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

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

 

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

with a balsamic orange dressing

 

what you’ll need

1 large sweet potato

1 heaped tsp. za’atar

zest of 1 orange

1 tbsp. olive oil

sea salt and pepper

 

for the kale salad

150g kale, leaves stripped

Juice of 1/2 orange

200g pre-cooked black beans

2 tbsp. hemp hearts

salt and pepper

 

Balsamic & Orange Dressing

1 heaped tsp. dijon mustard

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

juice 1/2 orange

1 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tbsp. agave or coconut palm syrup

pinch of salt and pepper

 

what you’ll do

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

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Roasted Golden Plums with Coconut Yoghurt

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Sometimes I fancy something mildly sweet after dinner but I still want it to verge ever so slightly on the healthy side. Fruit is an obvious choice but I always like to spruce it up a little – it just makes it feel that extra bit special. If you already own my second book, The New Vegan, you’ll no doubt already be familiar with my penchant for roasted plums. These are a little spin on that concept but with orange blossom water and ground ginger instead … I also crumble over some brown sugar so that the tops get nicely caramelized in the oven. You can obviously make these ahead of time and store them in the fridge but for the full effect I prefer them warm, served alongside my favourite coconut yoghurt and a scattering of toasted almonds. So simple but oh so good.

 

I’ve been taking things easy in the kitchen lately. Eating and shopping reasonably frugally and not getting too caught up in making every meal a groundbreaking dish. I’m actually getting so much pleasure from keeping things basic, relying on organic, seasonal produce and making do with what I happen to have in the pantry. As a food writer/recipe developer, it’s so easy to get caught up in the chaos that is social media … truthfully, too much time spent on any of these popular platforms can zap your creativity. Far from it being inspiration, for me it can almost lead to the recipe equivalent of writers block … nothing ever feels good enough and so I find myself doing nothing at all.

 

Of course, no-one is really to blame in these scenarios other than ourselves. Whilst I’m borderline addicted to instagram, I’ve also become increasingly wary of it, which has led to me posting less regularly but more purposefully. I find this brings me greater joy in the long run because it feels authentic and a more genuine reflection of me and my life. Becoming overwhelmed by social media and our participation in it can be challenging for everybody at times and whilst it can breed a positive sense of community and connection (something we all crave) I also think it has the potential to create a damaging sense of distrust. It can be difficult to differentiate the person from the persona, fact from fiction … if you get what I mean? It’s a funny old thing when you think about it – we’re revealing aspects of ourselves that present a partial but not wholly accurate picture. Like a rose-tinted ‘vsco-ed to the hilt’ glimpse into a fraction of our day. Why do we even do it? 21st century living is insane.

 

Anyway, I’m pleased that I’m making strides in finding a better balance for me. My love for blogging has been re-awakened recently and because of that I’ll soon be moving the whole kit and kaboodle over to squarespace, complete with new name and logo. It’s definitely time for a change … a lot has transpired over the last seven or eight years and I now need an online space that echoes that. Don’t worry though, it’ll still be the same old me, same old musings but with hopefully some new and interesting content too – I really hope you’ll join me on this next phase of my blogging life, it really wouldn’t be the same without you!

 

what you’ll need

5 organic golden plums

2 tbsp. agave or maple syrup

1 tbsp. orange blossom water

2 tbsp. orange juice

1/4 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tbsp. light brown or palm sugar

 

to serve

coconut yoghurt

1/4 cup toasted almonds

basil leaves

 

what you’ll do

 

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6/200c.

 

Halve the plums, remove the stones and place flesh side up in a small baking dish. Pour over the sweetener, orange blossom water and orange juice before dusting with ground ginger and brown/palm sugar. Bake for 25-30mins until bubbling and ever so slightly charred.

 

Distribute the flaked almonds on a baking tray and place in the same oven for 5 or so minutes, shaking the pan from time to time, until they are evenly toasted.

 

Fill a small bowl with coconut yoghurt and top with the roasted plums. Finish with a smattering of toasted almonds, a few basil leaves and serve.

 
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Dreamy Days with Waitrose

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It’s been a while since I attended a garden party. Heck, it’s been a while since I attended any kind of party – let it be known your thirties are pretty dry on the party front so make the most of it while you can. When this delightful invite from Waitrose came through the door then (in all it’s hamper and Heston’s ‘Garden Cup’ glory) I already knew it would be swell (I’m bringing back this much maligned word), making my answer a very easy ‘yes’! Obviously, the one thing Waitrose has in bucket-loads is style … make that laid back, 100% British class – but I wasn’t fully expecting the bells and whistles shindig they hosted in the grounds of the stunningly beautiful Leckford Estate. Did you know they’re the only supermarket in the UK that has their own farm? Nope, neither did I.

 

Seasonality was at the heart of the event with a to-die-for menu created especially for the mostly vegan/plant-based guests who ranged from The Little Plantation (stylist extraordinaire) to ‘Ballet Blast’ Beauty Naturally Sassy and the smoothie-bowl queen herself Alpha Foodie. After a guided tour through the nursery we entered into something of a magical fairyland complete with grounds that would make you weep … if you ever get the chance you must take a stroll through the water garden, it is beyond breathtaking and I could quite happily have spent the day there. Already feeling pretty zen we made our way to the teepee the organisers had erected near the lake – it’s always best to err on the side of caution in England and lo it did actually rain momentarily before the sun came out and the temperature soared. Hurrah!

 

Sipping on apple juice and crunching on probably the best vegan arancini I’ve sampled, us bloggers mingled and chatted, oohed and aahed, at well, pretty much everything. Glancing over the menu (p.s. all recipes are on the Waitrose site I believe), I was so impressed with the thought and precision that had gone into our super elegant lunch (huge shout-out to Waitrose Cookery School) … from the courgette fritters to the roasted cauliflower (with insanely yummy maple granola) and especially (oh, especially) the dessert options … three no-less if you count the apple crisp palette cleanser, crazy delicious lemon jelly and a coconut panna cotta I can only describe as akin to eating a cloud. All of it lush. All of it seasonal. I was a very happy vegan indeed.
 
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Having not consumed alcohol for the best part of a month, I really savoured the chilled white ‘sauvignon blanc-esque’ wine they served, as well as the sweet dessert wine, which had some unusual bitter notes too … a little reminiscent of aperol, which is totally up my street. The alcohol on offer was British made and, of course, 100% vegan, so I felt it would’ve been churlish not to indulge somewhat;)

 

The purpose of us being there? Well, apart from having a lovely afternoon, we got to see firsthand the passion that goes into the produce on offer at Waitrose under the hashtag #WaitroseAtSource. It’s no news to me that the quality is some of the best you’ll find in the UK but I was still amazed at the obsessive care that goes into growing it. Whether it’s the tonnes of mushrooms that are produced directly on the estate each year to the vineyard that supplies the grapes for the wine, all of it echoed the sentiments of the team who talked enthusiastically about the estate and also working for Waitrose. It was an education to say the least.

 

After all that eating, drinking and chatting, the only way to rightly bookend a very British garden party is to indulge in a little flower arranging – am I right? Off we trotted down to an abundant flower display where we chose our favourite blooms, which were then transformed them into a beautiful bouquet … I’m not saying I may have required a little more ‘flower arranging’ help than most but I definitely required more help than most, ahem. Suffice to say it was a dreamy end to a dreamy day, and has certainly got my summer off to swell (there’s that word again!) start. Now if only I can recreate the same mood in my teeny soulless courtyard out the back … well, God does love a trier!
 
*this is a sponsored post but all words and thoughts are 100% heartfelt xxx
 
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Potato Salad Tacos

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Tinned Potato Tacos. It’s has an air of 1972 about it. Not that I would know being an eighties child myself – and with little to no prior knowledge of such things having never even engaged with them up until now. Let me put this rather odd little convenience food purchase into context. I’m currently on the hunt for a very particular sized can … one that can both double as a vase (stay with me) and a cutlery holder. You see, I’m in the the business of repurposing things at present but that doesn’t mean my aesthetic requirements have gone completely out of the window. As soon as I spied this perfectly proportioned can in my local Lidl I was like ‘bingo'(!) – perfect height, width etc. Only problem is the contents look vile. I mean, they’re only potatoes but I still find it creepy. I have the same aversion to tinned sweetcorn. Creepy.

 

So, they’ve been languishing in my pantry (ahem ‘my pantry’ – so delighted with myself) for a number of weeks now whilst i summoned the courage to actually open and use the damn things. Anyway, yesterday was the day because I knew I should probably make dinner a little ahead of time as we had scheduled our first ever adult swimming lesson (we don’t suck but there’s so much room for improvement – keep learning kids!). I had a feeling I wouldn’t want to be getting too involved in any hardcore kitchen shenanigans afterwards but with very little in the fridge (and up to my ears in DIY chores) I decided to make do with what I had. Hence … tinned potatoes.

 

Turns out tinned potatoes really aren’t that creepy. Yes, tiny and perfectly peeled, but creepy? Not so much. I thought about roasting them or even frying them in a hot pan with spices but in the end I opted for the easy, er, option. I’m a total sucker for potato salad and because I also had some tacos lingering in my pantry (‘my pantry’ … now I’m just showing off) I thought what a perfect little lazy Wednesday pairing – and you know what? It really was.

 

Tossed with the most beautiful spring onions I’ve seen all season, minced jalapenos, chopped celery, cucumber and a handful of my all-time (okay, top three) favourite herb, dill, these sad looking little spuds were magically transformed into something moderately fresh. However, if your aversion to tinned tatties is even greater than mine, then by all means use some freshly boiled/steamed salad potatoes instead – I’m not a wholehearted aficionado myself but y’know, needs must. And also … real life eats!! Because whatever happened to that on the internet?! Does anyone even do that any more? Youtube seems to be the only place to get my ‘what I ate in a day’ fix these days so I’m bringing a little of that realness to this blog. Making do is a thing – and sometimes you get a cool (ish) cutlery container out of it too. Just saying.

 

what you’ll need

 

for the potato salad

560g tin peeled potatoes, drained and rinsed

2 large spring onions, finely sliced

1 heaped tbsp. minced red or green jalapenos

1 celery stick, finely chopped

1/4 cucumber, quartered and sliced

10g roughly chopped dill

juice 1/2 lime

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

sea salt & pepper

 

For the hummus dressing

150g hummus

juice 1/2 lime

 

to serve

6 taco-sized tortillas, lightly griddled

1 ripe avocado, sliced

100g shop-bought tomatillo (or regular) salsa

1 lime, quartered

1 heaped tsp. cumin for dusting

 

what you’ll do

 

Drain and rinse the potatoes and add to a large mixing bowl. Season generously before adding the spring onion, minced jalapenos, celery and cucumber. Spritz over the lime, drizzle over the olive oil and toss to combine. Roughly chop the dill and add to bowl. Gently toss and set aside until needed.

 
Heat a griddle pan on a high heat. Add the tortillas and lightly toast on both sides until they puff. Transfer to an awaiting plate and cover with a clean tea towel to keep warm.
 
De-stone the avocado and finely slice. Spritz over a little lime juice to prevent it browning. Whisk the hummus and lime juice together until smooth.
 
Build the tacos by first layering on the hummus dressing, followed by a generous heaping of potato salad. Add a slice or two of avocado and a drizzle of salsa. Finish with a few dill fronds, a dash of cumin and serve.

 

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Pistachio Dusted Tahini Truffles

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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!

 

Ingredients

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

 

To coat

2 heaped tbsp. raw cacao powder

50g pulverized pistachios

 

Method

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!

 

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Plum & Granola Crumble

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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

70g oats

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.

 

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Pumpkin Smoothie Bowl

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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

2 bananas

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.

 

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Mini Jacket Potato ‘Hygge’ Bowl

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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

1/2 lime

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

 

tahini dressing

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.

 
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Pumpkin & Orange Pancakes

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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.

 

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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.

 
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Savoury Buckwheat Pancakes with a Spicy Chipotle Stew


 
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

olive oil

 

to serve

chopped parsley

sliced avocado

tahini sauce

 

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.

 

 

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