Coconut oil makes for a great base to homemade chocolates. The texture and flavour are perfect for that most decadent of treats – truffles. Tahini might seem like an odd addition too but trust me when I say, it emphatically works! To put an extra festive spin on proceedings I’ve added orange extract and zest, and loaded up on pistachios and dried fruit … my preference is cherries but you could easily use raisins or cranberries. Once rolled and dusted, they can be wrapped in parchment paper or placed in a cellophane bag, ready for unexpected guests to take home with them. When it comes to gifts, I always think the personal touch goes a long way in impressing – even if they happen to be ridiculously easy to make. Merry Christmas!
1 ½ tbsp. *vita coco coconut oil
150g dark chocolate (min. 70% cocoa solids)
3 tbsp. light tahini
1 tsp. orange extract
Zest of 1 orange
2 tbsp. agave
Pinch of sea salt
50h roughly chopped
50g dried cherries
2 heaped tbsp. raw cacao powder
50g pulverized pistachios
Place the coconut oil in a small saucepan and melt over a low heat.
Break the chocolate in small pieces and add to pan. Gently melt, using a spatula to incorporate the oil and chocolate.
Take the saucepan off the heat and add the tahini, orange extract, zest, agave and salt. Whisk vigorously to combine. Return to the heat for a few seconds to ensure the tahini is thoroughly incorporated and the mixture is silky smooth.
Fold in the dried cherries and chopped pistachios before transferring to a small lined loaf tin. Refrigerate for at least 6hrs until solid.
Pulverise the remaining pistachios until they resemble a fine dust. Transfer to a shallow dish, ready for rolling. Place the cacao in a separate bowl.
Once solid, remove the chocolate slab from the fridge and let it soften for 5mins before scooping out approx. ½ tbsp. worth of chocolate – a melon baller is handy. Tip the ball into the cacao to lightly coat before rolling into a smooth ball. Transfer the truffle to the pistachio dish and gently roll to coat, gently pushing the truffle into the nuts for maximum coverage.
Repeat until all the chocolate mixture is used – you should get about 20 balls from each batch.
Refrigerate until needed.
Alternatively, line a muffin tin with baking parchment and divide the mixture between each mould. Refrigerate for at least 6hrs before using the baking parchment to carefully remove the chocolates from the tin – this will render 12 large discs. Similarly, refrigerate until needed.
*this is a sponsored post but all views etc. are authentically mine – enjoy!
December is upon us and I am really ramping up the hygge factor in my kitchen. Being a die-hard crumble fan, I tend to make one a week during these crisp, cold winter months – nothing beats a warming bowl of this doused in soya cream, custard or in this instance a dollop of zingy coconut yoghurt. This is a bit of a sweet ‘n’ savoury affair … not too sweet with just the right amount of herb and vinegar action to make you raise an eyebrow. I adore the granola topping so much I think I might be reluctant to go back to the traditional variety – the nutty crunch is seriously moreish and would make a terrific granola in of itself. In you are so inclined, simply lay the mixture flat on a baking sheet and bake in a pre-heated oven (150c) for 20mins before giving it a gentle mix – return it to the oven for a further 10-15mins. Bingo, you have a wondrous breakfast at the ready. Truth be told, I would happily chow down on this crumble first thing without so much as a single guilt pang – hence my coconut yoghurt suggestion.
I have a lot of cooking lined up this season. I’m determined to perfect my mince pie recipe (happy with my filling but my pastry needs work) and am having a strange cracker obsession presently … so sick of buying of buying shop bought ones that are almost always ‘meh’. A bad cracker lets down a great ‘cheese board’ and now that I’ve nailed my ultimate cashew cheese recipe (all in good time) pairing it with a sub-par ‘gary’ vehicle would be a travesty. Even though this Christmas is going to be lacking in festive cheer, I’m using food as a much welcome distraction. Luckily I’ll have many willing mouths on hand to hoover up whatever I put in front of them. This crumble will most likely make a number of appearances too.
What you’ll need
for the filling
9 plums, stoned and sliced
handful of dried cherries
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
pinch freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
50ml maple syrup, agave or other liquid sweeneter
for the oaty topping
30g ground almonds
30g flaked almonds
sprig of lemon thyme
pinch of salt
2 heaped tbsp. light tahini
30ml maple syrup or agave
1 tsp. almond extract
juice 1/2 clementine
30ml olive oil
What you’ll do
Pre-heat the oven to 175c.
Toss the sliced plums with the dried cherries, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, balsamic and sweetener. Set aside while you make the topping.
Whisk the tahini, maple syrup, almond extract, clementine juice and oil together until smooth.
Transfer the plums to an ovenproof dish.
In a separate bowl, lightly mix the oats, ground almonds, flaked almonds, thyme leaves and salt together before adding the tahini mixture. Stir to combine, ensuring everything is coated.
Spoon the granola mixture over the plums, ensuring it is pressed reasonably flat to avoid it charring too much on top before the fruit is cooked through.
Bake for 20mins. Remove from oven and lightly fork through the topping to ensure the granola topping is evenly cooked. Return to the oven for a further 10-15mins or until the plum juice begins to bubble and the top is golden and crisp.
Let it cool briefly before serving. Adorn with lemon thyme and add a dollop of fresh coconut yoghurt to each bowl.
We’ve had a jam-packed ‘Halloweeny’ weekend in the lead-up to the day itself. Both myself and my Husband like to eek out every second of it because (a.) we are die-hard horror fans and (b.) I happen to come from a wee town that knows how to celebrate this holiday (and then some) so I’m wholly determined to keep the tradition alive – even if it’s not exactly a major ‘thing’ here in Cornwall. Sure, we get the odd trick or treater but nothing like my hometown where the kids are out in full force from 4pm onwards. It really is a sight to behold. It always struck me odd that England doesn’t make more out of Halloween but I guess it is more of an Irish tradition … Samhain and all that. I’m so glad we got to experience Halloween in Chicago too – it’s a similar set-up … trick or treating earlier in the evening and then partying for the grown-ups later on. Side note: the whole ‘sexy costume’ malarkey utterly baffles me. I usually team up with my Husband (our homemade Jack Skeleton and Sally costumes complete with papier mache head were a hit) and our last efforts actually seen us walk away with a ‘best costume’ award, if can you believe it, even if most people had no clue what/who we supposed to be. Here’s a clue; we had to carry a ‘dead body’ around with us all night dressed in 80’s gear. Got it? Let me know in the comments if you think you’ve guessed correctly.
That was a couple of years ago now, when we lived in the bustling town of Falmouth, so recent festivities have been rather quiet in comparison – I think we had one kid call to our door last year so we ended up scoffing the remaining sweeties ourselves. Tonight’s viewing, as ever, will include ‘Night of the Living Dead’ (Barbara! They’re coming to get you Barbara!), Halloween (I am John Carpenter worshipper – p.s. he’s performing in London tonight, gutted I won’t be there), Rosemary’s Baby (obvs.) … and we’ll probably throw in a newbie for good measure too. The Shining was showing at our local film house last night, which was epic, to say the least. We’d never seen it on the big screen before and it totally took it to a whole new level – I feel like I know that film inside out, upside down but I was seeing things last night I’d never even noticed before. It’s a ruddy masterpiece. Kubrick rules.
Anyway. Halloween means pumpkins, which is fine by me because it’s just about one of my favourite ingredients to cook/bake with. I’ve been perfecting my breads, cakes and muffins but I also wanted to share something a little simpler in the form of a smoothie bowl. If you can’t get your hands on pumpkin puree, don’t worry I’ve got a tutorial here – it’s a lot easier than you might think (and whilst I love the convenience of a can) you can’t beat freshly made pumpkin puree. The remaining ingredients are items you’re likely to have hanging about your fridge/cupboard, making this a cinch to throw together. You could top it with fresh apple (or pear also works well) but I like to ramp up the flavour by tossing the chopped apple in cinnamon and maple syrup before roasting it in the oven until soft. I also used it to fill the centre of a Pumpkin Bundt Cake (loosely based on this recipe) I made for a small Halloween shindig I threw on Saturday. If you follow me on Instagram stories you’ll have caught some of the silly shenanigans.
Must dash now, as I haven’t bought anything for tonight’s mini frighteners and I also have a mountain of work to do. Oh Monday. You suck.
what you’ll need
4 heaped tbsp. pumpkin puree
3 tbsp. coconut yoghurt
3 tbsp. rolled oats
60ml/1/4 cup coconut milk
4 deglet nour dates (or 2 medjool dates)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
pinch of allspice
pinch of salt
handful of ice
for the apples
2 large apples (cox or similar)
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
pinch of salt (or cinnamon salt, if you can get your hands on it)
what you’ll do
pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. peel and chop the apple, and place in an ovenproof dish. toss in cinnamon, nutmeg and syrup, and sprinkle over a little salt. roast for 20-25 minutes until soft, shaking the pan from time to time. set aside until needed.
place the bananas, pumpkin puree, coconut yoghurt, dates, oats, coconut milk, spices, salt and ice in a blender and blend until completely smooth – I generally run it through twice to be sure. I like it reasonably thick but you add add more plant milk to thin it out if you wish.
divide between two bowl and garnish with the roasted apples, toasted flaked almonds, flaxseed and a dash of maple or pomegranate syrup.
Hump day is here and I feel like another week is whizzing by at an astonishing rate. This month has been a mixed bag so far … work-wise I’ve been desperately trying to form some sort of routine after a tumultuous period in my personal life – easier said than done. I’ve kind of viewed these passed few weeks as a bit of an experiment, seeing what works best for me and here’s a few things I’ve learnt – although not yet fully implemented, I might add:
Lists are everything. If I don’t make a list (even if I don’t manage to tick everything off) then I’m pretty much buggered for the entire day. It’s like a reference point keeping me (and my mind) on the straight and narrow.
Set targets for the week ahead. Along the lines of a list still but more general. My targets for this week included posting a Youtube video (tick) and getting another blog post up (again, tick!) … of course, there are work targets too, which always take priority but I won’t bother listing those here.
Everyday is different, so don’t fight the chaos, embrace it. This is something I continually struggle with because as a creative (self-employed) person I determine how my day plays out. I used to think my day should resemble a typical 9-5 and therefore would desperately (and mostly unsuccessfully) try to structure it like that. Silly idea. Allow yourself the freedom to be flexible, and you’ll feel less like a constant failure.
Distractions aren’t necessarily a bad thing. I sometimes need to zone out in order to give myself a little bit of mental space to ‘breathe’ and create – so don’t feel bad if you get caught in a social media vortex every now and then, ultimately some good will come of it. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.
I could probably keep adding to this list (once you start …!) but suffice to say my overall approach is to have some sort of loose structure going on without allowing it to dictate my creative flow – to that end, I should say I’m currently still in my pj’s and won’t be showering until I’ve posted this. Real life folks. The old me would usually chastise myself for such sloppy behaviour but in the grand scheme of things it’s no big deal. With that said, I often find I’m more productive when I get up early, shower and dress for the day ahead. It just feels lie the right thing to do and gets that proactive mindset into full swing – in other words, do as I say, not as I do.
Food is central to my workday (tends to happen when you’re a food writer) but I also like to make an effort with what I’m eating myself … breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in between; every meal is given as much love as the next. Buddha bowls are a firm favourite but as we move into the winter months I’m craving carbs and warmth, which means putting a slightly British twist on proceedings. Mini jackets are so satisfying and make for a great addition to this super comforting dish … all in the name of this new Danish ‘Hygge’ craze, don’t you know!
Yes, I’m totally jumping aboard the Hygge bandwagon because no-one does cosy better than the British – or Irish, for that matter, ahem. As well as my ‘mini jacket’ obsession, Brussel sprouts are also having a bit of moment in our house too. Tossed in a simple soy marinade and roasted until crisp, I could happily eat these like savoury snacks all on their own. The steamed veg can be anything really, I just happened to have mange tout and babycorn in my fridge. Hummus is the ultimate jacket potato filling, in my opinion, so I dolloped two huge spoonfuls into each before sprinkling over my current herby obsession … tarragon. I’ve seriously been putting this aniseedy wonder in everything from sauces to stews and it really adds a certain umami flavour I currently can’t get enough of. Barely even a recipe but so ridiculously satisfying to eat, this ‘Hygge Bowl’ is definitely where it’s at – for a next level solitary eating experience, simply light a candle, curl up in a blanket, put your worries on hold for a while, and enjoy.
what you’ll need
2 large salad potatoes
200g Brussel sprouts
1/4 cup couscous
selection of veg (mange tout, baby corn or other)
1/2 tbsp. coconut oil
2 tbsp. hummus
1 sprig of tarragon
black sesame seeds
salt & pepper
for the sprouts marinade
1/2 tbsp. maple syrup
1/2 tbsp. sesame oil
2 tbsp soya sauce
juice 1/2 lime
1 tbsp. tahini
1 tbsp. marinade
2 tbsp. water
what you’ll do
pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius. prick the salad potatoes all over with a fork. rub with coconut oil and season generously. bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden and crispy on the outside.
halve the brussel sprouts and place in an ovenproof dish. whisk the marinade ingredients together, reserving 1 tbsp. for the tahini dressing before pouring the remainder over the sprouts. roast for 30 minutes, tossing the sprouts from time to time to prevent sticking.
place the couscous in a bowl and pour over with 1/4 cup of freshly boiled water. cover and set aside for 10minutes. once the couscous has absorbed the liquid, fluff with a fork, squeeze over the juice of 1/2 lime, stir and set aside until needed.
steam or blanch the veg until just cooked but still retaining some crunch.
whisk together the tahini, marinade and a tablespoon or two of water until creamy.
halve the potatoes and gently squeeze before transferring to a large bowl. arrange the remaining ingredients in the bowl before adding the garnishes … dollop the hummus into the jacket potatoes and distribute the finely chopped tarragon over each. dizzle the tahini dressing over the sprouts and veg and finish with a sprinkling of black sesame seeds. serve with a small wedge of lime.
So, I promised to upload this recipe on Friday and it’s taken until now (Monday ruddy morning) to get my act together and actually process the photos and write the damn thing. I guess you could say I’m well and truly out of the blogging groove and I’m finding it increasingly more difficult to put my energies back into it. Because I’m channeling all my foodie creativity into other work, this space remains a bit of a ‘relegated to the back of my brain’ dead zone, which is not what I want but at present I can’t fully see a way forward. Part of me thinks I should be diversifying a bit and including more lifestyle posts (beauty, fashion, homeware) but I’m not sure if you agree – do you want to see those type of posts or should I just stick to food? Leave me a comment and let me know. I’m taking your lead on this one.
Instagram is proving to be a wonderful outlet for me at present. As long as you follow wisely it can be a really terrific, supportive community to be a part of. I’ve done many’s a cull, which means my feed is full of charming, positive people that have similar interests to me – yes, there’s lots of food but also plenty of performance art, floral displays (I love blooms) and style … I’m a sucker for a great outfit. I highly recommend @personalpractice (dancer extraordinaire) @latonyayvette (supermum and general babe) @ellenfisher (aka mango island mamma) @jennymustard (swedish vegan minimalist living in Berlin) and @carolinedemaigret (sophisticated french model who happens to be hilarious) … do you have any recommendations of your own? Who inspires you on a daily instagram feed basis? Also, I am so, so close to reaching my 10k target – if you’re not following me already (and you like lots of photos of food and Cornwall) then head over to my personal feed (@ainecarlin) and click follow! I would be very much obliged. High fives in advance.
And then there’s the small matter of it being October. October. My favourite month because, y’know … harvest, autumn, halloween, all that jazz. We’ve already decorated our living-room with dancing skeletons (see twitter for proof) and other ghostly bunting, as well as seasonal spooky candles – and lots and lots of PUMPKINS! Well, a variety of squash, if I’m being perfectly honest. But still. PUMPKINS!! Truth be told I used canned pumpkin for these pancakes but if you do want to make your own (it’s super easy, promise!) then I have a quick ‘How to’ that will help. This stack were so light and fluffy I was tempted to call them ‘Perfectly Pillowy Pumpkin & Orange Pancakes’ but decided to keep it simple instead. However, they most definitely are ‘perfectly pillowy’ and totally delicious to boot. I made an addictive palm sugar salted caramel to accompany them (can I get a ‘yum’?), which will test your restraint when it comes to bowl licking because this stuff is 100% uh-mazing. The pumpkin, orange yoghurt was a bit of an afterthought that actually really brought the whole dish together … but not as crucial as the caramel, so if you’re going to forgo something, forgo this.
Recipe time. You ready? Time to get get jiggy with some pumpkin puree.
what you’ll need
150g spelt flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
240ml soya (or other plant) milk
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
juice and zest of 1/2 orange
3 tbsp. maple syrup
1/2 tbsp. melted coconut oil
what you’ll do
place the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, spices and orange zest in a large bowl and whisk to combine.
in a separate bowl whisk the soya milk, puree, maple syrup and orange juice together until smooth.
make a well in the centre of the flour, pour in the wet mixture and whisk to combine.
heat a crepe or frying pan and melt the coconut before pouring into the pancake batter. whisk to combine and set aside for a minute or two.
return the pan to the stove, brush with a little more coconut oil and bring to a medium-high heat. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup (or an ice-cream scoop) ladle in the pumpkin batter, cooking one at a time for best results. cook for around 4-5 minutes or until bubbles begin to appear on top and the sides look dry before flipping. cook for a further minute or so before transferring to a plate. cover with a clean tea-towel to keep them warm. repeat until all the mixture is used … you should get approximately 10-12 pancakes out of the batter mix.
for the salted caramel
1/2 cup palm sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup coconut milk (from a can)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt
place the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil for around 5-10minutes or until the mixture reduces and thickens, and the sugar is completely dissolved. swirl to ensure the sugar is evenly dispersed but do not stir.
once the mixture has thickened, whisk in the coconut milk (coconut cream will also work) and gently boil for a further 10 or so minutes. once it takes on a caramel appearance, test the thickness using the back of a spoon … simply dip it into the caramel and set it aside for a minute to determine how well it sets – remember, as it cools, it will continue to thicken.
at the very end whisk in the extract and sea salt and transfer to a bowl. refrigerate until needed.
for the pumpkin yoghurt
4 tbsp. dairy free yoghurt
1 heaped tbsp. pumpkin puree
1 tbsp. orange juice
1 tbsp. maple syrup
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
whisk all the ingredients together until smooth and refrigerate until needed.
You might be wondering why I haven’t updated my blog in a while – or not, in which case, prepare yourself for a bit of an odd post. It’s been a tumultuous couple of months to say the least and I’d be lying if I said things are getting back to normal. They aren’t. As some of you might already be aware my Father has been suffering from terminal brain cancer for the last two years and just under a month ago he sadly lost his battle with that most cruel of diseases, and our lives have been irrevocably changed forever. A month. I can hardly believe it – it feels like I was hanging out with him in our conservatory in Derry but yesterday, watching ‘Homes Under the Hammer’ and generally making fun of the terrible job the so-called featured ‘property developers’ had made of the renovations. Compelling morning viewing, that we both thoroughly enjoyed. My Dad was always great company. Likeable and kind with the biggest of hearts – being around him made you feel good about yourself. So much so, I’m reminded of that well known Maya Angelou quote … ‘People will forget what you did but they will never forget how you made them feel’- or in my Dad’s case ‘People will never forget what he did or how he made them feel’, such was his unshakable positivity and generosity of spirit. Always armed with a brilliant sense of humour (the king of the one-liner!), he could make you see sense when you thought the world was falling down around you (I err on the side of dramatic at times) – and not forgetting the belief he instilled in me that I could conquer whatever I put my mind to. Even before his illness, his ability to put things into perspective was second to none.
So, here I am, without the very person I need to ‘put things into perspective’ and feeling like the world is a much worse place to be in – not quite sure what kind of positive spin he would put on this scenario but no doubt he’d have some comforting words on offer. Of course, I’m fully aware this is just another stage in this process they call ‘grief’ but in all honesty that doesn’t make things any easier. My ability to snap back into my life, work routine etc. has officially ground to a halt – and, as over-the-top as it may seem, I’ve even cancelled a trip to Sweden for a friend’s wedding because I’m simply not up to it. This post then is me dipping my toe back into normality and a weak attempt to metaphorically give myself a shake … the last thing my Dad would want is for me to mope about even though that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing since I got back to Cornwall. Grief is anything but logical. You can try and sweep it under the carpet but sooner or later it will find you, so I’m not going to deny it’s existence this time and allow myself the space I need to deal with this situation.
Okay, so it might seem strange to somehow shoe-horn in a recipe here but I don’t know how else to plough on. Despite my current fragile state, I’ve been finding some solace in the kitchen. Distraction is the name of the game. Although I’m kinda staying in my comfort zone too … no wild experiments at the moment, I’m seeking familiarity instead, which is why I combined two of my foodie loves; pancakes and Mexican food. I should probably come clean at this point and let you know that I have a love/hate relationship with buckwheat – I only like it in certain, very particular, cirumstances. If you’re in possession of my second book The New Vegan you’ll know I have one or two recipes in there that do utilize it … I recommend my ‘Buckwheat Muffins’ for a good intro to this funny naturally gluten-free ingredient. Try as I might though, I cannot get on board with buckwheat pancakes unless they are near enough wafer thin … not so much a crepe but almost akin to a traditional ‘Shrove Tuesday’ style pancake. I have many, many fond memories flipping these lace-like beauties with my Dad (he made a mean pancake), which we always paired with sugar and lemon – simple is almost always best. These pancakes are a savoury, nutty twist on a classic then that goes perfectly with the robust smoky chipotle stew. Similar to a fajita filling, this a dish definitely inspired by my Dad’s penchant for all things spicy – in fact, I’ve cranked up the jalapeno chilli factor in his honour. I hope you like it too.
what you’ll need
for the pancakes
70g buckwheat oats
several sprigs of thyme
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
juice 1/2 lemon
salt & pepper
for the stew
1/2 yellow onion
1 celery stick
1 sweet red pepper
3 garlic cloves
1 tbsp red jalapenos
1 heaped tsp chipotle paste
100ml coconut milk
1/2 cup black-eyed beans
salt & pepper
what you’ll do
place the buckwheat oats, thyme leaves, bicarb and seasoning into a blender. blitz until it forms a fine flour. transfer to a large mixing bowl and add the lemon and 150ml water. whisk until the batter is a similar consistency to single (soya, ahem) cream. set aside until you need it.
meanwhile, slice the onion, celery and red pepper. heat a little olive oil in a shallow skillet and add the veg. season and fry until it begins to soften.
mince the garlic and jalapenos together and add to pan. stir to combine and gently fry until the aromas begin to exude.
add the chipotle paste and coconut milk, season and bring to a gentle simmer for 10 mins. add the beans and simmer for a further 5 mins until the sauce thickens. cover and set aside until you whip up the pancakes.
brush a crepe pan with a little olive oil. over a medium heat ladle in a third of the mixture and spread immediately to the edges using a spatula. cook until the edges come away easily before flipping over for a further 30 secs. transfer to a dish and cover with a clean tea towel. repeat until all the batter is used.
there are a few ways you could serve this … either fold, crepe suzette-style and top with the stew or place the pancake in a large dish, fill and roll, or fold. For the tahini sauce simply whisk a heaped teaspoon of tahini together with the juice of 1/2 lemon, a dash of maple syrup and cider vinegar, salt & pepper to taste and a tablespoon or so of water to thin it out. Serve with sliced avocado, a generous drizzle of the tahini sauce and a final smattering of chopped parsley.
It’s officially a scorcher! Yowsas, I cannot believe the heat here at the moment … we finally have our summer – woohoo, wahay, yahoo! And, er, if you didn’t deduce from my sun-dance celebrations, I should probably inform you that I lurves the heat … the hotter the better, keep it comin’, no clouds allowed. When the sun is out I am one happy (freckly) girl – and yes, I do wear sunscreen before you ask. However, just because the sun’s out doesn’t mean I abandon my kitchen entirely. Instead I make sure I’m stocked up on refreshing snacks to keep us nice and cool … enter my Watermelon & Gin Granita. If you already own my first book ‘Keep it Vegan’ you will no doubt have come across my Cointreau Granita (yes, I like to use alcohol is my recipes, so shoot me), which is not only ridiculously easy to make but is super versatile too. I simply use the sugar syrup base and then add whatever ingredients I fancy – or have to hand in the kitchen. Standard. Recently I made a grapefruit version, which was pretty darn spectacular – so much so, even my grapefruit-loathing Husband happily snaffled it before promptly asking for seconds. That. Good. This watermelon twist was also another hit at a little midweek meet-up I hosted with my Sister-in-Law and her Hubby. Almost like an adult slushie (who doesn’t love an adult slushie?!), this simple little dessert seriously hits the spot on a piercingly hot summers day – in fact, straight after I took this photo, I practically inhaled the glass. Whilst it might look like fruity-coloured crushed ice (and it sorta is ‘cept better), the texture is quite different … soft and fluffy, kind of melt-in-your-mouth stuff, just amazing. I’m already onto my third batch in a fortnight and not even ashamed to say it. It’s also a terrific option if you don’t have an ice-cream maker – my one is basically broken (well, it never actually worked – long story), so I’m relying on granitas to see me through.
Because the weather has been so ruddy fantastic, we decided to forgo our planned holiday abroad and do a bit of stay-cationing instead. I mean, when you live in the best county in England (*cough cough*) it almost seems silly to fork out a fortune for a flight and hotel when we have some of the best beaches on our doorstep. Instead, we invested in a decent tent, as well as all the necessary accoutrements such as a gas stove, cooler bag etc. etc and headed to a part of Cornwall that we’d yet to properly explore – I highly recommend Polly Joke (quieter and more out of the way) and Crantock (busier but still fabulous). Last weekend was the trial run and it was beyond fantastic, so we really cannot wait to do it all again this Friday. As soon as Hubby gets back from work we are heading straight out (location yet to be decided) and pitching up for another glorious (fingers crossed) couple of days.
We also managed to squeeze in a trip to the cinema on Sunday evening to see Ghostbusters. I don’t think I can offer anything new to the overload of mixed reviews already on the internet except to say it had its moments but was generally disappointing. Even though I was optimistic and willing it to be great, it just didn’t do it for me … although I now have a total girl-crush on Kate McKinnon – or more precisely her character Holtzmann. I think Mark Kermode said she’s like a modern-day Tank Girl so that probably explains the appeal because I flippin’ loved Tank Girl! In actual fact the cast were pretty flawless and I think it has huge promise as a francise (bleugh) but it didn’t give me the same goosebumps as the Star Wars reboot and was bordering on ‘meh’. The story-line was the main issue (kinda crucial for a film) … it was zipping along nicely (the ‘haunted house’ opening was superb) until they became ‘the ghostbusters’ and then it fell a bit flat. The momentum just wasn’t there and even though I adore that semi-improv style, the pacing was off to me … in fact, I found the pacing was a bit ramshackle in general and needed something driving it on a bit more. With that said, there are definitely a handful of laugh-out-loud scenes (Chris Hemsworth as ‘Kevin’ was impeccable quite frankly) and it was certainly entertaining in parts – Melissa McCarthy has the ability to save any scene, any film, in my humble opinion, so it’s worth a watch for sure. On a positive note, I feel like now that they’ve established themselves as the new team, the next installment (if there is one?) will free them up to properly find their groove – I’m actually hoping they do make another one because it has heaps of potential … any excuse to see Holtzmann in action again.
what you’ll need
100g caster sugar
grated zest and juice of 1 lime
10g fresh basil
1/4 small watermelon
what you’ll do
place the sugar, water, lime zest and juice, and basil leaves in a pan. bring to a steady boil and then reduce to a simmer for a minute or two or until the sugar has completely dissolved. remove from heat and set aside to cool.
cut the watermelon into large chunks and blend to a smooth puree. Strain the sugar syrup through a fine mesh sieve and add to blender. blitz until completely smooth. pour into a suitable dish or container and whisk in the gin.
freeze for an hour before scraping the semi-frozen granita with a fork. repeat every 30mins or so for a couple of hours until you achieve the desired consistency.
spoon into small tumblers or glass and adorn with a basil leaf.
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
1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
for the quick pickle
1/2 red cabbage
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.
What should I share this week folks? Well, I’m just back from Ireland where I spent the last fortnight with my family and quite unbelievably I seemed to hit Derry at just the right time – hello heatwave! So yeah. Two weeks hanging with my Mum and Dad, helping out wherever I can (that invariably means being designated cook) and generally lending a bit of support … Dad had a bit of a dip a few weeks back but has thankfully rallied again. I can’t deny this is an emotional, stressful, overwhelming time for us all and I’d feel weird acting as if everything is totally normal on the blog so I thought it best to be upfront and honest about the whole thing. Anyway, our family isn’t one to wallow in our sorrows and I can assure you there’s still plenty of laughs to be had … my Dad still cracks us up from time to time – joking about things that are essentially grim is seemingly his forte. I think it’s the only way he/we can deal with this horrible hand we’ve been dealt. Generally speaking, us Irish do tend to use humour to counteract difficult situations – the troubles being just one example. It’s probably another reason why Freud deemed us ‘one race for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever’ … not that I entirely agree with that sentiment, as I’m a habitual over-sharer and don’t mind going in for some deep and meaningful’s myself. Nevertheless, therapy is still far from the norm in Northern Ireland so banter acts as a good daily antidote to daily strifes.
My current way of clearing my head, however, is to declutter. And then declutter some more. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m a ‘maximalist minimalist’ mainly because I’m forever drawn to colour and from what little I know about this lifestyle it’s all about the neutrals. My home and wardrobe are feeling ever more pared back though, and it’s actually quite liberating – so much so, it’s infiltrated how we approach things (life) in general in a big way. Whilst I still love great design, it more about function for me now … decorative items just hold no sway with me anymore and the same goes for my closet, which could almost be classified as a ‘capsule’ collection at this point. Pretty much everything can be mixed and matched bar one or two items that are a bit more unique. I can’t see us going back to our old ways at this stage.
Travelling has also become something we want to explore again, which is how our ‘month in Berlin’ idea came about. So we’re upping sticks this summer and moving to this awesome German city for what we’re calling a ‘working holiday’ – I honestly cannot wait to eat my weight in awesome vegan food and immerse myself in oodles of culture. I’ll definitely be uploading blog posts to accompany our stay and give you the lowdown on what has become something of a European vegan mecca.
Even though we’ll be eating out a lot when we’re there I also want to do plenty of cooking – we always opt for self-catering. Recipes like this rawnola are going to be super handy for breakfasts and snacks because they’re quick to make and satisfy those sweet cravings. The Cornish Sea Salt ‘cinnamon salt’ addition is an absolute must in my opinion but if you can’t get your hands on it simply add a pinch of good quality sea salt (or pink himalayan salt) and a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. There’s something about sweet and salty that just really hits the spot for me. I’ve never been one for indulging in confectionary but give me a bowl of granola and fruit and I’m one happy lady. If you’re anything like me and classify breakfast as the happiest meal of the day then this is going to be a little lifesaver – you can mix up the ingredients to suit too … not got almonds? Use brazil nuts or cashews instead. You could also swap the oats for buckwheat flakes – it’s entirely up to you. Simply use this ‘recipe’ (such as it is) to create your own perfect rawnola. Enjoy!
what you’ll need
1 cup regular oats
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1/4 cup whole almonds
4 x medjool dates
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 tsp cinnamon salt
what you’ll do
place the oats, coconut and almonds in food processor and pulse to break apart.
add the stoned dates, raisins and cinnamon and pulse until it forms a sticky rubble – be sure not to overwork the mixture.
refrigerate for an hour to firm or serve immediately.
place a handful of rawnola in a bowl, add sliced apple and pour over you favourite plant milk. finish with a little more coconut and cinnamon salt.
Meals made in haste are often the most delicious. Take these ‘fridge-raid’ summer rolls for instance. I was looking to use up all the odds and ends in my fridge before I headed over to Ireland and rice paper rolls seemed like the perfect vehicle in which to do so. Even if you have zero knife skills and simply wish to grate everything, these really are one of the simplest go-to meals – and they taste flipping amazing … even if we did have a laugh as to what the wraps themselves reminded us of. Erm, less said on that the better. This is a food blog after all.
Not really a recipe (seeing as you can use just about anything you have to hand) but I did like the coleslaw-like combo esp. when pared with the avocado and/or cucumber … a nice balance of crunch and creaminess with a fresh mix of flavours to boot. I threw in some chilli flakes and sesame seeds for added oomph but they’re pretty much optional (particularly if you’re a heat-phobe) – although they do make the rolls look rather pretty in my opinion. I’m not the greatest at rolling these suckers I must admit and by gosh are they fiddly so I wouldn’t worry if they are less than picture perfect – once they’re in your gob it won’t matter. Just be sure not to overfill to avoid the rice paper tearing. For the same reason, you won’t want to roll them too tightly either – err on the side of caution until you’ve perfected your skills a bit.
Even though I didn’t include it in these photos (I’ll explain) I actually made a seriously yummy dipping sauce by whisking together sweet chilli sauce, coconut cream and lime. It was heavenly. And to top it off I poured myself a chilled glass of pinot to cheers my last night in Cornwall for a couple of weeks. I know, ridiculously over the top but leaving Cornwall has that effect on me. Oh yes! Dipping sauce. So, I desperately wanted to blog but was limited on time and resources, which is how these super easy morsels came about. I rustled them up in minutes and quickly took some photos before my Husband came home, so didn’t fuss over them too much – and failed to include the dipping sauce, which I actually made much later when we had them with our wine. I’m not sure if this how blogging is done these days … a lot of it seems overly contrived and bears very little resemblance to the food blogging world I so fondly remember. Y’know, where people talked at length about themselves, their lives and blogged about things they actually ate? Ah, I’ve gone all misty eyed. Anyway.
Okay, so things have evolved (or devolved – I can’t figure out which) over the six or so years I’ve been blogging and still I gravitate towards blogs that have an air of authenticity about them. Same goes for my YouTube viewing. Sure, I occasionally get suckered in by a click-bait title or image but generally speaking I try to avoid anything with the word ‘haul’ in the title and I pretty much loathe those ‘response’ videos that are all the rage. I basically don’t get it – but then again, I’m probably not their target audience. I much prefer people that aren’t in it solely for the views and are simply making quality content without any ‘in your face’ agenda. Of course, I love anything food related so recipe or ‘what I eat in day’ vids will always warrant a watch … specifically, I’m currently loving Lauren Toyota and her food channel ‘Hot For Food’ and am still obsessed with Mango Island Mamma who doesn’t post particularly regularly but it’s always worth the wait. I’ve also got a soft spot for Angie and Ryan over at Happy Healthy Vegan and I think at this stage I can officially claim my ‘Tang Gang’ title given the fact my guilty pleasure is indulging in silly amounts of ‘Mommy Tang’. I didn’t realise watching someone eat for an hour could be quite so riveting.
To try and keep some equilibrium in my life, however, I’ve actually been limiting my screen time in general … that includes all phone activity – so social media is being rationed. I’ve also put a phone-ban in place 20mins prior to bedtime (this excludes ‘guided meditation’ on YouTube) and now sleep with it on airplane mode – my Husband’s suggestion and I can tell you it works a treat. Not only that but I now make sure it’s not the first thing I look at in the morning – other than to turn off my alarm, of course. This way, I allow my head-space to be filled with other things rather than cramming in more useless information via twitter. I take time to savour all those little morning tasks and try not to be in too much of a rush to join the ‘real world’ … which can be difficult for my restless hands and mind. To that end, I have finally jumped aboard the ‘colouring book’ bandwagon and a week in I can safely say I wish I’d done it sooner. It was my salvation when travelling back to Ireland and it also means I’m not glued to my phone when I’m here either. In fact, my last two mornings have involved smoothies, porridge – and a bit of calm and collected colouring. Bliss.
I feel like I’ve really broken through a bit of a mental barrier of late and I’ll share more over the next few weeks. I’ve been prioritizing nightly walks and trying to integrate guided meditation into my life, which I know sounds like total new-age hippy nonsense but it’s actually helping me on so many levels – especially prior to bedtime. If, like me, you thought you just aren’t suited to this whole meditation melarkey I urge you to give it a go anyway – you might surprise yourself. And even if it does nothing for you, at least you can soothe your sorrows with a little summer roll. Both are equally effective.
what you’ll need
6 vietnamese rice wrappers
1 small carrot
1/2 red pepper
handful finely sliced red cabbage
1 spring onion
1/2 large avocado
handful of rocket
2 tbsp roughly chopped coriander
1 heaped chilli flakes
1 tsesame seeds
3 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
1 tbsp coconut cream
juice 1/2 lime
what you’ll do
finely slice or grate the carrot, red cabbage, red pepper and spring onion. slice the avocado and cucumber lengthways.
soak the vietnamese rice wrappers one at a time in a large bowl of cold water for about 30secs and then transfer to a clean chopping board. you can dab it dry with a clean tea towel but quite honestly, I just fill and roll.
sprinkle over the chilli flakes and sesame seeds before laying on the avocado or cucumber slice followed by the rocket, sliced veg and coriander – ensuring there is a little room at the bottom and either side.
to roll, fold the two sides in first and then fold over the bottom part of the wrapper. continue rolling until the roll is completely secure. repeat process until all the ingredients are used and refrigerate until needed.
for the dipping sauce, simply whisk the sweet chilli, coconut cream and lime juice together until combined. serve alongside the rolls.