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

 

 

 

 

 

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

X

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!!

X

 

Burnt courgette veggie chilli and all the fixings

Meat Free Monday. An initiative started up to encourage eating a vegetarian meal altogether as a family just one day per week, to improve your health as well as the health of the environment. Also there’s One Part Plant, started up by Jessica Murnane, with the idea to eat one plant based meal per day. Some use it as a chance for a healthy meal full of vegetables, others to reduce the impact of meat production on the environment. By vegetarian I’m talking vegetables, grains, legumes, a bit of dairy or eggs perhaps (I do love me a bit of cheese), but definitely not Quorn fish fingers and chips. Please can a vegetarian explain to me why you would want to eat something which resembles the taste and texture of a fish finger when you choose not to eat the real thing? I just don’t get it.

Now for many, a vegetarian meal completely devoid of meat, fish and sometimes eggs and dairy too if it’s vegan, well that’s not a meal. I’m from the North of England. The home of meat and two veg, bread and dripping, Lancashire hotpot and the legendary Pie Barm (google Wigan Kebab). If it contains, meat, potatoes and pastry, it’s probably Northern and the food that we were brought up on. It’s cold up here, we need the stodge to keep the warmth in our bones.

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The struggle here has to be the Dads. Happy with steak and chips every night I’m sure, the meal that always fits the bill, but not necessarily a happy one on the purse strings. A veggie meal for Meat Free Monday which isn’t too funky, not too many greens and no weird unpronounceable components like quinoa or edamame or tzatziki, that’s what we’re after. I always opt for a veggie chilli full of different beans, lentils and veggies for that texture and a lack of meat means we need to up the flavour for some oomph! Of course whenever the pan is set down at the table for dinner my dad has to ask ‘does this contain any meat’, well no it doesn’t. Nevertheless we all really enjoy it, and as soon as he has dug in the lack of beef isn’t mentioned again.

Chilli Con Carne is one of those meals I remember fondly from my childhood. Something which is quick and easy for busy families and makes everyone happy. One made from minced beef and tomatoes (basically Spag Bol minus the herbs with added spices and chilli) and a tin of kidney beans thrown in the mix. Probably the only meal we used to eat that contained beans or legumes (the chickpea was alien to me) and the beans I then picked out and left sucked of their chilli juices on the side of the plate. Oh how things have changed. Spooned on top of white rice and a side of garlic bread it was a regular on the meal rotation.

Perhaps traditional in the UK, but not so much a traditional recipe. Hailing from Mexico the Chilli Con Carne is a far cry away from what we are used to. Chunks of beef, like cheek, brisket or shin slowly simmered in a deeply rich sauce, no minced beef here, and technically kidney beans shouldn’t be seen either. A melange of spices, paprika and different chillies all balanced to give layers of smoky-sweet flavour which is finished off with some dark chocolate (it makes all the difference). Cooked up in one pot, cowboy style, that’s how a chilli should be.

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Well and truly burnt

For those Meat Free Mondays we want a veggie chilli which isn’t just a substitute or a side, but it’s even better than the real thing. So good that the vegetarians have to fight to get their fill before the carnivores tuck in. That’s when you know it’s good. Vegetarian food is no more difficult than cooking meat it just requires extra spices and flavouring tricks to pack in that flavour. Different pulses, grains and vegetables are used to provide varying texture and interest so every mouthful is different.

I like to serve this veggie chilli over a jacket or baked sweet potato, but brown or white rice, quinoa, cauliflower rice, in a wrap or just in a deep bowl with tortillas to scoop up the juices. All will suffice here. The toppings are a necessity. Whether you go basic with some guacamole or all out with sour cream, coriander, lime to squeeze, feta or grated cheddar cheese, tortilla chips, pickled jalapenos, chilli sauce (Cholula Hot Sauce always is a winner), spiced up salsa and some sauerkraut. This is the pot that will suit all, just make sure to fill the table so everyone can DIY.

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This recipe I found in the January edition of Good Food magazine, from Izy Hossack (of Top with Cinnamon). It was a recipe for a burnt aubergine veggie chilli, and, not like me at all, we didn’t have any aubergines in and I couldn’t be bothered to walk down to the shops in the rain to get some. So courgettes had to do. If you’re familiar with making Baba Ghanoush, the courgettes need to be charred under a grill or directly on your gas ring until blackened and starting to collapse. The skins are then peeled away to leave a silky smooth interior with some smokiness that is to be folded through the chilli. If you’d prefer, here is the original recipe using the aubergines, but at this time of year I’m sure you avid gardeners are growing courgettes out of your ears. So for a respite from courgette chutney and fritters, add this into your courgette cooking repertoire.

Below are also the recipes for the sweetcorn and tomato salsa and guacamole with which I served the chilli. Super simple and quick and only require a few extra ingredients. But it’s the extras that make this dish shine!!

Burnt courgette veggie chilli

Ingredients

  • 2 courgettes
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, finely diced
  • 1 stick celery, finely diced
  • 30g red lentils, rinsed until the water runs clear
  • 1 tin kidney beans
  • 1 tin black beans
  • 3 tbsp dark soy sauce/tamari
  • 1 heaped tsp chipotle paste
  • 1 tin plum tomatoes
  • 20g dark chocolate (70% plus, the darker the better)
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes (or more/less to taste)
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 heaped tsp vegetable stock powder (I use Bouillon)
  • 400ml water

Directions

  1. Turn your grill up to high and place the courgettes under for around 30 mins to 45 mins, turning occasionally until well blackened and charred all over. If you have a gas hob place the courgettes directly on the ring and char until completely blackened. Set aside until cool enough to handle.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pan then add the onion, carrots and celery and cook gently for around 20 minutes until softened. Stir often to make sure they don’t burn.
  3. Go back to the courgettes and peel away the burnt skin to reveal the soft inner flesh. Throw away all the burnt bits, making sure to scrape every little bit of the insides away and set aside.
  4. Once the carrots, celery and onions have softened add the red lentils and the two tins of beans along with the water in the cans. Add in the courgette flesh, soy sauce, tinned tomatoes, chipotle paste, all the herbs and spices, chocolate, vegetable stock and 400 ml of water. Stir everything together, bring to the boil, then turn down to a very low simmer.
  5. Put the lid on ajar, and leave to cook for 1 1/2 hrs, stirring very often, as it thickens it will stick to the bottom. If it starts to look a bit thick add a bit more water.
  6. After the time, take off the lid and check the consistency, if it seems a little thin leave to reduce for another 15 minutes or so longer. You want a thick sauce.
  7. Check the seasoning, adding more salt or chilli if you think necessary, then squeeze in the juice of half a lime, sprinkle with some coriander and take to the table to serve.

Sweetcorn and tomato salsa

Ingredients

  • 1 tin sweetcorn
  • 4 medium tomatoes
  • Handful of coriander leaves and stalks
  • 1/2 lime
  • 1 green chilli, deseeded

Directions

  1. Drain the sweetcorn and put into a bowl.
  2. Finely dice the tomatoes, slice the coriander leaves and stalks finely along with the deseeded chilli and add all to the sweetcorn.
  3. Squeeze in the juice of some lime, a big pinch of salt and pepper then taste for seasoning. Add more chilli, lime or salt if you like and serve spooned on top of the veggie chilli.

Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1 lime

Directions

  1. Slice the avocados in half and scoop out the flesh into a bowl.
  2. Add the juice of the lime and a large pinch of salt and mash well with a fork. Leave chunkier if you like or mash until smooth and creamy if that’s what you prefer. Taste for seasoning.

 

Let me know what you think if you cook this recipe. It doesn’t have to be on a Monday either, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, any day it will be good. And the leftovers even better. If you’re making this for a solo dinner or two people, make the full amount. Eat leftovers for dinner or lunch later in the week or freeze for a rainy day.

Snuggly warming hugs

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July Jamborees

July. A month of variable weather. Full of promise one day for that scorchio summer at home that we all hope for, to wake up the next morning to torrential showers and gusting winds that leave a chill in our bones. When it comes to what to wear that day, preparing for all weathers is a must, or in my case giving up and just wearing jeans and a t shirt with some jazzy earrings and a neck scarf. And under no circumstances forgetting that umbrella even if it’s broken and sagging, as all of mine are, it will provide some protection against that unforgiving weather of ours.

The summer provides some serious downtime for me. As the whole of Europe prepares to shutdown for August, the UK decides to take a break too and jet off to some warmer clime. Meaning not much work to go around in the modelling industry. A time I am now learning to take in my stride, not get stressed about having a free schedule and just make the most of it and doing things for ME. So far having involved decorating my room, a few lunches out, shopping trips, plenty of cooking and soon to come will be trips to other cities in the UK, gallery visits and *fingers crossed* a day at the seaside.

I hope you have the most fantastic summer if you’re in the northern hemisphere, and if you’re in the south and moving into winter, don’t worry too much as I’m sure it will still be a hell of a lot warmer than it is here in Manchester!

Here’s the things I’ve been loving this month. Enjoy!

#1 Belazu Rose Harissa

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If I had to, which I’m hoping no one holds me to this, choose ONE food that I would eat for the rest of my days, I reckon harissa would be a strong contender. Harissa is a chilli and paprika paste mixed with spices, oil and in this case rose petals, used frequently in North African and Middle Eastern cooking. I’ve tried many supermarket brands in the past, and they’ve been fine, perfectly acceptable but I’ve had my eye on this harissa from Belazu for a while and finally got my hands on some. A gloriously deep red spiced up paste, which is fragrant, sweet and smoky, compared to the supermarket versions it wins hands down. Also the company is based in the UK, YAY for that too! I’ve been swirling it through my hummus, spreading on a sandwich, dotted across eggs, mixed into salad dressings and using as a marinade for salmon. Come along harissa, I reckon you’ve surpassed peanut butter in the Thea’s Top 10 list, and you won’t be going anywhere for a long time.

 

#2 ManiLife Deep Roast Peanut Butter

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Ok I go on and on and on about peanut butter here. I’m sorry. I’m sure many of you also share the same feels? Please say yes. I’ve been happy eating the same brand of peanut butter for a good while, Meridian Crunchy Peanut Butter is found in the majority of supermarkets, made with no added sugar or palm oil just roasted peanuts and salt. It’s good. Then however I discovered Pic’s Crunchy Peanut Butter. Made in New Zealand, again just salt and high-oleic peanuts, it surpassed Meridian on the flavour scale, but money wise it’s slightly more pricey. Not much later, ManiLife Deep Roast arrived in my life. A British company grinding and producing in London and sourcing their peanuts from Argentina. They roast them for longer so it is dark, verging on the bitterness of coffee, utterly AMAZING. I can’t look at normal peanut butter anymore…I am a changed woman 😉 Visit their online shop here, as it is impossible to buy in the north of the UK but found in many shops around London and the south. Hop onto it, you will be forever grateful. I am.

 

#3 Home brewed Kombucha

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One of my favourite treats to buy whenever I go to London. If you’ve never heard of it, kombucha is a fermented tea drink which has a slight effervescence, the taste not completely dissimilar from cider. It’s made using a sweetened black or green tea and a SCOBY which feeds on the sugar to create an acidic environment and when bottled up the CO2 increases which makes it that bit fizzy. I’m a huge fan of Jarr, a company haling from Hackney, their passionfruit kombucha is particularly dreamy, not too sweet and really provides a good pick me up as well as some TLC (tummy loving care that is). With only one place I’ve discovered in Manchester which sells kombucha, I’ve taken to making my own as a little project for over the summer. One batch down, in a ginger and lime flavour I’m pretty chuffed and getting all jazzed about the flavour combos I have lined up. If you want to give kombucha brewing a go, I bought a scoby from ebay and then there’s many blogs full of all the information you need to get started. See here, here and here. Happy fermenting!

 

#4 Bundobust – Leeds and Manchester city centers

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Any of you Leeds/Manchester-ites will be well aware of this gem of a food spot. And if you’re not where have you BEEN? Originally an craft beer bar in Leeds which sold Indian street food for a snack, turned out the food was more than good so now it’s an Indian street food restaurant with a well stocked bar full of beer, lager and ale. Completely vegetarian and most dishes are vegan too, that’s not saying you shouldn’t go if you’re a meat eater. You won’t miss the meat at all. Offering all the classics such as Massala Dosa, Idli Sambhar, Chole Batura, Tarka Dahl and Vada Pav alongside their own Gujarati-inspired creations like the Biryani Bhaji Balls and the Onion Gobi Bhaji Bhajis. Do not visit without ordering the Okra Fries. And you will want a portion for yourself, those aren’t for sharing. See their website for the rest of the menu and where to find them.

 

#5 Light Before Dark Black Gingham Wide Leg Culottes – Urban Outfitters

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You know when you walk into a shop, see something and know that you NEED to own it. That happened with these culottes. At heart I’m still 8 and would happily live in my junior school red gingham summer dress. So, in flies in these black and white gingham culottes, slightly cooler, more ‘hip’ as my dad might say, whilst still living that ‘mini-me’ life. They’re loose and airy, perfect for those times when the weather is in our favour, or layered up with a jacket and some trainers to withstand the rainy days. The high elasticated waistband, well the fashion isn’t the only reason I wear them. Going out for a big meal? Stick these on and you can squeeze in that dessert instead of your jeans button popping open. Comfort and style, I’m in.

 

#6 Flamingo wallpaper

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So last week me and my mum spent a few days redecorating my room. Going though the whole procedure of painting the ceiling, woodwork, walls and finally coming to the best bit, the wallpapering. When your new wallpaper is pink and covered in flamingoes it’és particularly exciting. As glorious as it sounds. I have plans for a corner full of plants, terrariums and succulents to keep the air fresh and clean, lots of artwork by me, a handmade crocheted throw which I’m currently in the making of and some white artichoke lights as there isn’t enough of a 70’s throwback as there is. If anyone has any Pinterest boards that they would be happy to share for some bedroom/plant/artwork inspiration, I’m all eyes!!

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Carrot and oat chocolate chip cookies

I love the gap in between meals. I love snacks. Particularly cookies for a snack.

mmmmm cookies

When I was younger I always loved the occasional trips with my mum to a shopping centre, bags gathered in hands with the excitement of new shoes and holiday gear. (Shoes which according to my dad should be saved for my holiday, by which time they were too small as I was the never-ending-child). We always made a detour on the way out by the Millie’s Cookies stand. Anyone also from the UK will have similar fond memories. I’d have a pick of two cookies, guaranteed white chocolate chip and the other a milk chocolate and toffee, my mum’s the oatmeal and raisin, all wrapped in a paper bag to nibble on on the car journey to my Nanan’s to bridge-the-gap before dinner.

Nowadays my cookie preference nods towards a more grown up flavour. Ideally a crispy on the outside and really gooey in the middle, the under baked kind with a good butterscotch caramel tone. Either with oats for a chew and plump raisins, or studded with dark chocolate chips (85% plus), more chocolate than cookie, and some nuts for crunch. Not forgetting that sprinkle of flaky salt. You can’t forget that.

Inevitably, eating cookies everyday isn’t going to do you any wonders. Perhaps your mental health, chocolate is known for its calming effects (I’ll take that as an excuse!!), but they are very high in sugar and fat. Sadly we do need to keep those added sugars down from day to day. On the odd occasion though, there will be no holding back.

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For the every day 4pm slot, THIS recipe has been my recent nibble. Usually I’m a fan of the two-ingredient banana and oat cookie which, as I can’t be that minimalistic, morphs into an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink cookie. They’re sweet, gooey and as we always have overripe bananas in the fruit bowl, waste-free too! (BONUS). I found this version, full of add-ins for texture, crunch and goo, on The First Mess blog, her photography always does wonders there’s no surprise that I was drawn in. I am always on the hunt for the perfect specimen of a snacking cookie. Maybe now I’ve found it?!?!

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It wouldn’t be a recipe of mine on this blog without the little tweak here and there, and this cookie is no different. I like my snacks to not be too sweet, wholesome and tasty yes, but sickly no. Initial ideas of subbing the mashed ripe banana for an equal amount of finely grated courgette, great. However the last courgette I had just put in the oven to roast, so it wasn’t going to happen after all. Next best option? Carrot. Naturally sweeter, why didn’t I think of that in the first place!

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Made with finely grated carrots, oats, toasted coconut, roasted chunks of almonds (or pecans), some cinnamon and turmeric and not forgetting the dark chocolate (that’s the important part). Make sure to under bake these, they still will feel really soft from the oven, but bear with me here. Leave them to cool fully on a rack and store in the fridge ready for a week, or two (if you’re lucky), of snacking success. Note they’re vegan, with only a little bit of added maple syrup, I’d reckon they’re good enough for breakfast? Well they were good enough for me!

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Carrot and oat chocolate chip cookies

Ingredients

  • 70g (1/2 cup) raw almonds or pecans
  • 40g (1/2 cup) coconut flakes
  • 80g (1 cup) rolled oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground psyllium husk (if you can’t get this use ground flaxseeds or linseeds instead)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt, plus extra for topping
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 110g (1/2 cup) finely grated carrot
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) + 2 tsp milk, I used oat milk but water works too
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 90g (1/2 cup) chopped dark chocolate (my favourite is 85%)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan.
  2. Chop the almonds or pecans into small chunks and put in a tin and roast in the oven for 8 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile chop the coconut finely and after the 8 mins add the coconut and the oats to the tin and put in the oven for 4 more minutes.
  4. Pour the almonds, oats and coconut into a bowl along with the cinnamon, turmeric, salt and psyllium husk and mix well.
  5. Put the grated carrot, milk, coconut oil, almond butter, maple syrup and vanilla extract in a small bowl and whisk together.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry along with the chocolate (but reserve a little and put aside) fold until combined and everything is incorporated.
  7. Line two baking sheets with baking paper, or silicone mats. With an ice cream scoop place mounds of dough on the baking sheets until you have used all the mixture.
  8. Flatten to a pattie shape with damp hands, as they won’t spread in the oven. Squish the reserved chocolate chips into the top of the cookies and sprinkle rather generously with flaky salt.
  9. Bake for around 15-20 minutes, until the edges are golden and firm but the middles are still soft. I found 15 mins was perfect.
  10. Cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes then transfer to a rack until completely cool and store in the fridge for up to two weeks.

 

But Seriously? We all know they won’t last that long.

Big hugs and sunshiney love

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Cowherds. A juice company based in Manchester

Juice. A favourite found on the breakfast table, nothing beats a freshly squeezed orange juice, bits ‘n all. Wandering down the aisles at the supermarkets the range of juices on offer is rather significant. From concentrate or not, with bits or without, not to mention the price range from your budget carton to the bestselling brand. You may also see words spring up like cold-pressed, the odd vegetable here and there and the term ‘no added sugar’ I’m sure is often labelled loud and clear.

In terms of governmental guidelines, fruit juice, a 150ml glass counts as 1 of your 5 a day. Thought to be a healthy option by some and something to steer well clear of by others, it seems to be dividing the crowd. Unless there are bits in it, all the juice has been squeeezzzeddddd out leaving the cellulose and tough fibre behind, but producing a juice still with the vitamins and minerals you would find in the whole fruit. As a lot of people here in the UK struggle to meet all of their 5 a day, a glass of juice is sometimes their only chance of obtaining much needed vitamin C. However it also contains a high dose of sugar and with none of the fibre to slow the release, ultimately the blood sugar levels will be raised. Juice has also been linked to tooth decay and in some studies with obesity and type-2 diabetes

Pushing the not-so-good deets aside, putting vegetables into juices and reducing the fruit to an absolute minimum is the ideal way to enjoy them. You could err on the side of the hard-core green juice fans, adding tons of leafy green vegetables, a zippy hit of lemon and ginger, but absolutely no fruit. Or opt for the sweeter side, mixing carrots and beetroots with apples, pineapple or pear.

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Searching out juices, more vegetable based ones, isn’t a hard task. In London a juice bar seems to frequent every street corner (more often than Pret a Manger I kid you not!), up in Manchester we’re not following far behind. One juice which us northerners may have spotted the odd time in cafes and health food shops is from a little company called Cowherds, based in Salford. Supplying Greater Manchester with non-pasteurised, raw and cold pressed juices.

They contacted me and sent some juices to try. I’m not one who is ever going to go on a juice detox, I don’t believe in that, also I want to eat, there’s nothing better than a good chew ;). However adding juices into a healthy diet is a great way to add even more nutritious goodness, just try to stick to vegetable based ones to keep down the free sugars.

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I sampled four of their flavours, Popeye, The Breakfast Smoothie, Phat Beets and Turbo Charger. All utterly delicious, with a bonus of the beautiful glass bottles they arrive in. I will be making sure to reuse them…water bottles, vases for flowers, pencil holders, throw some other ideas at me!

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Popeye. My personal favourite. A hard-core green juice with no fruit added at all, just that hit of lemon to perk it all up. Spinach, Celery, Cucumber, Lemon and Hemp protein, I drank this after my workouts for a refreshing sip and a bit of plant-based protein to fuel my (pretty exhausted, I did this Jane Fonda workout, my god it’s good) muscles.

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The Breakfast Smoothie is made up of pineapple, banana, cinnamon, oats and lemon, which my dad enjoyed for his breakfast when he was running out of the house. A sweet little treat for the morning when you don’t have time to sit down and enjoy your food.

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Phat Beets. A glorious deep purple colour from the beetroot alongside carrot, apple, lemon and cucumber. Drinking beetroot juice before a workout has been proven to increase exercise performance and the blood flow to the brain due to nitric oxide. Is there any better excuse to get drinking your purples as well as your greens!?

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Turbo Charger. One of the sweeter juices containing apple, carrot, ginger and lemon it has a real zing from the ginger to wake you and your taste buds up. A lovely golden hue that will make you glow inside and out (don’t eat tooooo many orange things folks, you will turn orange, I’ve been there AND done that!), but in moderation it’s high in vitamin A which is brilliant for the skin.

Give them a follow on Instagram @cowherds_cafe and twitter @CowherdsVegCafe where you can see the full list of stockists, and head on over to their website for more info.

Big thank you again to Cowherds for sending me your juices, I love to spread the word about products and brands that I believe in, so here’s to big things in your future!!

Much love to you all

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