The Nutty Group – Nutty Nibbles

Certain times and certain days require snacks. Copious amounts of them. On those kinds of days, there may have been a superrrrr early wake up, say 5:30/6, a rushed breakfast and lunch isn’t until 1pm. An apple or banana simply won’t cut it.

On days like these, my sweet tooth tends to kick in. A gooey medjool date may come to mind, but some nut butter is always preferable to cut through that richness. Instead, reaching for a bliss ball, where everything is handily packed into a transportable bite, that’s what I’m after. Cup of tea or coffee NECESSARY.

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The Nutty Group are a smoothies and juices start up and have now expanded their product range to nibbles. Available in 5 varieties, coconut blueberry, mango coconut almond, apricot and chia seed, apricot and cashew and their autumnal special, pumpkin pie. Simply organic dried fruit and nuts, to provide a treat or snack high in fibre and healthy fats.

My favourite has to be a toss up between the pumpkin pie and the apricot and chia seed. The pumpkin pie, has flecks of green from the pumpkin seeds and a hint of warming cinnamon spice. Anything with cinnamon in makes me one happy gal. The apricot and chia, is wonderfully caramelly, since they’ve used unsulphured apricots the darker and deeper flavoured than your typical orange dried apricots, and the chia seeds add a nubbly texture and some crunch.

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If you’re after some dried fruit and nut nibbles using organic ingredients and different flavours to those you tend to find in shops, then head on over to the nutty group’s online shop. You will also find their treats in the October Primal Snack box, or head to Veg Fest London on the 21st-22nd of October where they will be waiting with snaackksss!

I would like to say a big thank you to The Nutty Group for sending me over some of their bites to sample and spread the word to all of my lovely readers. I hope soon to be bringing you more product reviews, sometimes life is too hectic to make things yourself and we all need a bit of help and assistance!

Much love and nibbling

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The Allotment Vegan Restaurant – Review

The most unlikely of places for a vegan restaurant, it’s true. Fine dining vegan even more so! Manchester has the odd few places, V Rev for the times when you are in need of some serious junk food action and The Earth Centre for vegan comfort food like dahls, pies and soups. Then most places have some vegan options on the menu, but they never really stray much further than a bean burger or some fried tofu. Wander slightly further afield to Stockport however, a 20 minute drive, and there you will find what is starting to become a foodie mecca.

Down a steep declining hill from the market, on the corner of Vernon street you will find a bright, minimal but warm restaurant, stocked with hanging plants and succulents and a bustling open kitchen. We visited shortly before 7 on a Thursday night and it was almost full and by the time it hit 8:30 every table had guests, a good sign that they’re doing something right!!

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Starting with some water flavoured with cucumber, mint and orange as we browsed the menu, deciding between the 10 or 7 course taster menu, the a la carte or the early bird. The menu is short and concise, but even so I struggled making a decision on what to eat, everything sounded so tempting. The wine and beer list isn’t extended either, all the more easier to pick and choose, a few award winning wines and craft ales, also a wine pairing menu if you so wish. I would have walked out sloshed if that were the case.

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First out came an amuse bouche, aubergine, beetroot and cucumber, a perfect little tasty concoction whilst sipping on our chardonnay, just a little taster of what was to come. Don’t get me started on the plates, the temptation to lick the plate clean and stuff it into my handbag definitely ran through my mind.

Next along came the starters, one the courgette scallop with sea herb salsa verde. A pan-fried courgette scallop with a samphire salsa verde on a celeriac puree, tapioca pearl, apple and nori. A salty sea freshness and the smoothest celeriac puree that has ever graced my mouth. Alongside the allotments’ signature dish cauliflower hot wings with some roast garlic hummus. Addictive doesn’t even explain it. My mum is not a fan of cauliflower at all. No matter how much I try to disguise the flavours she will always shove it to the side of the plate for me to pick at. These went down pretty well though. How can they not really? They’re deep fried!! 😛

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I opted for the aubergine manchurian for main, an indo-chinese spiced confit aubergine, spring onion rice, chilli popcorn, lemon kale, pickled vegetables and fried enoki. Full of different textures and flavours, some spicy some sharp and the meaty aubergine to mop up all the lovely sauce. For my mum was the sweetcorn and pickled chilli. A fried sweetcorn and jalapeno fritter, lemon thyme and cumin potato puree, tomato marmalade glazed roasted romanesco, white bean, pine nut and avocado. All plants. Yep not a bit of meat, eggs or dairy in sight! And that’s coming from someone who when a dish isn’t feeling quiiiitteeee right, cheese is always the answer.

Another glass of wine down and out came an unexpected (and my favourite bit of the night). A PRE DESSERT. Can this be made obligatory at every restaurant. K thanks. A bottom layer of turmeric custard, topped with a pink fir apple compote and some toasted chopped hazelnuts. We could’ve eaten this by the bucket full. Only to be followed by the dessert, a sweet potato custard tart with meringue shards and lemon sorbet. Nicely spiced, in between an egg(less) custard and a pumpkin pie, a bit of crisp from the meringue, all cut with some zing in the lemon sorbet. We did share the dessert, I’m sure much to the dismay of some of you, but stuffed we were and it topped off a lovely meal.

Sorry that there’s no images of the pre-dessert and dessert, you’ll just have to picture it in your head. We just wanted to tuck straight in for once, it was my birthday, let me off!

I’d like to add that neither me nor my mum are vegan or even vegetarian for that matter. We tend to eat plant based meals the majority of the time, but still do enjoy some fish once or twice a week and the odd roast chicken or steak. That being said, dinner at the allotment was refreshing and inspiring, every plate full of varying textures and using ingredients together that you would not normally dream of. There is indeed a cheese course. Cultured nut cheeses served with seasonal nut cheeses and raw crackers, something that I am yet to try and anticipating it to be sooner rather than later!

Starters cost £6-£7, mains are between £17 and £18 and desserts are £7, it’s fine dining so don’t expect large portions, but that just means you can try more of what they have to offer. If you do visit though, please make sure to order the cauliflower hot wings. Just for me. Even if that’s all you go for, it’ll be completely worth it.

The Allotment Vegan, 6 Vernon St, Stockport, SK1 1TY

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September saviours

It’s been a crazy mad one this September. Every year without doubt there is many things inked in the calendar, when there has been nothing happening for months, why all at once? I suppose going back to school and work after the summer brings around many more social occasions, and for some September is a good chance to wipe the slate clean and attempt many of those resolutions you quickly forgot about during January. September always means something to me in particular, its my birthday month and this time around it was a big-un. The big 2 1.

Preparing myself and the house for a party was of course in order, as was big batches of chilli and all the sides, bakewell tarts, brownies and butterscotch blondies. Too many aperols were drank and too much sugar and cheese consumed, but that’s what a birthday is about!

Earlier in the month I managed to pass my driving test. FIRST TIME. It was a sheer relief as I had it set in my mind I was going to fail, but the gods were on my side for once! Alongside job searching and acquiring, and university visiting, my mind really has been all over the place. However of course I still had an inch space to think about a cobbled together list for this month. A mixture of clothes, beauty, food (shock) and recipes, there’ll be something on here of interest to you!

#1 Babe Balm by BYBI beauty 

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A multipurpose balm that looks as beautiful on the inside of the tub as it does on the outside. Perhaps you’re a fan of Elizabeth Arden’s eight-hour cream, well this is similar in idea but switched up to totally natural ingredients. To be used on brows to keep the unruly buggers in place, on lips, on elbows, knees, hands, anywhere dry that needs some TLC, cheekbones for a highlight and anywhere else you so wish. A gorgeous peachy tint comes from the pink sweet potato extract and coenzyme Q10, squalene, kokum butter and calendula are a select few of the reasons to why it is so nourishing. I must say, how can you not resist owning something called babe balm, from one babe to the next this is something you’ll want to add to your beauty arsenal. Find it on their website here where you will also find other products and recipes to create your own natural skin-loving goodies.

 

#2 Adidas Gazelles in Green White

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I’m not the biggest trainer fan, even though I tend to wear them often for comfort when trooping the pavements, I would much rather be stomping around in a good heeled boot or something like this shoe I have my eyes on. Trainers though can add serious style points with a cropped jean or trouser, a midi skirt and paired with a floaty dress. Considering my favourite of my trainer loot, these Nike X Liberty trainers, are too small and crush my toes, a new pair was definitely on the cards. Looking for something retro, a nice bright colour to brighten up the dreary days ahead, well these Adidas Gazelles in a lovey emerald green ticked all the boxes. I made the mistake of wearing them to work the other day, only to spend the night treading carefully around everything and trying not to spill food and oil over them. Thankfully there were no serious OOPS moments and we came out unscathed (yes both me and the trainers), but boxfresh now they are not so much!

 

#3 Granola Gravel – recipe from the blog Earthsprout

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Sick of sandy granola? Loads of finely chopped nuts and oat crumbs that are left in the bottom of the packet, when all you really want is a good mega sized chunk. Well that’s what we have here. Granola Gravel!! I made the orange and cinnamon version, slightly sweetened by the banana and a little maple syrup, crunch from the nuts and seeds and I added oats and puffed rice for a more sustaining snack. If you’re a smoothie bowl or açai fan, this is the answer you’ve been looking for, or on top of porridge (you cant go far wrong with a double oat hit) or how I’ve been eating it, by the shovel full. Once you have an over-ripe banana in the fruit bowl, get busy in the kitchen!

 

#4 Sour cream and black pepper rice and pea crisps by Off the Eaten Path

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Another to add to the savoury snack-attack. Fond memories of sour cream and chive Pringles from childhood parties and sleepovers, where a couple of tubes (at LEAST) would have been consumed, these have a similar flavour and a satisfying crunch. I planned on eating half the bag to save the rest till later, but before even realising, they had all vanished. The green and yellow peas and black beans add a nutty bite to your bog standard rice-cracker, alongside some crudites and hummus (I think there was a glass of kombucha involved too, I was hungry!) it was the perfect interim between lunch and dinner.

 

#5 Figs

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Besides my birthday, my other favourite thing about September is fig season. Abundant at this time of year, you’ll see the black skinned variety in all supermarkets and greengrocers selling them off remarkably cheap compared to other times of the year. Many have bad memories of figs from when they were children, the dried figs as tough as old boots and full of seeds that get stuck in your teeth. Personally I love them, and they’re really high in calcium too perfect for those avoiding dairy, but for others this has put them off for life. Totally different to the fresh ones. Baked until jammy and bubbling besides a melting Camembert is a thing of beauty. Or simply sliced with some walnuts and cinnamon, when you get a good fig they are marvellous things. When buying them ensure they have some give, just give them a squish, if they feel soft that’ll be the perfect fig – they don’t ripen once they have been picked. If you spy some green figs, grab them!! Even better than the darker skinned kind, juicier and more succulent. And FYI please do eat the skin, there’s nothing wrong with it and a fig doesn’t need to be scooped out with a spoon, my dad was asking the other day so I thought this point was worth adding.

 

#6 The Allotment Vegan Restaurant in Stockport

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For my birthday meal, my mum took me out to The Allotment. Found in stockpot, not the most likely of spots for a fine dining vegan restaurant, and lentils and nut roast it most definitely wasn’t. Hanging plants, bottles of water filled with cucumber and mint and the most beautiful crockery set the scene. There is a 10 course or a 7 course taster menu on offer, an a la carte menu and an early bird offer with 3 courses for £25, so there’s something to suit every budget. Starting with an amuse-bouche, then a starter each, a main each, a pre-dessert and a pudding to share, afterwards our bellies were filled and our hearts were full after a glorious meal. see the current menu here. No meat, dairy or eggs in sight, there is also a cheese board made from cultured nut cheese that I will only have to go back for, and seeing as the menu changes seasonally no two meals will be the same. I will post a full review on here soon, with pictures too (perhaps not the dessert we were too excited to eat it before I got a snap!). The pre-dessert was the thing that I can’t get off my mind. A turmeric custard layered with a pink fir apple puree and some chopped roasted hazelnuts, something that will need to be recreated, and on a much larger scale. I could’ve eaten 3!

The Allotment Vegan Restaurant, 6 Vernon st, SK1 1TY

 

I’d love to hear what things you have been loving this September? Whether it’s a new podcast, your favourite chocolate bar or just as simple as autumnal walks kicking through the crunchy leaves! I’m off to go and pick some blackberries as last time I checked they weren’t ready – I have a feeling they will have all been eaten by now. Fingers crossed as i want some apple and blackberry crumble this weekend!

Love to you all

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BBQ pulled shrooms and beans

I am not one for fake meats, vegan versions of chicken nuggets and ‘vegan cheeze’. They just taste too funky and as someone who isn’t vegan (or vegetarian even) the concept of cheese which isn’t, when I would much happier delve into a chunk of cheddar, it just doesn’t register.

Saying that it seems these sorts of dishes are popping up on menus as the majority of the public are becoming aware of meat consumption and its effects on the environment. One in particular I’m spying on my Instagram feed is the jackfruit. Said to be the contender to pulled pork, the soft tooth-wielding and melting meat, with lashings of BBQ sauce, requires a certain hunch to make sure it ends up in your mouth rather than all down your front.

Out for lunch the other day with my mum, BBQ pulled jackfruit cropped up. Piled onto some toasted sourdough with lettuce and tomato, never had I eaten it before, plus the sight of BBQ sauce made me in deep need for some of that sweet and smoky sauce. Upon arrival, due to being hungry dived in pretty swiftly, but on eating my thoughts quickly dissipated. Not enough BBQ sauce, not enough of that smoky addictive lick-your-lips-smackingly good flavour and the jackfruit, well it was ok. It had the texture of a stringy fibrous fruit, perhaps if the BBQ sauce was better it would have been a more enjoyable experience overall. I’m sad it didn’t live up to expectations, but there’s still plenty of time to experience another one.

Anyone have any tips for a good pulled jackfruit burger, and by good I mean even better than a pulled pork (I’m sure it’s highly possible) Manchester or northern England preferred, pictures of proof is good enough though!!

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One day last week I was wondering what to cook for my mum and I for dinner. Fancying a baked potato because STODGE=LIFE and beans were on my mind. It’s a classic British combination baked beans on a jacket potato. You feeling the need to be truly British? try baked beans on toast with grated cheese, oh you’ve hit the jack pot. I had a quick flick through Laura Wright’s cookbook, The First Mess for some inspiration, to come across BBQ mushrooms on toast. Well I had loads of mushrooms in the fridge that needed eating, I could add some kidney beans for that baked bean vibe, and BBQ sauce. That’s what I’m looking for to satisfy that craving.

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The sauce is really simple to make just a few store cupboard ingredients needed, to be left with a deeply flavoured BBQ with heaps of oomph and a little tingly spice. Feel free to stick close to the original recipe and keep it solely mushroom based just double the amount used, or skip the mushrooms entirely and use an extra tin of beans.

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We have a baked bean/pulled pork hybrid going here, may as well have both if you can! For a vegetarian, or plant based eater, the mushroom is the meatiest of textures you can get without straying anywhere near to the meat substitutes. By slicing them thinly and cooking them over a high heat first so they lose their excess water and shrink down, this resembled the ‘pulled pork’ element. I served it on a baked jacket potato the first time and brown rice the second but a sweet potato, also piled onto a burger bun would be more than marvellous, just make sure to add all the fixings. Pickles, extra sauce and mustard are all necessary!

 

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BBQ pulled shrooms and beans

Ingredients

  • 300g mushrooms (I used large flat mushrooms), sliced very thinly
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, grated
  • 1/2 tsp sweet smoked (dulce) paprika, use a little more if using a paprika from the supermarket
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tin plum tomatoes, blitzed up in a blender till smooth, failing that use 400g passata
  • 25 ml maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 tin kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Directions

  1. Heat some oil in a large frying on a medium high heat. When hot add the mushrooms and leave for a minute or two. Once the water starts evaporating stir them gently to move around the pan, you want to let all the water escape and make sure they don’t stew. Once the mushrooms start to sizzle and have shrunk down in size, this will take up to 5 minutes, transfer them to a plate and set aside.
  2. Turn the heat down to low and add a little more oil to the pan along with the onion and garlic. Cook gently until the onion is soft and translucent, if it starts to stick add a little water.
  3. Once soft add the paprika, mustard and chilli flakes stir until they start to smell fragrant and quickly add the blitzed tinned tomatoes, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar and tamari. Bring to the boil and then turn down low and leave to simmer gently.
  4. After around 5 minutes and once the sauce has thickened and reduced slightly add the mushrooms, stir to coat and leave to reduce for a further 5-10 minutes. Add the beans for the final few minutes.
  5. You want a sauce that coats the beans and mushrooms, with enough extra to mop up with some carbzzzz. Taste for seasoning, there should be a balance of sweet, spice, salty with a little acidic kick at the end. Add extra salt, pepper, mustard or chilli if you so wish.
  6. Serve over your carb of choice, a slaw on the side, some avo and extra hot sauce for shaking over liberally.

I have a feeling this recipe is going to be on repeat this autumn and winter. Today being the autumn equinox the days are slowly turning into longer, darker and cooler ones. For me that means deep bowls of soul soothing warm dishes. Preferably with some spice, hot sauce always on the side and a good bit of stodge to keep those chills at bay. I hope you enjoy this recipe a much as I did!

On a side note, it was my birthday yesterday, and this weekend I will be celebrating with all my family and friends. Of course that means lots of cake and sweet treats (brownies, blondies and bakewell tarts in my case!!), bubbles and dancing it all off till my little toes can’t stand it no more. I’ll report back next week, once I have recovered!

Till then my loves

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Romesco white bean dip

For those of you holidaying abroad this summer, or considering it’s the end of August, have already spent your week away and have hoiday blues. You’ve wined and dined eating the local cuisine, immersed yourself in a new culture, had many failed attempts at the local lingo, driven on the wrong side of the road and made many memories.

That’s what holidays are really about the memories.

A certain time and place, the view, the company, it all adds up to make these memories. Ever had lunch on a beach drinking a glass of wine, to go and buy that very same bottle to take home, but when it comes to drinking, it just doesn’t taste as good. Or asked the waiter for the recipe for that sublime paella or meze dish to cook it at home, it most likely won’t taste as good.

So I bring to you a take on a famous sauce from the northern region of Spain, Catalonia. The romesco sauce is punchy from the paprika and cayenne but rich due to the almonds and Spanish olive oil. If you’ve ever experienced a true romesco sauce, no this won’t be the same, it may not be as good, it may even be better?!? But it has its feet stuck firmly in its roots.

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The original sauce uses bread as a thickener, a good white sourdough or chunky country loaf is ideal as it also imparts some flavour. Here though I’ve opted for some white beans. When making a dip I tend to gravitate towards a plantbased protein, typically in the form of lentils or beans, so whether it comes to afternoon snacking or building a big veggie bowl it will keep me sustained. White beans help to thicken the dip and provide a creaminess meaning less oil is needed plus who doesn’t like an alternative to hummus!?! I may feel the urge to bathe in it, but sometimes a change is necessary, so in comes this bright red beauty.

How much chilli, and which variety of chilli you use is comepletely up to you. I use a picante paprika by La Chinata, it is the hot smoked kind so has a good kick, if you’re using paprika just from the supermarket you may need to add a little more to get the right smoky level. Also I used half a dried ancho chilli which has sweeter fruity notes and isn’t too spicy but dried chilli flakes will substitute just finneeeeee. You won’t need to rehydrate these so just add straight to the food processor.

 

I served this in a few different ways, just as a dip with crudites, once in a big veggie bowl packed with sweet potato and courgette chips, avocado, some grains and greens. Another time in a packed lunch with olives, carrot, extra butter beans and a few other veggies thrown in the mix. Stir in some extra olive oil, vinegar if you like and a drop of water to make a killer salad dressing that will liven up any old salad. Or serve with some simply cooked fish or chicken or steak, or smeared underneath a plate of roasted meditteranean veg. I like to work on a leftover lunch policy, they are always the best ones. Throw together whatever is lingering, the crazier and more random sure will be the better!

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Enough chatting, let’s hop to it!

Romesco white bean dip

  • Servings: one big bowl full
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 tin of white beans (I used haricot)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree ( I had 2 tbsp of tinned cherry tomatoes that were leftover)
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1 tbsp almond butter or a handful of almonds (roasting them would make it taste even better)
  • 1/2 dried ancho chilli (or 1/2 tsp chilli flakes)
  • 1/2 tsp picante smoked paprika (use 1 tsp of paprika if it’s not as strong)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 good pinches of salt
  • small handful of fresh parsley

Directions

  1. Set the oven to 190C/170C fan. Place the peppers on a tray and put in the oven for up to 45 minutes until the skin is blackened and the peppers are soft. Set aside to cool.
  2. Meanwhile put the 1/2 ancho chilli in a mug and pour enough boiling water over to cover and leave to rehydrate.
  3. Once the peppers are cool enough to handle peel away the charred skins and remove the seeds and white membranes. Then put into a food processor.
  4. Place all the other ingredients along with the ancho chilli (not the water though) in the food processor and blitz until a smooth puree is formed.
  5. Taste and check for seasoning, salt, smokiness, acidity, spiciness and adjust as you like.
  6. Scoop into a serving bowl, garnish with extra parsley or store in a Tupperware where it will keep for around 5 days.

Have you got any favourite recipes from past holidays that you make on repeat at home? Maybe it’s the peri peri chicken from Portugal, a rabbit stew from Malta (that’s one that is on my list) a further flung pav bhaji from Mumbai or fava, one of my favourite Greek dishes that I still haven’t got round to cooking. Don’t you worry I’ll be in a yellow split pea frenzy by the time I’m back in my kitchen!

Enjoy the last of your summer!

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August Antics

I’m way too hot right now. Taking a respite from the blazing Cretan sunshine, I’m sat under the umbrella writing this post, also the only place I can see the screen. Is there such a thing as a laptop screen that you can still see in the sun? No matter how much I turn up the brightness I’m still staring into a black void, which isn’t so ideal for editing photos, and god knows what I’m actually typing here.

So yes, I’m spending my last week of August in Crete, near to the city of Rethymno. We have a beautiful villa here, surrounded by olive groves and pomegranate trees and the mountains in the distance. Did you know that Greece is approximately 80% mountain?? I didn’t!! It’s so peaceful here too, except for the sound of crickets, birds (not forgetting the bloody barking dogs, they’re not so peaceful but we can forget about them) and the swilling of the pool, well that’s about it.

The so-called British summer has been pretty poor this year. All those who don’t believe in global warming, well surely it’s proof enough when our summer’s have been getting wetter and cooler year on year. The boots and puffer coats never get put away and the sandals and bikinis are too shy to come out. I’m very grateful to be here and to end August on a good note in a beautiful setting. I’m sick of the rain, so when I get back home to England can you please have gone away? Thanks.

With next coming September (my birthday month, annnnddddd it’s a big’un!) I’m very much looking forward to it, celebrating with a bang. Also what’s not to love about Autumn, the last of the seasonal fruit and vegetables, foraging for blackberries, low and golden sunshine beams and walks through the falling leaves. But that’s next month it’s a while to go yet, so back to now! Here’s what I’ve been loving this August, just a couple of things, mainly with a sunny theme of course!

#1 Daily morning swim

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There’s no way that I could go on holiday without having a pool nearby, just a few steps away is ideal. I’m not a huge fan of the beach, sand gets everywhere in every single crack and crevice, you can’t eat or you’ll end up chewing on the stuff and swimming in the sea gives me the heebie jeebies. The pool is a must. On holiday I like to have a little routine of waking up putting my swimsuit on and swim a few lengths. It’s just me and the pool, some time for myself to reflect on things in my mind and get my body moving before a hard days’ work of lying down, reading books, doing crosswords and eating. The pool isn’t so big where I am right now, maybe only four or five strokes per length, but hey that only means more lengths. I’m currently on eighty, let’s see by the end of the week if I’ll make it to one hundred. I highly doubt that! NOTE: One day I did manage one hundred, pretty chuffed with myself I must admit, also pretty ravenous the rest of the day. Can’t complain about that just means more cheese for me!

 

#2  This dress from & Other Stories

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The love affair all began way way back on a shopping day with my mum to Manchester, let’s say around May. I spotted this dress in & Other Stories, the skirt with the same print too, and just fell in love. I knew I had to own it. Unnnntttil spying the price tag of a lofty £79, well that idea was swiftly put aside. A week or so later I did a shoot on Formby Beach (which is absolutely beautiful on a sunny day by the way) and what was to be one of the looks? Of course that dress. It’s was as if it was fate. So again on another shopping trip in the summer months, I spied this beauty. ON THE SALE RAIL. I felt like all my stars had aligned and karma was on my side (something which doesn’t happen very often). It was meant to be after all! So finally last night I had the chance to wear said dress for a meal by the sea. It was a little breezier that anticipated and the waves were definitely crashing on the rocks, and the waistband perhaps was a little too tight so I had to undo the zip (too much feta maybe?). But it got its first outing and that’s all that matters!

 

#3 Greek Tea – particularly this brand Krocus Kozanis

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There’s a theme this month if you haven’t already noticed, I am pretty in love with Greece. They like tea, as do I, meaning we get along well together. They do something called mountain tea which is made from the dried leaves, stems and flowers of the sideritis plant. But many other herbal teas are popular including the likes of sage and oregano all with supposed individual health benefits but a delicious flavour too. I’ve found this brand Krocus Kozanis, who sell a small range of organic greek teas, it is available in the uk but not the easiest to get hold of. The best of the lot are the herbal tea with sage, lemon verbena and saffron and the herbal tea with rosemary, thyme and saffron. I will be stocking up whilst we’re here and packing my suitcase with teabags. If we’re overweight on the baggage allowance – I’ll sure know why!

 

#4 Pistachio and dark chocolate cookies with sea salt from Joy The Baker

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This is one of my go-to’s. Whenever my family is pining for something sweet or I need a present to take to someones’ house, I know it’s a pleaser. A mixture of finely chopped almost ground pistachios with chunkier ones for some bite, dark chocolate chips (the darker the better to contrast with the sweetness) and a good sprinkling of sea salt on each one which is totally obligatory. They’re a little more adult than your regular chocolate chip, and just that little bit better. Joy the Baker has some brilliant finds on her blog, I’m a repeat visitor for her cookie recipes and also her chats about cats, I’m always into that. Cats are life. As are cookies.

 

#5 Organic cold-pressed rose hip seed oil from The Ordinary

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Rosehip oil is something I’ve intergrated into my beauty routine for some time now. A few drops on slightly damp skin (nothing which a good spritz of rosewater can’t solve) massaged in then left to absorb before applying my moisturiser. It’s highly hydrating, full of Vitamin A and Fatty acids which are beneficial for our skin, is lighter than many other oils such as coconut oil so won’t clog your pores and it gives you a natural glow due to its orange colour (I’m not talking oopma loompa, but just eough of a tint). I’ve been faithful to this rosehip oil from Pai, it has a lovely scent but also a bit costy too. A friend suggested the company The Ordinary to me, a new beauty brand which aims to bring trustworthy products to the market, dispose of false advertsing and to sell everything at a reasonable price. Well at £9 a pop I can’t really argue with that.

 

#6 Swiss cheese plant or Monstera (or as I like to call it Grilled Cheese Plant) from Ikeamonstera-potted-plant-swiss-cheese-plant__0507893_pe636086_s4

Oh Ikea, you walk in with intentions of tracking down the one wardrobe, to walk the wrong way down the aisles, get hungry halfway round so stop for meatbealls and a cinnamon bun, buy way more unnecessary things than you intended to and then struggle with the trolley on the way to the car as the flat pack is way heavier than you anticipated and the trolley has a Dickie wheel. We’ve all been there! HOWEVER they do sell everything at a reasonable price and you can get some pretty snazzy finds. Even though I have just bought this mirror for my room (which I love to pieces may I add) but every other man and his goat has the same one, which is rather annoying. They also have a really good plant section. I bought two plants from there, a Calathea (obviously purchased entirely on the basis of the name) and the Montera (or swiss cheese). Perhaps plants have become that indie ‘staple’ to be seen in every coffee shop and young persons apartment. It’s true I also have a pinterest board full of plant inspiration for my bedroom, I’m talking planters, macramé and succulents. Buutttttt it’s also true that plants are really beneficial to our health when kept inside. They increase the quality of the air by removing pollutents, keep the air more humid and less dry and supposedly encourage an increase in mood and lower stress levels. Well I’ll be having some of that please. Also they just look really nice. The swiss cheese plant, has holes in its leaves, similar to an edam or gouda (d’ya get it now?), and a hell of a lot easier upkeep than a dog or cat. I’m just praying that after a 1 week holiday it hasn’t given up on me!

 

August it’s been a fun ride but here we are on the other side. I’ll be chatting here this time next month when I’m another year older. 21. Pretty excited I must admit, but do I feel like I can officially call myself an adult and I have my life in check. Hell NO. Am I looking forward to eating my weight in birthday cake, drinking way too much prosecco and seeing all my family and friends (ooh not forgetting the new outfit)? Why OF COURSE!!

Ta ta

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Courgette, dill and ricotta quiche with a rapeseed oil crust

I have a very large plastic tub in my lounge. One of those tubs that parents keep their kids’ toys in perhaps to prevent the inevitable and very painful Lego brick stuck between your toes and the plastic farm set from being sucked up the hoover. Yes one of those 2L ones. It has my stash of magazines in, Good Food magazines, and I cherish them all. Ever since my first, December 2012 to be exact, I’ve had a monthly subscription and my Good Food magazine delivered to the door at the end of the month as it’s just rolling into the next one.

Rummaging through you will notice which ones enclose the beloved recipes. Dog eared pages splattered with tinned tomatoes or oil drips and the front cover slowly slipping away from its hinges. Typically these recipes are family favourites, a one-pot tagine, a riff on a shepherds pie, curries and sides to roast dinners to keep things interesting. Come Christmas time every single one of the December issues become my bibles when I’m on the search for the ultimate roast potatoes, and what on earth to do with all that leftover turkey. Turns out there’s way more meal ideas than a turkey and stuffing sandwich or eaten cold with chips, pickled onions and gravy.

Always up to date with the latest food trends, in the most recent issue (August 2017) there’s talk of charcoal in food, alcopops (the frozen ones and a hella better than the tween faves of WKD and Bacardi Breezers), recipes for those health nuts who can’t cook a meal without using a spiralizer and ones for those who don’t even know what a spiralizer is. They cover alllll the bases that’s for sure.

One thing I always look forward to are the recipes coming from Rosie Birkett. Those you of you who aren’t aware of Rosie, she is a food stylist, food journalist and recipe creator hailing from London (find her on Instagram here). She has written a number of books, A Lot on Her Plate, being one of them and writes for newspapers and magazines across the UK. Her food ethos centres around seasonality, nothing chosen for their certain health properties or current trends, just things picked when they’re at their best, most sweetest, succulent and delicious.

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So in a flick through the July issue I came across this quiche recipe. For a while now I had been in the mood for a quiche. It’s pastry, I would eat it every day if I could, until my body mainly comprised of the flaky stuff. How can you go wrong really? Served at room temperature with a lemony dressed green salad, that’s all you need. Ok perhaps I did do a little faffing and roasted some spiced squash and carrots for on the side also, for me that’s keeping things simple, one pots aren’t in my repertoire. Plus the leftovers to look forward to for #notasaddesklunch or pack up and go on a picnic in the sunshine (oh how hard I wish for that this summer).

So I had courgettes in the fridge, some feta, an out of date tub of ricotta (sealed may I add, it was still fine), a bulb of fennel and loads of herbs. Perfect, no need to go shopping and using up all the odds and ends! That’s my favourite part. My heart sinks when I have to throw some forgotten item from the back of the fridge away. #wastefreeissexy

The original recipe calls for a spelt pastry flecked with pumpkin seeds. I love spelt pastry it’s so much shorter and crumbly than your typical shortcrust due to the lower gluten content, but I was wanting to attempt an oil based crust, substituting rapeseed oil for the butter. Cutting the quantity of fat by over half and substituting it for an unsaturated fat too which is proven to be more beneficial to our hearts than the saturated kind. Pastry that’s good for me? Well kinda…

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Half wholemeal to white flour brings the best texture, I used half wholemeal wheat flour and half plain flour, but any spelt or rye or even a bit of buckwheat would do here. We want something heavier than a white shortcrust and the nuttiness from the wholemeal flours pairs beautifully with the cheese. Don’t forget about the much needed fibre from wholegrains, got to sneak that extra bit in at every opportunity!!

If you’re scared about making quiche, don’t be! It’s far from difficult just requiring a little resting time for the pastry, pre-baking, and cooking and cooling of the filling before mixing it all together. If pastry really does give you the heeby jeebies, buying a good quality one from the shop is fine too, try to get an all butter shortcrust, or failing that call up your Nan!

Courgette, dill and ricotta quiche with a rapeseed oil crust

Loosely adapted from Rosie Birkett’s recipe in the July 2017 edition of Good Food magazine

Pastry Ingredients

  • 20g pumpkin seeds
  • 100g wholemeal flour
  • 100g plain flour (or a white spelt or rye)
  • pinch of salt
  • 50ml rapeseed oil (or olive oil)
  • 75 ml cold water

Filling Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 courgettes, halved lengthways then slice on the diagonal
  • 1/2 fennel, sliced thinly
  • 1 lemon
  • Big handful watercress, roughly chopped
  • Big handful dill, chopped
  • Big handfull parsley, chopped
  • 150g ricotta
  • 4 eggs
  • Good sized chunk of feta

Directions

  1. First make the pastry. Put the pumpkin seeds in a food processor and blitz until they are coarsely chopped. Then add the flours and salt, pulse until combined and pour in the oil blending until a breadcrumb consistency is formed.
  2. Add the water in a slow stream until it starts to clump together in a ball. Tip out onto a floured surface and squidge together into a ball (try not to be too heavy handed).
  3. Wrap in clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for a minimum of 30 mins. Can be made 1-2 days ahead.
  4. Preheat the oven to 160C/140 fan. Get a 22cm tart tin (a metal one with a removable base will make life easier). Once the pastry has rested, roll out on a floured surface into a circle, bigger than your tart tin and around the thickness of a £1 coin.
  5. Transfer to the tin, not worrying too much if it splits as you can patch it up later, and ease it in gently, pressing in the fluted sides with your finger. Roll a rolling pin over the top edge to make a nice finish and prevent it from shrinking inwards.
  6. Scrunch up some baking paper and line the pastry case, fill with baking beans or rice or dried beans. Place on a baking sheet and pop in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the beans and bake for another 5 minutes until biscuity and the base is dry.
  7. To make the filling, heat the oil in a large frying pan then add the fennel seeds, cook for a few minutes until they smell fragrant. Add the garlic, courgettes and fennel and cook on a low-medium heat, stirring often, until starting to caramelise and turn slightly golden and the courgette and fennel have softened. This will take between 15 – 20 mins.
  8. Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped herbs and the watercress, alongside the zest of the lemon and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Leave aside until cool.
  9. In a bowl whisk the ricotta and eggs until smooth and season well with salt and pepper.
  10. Pour a thin layer of custard over the pastry base, fold half of the courgette filling with the rest of the custard in the bowl and spoon into the case.
  11. Dot the rest of the courgette mix over the top, pressing it down lightly. Sprinkle the feta over the top.
  12. Place in the oven (still on the baking sheet) for around 35 minutes until the edges are set and there is a slight wobble in the middle. Leave to cool slightly before eating, it tastes best at room temperature.

I’m jetting off soon for some much needed time in the sun, Rethymno in Crete being my destination. Obviously I’m super buzzed about sampling all of the Cretan food (particualrly some of those Cretan pies – one a day being an obligatory thing and will be scheduled into my itinerary), the seafood is meant to be some of the best and I’ve read Rethymno is a real stunner too. If anyone has any Crete, Rethymno ideally, suggestions and recommendations send them my way, whether it be food, drink, sight seeing and must-dos all is much welcomed.

So there should be another post hitting here before I’m far and away, another to add to the dip devotion series. Stay tuned!!

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