Coconut oil makes for a great base to homemade chocolates. The texture and flavour are perfect for that most decadent of treats – truffles. Tahini might seem like an odd addition too but trust me when I say, it emphatically works! To put an extra festive spin on proceedings I’ve added orange extract and zest, and loaded up on pistachios and dried fruit … my preference is cherries but you could easily use raisins or cranberries. Once rolled and dusted, they can be wrapped in parchment paper or placed in a cellophane bag, ready for unexpected guests to take home with them. When it comes to gifts, I always think the personal touch goes a long way in impressing – even if they happen to be ridiculously easy to make. Merry Christmas!
1 ½ tbsp. *vita coco coconut oil
150g dark chocolate (min. 70% cocoa solids)
3 tbsp. light tahini
1 tsp. orange extract
Zest of 1 orange
2 tbsp. agave
Pinch of sea salt
50h roughly chopped
50g dried cherries
2 heaped tbsp. raw cacao powder
50g pulverized pistachios
Place the coconut oil in a small saucepan and melt over a low heat.
Break the chocolate in small pieces and add to pan. Gently melt, using a spatula to incorporate the oil and chocolate.
Take the saucepan off the heat and add the tahini, orange extract, zest, agave and salt. Whisk vigorously to combine. Return to the heat for a few seconds to ensure the tahini is thoroughly incorporated and the mixture is silky smooth.
Fold in the dried cherries and chopped pistachios before transferring to a small lined loaf tin. Refrigerate for at least 6hrs until solid.
Pulverise the remaining pistachios until they resemble a fine dust. Transfer to a shallow dish, ready for rolling. Place the cacao in a separate bowl.
Once solid, remove the chocolate slab from the fridge and let it soften for 5mins before scooping out approx. ½ tbsp. worth of chocolate – a melon baller is handy. Tip the ball into the cacao to lightly coat before rolling into a smooth ball. Transfer the truffle to the pistachio dish and gently roll to coat, gently pushing the truffle into the nuts for maximum coverage.
Repeat until all the chocolate mixture is used – you should get about 20 balls from each batch.
Refrigerate until needed.
Alternatively, line a muffin tin with baking parchment and divide the mixture between each mould. Refrigerate for at least 6hrs before using the baking parchment to carefully remove the chocolates from the tin – this will render 12 large discs. Similarly, refrigerate until needed.
*this is a sponsored post but all views etc. are authentically mine – enjoy!
I read a blog post recently on food bandits that really resonated with me. If you’re a freelancer like myself and have frequent, crushing episodes of ‘self-doubt’ then I think it might be worth taking a peek … I’ll leave the link here. Go have a gander. It got me thinking … in this current social media focused climate, we are often tricked into thinking everyone’s else lives are so much better than ours. More organised. More fun. More whatever. And we buy it. We take those proclamations of perfection and hold up our own meager life offerings up in direct comparison. Same goes for work. I know I have periods when I feel like my efforts are totally redundant – it’s not rational on any level but I can’t say I don’t have a continual worry that I’m failing.
Failure and success are such strange concepts really. Even when my career is going well I can’t help but feel I could be doing more, creating more, achieving more. At what stage do we actually allow ourselves to think ‘I have succeeded’. When our books are selling well and work prospects seem bright? Maybe. Or, if you’re me, you might constantly looking for the negative in any given situation … my inner monologue swings from ‘how long will this last?’ to ‘you can’t rest on your laurels’ to ‘what if they next book isn’t as popular!’ and on and on it goes.
I said to my Husband just the other night that I wished we lived in a simpler time. Yes, I’m probably one of those people that views the 90s and early noughties through rose tinted glasses but I pretty sure I was more content without having a phone attached to me at all times. Whilst it’s wonderful to be ‘connected’ to so many people, I often wonder if that’s such a good thing? The wheel turns faster now than it ever has done, leaving very little time for actual living.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for instagram and twitter, and most of the time get pleasure out of posting but sometimes, sometimes, I’d like to hop off the merry-go-round for a while just to catch my breath. Does this make any sense? Perhaps my lonesome freelance lifestyle really has propelled me one-step closer to the loony-bin. With that said, I honestly wouldn’t change any of it … where I am currently, how I got here and what the future holds. Of course, I’m going to have ‘off’ days but it’s comforting to know that other creatives are going through the same thing. We really are a self-critical bunch, aren’t we? Sheesh.
For me, I know it’s important to step away from the chaos for a bit and do something for myself. Today, I finished off a little bit of work in the morning before allowing myself a bit of playtime in the kitchen. There’s was limited light in our already quite dark living area but I think I just about got away with it – and even though it’s not the most festive of dishes, my mood required something bright and cheerful. Now I feel totally ready to shake off the week and enjoy (savour) the weekend. Hope you have a good one planned too.
what you’ll need
1 large garlic clove
1/2 vegetable stock cube
250g frozen peas
1 heaped tbsp. coconut cream
1 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
for the roasted veg
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
30g toasted almonds
handful of pea shoots
1 tbsp. chives
what you’ll need
pre-heat the oven to 200c.
halve the radish and cut the celeriac into cubes. Place in an ovenproof dish, add the balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Season generously and toss to combine. Roast for 30mins, shaking the pan from time to time.
place the almonds in an ovenproof dish or baking tray and pop in the oven for 10minutes, giving them a good shake about half-way through.
heat the olive oil in a small saucepan. slice the leek and add to pan. season and sweat for several minute until it softens.
add the stock cube, cover with water … about 350ml – and pop in the garlic clove, no need to peel.
bring to the boil, add peas and then simmer gently for a few minutes until the peas are just cooked through.
drain the peas, reserving the broth, and transfer to a food processor. Unpeel the garlic clove and add to processor along with the coconut cream and a little more seasoning. Pulse until it forms a coarse, nubbly puree. Return to pan and heat through.
divide the puree between two plates and top with the roasted veg, toasted almonds and some chopped chives. Spritz the pea shoots with a little lemon juice and place a handful on each plate.
December is upon us and I am really ramping up the hygge factor in my kitchen. Being a die-hard crumble fan, I tend to make one a week during these crisp, cold winter months – nothing beats a warming bowl of this doused in soya cream, custard or in this instance a dollop of zingy coconut yoghurt. This is a bit of a sweet ‘n’ savoury affair … not too sweet with just the right amount of herb and vinegar action to make you raise an eyebrow. I adore the granola topping so much I think I might be reluctant to go back to the traditional variety – the nutty crunch is seriously moreish and would make a terrific granola in of itself. In you are so inclined, simply lay the mixture flat on a baking sheet and bake in a pre-heated oven (150c) for 20mins before giving it a gentle mix – return it to the oven for a further 10-15mins. Bingo, you have a wondrous breakfast at the ready. Truth be told, I would happily chow down on this crumble first thing without so much as a single guilt pang – hence my coconut yoghurt suggestion.
I have a lot of cooking lined up this season. I’m determined to perfect my mince pie recipe (happy with my filling but my pastry needs work) and am having a strange cracker obsession presently … so sick of buying of buying shop bought ones that are almost always ‘meh’. A bad cracker lets down a great ‘cheese board’ and now that I’ve nailed my ultimate cashew cheese recipe (all in good time) pairing it with a sub-par ‘gary’ vehicle would be a travesty. Even though this Christmas is going to be lacking in festive cheer, I’m using food as a much welcome distraction. Luckily I’ll have many willing mouths on hand to hoover up whatever I put in front of them. This crumble will most likely make a number of appearances too.
What you’ll need
for the filling
9 plums, stoned and sliced
handful of dried cherries
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
pinch freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
50ml maple syrup, agave or other liquid sweeneter
for the oaty topping
30g ground almonds
30g flaked almonds
sprig of lemon thyme
pinch of salt
2 heaped tbsp. light tahini
30ml maple syrup or agave
1 tsp. almond extract
juice 1/2 clementine
30ml olive oil
What you’ll do
Pre-heat the oven to 175c.
Toss the sliced plums with the dried cherries, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, balsamic and sweetener. Set aside while you make the topping.
Whisk the tahini, maple syrup, almond extract, clementine juice and oil together until smooth.
Transfer the plums to an ovenproof dish.
In a separate bowl, lightly mix the oats, ground almonds, flaked almonds, thyme leaves and salt together before adding the tahini mixture. Stir to combine, ensuring everything is coated.
Spoon the granola mixture over the plums, ensuring it is pressed reasonably flat to avoid it charring too much on top before the fruit is cooked through.
Bake for 20mins. Remove from oven and lightly fork through the topping to ensure the granola topping is evenly cooked. Return to the oven for a further 10-15mins or until the plum juice begins to bubble and the top is golden and crisp.
Let it cool briefly before serving. Adorn with lemon thyme and add a dollop of fresh coconut yoghurt to each bowl.
Oooomph. Where to begin. It’s taken me nearly 24hrs to get this post uploaded – not because of the recipe, more because I’m really not sure what to say. I guess I could gloss over the election but truthfully, that doesn’t sit well with me – it’s just too damn important. Even if I don’t get it right all the time, I’m a passionate person and this Trump debacle has really got me riled. Like many, I had so much hope he wouldn’t win but deep down I knew it was a very real possibility – we had a dry-run with Brexit, which set the alarms bells officially ringing. Back then I thought the likelihood of us voting to leave the EU was slim to none and whilst I had pretty strong opinions on the matter, I kept reasonably quiet beforehand.
Then, in the wake of the result, I found myself so angry and full of contempt for anyone who didn’t vote to remain, I was almost blinded to what was really going on. Similarly, the US have found themselves dumbfounded that something which had been under their noses the whole time was seemingly ignored. As I said at the time (of Brexit that is) – it’s as if the veil has been lifted and we are seeing the society we live in clearly for the first time. It’s a frightening thing when you suddenly feel like you’re surrounded by strangers – I’ll admit I couldn’t look people in the eye for a number of weeks, thinking ‘did they… ?’ ‘was it them who landed us in this mess?’ ‘what were they thinking?!!’, which only really results in a climate of collective distrust.
And then I realised that’s exactly how many ‘Brexiteers’ and ‘Trump Supporters’ have most likely been feeling for years. Outsiders. The forgotten ones. Voiceless and discarded. We’ve only had a few months of it but can you imagine what that must feel like on a permanent basis? I fully acknowledge my privileged upbringing and by that I mean having two parents who did everything in their power to give my Sister and I the best possible start in life. The word ‘opportunity’ has been bandied about a lot these last few days and that is precisely what I was always afforded – the encouragement to believe I could do anything, regardless of how much money we had or what my gender was. It’s amazing how powerful someone believing in you can be … I can tell you now it made me fearless.
However, and despite my unshakeable demeanour I do know what it feels like to be judged on your nationality – it’s hard to believe now but I used to accept someone saying to me ‘oh, that’s so Irish’ with the implication my heritage somehow equaled stupidity – and no, I wasn’t simply misunderstanding the tone or being ‘paranoid’, this is precisely was they meant. Even in recent weeks I’ve heard people referring to my fellow Northern Irish folk as a ‘bunch of misfits’ (as well as gleefully dismissing our border concerns – we don’t want one, by the way) and I can tell you it hurts … such small-fry though when you consider the hate that has consumed people recently but no less significant.
Trump’s election too has worryingly legitimised these beliefs and made it okay for people to freely say what they’ve obviously been thinking for years. And perhaps therein lies the problem. Do we really know what has contributed to the current hate-filled climate, where we are turning on our neighbour and saying unfathomable things to one another? How have the political, economic and social structures been a factor in cultivating beliefs that simply aren’t true … no, not all Muslims are terrorists and (despite Trumps shocking proclamations) not all Mexicans are ‘rapists and criminals’. P.S. I did a little fact check on the exact words he used, if you need further reminding of his rampant xenophobia:
When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.
What a charmer, eh? And how nice of him to acknowledge there’s a few good ones in there too. A real stand-up guy. Cripes, is anyone else missing Obama already? What I can say is, from personal experience, and having lived in an area of Chicago that had many wonderful, hardworking, talented, friendly, law-abiding Mexicans, Trump couldn’t be more wrong about this wonderful community of people. Of course, every nation has bad apples but that is something certainly not peculiar to Mexico. As an aside, I was thinking about the similarities between the Mexicans, Polish and Irish (and other countries that have suffered economic/social difficulties), and that is our readiness to go to where the work is. When times are tough, our willingness to pack our bag, get out there and survive is something to be admired, in my opinion, not something to be sneered at or derided. We like to put our best foot forward and graft … even if it means living hundreds or thousands of miles from home. It’s not always ideal but sometimes it has to be done.
What I’m trying to say is, in many ways, I sympathise with Trump supporters, and those who voted leave – I really do. But many wrongs do not make a right. It seems to me their identity is wrapped up in a past that no longer exists, and that is difficult to come to terms with. Luckily us Irish have had many years of practice, which means our sense of identity is kind of rock solid – we take it with us wherever we go, and I dare say it’s the same for the Mexicans et al too. All of this (feeling alienated in their own country, limited work prospects, and the rest) amounts to a collective sense of injustice, which is precisely when you hear people mouthing off about ‘immigrants taking our jobs’ and whatnot – absolute nonsense, of course, but this is what people really believe. True story – my Dad’s job was to get people into work and he told many, many stories of highly educated immigrants (I’m talking Doctors, Lawyers, Educators etc.) taking low-paid ‘menial’ jobs just to earn a buck … jobs, I might add, that nobody else was willing to do. To live in another country, respect its way of life, contribute economically and still retain a strong sense of self must feel like a slap in the face, even when it’s not intended that way. However, the blame cannot be laid at the feet of the people simply trying to do right by themselves and their families.
People are angry then and have turned to Donald Trump, of all people, for help and guidance. Sigh. The man that has espoused so many offensive, nasty, vitriolic things over the past year and a half is entering the Whitehouse, and will reign supreme as of January. Misogyny aside (that’s a whole post in of itself and Hadley Freeman has already done a better job than I ever could in how it overtook the campaign), Trumps win this week has given the almighty thumbs up to blatant racism with a fair old nod to fascism too – the far right have readily claimed the victory as their own, which can only have a unsavoury ripple effect around the world. No, not all Trump supporters are racist but when you align yourself with the likes of the KKK and Marine Le Pen, you must know you’re headed in the wrong direction for answers and solutions, no? Then again, I would probably be described as one of these mythical ‘Champagne Socialists’ I keep hearing about … even though my budget is more cava and I left my hardcore socialist tendencies back at college. Side note; I did enjoy canvassing for the socialist alliance with Mark Steel once back in the day … that man is an absolute hoot and I thoroughly enjoyed trundling the streets of southeast London with him even if we came nowhere close to winning. In case you’re interested, his column on the whole Trump catastophe is way more insightful (and hilarious – I may have howled, ahem) than mine, so I wholly recommend you give it a read, especially if you’re in need of a laugh. I know I was.
Ugh. So what to do now. Well, in addition to sharing every relevant Guardian/Greenpeace article I come across (yup, I am one of those annoying left-wing people – hi there!) and spamming Facebook and Twitter like a maniac, I’m also going to try and properly connect with my community more. No, really. Those disenfranchised people we’re alluding to? They actually exist – and they’re not all evil or want every immigrant deported asap. Equally though, that doesn’t mean we have to tolerate the bile that has been spewing from people’s mouths nor do we stand by when others are being abused for their religion, race or sexual orientation. We move forward, we come together but we emphatically do not sweep the hate that has been openly incited under the carpet because otherwise it’s all been for nothing. I could write a list of further concerns from the environment to planned parenthood and beyond but I get the sense you came here for a recipe and were greeted with a rant and for that I can only apologise. If you would like to add your tuppence-worth, by all means leave a comment below … just remember there’s enough hate out there at present to fill a thousand arks, so let’s keep it on the right side of kind. Instead, let’s give each other a much needed virtual hug and enjoy a nice slice of Citrus Tart. M’kay? M’kay.
what you’ll need
for the crust
50g desiccated coconut
50g brazil nuts
pinch of salt
1 tbsp. coconut oil
4 medjool dates
for the filling
juice 1/2 lemon
juice 1/2 orange
zest & juice 1/2 grapefruit
1 tsp. lemon extract
1 heaped tbsp. agar agar flakes
1/4 cup/60ml water
1/4 cup/60ml agave
pinch of salt
20g crushed pistachios
what you’ll do
place the cashews in a large bowl and cover with freshly boiled water. set aside for 30 minutes.
pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
place the coconut, pistachios and brazil nuts in a food processor and pulse until it becomes like fine rubble. add the coconut oil, salt and dates and pulse again until it just comes together – pinch some of the mixture between your fingers to test … if it sticks, you’re good to go.
transfer the crust mixture to a small tart tin and press into the mould using your fingers. refrigerate for 10 minutes to harden slightly before baking for a further 8-10 minutes in the oven – you can add baking beans if you wish but it shouldn’t make too much of a difference. remove from oven and cool in the fridge until needed.
drain and rinse the cashews and add to a blender.
place the agar agar flakes in a small saucepan along with juices and water. simmer for 5-10 minutes or until it completely dissolves. this will also intensify the citrus flavour.
add the liquid to the cashews along with the lemon extract, grapefruit zest, agave and salt. blend until it is completely smooth, scraping down the sides from time to time. this will take anywhere between 10-15 minutes, depending on your blender and will go through several stages … coarse, nubbly, thick and then smooth. if it is not entirely silky, you must keep blending until you achieve the desired consistency otherwise it will negatively affect the texture.
pour the filling onto the cooled crust and smooth with the back of a spatula. cover with clingfilm and freeze until set (about 2 hrs) before transferring to the fridge for at least and hour or preferably overnight.
roughly chop the remaining pistachios and scatter around the edge of the tart before serving. serves 4-6
We’ve had a jam-packed ‘Halloweeny’ weekend in the lead-up to the day itself. Both myself and my Husband like to eek out every second of it because (a.) we are die-hard horror fans and (b.) I happen to come from a wee town that knows how to celebrate this holiday (and then some) so I’m wholly determined to keep the tradition alive – even if it’s not exactly a major ‘thing’ here in Cornwall. Sure, we get the odd trick or treater but nothing like my hometown where the kids are out in full force from 4pm onwards. It really is a sight to behold. It always struck me odd that England doesn’t make more out of Halloween but I guess it is more of an Irish tradition … Samhain and all that. I’m so glad we got to experience Halloween in Chicago too – it’s a similar set-up … trick or treating earlier in the evening and then partying for the grown-ups later on. Side note: the whole ‘sexy costume’ malarkey utterly baffles me. I usually team up with my Husband (our homemade Jack Skeleton and Sally costumes complete with papier mache head were a hit) and our last efforts actually seen us walk away with a ‘best costume’ award, if can you believe it, even if most people had no clue what/who we supposed to be. Here’s a clue; we had to carry a ‘dead body’ around with us all night dressed in 80’s gear. Got it? Let me know in the comments if you think you’ve guessed correctly.
That was a couple of years ago now, when we lived in the bustling town of Falmouth, so recent festivities have been rather quiet in comparison – I think we had one kid call to our door last year so we ended up scoffing the remaining sweeties ourselves. Tonight’s viewing, as ever, will include ‘Night of the Living Dead’ (Barbara! They’re coming to get you Barbara!), Halloween (I am John Carpenter worshipper – p.s. he’s performing in London tonight, gutted I won’t be there), Rosemary’s Baby (obvs.) … and we’ll probably throw in a newbie for good measure too. The Shining was showing at our local film house last night, which was epic, to say the least. We’d never seen it on the big screen before and it totally took it to a whole new level – I feel like I know that film inside out, upside down but I was seeing things last night I’d never even noticed before. It’s a ruddy masterpiece. Kubrick rules.
Anyway. Halloween means pumpkins, which is fine by me because it’s just about one of my favourite ingredients to cook/bake with. I’ve been perfecting my breads, cakes and muffins but I also wanted to share something a little simpler in the form of a smoothie bowl. If you can’t get your hands on pumpkin puree, don’t worry I’ve got a tutorial here – it’s a lot easier than you might think (and whilst I love the convenience of a can) you can’t beat freshly made pumpkin puree. The remaining ingredients are items you’re likely to have hanging about your fridge/cupboard, making this a cinch to throw together. You could top it with fresh apple (or pear also works well) but I like to ramp up the flavour by tossing the chopped apple in cinnamon and maple syrup before roasting it in the oven until soft. I also used it to fill the centre of a Pumpkin Bundt Cake (loosely based on this recipe) I made for a small Halloween shindig I threw on Saturday. If you follow me on Instagram stories you’ll have caught some of the silly shenanigans.
Must dash now, as I haven’t bought anything for tonight’s mini frighteners and I also have a mountain of work to do. Oh Monday. You suck.
what you’ll need
4 heaped tbsp. pumpkin puree
3 tbsp. coconut yoghurt
3 tbsp. rolled oats
60ml/1/4 cup coconut milk
4 deglet nour dates (or 2 medjool dates)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
pinch of allspice
pinch of salt
handful of ice
for the apples
2 large apples (cox or similar)
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
pinch of salt (or cinnamon salt, if you can get your hands on it)
what you’ll do
pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. peel and chop the apple, and place in an ovenproof dish. toss in cinnamon, nutmeg and syrup, and sprinkle over a little salt. roast for 20-25 minutes until soft, shaking the pan from time to time. set aside until needed.
place the bananas, pumpkin puree, coconut yoghurt, dates, oats, coconut milk, spices, salt and ice in a blender and blend until completely smooth – I generally run it through twice to be sure. I like it reasonably thick but you add add more plant milk to thin it out if you wish.
divide between two bowl and garnish with the roasted apples, toasted flaked almonds, flaxseed and a dash of maple or pomegranate syrup.
Hump day is here and I feel like another week is whizzing by at an astonishing rate. This month has been a mixed bag so far … work-wise I’ve been desperately trying to form some sort of routine after a tumultuous period in my personal life – easier said than done. I’ve kind of viewed these passed few weeks as a bit of an experiment, seeing what works best for me and here’s a few things I’ve learnt – although not yet fully implemented, I might add:
Lists are everything. If I don’t make a list (even if I don’t manage to tick everything off) then I’m pretty much buggered for the entire day. It’s like a reference point keeping me (and my mind) on the straight and narrow.
Set targets for the week ahead. Along the lines of a list still but more general. My targets for this week included posting a Youtube video (tick) and getting another blog post up (again, tick!) … of course, there are work targets too, which always take priority but I won’t bother listing those here.
Everyday is different, so don’t fight the chaos, embrace it. This is something I continually struggle with because as a creative (self-employed) person I determine how my day plays out. I used to think my day should resemble a typical 9-5 and therefore would desperately (and mostly unsuccessfully) try to structure it like that. Silly idea. Allow yourself the freedom to be flexible, and you’ll feel less like a constant failure.
Distractions aren’t necessarily a bad thing. I sometimes need to zone out in order to give myself a little bit of mental space to ‘breathe’ and create – so don’t feel bad if you get caught in a social media vortex every now and then, ultimately some good will come of it. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.
I could probably keep adding to this list (once you start …!) but suffice to say my overall approach is to have some sort of loose structure going on without allowing it to dictate my creative flow – to that end, I should say I’m currently still in my pj’s and won’t be showering until I’ve posted this. Real life folks. The old me would usually chastise myself for such sloppy behaviour but in the grand scheme of things it’s no big deal. With that said, I often find I’m more productive when I get up early, shower and dress for the day ahead. It just feels lie the right thing to do and gets that proactive mindset into full swing – in other words, do as I say, not as I do.
Food is central to my workday (tends to happen when you’re a food writer) but I also like to make an effort with what I’m eating myself … breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in between; every meal is given as much love as the next. Buddha bowls are a firm favourite but as we move into the winter months I’m craving carbs and warmth, which means putting a slightly British twist on proceedings. Mini jackets are so satisfying and make for a great addition to this super comforting dish … all in the name of this new Danish ‘Hygge’ craze, don’t you know!
Yes, I’m totally jumping aboard the Hygge bandwagon because no-one does cosy better than the British – or Irish, for that matter, ahem. As well as my ‘mini jacket’ obsession, Brussel sprouts are also having a bit of moment in our house too. Tossed in a simple soy marinade and roasted until crisp, I could happily eat these like savoury snacks all on their own. The steamed veg can be anything really, I just happened to have mange tout and babycorn in my fridge. Hummus is the ultimate jacket potato filling, in my opinion, so I dolloped two huge spoonfuls into each before sprinkling over my current herby obsession … tarragon. I’ve seriously been putting this aniseedy wonder in everything from sauces to stews and it really adds a certain umami flavour I currently can’t get enough of. Barely even a recipe but so ridiculously satisfying to eat, this ‘Hygge Bowl’ is definitely where it’s at – for a next level solitary eating experience, simply light a candle, curl up in a blanket, put your worries on hold for a while, and enjoy.
what you’ll need
2 large salad potatoes
200g Brussel sprouts
1/4 cup couscous
selection of veg (mange tout, baby corn or other)
1/2 tbsp. coconut oil
2 tbsp. hummus
1 sprig of tarragon
black sesame seeds
salt & pepper
for the sprouts marinade
1/2 tbsp. maple syrup
1/2 tbsp. sesame oil
2 tbsp soya sauce
juice 1/2 lime
1 tbsp. tahini
1 tbsp. marinade
2 tbsp. water
what you’ll do
pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius. prick the salad potatoes all over with a fork. rub with coconut oil and season generously. bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden and crispy on the outside.
halve the brussel sprouts and place in an ovenproof dish. whisk the marinade ingredients together, reserving 1 tbsp. for the tahini dressing before pouring the remainder over the sprouts. roast for 30 minutes, tossing the sprouts from time to time to prevent sticking.
place the couscous in a bowl and pour over with 1/4 cup of freshly boiled water. cover and set aside for 10minutes. once the couscous has absorbed the liquid, fluff with a fork, squeeze over the juice of 1/2 lime, stir and set aside until needed.
steam or blanch the veg until just cooked but still retaining some crunch.
whisk together the tahini, marinade and a tablespoon or two of water until creamy.
halve the potatoes and gently squeeze before transferring to a large bowl. arrange the remaining ingredients in the bowl before adding the garnishes … dollop the hummus into the jacket potatoes and distribute the finely chopped tarragon over each. dizzle the tahini dressing over the sprouts and veg and finish with a sprinkling of black sesame seeds. serve with a small wedge of lime.
So, I promised to upload this recipe on Friday and it’s taken until now (Monday ruddy morning) to get my act together and actually process the photos and write the damn thing. I guess you could say I’m well and truly out of the blogging groove and I’m finding it increasingly more difficult to put my energies back into it. Because I’m channeling all my foodie creativity into other work, this space remains a bit of a ‘relegated to the back of my brain’ dead zone, which is not what I want but at present I can’t fully see a way forward. Part of me thinks I should be diversifying a bit and including more lifestyle posts (beauty, fashion, homeware) but I’m not sure if you agree – do you want to see those type of posts or should I just stick to food? Leave me a comment and let me know. I’m taking your lead on this one.
Instagram is proving to be a wonderful outlet for me at present. As long as you follow wisely it can be a really terrific, supportive community to be a part of. I’ve done many’s a cull, which means my feed is full of charming, positive people that have similar interests to me – yes, there’s lots of food but also plenty of performance art, floral displays (I love blooms) and style … I’m a sucker for a great outfit. I highly recommend @personalpractice (dancer extraordinaire) @latonyayvette (supermum and general babe) @ellenfisher (aka mango island mamma) @jennymustard (swedish vegan minimalist living in Berlin) and @carolinedemaigret (sophisticated french model who happens to be hilarious) … do you have any recommendations of your own? Who inspires you on a daily instagram feed basis? Also, I am so, so close to reaching my 10k target – if you’re not following me already (and you like lots of photos of food and Cornwall) then head over to my personal feed (@ainecarlin) and click follow! I would be very much obliged. High fives in advance.
And then there’s the small matter of it being October. October. My favourite month because, y’know … harvest, autumn, halloween, all that jazz. We’ve already decorated our living-room with dancing skeletons (see twitter for proof) and other ghostly bunting, as well as seasonal spooky candles – and lots and lots of PUMPKINS! Well, a variety of squash, if I’m being perfectly honest. But still. PUMPKINS!! Truth be told I used canned pumpkin for these pancakes but if you do want to make your own (it’s super easy, promise!) then I have a quick ‘How to’ that will help. This stack were so light and fluffy I was tempted to call them ‘Perfectly Pillowy Pumpkin & Orange Pancakes’ but decided to keep it simple instead. However, they most definitely are ‘perfectly pillowy’ and totally delicious to boot. I made an addictive palm sugar salted caramel to accompany them (can I get a ‘yum’?), which will test your restraint when it comes to bowl licking because this stuff is 100% uh-mazing. The pumpkin, orange yoghurt was a bit of an afterthought that actually really brought the whole dish together … but not as crucial as the caramel, so if you’re going to forgo something, forgo this.
Recipe time. You ready? Time to get get jiggy with some pumpkin puree.
what you’ll need
150g spelt flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
240ml soya (or other plant) milk
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
juice and zest of 1/2 orange
3 tbsp. maple syrup
1/2 tbsp. melted coconut oil
what you’ll do
place the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, spices and orange zest in a large bowl and whisk to combine.
in a separate bowl whisk the soya milk, puree, maple syrup and orange juice together until smooth.
make a well in the centre of the flour, pour in the wet mixture and whisk to combine.
heat a crepe or frying pan and melt the coconut before pouring into the pancake batter. whisk to combine and set aside for a minute or two.
return the pan to the stove, brush with a little more coconut oil and bring to a medium-high heat. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup (or an ice-cream scoop) ladle in the pumpkin batter, cooking one at a time for best results. cook for around 4-5 minutes or until bubbles begin to appear on top and the sides look dry before flipping. cook for a further minute or so before transferring to a plate. cover with a clean tea-towel to keep them warm. repeat until all the mixture is used … you should get approximately 10-12 pancakes out of the batter mix.
for the salted caramel
1/2 cup palm sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup coconut milk (from a can)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt
place the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil for around 5-10minutes or until the mixture reduces and thickens, and the sugar is completely dissolved. swirl to ensure the sugar is evenly dispersed but do not stir.
once the mixture has thickened, whisk in the coconut milk (coconut cream will also work) and gently boil for a further 10 or so minutes. once it takes on a caramel appearance, test the thickness using the back of a spoon … simply dip it into the caramel and set it aside for a minute to determine how well it sets – remember, as it cools, it will continue to thicken.
at the very end whisk in the extract and sea salt and transfer to a bowl. refrigerate until needed.
for the pumpkin yoghurt
4 tbsp. dairy free yoghurt
1 heaped tbsp. pumpkin puree
1 tbsp. orange juice
1 tbsp. maple syrup
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
whisk all the ingredients together until smooth and refrigerate until needed.
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.