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

X

 

 

 

 

 

Want some crumble? I’ve got you covered.

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I’ve still got that autumnal vibe. Walks around my local park, romping through the crunchy leaves leaving a trail of my wanderings behind me. Walking to the green grocers and picking up squashes, beetroots, multicoloured carrots all ready to roast up for a heart warming dinner or snack.

These rich and toasty flavours are spreading into almost everything I am craving and making recently. A morning doesn’t go by without a generous sprinkling of cinnamon in my porridge or on my toast (no change from the rest of the year there then). I’m feeling a need for warming cooked food instead of my regular salad for lunch. Baked sweet potatoes topped generously with dahl or veggie chilli, big bowls of soup and a huge hunk of sourdough bread and butter. Bread, potatoes, rice, CARBS, more bread, I think it’s a sign of the foreboding winter. My body stock piling the energy to keep my fingers and toes warm for the next few months, or more likely that a new bakery has opened up where I live, and a week doesn’t go by without a loaf or two of sourdough for us to devour (add in a couple of pastries too).

I’m not complaining. Bread and butter has always been one of my favourite things to eat, and ultimate comfort food. Back in the days of me only eating bread and butter, ham, chips and sweet corn, and by bread I’m talking white thick sliced Hovis and the ‘butter’ was some plastic margarine crap, I think freshly baked sourdough and organic salted butter isn’t going to do any harm.

Another winter comfort always has to be crumble. Any fruit is welcome here. As long as it’s tart and juicy in contrast to the crispy, but gooey underneath and slightly sweet crumble topping. And then drown that in custard. DONE. But only one spoon please, I’m not sharing with anyone!

On a lunch out for my mums birthday the other weekend, we went to a favourite of ours in Manchester. We’ve been before and dreamed of munching on their spicy Korean fried chicken once more. However I’d also heard about their apple crumble. Proper stuff, no deconstructed or single serving nonsense here. I’m talking bring the whole dish to the table, serve out a hearty portion and drown it with creamy custard. No creme anglaise we’re English! So obviously after enough to drink, the crumble was obligatory for some alcohol absorption (so we told ourselves).

Since that weekend, crumble has been on my mind.

But I wanted a snack that wasn’t overly sweet and would keep in the fridge, ready to be packed into a Tupperware for those hungry travels. Flicking though the cookbook from My New Roots, I spied some walnut and fig crumble bars. That fits the brief quite nicely.

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They’re ever so simple to whip up, a mixture of oats, walnuts, chia and apple sauce for the crust, and blended dried figs for the filling. No added sugars, maple syrup, honey or anything. All real ingredients from Mother Nature herself. And yes they are even acceptable for breakfast.

Now figs are not the most popular of the fruit world, but a real treat for all the foodies amongst us. Come September, Instagram fills up with pictures of juicy figs topping everything from porridge to toast and gracing savoury dishes, cheese boards and desserts. (NOTE a pud I had recently, white chocolate pannacotta with figs honey and walnut, unctuously creamy and sinfully good). For the rest of the year we have to turn to our dried friends for that figgy fix, and if you’ve ever tried dipping one in peanut butter or tahini, you will be hooked.

They are wonderful little creatures, providing you with calcium, which in this day and age is a very important mineral due to many people cutting dairy out of their diets. Alongside iron, potassium, magnesium and vitamins A, E and K, you get a lot of bang for your buck.

Also as some of you will well know if you have eaten a few too many figs or prunes, they are high in fibre, and you probably will not want to eat a high amount again due to the consequences. The government recently have upped our required fibre intake here in the UK to 30g, which doesn’t sound much but I’m sure many of us aren’t reaching that goal daily. Fibre is so important boasting many health benefits such as reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes and keeping weight under control due to it keeping you fuller for longer. But it’s also vital for your digestive health, acting as the food for your gut bacteria which we all need to learn to love and look after, and bulking up stools to prevent the C WORD, yep constipation.

TMI!!!

But it’s so important, I’m not going to beat around the bush, I’m getting straight to the point!

3 dried figs give you 2.4 g of fibre, so chop them up and mix into porridge with some ground flaxseeds and peanut butter, and you’re well on your way to that 30g a day.

 

Or have one of these bars with your afternoon cup of tea, or as a dessert with some yogurt and berries. Lightly sweet, spicy, crunchy and wholesome. It’s not a bowl of apple crumble and custard but that’s not for everyday, save that for special occasions. These are to enjoy for those times in between, satisfying your sweet tooth but with the knowledge that they are doing you and your gut some good. And we all need to give our guts a bit more loving!!!

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Fig and walnut crumble bars

Recipe adapted from the My New Roots cookbook

A dairy free recipe, no added sugar and can be gluten free if you use gluten free oats. A note on the applesauce, I buy applesauce from the baby food section because it contains no added nasties. Make sure there’s just apples on the ingredients list and no sugar. I used both this and this brand.

Ingredients

Base and crumble topping

  • 1 1/2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 280g walnuts
  • 200g rolled oats
  • 60g applesauce
  • 2 tbsp nut milk (can use maple syrup as stated in the original recipe but didn’t want them that sweet)
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Figgy filling

  • 300g dried figs
  • 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 125g applesauce
  • Grated zest 1 small or 1/2 large lemon or orange
  • Pinch salt

Method

  1. For the crust: whisk the chia seeds with 1/4 cup of water in a small bowl. Leave for around 15 minutes until it has formed a gel.
  2. Set your oven to 180C/160C fan. Put 140g of the walnuts on a baking tray and put in the oven, leave until lightly golden and they smell toasty. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  3. In a food processor, blend 100g of the oats until you have a flour, add in the toasted walnuts and pulse until they are all chopped up and you have a sandy mealy texture.
  4. Add the chia gel, applesauce, nut milk (or maple syrup if you prefer), coconut oil and vanilla extract. Blend again until a moist dough is formed.
  5. In a bowl, mix the remaining 100g of oats with a pinch of salt and the baking powder. Tip the sticky dough mixture in the bowl and mix well either using a big spoon, or your hands, which is much easier.
  6. Line a 20cm square baking tin with greaseproof paper, then put about a third of the dough mixture in. Press with the back of a spoon, or damp hands, fairly firmly to make an even base layer.
  7. To make the filling: In the food processor, there’s no need to wash it, snip the stalks off the figs and blend together with the cinnamon, ginger, applesauce, orange/lemon zest and a pinch of salt. Blend till either chunky or smooth depending on your preference, then spread the filling in an even layer over the base.
  8. Drop the remaining oat mixture in clumps so it resembles a crumble topping. Chop the remaining 140g of walnuts so they are still chunky and sprinkle over the topping. Press lightly so they stick.
  9. Place the tin in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the topping is lightly golden. Leave to cool before cutting into 16 pieces. Keep in a Tupperware or tin in the fridge for around 5 days, or pop in the freezer for those times when the sweet tooth needs to be satiated.

I know in this changing of the seasons, our bodies are adjusting. You may be feeling more tired than usual, I definitely am! So whenever there’s a chance take the rest and treat yourself. We all deserve a bit of me time and self love.

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