Well folks, that’s a wrap. For 2014 anyway. It’s been a mix of the very good (I released my first cookbook and signed a deal for the second) and the very bad (my Dad was diagnosed with Brain Cancer) – I think that’s called irony or perhaps it’s just ‘life’. Thankfully we have rallied together at this traumatic time and even though we’ve been essentially knocked for six, we enter the New Year positive and full of hope. Heck, what’s the other option?
I thought it would be an appropriate time then to take a look through the blog and pluck out a few of my highlights. As ever, I’m always looking to improve my content and I’m still refining my style (whether it be food or fashion) and the yearly blog review is a great way of tracking my tastes and how they continue to evolve. Being self-critical is par for the course in this game (as my fellow bloggers will verify) and whilst I’ll be the first to point out my failings, I find it nigh impossible to take a compliment graciously. So, even though I’m not one for resolutions I’m hoping to take it a little easier on myself in 2015… well, I’ll certainly try.
Other ‘resolutions’ (such as they are) include (1.) Eating our evening meal at the table (2.) Not using our phones before bedtime and (3.) Spending more time in the sea. In between I’ll be squirreling away on my new book (whilst still trying to promote this one – the US launch is in Feb!), getting back to Derry as much as I feasibly can to see my Dad and living my beautiful Cornish life. From me to you then I wish you all a peaceful, happy and successful New Year – see you on the flip side!
from the top…
If you love ginger as much as me then you’re guaranteed to go gaga for this fiery tea loaf. It’s got real bite (thanks to the freshly minced ginger inclusion) with just enough sweetness to make it the perfect accompaniment to afternoon tea… that’s how we roll in this house anyway but feel free to have it any time of day with whatever preferential beverage you please. Whilst I’ve not been doing as much baking and general Christmas cooking as I usually would (I simply don’t have the time this year) I made a point of rustling this loaf up the other morning in order to inject a little homemade holiday spirit into the kitchen – forcing the festive issue you might say. Being away from my own surroundings where I have all my utensils/tools etc. to hand can certainly be a challenge and even though I shouldn’t use that as an excuse for my blogging tardiness, I am. Ha.
With mere days to go, however, the familiar panic is palpable but I’m eager to get ahead of the game by starting my official Christmas prep tomorrow… technically I gave it a nudge today by making my first batch of homemade goodies that will (hopefully) be placed in some cellophane bags, tied with pretty ribbon and adorned with a personalised stamp. If they ever get here that is, as I cleverly put the wrong postcode on all my Christmas orders -HURRAH! I actually almost went into meltdown mode when I realised I’d done this (can you say facepalm?) but still await my Lakeland/Not On The Highstreet delivery with baited breath. Something tells me I’m gonna waitin’ a looooong time.
Regardless, the gifts will be made (I’m doing a mixture of truffles, ‘rocky road’ and brownies) and lovingly placed in some sort portable receptacle that will either impress or confuse. I’ve decided I’m not going to stress myself out too much about it though and enjoy these last few days before Christmas – we’re even shoehorning in an overnight stay in Dublin before picking my Sister up from the airport after which we will then literally be ‘driving home for Christmas’. Cue the singing.
what you’ll need
2 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 heaped tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 cup simple syrup or other sweetener
1 cup soya milk
1 tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 deglet nour dates, finely chopped
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
what you’ll do
pre-heat the oven to 175 degrees celsius/ 350 fahrenheit.
gently whisk the flour, sugar and spices together to get rid of any clumps.
whisk the coconut oil, soya milk, syrup, vinegar and extract together until thoroughly combined. stir in the dates and minced ginger.
make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the wet mixture. fold gently until everything is combined and then pour the batter into a medium greased loaf tin.
tap the loaf tin on the surface to get rid of any air bubbles and bake for 45-50mins or until a skewer comes out clean. remove from oven let it rest for 10mins before turning it out onto a wire rack. serve warm or let it cool and dust over a little icing for an extra festive flourish.
Please tell me I’m not the only one panicking about Christmas? Whilst I’ve now made a dent in my Christmas shopping (Thank God for TKMaxx!) I’m so behind on all the awesome plans I had for homemade gifts. I’ve also been away from my own home, which has somewhat thrown a spanner in the works with regards to my blogging… side note; nothing beats the light in Cornwall. Of course, it’s super spending time with the folks and I’m doing my best to make sure Dad is getting all the goodness he requires but that means this little space needs to take a backseat.
If you follow me on instagram you’ll notice I posted a seriously lush ‘Christmas CousCous’ dish I’ve been working on (I’ve gone persimmon mad this season) but I just didn’t like how the photos turned out so I’m keeping that recipe on the back burner for a bit. In place of that I thought I’d offer up my fail-safe method for Almond Milk of which I am always obsessed. And because I like my almond milk slightly sweet I’m happy to add a medjool date or two or even a squeeze of agave – actually my preference, as it doesn’t mess with the beautiful bright white colour of the milk… fickle, moi? For a flavoured milk why not play around with various extracts yourself or add a spoonful of cocoa/cacao for a yummy chocolately milk… really great for kids! I will be popping back throughout the week with other handy recipes to see you through the festive period. Now though, it’s time to hit Lidl to see what Christmassy vegan treats they have in store.
what you’ll need
85g (1/2 cup) whole raw almonds
350ml (1 1/2 cups) water
1/2 tbsp pref. sweetener (eg. agave) or two medjool dates
1 tsp vanilla extract
what you’ll do
place everything in a blender and blend on a high speed until smooth. pass through a fine mesh sieve or nut milk bag. chill for at least an hour before serving – will keep in the fridge for up to three days.
Can you believe we are less than three weeks away from Christmas? Seriously, where does the time go?! I’m here in Ireland helping out with my Dad (who is soldiering on magnificently, by the way) whilst trying to get myself in the festive spirit … and all without my Hubby by my side. He’s currently still in Cornwall but will join me here on the 20th. I. Can’t. Wait. My Sister flies in from the States on Christmas Eve (no doubt we’ll be the ones picking her up at the airport), which is when the festivities will truly commence. So, as you can see, it’s a bit of a weird one this year but I’m still as gung-ho as ever about maxing out all Christmas possibilities. And that means (first and foremost) family, (secondly but also crucial) food as well as films, fashion, beauty, gifts, wrap, cards and carols… and anything else that makes Christmas, Christmas. It’s a long list, so lets leave it there.
Anywho, here are some bits and bobs that are making my Winter a little brighter starting with the bling. Now, you’re probably thinking this necklace is a bit OTT and I would tend to agree. In fact, it’s so not me I’m amazed I actually bought it but hear me out before you click on another blog with decidedly better taste. I’ve been on the lookout for a statement necklace for a while. In truth I was hoping to nab one of those JCREW style pieces that make a simple outfit a standout one but (1) they are usually way out of my budget and (2) up until spying and trying this one I was unsure I could pull it off in the nonchalant way I desired. Fast forward to me wandering around Debenhams when this not-so-little beauty caught my eye in Phase Eight. I was wearing a denim shirt at the time (a JCREW one, in fact – ha!) and immediately threw it on. Let’s just say I was instantly smitten and my Mum loved it so much she actually bought it for me – thanks Mum! It’s going to get a lot of wear this Christmas – watch out for a plaid shirt, blingtastic statement necklace combo very soon.
Another day, another shopping trip and this time it was Wallis that came up trumps with their incredible range of leather-free boots and shoes… seriously vegans, check out their website pronto, they have an impressive array of footwear available and it’s all so reasonably priced! Again, I had been on the lookout for a pair of black ankle boots and was finding it impossible to find the right kind… y’know what I mean, cuban-style heel (not to high, not too low), nice textured pleather (always looks better than smooth) with a bit of an ‘edge’. Well, these ‘mid heel cowboy boots’ were (are) them. I almost shrieked when I checked the label only to discover they could be mine after-all … don’t you just love those ‘man-made’ fabric moments?
And then there’s this hat. A cute pompom adorned number that, yes, you guessed it, is also made from synthetic fibres. I’m on a roll here. It was love at first sight – although I did wrangle between the rust and mustard before settling on this one because, you know, mustard. It’s already a staple. If you’re after one yourself check the men’s section in New Look.
Confession time. I’m not a big wearer of nail varnish. Tootsies, yes. Fingernails, no. I think it was my violin playing past that put me off having anything of colour on my hands – I just found it way too distracting. However, I’m really trying to break the habit of a lifetime and this vegan friendly mustard gelly polish from cruelty-free beauty brand BarryM is just the ticket to ease me in. Whilst I’ve had it on my toes for a while now I think it’s time to give the aforementioned fingernails a go… and this gorgeous hue could not be more fitting. Check instagram for the upcoming nail varnish wearing evidence.
Dionne Necklace /Phase Eight @ Debenhams
Mid-Heel Cowboy Ankle Boots/Wallis
Navy & Mustard Bobble Beanie/New Look
Mustard ‘Gelly’ Varnish/BarryM
Patent Mary-Janes (similar here)/Topshop
Shoes, shoes, shoes. A girl can never have too many, am I right? I actually bought these patent Mary-Janes a few months back (and I can’t find the exact ones on their website now… sorry!)but knew they would come into their own around Christmas time. They really lift any outfit (equally perfect with pants, dresses and skirts) and are a must-have in my opinion. Again, it was squeal-time in Topshop when I realised they weren’t actually leather. Adorable and cruelty-free – what more can you ask for?
I may be vegan but for me the queen of Christmas is, and will always be, the incomparable Nigella. No-one oozes festive cheer in quite the same way as the lovely Ms.Lawson and whilst I would love for her to promptly board the vegan bandwagon (Jamie and Hugh are both enthusiasts) and give us some plant-based recipes already I’m quite happy to veganize her already existing ones myself in the meantime.
I’m not ashamed to admit that leafing through ‘Nigella Christmas’ is undoubtedly one of my guilty pleasures at this time of year and I have a few firm favourites that I rely on regularly to help me out of any impromptu visitor fix – with her oh-so-easy ‘Easily Scaled Mont Blanc’ dessert being just one of them. I probably don’t need to tell you that this is one of the simplest veganisations (is that even a word?) ever. Simply swap out the whipped cream for sweetened whipped coconut cream or a dollop vanilla infused cashew cream (or even some soyawhip… I won’t judge if you wont!) and et voila you have yourself an awesome vegan alternative pronto.
But (but, but, but!) having done this several years on the trot I thought I’d go one step further and switch it up with my own (slightly healthier) version that still has the chocolately ‘soil’ bottom, unctuous chestnut filling and luscious ‘snow capped’ cashew cream peak… somebody has clearly been reading too much la Lawson lately, ahem.
In all honesty though, I was delighted with the richness of this (almost but not quite ‘raw’) dessert and despite being refined sugar-free (all hail the mighty medjool date) it felt decidedly indulgent – perfect for an alternative Christmas pud. Dont’ panic though, I’m still obsessed with these little French tins of sweetened ‘marron’ joy and you’ll probably find me spoon in hand eating it directly from said receptacle with gusto over the festive period. However, should I find myself in another chestnut bind (these things happen) I’ll know exactly what to do, safe in the knowledge the results will be equally decadent and impressive. Hurrah!
what you’ll need
for the chestnut puree
1 cup cooked chestnuts
3/4 medjool dates
1 tsp vanilla extract
for the base
1 heaped tbsp chesnut puree
1 heaped tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 cup chopped almonds
for the cream topping
1 cup cashews
1 tbsp agave
1 tsp orange extract
what you’ll do
soak the cashews overnight. drain, rinse and blend with the agave and about 1/4 cup water until smooth, adding a little more water as and when needed. once completely smooth and creamy add the orange extract and blend until incorporated. chill.
blend the chestnuts with the dates, vanilla extract, salt and a splash of water until smooth. you may need to scrape down the sides of your processor several times. chill.
blend 1 tbsp of the chestnut puree together with the cocoa powder and almonds until it form into a putty. press about a tablespoon’s worth into 4 muffin moulds and chill in the freezer for about an hour.
remove the chocolate bases from the moulds and fill each one with chestnut puree. top with the orange infused cashew cream and finish with a little grated chocolate and grated orange zest. chill until needed or eat immediately.