It’s Fri-YAY, and I’m in the mood to part-TAY … or at the very least, hunker down with a bowl of chilli and a fridge-cold Cornish beer. My social life is pretty predictable these days but that’s just the way I like it – although I do enjoy a boogie from time to time, mostly I’m happy to stay put. Yup, mama’s lost her mojo. In other news, I apparently share my name with a pea … how cool/weird is that? Until Hodmedod’s kindly sent me some, I’d never actually come across ‘Carlin Peas’ before (also known as Black Badgers) so didn’t really know what to expect – apparently they’re popular up North and are frequently used to make mushy peas … and heaven knows, I do love mushy peas! I didn’t quite go down side dish route myself, as I was hankering after an all-in-one recipe that I could re-heat for our self-imposed Friday night hibernation.
Obviously I wanted to put my own spin on it though so opted for a generous dollop of harissa instead of my usual chilli spice combo (cumin, paprika, cayenne etc.) and I’m pleased to say it really worked a treat. You can easily up the spice ante with a dash more chilli if you please but one birds eye (sans seeds) was sufficient for me, especially as I didn’t want the harissa overshadowed by mega-heat. I was tempted to serve this with Hodmedods quinoa (also British grown!) but went in for my favourite chilli accompaniment instead … tortilla chips. Oh, and don’t forget that guac/avocado for added creaminess that will offset the richness of the tomato sauce.
Now, as for the peas. Well, what can I say other than they were a resounding triumph! Meaty, perfectly round and quite simply made for chilli – or any stew for that matter. I like to reduce the sauce until it’s super thick and scoopable … even when simmered for a long time on the stove the peas don’t lose their shape and are incredibly substantial – you certainly won’t be hungry after a bowl of this! Is that Friday night calling? Yep, methinks it is – grab a bowl (and some Carlin peas) and let’s go.
what you’ll need
1 tbsp olive oil
2 red onions
1 heaped tsp garlic puree or 3 garlic cloves
1 tsp red vinegar
pinch of brown sugar (optional)
1 x 400g canned chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 x 400g carlin peas
2 heaped tsp harissa paste
1 birds eye chilli
100g fresh spinach
salt and pepper
what you’ll do
heat the olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan. finely dice the red onion and add to pan.
season and sweat until the red onion begins to soften before adding the garlic puree. cover and cook until the red onion is transparent. add the red wine vinegar and pinch of sugar (if using) and gently sweat for a few minutes further.
add the canned tomatoes, tomato puree and season generously. fill the empty with water or vegetable stock and swill out any excess juice into the pan. simmer gently for around 40minutes breaking the tomatoes up with the back of a spoon.
drain and rinse the carlin peas and add to the sauce along with the harissa paste. finely mince the chilli and add to pan. check for seasoning and simmer for a further 20minutes.
finely chop the spinach and add to the pan. simmer for an additional 10-15minutes until it has fully wilted. check for seasoning and serve.
divide the chilli between 2-3 bowls and top with sliced or mashed avocado, a smattering of hemp seeds and a side of tortilla chips.
I realised recently that I haven’t revealed too much about my new book yet … well, at least not on here I haven’t. I guess I presume most of you follow me on twitter and instagram so you’re already up to date – but perhaps not? Anyway, maybe this easy dinner recipe will pique your curiosity surrounding my latest offering The New Vegan. Whilst there’s plenty of info for newbies, I’ve been keen to ensure the book appeals to seasoned vegans (and non-vegans) too … my thinking behind the title was more of a fresh, new approach to veganism free from many of those negative connotations associated with the word. I feel this new wave of veganites are less constrained by labels, and I wanted this to be reflected in the book – which, by the way, also includes chapters on ‘cruelty-free beauty’ (featuring DIY beauty recipes) and ‘my vegan wardrobe’ … who says you can’t be vegan and stylish, eh?
As ever, my recipes are quite straightforward with ingredients that can all be found at the supermarket. Like most people I’m on a pretty tight weekly budget, so none of the dishes will break the bank – I also try to incorporate nutritional tips that lay bare how easy it is to be healthy and vegan without restricting yourself. That means you’ll find a smattering of sugar and the odd bit of white flour – I’m a foodie first and foremost, and still love playing around with these ingredients even if they’ve been somewhat demonised in recent months. Of course, I balance it all out with fresh juices, sumptuous salads and decadent raw desserts but make no mistake, the only reason for their inclusion in the book was due to their deliciousness and not because they fit the ‘clean eating’ criteria. Whilst I have nothing against ‘clean eating’ in theory, I try to not let it influence my cooking/eating too much because I think it sets a worrying precedent – namely that we end up flailing ourselves should anything ‘unclean’ pass our lips, and, in my opinion, that’s no way to live.
This ‘Green Lentil and Spinach Curry’ is pretty basic but during the week, this is exactly the kind of dish I’m after – warming, wholesome with a crucial kick thanks to chilli and cayenne. I’ve been known to make a huge batch which I can then reheat for lunches throughout the week … you could easily take it to work and reheat it in the microwave for a homemade hit midday. Equally, it’s a great option for when you have guests – I often pair it with some easy flatbreads and let everyone help themselves. For those of you who aren’t so confident in the kitchen, this is a great starting point. Likewise, all the recipes are easily adaptable so if you’re missing one or two ingredients you can easily sub it out with something else.
A few of my other favourites from the book include the Red Pepper & Spinach Stromboli, Jerk-Style Cauliflower Steaks and my Aduki Bean Casserole. For the salad-lovers amongst you I have a feeling you’re going to love my Roasted Cauliflower Fattoush, Quinoa Tabbouleh with a Harissa Dressing and not forgettting the Thai-Inspired (spiralised) Salad with Tamari Roasted Cashews, which always get rave reviews. Got a sweet tooth? Gotcha covered. Think Banoffee Pie, (gluten-free) Orange Polenta Cake, Fruit ‘n’ Nut Truffles and Wholemeal ‘Buttermilk’ Scones to name but a few (or four) although there are many, many more that are sure to whet your appetite. And how could I possibly not mention breakfast (my favourite meal of the day) which includes everything from Buckwheat Griddle-pan Waffles through to Chai Chia Pudding, No-Bake Granola Bars and Savoury Indian-Style Crepes – oh, and if you like baked beans as much as me, you’re going to love my staple ‘stove-top’ alternative.
No doubt I’ll be checking in again with yet more recipes and insights into the book but in the meantime I hope this is just the taster you need to go check it out for yourself – be sure to let me know what your favourite recipes are, and if you happen to be on instagram please do post a pic … they always make my day!
what you’ll need
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 garlic clove
thumb-size piece of fresh ginger
1 red chilli
125g dried green lentils
400ml can coconut milk
½ gluten-free vegetable stock cube
1 tablespoon tomato purée
30g fresh coriander, roughly
sea salt and freshly ground black
brown rice, to serve
for the cucumber and
¼ small cucumber
2 tablespoons coconut cream
juice of ½ lime
1 spring onion, finely chopped
pinch of salt
for the curry powder
3 cardamom pods
½ teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon palm sugar or other
a few black peppercorns
pinch of cayenne pepper
what you’ll do
1. First make the dressing. Deseed and finely grate the cucumber, squeezing out any excess juice. Whisk together with the other dressing ingredients, but be sure not to over-season. Refrigerate until needed.
2. Next, grind the curry powder ingredients together in a pestle and mortar to a fine powder.
3. Heat the oil in a large heavybased frying pan. Add the onion and carrot to the pan, season and sweat for several minutes until they begin to soften.
4. Using a knife, mince the garlic, ginger and chilli together on a clean chopping board and add them to the pan. Cover and sweat until fragrant before tossing in the dried lentils. Stir to coat and let the lentils absorb any flavours in the pan before sprinkling over the prepared curry powder. Cover and sweat for several minutes until the spices become nicely toasted and the flavours have penetrated the veg and lentils.
5. Add the coconut milk, stock cube and 150ml water, cover and simmer gently over a medium heat for about 1 hour until the lentils cook through.
6. Stir through the tomato purée and boil the sauce, uncovered, for about 10 minutes to reduce before adding the spinach to the pan. Cover and let the spinach leaves wilt into the sauce.
7. Add almost all of the coriander to the pan, reserving a little for a garnish. Once the sauce has sufficiently reduced and the spinach leaves have wilted, serve over a bed of brown rice with a spoonful of the cucumber and coconut dressing.
Taken from The New Vegan by Áine Carlin. Image by Nassima Rothacker.
Ugh, I’ve been meaning to upload this recipe since before the weekend and here I am on a Sunday night still faffing about with photos/words – and for what reason I do not know. Call it procrastination or complete laziness but sometimes I just simply cannot get it together … a perpetual mental stumbling block or general over-thinking – I realise I’m alluding to things and bordering on the vague here so please forgive me. It has little or nothing to do with the recipe (they’re bliss balls for pete’s sake!) and everything to do with me. Yup, silly old self flagellating me.
Okay, so let’s get off one nutty train and onto another … the kind that involves actual nuts and my new obsession, milled chia. Until Chia Bia sent me a bunch of their awesome products, I’d actually not come across ‘milled chia’, so I was pretty excited to give it (them?) a whirl. I thought it best to start with the basics (and it doesn’t get much simpler than these energy bites) but I have a feeling this ‘new to me’ ingredient is going to be making frequent appearances in my kitchen experiments – next up, I’ll be testing them out as an alternative binder in muffins and breads!
Onto the nitty gritty. Or should that be ‘itty, bitty, nitty gritty’? It is, in my opinion, the perfect bliss ball addition because unlike their whole seed counterpart, they refrain from taking on that jelly-like quality so associated with chia. Once milled, they can used almost like flaxseed – I’ve been liberally sprinkling it on my oatmeal and yoghurt in case you’re interested, for an added Omega 3 boost in the morning (alongside their capsules, which are also a new fav). There’s also a crazy awesome recipe in Susan Jane White’s latest book ‘The Virtuous Tart’ that calls for milled chia (i’m referring to her Amazonian Truffles – can you say yum?) although until now I’ve been using regular chia seeds (with success, I might add!) in lieu of the milled variety so we shall see how they compare when I inevitably make a batch this week. I’m thinking it will elevate them from fabulous to fantabulous. Just a hunch.
I couldn’t decide what to call these little blighters and toyed with the idea of giving them some sort of ‘protein boost’ tagline just because I’ve managed to cram so many nuts in there but I went with ‘Chia Bia Balls’ in the end, in honour of the brand that brought this wondrous little ingredient to my attention. We’ve been munching on ’em since Friday and I can safely say they are the perfect pick-me-up snack – in fact, my Husband is so taken with them I’ve had to squirrel them away at the back of the fridge … mwahahaha, more for me! We’ve got a busy week ahead, which means these are going to come in very handy indeed. Anyway, enough of my rambling, here’s the recipe:
what you’ll need
90g soaked cashews
50g milled chia
50g dessicated coconut
50g raw cacao
4 large medjool dates
2 tbsp almond butter or smooth peanut butter
pinch of pink himalayan salt
1/4 tsp of freshly grated cinnamon
what you’ll do
place the milled chia, almonds, cacao and coconut into a food processor and blitz to a fine powder. add the remaining ingredients and blitz until it forms a sticky rubble, scraping down the sides from time to time.
roll a teaspoon amount of ‘dough’ into ball, toss in either the blueberry chia mix or dessicated coconut and repeat until all of the mixture has been used.
refrigerate for at least an hour before eating.
I know that some of you will be expecting this post to be one of ‘new beginnings’, ‘fresh starts’ and ‘resolutions’ but I’ve got to be honest with ya – the line that divides 2015 and 2016 is a bit blurred for me. That might be partly due to the release date of my latest book The New Vegan (31st Dec), which kinda straddled the two and meant I was essentially ending and starting on a high – a weird but terrific feeling. Of course, there’s still so much more work to do with ongoing publicity and the like but I’m also trying to do something I didn’t manage to achieve with Keep it Vegan, which is to savour each and every moment. I’m so incredibly proud of the book and want it to be equally well received but in this game nothing is ever guaranteed. Being the control freak that I am, releasing something into the ether and allowing it to have a life of its own is strange but ultimately, when you write a book, that’s precisely what you have to do – let it go. So, while I’m working on letting things go (physically, metaphorically and even spiritually) I’m easing myself into a year that promises to be full of surprises – and trust me, there’s already been a few. It’s true what they say, the more you do something the easier it gets and I’ve definitely found this with live tv in particular. When I think back to my first tv appearance more than a year ago, I feel like I’ve learnt so much – same goes for radio … it’s so fast-paced you really have to think on your feet but that’s what makes it so thrilling. I guess all those years of training and acting professionally have finally come in handy!
little side note about The New Vegan … not just for ‘new vegans’ the title was more of a nod to a fresh take on a lifestyle that is plagued with preconceptions. It’s as much about a new collective approach to veganism as well as my own particular mindset, and contains advice on ‘What to tell people’, as well as ways to veganize your wardrobe. The recipes range from raw, gluten offerings through to robust, wholesome fodder, which means there’s something for everyone – even the pickiest of eaters should find a selection of recipes they will use and like. As ever, I’ve applied my straight-up straightforward, simple approach to things and I’ve even included a handful of DIY beauty recipes that you’ll hopefully find useful. I’m so proud of the book and can’t thank Nassima Rothaker enough for her creative input and incredible photos – it was like she was reading my mind and absolutely nailed the vibe I was after. If only I had 1% of her photography talent! In my opinion the book is quite a departure from ‘Keep it Vegan’ although I’ve retained my storytelling style, prefixing each dish with a personal tale. Anyway, let me know what you think, I always love to read your comments.
Aside from that, the other big question, of course, has got to be am I or have I made any resolutions? Well, no. I’m a continual goal-setter but when it comes to cut and dried resolutions, I’d just rather not. Take last year for example. I had two major goals I set myself for the year. Were they resolutions? I really don’t believe so and despite the fact I managed to tick those particular goals off my list, not having them set so rigidly in stone meant I was much more relaxed about them … and ensured that I wouldn’t feel terrible had I not achieved them. That’s my crazy logic anyway.
Right now I’m trying not to have too many inflated expectations and simply let life unfold in a more organic way. I know I’m much happier when I’m not obsessing over things, so leading a (semi) relaxed existence is something I’m ‘mindfully’ trying to implement – and have been for a while. That doesn’t mean I don’t still get stressed about things or apply myself in the same way … I just try to not carry around any silly annoyances with me and leave work at the home office door – easier said than done! Speaking of home offices, I’m trying to find a way of making that space more creative for me to work in. It feels quite stale at the moment and because it doubles up as my closet and laundry room, it doesn’t always offer that zen atmosphere I’m after. I think a bit of a re-jig is in order and I’m after a large planner that I can put on the wall, as I’m already keeping too many deadlines and appointments in my head, which is only asking for trouble.
Thankfully my Sister bought me this cool organiser type notebook for Christmas. It’s entirely blank (no restricting lines to prevent any necessary doodling) and begging to be the beginning of a brand new recipe book – although I suspect there’ll be lots of other ideas and creative titbits scribbled in there very soon too … believe it or not my interests and ambitions extend beyond food. So yeah, I’m excited for the year ahead but taking it one day at a time, and trying not to let the small things slip me by. How do you like to approach the new year?