You might be wondering why I haven’t updated my blog in a while – or not, in which case, prepare yourself for a bit of an odd post. It’s been a tumultuous couple of months to say the least and I’d be lying if I said things are getting back to normal. They aren’t. As some of you might already be aware my Father has been suffering from terminal brain cancer for the last two years and just under a month ago he sadly lost his battle with that most cruel of diseases, and our lives have been irrevocably changed forever. A month. I can hardly believe it – it feels like I was hanging out with him in our conservatory in Derry but yesterday, watching ‘Homes Under the Hammer’ and generally making fun of the terrible job the so-called featured ‘property developers’ had made of the renovations. Compelling morning viewing, that we both thoroughly enjoyed. My Dad was always great company. Likeable and kind with the biggest of hearts – being around him made you feel good about yourself. So much so, I’m reminded of that well known Maya Angelou quote … ‘People will forget what you did but they will never forget how you made them feel’- or in my Dad’s case ‘People will never forget what he did or how he made them feel’, such was his unshakable positivity and generosity of spirit. Always armed with a brilliant sense of humour (the king of the one-liner!), he could make you see sense when you thought the world was falling down around you (I err on the side of dramatic at times) – and not forgetting the belief he instilled in me that I could conquer whatever I put my mind to. Even before his illness, his ability to put things into perspective was second to none.
So, here I am, without the very person I need to ‘put things into perspective’ and feeling like the world is a much worse place to be in – not quite sure what kind of positive spin he would put on this scenario but no doubt he’d have some comforting words on offer. Of course, I’m fully aware this is just another stage in this process they call ‘grief’ but in all honesty that doesn’t make things any easier. My ability to snap back into my life, work routine etc. has officially ground to a halt – and, as over-the-top as it may seem, I’ve even cancelled a trip to Sweden for a friend’s wedding because I’m simply not up to it. This post then is me dipping my toe back into normality and a weak attempt to metaphorically give myself a shake … the last thing my Dad would want is for me to mope about even though that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing since I got back to Cornwall. Grief is anything but logical. You can try and sweep it under the carpet but sooner or later it will find you, so I’m not going to deny it’s existence this time and allow myself the space I need to deal with this situation.
Okay, so it might seem strange to somehow shoe-horn in a recipe here but I don’t know how else to plough on. Despite my current fragile state, I’ve been finding some solace in the kitchen. Distraction is the name of the game. Although I’m kinda staying in my comfort zone too … no wild experiments at the moment, I’m seeking familiarity instead, which is why I combined two of my foodie loves; pancakes and Mexican food. I should probably come clean at this point and let you know that I have a love/hate relationship with buckwheat – I only like it in certain, very particular, cirumstances. If you’re in possession of my second book The New Vegan you’ll know I have one or two recipes in there that do utilize it … I recommend my ‘Buckwheat Muffins’ for a good intro to this funny naturally gluten-free ingredient. Try as I might though, I cannot get on board with buckwheat pancakes unless they are near enough wafer thin … not so much a crepe but almost akin to a traditional ‘Shrove Tuesday’ style pancake. I have many, many fond memories flipping these lace-like beauties with my Dad (he made a mean pancake), which we always paired with sugar and lemon – simple is almost always best. These pancakes are a savoury, nutty twist on a classic then that goes perfectly with the robust smoky chipotle stew. Similar to a fajita filling, this a dish definitely inspired by my Dad’s penchant for all things spicy – in fact, I’ve cranked up the jalapeno chilli factor in his honour. I hope you like it too.
what you’ll need
for the pancakes
70g buckwheat oats
several sprigs of thyme
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
juice 1/2 lemon
salt & pepper
for the stew
1/2 yellow onion
1 celery stick
1 sweet red pepper
3 garlic cloves
1 tbsp red jalapenos
1 heaped tsp chipotle paste
100ml coconut milk
1/2 cup black-eyed beans
salt & pepper
what you’ll do
place the buckwheat oats, thyme leaves, bicarb and seasoning into a blender. blitz until it forms a fine flour. transfer to a large mixing bowl and add the lemon and 150ml water. whisk until the batter is a similar consistency to single (soya, ahem) cream. set aside until you need it.
meanwhile, slice the onion, celery and red pepper. heat a little olive oil in a shallow skillet and add the veg. season and fry until it begins to soften.
mince the garlic and jalapenos together and add to pan. stir to combine and gently fry until the aromas begin to exude.
add the chipotle paste and coconut milk, season and bring to a gentle simmer for 10 mins. add the beans and simmer for a further 5 mins until the sauce thickens. cover and set aside until you whip up the pancakes.
brush a crepe pan with a little olive oil. over a medium heat ladle in a third of the mixture and spread immediately to the edges using a spatula. cook until the edges come away easily before flipping over for a further 30 secs. transfer to a dish and cover with a clean tea towel. repeat until all the batter is used.
there are a few ways you could serve this … either fold, crepe suzette-style and top with the stew or place the pancake in a large dish, fill and roll, or fold. For the tahini sauce simply whisk a heaped teaspoon of tahini together with the juice of 1/2 lemon, a dash of maple syrup and cider vinegar, salt & pepper to taste and a tablespoon or so of water to thin it out. Serve with sliced avocado, a generous drizzle of the tahini sauce and a final smattering of chopped parsley.
It’s officially a scorcher! Yowsas, I cannot believe the heat here at the moment … we finally have our summer – woohoo, wahay, yahoo! And, er, if you didn’t deduce from my sun-dance celebrations, I should probably inform you that I lurves the heat … the hotter the better, keep it comin’, no clouds allowed. When the sun is out I am one happy (freckly) girl – and yes, I do wear sunscreen before you ask. However, just because the sun’s out doesn’t mean I abandon my kitchen entirely. Instead I make sure I’m stocked up on refreshing snacks to keep us nice and cool … enter my Watermelon & Gin Granita. If you already own my first book ‘Keep it Vegan’ you will no doubt have come across my Cointreau Granita (yes, I like to use alcohol is my recipes, so shoot me), which is not only ridiculously easy to make but is super versatile too. I simply use the sugar syrup base and then add whatever ingredients I fancy – or have to hand in the kitchen. Standard. Recently I made a grapefruit version, which was pretty darn spectacular – so much so, even my grapefruit-loathing Husband happily snaffled it before promptly asking for seconds. That. Good. This watermelon twist was also another hit at a little midweek meet-up I hosted with my Sister-in-Law and her Hubby. Almost like an adult slushie (who doesn’t love an adult slushie?!), this simple little dessert seriously hits the spot on a piercingly hot summers day – in fact, straight after I took this photo, I practically inhaled the glass. Whilst it might look like fruity-coloured crushed ice (and it sorta is ‘cept better), the texture is quite different … soft and fluffy, kind of melt-in-your-mouth stuff, just amazing. I’m already onto my third batch in a fortnight and not even ashamed to say it. It’s also a terrific option if you don’t have an ice-cream maker – my one is basically broken (well, it never actually worked – long story), so I’m relying on granitas to see me through.
Because the weather has been so ruddy fantastic, we decided to forgo our planned holiday abroad and do a bit of stay-cationing instead. I mean, when you live in the best county in England (*cough cough*) it almost seems silly to fork out a fortune for a flight and hotel when we have some of the best beaches on our doorstep. Instead, we invested in a decent tent, as well as all the necessary accoutrements such as a gas stove, cooler bag etc. etc and headed to a part of Cornwall that we’d yet to properly explore – I highly recommend Polly Joke (quieter and more out of the way) and Crantock (busier but still fabulous). Last weekend was the trial run and it was beyond fantastic, so we really cannot wait to do it all again this Friday. As soon as Hubby gets back from work we are heading straight out (location yet to be decided) and pitching up for another glorious (fingers crossed) couple of days.
We also managed to squeeze in a trip to the cinema on Sunday evening to see Ghostbusters. I don’t think I can offer anything new to the overload of mixed reviews already on the internet except to say it had its moments but was generally disappointing. Even though I was optimistic and willing it to be great, it just didn’t do it for me … although I now have a total girl-crush on Kate McKinnon – or more precisely her character Holtzmann. I think Mark Kermode said she’s like a modern-day Tank Girl so that probably explains the appeal because I flippin’ loved Tank Girl! In actual fact the cast were pretty flawless and I think it has huge promise as a francise (bleugh) but it didn’t give me the same goosebumps as the Star Wars reboot and was bordering on ‘meh’. The story-line was the main issue (kinda crucial for a film) … it was zipping along nicely (the ‘haunted house’ opening was superb) until they became ‘the ghostbusters’ and then it fell a bit flat. The momentum just wasn’t there and even though I adore that semi-improv style, the pacing was off to me … in fact, I found the pacing was a bit ramshackle in general and needed something driving it on a bit more. With that said, there are definitely a handful of laugh-out-loud scenes (Chris Hemsworth as ‘Kevin’ was impeccable quite frankly) and it was certainly entertaining in parts – Melissa McCarthy has the ability to save any scene, any film, in my humble opinion, so it’s worth a watch for sure. On a positive note, I feel like now that they’ve established themselves as the new team, the next installment (if there is one?) will free them up to properly find their groove – I’m actually hoping they do make another one because it has heaps of potential … any excuse to see Holtzmann in action again.
what you’ll need
100g caster sugar
grated zest and juice of 1 lime
10g fresh basil
1/4 small watermelon
what you’ll do
place the sugar, water, lime zest and juice, and basil leaves in a pan. bring to a steady boil and then reduce to a simmer for a minute or two or until the sugar has completely dissolved. remove from heat and set aside to cool.
cut the watermelon into large chunks and blend to a smooth puree. Strain the sugar syrup through a fine mesh sieve and add to blender. blitz until completely smooth. pour into a suitable dish or container and whisk in the gin.
freeze for an hour before scraping the semi-frozen granita with a fork. repeat every 30mins or so for a couple of hours until you achieve the desired consistency.
spoon into small tumblers or glass and adorn with a basil leaf.
I’m typing and watching a video simultaneously here. Not the most effective way of writing a blog post but in my defense I’m still trying to arm myself with all the ‘facts’ before this dreaded referendum on Thursday. It probably goes without saying that I’m worried. As in, terrifed. More specifically; ‘quaking in ma boots’, can’t sleep, feel sick/sad and generally despairing at the world. Ya get me? Y’see, I emphatically, desperately (like a toddler clinging to its Mother’s legs) want to remain in Europe but (and truthfully, I’m loathed to even think it) that reality is increasingly looking pretty darn dicey … if any of the endless ‘leave’ comments on the internet are anything to go by anyway. I have to concede I’m surprised at how effective Boris and his cronies have been during this campaign … throughout one particular televised debate I even found myself being semi-convinced by the 350 million a week argument - or maybe it was just a case of ‘if someone says it often enough and loud enough’ you begin to believe it. Know what I mean? And even though I hate getting political (especially on a food blog of all places) this matter is close to my heart – and given that I’m a ‘heart on sleeve’ kinda gal, I honestly couldn’t let this whole debacle drift by without directly addressing it. So here goes.
Guys, we are on the brink on something massive here – and it potentially ain’t good. I’ve listened to the experts (from both sides!) and it’s abundantly clear to me that we are better off ‘in’ the EU. Apart from all the single-market shenanigans (which is more or less over my head) and immigration complications (as if it isn’t complicated enough already) I personally (and perhaps rather selfishly) like being a part of Europe … particularly (especially) as an Northern Irish person living in England. In my opinion, it’s a singularly beautiful unifying identity we all have in common … my Husband is English, I am Irish, but together we are European. I know, totes silly, but that’s how I feel.
And look. I know we’re all concerned about the NHS – Lord knows my family has seen the best and worst of it these last two years but if we think we’re going to protect it by voting ‘leave’ then we are seriously deluded. We are also beyond bonkers if we think Boris and his pals have our best interests at heart and wouldn’t jump at the first chance to privatise our beloved healthcare system. Closer to home (well, my first ‘home’ that is), little old Northern Ireland is going to feel the full force of this EU exit if it in fact comes about. Want to return to the days of borders and checkpoints? Well, your wish could very well be BREXIT’s command. Yup, that’s right. My family will have to go through a whole customs and exiles rigmarole just to get a pint of (dairy-free) milk from Muff – and lets not even think about how much it could potentially destabilise the peace agreement. These are the things that quite literally keep me up at night.
Oh man, this has gotten way serious all of a sudden and I almost feel like I should delete all of the above and keep my mouth firmly shut. But I won’t. I’ll simply leave you with this. No-one knows what will happen if we leave the EU but as with most splits it will likely be full of heartache, bitterness and more. The path will not be smooth and the end result may not be what we had anticipated … there’s no rainbow at the end of this road and there’s no bringing back a post-war Britain full of hope and glory. Impending doom doesn’t feel too far off at this stage and I’m almost resigned to the fact that come Friday morning, I will be clinging to my Irish passport (perks of being born in Norn Iron) reciting the words ‘I’m still a European, I’m still a European … ‘ whilst simultaneously clicking my imaginary sparkly shoe-clad heels. By then the madness will undoubtedly have officially infiltrated the UK at large, leaving half the population in utter despair and wondering where on earth we go from here. Pessimist much? Okay, suffice to say, I am firmly in the remain camp – and not just ’cause I like having the option to roam about Europe at will but because I truly believe we are better/stronger as one European nation and have more to offer unified than apart. Like all slightly dysfunctional families, we might gripe at one another and not always see eye to eye but at the end of the day we’ve got each others backs. Let’s not needlessly throw that away. M’kay? Love you all. Peace out.
What have sushi rolls go to do with this? Absolutely nothing. But they taste flipping delicious and require no sushi rice – just making your maki-roll life that wee bit easier.
what you’ll need
4 nori sheets
1 small head cauliflower
1 spring onion
1 thumbsize piece of ginger
1/2 green chilli
few sprigs of dill
1 large pre-cooked beetroot
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 handfuls spinach
salt and pepper
1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
for the quick pickle
1/2 red cabbage
1 large carrot
2 tbsp cider vinegar
juice 1/2 lemon
1/2 tbsp agave
few sprigs of dill
for the dip
2 tbsp dairyfree mayo
1 tsp chipotle paste
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 heaped tsp salt
what you’ll do
for the quick pickle, roughly chop the veg and place in a bowl. whisk the cider vinegar, agave, lemon juice and salt together and pour over the chopped veg, stir to combine. finely chop the dill, stir through to coat and set aside to pickle.
place the cauliflower, spring onion, ginger, chilli, dill and a pinch of salt in a food processor. pulse until is looks like rice. set aside.
heat the sesame oil in a skillet and quickly wilt the spinach. season and set aside to cool. squeeze out any excess liquid and roughly mince.
slice the beetroot length-ways.
place the nori sheet on a rolling mat, shiny side down and lightly brush with a little sweet chilli sauce. layer on another nori sheet. spoon over half the cauliflower mix, leaving a section at the top of the wrap for sealing purposes.
near the rolling end, evenly distribute the spinach before layering on the beetroot. season and sprinkle over some chilli flakes.
using the mat tightly roll the sushi wrap away from, squeezing the roll as you go. wet the end section with a little water, seal and set aside with the join underneath.
fill a jug with water and wet a large knife. carefully slice the end piece off the sushi roll and then cut into even maki rolls – be sure to wet/clean the knife between each.
repeat the process using the remaining two nori sheets and plate up.
whisk the mayo, chipotle paste and lemon juice together. serve alongside the sushi and pickle.
What should I share this week folks? Well, I’m just back from Ireland where I spent the last fortnight with my family and quite unbelievably I seemed to hit Derry at just the right time – hello heatwave! So yeah. Two weeks hanging with my Mum and Dad, helping out wherever I can (that invariably means being designated cook) and generally lending a bit of support … Dad had a bit of a dip a few weeks back but has thankfully rallied again. I can’t deny this is an emotional, stressful, overwhelming time for us all and I’d feel weird acting as if everything is totally normal on the blog so I thought it best to be upfront and honest about the whole thing. Anyway, our family isn’t one to wallow in our sorrows and I can assure you there’s still plenty of laughs to be had … my Dad still cracks us up from time to time – joking about things that are essentially grim is seemingly his forte. I think it’s the only way he/we can deal with this horrible hand we’ve been dealt. Generally speaking, us Irish do tend to use humour to counteract difficult situations – the troubles being just one example. It’s probably another reason why Freud deemed us ‘one race for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever’ … not that I entirely agree with that sentiment, as I’m a habitual over-sharer and don’t mind going in for some deep and meaningful’s myself. Nevertheless, therapy is still far from the norm in Northern Ireland so banter acts as a good daily antidote to daily strifes.
My current way of clearing my head, however, is to declutter. And then declutter some more. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m a ‘maximalist minimalist’ mainly because I’m forever drawn to colour and from what little I know about this lifestyle it’s all about the neutrals. My home and wardrobe are feeling ever more pared back though, and it’s actually quite liberating – so much so, it’s infiltrated how we approach things (life) in general in a big way. Whilst I still love great design, it more about function for me now … decorative items just hold no sway with me anymore and the same goes for my closet, which could almost be classified as a ‘capsule’ collection at this point. Pretty much everything can be mixed and matched bar one or two items that are a bit more unique. I can’t see us going back to our old ways at this stage.
Travelling has also become something we want to explore again, which is how our ‘month in Berlin’ idea came about. So we’re upping sticks this summer and moving to this awesome German city for what we’re calling a ‘working holiday’ – I honestly cannot wait to eat my weight in awesome vegan food and immerse myself in oodles of culture. I’ll definitely be uploading blog posts to accompany our stay and give you the lowdown on what has become something of a European vegan mecca.
Even though we’ll be eating out a lot when we’re there I also want to do plenty of cooking – we always opt for self-catering. Recipes like this rawnola are going to be super handy for breakfasts and snacks because they’re quick to make and satisfy those sweet cravings. The Cornish Sea Salt ‘cinnamon salt’ addition is an absolute must in my opinion but if you can’t get your hands on it simply add a pinch of good quality sea salt (or pink himalayan salt) and a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. There’s something about sweet and salty that just really hits the spot for me. I’ve never been one for indulging in confectionary but give me a bowl of granola and fruit and I’m one happy lady. If you’re anything like me and classify breakfast as the happiest meal of the day then this is going to be a little lifesaver – you can mix up the ingredients to suit too … not got almonds? Use brazil nuts or cashews instead. You could also swap the oats for buckwheat flakes – it’s entirely up to you. Simply use this ‘recipe’ (such as it is) to create your own perfect rawnola. Enjoy!
what you’ll need
1 cup regular oats
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1/4 cup whole almonds
4 x medjool dates
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 tsp cinnamon salt
what you’ll do
place the oats, coconut and almonds in food processor and pulse to break apart.
add the stoned dates, raisins and cinnamon and pulse until it forms a sticky rubble – be sure not to overwork the mixture.
refrigerate for an hour to firm or serve immediately.
place a handful of rawnola in a bowl, add sliced apple and pour over you favourite plant milk. finish with a little more coconut and cinnamon salt.
Meals made in haste are often the most delicious. Take these ‘fridge-raid’ summer rolls for instance. I was looking to use up all the odds and ends in my fridge before I headed over to Ireland and rice paper rolls seemed like the perfect vehicle in which to do so. Even if you have zero knife skills and simply wish to grate everything, these really are one of the simplest go-to meals – and they taste flipping amazing … even if we did have a laugh as to what the wraps themselves reminded us of. Erm, less said on that the better. This is a food blog after all.
Not really a recipe (seeing as you can use just about anything you have to hand) but I did like the coleslaw-like combo esp. when pared with the avocado and/or cucumber … a nice balance of crunch and creaminess with a fresh mix of flavours to boot. I threw in some chilli flakes and sesame seeds for added oomph but they’re pretty much optional (particularly if you’re a heat-phobe) – although they do make the rolls look rather pretty in my opinion. I’m not the greatest at rolling these suckers I must admit and by gosh are they fiddly so I wouldn’t worry if they are less than picture perfect – once they’re in your gob it won’t matter. Just be sure not to overfill to avoid the rice paper tearing. For the same reason, you won’t want to roll them too tightly either – err on the side of caution until you’ve perfected your skills a bit.
Even though I didn’t include it in these photos (I’ll explain) I actually made a seriously yummy dipping sauce by whisking together sweet chilli sauce, coconut cream and lime. It was heavenly. And to top it off I poured myself a chilled glass of pinot to cheers my last night in Cornwall for a couple of weeks. I know, ridiculously over the top but leaving Cornwall has that effect on me. Oh yes! Dipping sauce. So, I desperately wanted to blog but was limited on time and resources, which is how these super easy morsels came about. I rustled them up in minutes and quickly took some photos before my Husband came home, so didn’t fuss over them too much – and failed to include the dipping sauce, which I actually made much later when we had them with our wine. I’m not sure if this how blogging is done these days … a lot of it seems overly contrived and bears very little resemblance to the food blogging world I so fondly remember. Y’know, where people talked at length about themselves, their lives and blogged about things they actually ate? Ah, I’ve gone all misty eyed. Anyway.
Okay, so things have evolved (or devolved - I can’t figure out which) over the six or so years I’ve been blogging and still I gravitate towards blogs that have an air of authenticity about them. Same goes for my YouTube viewing. Sure, I occasionally get suckered in by a click-bait title or image but generally speaking I try to avoid anything with the word ‘haul’ in the title and I pretty much loathe those ‘response’ videos that are all the rage. I basically don’t get it – but then again, I’m probably not their target audience. I much prefer people that aren’t in it solely for the views and are simply making quality content without any ‘in your face’ agenda. Of course, I love anything food related so recipe or ‘what I eat in day’ vids will always warrant a watch … specifically, I’m currently loving Lauren Toyota and her food channel ‘Hot For Food’ and am still obsessed with Mango Island Mamma who doesn’t post particularly regularly but it’s always worth the wait. I’ve also got a soft spot for Angie and Ryan over at Happy Healthy Vegan and I think at this stage I can officially claim my ‘Tang Gang’ title given the fact my guilty pleasure is indulging in silly amounts of ‘Mommy Tang’. I didn’t realise watching someone eat for an hour could be quite so riveting.
To try and keep some equilibrium in my life, however, I’ve actually been limiting my screen time in general … that includes all phone activity – so social media is being rationed. I’ve also put a phone-ban in place 20mins prior to bedtime (this excludes ‘guided meditation’ on YouTube) and now sleep with it on airplane mode – my Husband’s suggestion and I can tell you it works a treat. Not only that but I now make sure it’s not the first thing I look at in the morning – other than to turn off my alarm, of course. This way, I allow my head-space to be filled with other things rather than cramming in more useless information via twitter. I take time to savour all those little morning tasks and try not to be in too much of a rush to join the ‘real world’ … which can be difficult for my restless hands and mind. To that end, I have finally jumped aboard the ‘colouring book’ bandwagon and a week in I can safely say I wish I’d done it sooner. It was my salvation when travelling back to Ireland and it also means I’m not glued to my phone when I’m here either. In fact, my last two mornings have involved smoothies, porridge – and a bit of calm and collected colouring. Bliss.
I feel like I’ve really broken through a bit of a mental barrier of late and I’ll share more over the next few weeks. I’ve been prioritizing nightly walks and trying to integrate guided meditation into my life, which I know sounds like total new-age hippy nonsense but it’s actually helping me on so many levels – especially prior to bedtime. If, like me, you thought you just aren’t suited to this whole meditation melarkey I urge you to give it a go anyway – you might surprise yourself. And even if it does nothing for you, at least you can soothe your sorrows with a little summer roll. Both are equally effective.
what you’ll need
6 vietnamese rice wrappers
1 small carrot
1/2 red pepper
handful finely sliced red cabbage
1 spring onion
1/2 large avocado
handful of rocket
2 tbsp roughly chopped coriander
1 heaped chilli flakes
1 tsesame seeds
3 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
1 tbsp coconut cream
juice 1/2 lime
what you’ll do
finely slice or grate the carrot, red cabbage, red pepper and spring onion. slice the avocado and cucumber lengthways.
soak the vietnamese rice wrappers one at a time in a large bowl of cold water for about 30secs and then transfer to a clean chopping board. you can dab it dry with a clean tea towel but quite honestly, I just fill and roll.
sprinkle over the chilli flakes and sesame seeds before laying on the avocado or cucumber slice followed by the rocket, sliced veg and coriander – ensuring there is a little room at the bottom and either side.
to roll, fold the two sides in first and then fold over the bottom part of the wrapper. continue rolling until the roll is completely secure. repeat process until all the ingredients are used and refrigerate until needed.
for the dipping sauce, simply whisk the sweet chilli, coconut cream and lime juice together until combined. serve alongside the rolls.
Good morning from Cornwall! I’m up bright and breezy (ok, not that breezy), and ready to get this day underway. Like most people, when it gets to this stage in the week I’m wanting quick and easy options for lunch and dinner … yes, I love cooking but that doesn’t mean I don’t love a good shortcut too! *Merchant Gourmet have long since been a brand I love so I was pretty thrilled when they asked me to come up with a few ideas using their handy pouches – mainly because I’m obsessed with them already, ha! Having things like ready-made qrains and lentils in your store cupboard is invaluable, in my opinion – especially if you’re trying to undertake a new vegan lifestyle and need ‘almost instant’ meals that pack a nutritional punch. I tried to cover all bases when it came to the recipes I created, which means there’s something for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as a little sweet offering for afters … I really think you’ll love my Creamed Quinoa Pud with an Easy Blackberry Compote – not least because it take 10mins to rustle up. Now that’s what I call fast food.
Another favourite is my Mixed Grain Salad with Roasted Cauliflower & Grapes. And yes, I know ‘roasted grapes’ sounds, well, weird but something glorious happens those little fruits when you pop ‘em in the oven – it’s now my favourite way to serve/eat them. The mixed grains are so nutty and satisfying too, this is a lunch that will really power you through to dinner. For the breakfast fiends amongst you I’ve hit a home-run (even if I do say so myself) in the form of my Choco Chai Quinoa Bowl - no word of a lie, this dish is beyond delicious and has quickly become my go-to quinoa porridge recipe. If you’re sick of oats and want to keep things interesting in the morning, this is definitely the recipe for you.
In keeping with the ‘handy vibe’ I tried to keep the prep time to an absolute minimum, which means they all can be made in 30mins or under … my kinda cooking! Other than soaking the cashews overnight (and quite honestly, what vegan doesn’t have some soaked cashews on the go?) the Beluga Lentil Dip can be made in seconds – literally. Whether you have a high speed blender or regular food processor , this little beauty is your pre-dinner party ‘drinks ‘n’ nibbles’ saviour . Simply chop up some crudites and leave your guests to munch whilst you finish up the main - and if you’re lucky enough to have any leftovers then why not spread it on some toast for a super tasty snack.
Speaking of mains though, spelt is a brilliant alternative to rice when it comes to making risotto (a personal comfort food fav) because it’s super robust and really absorbs all the flavours in the pan – my advice is to go large on the garlic front and don’t even think about omitting that coconut cream! I also added a little vegan parmesan because I am obsessed with the stuff and it goes so ridiculously well with the aforementioned Creamy Spelt & Mushroom Risotto … otherwise a dusting of nooch (nutritional yeast) will do an equally good job of finishing off the dish.
Have I forgotten anything?! Oh yes. Poached peppers. Sounds odd but is actually a terrific little cooking hack that’ll save you about 45 minutes in the kitchen … aha, now you’re listening! Instead of stuffing and roasting those suckers, I halved and poached them in a large pot of boiling water before stuffing them with Merchant Gourmet’s epic Indian Flavoured Grains. Et voila … Stuffed Poached Peppers a go-go. In all honesty, these grains don’t really need any additional tarting up, however, I did pan fry them with some spring onion and stirred through a handful of raisins because, you know, texture. The ‘coconut & mint’ dressing is actually what brings the whole harmonious dish together though … and all of that in under 15 minutes. I’ll take those high fives now please.
*This is a sponsored post but all views and opinions are my own
Let’s talk about ethical fashion. We could start where people typically predict your interest in fashion and style usually ends … upon entering the ‘tunnel of doom’ otherwise known as veganism. We could chat a bit about how a lifelong love affair with clothes, design, fabric and just about everything else needn’t cease to exist the minute you embrace a vegan lifestyle – trust me, it is entirely possible to love the planet and its inhabitants, and also obsessively covet that perfectly weathered chambray shirt you’ve had your eye on for age. It doesn’t have to be one or the other – you just have to be a bit more savvy about what you buy and adjust your spending/retail habits to suit. Being vegan does not mean subjecting yourself to a lifetime of unflattering harem trousers and tie-dye tees … and I ain’t even talking about those ironic 90s homages currently available in New Look neither. Ya get me?
There are so many ways around this fast fashion problem though, I almost don’t know where to begin but I guess this ‘Braintree Breton’, as I’ve henceforth dubbed it, is a pretty good place to start. You could say it falls under the category of ‘ethical fashion’ given it’s organic cotton credentials (always a winner in my book), which is all well and good but as Stella McCartney once said (and I paraphrase here, ahem) ‘the designs have to speak for themselves’ – in a nutshell, it can tick all the boxes when it comes to sustainable fashion but if it looks pants, what’s the point? At least, I think that’s what she meant. Thankfully this tee ticks all said boxes and still manages to look chic – quick side note: size- wise it’s quite roomy so in my opinion you should opt for the next size down if poss.
In actual fact it has become something of a staple in my wardrobe since it arrived on my doorstep six weeks ago (I like to properly road-test these things) and my obsession shows no signs of waning just yet. Having paired it with dungarees, skinny jeans and even midi-skirts, I can safely say it’s a versatile little sucker (then again, I’ve never met a stripy top that wasn’t) although my current favourite combo has got to involve these new ‘Happy Birthday to Me’ Monki jeans (balloon legs are where it’s at yo!) and of course, this jaunty cap I bought whilst on holiday in Brittany. Yep, that’s correct, I shamelessly donned a Breton and lorded around the Brittany region like the Sailor Gal I am – or not, as the case may be, seeing I epically-failed to get my ‘sea legs’ whilst on board the ferry and spent the entire journey there and back lying horizontal in my cabin. Pass the sick bag please.
Ferry failures aside I had a pretty relaxing trip visiting my Husband’s folks and even though they were totally bemused as to why I was posing outside their kitchen window pretending to drink a cup of lukewarm tea, they also gave ‘The Breton’ two thumbs up. What more can I say? This one’s definitely a keeper.
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
1 heaped tbsp vegan granola
handful of coconut flakes
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
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.
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
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
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.