Celtic Christmas

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If you follow me on instagram it will be fairly obvious we have made our way to Ireland for Christmas to spend the Holidays with my family. In fact, I’ve only ever been away from ‘home’, as it were, two or maybe three times in my thirty-two years on this planet. It always seems a little strange not to be in Derry at this time but my Husband has been hankering after a Cornish Christmas for a while now so I think next year may see us spend Crimbo in our new home of Falmouth.

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We’d made our little cottage so wonderfully festive, it was a bit of a wrench to leave it – even though we’ve spent the last three months struggling to settle in. Of course, it is so lovely to be with my parents and Sister (who arrived from her Celtic Woman US tour just this morning!) at this time and we will definitely be making the most of our very Irish Christmas.

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In honour of our current location I thought it only too appropriate to don a little symbol of the area, namely the Tara brooch you see pinned on my sweater here in these pics. As an aside I feel I should say the light is especially bad at the moment, which is making taking any photographs really challenging, hence the retrofied hue I’ve given each photograph to compensate for the general darkness that looms over the city (rain, rain, go away). I sometimes forget how terrible the weather can be in these parts, especially when we now live in such a mild climate.

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Anyway, as I take a brief moment to type out this rather hurried post, my mind is full of what I have yet to tick off my list with regards to dishes already cooked and those yet to prepare. I always think I’m organised until about now and then panic tends to set in (breakfast bread and, more importantly, my meatless meatloaf are still presently non-existent, arrrgggh). Add to that, the fact I have to share the kitchen with the other cook in the family (my Dad) who is in charge of all the meaty things we won’t be partaking in, and you get one reasonably fraught cooking scenario. Thankfully we seem to be working around each other more easily this time around (must be all those years of practice coming into good use!), which is making for a reasonably laid back evening of cooking… exactly how I like to spend my Christmas eve.

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One more sleep everybody, one more sleep!

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what i’m wearing… midi leopard print dress and sweater/charity shop… tights/topshop… faux patent boots/h&m… tara brooch/belongs to my Sister… wind up watch/vintage store in Falmouth

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Sticky Vegan Bourbon Baklava

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It’s probably a bit obvious calling this baklava recipe ‘sticky’ – I mean, isn’t that the nature of it? Not to mention exactly why these seriously indulgent sweets have been pretty much top of my treat list since forever. There’s something about that nutty, syrupy, pastry combo that is just so moreish, I honestly can’t get enough of them (unfortunately for my thighs, ahem).

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Now, there are two ways to tackle the adding of the syrup. One requires chilled syrup to be poured over the hot pastry and the other option is to pour hot syrup over the cooled pastry – my favoured method because I think dealing with sticky syrup would result in a nightmarish tangled web of sugary goo. No thanks.

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Okay, so  fess up time means I must also disclose I did not make the pastry myself. Call me a cheat if you will but I am all too happy to use shop bought pastry on an occasion such as this… the occasion being we had some guests coming over for a mini Christmas soiree and I needed to find ways to ensure the evening went without a hitch and I remained stress free and completely calm – and shop bought pastry definitely helps.

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Luckily most supermarkets now stock vegan friendly filo (sometimes spelled phyllo), which means this baklava could not be easier. See, I really am here to help – now go forth and get sticky!

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ingredients

15 sheets defrosted filo pastry

1 cup hazelnuts

1 cup walnuts

1 tbsp sugar

1 tsp allspice

fresh grinding of nutmeg

1 cup vegan butter substitute (or coconut oil if you’re feeling healthy)

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for the syrup

1 1/2 cups unrefined granulated sugar

3/4 cup sweet freedom/agave or other vegan sweetener of your choosing

1/4 cup pomegranate juice (or orange/cranberry)

1 tsp gingerbread syrup (optional but nice!)

1 tsp natural orange flavouring/essence (or orange water)

1/2 cinnamon stick

3 cloves

1 lemon rind

juice of 1/2 lemon

3 measures of Bourbon

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method

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pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees celsius/320 fahrenheit

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remove the pastry sheets from the oven and cover with a clean tea towel to prevent it from drying out

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blitz the nuts in a processor along with a tbsp of sugar and 1/2 tsp allspice. set aside

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melt a cup of vegan butter and brush onto the bottom of a rectangular baking dish, and between each layer of  filo pastry, of which you should have five before you disperse the first layer of nut mixture remembering to reserve about a tablespoon for the topping. Repeat the process and top with the final five sheets, ensuring to brush the the last sheet with plenty of melted butter

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cut the pastry now – you can slice it diagonally or into squares, whichever you prefer – and then bake in oven for 50-60 minutes (depending on your oven) until golden. remove and allow to cool

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when the pastry is completely cool, put all the syrup ingredients into a saucepan and bring to the boil before simmering for 10-15minutes until the sugar completely dissolves and the syrup reduces. at the very end, add the bourbon and simmer briefly before taking off the heat and pouring generously over the pastry, making sure it gets between all the cracks. sprinkle on the remaining crushed nut mixture and allspice powder. leave it to completely cool before attempting to remove the pieces from the dish using a small spatula – or in my case a butter knife… worked a treat!

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Holidays are comin’ and happenings are happenin’

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Cagney and Lacey is on the box. The tree lights are twinkling away in the corner. And we’re off to lovely Truro tonight to do a spot of Christmas shopping (can you spell disorganised?). These are the moments when you realise things ain’t all that bad. Okay, so I haven’t done an outfit post in an age and my blogging prowess is no longer a priority but I’m here to tell you – it’s all good! In fact, it’s better than good. I want to be able to drop in like this on a weekly basis and babble on about what’s happening in my part of the world… something most people call ‘finding a balance’ and something I have always struggled with.

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Work, play and all that good stuff in between can mean ones (my) life flies past without one (me) being able to actually appreciate it. Sure, we have to earn a crust and do the housework (does the laundry pile ever get any smaller?) but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a good time along the way? I am all about the good times and if you carefully dissect the last rambling paragraph and a bit you’ll know that what I’m trying to say is… I want all the good times, all the time. Unrealistic? Absolutely. Does that mean I’m going to stop striving for a better work/life balance that involves less stress and lots of smiles? Hell no! In fact, and between you and me, I’m closer than ever to that dream.

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Maybe now then would be a good time to let you in on a little secret. Over the last few months plans having been forming (and are slowly coming to fruition) regarding a forthcoming cookbook, which will be due out next summer. Yes, really. Now, even as I typed that I still almost didn’t believe it and I can’t help but think it’s not some horrible joke with the punchline not far off. Regardless, I’m simply reveling in the fact that a publisher wants my recipes and that is enough to fill my heart with joy – the icing on the cake will be if it actually becomes a success and I’m not even entertaining what the cherry might be until the thing is released (August 2014, put it in your diary now!). For once I’m adhering to my own advice and enjoying the moment without a thought for the future. Kinda. Well, old habits die hard and all that. Oh, and here’s an outfit post, just for Wintery, earmuff-clad good measure.

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what i’m wearing… top, coat, jeans and socks/h&m… shoes/marks&spencer… everything else/vintage

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Full Circle

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As I was processing these photos I suddenly remembered I have an almost identical recipe up on the blog… my smoky tasty quesadilla for one also makes good use of Brussel Sprouts and here they are again, making an appearance in my Indian-style lunch. In fact, most of my lunch was leftovers from last nights dinner (dhal, rice and roasted broccoli/brussels), which perhaps makes this the laziest offering I have yet to, er, offer.

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Anywho, it’s all pretty indicative of my life at present and it’s kinda apt that I’m re-discovering old loves (sliced Brussels just being one) whilst also being in the midst of what I could only describe as my momentary ‘harumph’ episode.  And if you are totally baffled as to what the heck I am talking about, then let me draw your attention to the distinct lack of blogging of late and my current ‘meh’ state of mind that I’m making myself overcome.

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Being the uber self-critical person that I am, I’ve made it my mission of late to rid myself of these mental hurdles, and staying away from the blog has kinda helped. I think I just needed a bit of breathing space to clear my all too cluttered mind and refocus – fortunately it’s working! Silencing that inner monologue, which seems to rage around my brain most of the time is not easy but I now find myself settling right into my new way of life here and I’m starting to feel pretty serene. It took a little while but I think (I hope) I might just have come full circle – quirks and brussel sprouts obsession intact… about bloody time too.

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sliced and spiced brussel sprouts

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1/2 onion

8 brussel sprouts

1 garlic clove

small piece of ginger

1/4 green chilli

1/4 tsp cumin

1/4 smoked paprika

pinch of dried chilli flakes

salt and pepper

sunflower and sesame seed oil

finely chopped parsley and lightly toasted sesame seeds to serve

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method

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heat both oils in a large frying pan and lightly fry the onion – don’t forget to season

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slice the brussels and add to pan. season and allow to soften a little before adding the chopped garlic, ginger and chilli, and saute for a few minutes more

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add the cumin, smoked paprika, chilli flakes and stir throughly. cook for a few minutes more before serving a side or topping to almost any Asian inspired dish

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