What an insane couple of months it has been. Work things aside, we just purchased our first house … a massive milestone for us(!!!) – fellow self-employed peeps will understand, the phrase ‘minor miracle’ comes to mind. And while I’ve never been one for ‘planning’ as such, I did always hope that one day we would have a place to call our own. Us being us, of course, went for the more challenging option and decided upon a rather forlorn Victorian terrace that basically hasn’t been updated in decades. The fireplaces are from the forties (I like vintage but these are just naff) and everything but everything is panelled so it feels quite claustrophobic at present. Oh, and did I mention the delightful avocado bathroom? Okay, I’m not going to lie, I did consider keeping the bathroom suite purely for kitsch value but have opted for a slightly more contemporary vibe much to my Mother’s delight. Luckily these types of bathrooms are very desirable it would seem, so we’re hoping to sell it for a pretty penny online, which should cover most of the cost of the update. Hurrah! Likewise, we’re offering up the fireplaces to a local specialist who will come and take it away intact – no sledgehammers required.
Because we’re renovating on a micro-budget, we’ll have to do everything in stages – and a few (read many)compromises will be made in the process. That means no Fired Earth tiles for me (sob), and instead keeping things super simple. White walls, painted floorboards, clean lines … we’re just trying to create a tranquil space that still reflects who we are. Neither of us have any experience in this area so if you have any tips or advice please do leave them in the comments below – possible pitfalls, what room we should tackle first etc. etc. Thankfully, we have a three week head-start (we’re not due to vacate our current rental until late March) which will give us enough time to take down the wall between the living room and dining area. The light is already pretty good but I’m hoping this will really open everything up, and create a more open-plan space better suited to our needs. Don’t panic though, we’re not just barging in with all our 21st Century ideas and eradicating any hint of the buildings past. Our aim is to restore a little Victorian charm to the place while we’re at it. Most of our budget is going on the heating system (currently night storage heaters, ick) and installing cast iron radiators. Fixtures and fitting will also give a subtle nod to its heritage. Big ideas. Not a lot of money. Lets see how this pans out.
I’ve babbled long enough (I’m excited, what can I say!) so here’s the recipe you actually came here for … Popped Quinoa Granola. A bit of a revelation I recently (accidentally) discovered by way of another (savoury) recipe I was working on. Suffice to say, I had popped quinoa literally coming out of my ears, and so I decided to experiment and use it in a simple granola. The result? So. Freakin. Good.
A couple of things to note – don’t use jumbo oats, instead go for those piddly little porridge oats that are super cheap and can be found in just about every supermarket. This will let the quinoa shine and help form those desirable clusters we so desperately seek in our granola bowl. Also, don’t move or shake it too much – gently turn once, half-way through baking, and let it cool completely before transferring it to a clean jar. It’s robust and delicate all at the same time … and seriously addictive to boot. I’ve been adoring my oatmeal and polenta with it, sprinkling it over yoghurt and also eating it by the handful. Like I said. So. Freakin. Good. Enjoy!
what you’ll need
50g quinoa, rinsed and dried
30g pumpkin seeds
30g sunflowers seeds
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch pink Himalayan salt
1 tbsp. olive oil
60ml maple syrup
50g coconut flakes
6 dried figs, chopped
what you’ll do
Pre-heat the oven to 150c.
Heat a dry cast-iron (pref.) skillet or pan. Once it begins to smoke tumble in the quinoa and shake immediately to prevent burning. The quinoa should make a light popping sound fairly quickly. Turn the heat down to a medium flame or setting, cover and let the quinoa continue to pop for a few seconds, ensuring to stir or shake frequently. At this stage I like to add a splash of water (1-2 tbsp. approx) cover and let them steam for a further 30secs or so, again, shake the pan frequently to prevent sticking or burning – I find they tend to puff up a little more this way, however, you can totally omit this stage if you wish. Once toasted, transfer to a lined baking tray and set aside to cool.
In a separate mixing bowl, combine the oats, seeds and cooled quinoa. Add the cinnamon and salt, and stir to combine. Lightly whisk the oil and syrup together and pour over the oat mixture. Stir to coat and transfer to the same lined baking sheet you used to cool the quinoa. Bake for 20mins.
Remove from oven and add the coconut flakes and chopped figs. Gently combine before returning to the oven for a further 15-20mins.
Set aside to cool completely before transferring it to a clean jar. Will keep for at least a week. Serve with fruit and yoghurt for a quick breakfast or snack.
We’ve had a jam-packed ‘Halloweeny’ weekend in the lead-up to the day itself. Both myself and my Husband like to eek out every second of it because (a.) we are die-hard horror fans and (b.) I happen to come from a wee town that knows how to celebrate this holiday (and then some) so I’m wholly determined to keep the tradition alive – even if it’s not exactly a major ‘thing’ here in Cornwall. Sure, we get the odd trick or treater but nothing like my hometown where the kids are out in full force from 4pm onwards. It really is a sight to behold. It always struck me odd that England doesn’t make more out of Halloween but I guess it is more of an Irish tradition … Samhain and all that. I’m so glad we got to experience Halloween in Chicago too – it’s a similar set-up … trick or treating earlier in the evening and then partying for the grown-ups later on. Side note: the whole ‘sexy costume’ malarkey utterly baffles me. I usually team up with my Husband (our homemade Jack Skeleton and Sally costumes complete with papier mache head were a hit) and our last efforts actually seen us walk away with a ‘best costume’ award, if can you believe it, even if most people had no clue what/who we supposed to be. Here’s a clue; we had to carry a ‘dead body’ around with us all night dressed in 80’s gear. Got it? Let me know in the comments if you think you’ve guessed correctly.
That was a couple of years ago now, when we lived in the bustling town of Falmouth, so recent festivities have been rather quiet in comparison – I think we had one kid call to our door last year so we ended up scoffing the remaining sweeties ourselves. Tonight’s viewing, as ever, will include ‘Night of the Living Dead’ (Barbara! They’re coming to get you Barbara!), Halloween (I am John Carpenter worshipper – p.s. he’s performing in London tonight, gutted I won’t be there), Rosemary’s Baby (obvs.) … and we’ll probably throw in a newbie for good measure too. The Shining was showing at our local film house last night, which was epic, to say the least. We’d never seen it on the big screen before and it totally took it to a whole new level – I feel like I know that film inside out, upside down but I was seeing things last night I’d never even noticed before. It’s a ruddy masterpiece. Kubrick rules.
Anyway. Halloween means pumpkins, which is fine by me because it’s just about one of my favourite ingredients to cook/bake with. I’ve been perfecting my breads, cakes and muffins but I also wanted to share something a little simpler in the form of a smoothie bowl. If you can’t get your hands on pumpkin puree, don’t worry I’ve got a tutorial here – it’s a lot easier than you might think (and whilst I love the convenience of a can) you can’t beat freshly made pumpkin puree. The remaining ingredients are items you’re likely to have hanging about your fridge/cupboard, making this a cinch to throw together. You could top it with fresh apple (or pear also works well) but I like to ramp up the flavour by tossing the chopped apple in cinnamon and maple syrup before roasting it in the oven until soft. I also used it to fill the centre of a Pumpkin Bundt Cake (loosely based on this recipe) I made for a small Halloween shindig I threw on Saturday. If you follow me on Instagram stories you’ll have caught some of the silly shenanigans.
Must dash now, as I haven’t bought anything for tonight’s mini frighteners and I also have a mountain of work to do. Oh Monday. You suck.
what you’ll need
4 heaped tbsp. pumpkin puree
3 tbsp. coconut yoghurt
3 tbsp. rolled oats
60ml/1/4 cup coconut milk
4 deglet nour dates (or 2 medjool dates)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
pinch of allspice
pinch of salt
handful of ice
for the apples
2 large apples (cox or similar)
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
pinch of salt (or cinnamon salt, if you can get your hands on it)
what you’ll do
pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. peel and chop the apple, and place in an ovenproof dish. toss in cinnamon, nutmeg and syrup, and sprinkle over a little salt. roast for 20-25 minutes until soft, shaking the pan from time to time. set aside until needed.
place the bananas, pumpkin puree, coconut yoghurt, dates, oats, coconut milk, spices, salt and ice in a blender and blend until completely smooth – I generally run it through twice to be sure. I like it reasonably thick but you add add more plant milk to thin it out if you wish.
divide between two bowl and garnish with the roasted apples, toasted flaked almonds, flaxseed and a dash of maple or pomegranate syrup.
So, I promised to upload this recipe on Friday and it’s taken until now (Monday ruddy morning) to get my act together and actually process the photos and write the damn thing. I guess you could say I’m well and truly out of the blogging groove and I’m finding it increasingly more difficult to put my energies back into it. Because I’m channeling all my foodie creativity into other work, this space remains a bit of a ‘relegated to the back of my brain’ dead zone, which is not what I want but at present I can’t fully see a way forward. Part of me thinks I should be diversifying a bit and including more lifestyle posts (beauty, fashion, homeware) but I’m not sure if you agree – do you want to see those type of posts or should I just stick to food? Leave me a comment and let me know. I’m taking your lead on this one.
Instagram is proving to be a wonderful outlet for me at present. As long as you follow wisely it can be a really terrific, supportive community to be a part of. I’ve done many’s a cull, which means my feed is full of charming, positive people that have similar interests to me – yes, there’s lots of food but also plenty of performance art, floral displays (I love blooms) and style … I’m a sucker for a great outfit. I highly recommend @personalpractice (dancer extraordinaire) @latonyayvette (supermum and general babe) @ellenfisher (aka mango island mamma) @jennymustard (swedish vegan minimalist living in Berlin) and @carolinedemaigret (sophisticated french model who happens to be hilarious) … do you have any recommendations of your own? Who inspires you on a daily instagram feed basis? Also, I am so, so close to reaching my 10k target – if you’re not following me already (and you like lots of photos of food and Cornwall) then head over to my personal feed (@ainecarlin) and click follow! I would be very much obliged. High fives in advance.
And then there’s the small matter of it being October. October. My favourite month because, y’know … harvest, autumn, halloween, all that jazz. We’ve already decorated our living-room with dancing skeletons (see twitter for proof) and other ghostly bunting, as well as seasonal spooky candles – and lots and lots of PUMPKINS! Well, a variety of squash, if I’m being perfectly honest. But still. PUMPKINS!! Truth be told I used canned pumpkin for these pancakes but if you do want to make your own (it’s super easy, promise!) then I have a quick ‘How to’ that will help. This stack were so light and fluffy I was tempted to call them ‘Perfectly Pillowy Pumpkin & Orange Pancakes’ but decided to keep it simple instead. However, they most definitely are ‘perfectly pillowy’ and totally delicious to boot. I made an addictive palm sugar salted caramel to accompany them (can I get a ‘yum’?), which will test your restraint when it comes to bowl licking because this stuff is 100% uh-mazing. The pumpkin, orange yoghurt was a bit of an afterthought that actually really brought the whole dish together … but not as crucial as the caramel, so if you’re going to forgo something, forgo this.
Recipe time. You ready? Time to get get jiggy with some pumpkin puree.
what you’ll need
150g spelt flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
240ml soya (or other plant) milk
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
juice and zest of 1/2 orange
3 tbsp. maple syrup
1/2 tbsp. melted coconut oil
what you’ll do
place the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, spices and orange zest in a large bowl and whisk to combine.
in a separate bowl whisk the soya milk, puree, maple syrup and orange juice together until smooth.
make a well in the centre of the flour, pour in the wet mixture and whisk to combine.
heat a crepe or frying pan and melt the coconut before pouring into the pancake batter. whisk to combine and set aside for a minute or two.
return the pan to the stove, brush with a little more coconut oil and bring to a medium-high heat. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup (or an ice-cream scoop) ladle in the pumpkin batter, cooking one at a time for best results. cook for around 4-5 minutes or until bubbles begin to appear on top and the sides look dry before flipping. cook for a further minute or so before transferring to a plate. cover with a clean tea-towel to keep them warm. repeat until all the mixture is used … you should get approximately 10-12 pancakes out of the batter mix.
for the salted caramel
1/2 cup palm sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup coconut milk (from a can)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt
place the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil for around 5-10minutes or until the mixture reduces and thickens, and the sugar is completely dissolved. swirl to ensure the sugar is evenly dispersed but do not stir.
once the mixture has thickened, whisk in the coconut milk (coconut cream will also work) and gently boil for a further 10 or so minutes. once it takes on a caramel appearance, test the thickness using the back of a spoon … simply dip it into the caramel and set it aside for a minute to determine how well it sets – remember, as it cools, it will continue to thicken.
at the very end whisk in the extract and sea salt and transfer to a bowl. refrigerate until needed.
for the pumpkin yoghurt
4 tbsp. dairy free yoghurt
1 heaped tbsp. pumpkin puree
1 tbsp. orange juice
1 tbsp. maple syrup
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
whisk all the ingredients together until smooth and refrigerate until needed.
What should I share this week folks? Well, I’m just back from Ireland where I spent the last fortnight with my family and quite unbelievably I seemed to hit Derry at just the right time – hello heatwave! So yeah. Two weeks hanging with my Mum and Dad, helping out wherever I can (that invariably means being designated cook) and generally lending a bit of support … Dad had a bit of a dip a few weeks back but has thankfully rallied again. I can’t deny this is an emotional, stressful, overwhelming time for us all and I’d feel weird acting as if everything is totally normal on the blog so I thought it best to be upfront and honest about the whole thing. Anyway, our family isn’t one to wallow in our sorrows and I can assure you there’s still plenty of laughs to be had … my Dad still cracks us up from time to time – joking about things that are essentially grim is seemingly his forte. I think it’s the only way he/we can deal with this horrible hand we’ve been dealt. Generally speaking, us Irish do tend to use humour to counteract difficult situations – the troubles being just one example. It’s probably another reason why Freud deemed us ‘one race for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever’ … not that I entirely agree with that sentiment, as I’m a habitual over-sharer and don’t mind going in for some deep and meaningful’s myself. Nevertheless, therapy is still far from the norm in Northern Ireland so banter acts as a good daily antidote to daily strifes.
My current way of clearing my head, however, is to declutter. And then declutter some more. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m a ‘maximalist minimalist’ mainly because I’m forever drawn to colour and from what little I know about this lifestyle it’s all about the neutrals. My home and wardrobe are feeling ever more pared back though, and it’s actually quite liberating – so much so, it’s infiltrated how we approach things (life) in general in a big way. Whilst I still love great design, it more about function for me now … decorative items just hold no sway with me anymore and the same goes for my closet, which could almost be classified as a ‘capsule’ collection at this point. Pretty much everything can be mixed and matched bar one or two items that are a bit more unique. I can’t see us going back to our old ways at this stage.
Travelling has also become something we want to explore again, which is how our ‘month in Berlin’ idea came about. So we’re upping sticks this summer and moving to this awesome German city for what we’re calling a ‘working holiday’ – I honestly cannot wait to eat my weight in awesome vegan food and immerse myself in oodles of culture. I’ll definitely be uploading blog posts to accompany our stay and give you the lowdown on what has become something of a European vegan mecca.
Even though we’ll be eating out a lot when we’re there I also want to do plenty of cooking – we always opt for self-catering. Recipes like this rawnola are going to be super handy for breakfasts and snacks because they’re quick to make and satisfy those sweet cravings. The Cornish Sea Salt ‘cinnamon salt’ addition is an absolute must in my opinion but if you can’t get your hands on it simply add a pinch of good quality sea salt (or pink himalayan salt) and a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. There’s something about sweet and salty that just really hits the spot for me. I’ve never been one for indulging in confectionary but give me a bowl of granola and fruit and I’m one happy lady. If you’re anything like me and classify breakfast as the happiest meal of the day then this is going to be a little lifesaver – you can mix up the ingredients to suit too … not got almonds? Use brazil nuts or cashews instead. You could also swap the oats for buckwheat flakes – it’s entirely up to you. Simply use this ‘recipe’ (such as it is) to create your own perfect rawnola. Enjoy!
what you’ll need
1 cup regular oats
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1/4 cup whole almonds
4 x medjool dates
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 tsp cinnamon salt
what you’ll do
place the oats, coconut and almonds in food processor and pulse to break apart.
add the stoned dates, raisins and cinnamon and pulse until it forms a sticky rubble – be sure not to overwork the mixture.
refrigerate for an hour to firm or serve immediately.
place a handful of rawnola in a bowl, add sliced apple and pour over you favourite plant milk. finish with a little more coconut and cinnamon salt.
What can I say. I’ve been an absent blogger of late. Life got in the way and for the first time in my blogging ‘career’ I had to seriously prioritize and this was the result. You probably don’t want to hear my excuses/reasons but suffice to say I was at home with the folks spending some much need quality time with my Dad – who, by the way, is an absolute inspiration. The way that man has faced his illness is nothing less than mind-blowing … puts all my little life niggles in perspective I can tell you. We celebrated his 70th Birthday in style surrounded by all the people he loves most. We ate, danced, laughed, celebrated. In a nutshell, it was magical. And now, here I am, back in my own little Cornish haven (our new ‘smack bang in the centre of town’ haven, which, by the way, still needs mucho mucho TLC) and wondering … what’s next? Well, I dunno really. Another book perhaps? I have so many ideas that I’ve been secreting away but I also want to invest more time in my (equally neglected) YouTube channel, which seems to have a growing following – glad y’all seem to like it! So yeah. Work, work, work but (!) I also want to travel this year and grab life a little more by the cojones – know what I mean? I’ve come to realise I spend a lot of time planning and for what? I’m determined to live more in the here and now but for a self-confessed metaphorical fidget, this is damned hard. My mind frequently wanders to the future and I spend a disgusting amount of time worrying, which is such a waste of time. Like, the ultimate waste of time. Just do your best and leave the rest to fate is my new motto.
In the same vein, I’ve been aiming to simplify my life in every which way including, of course, food. Aside from clearing out my cupboards Marie Kondo style (I’ve let 70% of my wardrobe go and it feels awesome!!), I’ve also turned my attention to stripping things back in the kitchen – if you follow me on instagram/twitter you’ll know all about my current orange obsession. These chia bowls are another recent fav. Yep, nothing too revolutionary but so freakin’ tasty … I personally can’t get enough. Chia Bia sent me a bunch of their terrific products (incl. milled chia – love, love, love) so I am well and truly stocked. This Very Berry Bowl utilizes two of their products in one fell swoop – maxing out the omega 3’s yo – and is a cinch to make … when are my recipes ever not?!
I know ‘minimal living’ is nothing new but I am so hooked on this notion at the moment and really can’t shake the urge to purge my life of anything I don’t actually ‘need’, and this breakfast bowl really ties in with this basic philosophy. As I get older (p.s. I just turned 35 – yikes!) I’m realising how unimportant most material things are to me. I’ve always been drawn to multi-functional designs anyway and pretty much loathe ‘decorative’ items (flowers and candles are the only exception) so detoxing my house has not been difficult. In fact, it’s been more of a relief. I lost count at 20 bin bags so let’s just say I currently possess very little and am inching towards an even more minimalist existence. I’ve also put a strict ‘one in, one out’ rule in place to avoid cluttering up my life with more needless items in the future. Of course, because I work with food etc. I still have to buy props etc. but even still I’ve been able to lose certain items that have been languishing in my cupboards for quite some time. Once I get my office in order, I can have a dedicated props shelf, which I will also be keeping in check to ensure it doesn’t get too out of hand.
Oh, and have I told how much I’m enjoying town life? Afternoon coffee breaks a go-go!
what you’ll need
1/2 cup blackberries
1/2 cup raspberries
1 heaped tbsp milled blueberry & chia mix
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 cup coconut milk
3 tbsp whole chia seeds
1 heaped tbsp vegan granola
handful of coconut flakes
what you’ll do
place the blackberries, raspberries, maple syrup and milled chia in a blender along with the coconut milk and blend until smooth.
transfer to a large bowl and stir in the chia seeds. refrigerate for at least 6 hours.
serve with toppings of you choice … I like granola, berries and coconut
Following on from my post yesterday, this is an extension of my recent blogging musings only today I’m banging on about photography. Again. I know this is a topic I have touched upon more than a few times but what can I say, the struggle is real. Just as soon as I think I’ve grasped even the most basic of techniques, I go and forget everything I seemed to have learned … settings are my nemesis. Cloudy? Tungsten? Who knows – sometimes I really do despair.
Whilst I do deliberately attempt to create an ‘effect’ on many of my images (is stylized the word?), mostly I’m after a more natural feel. Not so much Kinfolk but absolutely along the clean, wholesome and most importantly inviting lines. Okay, so maybe it’s not just the photography I’ve yet to get completely to grips with – perhaps the styling plays a part too. I know what I like (see my Pinterest boards for reference) and definitely know what I hate – and truthfully, sometimes I really hate what I put out there. Why do it then, you ask? Well, partly because by not putting it out there means I’ll never get any better. Plus, I desperately try not to be afraid of failure … great things come from multiple (continuous, endless) failings. Or so I’m told.
I look at photos I took three or four years ago and it’s clear to me that I’m actually getting worse. No, seriously. I seemed to have peaked in 2011 and have gone downhill ever since. You could say I’ve lost my way. Ugh. In such regularly occurring defeatist moments, I find myself repeating the mantra ’embrace your weaknesses, embrace your weaknesses’. It sometimes helps. Sometimes.
Blah, blah. Anyway. Everyday Oatmeal. What better way to practice my slowly diminishing photography skills than by snapping my breakfast. Nothing fancy but certainly delicious – and this got me thinking too. Why am I forever uploading recipes that I only ever make now and again when there is a bounty of standards that I rely on every single week? Recipes like my everyday oatmeal. Sure, it’s just porridge but everyone has their own fall-back method and this just happens to be mine …
what you’ll need
3 tbsp oats
1/2 cup water
1/2 almond milk
1/2 tbsp maple syrup or agave
handful of raisins
plum chia jam
what you’ll do
place the oats in a saucepan along with the water. bring to a boil and then quickly reduce to a simmer until most of the water has been absorbed … about 5 mins.
add the almond milk and sweetener and very gently simmer until it becomes thick and creamy. toss in the raisins and keep the oatmeal on a low heat for a minute or two whilst you chop your apple.
serve with a dollop of chia jam, handful of apple matchsticks, sprinkle of ground cinnamon and a smattering of crushed seeds. et voila, breakfast is ready.
apple matchsticks … i slice my apple into thin rounds before stacking them and cutting into matchsticks.
plum chia jam … the plum jam couldn’t be easier either. simply halve about six plums, place in an oven-proof dish and cover with the juice of half an orange, a vanilla pod (plus seeds) and some sweetener. cover with foil and roast for 30mins until completely soft – doesn’t matter if they lose their shape, in fact, all the better. press through a fine mesh sieve and sprinkle in 1/4 cup of chia seeds, stir to combine and set aside to cool before refrigerating until needed. if you want a thicker jam, simply add more chia seeds. easy.
I have so much to say in this post, I almost don’t know where to begin but seeing as we need to start somewhere let me open with this. Learning. We never stop. As a food lover, recipe writer, blogger and general human being I never stop learning new and interesting things. Sometimes these are things I chance upon and other times I actively seek out this new info, like the hungry hippo I am … gobble, gobble, chomp, chomp. At the moment, I’m in the midst of a YouTube cookery show binge (anything and everything but especially Nigella) and also reacquainting myself with a few blogs that I used to religiously follow … Joy The Baker and The Pioneer Woman being just two. These are the originals, to my mind, and the sages of the blogging world from which we can learn a great deal – the first and most important lesson being … never take yourself too seriously. And, if you’ve ever read either one of these ladies witty, smart (and downright hilarious) posts you’ll know what I mean. This isn’t just about food – this is about life!
Okay, so you might be thinking, why would a vegan gal such as myself read meat ‘n’ dairy heavy blogs like these – or indeed indulge (an unhealthy amount) in the televised works of arguably the greatest kitchen goddess to ever walk this green earth, Nigella Lawson. The answer is simple really. I learn SO much. Whilst I know I’ll never recreate these dishes verbatim in my own domain, I can at least imbue (or at least try to, ahem) a little Lawson magic in my food or all too infrequent soirees. Same goes for Ree and Joy … I just adore their enthusiasm, sarcasm and, of course, the way they seem to effortlessly throw a dish together.
Like I said, this isn’t just about food, it’s about how people connect with it, handle it and ultimately create something great from it. Meat ‘n’ dairy aside, these gals have one other thing in common … magnificent palettes – I don’t need to make their food or eat it to know this. Also, I’m pretty adept at compartmentalising so I can watch, read, immerse with ease – I try not to block myself off from inspiration, whatever form it comes in, and sometimes this is where I derive some of my best ideas and recipes. What can I say, it’s my process and it works for me. I honestly couldn’t fathom shunning a whole world of cookery books, writers, blogs and shows just because they’re not vegan – case in point, I am mildly obsessed with Nigel Slater who is neither vegetarian nor a vegan but boy does that man know how to make vegetables shine. It truly is a gift.
This brings me neatly onto another current obsession of mine … bread. Yup, whilst the whole world is running away from gluten and all things wheat based screaming, I am sprinting full pelt towards it with both arms open hollering ‘gimme, gimme’! Spelt is featuring heavily in this fascination, in all its ancient wholegrain glory. I use it in breads, muffins, cakes and now cinnamon rolls … although I will confess that I think a mix (i.e. 2/3 spelt, 1/3 plain white flour) in this instance would probably be beneficial – just a little heads up for you for you there, if you’re after a slightly lighter bun. With that said, I really did adore these miniature treats. Nutty, satisfying and full of cinnamony goodness – they’re such a delight and one even the most cautious of bread-makers can tackle.
I made them a couple of times and tested out two varying methods to figure out which one I preferred. Needless to say my Husband’s opinion differed from mine, which only made things a tad more confusing, so I packed him off to work with his favoured batch and I’ve kept these mini ones for myself. The main points of difference were the point at which I added the yeast and when I chose to knead the dough. For the mini rolls, I added the quick acting yeast to the dry ingredients before gradually pouring in the almond milk and oil. After bringing it together into a rough dough, I then tipped it out onto a floured surface before kneading for around 10mins until it was reasonably smooth and elastic … oil it, place it back in the bowl, cover with cling and set aside in a warm place (tip! I put it beside my pre-heating oven) for around 30mins. So far, nothing unusual there. The dough will expand, not massively, but it will be noticeably bigger and at this stage I rolled it out very thinly (less than 1/4 inch), brushed over my oil and generously sprinkled it with ground cinnamon and light brown sugar. Roll it tightly into a long but even sausage shape before slicing into rolls (about 2cm thick). Line a round oven-proof tray and arrange the rolls with the coil facing upwards – it might be a squeeze but that’s fine. Set aside for a further 20mins before baking in a hot oven for 10-15mins. They won’t rise a huge amount but will have a beautifully crispy yet light texture – almost like the central piece to their regularly sized counterparts, which, let’s face is usually the best bit anyway. This is probably why I liked them so much! As soon as they come out of the oven, brush them generously with maple syrup and sprinkle over some crushed nuts or seeds – et voila, mini spelt cinnamon rolls ready to eat.
Now for the second method. This will render a much larger bun, much more ‘bread-like’ and infinitely more substantial than the little morsels seen here. For this you will need to activate the yeast in the warm almond milk and once it froths pour it, along with the oil, into the dry ingredients. Mix as usual until it’s fully incorporated and forms a rough but reasonably smooth dough ball – tip! hands are your friend here. Still in the bowl, lightly coat the dough with a little oil to prevent sticking, cover with cling and set aside in a warm place to rise, as per usual. You’ll notice here, that I didn’t knead the dough immediately and this is the crucial difference – mini rolls, knead first, larger rolls, knead later. After 30mins, tip the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for around 10-15 mins until smooth and pliable. Roll it out but this time ensure the dough is about double the thickness (1/2 inch) before brushing with oil (or melted margarine), cinnamon and sugar. Slice into much thicker rounds, place coil-side up on a lined tray (about 2cm apart) and lightly brush with oil. Cover with cling and set aside to rise for a second time (this should take about 30mins) before baking in a hot oven for 8-10mins … yes, the mini ones do take a little longer to bake, which is confusing but accurate. As per the mini rolls, brush with maple syrup whilst they are still warm and sprinkle over some crushed pecans or seeds.
So, the rest is up to you. By all means, experiment yourself – not only with the dough but also with the add-in’s (I’m tempted to do a pb&j next and I may or may not add a little bicarb to the mix) but above all don’t shut yourself off from a good learning opportunity when there’s one to be had. In my humble opinion, the best vegan recipes come from the most unexpected of places – well, that’s my excuse anyway.
Mini Spelt Cinnamon Rolls
adapted from Nourish Atelier
what you’ll need
190g spelt flour
pinch of fine salt
7g (or 1 1/2 tsp) quick acting yeast
120ml hand-hot almond milk
1 tbsp agave or maple syrup
4 cardamon pods
2 tbsp olive oil plus more for brushing
1 heaped tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp light brown sugar (or palm sugar)
crushed seeds or nuts
what you’ll do
Pre-heat your oven to 220 degrees celsius.
Gently heat a little almond milk, agave (or maple syrup) and cardamon on a hob until it’s hand hot … test it on the back of your wrist for temperature, ensuring it is not too hot – if it is, set it aside until it cools a little and don’t forget to remove the cardamon pods. Side note: If it is too hot it may interfere with the yeast activating.
Whisk the flour, yeast and salt together in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Gradually add the almond milk and oil (if it makes it easier you can add the oil to the almond milk but I prefer to do it separately) working it slowly into the flour – the wetter the better. Once you have formed a rough dough ball, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for around 10mins until reasonably smooth and elastic … remember this is spelt so it won’t be quite as pliable as plain white flour. Lightly oil the dough, return to the bowl, cover with cling film and set aside in a warm places to rise for around 30mins.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll into a thin rectangular shape, about 1/4 inch thick. Brush over some olive oil, followed by a generous sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar before rolling tightly into a sausage shape. Slice into 2cm rounds and arrange neatly in a lined dish, coil side up. Lightly brush the tops with oil, cover with cling and set aside for around 20mins to allow the dough to expand and rise a little more.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for 10-15mins – every oven is different so just keep an eye on them.
Remove from oven and whilst they are still warm, brush over a little maple syrup and sprinkle over some crushed seeds. Serve immediately or store in a container until needed … in fact, I just keep them in the dish and cover with foil.
I don’t do a huge amount of baking … if I make it, I’ll eat it, so muffins, breads, cakes and cookies are invariably now and again affairs. These heavenly morsels are borderline healthy, however, so they make an appearance more frequently than most – I use the easy batter as my base and add whatever I have to hand; this time it just so happened to be raspberries and chocolate. They also work wonderfully with berries (strawberries, blackberries and blueberries) and nuts (walnuts and pecans are particularly great options) although I really do love this crushed raspberry, chocolate chip mix … lush with a capital ‘L’. Not only are they are a terrific breakfast option, especially if you’re in a hurry first thing, but also act as the perfect mid-afternoon pick-me-up with only a fraction of the usual ‘muffin induced’ guilt.
Refined-sugar free and containing wholesome spelt flour, they are filling without being stodgy – I don’t know about you but baked goods often leave me feeling a tad bloated … not so with these beauties! Sure, there’s a little plain flour in there but if you wanted to round off the spelt flour instead then by all means go ahead. I personally like the lightness the plain flour brings to proceedings but it’s not a crucial addition. My other ‘health’ concession is the fact the mixture will only stretch to six (medium) muffins – I find that portion control is much more effective than abstinence and baked goods are always better fresh anyway, so this way you won’t have any lingering around for days. Obviously if you’re baking for a brood then simply double the ingredients … and don’t forget to get creative with the ‘add-ins’.
what you’ll need
100g spelt flour
50g plain flour
25g ground linseed (flaxseed)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
1 ripe banana
120ml plant milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
40ml maple syrup
50g dark chocolate chips
what you’ll do
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Line a muffin tin with 6 muffin cases.
Lightly whisk the flours, flaxseed, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt together until combined.
Mash the banana to a smooth puree and transfer to a large bowl. Add the plant milk, vanilla extract, agave and maple syrup, and whisk vigorously until thoroughly combined.
Make a well in the flour mix and pour in the banana/plant milk mixture. Fold gently until combined. Roughly mash the raspberries and add to batter along with the chocolate chips. Stir through until distributed ensuring not to overwork the mixture.
Divide the batter between the muffin cases and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow the muffins to cool completely on a cooling rack.
Serve with a cup of hot coffee.
So, I can’t actually remember how long it’s been since I last blogged – maybe a month, maybe more? My excuse is that I’ve been in the depths of book no. 2 and couldn’t come up for air, let alone a blog post and am only just getting back to normality after submitting my manuscript on Sunday. Now though, I’m ready to ease myself back into the swing of things with a simple but delicious smoothie … it’s the long drink I needed after pouring myself into my latest cookbook, which is due for release in January 2016. Yep, it feels like an age to me too. After writing ‘Keep it Vegan’ I felt an enormous weight had been lifted off my shoulders but that short-lived relief was quickly followed by an insurmountable dread that nobody would like or buy it. Thankfully my fears were unfounded but that doesn’t make releasing this one into the ether any easier – in fact, it feels as if more hinges on this publication being a success. Go figures.
With that said, I am so excited to reveal bits of the book to you guys, however, at the moment even the title is under wraps. What I can tell you is that I am over the moon with how it’s shaping up … the images are simply stunning, and I think there’ll be a little something for everyone – vegan, omni or otherwise. As ever, my recipes will be super straightforward (old habits die hard) with a good balance (gluten-free alongside sugar-filled is my style) and plenty of scope for you to adapt them to suit your needs and tastes. These are dishes I truly love to make myself, and although many were created especially for the book, they’ve now become regular features on my weekly menu too. Very few of the recipes are time consuming and, perhaps more importantly, I’ll be offering up tips on how to make your vegan lifestyle that wee bit easier with the inclusion of some non-foodie chapters outlining my approach to veganism. In a way, I write my books with me in mind – that may sound odd, but I kind of feel if I wouldn’t buy it, then why should I expect anyone else to. It’s also my only way of staying true to myself … something that is really, really important to me.
Okay, so enough waffle and onto the drink. If you really wanted to, you could totally pop some rum in this and turn it into a more grown-up affair but in my opinion it actually makes for a refreshing change to its usual boozy counterpart. Come Summer I am all about the pineapple, and try to secrete it into just about anything … salsa is a current top fav. Here though, it takes centre stage and rightly so – all we need now is for that predicted heatwave to hit.
what you’ll need
250g fresh pineapple, chopped
100ml coconut cream
100ml coconut milk
1 large medjool date, stone removed
what you’ll do
Place all the ingredients into a high speed blender and blend until completely – for an even smoother finish, pour it through a fine mesh sieve.
Divide between two or three glasses and garnish with some pineapple. Serve immediately.
Oh hai! Suffice to say this book writing business is overtaking everything at the mo, hence the lack of recipes on the blog – it seems every time I have a good idea I feel compelled to save it for the publication. I can’t even claim this one was intended for this space, as it was originally created for the current issue of WED Mag (go buy it!), along with two other equally delightful dishes. Call it laziness or just my eagerness to share but this borrowed (from, er, myself) recipe is all I have to offer right now … although I have two blog posts lined up for the very near future (you loving that vagueness?) that I hope will make up for my persistent peasoupeats neglect.
This particular Banana Bread recipe is (no lie) an absolute lifesaver thanks to its gluten and (refined) sugar-free status … in fact, you could go as far as to say, it’s good for you – disclaimer; it’s probably not ‘good for you’. Moist, crumbly and ridiculously delicious, it flies in the face of everything you have ever thought about gluten free goods, which, let’s face it, are often bemoaned for their dense, stodgy texture that taste more like sand than cake – not appealing, not now, not ever. So, even if you think gluten free isn’t your thing, I urge you let this banana bread change your mind because healthy eating or not, this recipe officially ‘rules’.
what you’ll need
130g Gram Flour
70g Ground Almonds
1 tsp Gluten Free Baking Powder
½ tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
2 Ripe Bananas
3 Medjool Dates
1 tbsp Maple Syrup
1 tbsp Coconut oil
30g Flaked Almonds
what you’ll do
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and prepare a medium-sized loaf tin by greasing it with a little coconut oil.
Place the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, bicarb and salt in a bowl and whisk together.
Soak the medjool dates for 10 minutes in warm water.
Meanwhile, mash the bananas with the back of a fork to form a smooth puree.
Remove the stone from the dates and place in a small chopper or hand blender along with the maple syrup and blitz to form a thick, sticky paste.
Melt the coconut oil in a small pan on the hob … this will take mere seconds, be sure not to let it boil.
Whisk the pureed banana, date paste and melted coconut oil together, along with two tablespoons of water, until thoroughly combined.
Stir the raisins into the flour, ensuring they are evenly dispersed. Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the banana mixture. Fold gently until everything is combined before transferring to the loaf tin. The batter will be quite thick so spread it out using a spatula before sprinkling over the flaked almonds.
Bake for 30-35 minutes. Let it cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin. Place on a cooling rack for a further 30 minutes. Cut into thick slices and serve.