Eating Well with Merchant Gourmet

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

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Breton Baby

 

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 I WORE … LILLI STRIPEY ORGANIC TOP – C/O BRAINTREE CLOTHING // TAIKI JEANS – MONKI // SANDALS – NEW LOOK (OLD) // NECKERCHIEF – H&M // CAP – CONCARNEAU (HOLIDAY FIND)

 

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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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