Well folks, that’s a wrap. For 2014 anyway. It’s been a mix of the very good (I released my first cookbook and signed a deal for the second) and the very bad (my Dad was diagnosed with Brain Cancer) – I think that’s called irony or perhaps it’s just ‘life’. Thankfully we have rallied together at this traumatic time and even though we’ve been essentially knocked for six, we enter the New Year positive and full of hope. Heck, what’s the other option?
I thought it would be an appropriate time then to take a look through the blog and pluck out a few of my highlights. As ever, I’m always looking to improve my content and I’m still refining my style (whether it be food or fashion) and the yearly blog review is a great way of tracking my tastes and how they continue to evolve. Being self-critical is par for the course in this game (as my fellow bloggers will verify) and whilst I’ll be the first to point out my failings, I find it nigh impossible to take a compliment graciously. So, even though I’m not one for resolutions I’m hoping to take it a little easier on myself in 2015… well, I’ll certainly try.
Other ‘resolutions’ (such as they are) include (1.) Eating our evening meal at the table (2.) Not using our phones before bedtime and (3.) Spending more time in the sea. In between I’ll be squirreling away on my new book (whilst still trying to promote this one – the US launch is in Feb!), getting back to Derry as much as I feasibly can to see my Dad and living my beautiful Cornish life. From me to you then I wish you all a peaceful, happy and successful New Year – see you on the flip side!
from the top…
When we left London around this time last year we had an image in mind of our ideal existence. It mostly involved the ocean – being near it, in it, waking up to it, and generally hanging out by it. Like when we had first attempted to make a go of our (semi-successful) Cornish reloaction several years back we imagined we’d slip immediately back into a routine that involved beach bbq’s, snorkelling, surfing and the odd bit of work (well, we have to eat y’know!) but that didn’t exactly happen off the bat. What surprised us most was how much we’d initially struggle to get into the swing of things and honestly it all became a bit overwhelming at times. There were frequent meltdowns (me mostly) and that nagging feeling that you (meaning ‘we’) may have made a horrible ill-timed mistake – were we mad to leave London just when our careers were about to figuratively take off? I mean, who does that?! I seriously began to question why we’d spent over a decade in the capital just to throw it all away right at the moment it began to get easier.
Fast forward almost a year on and we couldn’t be further from where we began our (in hindsight, ambitious) Cornish dream – all that fretting seems like a distant memory, as I sit here typing up this post at our haven in beautiful Mousehole. So much has happened since we’ve moved here I almost feel like a different person to the gal who left London all those months ago. I’ve bagged a cookbook deal, got to grips with a freelance writing career and made a home – all whilst my partner in life and crime set up the business that will hopefully sustain us for at least a few years, if not the rest of our lives.
Of course, there are busier times ahead for me too – exciting projects in the offing (and maybe Motherhood) but truthfully my main priority is simply to be happy, and nothing makes me happier than being here with my Husband and stripping things right back to basics. With this in mind we’re attempting to maintain a fairly minimalist living space, which essentially means clearing out all that unused, unwanted, unnecessary stuff that sits there cluttering your house and mind. I want rid of it. It’s a tedious process but we’re getting there, and that includes paring back my wardrobe too – because truthfully, all I really need is a handful of casual threads and a beach-friendly bag to throw all my gubbins in (cue jelly bag introduction) and I’m good to go.
This weekend cemented so many things that were just on the cusp of falling into place, i.e. it’s the simple life we’re after and it’s the simple life we shall get – which also ties in nicely with my style philosophy too… only keep/wear the things that enhance your mood – not because they’re ‘on trend’ but because they say something about you and make you happy. For me that means mixing loved ‘n’ worn garments that have a special place in my heart (this cover-up reminds me of long days lounging on the beach in Goa) or new pieces that feel like they’ve been a part of your collection forever – like this coral jelly bag that has basically already usurped everything else in my ever diminishing wardrobe. Because I try to extend my vegan philosophy to all areas of my life I loathe the idea of waste, which is why the notion of trends kinda repels me. However, sometimes the universe aligns and you end up with something that happens to be ‘happening’ but will also outlast the current wave of ‘what’s in’ paraphernalia to become a classic – again. This jelly bag is a perfect example. It’s bang on trend right now, smacks of 80′s nostalgia, but better than that will quickly become a mainstay for years to to come – and knowing it’s completely recyclable is an added bonus that increases it’s appeal ten fold. You probably don’t need Sherlock Holmes-style detection skills to deduce that I’m a tad, if not completely, obsessed.
Clearly there’ll always be a place for fashion in my life but being able to pack a picnic, don a bikini and head to our happy place (the beach) is really reward enough for all those years of stressful city living that wore us down to the point where we didn’t even recognise ourselves. It wasn’t until I finally got my head sorted down here that I realise how skewed my perspective had been for so long. What exactly was I striving for? Money? Notoriety? Success? Pffffttt, you can categorically have ‘em. Meanwhile you’ll find me with my toes in the sand, sun on my face and looking out to the horizon on a gloriously tropical Cornish summer’s day. Care to join me?
I had wholly intended to post this on Friday but then the sun came out and the last thing I wanted to be doing was sitting at home tapping on a keyboard. So, a little late maybe but delicious none the less – I am a sucker for a good risotto and this one definitely hits the spot. If you can’t tell already my demeanour has shifted significantly over the last few weeks… more frequent blogging generally means a more content me, and for that I have Mousehole to thank. I also seem to cook better and generally have more of an appetite for life when I’m happy, and there’s very little that this little house of ours (and it’s insanely beautiful) location can’t cure. With that said then, this is a very cheery risotto from a very cheery gal who can’t quite believe her current luck.
what you’ll need
1/2 cup or approx 200g risotto rice
1 small onion
3 garlic cloves
4 sundried tomatoes
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1/2 cup or approx 200g risotto rice
1 litre vegetable stock
60ml soya (or other plant) cream
3 asparagus spears
salt and pepper
olive oil and extra virgin olive oil
what you’ll do
heat a little oil in a large skillet. bring a large pan of water to boil, add the vegetable stock and reduce to barely a simmer.
finely chop the onion and add to the skillet, along with a little salt and pepper. sweat until soft. dice the courgette and add to pan and cook until just beginning to soften. mince the garlic cloves and add to pan, season and sweat for several minutes until the garlic begins to exude an aroma.
stir in the risotto rice and let it absorb the flavours for a minute or two before ladelling in the stock, just covering the rice. simmer gently until the stock is completely absorbed before ladelling in more, stirring frequently. you may not need to use the full litre so remember to taste your rice once it begins to look plump – it should be al dente in texture.
roughly chop the sundried tomatoes and add to the pan along with the chilli flakes. pour in the soya cream and stir through. check for seasoning and allow the cream to heat through before serving.
for the asparpagus spear simply coat them in extra virgin olive oil and seasoning. griddle for around 10mins on a heated griddle pan. serve on top of the risotto before finishing with a final drizzle of evoo and a smidge more sea salt.
I’m definitely one of those people that can’t think straight when the space around me is cluttered and messy. Too bad then that our house is somewhat coming down around us at the minute as I hurry to finish my cookbook and begin to qualm the all too predictable nerves that accompany the release of such a thing… what will people think, say and (let’s face it) criticise? Yep, I already know there will be a few ‘haters’ (as the tinternets like to call them) but I hope there’ll also be more than few ‘lovers’ too (is this an internet term, and if not, why not?). All this worrying coupled with a recent facebook request asking what our favourite book is brought my rapidly depleting memory capcity back to an old classic I use to love – namely, the hilarious ‘Lucky Jim’ (written by the wickedly witty writer Kingsley Amis). Along with the title we were also encouraged to leave a quote from said book and this is where the planets suddenly aligned in my brain as I (bingo!) realised the world really hasn’t changed all that much in the 60 yrs since it was first published… in essence, we are still dealing with same s**t we always have been and probably always will. And in case you are wondering what the hell I am wittering on about, here is that exact (light bulb alert!) quote I am referring to…
“Haven’t you noticed how we all specialise in what we hate most?”
In addition to this little epiphany and discovering a site that seems to specialise in slagging off successful bloggers (I have made a vow not to read it again – too much hate makes me ill), I’ve come to the conclusion that there will always be people pointing out your flaws or trying to tear down your achievements. I’m not saying I don’t have negative thoughts now and then but I always try and focus my energy on the good in others and what they do -and anyway, doesn’t it make people unhappy being so critical all the time? So yeah, I’m not perfect, and what I do may not appeal to everyone but at least I know I’ve given my all, my everything, my best, and really, what more can I do?
What I will say is ‘the more you give, the more you get’ so I’m determined to put out as much positivity as I can muster and hope that I can spread a little joy (as well as getting some back, ahem) in the process… c’mon, don’t lie, we all want to be loved and accepted! I’m pretty sure these chaotic mind bender moments really aren’t being helped by the stack of dishes in the sink, ramshackle bookshelves and unpacked suitcases – maybe the moral of the story is to keep the place tidy lest you (meaning me) risk falling into a pit of darkness and despair. If you’ll excuse me then, I’m off to sort my house and head out – and perhaps do a spot of really bad crocheting too. Yep, feel free to laugh yourself silly at that top pic because a knitter I am most definitely am not but as they say… ’God Loves a Trier’. Peace out x
I’m currently sitting here wearing my Orla Kiely boat print t-shirt with pride. Obviously where I’d really like to be is at London Fashion Week ogling all the wonderful collections and in particular I would’ve loved (repeat looooooved) to have attended the always brilliant Orla Kiely presentation – but unfortunately this season it was not to be. Our move has coincided rather badly with fashion week although I have written a little NYFW round-up for Hunger should you wish to read my more official views on the subject.
However, I couldn’t let my adoration for the Orla Kiely SS14 collection go unnoticed on the blog… because, you know, it’s kinda amazing – would ya just look at these outfits!!! Styled by the tremendously talented Leith Clark and with a seventies safari meets Moonrise Kingdom backdrop, this range floated my boat and then some. The knee high sandals and socks combo still gets me every time too – ack, soooo cute!
There were zebra prints, over-sized pockets and ‘oh my giddy aunt’ beret’s galore, as well as a beautifully muted palette with pops of pink and red that is so perfectly understated I just can’t seem to get enough of it (I’ve literally looked at these images a hundred times already – sad but true). Yep, I’m that giddy girl who just wants everything now, now, now but, of course, I can console myself in the meantime with the fact the current AW13 collection is just as fantastic.
It excites me so much to see an Irish designer like Orla get so much well deserved attention – sometimes us Irish wans can often be the butt of the fashion scene’s joke but with Orla Kiely flying the flag with super duper designs like these we will continue to hold our heads high.
I think we can confidently say the lady has done it again, don’t you agree? What a gal.
p.s. images are from fashionising.com
Cooking with limited resources can be challenging but also so much fun. Getting back to basics has been one of the best things about this move and I’ve been loving my one-pot wonders and endless salad variations, so I thought I’d share a quick one with you…
We’re feeling a little more settled today, and have both miraculously managed to get some work done – hurrah! Not only that but the deposit on our previous London flat has just come through, which means we can begin the flat search in earnest… so exciting!!!
In lieu of a permanent abode though I thought a little exercise in camper van cooking would keep me busy in between articles for Hunger and strolls to the beach. It’s a hard life, I know. Can you tell I’m more chipper today? Things are starting to fall into place so who can be unhappy about that. Onwards.
p.s. the maple syrup seen here was the sweetest gift given to us by our wonderful friends from across the pond who came and stayed with us for a few days last week. It’s seriously incredible stuff and the absolute perfect sweet to my sour in this simple but tasty dish. Enjoy!
Sweet ‘n’ Sour Slaw
1/4 red cabbage finely sliced
1 carrot grated or peeled
1/4 cup pickled beetroot, finely sliced
handful of pumpkin seeds
coarse sea salt (Cornish Sea Salt is the ultimate – trust me)
ground black pepper
1 tbsp good quality maple syrup
1 tbsp of the pickled beetroot vinegar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Toss, season, serve…. that simple.
and in case you are wondering about the potato salad. it was simply boiled potatoes, cooled and tossed with sea salt, hummous, chives and a little olive oil…. delish.
If you visit this blog regularly you’ll know I’m pretty selective about the products I recommend. But, when I do come across something I believe to be blog worthy I have no qualms in giving it a well deserved thumbs up – and this new (to me) soya milk brand most certainly warrants a pat on the back. Up until now we’ve had a pretty limited selection here in the UK when it comes to soya milk, with only one major brand being at the forefront, so it’s great to finally have more choice.
Whilst I love to mix up my plant milks I always have a carton of soya in the fridge – I refuse to give up my morning tea, I only have so many vices left! Obviously too much of anything is never good but i’m happy with the balance we have in our own diet. We tried two different Vivesoy milks – unsweetened and cappuccino (i’m sucker for anything coffee flavoured), and were super impressed with both.
My problem with most soya milks is the sometimes unpleasant aftertaste, even with flavoured milks. Genuinely, hand on heart, not the case with this one. I’m so ridculously over the moon with their cappuccino flavour soya milk (which I served over ice, ‘iced-coffee’ style and in an ‘ice-cream’ float – yes, I went there) I’m in danger of becoming addicted …..seriously could not stop drinking this stuff and will have to stock up the next time I see it in Tesco for sure. Not much can satisfy my iced-coffee cravings other than a Starbucks (feel free to wrap me over the knuckles) but this is as close as it gets.
The other big soya milk hurdle for me is how well it works in tea. Being a total tea drinking nut I need a milk that is sufficiently thick and pourable, and this brand ticks both boxes and more. Oh, and my Husband insisted I mention how easy to pour the carton is – a little bugbear of his (p.s. he didn’t want me to feature his hand – ha, too bad). So yeah, what can I say ….it’s a goodun!
I can never have too much Orla Kiely in my life. Those prints….well, I think you already know how I feel about those prints. Suffice to say when I got these postcards as a little bonus gift when I shopped the recent Orla Kiely for Uniqlo collection I knew exactly what to do with them.
However, it wasn’t until they were doing a recent clear out at Matches, where I managed to score some super simple frames headed for the skip, that I was able to put my little postcard arrangement into action.
All it took was some white paper, a little bit of blue tac and hey presto, I had the perfect addition to my otherwise dull staircase that had been previously inhabited by two fairly cheesy prints I bought in Poundland in a moment of desperation.
Orla’s delightfully retro prints continue to brighten my life and with ‘Orla Kiely House’ available imminently I’d better start saving my pennies and pounds for the many pieces I will no doubt need in my life. In some ways I wish she’d just stop producing so many awesome things I can’t afford but at the same time I’m thinking, ‘keep ‘em comin’ Orla, keep ‘em comin’!
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
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
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!
As you’re reading this I should be lying on a beach in Santorini, sipping on something cool, reading a book and just generally having a sweet time. Summer scarves will be far from my mind and I hopefully will be rejuvenating my blogging prowess, ready to get back in the virtual saddle with more food, fashion and usual rambling posts.
I wore this last week when we were invited to (a fabulous) dinner at our friends and was thoroughly disgusted at having to wrap anything around my neck in the supposed height of summer.
But if I’m forced to don ridiculous attire in July then it may as well be covered in polka dots, right?