This time last year Vegetarian Living Mag published this ‘Carrot & Sage Slice’ recipe I developed for their December issue … a simple ‘meat-free’ main that is (in my humble opinion, ahem) the perfect centre-piece to any Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Ta-da! And yes, I realise Thanksgiving isn’t exactly a UK tradition but since our stint in the States we’ve made a point of celebrating it – always with a huge spread and usually a few invited guests, so it’s definitely an established holiday for us now. I think we’ve won most of our non-American friends over too, I’m pleased to say … even the ones who had never seen ‘Planes, Trains & Automobiles’. Say wha?!
It’s unfortunate though that we (that’s the all-encompassing British/Irish ‘we’) seem to have latched onto the whole ‘Black-Friday’ thing (I know, last pay-day before Christmas and all that) and yet completely surpassed the whole point of Thanksgiving itself, which, in my eyes, is decidedly less commercial than Christmas … and probably why I love it. However, being a die-hard bargain-hunter at heart you’d think the Black Friday sales would be right up my street when in actual fact they fill me with utter dread – much like the January sales, which are closely akin to the seventh level of hell. Look, I love a bit of retail-therapy as much as the next person but don’t you think it’s all gotten a bit out of hand? With YouTube flooded with ‘haul’ videos, Twitter being almost like a never-ending ad-reel, and everyone’s desire to seemingly want ‘more, more, more’ it kind of takes the shine out of shopping for me – in fact, it more often than not makes me feel a wee bit dirty … as if I’m contributing to everything that is wrong with the world.
I know how lucky I am. I have a wonderful Husband and family. A beautiful home (albeit it rented) filled with plenty of ‘stuff’, and yet none of that really matters if you don’t have perspective on what is truly important. Sure, there are always going to be things I ‘want’ but does that mean I should have them? I’m not so sure it’s healthy to have everything you covet, and I’m also not so sure the subliminal messages we receive daily (whether it’s on YouTube, Instagram or any other social media outlet) to essentially buy to your hearts content are healthy either. It’s relentless – and, for the record, doesn’t make us happy. Whenever I get these overwhelming urges to purchase something frivolous I remind myself of that story I read as a child … ‘What Wanda Wanted’ – er, anyone else remember those Christmas Storyteller magazines? Ah, memories. Anyway, suffice to say, anytime I had a tantrum after not getting ‘what I wanted’ my Mum would say ‘What Wanda wants, Wanda must have’! Even now, those words feel me with dread.
Now, I know this all feels a bit ‘party-pooper’, and it’s not that I’m saying we shouldn’t treat ourselves now and then but perhaps the extremity of our consumption needs taming – mine included. I’m desperately trying to pare down my lifestyle (easier said than done) and rid myself of all the things that regularly weigh me down. It always feels so great when I do a massive clear-out and donate all those bits to charity. It’s like starting afresh every time. And then as quick as you can say ‘Black-Friday Sale’ the house seems to fill up with crap again. Ugh. So yeah, it’s definitely a work in progress. What are your thoughts on our collective consumerist tendencies?
Oh, and before I forget why I actually came on here … Happy Thanksgiving ya filthy animals! Wait. Wrong holiday.
What you’ll need
For the Loaf
4 Shallots, finely chopped
2 Large Parsnips, finely diced
100g Breadcrumbs, pref. stale
4 Large Carrots, grated
25g Sage, finely chopped
25g Rosemary, finely chopped
3 Sprigs of Thyme
30g Flat Leaf Parsley, roughly chopped
1 tbsp Cider Vinegar
2-3 tbsp olive oil
Salt & Pepper
For the Caramelised Carrots
16-20 Baby Carrots
3 tbsp Agave, Maple Syrup or other Sweetener
2 tbsp good quality Olive Oil
3 Sprigs Rosemary, finely chopped
Several Sprigs of Thyme
Salt & Pepper
For the Redcurrant Glaze
120ml Redcurrant Jelly
3 Tbsp Sugar
1 tbsp Balsamic or Red Wine Vinegar
1 Cinnamon Stick
1 Star Anise
What you’ll do
Heat the olive oil in a large pan or skillet. Add the shallots and gently fry for several minutes before adding the parsnip. Season, cover and sweat for a few minutes until the parsnip begins to soften. Next, add the finely chopped sage, rosemary and thyme leaves, stir to combine and allow the flavours to infuse for a few minutes more.
Add the breadcrumbs to the pan, season generously, cover and let the crumbs absorb the flavours in the pan for 5 or so minutes, stirring every now and then to prevent sticking.
Squeeze out all excess juice from the grated carrot – it is crucial the carrot is as dry as possible. Add to the pan along with the cider vinegar. Season and stir to combine. Cover and allow the carrot to reduce. Cook for around 10 minutes more or until the mixture is fairly dry but holds its shape when pressed.
Grease a small loaf tin and transfer the mixture to the tin. Press firmly with the back of a spoon and cover tightly with foil, ensuring the foil touches the slice. Allow the mixture to cool before transferring to the fridge where it will chill overnight – you will achieve a firmer slice this way. If using immediately then pre-heat oven to 200 degrees celsius and bake covered for 45 minutes and uncovered for a further 30mins. Remove from oven and allow it to cool slightly before gently turning out onto a serving platter.
In a separate baking dish, toss the baby carrots with the oil, agave, seasoning and herbs. Cover and bake for 1hr 15minutes at 200 degrees celsius, giving it a shake once in a while to prevent sticking. For ease, you can cook the slice and carrots at the same time. Once cooked, arrange the carrots on top of the slice.
Place all the redcurrant glaze ingredients into a pan and bring to a gentle simmer for around 10 minutes. Let it cool slightly before spooning/brushing over the slice.
Can be served immediately but is equally good the next day.
The weekend is fast approaching and I have a terrific few days ahead of me beginning with an entire day of film at the Cornwall Film Festival tomorrow (my idea of bliss) quickly followed by a much anticipated break in Bath. The most I’ve ever seen of this place is from the train window as it whizzes past on its way to London but even those snatched glances were enough to peak my curiosity. So, when we decided a stay-cation was in order, this gloriously historical spot was top of my to-do list.
We’ve booked a stunning airbnb in one of those grand looking Georgian terraces and I’ve already discovered that Bath is a bit of a hub for vegan food, which has only added to my childlike excitement – that, and the fact there’s apparently an Anthropologie store nearby, eek! I certainly don’t have pots of money at the moment but I figure I’ll have even less in December so what the hell … my Christmas shopping shall start here. Really though, this break is mainly about a change of scenery and a chance to properly unwind – something we haven’t been able to do in quite a while. It might sound strange (ungrateful perhaps?) but even though I do happen to live somewhere most people escape to, it’s nice to shake things up and experience something new … and truthfully all this endless tranquility can occasionally send me doolally. Right now I’m in the mood to be surrounded by people. And shops. And coffee. And restaurants. And wine. And more people. Okay, I just need to not be here for a bit.
Because we won’t be home until next week, I’ve been desperately trying to use up all the odds and ends in my fridge that won’t keep. I’d been craving comfort food anyway so this soup was an obvious choice given the bag of sad looking carrots in my veg drawer … yes, it’s just a silly old soup but by golly did it hit the spot. Lightly spiced (cumin and coriander, bam!) with an added bit of depth courtesy of some coconut cream, this is perfect ‘curl up on the sofa’ fodder – and what better way to consume this warming golden liquor than in a cup. No spoon necessary. Get sipping.
what you’ll need
1 tbsp olive oil
1 celery stick
6 medium carrots
2 salad potatoes
1 heaped tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 vegetable stock cube
2 tbsp coconut cream
salt and pepper
what you’ll do
heat the oil in a saucepan. finely mince the shallot and celery and add to pan. season and sweat for several minutes until they soften and become transparent.
peel and slice the carrots into very thin rounds. roughly chop the potatoes and add both to the pan. stir, season and let the veg cook over a medium heat for a minute or two before adding the cumin and coriander. stir to coat and let the spices infuse for a further 5mins before crumbling in the stock cube and covering with around 500ml of water (just enough to cover the veg).
simmer gently for 15 minutes until the carrots are soft before transferring to a blender. blend until smooth before returning the puree to a pan – now you can add a little more water to thin out the soup to your taste. add the coconut cream and gently heat for a minute or so. check for seasoning and serve.
garnish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle of zatar and ground cumin, as well as a few scattered chilli flakes.
Sometimes I don’t know where to begin a post – particularly if I haven’t blogged in a while. Y’see, occasionally I need a bit of a time-out … mostly, and for some inexplicable reason, these ‘time-outs’ seem to always chose their own time, rather than the other way around. I guess it mostly depends on my mood, and I’ve got to be brutally honest here, but my mood has been somewhat all over the joint these last few weeks. Feelings of guilt for not being with my family at a time when they need me most torment me a lot, and occasionally render me useless. Unfortunately my Husband is the one who has to deal with these emotional meltdowns, which I know can be tiresome and wearing – especially when coupled with a crazy workload. Bad wife.
And even though there’s so much great stuff happening, hanging (or should that be clinging for dear life) onto the good stuff can still be difficult. I try to relish these moments but we humans are strange bunch – no matter how much we seemingly have, we always want more. I’m totally working on this flaw, by the way, but it ain’t easy.
In the meantime, there’s always pudla. There’s a similar recipe in my book ‘Keep it Vegan’ but this is a new and equally yummy version … the batter is much thinner and technically speaking, it’s probably more of a socca than the former. Fried until crisp and then whacked under a grill, it renders the perfect base to make a pizza – of sorts. Truthfully, I couldn’t be bothered to get into making a full-on sauce so all the toppings are raw – carrot ribbons, roughly chopped tomato, diced avocado, rocket and a whole other array of tidbits that make up this moreish dish. Whilst it makes for a perfect lunch option (you could totally eat it cold at work), I think it would be nice served as a ‘nibble’ at a dinner party – just make sure to quarter them for ease of eating. Plus, they are so wonderfully vibrant, they’re sure to be a little talking point – and a certain mood lifter … just what I happen to be in the market for, ahem. What else can I say – the time to up your pudla game is now!
what you’ll need
80g gram (chickpea) flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp paprika
pinch of cayenne
juice of 1/2 lemon
30ml extra virgin olive
2 tbsp olive oil
1 x carrot
2 cherry tomatoes
large handful of rocket
3 tbsp hummus
juice 1/2 lemon or lime
pinch of chilli flakes
what you’ll do
sieve the flour, baking powder, salt and spices into a bowl. whisk in the water and lemon juice before drizzling in the extra virgin olive oil until you achieve a silky smooth batter. cover and set aside for at least 1hr.
meanwhile, prep your toppings – cut the carrots into ribbons, roughly chop the tomatoes and season generously. dice the avocado, squeeze with a little lemon juice to avoid browning. toss the rocket with some evoo and balsamic vinegar and make the hummus sauce by stirring in the juice of 1/2 lemon until smooth.
pre-heat the grill. heat a tablespoon of oil in a skillet and ladle in half the batter, spreading to edges with the back of the spoon. cook until the edges begin to curve in and the bottom is perfectly golden (I use a palette knife to lift up the sides and peek) before finishing it off under the grill.
layer up the topping, starting with the rocket and followed by the carrots, tomatoes and avocado. dollop over the hummus sauce and finish with a smidge of sriracha, smattering of nutritional yeast and a few chilli flakes. lightly season and serve.