Kale Salad with Balsamic Black Beans & Za’atar Roasted Sweet Potato

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I made this salad over a week ago so the details are sketchy to say the least but this is the general jist of the dish … kale meets black beans meets sweet potato. Nothing wild or crazy, juts a solid little salad that will see you right through to autumn and beyond – because it’s technically a warm salad it kind of straddles all seasons, in my opinion. Also, I just felt like posting, even if it’s not perfect or a concrete recipe, it’s gives a better indication of how I actually cook … usually on the fly and with whatever few ingredients I have to hand. Recently I’ve been buying my produce in small batches from our local organic grocers and only going to the supermarket if I really need a specific ingredient that I can’t find elsewhere. Buying local and seasonal (and indeed organic) is becoming increasingly more important to me but I’m also mindful of cost, which is why my dishes probably contain fewer ingredients that they usually do – and truthfully, they might be better for it. Like style, I tend to think food is best when pared back to the essentials with maybe just one unexpected flourish to make it stand apart … this is how I dress and how I cook, in fact – and maybe even how I decorate my home. Speaking of homes, we have been hard at work getting ours into shape. It looks like a wreck still but we can see the progress and I suppose that’s all that matters. We’re focusing on the upstairs at present … working our way down and finishing with the biggest job at hand – the kitchen. For that, we want a handcrafted open-shelving style space, which may or may not come to fruition depending on how much we have left in the budget although we’ve been pretty frugal so far … doing most of the work ourselves means we’ve saved a ton in labour costs. Of course, there are certain things we won’t tackle such as plumbing and plastering but other than that we’re happy to roll up our sleeves and get stuck in. Let me know if you’d be interested in seeing pictures of our progress and maybe I’ll do a specific renovation post.

 

Kale Salad with black beans & za’atar roasted sweet potatoes

with a balsamic orange dressing

 

what you’ll need

1 large sweet potato

1 heaped tsp. za’atar

zest of 1 orange

1 tbsp. olive oil

sea salt and pepper

 

for the kale salad

150g kale, leaves stripped

Juice of 1/2 orange

200g pre-cooked black beans

2 tbsp. hemp hearts

salt and pepper

 

Balsamic & Orange Dressing

1 heaped tsp. dijon mustard

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

juice 1/2 orange

1 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tbsp. agave or coconut palm syrup

pinch of salt and pepper

 

what you’ll do

Pre-heat the oven to 200c/Gas Mark 6. Peel and cube the sweet potato, and transfer to a baking sheet. Sprinkle over the za’atar, orange zest, olive oil and season generously. Toss to coat and bake for 30mins until crispy and golden, shaking the pan from time to time.
 
Tear the kale into bite-size pieces and add to a large mixing bowl. Squeeze over the orange juice, lightly season with salt and pepper and massage the leaves until they begin to soften. Set aside to wilt further in the juice.
 
Place the dressing ingredients in a bowl and vigorously whisk until it emulsifies. Drain and rinse the black beans and transfer to a small bowl. Pour over half the dressing and gently combine.
 
Add the black beans to the kale and spoon over the remaining dressing before adding the sweet potatoes and hemp hearts. Toss to combine, sprinkle over a smidge more za’atar and serve.
 

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Cauli-rice Sushi Rolls


 
I’m typing and watching a video simultaneously here. Not the most effective way of writing a blog post but in my defense I’m still trying to arm myself with all the ‘facts’ before this dreaded referendum on Thursday. It probably goes without saying that I’m worried. As in, terrifed. More specifically; ‘quaking in ma boots’, can’t sleep, feel sick/sad and generally despairing at the world. Ya get me? Y’see, I emphatically, desperately (like a toddler clinging to its Mother’s legs) want to remain in Europe but (and truthfully, I’m loathed to even think it) that reality is increasingly looking pretty darn dicey … if any of the endless ‘leave’ comments on the internet are anything to go by anyway. I have to concede I’m surprised at how effective Boris and his cronies have been during this campaign … throughout one particular televised debate I even found myself being semi-convinced by the 350 million a week argument – or maybe it was just a case of ‘if someone says it often enough and loud enough’ you begin to believe it. Know what I mean? And even though I hate getting political (especially on a food blog of all places) this matter is close to my heart – and given that I’m a ‘heart on sleeve’ kinda gal, I honestly couldn’t let this whole debacle drift by without directly addressing it. So here goes.

 

Guys, we are on the brink on something massive here – and it potentially ain’t good. I’ve listened to the experts (from both sides!) and it’s abundantly clear to me that we are better off ‘in’ the EU. Apart from all the single-market shenanigans (which is more or less over my head) and immigration complications (as if it isn’t complicated enough already) I personally (and perhaps rather selfishly) like being a part of Europe … particularly (especially) as an Northern Irish person living in England. In my opinion, it’s a singularly beautiful unifying identity we all have in common … my Husband is English, I am Irish, but together we are European. I know, totes silly, but that’s how I feel.

 

And look. I know we’re all concerned about the NHS – Lord knows my family has seen the best and worst of it these last two years but if we think we’re going to protect it by voting ‘leave’ then we are seriously deluded. We are also beyond bonkers if we think Boris and his pals have our best interests at heart and wouldn’t jump at the first chance to privatise our beloved healthcare system. Closer to home (well, my first ‘home’ that is), little old Northern Ireland is going to feel the full force of this EU exit if it in fact comes about. Want to return to the days of borders and checkpoints? Well, your wish could very well be BREXIT’s command. Yup, that’s right. My family will have to go through a whole customs and exiles rigmarole just to get a pint of (dairy-free) milk from Muff – and lets not even think about how much it could potentially destabilise the peace agreement. These are the things that quite literally keep me up at night.

 

Oh man, this has gotten way serious all of a sudden and I almost feel like I should delete all of the above and keep my mouth firmly shut. But I won’t. I’ll simply leave you with this. No-one knows what will happen if we leave the EU but as with most splits it will likely be full of heartache, bitterness and more. The path will not be smooth and the end result may not be what we had anticipated … there’s no rainbow at the end of this road and there’s no bringing back a post-war Britain full of hope and glory. Impending doom doesn’t feel too far off at this stage and I’m almost resigned to the fact that come Friday morning, I will be clinging to my Irish passport (perks of being born in Norn Iron) reciting the words ‘I’m still a European, I’m still a European … ‘ whilst simultaneously clicking my imaginary sparkly shoe-clad heels. By then the madness will undoubtedly have officially infiltrated the UK at large, leaving half the population in utter despair and wondering where on earth we go from here. Pessimist much? Okay, suffice to say, I am firmly in the remain camp – and not just ’cause I like having the option to roam about Europe at will but because I truly believe we are better/stronger as one European nation and have more to offer unified than apart. Like all slightly dysfunctional families, we might gripe at one another and not always see eye to eye but at the end of the day we’ve got each others backs. Let’s not needlessly throw that away. M’kay? Love you all. Peace out.

 

What have sushi rolls go to do with this? Absolutely nothing. But they taste flipping delicious and require no sushi rice – just making your maki-roll life that wee bit easier.

 

what you’ll need

4 nori sheets

1 small head cauliflower

1 spring onion

1 thumbsize piece of ginger

1/2 green chilli

few sprigs of dill

1 large pre-cooked beetroot

1 tbsp sesame oil

2 handfuls spinach

salt and pepper

chilli flakes

1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce

 

for the quick pickle

1/2 red cabbage

1/2 cucumber

1 large carrot

2 tbsp cider vinegar

juice 1/2 lemon

1/2 tbsp agave

few sprigs of dill

 

for the dip

2 tbsp dairyfree mayo

1 tsp chipotle paste

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 heaped tsp salt

 

what you’ll do

for the quick pickle, roughly chop the veg and place in a bowl. whisk the cider vinegar, agave, lemon juice and salt together and pour over the chopped veg, stir to combine. finely chop the dill, stir through to coat and set aside to pickle.

 

place the cauliflower, spring onion, ginger, chilli, dill and a pinch of salt in a food processor. pulse until is looks like rice. set aside.

 

heat the sesame oil in a skillet and quickly wilt the spinach. season and set aside to cool. squeeze out any excess liquid and roughly mince.

 

slice the beetroot length-ways.

 

place the nori sheet on a rolling mat, shiny side down and lightly brush with a little sweet chilli sauce. layer on another nori sheet. spoon over half the cauliflower mix, leaving a section at the top of the wrap for sealing purposes.

 

near the rolling end, evenly distribute the spinach before layering on the beetroot. season and sprinkle over some chilli flakes.

 

using the mat tightly roll the sushi wrap away from, squeezing the roll as you go. wet the end section with a little water, seal and set aside with the join underneath.

 

fill a jug with water and wet a large knife. carefully slice the end piece off the sushi roll and then cut into even maki rolls – be sure to wet/clean the knife between each.

 

repeat the process using the remaining two nori sheets and plate up.

 

whisk the mayo, chipotle paste and lemon juice together. serve alongside the sushi and pickle.

 

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Six steps to a stress-free Christmas Day

Christmas Day. One of the most eagerly awaited holidays of the year. Full of magic and wonder … unless, of course, you happen to be in the kitchen. In which case, that magic and wonder is replaced with sweating and swearing, and vows to be more way prepared next year. Well, next year has arrived folks so it’s time (and believe me, there still is time!) to put those best laid plans into action. Here then is my crucial six-step plan, which will hopefully make Christmas Day just that teeny bit more bearable … please note; copious amounts of wine will still be required.

 

1. Let’s cut right to the chase. Any decent plan requires a list and here’s how mine tends to play out. It all begins on Christmas Eve – but don’t worry, we’re not spending the whole day in the kitchen, that would just be silly. I want you to be able to savour every moment – but also get yourself a little ahead of the game for tomorrow. I begin with breakfast … that’s Christmas Day brekkie I’m referring to and, in my opinion, baked goods are absolutely the way to go. Pumpkin Bread has become a bit of a tradition in our house, and it means we can open our gifts at leisure. A fresh pot of tea (or cafetiere of coffee) are the perfect accompaniment – maybe a few fresh figs or other fruit to pick on, and you’ve got yourself a delicious festive breakfast that will quash any hunger pangs but still leave plenty of room for that hefty midday (or, in our case, late afternoon) dinner.

 

Here’s my go-to Pumpkin Bread recipe. Got more people coming? Just double the quantities and divide between two loaf tins. Whammo.

 

2. Okay, now you’ve made your breakfast bread it’s time to turn your attention to your starter. Trust me, unless you’re happy to faff about in the midst of preparing arguably the biggest/ most important meal of the year then you’ll want this one done and dusted and ready to be re-heated as and when needed. This year, I’ve opted for a seriously simple Chestnut Soup. In the past, I’ve opted for stuffed mushrooms but when you’re cooking for five or six, have limited room in both your fridge and oven, this can be a logistic nightmare. And besides, everyone is going to adore this silky smooth Chestnut Soup – it’s just enough to whet the appetite without over-facing everyone.
 


 

3. Likewise, dessert needs to be a breeze, especially after consuming a plate of food the size of your head. We tend to leave quite a gap between our main on Christmas Day, meaning we enjoy it more. This year my Sister has requested my Mince-pie Galette (although my Mont-Blanc Cups would also be a good option), which can be partially or fully prepped in advance. For those wanting it completely fresh on the day you can simply make and refrigerate the pastry the day ahead, then roll it out when required. Otherwise, make the whole thing a day or two before (it keeps well, loosely wrapped in foil in the fridge) and then gently heat before serving. I wholeheartedly insist you serve it with both (soya) cream and ‘ice-cream’. That and the Downton Christmas special equals festive perfection.

 

4. Don’t forget nibbles and drinks … my go-to drink is a glass of chilled prosecco with a splash of pomegranate juice, and (optional) dash of gingerbread syrup. You could also make my Pomegranate & Thyme Mocktail – to make more than one, skip the cocktail shaker method and simply double, triple or quadruple the ingredients. Place everything in a large jug and stir with wooden spoon. Divide the base mixture between the glasses and top with sparkling water – or for an alcoholic version, champagne.

 

For nibbles, I’m going down the Bloody Mary Bruschetta Route, partially because the colours scream Christmas but also because my version contains vodka. What can I say … ’tis the season!

 

5. Set the table. Or, at the very least, delegate someone to do it for you. I always seem to be rushing prior to serving up, so I like to make sure the table is ready to go well in advance. Whilst everyone is busying themselves getting ready, take a moment to chose a simple theme that will really show off your food. I’m all about self-service, so like to lay everything out, which means that pretty bowls and crockery are essential. Dot the table with a few votives and foliage but don’t over-do it … people like to have room to ‘breathe’ too. I like things somewhat informal so minimal is the order of the day. I think of these few precious moments as the calm before the storm so enjoy it. Now’s the time to potter, play and savour that Christmas spirit.

 

6. Onto the main event. I tend to go through all the side dishes I want to make and highlight those that can be made ahead without impairing the taste. I’ve also narrowed it down over the years … reducing my sides from upwards of twelve (seriously) to around eight or nine, depending on how I’m feeling. Here’s this years choices:
 

(1.) Braised Cabbage & Apple

(2.) Maple Roasted Parsnips

(3.) Pan-fried Brussel Sprouts

(4.) Sweet Potato Casserole (recipe in ‘Keep it Vegan’)

(5.) Roast Potatoes

(6.) Gravy (here’s a YouTube link to my ‘Easy Vegan Gravy’ recipe)

(7.) Cranberry Sauce

(8.) Carrot & Sage Slice

(9.) Tofurkey

 

That’s quite a hefty list as it is but imagine trying to make all that on the day … er, nightmare! These are quite traditional offering so if you’re after something a little more unusual may I suggest the following:
 

Winter Squash &  CousCous Salad
Warm Pumpkin & Red Onion Salad
Festive Slaw
Baked Aubergine with Lemon-infused CousCous

 

From my preferred side-dish list above, here are the ones that I can easily prep ahead:

Braised Red Cabbage, Cranberry Sauce, Carrot & Sage Slice, Sweet Potato Casserole (don’t add the pecans until the following day) and Gravy.

 

Thus leaving these remaining dishes for the day:

Maple Roasted Parsnips, Roast Potatoes, Pan-fried Sprouts and the Tofurkey.
 

 

Seeing it laid out like that already makes it seems much more manageable. I get someone else to peel the potatoes meaning I can then happily prep the parsnips and slice the sprouts. I’ll cook the tofurkey as instructed and then cover it in foil until needed, thus freeing up space in the oven. Most of my dishes take a maximum of 30 minutes to reheat so I’ll par-boil the roasties before popping them in the oven first … in case you’re wondering I’ll coat them in a basic sunflower oil and roast them for abut 45mins or until they properly crisp up. A few minutes later, I’ll roast the ‘snips and then gently re-heat the Braised Cabbage on the stove. Ensuring everything on the stove is re-heated at a medium temperature tends to keep panic to a minimum too. Sprinkle over the pecan topping before baking the Sweet Potato Casserole until piping hot along with the Carrot & Sage Slice, which is essentially acting as my ‘stuffing’ element this year. The last dish you want to cook is your Sprout because you want to ensure they still some freshness and bite. Stir-fry them on a high heat in some coconut oil and serve immediately.

 

Like I mentioned above, I don’t personally serve everyone individually, I simply lay everything out on the table and let everyone help themselves. For me, this is all part of that communal eating atmosphere I love so much. Pass the gravy will ya!

 

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Pudla Pizza


 
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

100ml water

30ml extra virgin olive

2 tbsp olive oil

 

pizza toppings

1 x carrot

2 cherry tomatoes

1/2 avocado

large handful of rocket

3 tbsp hummus

juice 1/2 lemon or lime

pinch of chilli flakes

sriracha

nutritional yeast

 

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.

 

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Warm Pumpkin & Red Onion Salad


 
It’s officially pumpkin time and I’m getting in early this year with a savoury dish that will knock yer socks off. There are so many ways to serve pumpkin but I adore it simply roasted and served in a warm salad alongside a few of my other favourite seasonal ingredients … cavolo nero being just one! There’s certainly a lot happening in this plate (what with the crunchy toasted pine nuts, chewy raisins and creamy tahini, maple dressing) but each component plays a vital part in bringing these incredible ingredients together in one harmonious plate of yum. I honestly can’t think of a better way to welcome in this most glorious time of year – almost like a gentle farewell to Summer and a fond hello to Fall.
 
Walking around Loe Bar last Sunday and watching all the autumnal colours appear almost before my very eyes made me feel so warm and fuzzy inside, I couldn’t wait to get cracking with all my harvest-time cooking. With so much incredible produce at our disposal at this time of year, I can’t help but get so excited for the season ahead … crumbles, pies, stews and so much more. Bring it on!

 

what you’ll need

1/2 medium-sized edible pumpkin

2 red onions

1 heaped tsp dried oregano

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1-2 tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp chilli flakes (plus more to serve)

4-5 stalks of cavolo nero or kale

1 large garlic clove

1 tbsp toasted pine nuts

1 tbsp raisins

sea salt

 

for the tahini dressing

1 tbsp tahini

juice 1/2 orange

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/2 tbsp maple syrup

salt & pepper

 

what you’ll do

pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius. Cut the pumpkin into wedges, scoop out the seeds and add to a large baking dish along with the quartered red onion … I like to keep the skins on for cooking, as they retain their shape much better – you can peel it off once cooked.

 

toss the pumpkin and red onion in a tablespoon or so of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, oregano, chilli flakes and pepper – don’t salt them at this stage or the vegetables will leech their juices and lose that ‘roasted’ quality. Roast for around 45-50 minutes until soft – the red onion may be cooked a little sooner, in which case remove with a slotted spoon and set aside until needed.

 

heat a little olive oil in a large skillet. finely slice the garlic clove and add to pan. gently sautee for a minute or two, ensuring it doesn’t colour before tearing in the cavolo nero (or kale). season with salt and pepper and stir fry on a medium-high for several minutes – you’re aiming for a slightly crispy texture.

 

heat a small dry skillet and toss in the pine nuts. toast over medium-high heat, shaking frequently to ensure they don’t burn – 5-7 minutes should suffice.

 

place all the dressing ingredients into a pestle and mortar and vigorously mix until smooth.

 

once the pumpkin wedges are perfectly roasted, remove from oven, season with salt and pepper, and set aside for a few minutes to let them cool slightly. now it’s time to build your salad …

 

place the pumpkin wedges on a large platter-style plate before dispersing the cavolo nero. scatter over the red onion, pine nuts and raisins before finishing with the creamy tahini, maple dressing. finish with a generous sprinkling of chilli flakes. serve at room temperature for an impressive starter or divide between two for a main course – it’s excellent served alongside some freshly cooked millet.

 

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‘Make-do’ Salad Bowl


 
I don’t know about you but I regularly find my cupboards (and fridge) almost completely bare, and in those instances I try to cobble something together that vaguely resembles a complete meal. This ‘salad bowl’ was the result of one such foraging scenario where I was able to utilize a couple of half-used peppers, a handful of cherry tomatoes, as well as some dried goods in the form of bulgar wheat and whole almonds … oh, and lets not forget that broccoli. Broken into tiny, bite-sized florets and served completely raw … in case you weren’t already aware, I kinda adore raw broccoli – crunch, crunch, crunch!

 

Griddling the cherry tomatoes was the key to bringing the simple salad dressing to life. I toyed with the idea of toasting the almonds too but thought it might interfere with the taste and texture too much, so raw they remained. Stirred through the bulgar wheat, the dressing really boosts the, er, blandness (?) of this nutty, nutritious grain – regardless, I’m a bit obsessed and use it regularly, hence why I have a glut of it in my cupboards.

 

So, a bit of this and a bit of that ain’t so bad … I even managed to shoehorn a bit of protein in there too – hurrah! Next time your pantry is in need of a restock, why not have a rummage and see what odds and ends might make a decent (or at the very least, passable) meal.You might be pleasantly surprised.

 

what you’ll need

1/2 large red pepper

1/2 large yellow pepper

1 small head of broccoli

1 cup bulgar wheat

 

for the sauce

handful of cherry tomatoes

1 scant cup of almonds

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 tsp agave or other sweetener (optional)

3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

 

what you’ll do

Heat a griddle pan. Cut the peppers into large pieces and place skin-down in the pan … cook until the skins blacken and then remove from the pan. Wrap tightly in cling film and set aside for 5-10 minutes before unwrapping and gently peeling away the skin – do not rinse under a tap. Cut into thin strips, season and toss with a little extra virgin olive oil.

 

Add the cherry tomatoes and griddle until they become lightly charred and soft to the touch. Pulverize the almonds in a food processor before adding the tomatoes, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, and seasoning. Whilst the sauce is blitzing slowly pour in the extra virgin olive oil until it thickens. Check for seasoning and if it needs a little added sweetness, put it in now – blitz again to combine and refrigerate until needed.

 

Pour the bulgar wheat into a large bowl and add the same amount of freshly boiled water (i.e. 1 cup), cover and set aside until the bulgar wheat has fully absorbed the water. Fluff with a fork and stir through half the sauce.

 

Cut the broccoli into small bite-size pieces (keep any remaining stalks for soups and stews) and begin assembling your bowl. I used a large platter-style bowl, placing the roasted pepper strips in the centre before spooning the bulgar wheat around the outside. Dot the broccoli florets here and there, and serve with the remaining sauce.

 

Simple, wholesome – and cheap!

 

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Blackberry & Avocado Salad with a Gingery Dill Dressing


 

Summer has officially hit Cornwall and I’m about to vacate the county for Ireland. Typical. Not that I don’t love a jaunt ‘home’ but the temperature there never quite reaches the heights it does here and I always feel a slight chill even on the balmiest of days – who am I kidding, Ireland doesn’t do ‘balmy’. Of course, it’ll be great to see the folks, spend time with my Dad who has just finished his third round of chemo, and celebrate their ruby wedding anniversary … quite a milestone by anyone’s standards! Being the creature of habit that I am though, I always find it difficult settling into a new routine – that adjustment period shows me what a home bird I really am. I crave structure and being a writer means I can construct my own timetable – a luxury that is thankfully not lost on me. There’s nothing I love more than splitting my day into palatable little sections … most of which revolve around tea/snack/lunch/coffee breaks – in a way it’s bliss. Unless I’m working to a tight deadline.

 

Now that the book is ‘done’ (I’ve put it in inverted commas because I don’t think a book is ever really done but at some point you have to move on … plus there’s always bits and bobs that need tweaking) I now find myself in a weird limbo scenario and so my inclination is to return my attention to ‘Keep it Vegan’. To that end I’ll be doing a few little promo things here and there (another IrelandAM appearance is on the cards for the 7th July), as well as continuing to promote my more summery recipes – perfect for the coming months! Keep an eye on my twitter and instagram accounts for details.

 

And then there’s this blog. The place and vehicle that started this whole ball rolling. I already am feeling a lot more connected to this space than I have done in a long time … so much so, I’ve even dusted off the DSLR in a bid to regain my confidence behind the camera. Slowly does it though because it really would seem that I’ve forgotten how to use the damn thing – settings, schmettings.

 

Today was a salad day (nothing special but still… ) and so I thought it would be good practice to shoot something that didn’t have any time constraints or pressures. The focus still ain’t perfect but I think I’ve been able to achieve a slightly nicer quality to these shots than I have done in a very long while. Like I said, they’re a long way from being perfect but I won’t go down without a fight. And now for the recipe … creamy avocado, tart blackberries and not forgetting that gingery dill dressing, it really is a wonderfully simple seasonal salad with a difference.

 

what you’ll need

large handful of mixed lettuce leaves

6-7 blackberries

1/4 yellow pepper, finely sliced

1 spring onion, finely sliced

1/2 avocado, sliced

 

for the dressing

1 heaped tbsp dijon

1 garlic clove, grated

1 thumb-size piece of ginger, grated

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tbsp hazelnut oil or evoo

1/2 tbsp agave

juice x 2 clementines

pinch of salt and pepper

15g freshly chopped dill

 

what you’ll do

Arrange the salad leaves in a shallow bowl. Scatter the sliced pepper around over the leaves, sprinkle over the spring onion and dot the blackberries about the bowl.

 

Separate the sliced avocado into a fan shape and place in the centre of the bowl.

 

Place all the dressing ingredients (apart from the dill) into a bowl and whisk vigorously until it emulsifies. Add the chopped dill and whisk to combine. Spoon generously over the salad, paying particular attention to the avocado.

 

Finish with a final scattering of roughly chopped dill. Serve.

 

 

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Meat Free Week Menu

Okay, okay, so I’m a day late to the game but hopefully just in time to inspire your meat free meals for the rest of the week. I’ve delved into the ‘peasoupeats’ archives to come up with a varied menu that should (fingers crossed) cover all bases… from soup to salads and even sushi, there’s a little bit of everything but do let me know what your favourite is. Personally, I’m all about the Sweet Potato & Pearl Barley Stew but that’s probably because I haven’t fully transitioned from my winter diet yet – yup, still craving that warmth! The pearl barley is certainly lighter than rice but has that ‘stick to yer ribs’ quality that I’m so loving right now. If you’re currently getting yourself in shape for summer though, the Noodle Salad for One is a super option – filling yet light and full of flavour. Anyway I’ll let you decide – there are six recipes to choose from and they’re all pretty delicious and, as ever, super easy. Happy ‘Meat Free Week’ everybody!

 

Humdinger Hummus Sandwich
 
Possibly the perfect lunchtime sammie crammed full to the brim with hummus, sprouts, avocado and more. I’m a total bread/carb fiend so this is my ideal midday scenario and best of all it takes minutes to make. Om nom nom.
 

 

Lentil salad
 

Summer is creeping up on us and soon I’ll be bemoaning the fact I didn’t get in shape sooner. When I do finally get into the swing of things though, I’ll be relying on salads like this to see me through … tasty, filling and seriously simple to make.
 


 

Spiced Lentil Soup
 

Another mainstay in my kitchen, this spiced lentil soup is the ultimate comfort food. Make a big batch tonight for a go-to pot of yumminess throughout the week … #meatfreeweek sorted.
 


 

Sushi
 

Fill it with whatever you fancy or stick to this grated carrot, peashoot & pepper version – either way, this is a sure-fire weekend winner for when you have a little more time to play in the kitchen. Get yourself a bottle of sake for a full-on Japanese evening experience and say ‘cheers’ to going meat-free!
 


 

Sweet Potato & Pearl Barley Stew
 

Yes, the weather is warming but that doesn’t mean I don’t still crave stodge. This pearl barley stew is a huge favourite of mine because it feels indulgent whilst still managing to retain some healthy credentials – who says comfort food can’t be good for you, eh?
 


 

Noodle Salad For One
 

I like to make the most of my solitary meals and this one features frequently – hence it’s addition here. It was originally commissioned for Marcus Samuelsson many moons ago and it still gets a great reception to this day… I hope y’all enjoy it too!
 

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Roasted Cauliflower Fattoush

 

Sometimes I really wish life would slow down a bit. Right now that inimitable thing called time is a major stumbling block when it comes to me either savouring precious moments or allowing me to simply catch my breath. On the one hand I ain’t complaining (all this book launch is brilliant) and on the other we are dealing with life-changing developments that make you sit back and wonder ‘what’s it all about?’. No, really? What is it all about?!

 

I don’t suppose these bigger questions will ever truly be answered – thus is the mystery of life and all that but equally I find myself grasping tightly to anything that I hold dear or gives meaning to this existence of mine. Perhaps I’m talking in riddles here and it certainly wouldn’t be the first time, so apologies if this is all gobbledy gook… I guess you could say my head is literally all over the place right now and to be perfectly honest the only thing keeping me sane is those few snatched minutes in the kitchen.

 

As ever, food is my salvation and this Roasted Cauliflower Fattoush is a recent revelation that is satisfying and virtuous in equal measures. The creamy tahini is optional but adds another layer to its late summer awesomeness – my Sister cannot get enough of the stuff, which is high praise indeed. Feel free to play around with the spices – I only wish I had some harissa hanging around at the time, as it would’ve been the perfect addition although my little made up mix did the job just fine. Enjoy!

 

 

what you’ll need

1 small cauliflower head, broken into small florets

1 little gem lettuce

5-6 cherry tomatoes, halved

1/3 large cucumber, peeled, deseeded and cut into half moon shapes

5-6 radishes, roughly chopped

2 pittas, toasted

30g (or 2tbsp) flat leaf parsley

30g coriander

15g (or 1tbsp) mint

 

for the cauliflower marinade

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1/2 tsp allspice

pinch cayenne pepper

juice 1 lime

1 tsp agave

1 tbsp olive oil

sea salt and pepper

 

for the chilli salad dressing

1 tsp chilli paste from a jar

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp agave

juice 1/2 lime

3 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

 

for the tahini dressing

3 tbsp hummus

2 tbsp tahini

1 tsp agave

juice 1/2 lime

1/4 cup water

 

what you’ll do

pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius/350 fahrenheit. place the cauliflower florets in a baking dish. whisk the marinade together to form a smooth paste and pour over the cauliflower florets, toss until everything is coated and bake for 35-40minutes or until they brown.

 

place all the salad ingredients in a large bowl. whisk the chilli dressing ingredients together untilit emulsifies and pour about a third over the salad. gently mix.

 

lightly toast the pittas and cut into triangular bitesize pieces. drizzle over a third of the chilli dressing before adding to the salad bowl.

 

finely chop the parsley, coriander and mint together and sprinkle half over the salad bowl ingredients. gently mix.

 

whisk the tahini sauce ingredients together until smooth, adding a little more water if necessary.

 

remove the roasted cauliflower from the oven and lightly season with some seasalt. add to the salad and gently toss. serve in a bowl, drizzle over the tahini dressing and smattering of smoked paprika.


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Winter Squash & Cous Cous Salad

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Halloween is officially over and the holidays are on their way… something which excites me more than you can know. I love, love, love Christmas and all the special days that surround it, which since our two year stint in the States now includes Thanksgiving too. So over the next two months we will be eeking out every last second of festive fun in the only way we know how – food, drink, film and friends, and not necessarily in that exact order.

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Being the simple beings that we are, we relish any opportunity to cozy up and make the most out of these incoming winter months, and I will no doubt be making the most of all that squash and pumpkin, some of which will undoubtedly find its way on here. Let’s start as we mean to go on then and get cracking with a stonkingly good winter salad recipe – yes, the roasting might take a while but the rest is just a matter of simple assembly.

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It may sound like a weird combination but I served it with pie and kale – I used it as the potato replacement, and it definitely worked… Hubby heartily approved. The flavours are really reminiscent of stuffing rendering it a perfect Thanksgiving side dish and it’s already on my ‘planning way ahead’ menu. Eek! Cannot wait… holidays are comin’, holidays are comin’.

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ingredients

1 squash/gourd/small pumpkin

1 cup frozen garden peas

1 cup cooked cous cous

1/4 cup toasted flaked almonds

1 sprig rosemary, finely chopped

1 tbsp finely chopped fresh sage

extra virgin olive oil

sea salt and black pepper

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method

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Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius/350 fahrenheit.

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Halve, de-seed, roughly chop and peel the gourd, then chop into small chunks. roast in the oven with a tablespoon of oil, salt, pepper and chopped herbs for about an hour.

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Soak 1 cup of cous cous in 1 cup of freshly boiled water, cover and let stand for 10 minutes before fluffing with a fork.

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Quickly defrost the peas by covering them in a cup of freshly boiled water, leaving for five or so minutes and then drain.

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Lightly toast the almonds in a heated skillet ensuring, tossing frequently so they don’t burn.

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Remove the squash from the oven and stir through the cous cous, peas and almonds along with a little more oil and seasoning. Serve warm, at room temperature or even cold the next day.

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