Roasted Golden Plums with Coconut Yoghurt

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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

 

to serve

coconut yoghurt

1/4 cup toasted almonds

basil leaves

 

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.

 
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Triple Citrus Tart

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Oooomph. Where to begin. It’s taken me nearly 24hrs to get this post uploaded – not because of the recipe, more because I’m really not sure what to say. I guess I could gloss over the election but truthfully, that doesn’t sit well with me – it’s just too damn important. Even if I don’t get it right all the time, I’m a passionate person and this Trump debacle has really got me riled. Like many, I had so much hope he wouldn’t win but deep down I knew it was a very real possibility – we had a dry-run with Brexit, which set the alarms bells officially ringing. Back then I thought the likelihood of us voting to leave the EU was slim to none and whilst I had pretty strong opinions on the matter, I kept reasonably quiet beforehand.
 
Then, in the wake of the result, I found myself so angry and full of contempt for anyone who didn’t vote to remain, I was almost blinded to what was really going on. Similarly, the US  have found themselves dumbfounded that something which had been under their noses the whole time was seemingly ignored. As I said at the time (of Brexit that is) – it’s as if the veil has been lifted and we are seeing the society we live in clearly for the first time. It’s a frightening thing when you suddenly feel like you’re surrounded by strangers – I’ll admit I couldn’t look people in the eye for a number of weeks, thinking ‘did they… ?’ ‘was it them who landed us in this mess?’ ‘what were they thinking?!!’, which only really results in a climate of collective distrust.

 

And then I realised that’s exactly how many ‘Brexiteers’ and ‘Trump Supporters’ have most likely been feeling for years. Outsiders. The forgotten ones. Voiceless and discarded. We’ve only had a few months of it but can you imagine what that must feel like on a permanent basis? I fully acknowledge my privileged upbringing and by that I mean having two parents who did everything in their power to give my Sister and I the best possible start in life. The word ‘opportunity’ has been bandied about a lot these last few days and that is precisely what I was always afforded – the encouragement to believe I could do anything, regardless of how much money we had or what my gender was. It’s amazing how powerful someone believing in you can be … I can tell you now it made me fearless.
 
However, and despite my unshakeable demeanour I do know what it feels like to be judged on your nationality – it’s hard to believe now but I used to accept someone saying to me ‘oh, that’s so Irish’ with the implication my heritage somehow equaled stupidity – and no, I wasn’t simply misunderstanding the tone or being ‘paranoid’, this is precisely was they meant. Even in recent weeks I’ve heard people referring to my fellow Northern Irish folk as a ‘bunch of misfits’ (as well as gleefully dismissing our border concerns – we don’t want one, by the way) and I can tell you it hurts … such small-fry though when you consider the hate that has consumed people recently but no less significant.
 
Trump’s election too has worryingly legitimised these beliefs and made it okay for people to freely say what they’ve obviously been thinking for years. And perhaps therein lies the problem. Do we really know what has contributed to the current hate-filled climate, where we are turning on our neighbour and saying unfathomable things to one another? How have the political, economic and social structures been a factor in cultivating beliefs that simply aren’t true … no, not all Muslims are terrorists and (despite Trumps shocking proclamations) not all Mexicans are ‘rapists and criminals’. P.S. I did a little fact check on the exact words he used, if you need further reminding of his rampant xenophobia:
 
When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.
 
What a charmer, eh? And how nice of him to acknowledge there’s a few good ones in there too. A real stand-up guy. Cripes, is anyone else missing Obama already? What I can say is, from personal experience, and having lived in an area of Chicago that had many wonderful, hardworking, talented, friendly, law-abiding Mexicans, Trump couldn’t be more wrong about this wonderful community of people. Of course, every nation has bad apples but that is something certainly not peculiar to Mexico. As an aside, I was thinking about the similarities between the Mexicans, Polish and Irish (and other countries that have suffered economic/social difficulties), and that is our readiness to go to where the work is. When times are tough, our willingness to pack our bag, get out there and survive is something to be admired, in my opinion, not something to be sneered at or derided. We like to put our best foot forward and graft … even if it means living hundreds or thousands of miles from home. It’s not always ideal but sometimes it has to be done.
 
What I’m trying to say is, in many ways, I sympathise with Trump supporters, and those who voted leave – I really do. But many wrongs do not make a right. It seems to me their identity is wrapped up in a past that no longer exists, and that is difficult to come to terms with. Luckily us Irish have had many years of practice, which means our sense of identity is kind of rock solid – we take it with us wherever we go, and I dare say it’s the same for the Mexicans et al too. All of this (feeling alienated in their own country, limited work prospects, and the rest) amounts to a collective sense of injustice, which is precisely when you hear people mouthing off about ‘immigrants taking our jobs’ and whatnot – absolute nonsense, of course, but this is what people really believe. True story – my Dad’s job was to get people into work and he told many, many stories of highly educated immigrants (I’m talking Doctors, Lawyers, Educators etc.) taking low-paid ‘menial’ jobs just to earn a buck … jobs, I might add, that nobody else was willing to do. To live in another country, respect its way of life, contribute economically and still retain a strong sense of self must feel like a slap in the face, even when it’s not intended that way. However, the blame cannot be laid at the feet of the people simply trying to do right by themselves and their families.
 
People are angry then and have turned to Donald Trump, of all people, for help and guidance. Sigh. The man that has espoused so many offensive, nasty, vitriolic things over the past year and a half is entering the Whitehouse, and will reign supreme as of January. Misogyny aside (that’s a whole post in of itself and Hadley Freeman has already done a better job than I ever could in how it overtook the campaign), Trumps win this week has given the almighty thumbs up to blatant racism with a fair old nod to fascism too – the far right have readily claimed the victory as their own, which can only have a unsavoury ripple effect around the world. No, not all Trump supporters are racist but when you align yourself with the likes of the KKK and Marine Le Pen, you must know you’re headed in the wrong direction for answers and solutions, no? Then again, I would probably be described as one of these mythical ‘Champagne Socialists’ I keep hearing about … even though my budget is more cava and I left my hardcore socialist tendencies back at college. Side note; I did enjoy canvassing for the socialist alliance with Mark Steel once back in the day … that man is an absolute hoot and I thoroughly enjoyed trundling the streets of southeast London with him even if we came nowhere close to winning. In case you’re interested, his column on the whole Trump catastophe is way more insightful (and hilarious – I may have howled, ahem) than mine, so I wholly recommend you give it a read, especially if you’re in need of a laugh. I know I was.
 
Ugh. So what to do now. Well,  in addition to sharing every relevant Guardian/Greenpeace article I come across (yup, I am one of those annoying left-wing people – hi there!) and spamming Facebook and Twitter like a maniac, I’m also going to try and properly connect with my community more. No, really. Those disenfranchised people we’re alluding to? They actually exist – and they’re not all evil or want every immigrant deported asap. Equally though, that doesn’t mean we have to tolerate the bile that has been spewing from people’s mouths nor do we stand by when others are being abused for their religion, race or sexual orientation. We move forward, we come together but we emphatically do not sweep the hate that has been openly incited under the carpet because otherwise it’s all been for nothing. I could write a list of further concerns from the environment to planned parenthood and beyond but I get the sense you came here for a recipe and were greeted with a rant and for that I can only apologise. If you would like to add your tuppence-worth, by all means leave a comment below … just remember there’s enough hate out there at present to fill a thousand arks, so let’s keep it on the right side of kind. Instead, let’s give each other a much needed virtual hug and enjoy a nice slice of Citrus Tart. M’kay? M’kay.
 

what you’ll need

 

for the crust

50g desiccated coconut

50g pistachios

50g brazil nuts

pinch of salt

1 tbsp. coconut oil

4 medjool dates

 

for the filling

150g cashews

juice 1/2 lemon

juice 1/2 orange

zest & juice 1/2 grapefruit

1 tsp. lemon extract

1 heaped tbsp. agar agar flakes

1/4 cup/60ml water

1/4 cup/60ml agave

pinch of salt

 

to garnish

 

20g crushed pistachios

 

what you’ll do

 

place the cashews in a large bowl and cover with freshly boiled water. set aside for 30 minutes.

 

pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.

 

place the coconut, pistachios and brazil nuts in a food processor and pulse until it becomes like fine rubble. add the coconut oil, salt and dates and pulse again until it just comes together – pinch some of the mixture between your fingers to test … if it sticks, you’re good to go.

 

transfer the crust mixture to a small tart tin and press into the mould using your fingers. refrigerate for 10 minutes to harden slightly before baking for a further 8-10 minutes in the oven – you can add baking beans if you wish but it shouldn’t make too much of a difference. remove from oven and cool in the fridge until needed.

 

drain and rinse the cashews and add to a blender.

 

place the agar agar flakes in a small saucepan along with juices and water. simmer for 5-10 minutes or until it completely dissolves. this will also intensify the citrus flavour.

 

add the liquid to the cashews along with the lemon extract, grapefruit zest, agave and salt. blend until it is completely smooth, scraping down the sides from time to time. this will take anywhere between 10-15 minutes, depending on your blender and will go through several stages … coarse, nubbly, thick and then smooth. if it is not entirely silky, you must keep blending until you achieve the desired consistency otherwise it will negatively affect the texture.

 

pour the filling onto the cooled crust and smooth with the back of a spatula. cover with clingfilm and freeze until set (about 2 hrs) before transferring to the fridge for at least and hour or preferably overnight.

 

roughly chop the remaining pistachios and scatter around the edge of the tart before serving. serves 4-6

 

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Watermelon & Gin Granita

 

It’s officially a scorcher! Yowsas, I cannot believe the heat here at the moment … we finally have our summer – woohoo, wahay, yahoo! And, er,  if you didn’t deduce from my sun-dance celebrations, I should probably inform you that I lurves the heat … the hotter the better, keep it comin’, no clouds allowed. When the sun is out I am one happy (freckly) girl – and yes, I do wear sunscreen before you ask. However, just because the sun’s out doesn’t mean I abandon my kitchen entirely. Instead I make sure I’m stocked up on refreshing snacks to keep us nice and cool … enter my Watermelon & Gin Granita. If you already own my first book  ‘Keep it Vegan’ you will no doubt have come across my Cointreau Granita (yes, I like to use alcohol is my recipes, so shoot me), which is not only ridiculously easy to make but is super versatile too. I simply use the sugar syrup base and then add whatever ingredients I fancy – or have to hand in the kitchen. Standard. Recently I made a grapefruit version, which was pretty darn spectacular – so much so, even my grapefruit-loathing Husband happily snaffled it before promptly asking for seconds. That. Good. This watermelon twist was also another hit at a little midweek meet-up I hosted with my Sister-in-Law and her Hubby. Almost like an adult slushie (who doesn’t love an adult slushie?!), this simple little dessert seriously hits the spot on a piercingly hot summers day – in fact, straight after I took this photo, I practically inhaled the glass. Whilst it might look like fruity-coloured crushed ice (and it sorta is ‘cept better), the texture is quite different … soft and fluffy, kind of melt-in-your-mouth stuff, just amazing. I’m already onto my third batch in a fortnight and not even ashamed to say it. It’s also a terrific option if you don’t have an ice-cream maker – my one is basically broken (well, it never actually worked – long story), so I’m relying on granitas to see me through.

 

Because the weather has been so ruddy fantastic, we decided to forgo our planned holiday abroad and do a bit of stay-cationing instead. I mean, when you live in the best county in England (*cough cough*) it almost seems silly to fork out a fortune for a flight and hotel when we have some of the best beaches on our doorstep. Instead, we invested in a decent tent, as well as all the necessary accoutrements such as a gas stove, cooler bag etc. etc and headed to a part of Cornwall that we’d yet to properly explore – I highly recommend Polly Joke (quieter and more out of the way) and Crantock (busier but still fabulous). Last weekend was the trial run and it was beyond fantastic, so we really cannot wait to do it all again this Friday. As soon as Hubby gets back from work we are heading straight out (location yet to be decided) and pitching up for another glorious (fingers crossed) couple of days.

 

We also managed to squeeze in a trip to the cinema on Sunday evening to see Ghostbusters. I don’t think I can offer anything new to the overload of mixed reviews already on the internet except to say it had its moments but was generally disappointing. Even though I was optimistic and willing it to be great, it just didn’t do it for me … although I now have a total girl-crush on Kate McKinnon – or more precisely her character Holtzmann. I think Mark Kermode said she’s like a modern-day Tank Girl so that probably explains the appeal because I flippin’ loved Tank Girl! In actual fact the cast were pretty flawless and I think it has huge promise as a francise (bleugh) but it didn’t give me the same goosebumps as the Star Wars reboot and was bordering on ‘meh’. The story-line was the main issue (kinda crucial for a film) … it was zipping along nicely (the ‘haunted house’ opening was superb) until they became ‘the ghostbusters’ and then it fell a bit flat. The momentum just wasn’t there and even though I adore that semi-improv style, the pacing was off to me … in fact, I found the pacing was a bit ramshackle in general and needed something driving it on a bit more. With that said, there are definitely a handful of laugh-out-loud scenes (Chris Hemsworth as ‘Kevin’ was impeccable quite frankly) and it was certainly entertaining in parts – Melissa McCarthy has the ability to save any scene, any film, in my humble opinion, so it’s worth a watch for sure. On a positive note, I feel like now that they’ve established themselves as the new team, the next installment (if there is one?) will free them up to properly find their groove – I’m actually hoping they do make another one because it has heaps of potential … any excuse to see Holtzmann in action again.

 

what you’ll need

100g caster sugar

250ml water

grated zest and juice of 1 lime

10g fresh basil

1/4 small watermelon

60ml gin

 

what you’ll do

place the sugar, water, lime zest and juice, and basil leaves in a pan. bring to a steady boil and then reduce to a simmer for a minute or two or until the sugar has completely dissolved. remove from heat and set aside to cool.

 

cut the watermelon into large chunks and blend to a smooth puree. Strain the sugar syrup through a fine mesh sieve and add to blender. blitz until completely smooth. pour into a suitable dish or container and whisk in the gin.

 

freeze for an hour before scraping the semi-frozen granita with a fork. repeat every 30mins or so for a couple of hours until you achieve the desired consistency.

 

spoon into small tumblers or glass and adorn with a basil leaf.

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(Almost raw) Cinnamon Chocolate Slice

 

I almost didn’t post this recipe … not because it’s not delicious but because I often play around in the kitchen with similarly yummy results but for whatever many and varied reasons never get around to blogging about it. However, with that ‘New Year, New Me’ mantra still swirling around my head I’m determined to change that pattern, and even though (again) I’m not entirely happy with the images, they’re passable enough to warrant a post. I definitely deserve the ‘over-thinkers achievement award’, don’t you agree?

 

Brasil nuts are a new fav of mine when it comes to raw (or almost raw) desserts, particularly (especially!) for the base. The texture is almost sponge-like when ground and their wonderfully mild flavour ensures the chocolate ganache remains the star of the show – sprinkled with a little cinnamon, it is sure to blow yer socks off. In fact, I’ve been making a conscious effort to buy less and less processed food (yes, even us vegans fall into the convenience trap) and this is where raw desserts really come into their own. For me, there’s nothing more satisfying than a bliss ball or raw slice – it satiates that nagging sweet tooth and gnawing pre-dinner hunger in one fell swoop, with the added bonus that your blood sugar levels don’t sky rocket meaning you’re less likely to falter before your evening meal. Our usual routine usually involves a cup of tea with a slice of something at around 6pm because we don’t eat until 9pm, which I know sounds crazy to some people but it’s just normality to us – basically, we are night owls and we eek out every second of our evenings together.

 

I say this is ‘almost raw’ because I’ve added a heaped tablespoon of coconut milk/water (the canned variety) but if you want to skip that part and swap out the agave addition for something else then feel free – any kind of vegan syrup would also work but I do like the lift it gives the ganache in addition to the palm sugar. Just my preference but you may want to ‘rawify’ it a little further – totally up to you.

 

My urge to purge the last few ‘processed’ items currently in my cupboards and fridge has arisen again after taking a bit of hiatus. Like most people, this miserable Winter weather had me reaching for comfort foods like cookies and whatnot but with Spring (almost) in the air, my body is already telling me to ditch the oreos and replace them with something a little less toxic. Don’t get me wrong, when Ben & Jerry’s finally release their dairy ice-creams I’ll be the first in line to sample the delights but until then I’ll be dining out on slightly healthier desserts like this. I hope you’ll join me too!

 

what you’ll need

for the crust

1 cup brazil nuts

3 medjool dates

1/2 tbsp coconut oil

pinch of pink himalayan salt

 

for the topping

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 heaped tbsp coconut palm sugar

1 heaped tbsp raw cacao

1 tbsp coconut cream

1 tbsp coconut water

1 tbsp agave or other vegan sweetener

generous pinch of cinnamon salt (available from the Cornish Sea Salt Co.)

or a pinch of regular sea salt mixed with grated or ground cinnamon

 

what you’ll do

place the brazil nuts in the blender and blitz to a fine meal. stone the dates and add to the processor along with the coconut oil and pink himalayan salt. blitz until it form a fine rubble before transferring to a lined tin. press firmly with the back of a spoon or spatula and refrigerate for at least an hour.

 

melt the coconut oil in a small saucepan and add the palm sugar. allow it to slowly dissolve before adding the cacao. whisk vigorously until combined … don’t worry if it still looks a bit grainy at this stage. add the coconut cream, coconut water, agave and salt, and whisk again until smooth – you can do this over a very low heat to loosen the mixture.

 

pour over the brazil nut crust and spread out using a spatula. garnish with a generous sprinkling of cinnamon salt.

 

refrigerate for several hours (or ideally overnight) until set. slice and serve … this dessert is quite rich so a small serving will suffice.

 

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Cashew Cream & Griddled Oranges


 
I am going good guns with this YouTube melarkey, I tell ya. I set myself the task of uploading one a week and so far that’s what I’ve done (click here for the video) … although I won’t deny I’ve had a wee bit of help in the process, ahem. This week I opted for a sweetened cashew cream recipe served with hot griddled oranges – simple but so delicious. You’ll also notice I’ve donned a 70s lurex vest (hey, lurex is ‘in’ again … apparently!) and cut my fringe myself (er, maybe I got a bit scissor happy) … shall we say, double fail? Anywho, something that didn’t fail me was my blender. Since ‘The Boss’ came into my life my cashew creams have never been better; silky smooth, whipped to perfection and scarily akin to the real thing. Yup. Totally obsessed.
 
Truthfully, I don’t have many go-to appliances in my kitchen (I’m pretty hard to please) but I honestly couldn’t live without a blender – I’m sure most seasoned vegans would agree it’s a crucial piece of kit. Personally, I’ve been through a number of ’em (and definitely put them through their paces in the process) so I like to think I know what separates the good from the great – and ‘The Boss’ is without a doubt ‘great’. Not only does it have a setting for ‘green smoothies’ (I know!) but it also (and crucially, for me) makes mincemeat of nuts … and that’s exactly why it’s ideal for this recipe.
 
Because I like to add as little liquid as possible when making creams and cheeses, it’s been quite tricky in the past for me to get the desired consistency without relenting and adding that extra bit of water or juice. You’ll see here that I recommend adding 75ml maximum to the cashews but in reality I didn’t even use the full amount (more like 50ml) and it still rendered it utterly flawless – in a nutshell, my nutbased creams have been revolutionised. Enough blathering though and onto the recipe – the weekend beckons:
 

what you’ll need

200g soaked cashews

75ml filtered water

2 tbsp agave (or maple syrup)

pinch of salt

1 tbsp orange juice

1/2 tsp orange extract

2 x oranges

to serve

finely grated dark chocolate

orange zest

 

what you’ll do

Soak the cashews overnight in filtered water. Drain, rinse and add to your blender along with 50ml water, 1 tbsp agave and a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides occasionally and adding a touch more water if necessary. It will go through several stages so persevere until you achieve the desired silky smooth consistency.

 

Once smooth add the orange juice, remaining agave and orange extract and blitz to combine. Transfer to a bowl and chill for at least an hour.

 

Heat a griddle pan on a medium/high heat. Slice the skin off the oranges and cut into thickish rounds (otherwise they will disintegrate on the pan) and place on the pre-heated griddle pan. Sear the orange slices for a minute or so on each side before transferring to a large platter or dish.

 

Spoon the chilled cashew cream in tothe centre and finish with a little grated chocolate and/or orange zest.

 

 

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Easter Chocolate Orange Loaf

 

I am in such a blogging rut right now. Any good ideas I have are being poured into the book, which leaves very little to spare in terms of blog posts. I know things will settle down after my deadline but I can’t help but feel this space needs some much needed (and long overdue) TLC. I’m in the mood for a Spring clean – a yearly spruce up, if you will, although I can’t guarantee it’s all going to happen overnight. An image overhaul is definitely in order and I really want to make it easier for you guys to navigate your way around the site… I am fully aware my categories are confusing and totally outta control – seriously though, have you seen how many I have listed on the sidebar? Talking of control, I need to find a way of letting go of my daily control-freak ways a little, as it’s not only hindering my work but also my happiness. Truth be told, I poured over these images for an hour and half, tweaking this and that, and I’m still not satisfied with them. It was my first time using a DSLR for a while and I’d practically forgotten how to effectively use the settings – not to mention the light was piss poor, hence their ‘intentionally’ moody demeanour, ahem. I’m not sure how often bloggers talk about their photography woes but when you’re bombarded with brilliant images on an hourly basis, one can’t help but feel like any offerings I might be contributing to the internet’s growing library of incredible food shots fall somewhat short of the mark.

 

Or course, great food photographs aren’t the be all and end all of a good blog – I hope! I like to think the recipes and occasional (read negligible) witty repartee also go some way to making a blog, erm, ‘good’. Personally, I return to blogs that are open and honest, and don’t try to be something they’re not. I’m no professional photographer (heck, I’m not even sure I qualify as an amateur one) so recipes are where I can make up for bad lighting, poor composition and anything else that makes an image just okay. This Chocolate Orange Loaf is what I’ll be chowing down on over the next few days … and f.y.i. the frosting is not optional. Yup, it’s a total, unashamed sugar-fest because hey, it’s Easter and I don’t ‘eat clean’ all the time anyway. Frankly, I think we’re all becoming a wee bit obsessive about every (single, itty-ibtty)  morsel that passes our lips, so take this recipe as a defiant stand against the ‘nutritionalistas’ of the world that have left us feeling ashamed for even thinking about a slice of the good stuff – or bad, as the case may be. Besides, I think portion control is much more effective than shunning all these so-called ‘naughty’ foods, which is why you’ll notice this is baked in a pretty small loaf tin and contains about the half the ingredients of a similar recipe. I figure this way I can have my cake and eat it, innit.

 

Look, I’m as guilty as the next person of using the ‘clean eats’ hash tag when promoting my wares on places like instagram and twitter, so you could say I’m perpetuating this fixation we have with ensuring everything we consume has some nutritional value – heads up, this loaf has none. Whilst I’m all for making healthy choices, I really don’t see the harm in having an all singing, all dancing chocolate loaf now and then… yes, I know there are great alternatives out there, and I partake in those too, but sometimes only cake (this kinda ‘hooray for cake’ cake) will do. If you’re of the same mindset, then read on for the recipe. If not, then there are plenty of raw/gluten-free/sugar-free recipes on the blog too. Either way I wish you all a very HAPPY EASTER – here’s to occasional, but necessary, full-fat, gluten-filled, sugar-laden treats.

 

Oh, and if you’re wondering where those gorgeous printed napkins are from, head over to the Tori Murphy website to oggle (perchance to buy) more of her incredible designs – I’m officially obsessed!

 

Ingredients

120g plain flour

70g sugar

30g cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 banana

45ml olive oil

120ml plant milk (I used homemade hazelnut milk)

1 tsp orange extract

 

for the frosting

3 tbsp vegan margarine

100g icing sugar

1 heaped tbsp cocoa powder

1 tsp orange extract

 

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 175 degrees celsius.

Whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and bicarb together in a large bowl.

Mash the banana and whisk together with the oil, plant milk and orange extract until smooth.

Make a well in the centre of the flour mix and pour in the wet ingredients. Gently fold until everything has fully combined.

Transfer to a greased 71/2 inch loaf tin, tap it firmly on your worktop to get rid of any air bubbles. Bake for 30-35minutes.

Whilst the loaf is baking make your frosting by whisking together the margarine, icing sugar, cocoa and extract until smooth. Refrigerate until needed.

Once baked, allow the loaf to cool on a rack before removing it from the tin. Let is cool completely before adoring it with the chocolate frosting … I like to roughly spread it over the top of the cake using a spatula.

HAPPY EASTER!!

 

 

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Cooking with Clearspring … Coconut Rice Pudding with Prune Puree & Persimmon


 

Today marks the first in a series of posts I have dubbed ‘Cooking with Clearspring’, which will see me utilising a few of the truly awesome ingredients from their entirely vegan range of foodie goodies. If you don’t know already, I am huge fan of Clearspring products and use them all the time in my kitchen, so when they sent through a gift box full to bursting with noodles, (two different types of) miso, oil … and even matcha (!!!) I did a little happy dance and then promptly got down to cooking. I hummed and hawed what to use first before unleashing the power of the coconut in this Asian inspired twist on a very British classic – the mighty (and occasionally contentious) rice pudding.

 

Now, I’m sure we all have memories (good and bad) of rice pudding growing up – thankfully, mine are all triumphant. My Dad happened to be an expert rice pudding maker so you could say I learnt from the best. It was always unctuously creamy with just the right amount of sweetness. In a nutshell, this dessert spells home, comfort and quiet Sunday nights with a warming bowl of pud in my hand … ah, memories. And because those memories can never be matched, I knew it was time to put my own spin on things and so this coconut ‘sushi rice’ version was born – it certainly helps having top notch ingredients at your disposal too.

 

The sushi rice kernels are the perfect shape and size for this type of pudding. They won’t loose their shape and disintegrate into mush, and are just brilliant at absorbing all that yummy coco-nutty flavour … they also have a natural sweetness, which, when combined with the coconut milk, means you hardly have to add any sweetener at all. I choose to go down the palm sugar route with this one (keeping with the broadly speaking ‘Asian’ theme and all that) but you could easily sub it out for any sweetener of your choosing (agave, maple, brown rice syrup or even plain ol’ sugar). In my opinion though, quality coconut milk is crucial in this instance and because the Clearspring variety I used here was so smooth and creamy, all the hard work was done for me. I didn’t have to linger over the stove for hours on end like normal rice pudding either – just 30mins and, bingo, you’re done.

 

The biggest revelation for me was actually the prune puree. I could literally eat this stuff straight out of the pot and will definitely be using it again on yoghurt and oatmeal … it is sheer fruity heaven. Because it possesses all that lovely sourness, it was the ultimate antidote to the milky richness of the rice pudding. The persimmon (sharon fruit) was a final flourish on what is already a delightful dessert but feel free to leave it off if you can’t get your hands on one. Personally, I’m obsessed with these maple flavoured fruits, and therefore will use them at any available opportunity.

 

Even if you’re recoiling in horror at the thought of revisiting a school dinner-esque nightmare, I’m hoping this updated version might just be enough to sway you… your new and improved rice pudding future awaits!
 



 

 what you’ll need

1/2 cup Clearspring sushi rice

1 x can Clearspring coconut milk

1 heaped tbsp palm sugar

Clearspring prune puree

1 x persimmon/sharon fruit

desiccated coconut to garnish

 

what you’ll do

thoroughly rinse the sushi rice and set aside.

 

empty the contents of the coconut milk into a small pan and bring to a gentle simmer.

 

whisk in the rice and stir vigorously in the first few minutes to ensure the kernels don’t clump.

 

add the palm sugar and reduce to a low simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes or until the rice is cooked through. It is vital you stir frequently to prevent sticking, adding a little water now and then if it appears too thick.

 

peel and slice the persimmon.

 

serve hot or cold topped with a spoonful of prune puree, sliced persimmon and dessicated coconut.

 

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Gluten Free Red Currant Bundt Cake with a Coconut Glaze

 

Well it looks like the Summer is well and truly behind us and we are now being fast forwarded into all things autumnal. Whilst I’m still rocking around in cotton skirts my thoughts have suddenly turned to stews and baked goods… and yes, maybe even pumpkins. This cake (as with most of my recipes) is a concoction of ingredients I happened to have around but I think it’s already become a firm favourite – i.e. it has the Husband stamp of approval.

 

I knew I wanted to keep it refined sugar-free. Not because I’m anti-sugar (I’m happy to consume a little of the hard  stuff now and again) but because the recent feedback I’ve been getting regarding the book is that you all love the recipes that are refined-sugar and gluten free. And so, being the helpful gal I am, I thought I’d endeavour to keep this cake as ‘healthy’ as possible – although let’s face it, no cake will ever be entirely healthy.

 

You might have noticed by now that I’m a wee bit obsessed with gram flour. I just love the texture (once cooked!) because holy heck that chickpea batter tastes somethin’ funky raw. Warning!!! Never, EVER be tempted to lick that bowl – trust me, i’ve tried and regretted it one too many times. Once baked though it magically transforms into the most gloriously moist cake with the perfect amount of crumb. The coconut glaze is the perfect compliment to the tangy redcurrants and is the first time I’ve been able to achieve the desired consistency without resorting to refined sugar. Yup, this one will definitely be getting made again.

 


 

what you’ll need

2 cups gram flour

1/2 cup ground almonds

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp. bicarbonate of soda

2 tbsp coconut oil, melted

1/3 cup plain soya (or coconut) yoghurt

1/3 cup coconut milk

2/3 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup agave

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups red currants

 

for the glaze

1 heaped tbsp coconut oil

1/4 cup coconut milk

1/4 cup desiccated coconut

2 tbsp agave

1 tbsp cornflour

 

what you’ll do

pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celcius/350 degress fahrenheit.

 

combine the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl.

 

whisk together the yoghurt, milk, coconut oil, vanilla extract and sweeteners.

 

make a well in the flour and pour in the wet ingredients. fold gently until the ingredients are thoroughly combined before stirring through around half of the redcurrants – leaving the remainder on the stalk for presentation purposes.

 

grease your bundt tin with a little coconut oil. pour the batter into the tin and bake for around 30mins.

 

allow it to cool for around 10mins before removing from the tin and transferring to a cooling rack.

 

meanwhile, whisk all the glaze ingredients together in a pan and simmer until reduced and reasonably thick. let it cool a little before spooning around the top of the cake, allowing some of it to strategically run down the sides. leave it to cool further for around 5-10minutes before adorning with the remaining red currants.

 

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Make-do Macadamia Cream Pie

 

I can’t quite believe we’re a fortnight into September – where exactly did the summer go? Truthfully though I adore this time of year in Cornwall, as the tourist season is dying down and the county returns to its usual quiet self. There’s still a little buzz in the air, which makes evenings out in St.Ives or long walks on the beach all the more pleasurable… and lucky for us the weather is still delightful. It’s almost as if we get a sneaky extra bit of summer just before autumn properly hits – it’s nearly pumpkin time folks!!

 

I have so many recipe ideas whirring about my head at the moment but even still my blogging has taken something of an unexpected backseat – book launches and the all the excitement that surrounds them will do that. Of course, there’s another reason I can’t quite get myself into proper blogging mode again although my Dad’s illness really shouldn’t be used as an excuse for my lack of productivity of late but it’s certainly a factor.

 

Progress has been made and there is always light at the end of the tunnel but the realisation that things will never be the same again is a hard pill to swallow. At times it’s difficult not to dwell so instead I’m trying to counteract any negative thoughts with pro-active recipe making in the form of healthy, raw treats that will satiate the sweet tooth my darling Pa possesses without feeding that nasty tumour. I’ve never worked with macadamias much but had heard of their pie perfect demeanour, once soaked and blended until smooth. Plus, I was positively bursting to try out my new froothie and it definitely didn’t disappoint … also, I may have fallen in love with the curved spatula that accompanies it, which is the perfect tool to scoop out any food stuffs that may get trapped under the blades.

 

I’ve called it ‘make-do’ macadamia cream pie because I had to ‘make-do’ with just one cups worth of nuts, so I will say up-front that it could have, maybe, possibly have benefited from two, however, it’s certainly wasn’t a deal clincher. What surprised me most was the fluffy cloud-like texture of the blended nuts, which was really very different to the cashew cream I am used to … my Husband was also loving its light and fluffy credentials and practically ate the pie single handedly – er, I think we have a macadamia convert on our hands.

 

Now, on instagram I described this pie as ‘perfectly lovely’ and pondered as to whether every recipe had to be mind-blowingly, life-changingly awesome. Well, does it? I don’t know about you but I think I’m fine with some recipes merely being ‘perfectly lovely’ – even if the interweb would have you believe otherwise. Maybe then this recipe is a reflection of my current state of mind, which is all about embracing things (life, food, all the important stuff) for what they are and not what they could be … just like a ‘perfectly lovely’ pie.

 


 

for the macadamia cream filling

1 cup soaked macadamias

1 tbsp coconut oil

1/4 cup coconut water

juice 1 lime

1/4 cup agave syrup

 

for the hazelnut crust

1 cup hazelnuts (plus 1/4 cup more for the topping)

3/4 medjool dates

 

for the blueberry compote

1 cup blueberries

juice 1/2 lime

2 tbsp maple syrup

 

what you’ll do

start with the compote by blending the blueberries, lime juice and maple syrup until smooth. press through a fine mesh sieve and refrigerate until needed.

 

make the crust by blitzing together the hazelnuts and dates (remember to remove the stones!) until it comes together in a dense rubble. transfer to a pie dish and press firmly until the surface area of the dish is evenly covered.

 

blend the soaked macadamias (overnight in filtered water) along with the coconut oil, coconut water, agave and lime juice until smooth – scraping down the sides periodically and adding a little more coconut water if necessary. once it is completely smooth and creamy,  swirl through about 1 tbsp of the blueberry compote before smoothing out over the crust using the back of a spoon. refrigerate for at least an hour before serving although overnight is best.

 

crush the remaining hazelnuts and sprinkle over the top before serving. the remaining compote can also be served on the side.

 

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Walnut and Prune Raw Balls

 

Prunes are not the prettiest or indeed tastiest of ingredients. I can just about handle two in one sitting, which got me thinking about how I could transform this usually dull little morsel into something slightly more exciting. Now, I think there’s still a ways to go with this recipe because I find they really aren’t as sweet as I would like so perhaps next time I’ll use some raisins or dates as well. With that said, I really enjoyed the seriously sticky texture and the walnuts were the perfect pairing too.

 

Of course, I had to throw in a few added extras and even though it’s summer I went a wee bit wintry with my allspice and orange flavourings. A little strange for July but it worked. I upped the nutritional ante by chucking in a heaped tablespoon of hemp powder… well, why not, eh? I’m so delighted to have a mini-chopper again because I just love to have a batch of raw balls handy at all times – saves me from reaching for the chocolate. Just don’t do what I did and leave the remaining few uncovered next to some chopped peppers… that’s some funky flavour tranfusion you do not want to experience.

 

 

what you’ll need

120g prunes (about 1/2 cup)

75g walnuts (plus another 40g for coating)

1 tbsp hemp powder

1 tsp allspice (plus another 1/4 tsp for coating)

1 tsp orange extract

 

what you’ll do

put all the ingredients into a mini-chopper and mix until it form one solid clump, ensuring there are no bits.

turn out onto a clean chopping board, tear off teaspoon sized amounts and roll into balls.

put the remaining walnuts and allspice into the chopper and blitz. transfer to a plate. roll each ball in the chopped nut mixture not being afraid to press down slightly so it fully adheres.

keep in an airtight container in the fridge.

 

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