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
grated zest and juice of 1 lime
10g fresh basil
1/4 small watermelon
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.
Sometimes I don’t know where to begin a post – particularly if I haven’t blogged in a while. Y’see, occasionally I need a bit of a time-out … mostly, and for some inexplicable reason, these ‘time-outs’ seem to always chose their own time, rather than the other way around. I guess it mostly depends on my mood, and I’ve got to be brutally honest here, but my mood has been somewhat all over the joint these last few weeks. Feelings of guilt for not being with my family at a time when they need me most torment me a lot, and occasionally render me useless. Unfortunately my Husband is the one who has to deal with these emotional meltdowns, which I know can be tiresome and wearing – especially when coupled with a crazy workload. Bad wife.
And even though there’s so much great stuff happening, hanging (or should that be clinging for dear life) onto the good stuff can still be difficult. I try to relish these moments but we humans are strange bunch – no matter how much we seemingly have, we always want more. I’m totally working on this flaw, by the way, but it ain’t easy.
In the meantime, there’s always pudla. There’s a similar recipe in my book ‘Keep it Vegan’ but this is a new and equally yummy version … the batter is much thinner and technically speaking, it’s probably more of a socca than the former. Fried until crisp and then whacked under a grill, it renders the perfect base to make a pizza – of sorts. Truthfully, I couldn’t be bothered to get into making a full-on sauce so all the toppings are raw – carrot ribbons, roughly chopped tomato, diced avocado, rocket and a whole other array of tidbits that make up this moreish dish. Whilst it makes for a perfect lunch option (you could totally eat it cold at work), I think it would be nice served as a ‘nibble’ at a dinner party – just make sure to quarter them for ease of eating. Plus, they are so wonderfully vibrant, they’re sure to be a little talking point – and a certain mood lifter … just what I happen to be in the market for, ahem. What else can I say – the time to up your pudla game is now!
what you’ll need
80g gram (chickpea) flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp paprika
pinch of cayenne
juice of 1/2 lemon
30ml extra virgin olive
2 tbsp olive oil
1 x carrot
2 cherry tomatoes
large handful of rocket
3 tbsp hummus
juice 1/2 lemon or lime
pinch of chilli flakes
what you’ll do
sieve the flour, baking powder, salt and spices into a bowl. whisk in the water and lemon juice before drizzling in the extra virgin olive oil until you achieve a silky smooth batter. cover and set aside for at least 1hr.
meanwhile, prep your toppings – cut the carrots into ribbons, roughly chop the tomatoes and season generously. dice the avocado, squeeze with a little lemon juice to avoid browning. toss the rocket with some evoo and balsamic vinegar and make the hummus sauce by stirring in the juice of 1/2 lemon until smooth.
pre-heat the grill. heat a tablespoon of oil in a skillet and ladle in half the batter, spreading to edges with the back of the spoon. cook until the edges begin to curve in and the bottom is perfectly golden (I use a palette knife to lift up the sides and peek) before finishing it off under the grill.
layer up the topping, starting with the rocket and followed by the carrots, tomatoes and avocado. dollop over the hummus sauce and finish with a smidge of sriracha, smattering of nutritional yeast and a few chilli flakes. lightly season and serve.
It’s Pancake Tuesday, which can only mean one thing… er, well, pancakes. As a self-confessed pancake crazed loon I have about a gazillion variations up my sleeve for such occasions but none really top my ultimate “Summer Berry ‘Buttermilk’ Pancake” recipe from my cookbook Keep it Vegan. It’s not too late to grab a ‘nana and some flour on your way home and whip up a storm in your kitchen after work – I know my Husband will be expecting a batch as soon as he walks through the door and I shall gladly oblige. The candied walnuts are my favourite pancake topping too. I just love the added bit of crunch they lend to the dish, particularly alongside the uber-soft pancakes… I’m a texture gal, through and through. Of course, seeing as it’s not summer, I’ll forgive you for opting for a more seasonal fruit although supermarkets seem to stock berries year round these days so you shouldn’t have a problem getting hold of them. What really sets these pancakes apart from the rest is the ‘buttermilk’ element, which is simply soya milk that has been mixed with cider vinegar and set aside to curdle – sounds horrendous, tastes incredible. It really gives this dish depth of flavour and renders them slightly fluffier too… whatever chemical reaction it instigates, I ain’t complain’ – just eatin’ ’em up and makin’ some more. Happy Pancake Day!!
Summer Berry ‘Buttermilk’ Pancakes
Makes 8-10 pancakes/serves 2-4
Pancakes are perfect brunch time fodder and a sure-fire way to get your weekend off to a good start as well as impressing guests. This basic mixture can be tweaked and added to as desired (blueberries, choc chips or raisins work wonderfully too), but I just love this candied walnut and nutmeg combo.
For the pancakes
150g plain white flour
40g caster sugar
11/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
240ml soya milk
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 banana, peeled and mashed
15g soya butter
1 tablespoon sunflower oil plus extra for cooking
For the candied walnuts
100g walnut pieces
1 tablespoon agave nectar
freshly grated nutmeg
agave nectar or maple syrup
1) In a large bowl thoroughly combine the dry pancake ingredients. Mix together the soya milk and cider vinegar in a jug, set aside for several minutes and allow to curdle – this will be the ‘buttermilk’ element.
2) Whisk the banana into the soya milk mixture. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the milk mixture, folding gently until incorporated.
3) Melt the butter with the oil in a medium, non-stick frying pan and pour into the bowl, ensuring everything is fully incorporated – I use a whisk. Allow the pancake mix to sit for a while – the pancakes will puff up better.
4) Preheat the oven to 100°C/gas mark ¼. Heat a little more oil in the frying pan and add a small ladleful of mixture to form a pancake. Don’t overcrowd the pan – only cook one or two pancakes at a time. They should come to about 8cm in diameter. Cook until bubbles appear on the surface before flipping over and cooking for a further few minutes on the other side. Transfer to a plate and keep the pancakes warm in the oven – try not to stack them or they may go soggy.
5) Wipe the pan with kitchen paper, add the walnuts and toast on a medium heat for a few minutes before adding the agave. Allow the walnuts to become sticky and then slightly hard – stir constantly so they don’t stick to the pan.
6) Serve the pancakes with fresh berries, the candied walnuts, a good grating of nutmeg and lashings of agave or maple syrup. Brunch time!
PHOTO CREDIT – ALI ALLEN
Okay, so January isn’t exactly whizzing by but maybe that’s not such a bad thing … after all it gives us time to really adjust to those resolutions. If you’ve decided to give Veganuary a whirl or are just looking to tweak your diet for the better then why not join me for a full day of vegan cooking at the Waitrose Cookery School in Finchley on Saturday 24th January between 9.30am and 4pm. There are still some spots left on the course (but you best hurry before they sell-out!) where I’ll be taking you through some specially selected recipes from my book ‘Keep it Vegan’.
The price for the full day is 150pounds, which will supply you with all your ingredients and equipment plus wine with lunch. The course is not aimed directly at vegans either – everybody is welcome at my table and I am so excited to connect with you all in reality. So, even if you’re just a teeny bit curious or simply want to expand your vegan/veggie menu (especially handy when you have vegan guests!) I have endeavored to tailor the day to be as expansive and inclusive as possible.
Here’s what you can expect…
When you arrive you will be met with freshly prepared Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins and Bircher Muesli, which you will then learn to make yourself.
Afterwards we will begin preparing our lunch, which will include my Macaro-no Cheese followed by one of my personal favs from the book – the Indian Spiced Tacos. Next up I’ll be offering some tofu tips before taking you through my Sweet ‘n’ Sour Tofu dish step by step. This will be accompanied by my Green Bean Salad with Lemon, Garlic & Chilli as well as the ever-popular Cumin Spiced Carrots – because, in my opinion, side dishes are equally important as the main!
Dessert dishes will include my easy-peasy Carrot Cake Bites (for the health conscious amongst us) as well as my super-rich Fudgy Brownies (for those of us who don’t mind a little sugar in our lives). Yikes, I don’t know about you but I’m full already, haha!
To cap the day off I decided to go with my No-knead Carrot & Courgette Bread alongside my Balsamic and Black Peppercorn Cashew Cheese because they’re great ones to have up your sleeve. And that’s that!
I will, of course, be available to answer any questions you have so feel free to ask away on the day – look forward to seeing you there!
I know what you’re thinking. Not another hummus recipe. And I get it. Really, I do. But (but, but but!!) as hummus recipes go this has got to be my favourite… which is exactly why I felt compelled to include it in the book. Of course, this is a slightly amended version but the basic principle of boil and peel remain. Omit this step and you’ll never get your hummus completely smooth.
I toed and froed when it came to including recipes such as this one in the book, however, I can assure you there was some logic to my ‘who needs another hummus/risotto/crumble recipe’ madness. Sure, it’s a basic recipe that virtually no vegan hasn’t at some point tackled. Me included. However, I thought to myself, this is the book I would liked to have had when I first went vegan and because of that I wanted to lock in place all those easy go-to recipes that you can whip up at a moments notice and still wow. And trust me, hummus still has the power to wow.
And because it was my first book, I kinda wanted to get all those tried and tested recipes out of my system so I would then have the opportunity and freedom to expand upon those ideas in other volumes. Otherwise, I’d be constantly digging into my past kitchen repertoire instead of forging forward with new ideas. Obviously it was impossible to use all my ‘oldies but goodies’ in ‘Keep it Vegan’ but I gave it damn good try… whilst still managing to squirrel away a few classics for another time, wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
My attention has now turned to my next book and, as ever, I’m putting myself under extreme pressure to come up with a boatload of exciting, fresh and innovative recipes that will hopefully ‘wow’ – there’s that word again! Whilst simplicity is still at the forefront of my mind, I’m conscious of creating an index of slightly unusual dishes that anybody can cook and enjoy. Not an easy task but one I’m seriously looking forward to. In the meantime, there’s always hummus.
what you’ll need
400g cooked chickpeas
1 large garlic clove
2 heaped tsp harissa paste
juice of 1 1/2 lemons
1 heaped tbsp tahini (optional)
what you’ll do
drain and rinse the chickpeas and place in a saucepan with 500ml of water. bring to a boil and then simmer for 30minutes. drain (reserving some cooking liquid for later), rinse and once to cool to the touch, peel the skin off the chickpeas.
grind the garlic and 1 tsp salt in a mortar and pestle until you achieve a puree consistency.
place the chickpeas in a small food processor along with a little salt, juice of 1 lemon, harissa paste, garlic, tahini (if using) and 1 tbsp of the reserved cooking. blend until smooth, adding a little more cooking liquid if necessary.
taste for seasoning – it may need a little more lemon juice and/or salt. blend again. serve with a some lemon zest, chilli flakes and a dusting of smoked paprika.
Hey Guys, just checking in to let you know that I’ve reignited my YouTube channel (feel free to Subscribe) – it’s certainly been a long time coming! As you are probably aware it’s been a difficult few weeks but we are mustering on as best as we can. For me that means putting my Dad on an uber strict cancer-fighting vegan diet that contains no sugar, virtually no wheat and gluten and placing a huge emphasis on wholefoods.
So far, it’s going well (despite the Hospital’s best efforts to feed him Beef Goulash and Tongue Salad… I kid you not!) and I’ve been able to adapt lots of my recipes from the ‘Keep it Vegan’ cookbook. For oil, I’ve been subbing out the sunflower for coconut and if I’m making a dressing, I opt for flaxseed oil due to it’s incredible omega containing qualities. It’s Alkaline all the way baby.
Obviously I’m not saying this is some kind miracle-cure but going by the enormous amount of research we been conducting over here in the Carlin household, diet, lifestyle and a positive outlook do play a huge part in staving off any further tumour growth. Stay tuned for more updates on the plan I will be drawing up for my Dad. We’re fighting this battle with food not fear and by golly we’re determined to win.