Valentine’s Sharing Plate

Recipes, Sculpt With Sasha

I’m really not a big Valentine’s Day person but I think everyone needs a good excuse to jazz things up this year! Instead of anything typically ‘romantic’, I think the best food to have with loved ones (be that for Valentine’s / Galentine’s / Palentine’s) is something you have to share – sharing is caring after all!

So here is my idea for a ‘cheats’ hummus sharing plate studded with pink pomegranate seeds and pickled red onion for some classic Valentine’s appeal! I’ve tried to make it as simple as possible while still feeling like it involves just that little bit of extra effort for you to impress your loved one. I hope you like it and feel inspired!

If you’ve come here through your Sculpt With Sasha membership then don’t forget to check out this week’s Self Love workouts! Whether you’re loving yourself, your pet, best friend, boyfriend, partner, wife, girlfriend, husband, soulmate or sibling make sure you share some good food and look after each other this chilly February!


Ingredients

Pickled red onion

  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 200ml warm water
  • 100ml cider or red wine vinegar
  • 1 red onion, sliced as thinly as possible
  1. Pour the warm water and sugar into a jug and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Then add in the salt and vinegar.
  3. Pack the red onion into a clean jar and pour the pickling mixture over the top. Leave overnight and keep for up to 3 weeks. Use to decorate all of your delicious food – they’re great in wraps, salads and on top of daal!

Roasted cauliflower

  • 1/2 cauliflower head, cut into florets
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric 
  1. Heat the oven to 200C. Spread the cauliflower on a baking tray, cover with spices, a pinch of salt and a good glug of oil. Use your hands to coat all of the cauliflower florets.
  2. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until soft enough to get a fork through. If you are including falafel in your meal make sure you sync up the oven timings with the cauliflower – you can pop them on the same baking tray to save space and washing up – see the ‘To serve’ section for more.

[Don’t forget to roast the leaves! They are delicious with oil and salt and make the perfect side dish!]


Spinach salad

  • 2 handfuls of spinach, shredded
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1 spring onion
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Pinch of fresh parsley, chopped
  • Pinch of fresh coriander, chopped
  1. Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and toss. Season with salt and pepper and set to one side until serving.

[Shredding the spinach gives it a different texture and makes it absorb the flavours of the dressing more easily]


To serve

  • 1 pack 8-10 falafels or halloumi
  • 1 tbsp hummus per person
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate seeds
  • Flat breads, naan breads, wraps or anything else used for dipping
  1. If using falafel, heat the oven to 200C. Warm the falafel according to packet instructions. If using halloumi, heat a frying pan with a drizzle of olive oil. Slice the halloumi to desired thickness and fry for 3-5 minutes or until lightly golden on each side, turning half way through.
  2. Warm any flatbreads you are using according to packet instructions.
  3. Spread or dollop, depending on your style, a tablespoon of hummus on each plate or on one sharing platter. Top the hummus with warm falafel or halloumi or both. Spoon the spinach salad next to the hummus. Tip the cauliflower onto the plate and top with pomegranate and pickled onions.
  4. Enjoy with flatbreads or wraps and eat with your hands! Nothing says romance like hummus under your finger nails and stuffing your faces!

Mushroom Curry

Quarantine, Recipes, Sculpt With Sasha

Congratulations on making it (nearly) to the end of January! It’s been even longer, colder and darker than usual but hopefully you still feel like you’ve achieved a little something. Tried a new recipe? Completed the SWS Release and Renew challenge? Kept a houseplant alive? Binged Bridgerton? It’s all truly an achievement.

Here’s a recipe to brighten this drizzly week and remind you that even if life is a little dull at the moment… at least it can still be delicious.

The mushrooms in this recipe can be swapped out for almost any other vegetable! I know some people aren’t fans of mushrooms or have had dodgy curry house mushroom curries that they might not be keen to repeat… I was one of these people. I’m not sure what made me want to make this recipe this week but I had a craving and a lot of mushrooms in the fridge to use. This would also be great with peppers, aubergine or okra (fried with the onion), roasted cauliflower or green beans (stirred in at the end like the mushrooms), or even with, dare I say it, some meat! Whatever your preference, this recipe will accept you!


Serves: 3-4 with rice or as part of a selection of curries

Ingredients:

  • 2 punnets of mushrooms, any kind, I used button and shiitake, a mixture of sliced and halved for variety, keeping some quite big
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped, optional
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 3 large tomatoes or a handful of cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • Chilli flakes, to taste

Method:

  1. Heat a large frying pan on the hob without any oil in it. Throw in the mushrooms and toss for 5 minutes. This is a technique Jamie Oliver uses for getting mushrooms really nutty tasting and it stops them shrinking as much. Remove the mushrooms from the pan when starting to smell delicious and turn golden. Place in a bowl and set to one side.
  2. Add a glug of oil to the pan and fry the onion until softened. Add in the garlic and chilli and fry for another few minutes. Stir in the curry powder, ground cumin, turmeric and ground coriander, tossing everything in the spices.
  3. Add in the tomatoes, allowing them to breakdown slightly before stirring in the coconut milk. Season generously. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Tip the mushrooms back into the pan, stirring them into the sauce.
  5. Serve with rice and top with fresh coriander and chilli flakes.

Harissa Chickpea Stew

Recipes, Sculpt With Sasha

This week’s recipe for Sculpt With Sasha members uses similar ingredients to last week but in a whole new way. I thought this would be an easy way to reduce waste and stop you having to buy too many new ingredients, especially when people want to be braving the supermarket as little as possible at the moment!

I had one of those days at work where you spend ages on a task and then realise that a tiny part of it was wrong at the beginning… so then all of it is wrong and you have to start from scratch… so here is a Groundhog Day meal, reminiscent of last week’s flavours, for a Groundhog Day kind of week… month… year?!

I’m sure everyone knows what those sort of days feel like and I think the best way to work through that feeling is to cook yourself something really damn good! The whole flat smelled like smoked paprika and sweet tomatoes, including the pyjamas I was cooking in (yes, that kind of a day), and the everything was better again! So I hope this recipe brings you as much comfort and warmth as it did me.

Serves: 2-3

Ingredients:

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 fat clove garlic, minced
  • 1 red or orange pepper, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 courgette, cut in half longways and sliced
  • 1 tbsp harissa 
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes (refill with water)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1tsp cumin
  • 150g cherry tomatoes
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes

Method:

  1. Fry the onion with a little oil in a large pan until soft, then add in the garlic and fry for 5 minutes more.
  2. Add in the pepper and courgette, frying for a few minutes more. Stir through the harissa to coat all of the veg along with the spices and the chopped tomatoes. Fill the tomato can with water and add to the pan, stirring into the mixture to make a sauce. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Mix in the chickpeas and cherry tomatoes. Continue to simmer until the tomatoes start to burst. Scatter with chilli flakes and serve by itself or with the below.

Golden Rice:

  • 1 small knob butter (or vegan butter)
  • 1/3 onion
  • Small mug rice
  • 1/2 stock cube
  • 1 tsp turmeric 

Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Lightly fry the onion until softened. Rinse the rice and then add to the pan with the stock cube, turmeric and 1.5 mugs of water. Put a lid on the pan and simmer for around 15 minutes or until all of the water has been absorbed and the rice is cooked – be careful that it doesn’t stick!


Tahini sauce

In a small bowl combine 1 tbsp tahini with 1 tbsp water and stir. It will look like it is curdling and horrible at first but keep stirring and it will come together. Keep adding more water until the sauce in the texture of caesar salad dressing. Stir through any other flavours that you like: black pepper, garlic granules, dried herbs, nutritional yeast, lemon juice – whatever you fancy! Drizzle over the chickpea stew, salads, roasted veg or pretty much anything really… mmmm…

Vegan Moussaka Lentils

Recipes, Sculpt With Sasha

With a frost in the air and snow across parts of the country, I thought everyone could do with a warming recipe this week. Spice up your mid-week meals with this veggie twist on a Greek classic. This is a basic lentil recipe with lots of suggestions on how to use it below, but it also works very well as a comforting bowl of healthy, hearty goodness all on its own.

Hello to any Sculpt With Sasha members! I hope you enjoyed last week’s recipe and are ready for more. I’d love to see pics of you making this one and seeing where it takes you!

This week has already been cold and grey enough to send people into a bit of a new year stupor, but don’t feel disheartened. It’s all about the baby steps! Whether you complete a SWS workout this week, or try to make this recipe, or just get out of bed and shower: YOU ARE DOING GREAT!

Nourish yourself, eat well, move your body, sleep lots, do what you need to do to shake off the January blues. This year will get better. Put on some music and dance while you chop up some veggies for this week’s recipe…

Serves 2-3 (depending what you serve it with)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 onion, diced 
  • 1 fat clove of garlic, diced
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 yellow pepper, diced
  • 1/2 courgette, diced 
  • 1 tbsp harissa
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 150g red lentils 

Method:

  1. In a deep frying pan or small-medium casserole dish heat a gulg of oil on a medium heat and fry the onion until beginning to soften. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Add in the pepper and courgette (or other vegetables of choice).
  2. Stir through the harissa, tomato purée and spices, coating all the veggies. Fry for 5 minutes until the veg are starting to soften and have taken on the flavour of the spices. Season. 
  3. Rinse the lentils – this will stop any scum forming on top of your dish while they cook. Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan followed by the lentils and stir together. Fill the tomato can with water and use to add to the dish as required. You do not want to let the dish stick to the bottom or get too dry. The lentils will absorb a lot of water so keep adding if needed. Cover with a lid, lower the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, checking and stirring every so often until the lentils are soft and have the texture of a thick daal. 

To serve:

Basically, I couldn’t decide! Try out any combination of the options below:

  • Serve as it is with brown rice, spinach or kale for a nutritious dinner
  • Serve with flatbreads and hummus or natural yoghurt 
  • For a more traditional moussaka-style dish, double the quantities above and layer lentils with slices of lightly fried aubergine and top with cashew sauce (recipe below) or béchamel to serve 4
  • Or try a ‘deconstructed’ moussaka bowl like I did with slices of fried aubergine, a scoop of cashew sauce and a handful of fresh spinach for some greenery. This is great if you’re short on time but still want all the comforting flavours of a veggie moussaka 

Cashew sauce

This is one that I’ve picked up and altered over the years from a BOSH recipe but I don’t think I have looked at the recipe since I first saw it, but luckily it happily takes free styling in its stride. Increase the quantities and use in a vegan lasagne, add to a white sauce to give it an extra level of richness, or just spoon on top of your meals like I do!

Ingredients:

75g cashews 

50ml oat milk

1 tbsp nutritional yeast

1tsp garlic granules

  1. Boil the cashews in a small saucepan for 10 minutes until they soften and start to lose a bit of their colour.
  2. Tip the boiled cashews into a blender with the rest of the ingredients and some seasoning. Blend until smooth and thick. If the sauce is too thick, add either more oat milk or a splash of the water you cooked the cashews in and blend again.
  3. Liberally spread, spoon and stir through everything you eat for the rest of your days.

New Year Tofu Bowl

Recipes, Sculpt With Sasha

Happy New Year! I’m trying to kick off the year, as ever, with some good habits but I want them to be sustainable and actually focused on making me happy more than anything else. My parents have opted for some crazy keto-inspired diet, which sounds truly horrifying as a borderline-dairy-intolerant-vegetarian! As we won’t be sharing many family meals for a while, I’m putting more effort into making the food that I really want to eat – starting today.

I’ve teamed up with my friend Sasha to write delicious weekly recipes for her wonderful subscribers. She runs a fitness subscription site that combines pilates, yoga, cardio, barre – basically if you want to feel the burn, she’s your woman! Sasha has loads of amazing videos, and when you think how much fitness classes used to cost when the world was normal… it’s a bloody steal PLUS there’s nobody there to see my bright red face sweating away to the music. Make sure you have a look at sculptwithsasha.com for more info and subscribe to her brilliant workouts if you can!

This recipe can be used as a guide and will work with lots of substitutions, so just use what you have and get a bit inspired! It’s the perfect make-ahead lunch to save those precious daylight hours in your lunch breaks too.

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 head broccoli, divided into florets
  • 1 sweet potato or 1/2 a butternut squash, cubed, about the size of a Quality Street
  • 1 red onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds, or spice of your choice
  • 1 tsp sumac, or spice of your choice
  • 1 block tofu, cubed
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp garlic granules
  • 2 handfuls of spinach or kale
  • Olive oil

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 200°. Toss the broccoli, sweet potato and red onion (or other veg of choice) with the cumin seeds, sumac and a drizzle of oil on a baking tray. You may wish to keep the sweet potato at one end of the tray in case it needs slightly longer to cook. Roast for 20-25 mins, until the broccoli is starting to crisp and the sweet potato or squash is soft.
  2. While the veg is cooking heat a glug of oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat. Once hot throw in the tofu. Allow to cook for a couple of minutes, tossing occasionally. Then add the soy sauce, garlic granules and a good few cracks of black pepper, stirring to coat all of the tofu. Fry for a further 10-15 minutes until your desired level of crispiness. I use garlic granules with tofu as it helps the tofu to take on more flavour and doesn’t burn as quickly as fresh garlic would on such a high heat. If you’re a fan of super crispy tofu try tossing it in cornflour before frying!
  3. To serve, fill two bowls or plates with a handful of spinach each (or lightly steamed kale) then top with the roasted veg and crispy tofu.
  4. Add any dressing, extra olive oil or toppings that your heart desires – I added a drizzle of tahini and some pumpkin seeds to mine to complement the sumac and cumin, but I will post some extra ideas below!

Why not try…

  • Tossing the veg with smoked paprika, adding chilli flakes to the tofu and squeezing over a lime for some zing!
  • Replacing the vegetable spices with some Chinese 5 spice and adding extra soy sauce to the tofu for an asian twist!
  • Adding a spoonful of hummus to your bowl for a new texture and flavour dynamic!

Make your own veggie stock

Recipes, Waste reduction

Making your own vegetable stock is incredibly simple and uses up ingredients you would otherwise be throwing away. In an effort to make your kitchen as low-waste as possible, this is a great way to get the most from your veg.

Food waste bins are a good way to minimise landfill, as food decomposes a hell of a lot faster when surrounded by other natural matter than it does when it’s in a big mound of plastic, but not everyone has access to one and if you haven’t got a garden to make compost in it can be tricky to reduce your waste.

To start with, set up a bowl in your kitchen and throw in all your vegetable peelings. The size of your household and how many vegetables you cook with will alter how many scraps you end up with but whatever amount you have can be frozen in a container or reusable sandwich bag and added to throughout the week.

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, unpeeled, quartered
  • 2 carrots, unpeeled and cut into large, rough chunks
  • 2 sticks celery, cut into large, rough chunks
  • 2 garlic cloves, unpeeled, crushed with the side of a knife
  • 1-2 bunches herbs of your choice, left whole, preferably fresh thyme and parsley but use whatever you fancy/have
  • 1.5 litres water or enough to cover all your veg and fill a pan of your choice

Great vegetable scraps to use and freeze:

  • Cabbage ends
  • Broccoli and cauliflower stalks and leaves
  • Pepper cores
  • Spring onion ends
  • Celery leaves and bases
  • Carrot tops, tails and peels
  • Onion and garlic skins
  • Scraps of any other veggies, whack them in!

Method:

  1. Throw all of your ingredients and frozen scraps into a deep saucepan and cover with the water. Season as much as you would like or not at all. Bring to the boil and then simmer partially covered for 1.5-2.5 hours, the longer the better. Season if you like but this is not essential – I sometimes add a pinch of peppercorns in to give it a bit of punch.
  2. Take off the heat and remove the big chunks of veg with a slotted spoon and discard. Strain the rest of the stock through a fine sieve. It should have a good, relatively dark colour from the onion skins.
  3. Store in a sealed jar or container of your choice in the fridge for up to a week or freeze for later. Use to make delicious soup, rice dishes, ramen and the ultimate veggie gravy!

Best ever vegan bolognese

Recipes

Not exactly an Italian spaghetti bolognese… I only had bow tie pasta in the house – the tweest of all the pasta shapes – so have fully broken away from tradition with this recipe!

You can make this recipe with whatever faux mince you would like, I always use Suma’s TVP mince because it only has three ingredients and I think it has the best texture – it isn’t trying too hard to become meat like some brands. It is available from most Co-op supermarkets and I’ve seen it in all kinds of health shops including Holland and Barrett. If you want ultimate comfort food and a good nostalgic taste, then this is the recipe for you. Even if you eat meat and are trying to cut down (beef is the least environmental meat after all) you will enjoy this!

Note: The packaging for TVP asks you to soak it before use but I have always added it in dry and it has always been fine! The choice is yours.

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 pepper, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 bag Suma TVP mince, frozen Quorn mince or similar product
  • 1-2 handfuls mushrooms, diced
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • Good whack of Henderson’s Relish, or other vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp oregano or mixed herbs
  • 1 tsp marmite
  • Gulg of red wine, if you have any

Method:

  1. Fry the onion in a little oil for 5-10 mins until softened then add in the carrot, pepper and garlic and fry for another 5 mins. Add in the mushrooms and cook for another 5 mins.
  2. Sprinkle in the TVP and mix into the veg. Cook for a few minutes before adding the chopped tomatoes and stir.
  3. Add in the tomato puree, Henderson’s Relish, soy sauce, herbs, marmite, red wine (optional) and seasoning. Simmer for 20 mins to let all the flavours develop but feel free to cook for even longer. If it is too wet, turn the heat up and cook for a further 5-10 minutes, stirring to stop it from sticking to the bottom. It should reach a thickness and consistency similar to meaty bolognese.
  4. Serve mixed through pasta or on a jacket potato with cheese or nutritional yeast for perfect comfort food.

Peanut butter granola

Quarantine, Recipes

I’ve made a fair few batches of granola so far during lockdown and for some reason this was the best yet. It’s an imprecise science and everyone seems to have a granola recipe these days but hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as my family has been!

Ingredients:

  • 350g oats
  • 75g hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • 75g pumpkin seeds
  • 75g sunflower or sesame seeds (or a mix of both)
  • 50g unsalted peanuts, half roughly chopped and half left whole
  • 50g walnuts or pecans, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 2 tbsp honey or agave
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 100g sultanas (more if you like it fruity)

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 150C. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, nuts and seeds. Add more of your favourites if you wish and don’t worry if you haven’t got all of these ingredients – just make sure you have roughly 350g oats to 300g nuts and seeds.
  2. In a separate bowl combine the peanut butter, oil, tahini, honey and maple syrup. I tend to spoon out all of the ingredients and then microwave the mixture, stirring every 20 seconds until the oil has melted and combined with the peanut butter.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir with a wooden spoon. Once everything is coated in the mixture, divide between two baking trays and spread out to a thin layer so that each tray is full.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and add 50g sultanas to each tray, mixing them in with the oats.
  5. Increase the oven temperature to 165C and bake for another 15 minutes until just starting to crisp. Return to the oven if you prefer it really crunchy but it is very easy to burn at this stage (it won’t go black necessarily but tasting burnt is the worst).
  6. Move the granola around on the trays to stop it sticking as it cools. Leave to cool, then store in a sealed container or jar. Enjoy with natural yoghurt, honey and fruit (and some more peanut butter if you’re a big fan like me).

Granola with strawberries, Greek yoghurt, peanut butter and chia seeds (and great slippers)
Granola, Greek yoghurt, sliced peaches, chia seeds and blueberry jam

Food, feet and friendship – eating on the Camino

Travel

The Camino de Santiago is a 500 mile emotional rollercoaster. Your feet ache and blister, you question why you are doing it, you have too much time with your own thoughts, you wake up before it’s light, you don’t sleep well… and then you stop in a cafe. Everything from that morning instantly becomes more beautiful and you learn to appreciate it. 

It’s a funny kind of feeling knowing you have already walked 15km by 9am – I never really got used to it. I felt a deep sense of achievement just from doing what everyone else was doing. Normally such a sheep-like mentality wouldn’t appeal to me but the sense of community on the Camino is overwhelming, and the cafes play a large part in this. 

Fresh tortilla and orange juice is near unbeatable

I completed the walk with two of my closest friends from university, we thought one last challenge would be a great way to conclude our time living together (little did we know how tough it would be). Each day we walked between 20km and 30km and after a couple of hours (as many as we could manage fuelled by bananas and cereal bars) we would stop at a cafe for a slice of tortilla and an orange juice. The juice was always freshly squeezed and the tortilla freshly made and oozing. Even though we ate the same thing almost every single morning for five weeks, it always felt like a reward. Everyone stopped for these welcome breaks along the way and it was how we made some of our greatest friends on the Camino. There’s nothing like bonding over food to bring people together.

Food is our common ground, a universal experience

– James Beard
Tapas and wine! The grapes were grown just the other side of the building behind me – how often do you get to say that as a bumbling 22 year old!
OK… beer and wine were just as rewarding as the food

The days were punctuated by these moments of delicious respite. Everyone would meet up again for a beer or glass of 1€ red wine in the evening and talk more openly than they would to their own families. I look back on these early evenings evidently with rose-tinted glasses (it must be the hue of the wine) and ignore the physical pain we were in. Talking about where you ached and comparing the size of your blisters was quickly normalised and airing your feet in restaurants was disgustingly acceptable (and necessary). 

From unwrapping your most infected looking toenail to revealing your most guarded secrets, everything happened in these little roadside cafes while gesturing wildly with an olive on a toothpick or a swirling glass of wine. 

Millie having her blister lanced by a doctor and fellow walker in a quiet cafe in Sahagun. He literally used the phrase ‘trust me I’m a doctor’… love you Stephan!
Me with my foot basically in my packet of crisps, which is of course perfectly acceptable Camino behaviour

Albergue kitchens are breeding grounds for memorable moments. On one occasion, 11 of us crowded round a long plastic table and gorged ourselves on pasta, salad and bread until the thought of walking the next day seemed impossible. Someone told me that we were eating with two men referred to only as ‘the Italians’ and in the space of that evening Riccardo and Augusto went from being complete strangers to the friendliest father and son duo on the planet. We saw them almost every day until we reached Santiago and are still in contact now. 

A few broken, happy pilgrims with a lot of carbs

This was a ‘bring a plate’ meal in a convent run by a couple of bickering priests. It was one of the most memorable evenings of the whole trip. They told us to ‘say yes more’, and yes, you really should.

The food wasn’t always of outstanding quality and our carb intake was about 17 times higher than the recommended (or legal) limit, but food and conversations formed a reward system that kept us going for miles and miles. I would never have been able to finish the walk if it wasn’t for this incredible sense of community surrounding the albergues and cafes. Food is a goal, a fuel, a conversation starter, a reward, a gift, a meeting place and a journey all in itself, and I never realised that more than on the Camino.

This is a very HANGRY Vegetable on the floor in the rain trying to eat my pasta faster than the raindrops can drown it

Creamy cashew pasta

Recipes

My mum and I used to make a really simple white wine and creme fraiche sauce to have with seafood spaghetti and I wanted to recreate this, but vegan. This summery pasta dish is creamy while still being fresh and light.

Ingredients:

  • 125g cashews
  • 600ml veggie stock
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 200g mushrooms, sliced
  • 200ml oat milk
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast (more depending on your nooch enthusiasm)
  • Good glug of white wine
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • Handful peas
  • Handful edamame beans
  • Chilli flakes, optional
  • Handful chives, finely chopped
  • Fresh basil leaves to serve

Additions: this would also work really well with sliced green beans, asparagus or other spring veg

Method:

  1. Boil the cashews for 10 mins until soft. Drain and blend with 200ml of the stock until creamy and smooth.
  2. Fry the onion for 5 mins then add the garlic and mushrooms for another 5 mins. Pour in the cashew cream, remaining stock and oat milk. Season and bring to a simmer.
  3. Stir in the nutritional yeast and simmer for 10 minutes adding more stock if needed. It should thicken as it cooks but it may need a little cornflower.
  4. Cook the spaghetti to packet instructions.
  5. Meanwhile, add the wine to the sauce and simmer for another 10 mins. Stir in the lemon juice and zest along with the peas, edamame beans, spinach and half the chives, leaving to cook for another 5 mins.
  6. Add the spaghetti into the sauce and mix well. Scatter with chilli flakes, basil and remaining chives, grate over some additional lemon zest and freshly ground black pepper.

The big foodie lockdown

Quarantine

If food wasn’t already at the centre of your day, lockdown may well have changed that. My family are constantly thinking about the next meal as the next fun activity of the day. It’s one of the only ways to feel a normal sense of structure. I think we should fully embrace this obsession and make food in lockdown an EVENT. This doesn’t necessarily mean spending hours on food or trying desperately to find expensive, unknown ingredients in a long-queue-mask-wearing-stress-inducing trip to a supermarket.

I realise that living spaces vary dramatically, so I’ve tried to keep this as inclusive and universal as possible. Here are a few ideas for making the most of this turbulent time in the only way I know how:

Theme night

Pick a country or an idea and roll with it! Recreate food from your favourite holiday, or somewhere you just watched a documentary about, even base it on a film. Caribbean night? Get the rum out and try your hand at making roti. Italian night? Make pizzas, buy pizzas, use it as an excuse to drink prosecco. Gavin and Stacey night? Anyone for an omelette…?

First attempt at making roti and coconut chickpea curry with golden rice

Picnic!

This does not mean that you have to be outside if you haven’t got a garden, all you need is to push your sofa back and sit on the floor, preferably on a rug for the full effect! Grab some sandwiches, maybe a pack of Quorn scotch eggs, crisps, hummus, a Pimms if you can track any down… the carpet is your oyster. It’s silly and playful but that’s the beauty of it!

Indoor coffee table picnic
Picnic two: the boujee (and boozy) outdoor edition

Cocktail night

I saw a post the other day about a life changing website. MAKE ME A COCKTAIL .COM. Incredible. Input everything you have in the cupboard, fridge and fruit bowl and it will tell you all the weird and wondering drinks you can make with ingredients you already have. It is very tempting to spend an evening doing this, especially when you don’t have to get up early for work the next day… what can I do with these two bottles of port someone bought us for Christmas? Let’s find out…

Family gin tasting (mostly drinking)

Fakeaway

Some people are lucky enough to still have access to Deliveroo but I live in the middle of bittersweet nowhere. There isn’t a single local business that delivers to my parent’s house so if we are craving our favourite curry or Chinese takeaway, we have to DIY. There are a million and one recipes out there for all your favourite dishes and I’m sure your housemates will love you it.

Fry your own poppadoms are so crunchy and much more like the real thing than the packet ones!

Rotate who cooks

I do most of the cooking in the house and my mum does the rest but my dad and sister… is toast cooking? We challenged them to cook for us one night and they did such a good job with two delicious curries! I know families who have multiple siblings, all with different tastes and preferences and rotating the cooking is a great way for everyone to feel like you not only have some control over your day but also that you are introducing your family/friends to something they might not usually eat. Switch it up a bit!

Brilliant curry night cooked by my dad and sister

Eat somewhere different

A bit like with the picnic, it doesn’t matter how much space you have. Eat on the floor, eat in the lounge, eat in the hallway, move your kitchen table, put a table cloth on it, take the table cloth off – do whatever your space allows for you to feel you’re having a ‘different’ dining experience. And dress up for dinner! I wear leggings and massive t-shirts all day long, let me wear a dress or a shirt or, god forbid, a pair of jeans in the evening. A change of scene is good for everyone.

Move the table into the lounge and rename it the Sissinghurst Tandoori (a combination of fakeaway and eating in a different room!)

Timeless time-intensive classics (slow cook that bad boy)

You don’t need a slow cooker to make your cooking a labour of love. Make a proper tomato sauce and cook it for 2 hours, make a hearty sew, roast vegetables whole (peppers, squash, sweet potatoes), make your own stock, put some effort into a lasagne recipe, make your own pasta, bread, pastry, anything! Give your food the time and effort it deserves.

Make something you’ve never made before

Choux pastry! Feel like you’re straight out of Bake Off and have a go at eclairs. Or maybe something you’ve never even heard of! What the hell is a sformato?

olive magazine’s Cauliflower sformato
First attempt at Paul Hollywood’s eclairs!

Pickle something

I had never pickled anything before lockdown and now I can’t get enough! Pickling gives you a project and everyone is in need of that right now, so grab some vinegar and a crunchy veg and experiment. Pickled red onion and red cabbage work particularly well and transform wraps, tacos, salads and rice dishes. I’m excited to try some cucumbers soon…

Pickled red onion in red wine vinegar and peppercorns

If everyone is going to obsess over food in lockdown, we may as well do it right! Please share any other fun tips and tricks for staying sane in quarantine in the comments below 🙂

Asparagus and wild garlic tart

Recipes, Waste reduction

A seasonal queen, this recipe uses asparagus, jersey royal potatoes and wild garlic pesto for the ultimate springtime lunch. I used to think that potatoes were pretty much all the same, just different sizes. I was wrong. Jersey royals taste SO sweet when they’re in season and are bloody delicious. Eating seasonally is one of the easiest ways to lower your kitchen’s carbon footprint. You can of course make this recipe out of season using baby potatoes and regular pesto 🙂

Serves: 4

Time: 45 mins – 1 hr

Ingredients:

  • 1 pack puff pastry
  • 200g jersey royal potatoes, or new potatoes, thinly sliced
  • 200g asparagus, ends trimmed
  • Pinch chilli flakes, optional
  • Handful of wild garlic leaves, or other fresh herb, chopped
  • 2 tbsp wild garlic pesto, or green pesto
  • Drizzle of chilli oil, optional
  • Large handful of rocket, to serve
  • Wild garlic flowers, to decorate
  • 20g pine nuts or seed of your choice, lightly toasted, to decorate

Optional addition: goat’s cheese or feta, crumbled over the tart on top of the asparagus in step 3.

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 180C. Roll out your pastry to fit a lined baking tray of your choice. Fold over the edges of the pastry to form a crust then prick the base all over with a fork and cover with baking beans if you have them (I don’t and a good spatular bashing over the puffed up areas seems to do the trick just fine). Blind bake the pastry for 15-20 mins until just starting to colour.
  2. While the pastry is in the oven, boil the potato slices in salted water for 10-15 minutes or until just softening. Quickly add the asparagus to the water and cook for 2-5 mins more depending on the thickness of the asparagus.
  3. Remove the pastry from the oven and top with the potato slices, followed by the asparagus. Season generously and sprinkle over the wild garlic leaves and chilli flakes if you choose. Return the tart to the oven for 20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the asparagus just catching.
  4. In a small bowl, mix the pesto with a little water or olive oil until of a drizzle-able consistency and liberally dress the tart. Drizzle over the chilli oil and decorate with wild garlic flowers and pine nuts/seeds. You may want some extra pesto on the side (I needed to add more after taking the photos). Serve with fresh rocket.
I needed a little more pesto than this when it came to eating the tart as wild garlic pesto isn’t as strong as normal pesto
Garlic flowers are edible but don’t have a strong flavour so are mostly used for decoration

Coconut raisin cookies

Recipes

This recipe came about the other day when I was seriously craving some cookies but only had a weird selection of ingredients. Turns out they tasted great so I thought I should share… Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 120g butter, softened in the microwave
  • 150g caster sugar (golden if you have it)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 175g plain flour
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 50g sultanas or raisins
  • 3 tbsp desiccated coconut

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 180C. In a medium sized mixing bowl beat the butter together with the sugar, vanilla and egg until combined.
  2. Sieve in the flour and bicarb then add the sultanas and coconut. Stir with a wooden spoon until it forms a sticky dough. Ensure that the sultanas are evenly distributed – this will tell you that the dough is well mixed.
  3. Grease and line a baking tray – you may need two depending on the size of the tray and your cookies. Divide the dough into 10 balls, rolling them in your hand before squashing on to the baking tray and pressing down slightly with a spatula or your hand. The balls should still be circular and chunky, not completely flat. Make sure each cookie has enough space as they will spread in the oven.
  4. Bake for 15 mins or until light brown and beginning to crisp at the edges. They will continue to harden as they cool and should be crispy around the edges and soft in the middle. Sprinkle with additional coconut to serve. Enjoy with a cuppa and your quarantine family (even if that is only a few house plants, you deserve it).

Understanding meat-free protein

Info

When I became a vegetarian (nearly 3 years ago), one of the main questions I was asked was where I get my protein from. This is a classic question from any relative and while I now know where I source all of my nutrients from, I was a little clueless at the time. Even now, I know what foods I should be eating for protein but have little to no grasp over what is the ‘right amount’ or how many grams I eat in a day.

The resources I’ve found online vary in quality and often measure everything by the same quantity. It makes sense to know the amount of protein in 100g of tofu but I’m less likely to sit and eat 100g of nutritional yeast to get protein into my diet… I wanted real portion sizes, so I developed the table below in the hope that someone else may find it useful.

—-

Protein portionNo. grams protein
35-40g dried TVP mince
(photo below)
20g
100g tofu
(half a taifun tofu packet but varies a lot based on the brand)
13-20g
1 Co-op GRO burger (soya based)15g
2 Linda McCartney sausages14g
138g edamame beans (equivalent to the pots they sell in Pret)13-14g
50g peanuts
(size of a small bag of nuts)
13g
50g almonds, pistachios or sunflower seeds10g
240g can lentils / 100g dried
(green and red have the same levels)
8-10g
50g flaxseeds 9g
25g pumpkin seed
(the amount I would put on a salad but I do like quite a lot)
9g
1/2 can cannellini beans 9g
30g cheese
(the daily amount you’re ‘meant’ to have – try telling my dad that)
8-9g
1/2 can chickpeas8g
50g sesame seeds or chia seeds8g
2 tbsp peanut butter8g
1/2 can butter beans, black beans or kidney beans7-8g
50g cashews, walnuts or hazelnuts7-8g
100g Greek-style yoghurt
(1/5 of a big tub)
7-8g
100g green peas7g
1 egg5-6g
100g dried quinoa4-5g
5g nutritional yeast2-3g
100ml oat milk1g

Don’t forget that vegetables also contain protein so these ‘protein sources’ aren’t the only protein you get in a day. Peas are particularly high in protein but potatoes, avocados, asparagus, sweetcorn and broccoli all contain roughly 4g protein per portion, so remember you eat your veggies too!

I hope this little table is useful! All nutritional information has been roughly estimated based on the products I have in my cupboard and may vary from brand to brand, which is why I didn’t try to be too specific. The NHS says that the majority of adults in the UK should have about 50g protein per day but this depends on your weight and is personal to everyone. I have also heard it said that you should aim to have between 0.6 – 0.8g per kilo of body weight. If you aim to have three to four portions of any of the above in a day then you’re probably absolutely fine, as long as you’re keeping a healthy balanced diet. It’s good to check in every now and then and make sure you’re getting the right amount of nutrients in every part of your diet. Stay healthy everyone!

—–

I love this TVP! So easy to make into a chilli or a veggie lasagne. It only has three ingredients, so has much less crap in it than other very ‘meaty’ brands… but I personally think it tastes the most realistic
These are my favourite meat-replacement burgers at the moment!
What would anyone do without nooch?

Balsamic tomato and onion tart

Recipes

Inspired by olive magazine’s recipe for Tomato tart with olive oil pastry, this vegan version ditches the cheese for sticky balsamic onions and spinach and uses ready made shortcrust pastry for pure unadulterated laziness. It’s summery and makes the perfect lunchtime centrepiece. If you are one of the many people getting into growing their own veg right now this will be a great recipe for all kinds of tomatoes, especially if you have a variety of colours!

Ingredients:

  • 1 block shortcrust pastry
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar (optional)
  • 1/2 bag (150g) spinach
  • 250g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Few sprigs fresh thyme

Method

  1. Roll out the shortcrust pastry to fit a fluted tart tin, I used a 23cm wide tin for mine but use whatever you’ve got. Fit it to the tin, trimming any excess and chill for 30 mins to stop the pastry strinking.
  2. Heat the oven to 180C. In a frying pan, heat the oil in a pan on a medium high heat then add the onions, balsamic vinegar and optional sugar for added stickiness. Cook for 15 minutes until soft and sticky. Stir through the garlic and cook for another 5 mins. Season.
  3. Add the spinach and stir until wilted. Tip the mixture into a sieve and press down to release any residual moisture from the spinach. Leave to cool.
  4. Pick the base of the pastry all over and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly for another 15 mins.
  5. Top pastry with the onions and spinach, spreading evenly. Then place the tomatoes on top, cut-side up, to cover the onion base. Season and scatter with fresh thyme. Return to the oven for 25-30 mins or until the pastry is golden.

Gnocchi and leftover veg traybake

Recipes

I made this recipe for my family for the first time a few days ago and it was a HIT. Admittedly food is more interesting in lockdown now that it is one of the only memorable parts of the day BUT I will still take the compliment…

You can use almost any veg you have for this recipe, as long as it roasts nicely and tastes good! The recipe below is based on the vegetables my family had left at the end of the week but similar amounts of anything tasty will do! Aim to have three different veggies even if only in small quantities, just for variety.

Serves: 2 (easily doubled)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pack dry gnocchi (500g)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Dried mixed herbs, basil or oregano
  • 1/2 red pepper, cut into chunks
  • 1/4 butternut squash, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 aubergine, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 pack purple sprouting broccoli

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 200C. Tip gnocchi into a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for two minutes and then drain. Skip this step if you are using fresh gnocchi.
  2. In a large, high-sided baking tray toss the gnocchi and your chosen veg with the oil and dried herbs. Season. Leave out anything that needs a shorter roasting time and add later (I added the broccoli for the final 20 minutes so that the leaves didn’t burn).
  3. Roast for 35-40 mins or until the veg are all cooked through and the gnocchi slightly crisp. Serve immediately, scattered with any of the additional ingredients below. The gnocchi dries out and doesn’t make for particularly good leftovers so be sure to eat the lot!

Additions:

  • 3 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tbsp vegan pesto mixed with 1/2 tbsp olive oil, drizzled over the top
  • 50-75g seeds (I used pumpkin and sunflower)
  • 1-2 tsp chilli flakes
  • Fresh basil, torn

This is also great with kale (added 5-7 mins before the end), courgettes, sweet potato, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, pumpkin or whole garlic cloves mmmm…

Butternut squash and rocket tarts

Recipes

This is a perfect little Spring recipe and an ideal light lunch for this sunny weather! There are loads of ways to adapt it to suit what you have in the fridge and to cater for all kinds of dietary requirements.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pack pre-rolled puff pastry
  • 300g butternut squash or sweet potato, cubed
  • 1 pepper, chunkily chopped or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 glug olive oil
  • 2 handfuls rocket
  • 2 tsp chilli flakes (optional)

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 200C.
  2. Place the butternut squash and pepper on a baking tray covered with the oil, season and roast for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and put to one side.
  3. Turn the oven down to 180C.
  4. Line a baking tray with baking paper or use the greaseproof paper that comes with the pastry. Unroll the pastry and place on the baking tray if making one large tart, otherwise cut into 4 – 6 relatively even squares. I made one large and two small tarts with this recipe, keeping some vegan and adding feta to others – see below for additional toppings.
  5. Fold the edges of your pastry over to form a 1-2cm crust. Press these edges down with your finger or a fork. Prick the base of the tarts all over with a fork and weigh down with baking beans if you have them (you can always get away with flattening the pastry down after baking with a spatula if not). Bake for 15-20 minutes.
  6. Remove the pastry from the oven and flatten any areas that may have risen too much. Top with the roasted squash and pepper. Return to the oven for 10 minutes or until the pastry is lightly browned and the veg are warmed through.
  7. Top with rocket and chilli flakes, if using, and any of the other additions below.

Additions:

Pesto
– Mix 1 tbsp pesto with olive oil until of a drizzle-able consistency

Seeds
– Sprinkle with a handful of pumpkin, sesame or sunflower seeds for some added crunch

Tahini
– Combine 1 tbsp tahini with 1 tsp harissa and enough water to make into a dressing

Feta
– Crumble feta over the top of the rocket

Vegan tip:
My boyfriend’s dad once said that he thought vegan pastry was ‘fine’ but always ‘preferred his with a bit of fat in it’. To his dismay, my boyfriend’s mum then told him that she hardly makes her own pastry any more and as Jus Rol pastry (and most other supermarket own-brand equivalents) is accidentally vegan, he had in fact been eating vegan pastry for years thinking it had a ‘bit of fat in it’…
Moral of the story is pre-made pastry is super easy and great for all sorts of dietary requirements… and it fools the best of us into thinking it’s full of butter!

Quarantine [vegan] blueberry and banana bread

Recipes

Deep into the second week of UK quarantine everyone seems to be making banana bread… and shaving their heads. If you haven’t quite managed the former yet then this is the recipe for you! This is a vegan recipe meaning it’s even better for people who can’t get eggs right now even if you aren’t vegan. Everyone in my house loved this (but in fairness criticising my cooking in lockdown might not be a good move) and you cannot tell the difference between this and a non-vegan version.

I’ve used frozen fruit both times I have made this and it works really well but would be absolutely fine with fresh as well – it’s a very resilient cake!

I based this on The Baking Fairy’s recipe to begin with but have changed a few bits and ‘made it my own’ (how very X-factor…), so if you prefer a plain version please check hers out!

Ingredients:

  • 3 big or 4 small ripe bananas
  • 60ml oat milk (or other non dairy milk)
  • 90g brown sugar
  • 60ml vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 280g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 handful berries (frozen or fresh, I used blueberries and raspberries)
  • 1 tbsp oats
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 180C and lightly grease a loaf tin.
  2. In a large bowl, mash the bananas with a fork or whisk.
  3. Tip in the oat milk, brown sugar, oil, and vanilla, and stir together with a wooden spoon.
  4. Sift in the flour, baking powder, allspice and cinnamon. Mix until fully combined.
  5. Pour the batter into the loaf tin and scatter over your fruit of choice, ensuring that it is evenly distributed. Too much fruit in the centre of the cake can cause it to collapse and spreading it to the edges makes the crusty pieces more appealing. Scatter over the oats and granulated sugar.
  6. Bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour – the quantity and type of fruit used may alter the cooking time.
  7. Serve warm with a cup of tea for a moment of calm in a time of chaos.
Attempt 2 – with frozen blueberries and raspberries
Attempt 1 – just blueberries

Cauliflower korma

Recipes

I have been perfecting this recipe for a while now and it is my favourite curry to make for myself. It is vegan and creamy and all-round delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • ½ a bunch fresh coriander

Curry paste:

  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 5 cm piece of ginger
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 2 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 3 tablespoons desiccated coconut
  • 2 tablespoons ground almonds

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Place the cauliflower on a baking tray and cover with the turmeric and oil. Mix the cauliflower with your hands to ensure all of the pieces are covered. Roast for 30 minutes.
  2. Fry the onion in a large frying pan on a medium low heat. The key to a good curry is cooking the onions low and slow for as long as you can. For an even smoother curry sauce blend the onion with the paste and fry the paste for longer.
  3. Toast the spices in a dry pan until fragrant. If you have a food processor blitz all of the paste ingredients together, otherwise chop the garlic and ginger finely and grind the spices in a pestle and mortar. Add the paste to the onions and stir constantly for about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the coconut milk to the pan along with half a can of water and stir to combine with the paste. This should leave you with a perfect creamy curry sauce. Simmer for at least 15 minutes to allow the flavours to develop.
  5. Drain and add the chickpeas to the sauce followed by the roasted cauliflower. Simmer for 5-10 minutes before serving.
  6. Scatter with fresh coriander and serve with rice or naan bread.

Butternut squash and hazelnut quiche

Recipes

I have not been successful with quiches in the past but this one came out quite well! This is the perfect recipe for a spring lunch with a rocket salad…

Ingredients:

  • Jus Rol short crust pastry (pre-rolled)
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cubed
  • a few sprigs of thyme
  • 6 eggs
  • 300ml milk
  • 200g feta
  • large handful spinach
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 20g hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 200C.
  2. Lightly grease a shallow tin. If necessary, roll out the pastry a little more so that it is about 5cm larger than the tin. Drape the pastry over the tart case so that the pastry hangs over the sides. Press the pastry around the edge of the tin and the trim any excess.
  3. Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes. This is to ensure the pastry doesn’t shrink in the oven (I wish I had been told this on my first few pastry attempts).
  4. Scatter the cubed squash over a baking tray, drizzle with oil, season and sprinkle with thyme sprigs. Roast for 20 minutes or until soft and just starting to crisp around the edges.
  5. Once the pastry has been chilled, cover with baking beans or another weight and bake for 15 to 20 mins.
  6. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs and slowly whisk in milk, spinach and half the feta until well combined. Season the mixture and add the nutmeg.
  7. Cover the pastry base with the roasted squash, then pour over the egg mixture. Scatter with hazelnuts and the remaining feta and return to the oven for 40 minutes or until set.

Zero waste tip
Depending on the size of your tin you may have some egg mixture leftover, if this is the case don’t waste it! Fry it in a small pan and serve on toast for some posh scrambled eggs with chilli flakes and sliced avocado…

Storecupboard fridge cake

Recipes

It seems impossible to buy flour at the moment but I was determined to make a ‘cake’ of sorts today with whatever ingredients we happened to have. This can be adapted to use any kind of dried or preserved fruit, biscuits or chocolate – anything you have in the cupboard. When I was younger my gran used to make incredibly sweet fridge cakes with glacier cherries and I saw a picture of her this morning and knew exactly what I should make.

Ingredients:

  • 1 jar stem ginger in syrup (120g drained weight)
  • 50g sultanas
  • 250g dark chocolate
  • 125g vegan butter, plus extra for the tin
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • 1 packet hobnob biscuits
  • Toasted flaked almonds to decorate

Method:

  1. Drain the stem ginger and chop into small pieces. Place in a bowl with the sultanas.
  2. Combine the chocolate, butter and golden syrup in a microwavable bowl. Microwave until everything has melted, but be careful not to burn the chocolate by stirring every 30 seconds.
  3. Crush the biscuits by hand or with the end of a rolling pin. The size of the biscuit pieces is a matter of personal preference, I left mine quite chunky.
  4. In a mixing bowl big enough to hold all of the ingredients mix the biscuit, fruit, ginger and chocolate mix together until everything is coated in chocolate.
  5. Grease a circular cake tin or small shallow quiche dish. Pour the mixture into the tin and press down with a spatula. Refrigerate for 5 hours or overnight.
  6. Slice and enjoy with a cup of tea within the confines of your home (if you are reading during quarantine, otherwise for the love of god go outside and share with friends).

Zero waste tip
Reserve the stem ginger syrup, keep in the fridge and drizzle over lemon cake or into a gin and tonic!

Squash and chickpea salad

Recipes

This is one of my favourite salads. Last summer I made it for my boyfriend and he said it was the best salad he had ever had (who really believes that bias, I know, but it is really tasty)! It is great for taking to work but tastes best eaten fresh as the chickpeas lose their crispiness after a while in a lunchbox… I also like a lot of chickpeas in my salads so realistically this salad could feed 3-4 people with a few extra leaves, so just use it as a guide.

Serves: 2 people

Ingredients:

  • 200g butternut squash, cut into 2cm cubes
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic granules
  • A big handful mixed leafy greens per person (roughly 150g or a small bag)
  • 1/4 cucumber, sliced and quartered
  • 1 stick celery, sliced
  • 2 balls precooked beetroot
  • A handful cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 a red pepper, diced
  • Pumpkin seeds, or any other seeds you have to sprinkle
  • Chilli flakes, as desired

For the dressing:

  • 1 tsp pesto
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 200C. Place the squash on a baking try and cover with oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 20-30 minutes or until soft and browning.
  2. For the crispy chickpeas, heat a glug of oil in a frying pan and fry the chickpeas in paprika and cumin, stirring frequently, until crisp and popping.
  3. For the dressing, combine the pesto, tahini and olive oil in a small bowl with a splash of water until a good dressing consistency. Tahini often looks a little curdled to begin with but if you continue to mix it will all combine perfectly.
  4. Assemble your salad in individual bowls or one large centrepiece. Toss the leaves, cucumber, celery, beetroot, cherry tomatoes and red pepper. Top with the roasted squash and chickpeas followed by a sprinkling of seeds and chilli flakes.
  5. Liberally pour over the dressing and enjoy.

Lentil bolognese

Recipes

This recipe doesn’t try to taste like a ‘real’ bolognese but it is still amazing comfort food and full of protein. I made it with friends in the Peak District and these were the only flavouring we had but it was perfect. I will try to post another bolognese recipe on how I flavour meat-substitute mince, but for this one it’s better to keep it simple.

Serves: 4 people

Ingredients:

  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 sticks celery, diced
  • 6-8 chestnut mushrooms, diced
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 300g red lentils
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • Splash soy sauce
  • Splash red wine
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 400-500g spaghetti, depending on hunger

Method:

  1. In a large frying pan fry the onion for 5 minutes before adding the garlic and cook until lightly browned.
  2. Add the carrot and celery and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Then add the mushrooms and stir until all elements are cooked and softened.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, 200ml stock and red lentils, stirring to combine. Mix in the soy sauce, red wine, oregano and lots of salt and pepper. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until the lentils are soft but not mushy, adding stock as necessary to stop the lentils drying out.
  4. While the lentils are cooking, boil a pan of water and cook the spaghetti to following pack instructions.
  5. Serve with vegan or regular cheese for the ultimate comfort food.

Additions
If you have any, add in a tsp marmite for extra saltiness and some Henderson’s Relish for a deeper savoury flavour

The Knickerbocker Glory of sweet potatoes

Recipes

This is quite possibly my favourite meal to make myself when I’m alone. The ingredients are never the same and they aren’t particularly conventional pairings but something about this combination of salty and sweet flavours really gets me…

Ingredients:

  • Big sweet potato!
  • Steamed kale or wilted spinach
  • Garlic granules
  • Butter or vegan spread
  • Basil tofu, cubed (or any flavoured tofus, I love the taifun ones!)
  • Roasted cherry tomatoes (the yellow ones feel so glamorous…)
  • 1 tbsp tahini

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 200C. Prick sweet potato all over and microwave for 5-7 mins. Place on a baking tray and roast for 30-45 mins, depending on the size of the potato.
  2. Steam or wilt leafy greens with garlic.
  3. Just before the sweet potato is ready, put the tomatoes in the oven for about 7 mins or until just about to burst and skins splitting.
  4. In a small bowl mix tahini with 1-2 tbsp water, seasoning and garlic until of a drizzle-able consistency.
  5. Remove potato from the oven and cut in half. Slather in butter or vegan spread and mash lightly with a fork. Top with wilted greens, tofu and tomatoes before drizzling with tahini sauce.

Creamy red pesto gnocchi

Recipes

This is one of my favourite quick and easy recipes. I was first made a chicken version of this with rice but it goes so well with gnocchi that I had to share! This recipe uses long-life and store-cupboard ingredients so is a great one to have up your sleeve for a midweek dinner.

Ingredients:

  • Tenderstem broccoli
  • Pack of gnocchi (dry or fresh, enough for two people)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 tsp red pesto
  • Splash single cream
  • A little cheddar, grated

Method:

  1. Toss broccoli with a little olive oil and the garlic and fry on a medium heat until cooked through and beginning to char.
  2. Bring a medium pan of water to the boil and simmer the gnocchi until it begins to float to the surface (around 2-4 minutes). Drain and set aside.
  3. Lower the heat on the broccoli pan and add the red pesto and cream, stirring in enough cream to make a sauce without diluting the colour of the pesto too much (roughly 150ml, although you may want more).
  4. Tip in the gnocchi, season generously and stir to combine all of the ingredients.
  5. Spoon into two bowls and top with as much cheese at your heart desires (or can take).

Vegan swaps
Use free-from red pesto (Tesco’s own-brand free-from is good!), Alpro’s single soya cream and vegan cheese for a dairy-free delight!

Fastest food in Lima

Reviews, Travel

Sayel Restaurant, Lima

We were ushered through to a back room crammed with tables. The walls were white with big printed pictures of the sea mounted upon them, a sea a lot more idyllic than the churning grey ocean that borders this great metropolis. After a stumbling Spanish conversation we ordered the menu del día for 13 soles (~£3), which included three courses and a cold glass of ginger and lemongrass tea.

The waitress returned unnervingly quickly with a bowl of soup and a plate of ceviche fresh from the kitchen’s efficient production line. This was not ceviche as it is normally seen. The restaurant is wholly vegetarian, feeding an enormous lunchtime crowd with hearty meals before unceremoniously rolling them, and their much larger stomachs, back into the busy streets. 

The photos don’t do justice to the taste of the food

My ceviche consisted of tofu, cucumber, onion, sweet potato and a hefty quantity of lime and coriander. It was sharp and flavoursome. The contrasting textures of the vegetables and tofu worked very well together and just about managed to mask the fact that the tofu was fresh and flabby from its packet with no flavour of its own. As I put down my fork, another dish appeared.

My secondi was a full plate of rice, beans and some form of homemade mock-meat smothered in a coriander sauce. My sister commented that it was ‘aggressively delicious’, and aggressive it was. The conveyor belt of customers streaming through the establishment was mesmerising. Everyone left full and content within a maximum of half an hour, though most managed their three courses in a matter of minutes. Sorry McDonald’s, this is fast food at its finest. 

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I can’t say that I enjoyed the entire meal – we were presented with a small pot of cheese-scented yoghurt and what I can only hope was berry compote… it looked particularly and off-puttingly menstrual. I was happy for my £3 to cover only two courses. Some meals really don’t require the ‘cherry on top’. 

This meal was frantically fast paced but I loved every second of its finely kept balance between homeliness and efficiency. It was definitely a moving feast. 

Lima has not won my heart as a city but it’s restaurants have intrigued my taste buds and given me a beautifully chaotic insight into the heart of Peru.

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The best part of Lima: the endless pisco sours!

Easy hungover hostel recipes

Recipes, Travel

Just before Christmas, I spent two months in South America with my sister travelling around Colombia and Peru. One of us spent a little more of her money on rum than she should of and so we ended up cooking for ourselves in hostels as much as we could. As one vegetarian and one vegan in two meat-orientated countries, this wasn’t always simple.

Apparently, there are no cans of chopped tomatoes or passata in the whole of Colombia. I didn’t think I would find this such a challenge. Very occasionally you can find it in a bag… but it isn’t quite the same.

Not all food bloggers are great chefs… desperate times call for desperate measures…

Here are a few of my go-to recipes for hangovers and financial regrets:

Guacamole and crisps:

  1. Cut two avocados in half, remove the stone and scoop the fresh into a bowl.
  2. Mash the avocado with a fork and mix in as many of the following as you can be bothered to buy for the occasion: juice of a lime, fresh coriander, garlic (granules are good for travelling), salt and pepper, freshly diced tomatoes, chilli (fresh or flakes).
  3. Dip your crisps in the guac and enjoy

The fresh taste of the avocado will remind you what vegetables taste like, while the crisps will maintain that wonderfully unhealthy streak that only appears to be acceptable when you are 8,500km from home.

If they have a toastie machine: 

  1. Heat a tin of refried beans in a pan and mix with a little cumin or chilli until soft.
  2. Spread the bean mixture across one half of a tortilla wrap, fold the plain side over the top and toast in a toastie machine until crisp and piping hot.
  3. Serve with any kind of dip you can find, preferably guacamole or salsa.
  4. Add cheese if you have the money/the hangover is particularly bad.

If there is no toastie machine buy tortilla crips and cover with tomatoes, refried beans and guacamole for instant vegan nachos…

Granola, always granola.

It is impressive how much of this you can eat straight from the packet on a bus journey or lazing on a hostel sofa.

Peanut butter

My saviour, my love, my light. We must have had a tub of peanut butter each for every week we were in Colombia, and God was it good. There was a particularly sweet, vaguely synthetic tasting one with chia seeds mixed into it that became our favourite. Lucy is usually quite a Meridian peanut butter purist but this one wormed its way into both of our hearts.

  • Peanut butter with slices of apple
  • Peanut butter sandwich
  • Peanut butter on toast
  • Peanut butter thrown in a stir fry
  • Peanut butter straight from the spoon

Crisp sandwiches

If every resource has failed you, the humble crisp sandwich is always there as a happy, healthy (not) backup. We had more of these than I can count and were never disappointed.

Look out for mini bananas that will make you feel like a giant! Do NOT accidentally buy plantains, very disappointing.

Don’t worry, we also ate very well at other times! Have a look at my travel posts on Colombia and Peru for more…

The Lucky Fox’s new veggie menu

Reviews

Tuesday 5th February was not a good day for me. I came lazily back from the library at 3.30pm to find that my house had a powercut – brilliant. The blackout lasted until 11.24pm exactly, meaning that cooking my evening meal (dinner, tea, call it what you will) was impossible in the dark with an electric hob. The Lucky Fox was, therefore, a godsend.

The Lucky Fox on Division Street is known for its Southern American inspired Chick’n Fries and Chick’n Waffles – it doesn’t exactly scream ‘vegan’. On an average day, a vegetarian would have limited options and a vegan could only have fries. However, on Monday and Tuesday evenings the restaurant is transformed; the chicken is packed away and replaced by a full veggie and vegan only service. I thought it was worth a try.

I went in optimistic, and I was not disappointed. I brought my housemates with me (two vegans, one meat-eater) and between us we tried: the vegan chick’n fries, vegetarian chick’n waffle, vegan fried chicken griller, vegan gravy fries, and a side of vegan doner meat. I ate my weight in seitan (a meat substitute made from wheat protein). After eating way more than I should have, and thinking it was a good idea to finish my friend’s chips, I felt suitably overwhelmed.

The ‘chicken’ is relatively realistic, mostly because the crunchy, well-seasoned batter gives the impression of their normal meat options – it even persuaded my meat-eating housemate! This worked really well in the ‘griller’ wrap, but was a little drier for the chick’n waffle option, which was helped by the liberal pouring of maple syrup over the entire thing (recommended). For me, it was the ‘doner meat’ that stole the show. They currently serve it in a wrap or as a topping for the most generous portion of ‘sharing’ (as if) fries I have ever seen. I found that if you didn’t eat it fast enough (which is a challenge when you are fighting your housemates for food) it didn’t taste quite as good cold, but when it was hot it was the closest thing this veggie has had to a kebab in two years.

This food definitely hits the spot for a beautifully and intentionally greasy meal. I wouldn’t eat it every day, mostly because I would be the size of a bus, and upsettingly it is only served two days a week, but it’s a great treat. It is easily affordable on a student budget, with the most expensive item on the menu being £8.50, plus they offer a 10% student discount! The staff are also some of the friendliest in Sheffield.

The vegan menu will be available for the foreseeable future, but only on Monday and Tuesday evenings. In the next few weeks they are hoping to get the food available on Deliveroo with an aim of eventually expanding their usual menu to include some vegan options. I wholly recommend giving it a try, even when your house is fully functional, just make sure you’re hungry.