a spoon.

 

drain and rinse the carlin peas and add to the sauce along with the harissa paste. finely mince the chilli and add to pan. check for seasoning and simmer for a further 20minutes.

 

finely chop the spinach and add to the pan. simmer for an additional 10-15minutes until it has fully wilted. check for seasoning and serve.

 

divide the chilli between 2-3 bowls and top with sliced or mashed avocado, a smattering of hemp seeds and a side of tortilla chips.

 

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Green Lentil & Spinach Curry/The New Vegan

 

I realised recently that I haven’t revealed too much about my new book yet … well, at least not on here I haven’t. I guess I presume most of you follow me on twitter and instagram so you’re already up to date – but perhaps not? Anyway, maybe this easy dinner recipe will pique your curiosity surrounding my latest offering The New Vegan. Whilst there’s plenty of info for newbies, I’ve been keen to ensure the book appeals to seasoned vegans (and non-vegans) too … my thinking behind the title was more of a fresh, new approach to veganism free from many of those negative connotations associated with the word. I feel this new wave of veganites are less constrained by labels, and I wanted this to be reflected in the book – which, by the way, also includes chapters on ‘cruelty-free beauty’ (featuring DIY beauty recipes) and ‘my vegan wardrobe’ … who says you can’t be vegan and stylish, eh?

 

As ever, my recipes are quite straightforward with ingredients that can all be found at the supermarket. Like most people I’m on a pretty tight weekly budget, so none of the dishes will break the bank – I also try to incorporate nutritional tips that lay bare how easy it is to be healthy and vegan without restricting yourself. That means you’ll find a smattering of sugar and the odd bit of white flour – I’m a foodie first and foremost, and still love playing around with these ingredients even if they’ve been somewhat demonised in recent months. Of course, I balance it all out with fresh juices, sumptuous salads and decadent raw desserts but make no mistake, the only reason for their inclusion in the book was due to their deliciousness and not because they fit the ‘clean eating’ criteria. Whilst I have nothing against ‘clean eating’ in theory, I try to not let it influence my cooking/eating too much because I think it sets a worrying precedent – namely that we end up flailing ourselves should anything ‘unclean’ pass our lips, and, in my opinion, that’s no way to live.

 

This ‘Green Lentil and Spinach Curry’ is pretty basic but during the week, this is exactly the kind of dish I’m after – warming, wholesome with a crucial kick thanks to chilli and cayenne. I’ve been known to make a huge batch which I can then reheat for lunches throughout the week … you could easily take it to work and reheat it in the microwave for a homemade hit midday. Equally, it’s a great option for when you have guests – I often pair it with some easy flatbreads and let everyone help themselves. For those of you who aren’t so confident in the kitchen, this is a great starting point. Likewise, all the recipes are easily adaptable so if you’re missing one or two ingredients you can easily sub it out with something else.

 

A few of my other favourites from the book include the Red Pepper & Spinach Stromboli, Jerk-Style Cauliflower Steaks and my Aduki Bean Casserole. For the salad-lovers amongst you I have a feeling you’re going to love my Roasted Cauliflower Fattoush, Quinoa Tabbouleh with a Harissa Dressing and not forgettting the Thai-Inspired (spiralised) Salad with Tamari Roasted Cashews, which always get rave reviews. Got a sweet tooth? Gotcha covered. Think Banoffee Pie, (gluten-free) Orange Polenta Cake, Fruit ‘n’ Nut Truffles and Wholemeal ‘Buttermilk’ Scones to name but a few (or four) although there are many, many more that are sure to whet your appetite. And how could I possibly not mention breakfast (my favourite meal of the day) which includes everything from Buckwheat Griddle-pan Waffles through to Chai Chia Pudding, No-Bake Granola Bars and Savoury Indian-Style Crepes – oh, and if you like baked beans as much as me, you’re going to love my staple ‘stove-top’ alternative.

 

No doubt I’ll be checking in again with yet more recipes and insights into the book but in the meantime I hope this is just the taster you need to go check it out for yourself – be sure to let me know what your favourite recipes are, and if you happen to be on instagram please do post a pic … they always make my day!

 

what you’ll need

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 garlic clove
thumb-size piece of fresh ginger
1 red chilli
125g dried green lentils
400ml can coconut milk
½ gluten-free vegetable stock cube
1 tablespoon tomato purée
150g spinach
30g fresh coriander, roughly
chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black
pepper
brown rice, to serve

 

for the cucumber and
coconut dressing
¼ small cucumber
2 tablespoons coconut cream
juice of ½ lime
1 spring onion, finely chopped
pinch of salt

 

for the curry powder
3 cardamom pods
½ teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon palm sugar or other
vegan sweetener
a few black peppercorns
pinch of cayenne pepper

 

what you’ll do

1. First make the dressing. Deseed and finely grate the cucumber, squeezing out any excess juice. Whisk together with the other dressing ingredients, but be sure not to over-season. Refrigerate until needed.

 

2. Next, grind the curry powder ingredients together in a pestle and mortar to a fine powder.

 

3. Heat the oil in a large heavybased frying pan. Add the onion and carrot to the pan, season and sweat for several minutes until they begin to soften.

 

4. Using a knife, mince the garlic, ginger and chilli together on a clean chopping board and add them to the pan. Cover and sweat until fragrant before tossing in the dried lentils. Stir to coat and let the lentils absorb any flavours in the pan before sprinkling over the prepared curry powder. Cover and sweat for several minutes until the spices become nicely toasted and the flavours have penetrated the veg and lentils.

 

5. Add the coconut milk, stock cube and 150ml water, cover and simmer gently over a medium heat for about 1 hour until the lentils cook through.

 

6. Stir through the tomato purée and boil the sauce, uncovered, for about 10 minutes to reduce before adding the spinach to the pan. Cover and let the spinach leaves wilt into the sauce.

 

7. Add almost all of the coriander to the pan, reserving a little for a garnish. Once the sauce has sufficiently reduced and the spinach leaves have wilted, serve over a bed of brown rice with a spoonful of the cucumber and coconut dressing.

 

Taken from The New Vegan by Áine Carlin. Image by Nassima Rothacker.

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Chia Bia Balls


 

Ugh, I’ve been meaning to upload this recipe since before the weekend and here I am on a Sunday night still faffing about with photos/words – and for what reason I do not know. Call it procrastination or complete laziness but sometimes I just simply cannot get it together … a perpetual mental stumbling block or general over-thinking – I realise I’m alluding to things and bordering on the vague here so please forgive me. It has little or nothing to do with the recipe (they’re bliss balls for pete’s sake!) and everything to do with me. Yup, silly old self flagellating me.
 

Okay, so let’s get off one nutty train and onto another … the kind that involves actual nuts and my new obsession, milled chia. Until Chia Bia sent me a bunch of their awesome products, I’d actually not come across ‘milled chia’, so I was pretty excited to give it (them?) a whirl. I thought it best to start with the basics (and it doesn’t get much simpler than these energy bites) but I have a feeling this ‘new to me’ ingredient is going to be making frequent appearances in my kitchen experiments – next up, I’ll be testing them out as an alternative binder in muffins and breads!
 

Onto the nitty gritty. Or should that be ‘itty, bitty, nitty gritty’? It is, in my opinion, the perfect bliss ball addition because unlike their whole seed counterpart, they refrain from taking on that jelly-like quality so associated with chia. Once milled, they can used almost like flaxseed – I’ve been liberally sprinkling it on my oatmeal and yoghurt in case you’re interested, for an added Omega 3 boost in the morning (alongside their capsules, which are also a new fav). There’s also a crazy awesome recipe in Susan Jane White’s latest book ‘The Virtuous Tart’ that calls for milled chia (i’m referring to her Amazonian Truffles – can you say yum?) although until now I’ve been using regular chia seeds (with success, I might add!) in lieu of the milled variety so we shall see how they compare when I inevitably make a batch this week. I’m thinking it will elevate them from fabulous to fantabulous. Just a hunch.
 

I couldn’t decide what to call these little blighters and toyed with the idea of giving them some sort of ‘protein boost’ tagline just because I’ve managed to cram so many nuts in there but I went with ‘Chia Bia Balls’ in the end, in honour of the brand that brought this wondrous little ingredient to my attention. We’ve been munching on ‘em since Friday and I can safely say they are the perfect pick-me-up snack – in fact, my Husband is so taken with them I’ve had to squirrel them away at the back of the fridge … mwahahaha, more for me! We’ve got a busy week ahead, which means these are going to come in very handy indeed. Anyway, enough of my rambling, here’s the recipe:
 

what you’ll need

90g soaked cashews

50g milled chia

50g dessicated coconut

50g almonds

50g raw cacao

4 large medjool dates

50g raisins

2 tbsp almond butter or smooth peanut butter

pinch of pink himalayan salt

1/4 tsp of freshly grated cinnamon

 

to coat

blueberry chia mix

dessicated coconut

 

what you’ll do

place the milled chia, almonds, cacao and coconut into a food processor and blitz to a fine powder. add the remaining ingredients and blitz until it forms a sticky rubble, scraping down the sides from time to time.

 

roll a teaspoon amount of ‘dough’ into ball, toss in either the blueberry chia mix or dessicated coconut and repeat until all of the mixture has been used.

 

refrigerate for at least an hour before eating.

 

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2016 … what now?

 

I know that some of you will be expecting this post to be one of ‘new beginnings’, ‘fresh starts’ and ‘resolutions’ but I’ve got to be honest with ya – the line that divides 2015 and 2016 is a bit blurred for me. That might be partly due to the release date of my latest book The New Vegan (31st Dec), which kinda straddled the two and meant I was essentially ending and starting on a high – a weird but terrific feeling. Of course, there’s still so much more work to do with ongoing publicity and the like but I’m also trying to do something I didn’t manage to achieve with Keep it Vegan, which is to savour each and every moment. I’m so incredibly proud of the book and want it to be equally well received but in this game nothing is ever guaranteed. Being the control freak that I am, releasing something into the ether and allowing it to have a life of its own is strange but ultimately, when you write a book, that’s precisely what you have to do – let it go. So, while I’m working on letting things go (physically, metaphorically and even spiritually) I’m easing myself into a year that promises to be full of surprises – and trust me, there’s already been a few. It’s true what they say, the more you do something the easier it gets and I’ve definitely found this with live tv in particular. When I think back to my first tv appearance more than a year ago, I feel like I’ve learnt so much – same goes for radio … it’s so fast-paced you really have to think on your feet but that’s what makes it so thrilling. I guess all those years of training and acting professionally have finally come in handy!

 

little side note about The New Vegan … not just for ‘new vegans’ the title was more of a nod to a fresh take on a lifestyle that is plagued with preconceptions. It’s as much about a new collective approach to veganism as well as my own particular mindset, and contains advice on ‘What to tell people’, as well as ways to veganize your wardrobe. The recipes range from raw, gluten offerings through to robust, wholesome fodder, which means there’s something for everyone – even the pickiest of eaters should find a selection of recipes they will use and like. As ever, I’ve applied my straight-up straightforward, simple approach to things and I’ve even included a handful of DIY beauty recipes that you’ll hopefully find useful. I’m so proud of the book and can’t thank Nassima Rothaker enough for her creative input and incredible photos – it was like she was reading my mind and absolutely nailed the vibe I was after. If only I had  1% of her photography talent! In my opinion the book is quite a departure from ‘Keep it Vegan’ although I’ve retained my storytelling style, prefixing each dish with a personal tale. Anyway, let me know what you think, I always love to read your comments.

 

Aside from that, the other big question, of course, has got to be am I or have I made any resolutions? Well, no. I’m a continual goal-setter but when it comes to cut and dried resolutions, I’d just rather not. Take last year for example. I had two major goals I set myself for the year. Were they resolutions? I really don’t believe so and despite the fact I managed to tick those particular goals off my list, not having them set so rigidly in stone meant I was much more relaxed about them … and ensured that I wouldn’t feel terrible had I not achieved them. That’s my crazy logic anyway.

 

Right now I’m trying not to have too many inflated expectations and simply let life unfold in a more organic way. I know I’m much happier when I’m not obsessing over things, so leading a (semi) relaxed existence is something I’m ‘mindfully’ trying to implement – and have been for a while. That doesn’t mean I don’t still get stressed about things or apply myself in the same way … I just try to not carry around any silly annoyances with me and leave work at the home office door – easier said than done! Speaking of home offices, I’m trying to find a way of making that space more creative for me to work in. It feels quite stale at the moment and because it doubles up as my closet and laundry room, it doesn’t always offer that zen atmosphere I’m after. I think a bit of a re-jig is in order and I’m after a large planner that I can put on the wall, as I’m already keeping too many deadlines and appointments in my head, which is only asking for trouble.

 

Thankfully my Sister bought me this cool organiser type notebook for Christmas. It’s entirely blank (no restricting lines to prevent any necessary doodling) and begging to be the beginning of a brand new recipe book – although I suspect there’ll be lots of other ideas and creative titbits scribbled in there very soon too … believe it or not my interests and ambitions extend beyond food. So yeah, I’m excited for the year ahead but taking it one day at a time, and trying not to let the small things slip me by. How do you like to approach the new year?

 


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