Comforting Cauliflower Soup

Today is the day I travel to Scotland to begin rehearsals for Beauty and the Beast – eek! I’m excited, nervous and also more than a little sad and unnerved to be leaving my new home and of course my wonderful Husband. To top it all off our stuff finally arrived from Chicago and we’ve spent the entire weekend shifting it all into our flat, which is four floors up and there ain’t no lift! It’s been totally bizarre having our things around us again – can you believe it’s been nearly four months? I’m overwhelmed by the amount of clothes I have, all of which have been lovingly collected over the years (have I mentioned my penchant for vintage clothes before?). My walk-in closet is fit to bursting, which has just highlighted the issue and my poor Hubbie has been rolling his eyes every time we open another box just to discover yet more clothes – oh dear!

Packing certainly hasn’t been aided by my newly reaquired wardrobe but I’ve tried my best to be ruthless. It’s going to get bitterly cold up north so my main priority has been thermals, layers, socks, hats and scarves. It’s actually made me feel rather festive because the weather has been so great in Cornwall you’d think it was late summer not autumn – man, I really am going to miss it here.

Leaving home, even if it is a new home, is tough. It’s times likes these that I really need something soothing and for me that invariably comes in the form of a steaming bowl of  hot soup. Cauliflower had been on my mind for some time now and when Hubbie brought home the most gorgeous looking little fella from the local green grocers I knew it was meant to be.

Here it is then. My super soothing, comforting cauliflower soup, a sure fire way to ease the pain of leaving home or simply warm those cockles on a blustery autumn evening. Enjoy x

comforting cauliflower soup

1 onion

1 large carrot

3 garlic cloves

1 caulifower

1 organic vegan vegetable stock cube

olive oil

soy butter

salt and pepper


Dice the onion and carrot. Heat a little oil and butter in a heavy bottomed pan and add the onion and carrot. Season, cover and allow to soften for several minutes. Do not allow to colour.

Mince the garlic cloves and add to the pan, giving it a thorough stir and adding a little more oil if needs be. Season and cover. Allow to sweat for a further 5-10minutes.

Cut the cauliflower into florets and add to pan. Mix thoroughly and then add the stock cube and top with cold water – until it just covers the veg.

Bring to a boil and then simmer gently for 20-30minutes.

Transfer to a blender and blitz until completely smooth. Pour back into pan and simmer gently. Taste and season if necessary.

Serve with some freshly chopped chives and either a twice baked potato or a slice of chunky fresh bread.

Hugs xxx

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Udon Noodle Stir-fry

This is an exercise in making do. I really wanted chow mein noodles but only had udon – I made do. I fancied some pak choy yet the only leafy green in my fridge was spinach – I made do. I desperately wanted one of those ready made packet sauces that you tear open and slather over a stir fry when you haven’t the energy or wherewithal to make your own – I made my own and I made do.

I’m pretty glad I did make do because sometimes when this happens the stars align and Buddha grants you a splendid lunch perhaps knowing that you need some comfort food in your life right at that moment. I definitely did need that comfort and nothing soothes like a noodle. I’ve bigged up the noodle before, many times over and maybe some of you have had enough of my noodle exaltations to last you a lifetime. But seriously, has there ever been a more perfect food? Slurp, chew, gulp.

To put you in the picture I’ve managed to secure an acting job – yay and whoop! I’m mega excited because ‘resting’ damn near killed me these past few months and I was in desperate need of some performing as well as in need of some bucks. Touring comes with the territory when you’re an actor and if you take the decision not to you leave yourself in a very precarious position – one that has a distinct lack of jobs! If you’re not prepared to tour then, unless you are very lucky and/or live in London, you’re life as a performer will most probably be very shortlived.

I’ve moved to the bottom of the country so there aren’t as many acting opportunities meaning I need to make certain sacrifices or compromises to maintain my career. That compromise will see me traipsing up to Scotland this Monday – yes, THIS MONDAY – to begin rehearsals on Beauty and the Beast. It’s fantastic and I’m very happy but the thought of leaving my Husband is very difficult. If you’ve read my blog for long enough you’ll know that we are virtually attached at the hip and I am just stir crazy about the boy – it’s going to be a long few months.

The good news is I’m in work from now until February. I get paid every week. I get ten whole days off at Christmas and……you lucky lot get to see what being a vegan actor on the road is like. Should be quite a trip!

I’m getting myself in gear with this post because there’s going to be very little time methinks for complicated, lengthy, recipes and I foresee a lot of ‘making do’. It might be a bit slap dash but here’s hoping it ain’t slapstick!

By the way, in case you are wondering I’ll be playing the role of Mrs. Pott’s – I fear my ingenue days are over at the tender age of 29 (did they ever begin?).

udon noodle stir-fry

1 portion udon noodles

1 small onion or 2 shallots

handful green beans

1/2 pack (1 cup) marinated tofu

handful of baby leaf spinach

for the sauce

1 heaped tsp Sambal Oelek (Indonesian chilli sauce)

juice of 1 lime

1 tsp sweet freedom or agave nectar

1 tsp white wine or rice wine vinegar

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp ground nut oil

Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Make the sauce by combining all the ingredients in a bowl and whisking or stirring thoroughly with a spoon. Set aside.

Heat a little groundnut oil in a wok or skillet/frying pan. Finely slice the onion or shallots and add to pan. You want them to crisp up a little.

Slice the green beans diagonally and into small pieces. Add to pan with a little soy sauce.

Toss in the marinated tofu – I use the Cauldron Brand. Stir fry for several minutes. At this stage I add a tablespoon or so of the sauce just so the flavours infuse before combining the noodles.

Cook the udon noodles in the boiling water for 6-8 minutes, I personally don’t like to it to be too al dente because it’s quite a dense noodle anyway. Drain, return to pot and cover to keep warm.

Add the spinach and stir fry for a few short minutes until it begins to wilt. Then add the noodles and mix through before adding the remainder of the sauce. Allow to heat through for about a minute.

Sprinkle some sesame seeds (toasted would be even better!) on top to serve.

Slurp, chew, gulp.

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Vegan Pumpkin Butter

Onto pumpkin recipe number two! This time a truly yummy and very versatile pumpkin butter – this baby can be spread on toast, dolloped on vegan yoghurt or porridge, licked straight off a spoon, you decide.

I was super happy with how this turned out and even happier that it contained no sugar. I decided to forego the usual for a slightly less usual date syrup, sweet freedom combo and it worked a treat. It turned out so well I knew I had to share the love and thus pass along the single jar this recipe made to my Husbands parents because I knew they’d appreciate a Stateside inspired treat made in the UK.

They live in France, y’see (mais oui!) and we only get to see them about once a year so when Jas’s Sister Michelle was heading over to visit we thought we’d send our love in the form of two jam jars filled with homemade loveliness. We were told by text that both the blackberry conserve and the pumpkin butter had been sampled and were declared winners! I love to hear that.

This recipe is almost too easy – I was waiting for the catch, fearing I’d missed out a crucial ingredient or step but no, this really is it. I must admit it’s a heck of a lot less stressful than making jam and in my opinion more scrummy and certainly more autumnal. All those gorgeous spices and silky smooth pumpkin puree make for one fabulously tasty spread.

You must make this. That is all.

vegan pumpkin butter (makes one large jar)

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/4 cup soy milk

1/2 cup sweet freedom sweetener or agave nectar

2 tbsp date syrup

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp allspice

1/4 tsp coriander

pinch salt

Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and mix thoroughly.

Simmer the mixture on a low heat until it thickens ensuring to stir it constantly to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

It should take approx 20-30minutes to thicken.

Meanwhile, sterilize a jar by washing it in very hot soapy water, rinse thoroughly and dry in a low oven for about 15 minutes. In the last 5 minutes put the lid in the oven.

When the butter has sufficiently thickened transfer to the jar and screw the lid on immediately. Allow to cool for at least a day before using or giving it away.

Spread on toast, dollop in vegan yoghurt or porridge (oatmeal), use as a sweet dip, eat straight from the jar.

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Natalie’s Favourite Quinoa Salad

I’ve always been a fan of Natalie Portman. True, she is one of those natural beauties that looks great on the big screen but she is also a very fine actress. Being an actress myself it can sometimes be difficult to detach oneself from viewing performances with a critical eye and by that I don’t mean to necessarily negatively criticise.

I suppose performers notice things that perhaps the general viewing public may not only because we have been trained to see things from a slightly skewed angle. When I studied music it got to the stage where I couldn’t simply enjoy listening to it for pleasure anymore. My mind would be thinking about phrasing, technique, musicianship to name but a few interferences and so my love of it did suffer. When I then went to Drama school I was adament I wasn’t going to allow the same thing to happen but it’s very hard when Kate Winslet is giving a magnificent performance and all you can think about is the process she went through to get there. Maybe this is because sometimes it can be a little too obvious that it is indeed a performance. Let it be known, I am not slagging dearest Kate off here just merely using her as an example.

For me, this never happens with Natalie. She immerses me in her world, her character and most importantly I believe her. To me that is the sign of a great performer. I don’t want to see the acting, I want to believe it and that is what Natalie does best. One of my favourite roles that Nat played was in V for Vendetta. A strange choice but not one I’m embarrassed about. I don’t really care that it’s not cool or wasn’t very well received, I liked it, and Natalie rocked (as usual). Her accent wasn’t half bad either!

The fact that Natalie is a Vegan proves to me (not that she needs to prove herself to anyone but you get my point) that she is someone who is both beautiful on the inside as well as the out. A caring nature and a beautiful face – surely a winning combination if ever there was one!

I recently read a quote in The Observer Food Monthly, when they published their vegetarian edition, that summed up Veganism for me. It was put across so eloquently, so gently and yet so powerfully that you couldn’t help but stop for a second and think. After the quote was a recipe – supposedly Natalie’s Favourite Quinoa Salad. A delightfully light and refreshing dish that is sure to please any palate. I have adapted it a mere smidge but the essence of the dish hopefully remains.

I’ll leave you with those words that affected me so much and cemented Natalie in my own personal little hall of fame:

Every time we choose not to eat an animal, we affirm our belief against killing, against cruelty, against violence. It can be a reminder, three times a day, of what it means to be human, and to have power over other creatures. Just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

Goosebumps. Am I right?

Natalie’s Favourite Quinoa Salad

1 cup quinoa

1/2 cup sweetcorn (fresh, frozen or canned)

1/4 cucumber

1/2 red onion

5 sundried tomatoes

1 lemon

1/2 tsp dijon mustard

1 tsp cider vinegar

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

pinch organic unrefined sugar

salt and pepper

handful finely chopped dill

handful of radish sprouts (or any other – alfalfa etc.)

In a pot add 2 cups of water to the quinoa. Bring to a boil, cover and then gently simmer until all the water has absorbed. Transfer to a plate and set in fridge to cool.

Finely dice the red onion. Skin and de-seed the cucumber and cut into small chunks. If you’re using fresh sweetcorn, take it off the cob using a knife and blanche the kernels for a few minutes. If using frozen, place them in a bowl, cover with freshly boiled water, drain and rinse. If using canned simply rinse. Cut the sundried tomatoes into small pieces. Set all ingredients aside.

In a clean empty jam jar (remember, don’t throw these things away they come in very handy!) add the mustard, sugar, salt and pepper, vinegar, lemon juice,  extra virgin olive oil and dill. Screw the lid on tightly and give it a vigorous shake.

Take the quinoa out of the fridge and carefully mix through all the ingredients. Pour over two thirds of the dressing and give it a gentle, coaxing stir. Serve in a bowl, topped off with the sprouts and using the remaining dressing to drizzle over the top.

Summer in a bowl x

p.s. I know it’s autumn;)

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Vegan Pumpkin and Poppy Seed Muffins

Okay, so I’m stir crazy about pumpkins, that much we know. I’ve made the puree (first batch anyway) and I’m ready for some serious pumpkin baking time. Muffins always had to be at the top of my list because, apart from my love of pumpkins, I also swoon over a muffin. They’ve got to be super moist mind, none of this, it could be mistaken for a cupcake business, that just won’t do at all. The thing I really like about a muffin, you see, is that you can eat it anytime of the day. They’re perfect breakfast fodder, a nice mid-morning or afternoon snack and even work as a dessert.

However, I do think it’s becoming increasingly hard to come by a good muffin (certainly in the UK) and for me this has only become harder, nigh impossible since turning Vegan. There are plenty of Vegan cupcakes on the market but nobody seems interested in offering up a selection of Vegan muffins much to my amazement and disappointment. So for now I shall have to make do with eating my own, which is no hardship as I’ve become quite adept at producing the little (or not so little) blighters.

The inspiration for this recipe came from none other than Isa Chandra Moskowitz, the creator of such classic Vegan cookbooks as Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World and Veganomicon (a bible to some) and the very awesome Post Punk Kitchen,  a dedicated team of people making shows about Vegan food, yay!

I have tampered with the original recipe a wee bit mainly because the amount of sugar stated scared the bejesus out of me – one and a quarter cups? Are you sure? I’m so conscious of my sugar intake these days and try to limit it as much as possible preferring to use natural sweeteners where I can. I’m still a bit dubious about agave nectar so I have become rather reliant on maple syrup but it’s so bleedin’ expensive! To my delight over the  past week I have discovered two other sweeteners that I think may have solved my problem. Date syrup is exactly what it sounds like and is way cheaper than maple syrup. It’s championed by a lot of raw vegan chefs so if it’s good enough for them and all that. The other one is fairly new on the market and is made from 100% fruit – I kid you not! It’s called Sweet Freedom and retails for around 3 quid a bottle, which I think is pretty reasonable and let me tell you it is go-od. Having been likened to honey and dubbed the ‘vegan honey’ this little treat will take care of all your baking needs and then some. I’m think I’m in love:)

I hope you appreciate the slight tweaks I’ve made to the recipe and if you’d like to go further yourself to make them even healthier, i.e. this is what I’ll be doing next time, you could use apple sauce in place of the oil (which I halved anyway), choose a gluten free flour (like brown rice flour) and include some chopped pecans and sultanas to the mix for some texture and chew respectively. Not that these muffins sucked because they were, in actual fact, outstanding, but I’m always thinking of ways to take it to the next level and I never tire of fine tuning a recipe – it’s just something I’ve learnt to live with!

By the way, keep an eye out for some pesky Halloweeny spiders that were haunting my kitchen while I was baking!

vegan pumpkin and poppy seed muffins

1 3/4 cups white spelt flour

1/2 cup organic unrefined sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

pinch sea salt

1 tsp cinammon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp allspice

1 tbsp poppy seeds

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 tbsp soy yoghurt

1/4 cup rice milk

1/4 cup soy milk

1 tbsp cider vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup date syrup

1 tbsp blackstrap molasses

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius/400 fahrenheit.

In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients, i.e. flour, sugar, baking powder, spices and salt. Mix thoroughly.

In a small cup combine the milks and vinegar and allow to curdle.

In a smaller bowl combine the puree, date syrup, molasses, yoghurt and oil. Then pour in the milk and carefully stir until it is all combined.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry, stirring it in using a folding action. Also at this stage add the poppy seeds. Be sure not to overwork the batter or your muffins will lose their lightness.

Divide into muffin cases, about two thirds full – I used a combination of silicon and foil, as I was giving some away. If I was making them just for me and Hubbie I would use silicon to save on paper waste. In total I got six large muffins and six small.

Bake for 20-30 minutes. Every oven is different and mine were ready at 25 mins so be sure to keep an eye on them, checking at 20 mins. Insert a toothpick into the centre and if it comes out clean they are ready!

Allow to cool on a wire rack. Although nice eaten warm the flavours will intensify when cooled. Keep in a container or even loosely covered for a few days. They will not dry out I assure you. This is day three for us and they were still perfect.

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Pumpkin Puree and Oven-Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Halloween is nearing and I’m getting in the spirit (see what I did there?) by baking oodles and oodles of pumpkin inspired goodies. I adore pumpkins. They are so gorgeous to look at and even better to eat so I am mega excited about consuming masses of them over the coming weeks.

We buy our pumpkins from the side of the road here in Cornwall – a little stop off between Penzance and Pendeen. They’re displayed in a little wooden shelving cabinet with the prices marked in pen on the pumpkins themselves (it’s easily washed off). Then you put your money into a little iron hole in the ground – how quaint is that? The city girl in me still hasn’t completely adjusted to country life so things like this give me a thrill.

It got me thinking about how difficult it is to buy canned pumpkin puree here in UK – it’s almost as if it’s a specialist item, which is ridiculous really. The thing I loved about living in the US was their appreciation of not only Halloween but all things pumpkin. I miss that. Fear not though because I can try and impart some of that pumpkin enthusiasm myself and bring a much needed dose of Halloween fever to this part of the world.

See, where I’m from in Ireland, Halloween is a big deal. Huge! There is a massive carnival and you look like the odd one out if you’re not in fancy dress. Derry sure knows how to throw a party! We all know it was the Irish that brought the pumpkin carving tradition to the States so I feel my love for  Halloween is in the blood. Ghosties and ghoulies galore is what I say – bring it on!

In order to make this Cornish Halloween the best one ever we need to start with the basics and that is always going to be pumpkin puree. Once you’ve made this the world is literally your oyster when it comes to pumpkin goodies – sweet or savoury. So far, my list (and it’s ever growing) includes pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cookies, chocolate and pumpkin swirl brownies, pumpkin pie, pumpkin butter and for a more nutritious dish; a delicious, warming, autumnal pumpkin soup. Phew! I’m also toying with the idea of making Marly’s wonderful looking pumpkin whoopie pies.

One last thing. Whatever you do DO NOT toss those magnificent seeds in the bin. They are outstanding when roasted in the oven and make for great nibbles either throughout the day or even at a party. We’re still waiting on our stuff to arrive (don’t ask!) but when it does I’m going to coat them in my favourite Chipotle spice mix for an uber tasty snack.

If I’m this excitable at Halloween I dread to think what I’m going to be like this Christmas!

pumpkin puree

1 small/medium pumpkin

1 cup water

preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius/390 fahrenheit.

Halve the pumpkin and scoop out all the seeds, reserving them for later.

Place the pumpkin flesh side down in a baking dish or roasting tin. Pour in the water. Roast in oven for an hour or until flesh is very soft.

Carefully remove from dish and allow to cool.

Scoop out all the soft flesh, transfer to a blender and blend until you get a puree like consistency.

You should yield 2 cups/800 ml from a small pumpkin. Keep in fridge or freeze.

roasted pumpkin seeds

pumpkin seeds from a pumpkin

1 tbsp olive oil

good quality sea salt

Sort through the stringy bits to get the pumpkin seeds.

Do not wash the pumpkin seeds otherwise they will lose all their natural flavour. Coat in oil and sprinkle on salt. Bake in oven (same temp as before) for 10-15 mins until they are dry. Keep a close eye on them as they go from golden to burnt very quickly.

You could roast them at a lower temp for a longer period of time, e.g. 150 degrees celsius/350 fahrenheit for 30-40minutes but my oven was already pre-heated.


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Vegan Jambalaya

I’m slowly but surely veganizing all my old recipes. Slowly because I’m so caught up in the new foods I’m discovering that I rarely think about the meals I used to cook. Not that they weren’t good – they were pretty darn great if I’m being honest – but I have absolutely no cravings or hankerings after any of the meat and dairy laden fare that once came out of my kitchen.

Hubbie, on the other hand, does occasionally talk about the wonderful Carbonara’s or the yummy Frittata’s I produced that became firm favourites in my food repertoire. Of course, he would never really want to go back to our old ways but there is a certain nostalgia for comfort food that has brought you joy in the past. So I set about transforming some of my classic dishes into vegan wonders in their own right – it’s about time we started creating some new memories so that we can look back fondly in a few years time and marvel at how far we’ve come. Ever the optimist!

I’ve racked up quite a few triumphs from Spaghetti Amatriciana to Sausage, Mash and Gravy and even making some ridiculously amazing Tofu Frittata Muffins. The one I’m going to divulge right now though is Vegan Jambalaya. Holy smokes do I love this kind of fodder – one pot wonders packed full of flavour and a bit of spice, perfect to warm those cockles on a windy evening when the ever impending Autumn is closing in.

You should know I have a major penchant for the music of The Carpenters (don’t laugh, I am not ashamed!). I used to sing along to all their songs when I was young and always remember Jambalaya (On The Bayou) mainly because at the time I hadn’t the foggiest notion what a Jambalaya was. When I started stretching my cooking wings and discovering new cuisines I inevitably came across Jambalaya and suffice to say  it had to be made pronto! This is such a soulful dish that evokes images of balmy nights in a world that I will never probably know – although I’m still determined to get my heiney ‘Down South’ to have a good old explore.

I suppose my version is more Creole than Cajun because it’s tomato based. I’m led to believe that the differences are fairly subtle but Creole cuisine has more European influences and seeing as I’m nearer to Europe I’ll go with that. Regardless of where it comes from or what influences are at play this is just good ole’  fashioned grub that will leave you wanting more – this is certainly something I could hanker after.

vegan jambalaya

1 onion

1 red pepper

4 rashers vegan bacon – I used Redwood VegiDeli Organic Rashers

1 cup chicken style pieces – I used the RealEat brand

1 cup short grain brown rice

1 cup frozen peas

1 cup sweetcorn

1 can tomatoes

1 tsp tomato/vegetable puree

2 or 3 cloves of garlic

1 red chilli

1 tbsp paprika

1 tsp chilli flakes

1/2 tsp blackstrap molasses or a pinch of sugar

tabasco sauce (as much or as little as you like – I like a LOT!)

large handful of freshly chopped flat leaf parsley

olive oil

salt and pepper

Heat a little olive oil in a pan. Finely dice the onion and add to the pan along with some seasoning. Allow to soften for a few minutes. Mince the garlic and finely chop the chilli and add to pan along with the chilli flakes.

Cut the ‘bacon’ into chunks. Add to pan along with the paprika and cook until it starts to colour.

Cut the pepper into large pieces, add to pan, season and allow to soften with the other ingredients.

Pour in the brown rice, give it a stir and then add the tomato puree and chopped tomatoes. Top the can with water. Season, add the molasses and water from the can. Shake in a good amount of tabasco sauce. Fill the can again – you will use this water throughout.

Allow to gently simmer for 30mins before adding the frozen chicken style pieces. If it becomes too dry add more water – like you would do a risotto. Cook for a further 15mins or until the rice is fully cooked.

A few minutes before serving add the peas, sweetcorn and allow them to cook before sprinkling in the parsley ensuring to reserve some for when you plate up. Season and/or add more tabasco if necessary.

Serve in bowls and sprinkle with the remaining parsley.

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Easy Peasy Tortilla Pizza

What a week it has been! As you may know, my Husband and I are in the midst of filming a short, which has seen us traipsing all over Cornwall (well, our bit right down the bottom anyway) to the most idyllic and scenic places in the world never mind the UK. We’ve been up at the crack of dawn on many mornings and haven’t seen our pillows till very late at night so even though we are dog tired we also feel completely exhilarated – who wouldn’t be?

Everything culminated yesterday when we attempted to shoot the final footage at a secluded beach. We’d already spent the morning at the harbour and the early part of the afternoon in the woods so we were pretty zapped and enjoying the tranquility of this amazing spot. I should add at this stage that a peculiar thing happened on the way to the beach in question – we had a little follower in the form of a baby Billy Goat! We tried to encourage the wee fella to stay behind but that is easier said than done. We knew we were coming back the same route so we weren’t overly concerned and eventually gave up trying to coax him to stay put. The hilarity of seeing the goat on the beach was enough to entertain us all afternoon and he was so sweet. I think a bit of me fell in love him in the short time we spent together – he became our pal. I don’t know much about goats – if anything – and was surprised at his tenderness and affectionate way. He loved being stroked and he wasn’t hanging around for food because we didn’t have any. His presence enhanced the whole experience and we were happy for that alone.

However, we could not have predicted was about to happen next. Whilst we had noticed one or two seals out in the ocean occasionally popping their heads up and playing in the waves the scene that was about to unfold took all our breaths away. Out of the surf came a tiny white seal cub, crawling onto the shore and making its way up the beach to dry land. Of course, we didn’t know what to do with ourselves but the goat being ever inquisitive immediately dashed across the rocks to where the seal cub lay in the sand. We promptly followed to make sure the seal cub came to no harm but he (she?) seemed totally chilled and that was the moment a baby billy goat met a seal cub on a beach in Cornwall.

It was completely magical and it’s very hard to convey in words but we all felt totally privileged to be able to witness such an incredible sight. I almost didn’t get a photo, as I was shaking with excitement and totally caught up in the bizarreness of the situation. I’m convinced there are very few, if any, photographs that capture a meeting of this kind. We were very aware that the seal cub needed to be left alone so after this photo was taken we packed up and went on our way. It’s so difficult because your instinct is to want to touch, fell and caress.

The film we are making is about the environment and the wonder of our planet so it was pretty ironic something as wondrous as this should happen. We felt totally blessed.

Okay, so where does a tortilla pizza feature in all this? Well, suffice to say, there’s been very little time to prepare food in our busy schedule this week so we’ve been relying on quick and easy meals that really satisfy. This pizza could not be easier and the tahini, hummus sauce works a treat in place of cheese – seriously! If you’re in a hurry and need something substantial and yummy this is a sure fire winner. I’ve listed ingredients to put on top but in reality you can put whatever you have in your fridge or cupboards – it’s a pizza so everyones taste will be different. This is not cooking, it is mere assembling and I like it! Give it a go, I have a feeling it might become a regular in your household too.

easy peasy tortilla pizza

4 wholewheat tortillas

1 sweet red pepper chopped into large chunks

1/2 onion finely sliced

handful sliced mushrooms

small handful spinach leaves

2 tbsp tomato/vegetable puree

1 tbsp chopped jalapeno peppers

for the ‘cheese’

1/2 cup hummus

1 tbsp tahini

juice 1/2 lemon

black pepper

pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees celsius/400 fahrenheit. Although you would normally heat an oven to its highest temperature for a real pizza remember these are just flour tortillas and so will cook (burn) very quickly. Turn over a baking sheet and leave it in the oven to heat also whilst you go about assembling your pizza.

You’ll need two tortillas for pizza, one on top of another. Spread the tomato puree with the back of spoon leaving a gap around the edge of the pizza.

Mix the ‘cheese’ ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside.

Arrange the ingredients how you like. Pour over the sauce.

Flour the baking sheet before sliding on the pizzas! Bake for 8-10mins – do keep an eye on it as it may be ready in 6mins depending on your oven. Cut into quarters and eat, eat, eat, eat!

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Pearl Barley Risotto with Balsamic Roasted Squash

Yesterday started out so lovely. The sun was shining, the sky was blue and for October the temperature was uncommonly high. By the time we organised ourselves and got there, however, the clouds had started to move in and the winds had picked up. Typical! We were out location scouting for a film we are in the midst of making and we really are spoilt for choice here in Cornwall – I feel like every corner I turn I’m discovering a hidden cove that is truly something you’d find in some movie of epic proportions. So even though the weather may not have been on our side, it remained a triumphant success (despite being almost blown off the edge of a cliff!).

Yesterday was a success for a wholly different reason too. I’d previously submitted photos to TasteSpotting and Foodgawker with the only expectation being one of rejection. You can imagine my delight then when I clicked on my blog stats to discover most of the traffic was coming from these very places. Of the three photos I submitted one was accepted and to be honest I totally get why the other two didn’t make the grade – they were unfortunately not helped by the fact you have to crop your photos and it messed with the composition, which is fair do’s. I’ll know in future which shots will work on these sites and which won’t.

Looking through the beautiful food photos on both of these sites makes me feel rather please with myself. The blogs that have photos regularly accepted are what I consider to be the creme de la creme of food blogs and are way more established than my little vegan offering. That is why I’m in a very good mood today. It’s kind of silly that I need something like this to validate what I’m doing but I can’t say it doesn’t help. We all need a bit of reassurance that isn’t coming from your Husband or your Mother, don’t we?

By the time we got back to the flat we were cold and hungry and I, for one, was craving something wholesome and autumnal. My baby squash had been prettily sitting on my counter for over a week now – I scrapped my plans to use it in a noodle salad – and I knew it was time to use him. I don’t why it’s a him, it just is. Nothing screams autumn better than pearl barley. It’s so earthy and comforting and although it is great in soups I’ve been wanting to try it as a risotto substitute for ages. Off I went then and made that barley risotto and boy was it good; we snuggled up with a bowl each and it felt like autumn had really started.

With that soothing bowl of barley we wished the long summer goodbye and said hello to falling leaves, halloween and all the delicious offering’s this season brings with it.

pearl barley with balsamic roasted squash

1 little squash/mini pumpkin

2 leeks

1 courgette

6 closed cup mushrooms

1 cup pearl barley

1 vegetable stock cube

1 tsp dried oregano

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp soy butter

salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius/390 fahrenheit.

Cut the squash into pieces, using the shape of the vegetable to divide it. Transfer to an ovenproof dish. Splash over a little evoo, seasoning, oregano and balsamic vinegar. Ensure it is all thoroughly coated. Bake in the oven for 40mins. Check on it periodically and move it around so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the dish.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the vegetable stock cube and reduce heat or just turn it off completely.

Heat the olive oil soy butter in a frying pan/skillet. Add the chopped leeks, season and allow to soften slowly ensuring they don’t colour.

Slice the courgette and add to pan. Cook for a further 5 mins or so until it is beginning to soften. You want the courgettes to retain their shape so try not overcook them at this stage.

Pour in the pearl barley allowing it to soak up some of the excess oil before ladelling in the stock several cups at a time. Cook it fairly rapidly until the liquid is completely soaked up and then cover again with more stock. Repeat in this fashion until it is almost cooked. Remember to taste and season as necessary. Before adding the last batch of stock tumble in the chopped mushrooms, season and stir through the risotto. Cover with stock.

Once the liquid has been soaked up and the pearl barley is cooked but still has some bite serve in warmed bowls and top with the squash. I also splashed over a little more balsamic to finish the dish off.

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Roasted Figs with Aromatic Couscous

This is not the post I’m supposed to be writing. I’m supposed to be blogging about my recent jam making endeavours but I’ve unfortunately come undone with this one because of a little (not unknown but unknown to me!) fact I recently discovered. As recently as last night when I was researching a certain ingredient I had used to ‘enhance’ my homemade conserve – and it is a conserve because it uses the whole fruit and doesn’t set like a jelly. How do I know this? That’s right, I researched it in order to present to you a wonderfully informed blog post all about the differences between a conserve, jam, jelly and compote. It was going to be so good.

You see, this Vegan melarkey is a work in progress. You learn something new everyday, so they say, but when you’ve decided to embark on a Vegan lifestyle you learn about ten new things everyday. Some of these little discoveries will completely ruin your brilliant blog post and put certain products off limits forever.

Some of you may already have guessed what the ingredient in question is. I mentioned it a couple of posts back when I had first foraged my blackberries and could not contain my excitement at the prospect of my blackberry trilogy, hoping they would be amongst my best posts to date. Now though, I feel silly, because it was so obvious that Mead wine is not suitable for vegans. I knew it was sweet but honestly it never occurred to me that honey was the culprit in making this historical drink so delectable.

So, here I am. In Cornwall. Unable to take part in any mead or pasty action. It seems ludricrous but at the same time I’m fairly unaffected by it. It’s a kind of shrug your shoulders, ah well, situation. Thankfully, I hadn’t yet tried my blackberry and mead conserve, so my Vegan status remains intact, and there are plenty of willing takers;) I gave a pot to Matt and Michelle, which is what the photo is of – I sterilized old jam jars, I used a magazine clipping to cover the top and secured it with a plastic band from a bunch of spring onions. A truly homemade affair.

After all that I really needed a sugary fix but as it was dinnertime (it was 11o’clock again – will our bodyclocks ever sort themselves out?) I needed to combine it with something savoury – I don’t think hubbie would’ve appreciated cookies for supper! I had just recently purchased my first jar of blackstrap mollasses and thought this was the perfect time to try these badboys out – I think I needed the iron too. I’d also found some perfectly ripe figs in Sainsburys. Whilst we try to get most of our shopping from Farmers Markets and local businesses we have to do a supermarket run too. We made the effort to drive to Truro, because of all the supermarkets in Cornwall Sainsbury’s is the most vegan friendly; they label their products clearly. The Co-Operative are getting there but Sainsbury’s is still tops.

Back to the figs. I’m crazy about them. To me they are pure luxury, a real indulgence and exactly what the doctor ordered after my conserve fiasco. I went with the couscous because it’s easy and I needed something pain free although I do feel slightly guilty giving you yet another couscous dish in such a short space of time. I won’t lie, the pomegranates are an homage to Nigella. I’ve had a tough time with that woman lately but after viewing the first episode of her latest series Kitchen she’s back in my good books. I know it’s very hard for people to fathom a vegan enjoying Nigella but I make no apologies or excuses. I’ve already veganized dozens of her recipes and the ones featured in this weeks episode have given me loads of ideas. Obviously, I don’t straight up copy her dishes but there’s enough delicious content in there to inspire me.

I’m happy to report that the figs were the perfect cure for my disappointment in the mead stakes and I’ve found my new favourite ingredient in blackstrap mollasses – holy hell that stuff is good. I have two figs left and I’ve got my eye on this fabulous recipe from the ever wonderful Vegalicious. I am, once more, a very happy vegan x

roasted figs with aromatic couscous

for the couscous:

1 cup couscous

handful golden sultanas

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 coriander

1/2 paprika

1/2 tsp chilli flakes

1/2 cup frozen broad beans

5 or 6 cherry tomatoes

1/4 cucumber

1/2 red onion

1/2 pomegranate

small handful pumpkin seeds

handful chopped flat leaf parsley

salt and pepper

for the figs:

2 ripe figs

1 tsp blackstrap molasses

1 tsp cider vinegar

glug of extra virgin olive oil

for the dressing:

1/2 cup hummus

juice of 1/2 lemon

black pepper

pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius/390 degrees fahrenheit.

Place the couscous in a large bowl along with the spices and sultanas. Pour over one cup of boiled water, give it a stir and cover. Leave to stand for 10-15 mins.

Place broad bean in a bowl and cover with freshly boiled water. Allow to stand for several minutes before draining and then peel.

Quarter the cherry tomatoes, de-seed the cucumber and chop into small chunks. Finely dice the red onion.

Quarter the figs. Combine the molasses, vinegar and oil and drizzle over the figs. Place in oven for 10-12 mins. You may have some marinade leftover so just pour it into the couscous.

Fluff the couscous with a fork, add the broad beans, tomatoes, cucumber and onion. Finely chop the parsley and add to couscous ensuring it is thoroughly mixed. Halve the pomegranate and release the seeds by either tapping on it with a rolling pin or as I did easing them out with a sharp knife. Sprinkle in the pumpkin seeds (next time I’ll toast them), season and give it a good stir.

Make the sauce by combining the hummus, lemon juice and freshly ground black pepper. Squeeze a little of the lemon juice over the couscous if you wish.

Put a couple of pittas in the oven to heat through.

Take the figs out of the oven. Plate up the couscous placing the figs on top, drizzle the remaining molasses sauce over the figs. Pour the hummus sauce around the figs but not on them. Cut the pittas in half to serve.

Indulge. Now! As you can see from the photos, I’d already started ‘indulging’ before deciding to take a pic;)

p.s. for those of you interested in making blackberry conserve the ingredients and method are as follows:

5 cups blackberries

2 1/2 cups organic unrefined granulated sugar

juice 1 lemon

1 small bottle elderberry mead wine (obviously optional!)

put everything into a pot, bring to a boil, cover. Let it boil for up to an hour, periodically mashing it with a masher and making sure it isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pot. Sterilise the jars by washing them in very hot water and allowing them to dry in a moderately hot oven – 120 degrees celsius/250 fahrenheit for at least 20mins. In the final 5/10mins place the lids in too. Pour the hot conserve into the warm jam jars, secure the lid (the popper on top should go down – you will hear a loud pop so don’t panic!). Let it cool before giving it to anyone – a day at least. Label and store.

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