Miso Noodle Bowl (for one)

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Ok 2017, I’m slowly getting to grips with you but we’ve a ways to go yet.
 
Amidst computer woes (the bugger has officially given up the ghost) and working on a project that is taking up all my creative energies(more on that soon) this blog has been pushed waaaaay down the bottom of my priority list – and not for the first time either. It seems I’m not exactly great at juggling (literally and metaphorically) so something always suffers in one way or another when I have anything more pressing on my agenda. Granted, I’ve also been distracted because of a few exciting life developments … the main one being that we are in the process of buying of first ever home. So. Freakin. Excited. Nomads no more!
 
I honestly thought the day would never come when I would (make that ‘could’) own my own house (my own ruddy kitchen!!) – i just felt like too much of a pipedream given our dual self-employed status. And yes, I’ve been pinning away like a madwoman since our offer was accepted just before Christmas – mood boards a go-go … white everything with pops of colour. Obviously this was best Christmas gift we could’ve asked for and we’re still pinching ourselves. As for the house itself, it’s moderately sized, with a plenty of space for me and Husband to live our simple Cornish existence. It’s definitely what I would call a ‘fixer-upper’ – the thought of moving into a house that’s already been decorated to someone else’s taste doesn’t really appeal to be honest and this place has so much potential. So much!
 
As soon as we get those keys we’ll immediately ‘do a Kirsty’ and take down the wall that divides the living-room and dining area, creating one huge living space – the kitchen is separate, which I previously thought I would hate but weirdly I am more than fine with it. Perhaps it’s because I work from home and spend basically all-day everyday cooking and whatnot, so the thought of having that mental separation between life and work has become increasingly more important to me. Of course, I cook in the evenings too and I’m sure we’ll still have a couple of stools out there so my Husband can keep me company.
 
Our budget is pretty tight so we’ll have to be quite clever with our funds if we’re to create the awesome space we both envisage … we’ll be on the hunt for good quality bathrooms and kitchens that don’t cost the earth but we think we have a few ways to get around it – for example, my Husband reckons he can do a bit of carpentry in the kitchen and my in-laws have already donated their range cooker, which really helps. The bathroom currently boasts a rather exquisite avocado suite (which my Mum loathes, haha) and whilst I know I could make it work we’re probably going to sell it on ebay (they’re surprisingly desirable) and use that money to give the room a total make-over.
 
Anyway, you came here for a recipe (not to hear about avocado bathrooms) so let’s get this ‘Miso Noodle Bowl’ underway. One-pot meals are a bit of an obsession of mine. Anything to save on the washing up. The particular bowl is so soothing, it makes for the perfect late January lunch or supper. You could easily make it stretch between two by adding another nest of noodles but in all honesty I inhaled this entire thing by myself in one sitting, so, y’know …

 

what you’ll need

1 stick of celery

1 carrot

5 chestnut mushrooms

50g sweetcorn kernels

handful cavolo nero or kale

1 heaped tbsp. white miso

2 tbsp. tamari

splash of rice mirin

10g chopped coriander, plus stalks

juice 1/2 lime

1 heaped tsp. coconut oil

1 x nest rice noodles

 

for the tofu

150g firm tofu

1 heaped tsp. wasabi

1 tbsp. tamari

1 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tbsp. sesame oil

1/2 tbsp. maple syrup

juice 1/2 lime

 

to serve

radish – cucumber – coriander – sesame seeds – chilli flakes

 

Method
pre-heat the oven to 200c.

 

cut the tofu into cubes and transfer to a baking dish. in a separate bowl, whisk the wasabi, olive oil, sesame oil, tamari, maple syrup and lime juice together until totally combined. pour over the tofu. gently toss to combine. set aside for 5 minutes to marinade.

 

meanwhile, slice the celery and carrot diagonally. heat the coconut oil in a heavy-based saucepan. add the sliced celery and carrot and saute for a minute or two until they begin to soften.

 

place the tofu in the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until golden and crisp at the edges. shake the dish from time to time to ensure an even bake.

 

roughly chop or tear the mushrooms and add to pan. stir-fry over a high heat for a few minutes until they release their juices and shrink.

 

roughly chop the cavolo nero and add to pan. liberally douse the vegetables in tamari and splash over the rice mirin. once the cavolo nero wilts, add the miso paste and 1 litre of freshly boiled water. simmer for 5-7 minutes before adding the sweetcorn, lime juice and chopped coriander. check for seasoning – it may need another splash of tamari.

 

turn the heat off, add the noodles and cover with a lid. once the noodles have sufficiently softened, transfer to a warmed bowl and top with the baked tofu pieces. garnish with chopped radish, cucumber, coriander leaves and some sesame seeds.

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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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Chestnut Miso Soup with Chickpea Croutons

 

Do you ever feel like things are getting on top of you? So much so that it’s affecting your ability to savour the moment, even for a second? Your over-active brain is rendering your physical body completely inert, and you quite literally can’t see the wood for the trees? Welcome to my my current state of play where everything seems disproportionally out of control – no rhyme, no reason, just is. Okay, so I can partially attribute my mental state to being semi-trapped in a village that I truly adore but which also leaves me feeling totally out on a limb with no connection to the ‘real-world’ … whatever that may be.

 

It’s a catch 22. We have a super house (mid-century mews with south-facing courtyard and balcony and great open-plan living space) and are privileged enough to call one of the prettiest villages in Cornwall our home – and yet, this somehow is not enough. I don’t (yet) drive and the bus into town is stupidly expensive so unless I walk (which I do when the weather is good) I’m here all alone for the most of the week. Yes, people (friends/family/work colleagues) come to me and I’ve made a concerted effort to get out and about more frequently but that doesn’t mean I don’t crave access to all those town-based amenities … call me crazy (or just a Londoner trying to find out how and where she fits in) but I need to be around people – perhaps it’s a safety in numbers thing but crowds weirdly make me feel safe.

 

Anyway, suffice to say it’s come to a bit of a ‘elephant-in-the-room’ head and we are now making serious moves to find a new abode. And, as sorry as I’ll be to leave our early 70’s haven, I can’t say I’m not eager to embrace town-life once again – we’re talking Penzance here, not, I hasten to add, the big smoke. In hindsight, it was probably a bit of leap coming directly from London and expecting to settle into a sleepy village right off the bat. Truthfully, I don’t think I even knew how much of a city girl I was until I made the move down here to the depths of Cornwall … plus, I’m inherently a people person and am/was used to dealing with various demanding situations on a daily basis. These days I rarely get to flex my ‘problem-solving’ muscles – and we all know that if ya don’t use it, ya lose it, am I right?

 

Don’t feel too sorry for me though because I have lots of exciting things planned for the New Year(hurrah!) – both personally and professionally, and one maybe, might, as in definitely will involve a wittle doggler that is in desperate need of a loving home. In the meantime, I have you blessed people to keep me company (holiday hugs all round!) and a big bowl of festive Chestnut Soup to warm me cockles- don’t forget the ‘chickpea croutons’ either. Okay, I concede…  it ain’t all bad.

 

p.s. click here for my latest vlog where I make this deliciously festive soup – please do ‘like’, ‘subscribe’ & ‘share’.

 

what you’ll need

serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 red onion

1 carrot

1 garlic clove

220g cooked chestnuts

1 heaped tsp miso

salt and pepper

 

for the chickpeas

juice 1/2 satsuma/tangerine

2 tbsp olive oil

glug (1/2 tbsp maple syrup)

2 sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped

good pinch of pink himalayan salt or sea salt

 

to serve

soya cream

chopped curly parsley

 

what you’ll do

 

pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius.

 

heat the olive oil in a saucepan. finely chop the red onion and carrot and add to pan. sweat for several minutes until it begins to soften.

 

crumble in the chestnuts and stir through the miso. cover the mixture with water (approx 350ml) and bring to a gentle simmer for around 20 minutes.

 

drain and rinse the chickpeas and add to oven-proof pan. vigorously whisk the satsuma juice, oil and maple syrup together. pour over the chickpeas, sprinkle over the chopped rosemary and generously season with salt. toss to combine and roast for 25-30 minutes or until golden.

 

transfer the soup to a blender and blitz until smooth. return to pan and heat through – you can thin it out further with a little more water if you so desire at this stage.

 

ladle into warmed bowls or mugs, drizzle over some soya cream, spoon in the crunchy chickpea croutons and finish with a smattering of parsley.

 

Christmas Day starter sorted!

 

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Carrot & Cumin Cuppa Soup


 
The weekend is fast approaching and I have a terrific few days ahead of me beginning with an entire day of film at the Cornwall Film Festival tomorrow (my idea of bliss) quickly followed by a much anticipated break in Bath. The most I’ve ever seen of this place is from the train window as it whizzes past on its way to London but even those snatched glances were enough to peak my curiosity. So, when we decided a stay-cation was in order, this gloriously historical spot was top of my to-do list.

 

We’ve booked a stunning airbnb in one of those grand looking Georgian terraces and I’ve already discovered that Bath is a bit of a hub for vegan food, which has only added to my childlike excitement – that, and the fact there’s apparently an Anthropologie store nearby, eek! I certainly don’t have pots of money at the moment but I figure I’ll have even less in December so what the hell … my Christmas shopping shall start here. Really though, this break is mainly about a change of scenery and a chance to properly unwind – something we haven’t been able to do in quite a while. It might sound strange (ungrateful perhaps?) but even though I do happen to live somewhere most people escape to, it’s nice to shake things up and experience something new … and truthfully all this endless tranquility can occasionally send me doolally. Right now I’m in the mood to be surrounded by people. And shops. And coffee. And restaurants. And wine. And more people. Okay, I just need to not be here for a bit.

 

Because we won’t be home until next week, I’ve been desperately trying to use up all the odds and ends in my fridge that won’t keep. I’d been craving comfort food anyway so this soup was an obvious choice given the bag of sad looking carrots in my veg drawer … yes, it’s just a silly old soup but by golly did it hit the spot. Lightly spiced (cumin and coriander, bam!) with an added bit of depth courtesy of some coconut cream, this is perfect ‘curl up on the sofa’ fodder – and what better way to consume this warming golden liquor than in a cup. No spoon necessary. Get sipping.
 

what you’ll need

1 tbsp olive oil

1 shallot

1 celery stick

6 medium carrots

2 salad potatoes

1 heaped tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground coriander

1/2 vegetable stock cube

2 tbsp coconut cream

salt and pepper

 

what you’ll do

heat the oil in a saucepan. finely mince the shallot and celery and add to pan. season and sweat for several minutes until they soften and become transparent.

 

peel and slice the carrots into very thin rounds. roughly chop the potatoes and add both to the pan. stir, season and let the veg cook over a medium heat for a minute or two before adding the cumin and coriander. stir to coat and let the spices infuse for a further 5mins before crumbling in the stock cube and covering with around 500ml of water (just enough to cover the veg).

 

simmer gently for 15 minutes until the carrots are soft before transferring to a blender. blend until smooth before returning the puree to a pan – now you can add a little more water to thin out the soup to your taste. add the coconut cream and gently heat for a minute or so. check for seasoning and serve.

 

garnish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle of zatar and ground cumin, as well as a few scattered chilli flakes.

 

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The Fresh Vegan Kitchen … Corn Chowder


 

I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to be able to follow a recipe instead of creating one. In the midst of this book writing business, receiving this gorgeous offering in the post was a welcome relief and meant I could forget about my own creations for at least one meal. Although they probably don’t know it, the writers of this heavenly vegan cookbook were the first ‘real-life’ vegan cooks I ever encountered. Four years almost to the day, I was booked into a raw cookery class at Saf in Shoreditch (sadly now closed), which was led by the magnificent David Bailey who was accompanied by his lovely wife Charlotte. A newbie vegan at the time (I was about a year into my journey ) this was a real eye opener for me and I learnt so much… and tasted some pretty incredible food in the process – so you could say I’m already a bit of fan girl when it comes to this duo. Since then they’ve gone on to win awards for their scrumptious street food (keep an eye out for their WholefoodHeaven van at festivals) and, of course, release a wonderful cookbook.
 

Not only is it a stunning book to simply browse through but offers a range of dishes from the very basic (dips, dressings and soups) through to more adventurous fare that all have something of an Asian twist. I went for something moderately easy to begin with in the form of the New England inspired Corn Chowder … mainly because my fridge and cupboards are pretty bare right now so it was a bit of a make-do situation. I’m rather ashamed to say I had to use (don’t judge!) canned (cough) sweetcorn and I didn’t have any coconut milk (or stock) to hand either, however, despite my embarrassing modifications it was still a resounding success.
 

What I’m most excited about getting my chops around next is the Hot Aubergine Salad, which looks sensational, with the Churros a very close second. Hot, crispy, sugary goodness – you’re talking my language! What I love most about this book is the balance it strikes between uber-healthy recipes and more indulgent dishes that don’t shy away from things like flour. There’s something for everyone whether you’re raw, gluten-free or, like-me, dabble in a little bit of everything. It’s easy-going flair is its biggest selling point … I predict it’ll be a book I’ll come back to again and again. In a nutshell, it’s fuss-free food, full of flavour that will inevitably put a smile on your face.

 

Corn Chowder

adapted from The Fresh Vegan Kitchen

 

1 tbsp coconut oil

1/2 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 small carrot, chopped

200g sweetcorn kernels

4 salad potatoes, roughly chopped

1 tsp hot sauce

juice 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup soya yoghurt plus more for serving

salt and pepper

 

for the herby croutons

1 slice of bread, cut into 1cm squares

1 tbsp olive oil

1 sprig of rosemary, finely chopped

 

Method

1. Heat the coconut oil in a large pan and saute the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to sautee for 3-4 mins, then add the carrot and sweetcorn, season and saute for another minute or so.

 

2. Cover the saute mix with water (about 1ltr) and add the potatoes. Season generously, bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer for 15-20mins, until all the vegetables are tender.

 

3. While the soup is simmering make the croutons. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius. Put the bread in a bowl and toss with the olive oil and rosemary. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 10 mins until lightly golden, moving the croutons around every couple of minutes. Set aside.

 

4. When the soup is ready transfer to a blender and pulse until smooth. Return the soup to the pan, stir in the yogurt (or coconut milk), lemon juice, generously season and reheat for 10-15 minutes over a very low heat.

 

5. Divide into bowls and garnish with a few reserved sweetcorn kernels, sliced radish, spring onion and not forgetting the croutons, which I served alongside .

 

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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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‘New Year, New You’ Cannellini Bean & Spring Green Stew


 
It’s a new year folks and I for one am ready to wipe the slate clean and start anew. Sayonara 2014, I’ve seen enough of your sorry ass and I’m more than ready to move on. In honour of this fresh beginning we have laid out before us (please be kind 2015!) I’ve decided to strip things right back to basics. Nothing fancy. No unpronounceable ingredients or long-winded instructions. Simply a straightforward stew. Comforting. Familiar. Seasonal. And super easy to make. I (and I hope you) approve.

 

I talked of resolutions in my last post and I’m pleased to inform you that one in particular has been something of revelation. The whole ‘no internet before bed’ thing is having a staggering effect on my sleep. Not forcing stimulation on my already tired, social-media sensitized brain is like a magic cure for overactive minds that tend to worry into the wee hours of the night. It’s quite literally like turning off the light in my head. If you haven’t made such a resolution yourself, I seriously urge you to give it a go – especially if you’re in need of a good nights kip like myself.

 

Back to the stew then. Straight-up comfort food is what I’m after during these dark months – not least in January when my morale is at an all time low. Just when I think I have a handle on things, boom, something else sidles out of the woodwork just to add an extra level of stress to my day. Hence the ultra pared down images with minimal accessories, which kinda reflect my current need to focus on the job at hand without any major distractions. Chance would be a fine thing.

 

I realise this probably all sounds like I’m talking in code but suffice to say the second book is underway meaning the next few months are going to be cra-zy. Not least because the current book is yet to be released in the US (it’s launching in Feb, by the way) so it’s all systems go. I’ll be blogging as much as I can during this hectic period – I actually find a lot of solace here and it’s also a great way for me to flesh out ideas. For now though, a soothing bowl of spring green stew it is.
 


 

what you’ll need

1 tbsp olive oil

2 brown onions

2 large carrots

3 celery sticks

1 sprig rosemary

several sprigs of thyme

a few sage leaves

4 cloves garlic

5 salad potatoes

1 vegetable stock cube

380g drained cannellini beans

two large handful spring greens

salt and pepper

30g flat leaf parsley

 

what you’ll do

heat the olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan. roughly chop the onion, carrot and celery and add to pan. season, cover and sweat for several minutes until they begin to soften.

 

finely chop the rosemary, thyme and sage. add to pan and stir to coat. sweat for several more minutes. finely slice the garlic and add to pan. cover and let the garlic infuse for a few minutes.

 

roughly chop the salad potatoes and add to pan. stir to combine before covering with water and adding the stock cube. bring to gently simmer and cook for around 10-15minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through.

 

add the spring greens followed by the drained and rinsed cannellini beans, season and cover. let the greens wilt into the stew before stirring to combine, then simmer gently for around 10minutes. check seasoning and serve with a generous scattering of freshly chopped flat leaf parsley. a hunk of crusty bread would be perfect to mop up any juices too.

 

 

 

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Mexican Black Bean Soup

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Remember this one? Well, you might recall the images but perhaps not the recipe because it never quite made it to the blog as I created it for an online magazine a couple of years back. I thought it about time I posted it here though so here it is in all its spicy, creamy, Mexicana glory… oh, and here’s the original article too!

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I am hopelessly devoted to Mexican cuisine. Spice and citrus, texture and taste, colourfully vibrant and abundantly fresh, it really does have it all. I often try to remember what my life was like prior to discovering this most wonderful of cuisines and worry that had I not spent two years in Chicago I would never has fully experienced everything Mexican food has to offer.

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Believe it or not Chicago has a mahoosive Mexican population (the third largest in the US apparently!) and we lived right smack bang in the middle of a huge Mexican district. There were taco joints on every corner and two 24hr Mexican restaurants mere minutes from my house. Suffice to say it was Mexican Food nirvana and I took full advantage – at least twice a week, eek!

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Now that I’m back in Blighty with barely a single Mexican restaurant in sight I have to provide my own tacos, burritos, quesadillas, chimichangas, salsas, guacs and soups – oh yes, did I mention that Mexican’s are big on their soups?

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Wait a second though. Isn’t Mexican food heavily reliant on cheese, sour cream, meat and chicken stock? The short answer is yes but that doesn’t mean to say you can’t work around that and create perfectly authentic Mexican meals in your own kitchen completely sans animal products. Because, above everything else, it is the spices and herbs that bring any Mexican dish alive. Otherwise you’re just eating bread, cheese and meat, right?

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In my world Mexican food spells ‘Chipotle’. No, I’m not talking about the fast food place, I’m referring to the smoked chilli pepper that can be chopped, made into pastes or bought powder in form. As it can be quite difficult to obtain chipotle chilli’s here in the UK, I rely on the powder, which I buy from an awesome retailer called the Cool Chile Co.

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If you’re lacking in the chipotle department, never worry, you can acquire a similar flavour by just using a little more cumin and paprika – just make sure it is the smoked variety. However, if you want to evoke that true Mexican flavour in this or any other Mexican inspired dish then you really should invest in a little jar of chipotle goodness. You have been told!

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This black bean soup is so velvety, thick and luscious and, unless you’re already  familiar with blended bean soups, unlike anything you’ve ever tasted. What an easy way to wow your guests at your Mexican themed dinner party, or do as I do and make it for a very quick and tasty lunch…

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Ahem, recipe below.

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Ingredients

½ sweet red pepper

½ red chilli

1x400g carton or can of organic black beans

1 tsp chipotle powder

½ tsp cumin

½ tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp vegan vegetable bouillon powder

2 sprigs of thyme

½ tsp dried oregano

Juice ½ lime

Few splashes of vegan fish free Worchester sauce

olive oil

Salt and pepper

to serve

¼ roughly chopped avocado

few sprigs of flat leaf parsley or coriander

spritz of lime

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Method

Chop and deseed the red pepper and chilli pepper into small pieces.

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Heat a little oil in a saucepan. Add the pepper, season with salt and pepper and lightly sauté for a few minutes until it begins to soften. Stir frequently.

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Add the chopped chilli, chipotle, cumin, paprika and stir to combine. Sweat for several minutes allowing the flavours of the spices to infuse.

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Drain and rinse the black beans and add to pan. Stir to coat the beans in all the spices, the thyme leaves, oregano and let it warm through before sprinkling in the vegetable bouillon and topping with water – you want the water to just cover the beans, as too much liquid will impair the texture.

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Splash in a few drops of Worchester sauce and bring it all to a gentle simmer.

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Transfer to a blender, add the lime juice and blitz until completely smooth. Return to pan and gently heat. Taste for seasoning.

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Serve with avocado, parsley or coriander and a spritz of fresh lime.

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Eat!

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Instagram Moments

Yep, it’s that time again – a roundup of my latest instagram photos. It’s been a reasonably eventful couple of weeks. Thanksgiving, trips to Cornwall, lots of great eats and other stuff….

It’s time to bust out the red hat. Vintage. Obviously. Toasty. Clearly. Christmassy. Without a doubt. You may be seeing a lot of this hat over the next few weeks. Apologies in advance.

We went to Cornwall last weekend to see the in-law’s. On our way back we drove through Central London, which is always a treat…..minimal traffic and beautiful sights. It’s one of my favourite ways to appreciate this magnificent city we live in.

We took the remainder of the pumpkin pie I made for Thanksgiving with us to Cornwall….and subsequently ate it for breakfast on Saturday and Sunday, ahem. Admittedly not the healthiest start to the day but damn tasty. The ginger snap crust is the best.

Meet Neep. My Husband animated this character when he worked on the children’s show ‘The Adventures of Abney and Teal’. This is a picture our Niece drew because she’s a fan and super proud of her ‘Uncle Jas’ – I think we have a budding artist on our hands!

Erm, I don’t usually make a habit of taking pictures of myself in the bathroom at work. Slightly embarrassing but a very cute vintage jacket, no? I’ve had it for years and it always makes me happy when I wear it. I think I might like red….:/

I’m pleased to say Thanksgiving was a success. With so little time to prepare anything I was amazed I actually pulled it off – seven sides plus dessert, what was I thinking?! The food was good, not my best, and I do plan on refining all the recipes for Christmas but it was enjoyable none the less. I’ve already made improvements to the braised cabbage and when I’m 100% happy with it I’ll be sure to post the recipe.

It might not look like much in the picture but this soup rocked my world mid week. Chickpea and chestnut are a match made in soupy heaven. Also, the bread looks burnt in the photo but in actual fact it was toasted perfection, rubbed with oil and (lot’s of) garlic. Here’s the recipe in a nutshell:

Roughly chop an onion, carrot and small broccoli. Lightly fry in a little oil in a deep pot. Mince 4-5 garlic cloves and add to pan. Season generously and sautee until the onion is transparent. Add around five cups of vegetable stock and bring to a boil and then simmer gently for 10mins until the veg is soft. Finally add the chickpeas and crumbled chestnuts and heat through. Finish with a decent amount of freshly chopped flat leaf parsley.

Our dear friend Dan returned to Chicago on Friday. It was so lovely having him here in London and made us realise how much we miss our Chicago life. Shame. I think a trip to the US might be in order in the New Year. Best start saving dem pennies.

I found this image on my phone today. During the Olympics we managed to get to one event (Women’s Weightlifting is surprisingly very entertaining) at the Excel Centre and afterwards we walked through the area next to it, which had been transformed into a place for eating, relaxing and generally soaking up the Olympics atmosphere – it was so un-London but so fantastic. There were lot’s of random objects scattered about, this sign being one them. I love it.


 

 

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Smoky Toasty Vegan Quesadilla For One

What if I told you the main ingredient in this No’Quesa’dilla is, gulp, Brussel Sprouts. Would you scarper to the nearest non vegan blog faster than your little fingers can click? Hopefully it wont come to that and if I have managed to retain your attention until now then let me take this chance to say….Brussel Sprouts can taste good. Don’t believe me? One bite of these smoky toasty morsels and you’ll be eating your words. And your sprouts.

What you’ll need…

1 flour tortilla

1 shallot

5 brussels sprouts

2 garlic cloves

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1 tbsp freshly chopped flat leaf parsley

1 tsp dijon mustard

1 tbsp hummus

1 tbsp olive oil

sea salt

What you’ll do…

Heat the oil in a pan. Slice the shallot and add to pan. Salt and soften for a few minutes. 

Finely slice the sprouts, add to pan and cook for several minutes before adding salt and the sliced garlic cloves.

Cook for a few minutes more before sprinkling over the smoked paprika. Mix thoroughly and allow the flavours to infuse before stirring through the parsley and transferring to a bowl.

Heat the tortilla in a pan for a few minutes before spreading the dijon all over, the hummus over half and then topping with the Brussel Sprout mix. 

Fold and cook in the already heated pan until toasty on one side before turning over. Once the other side is toasted, cut into three triangles and serve – particularly nice with a warming bowl of soup!

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