I made this salad over a week ago so the details are sketchy to say the least but this is the general jist of the dish … kale meets black beans meets sweet potato. Nothing wild or crazy, juts a solid little salad that will see you right through to autumn and beyond – because it’s technically a warm salad it kind of straddles all seasons, in my opinion. Also, I just felt like posting, even if it’s not perfect or a concrete recipe, it’s gives a better indication of how I actually cook … usually on the fly and with whatever few ingredients I have to hand. Recently I’ve been buying my produce in small batches from our local organic grocers and only going to the supermarket if I really need a specific ingredient that I can’t find elsewhere. Buying local and seasonal (and indeed organic) is becoming increasingly more important to me but I’m also mindful of cost, which is why my dishes probably contain fewer ingredients that they usually do – and truthfully, they might be better for it. Like style, I tend to think food is best when pared back to the essentials with maybe just one unexpected flourish to make it stand apart … this is how I dress and how I cook, in fact – and maybe even how I decorate my home. Speaking of homes, we have been hard at work getting ours into shape. It looks like a wreck still but we can see the progress and I suppose that’s all that matters. We’re focusing on the upstairs at present … working our way down and finishing with the biggest job at hand – the kitchen. For that, we want a handcrafted open-shelving style space, which may or may not come to fruition depending on how much we have left in the budget although we’ve been pretty frugal so far … doing most of the work ourselves means we’ve saved a ton in labour costs. Of course, there are certain things we won’t tackle such as plumbing and plastering but other than that we’re happy to roll up our sleeves and get stuck in. Let me know if you’d be interested in seeing pictures of our progress and maybe I’ll do a specific renovation post.
Kale Salad with black beans & za’atar roasted sweet potatoes
with a balsamic orange dressing
what you’ll need
1 large sweet potato
1 heaped tsp. za’atar
zest of 1 orange
1 tbsp. olive oil
sea salt and pepper
for the kale salad
150g kale, leaves stripped
Juice of 1/2 orange
200g pre-cooked black beans
2 tbsp. hemp hearts
salt and pepper
Balsamic & Orange Dressing
1 heaped tsp. dijon mustard
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
juice 1/2 orange
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tbsp. agave or coconut palm syrup
pinch of salt and pepper
what you’ll do
Pre-heat the oven to 200c/Gas Mark 6. Peel and cube the sweet potato, and transfer to a baking sheet. Sprinkle over the za’atar, orange zest, olive oil and season generously. Toss to coat and bake for 30mins until crispy and golden, shaking the pan from time to time.
Tear the kale into bite-size pieces and add to a large mixing bowl. Squeeze over the orange juice, lightly season with salt and pepper and massage the leaves until they begin to soften. Set aside to wilt further in the juice.
Place the dressing ingredients in a bowl and vigorously whisk until it emulsifies. Drain and rinse the black beans and transfer to a small bowl. Pour over half the dressing and gently combine.
Add the black beans to the kale and spoon over the remaining dressing before adding the sweet potatoes and hemp hearts. Toss to combine, sprinkle over a smidge more za’atar and serve.
Sometimes I fancy something mildly sweet after dinner but I still want it to verge ever so slightly on the healthy side. Fruit is an obvious choice but I always like to spruce it up a little – it just makes it feel that extra bit special. If you already own my second book, The New Vegan, you’ll no doubt already be familiar with my penchant for roasted plums. These are a little spin on that concept but with orange blossom water and ground ginger instead … I also crumble over some brown sugar so that the tops get nicely caramelized in the oven. You can obviously make these ahead of time and store them in the fridge but for the full effect I prefer them warm, served alongside my favourite coconut yoghurt and a scattering of toasted almonds. So simple but oh so good.
I’ve been taking things easy in the kitchen lately. Eating and shopping reasonably frugally and not getting too caught up in making every meal a groundbreaking dish. I’m actually getting so much pleasure from keeping things basic, relying on organic, seasonal produce and making do with what I happen to have in the pantry. As a food writer/recipe developer, it’s so easy to get caught up in the chaos that is social media … truthfully, too much time spent on any of these popular platforms can zap your creativity. Far from it being inspiration, for me it can almost lead to the recipe equivalent of writers block … nothing ever feels good enough and so I find myself doing nothing at all.
Of course, no-one is really to blame in these scenarios other than ourselves. Whilst I’m borderline addicted to instagram, I’ve also become increasingly wary of it, which has led to me posting less regularly but more purposefully. I find this brings me greater joy in the long run because it feels authentic and a more genuine reflection of me and my life. Becoming overwhelmed by social media and our participation in it can be challenging for everybody at times and whilst it can breed a positive sense of community and connection (something we all crave) I also think it has the potential to create a damaging sense of distrust. It can be difficult to differentiate the person from the persona, fact from fiction … if you get what I mean? It’s a funny old thing when you think about it – we’re revealing aspects of ourselves that present a partial but not wholly accurate picture. Like a rose-tinted ‘vsco-ed to the hilt’ glimpse into a fraction of our day. Why do we even do it? 21st century living is insane.
Anyway, I’m pleased that I’m making strides in finding a better balance for me. My love for blogging has been re-awakened recently and because of that I’ll soon be moving the whole kit and kaboodle over to squarespace, complete with new name and logo. It’s definitely time for a change … a lot has transpired over the last seven or eight years and I now need an online space that echoes that. Don’t worry though, it’ll still be the same old me, same old musings but with hopefully some new and interesting content too – I really hope you’ll join me on this next phase of my blogging life, it really wouldn’t be the same without you!
what you’ll need
5 organic golden plums
2 tbsp. agave or maple syrup
1 tbsp. orange blossom water
2 tbsp. orange juice
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tbsp. light brown or palm sugar
1/4 cup toasted almonds
what you’ll do
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6/200c.
Halve the plums, remove the stones and place flesh side up in a small baking dish. Pour over the sweetener, orange blossom water and orange juice before dusting with ground ginger and brown/palm sugar. Bake for 25-30mins until bubbling and ever so slightly charred.
Distribute the flaked almonds on a baking tray and place in the same oven for 5 or so minutes, shaking the pan from time to time, until they are evenly toasted.
Fill a small bowl with coconut yoghurt and top with the roasted plums. Finish with a smattering of toasted almonds, a few basil leaves and serve.
It’s been a while since I attended a garden party. Heck, it’s been a while since I attended any kind of party – let it be known your thirties are pretty dry on the party front so make the most of it while you can. When this delightful invite from Waitrose came through the door then (in all it’s hamper and Heston’s ‘Garden Cup’ glory) I already knew it would be swell (I’m bringing back this much maligned word), making my answer a very easy ‘yes’! Obviously, the one thing Waitrose has in bucket-loads is style … make that laid back, 100% British class – but I wasn’t fully expecting the bells and whistles shindig they hosted in the grounds of the stunningly beautiful Leckford Estate. Did you know they’re the only supermarket in the UK that has their own farm? Nope, neither did I.
Seasonality was at the heart of the event with a to-die-for menu created especially for the mostly vegan/plant-based guests who ranged from The Little Plantation (stylist extraordinaire) to ‘Ballet Blast’ Beauty Naturally Sassy and the smoothie-bowl queen herself Alpha Foodie. After a guided tour through the nursery we entered into something of a magical fairyland complete with grounds that would make you weep … if you ever get the chance you must take a stroll through the water garden, it is beyond breathtaking and I could quite happily have spent the day there. Already feeling pretty zen we made our way to the teepee the organisers had erected near the lake – it’s always best to err on the side of caution in England and lo it did actually rain momentarily before the sun came out and the temperature soared. Hurrah!
Sipping on apple juice and crunching on probably the best vegan arancini I’ve sampled, us bloggers mingled and chatted, oohed and aahed, at well, pretty much everything. Glancing over the menu (p.s. all recipes are on the Waitrose site I believe), I was so impressed with the thought and precision that had gone into our super elegant lunch (huge shout-out to Waitrose Cookery School) … from the courgette fritters to the roasted cauliflower (with insanely yummy maple granola) and especially (oh, especially) the dessert options … three no-less if you count the apple crisp palette cleanser, crazy delicious lemon jelly and a coconut panna cotta I can only describe as akin to eating a cloud. All of it lush. All of it seasonal. I was a very happy vegan indeed.
Having not consumed alcohol for the best part of a month, I really savoured the chilled white ‘sauvignon blanc-esque’ wine they served, as well as the sweet dessert wine, which had some unusual bitter notes too … a little reminiscent of aperol, which is totally up my street. The alcohol on offer was British made and, of course, 100% vegan, so I felt it would’ve been churlish not to indulge somewhat;)
The purpose of us being there? Well, apart from having a lovely afternoon, we got to see firsthand the passion that goes into the produce on offer at Waitrose under the hashtag #WaitroseAtSource. It’s no news to me that the quality is some of the best you’ll find in the UK but I was still amazed at the obsessive care that goes into growing it. Whether it’s the tonnes of mushrooms that are produced directly on the estate each year to the vineyard that supplies the grapes for the wine, all of it echoed the sentiments of the team who talked enthusiastically about the estate and also working for Waitrose. It was an education to say the least.
After all that eating, drinking and chatting, the only way to rightly bookend a very British garden party is to indulge in a little flower arranging – am I right? Off we trotted down to an abundant flower display where we chose our favourite blooms, which were then transformed them into a beautiful bouquet … I’m not saying I may have required a little more ‘flower arranging’ help than most but I definitely required more help than most, ahem. Suffice to say it was a dreamy end to a dreamy day, and has certainly got my summer off to swell (there’s that word again!) start. Now if only I can recreate the same mood in my teeny soulless courtyard out the back … well, God does love a trier!
*this is a sponsored post but all words and thoughts are 100% heartfelt xxx