Could the title for these flapjacks get any longer?
I suppose just banana flapjacks would do, but then you’d be missing out on all the yummy details. And of course it’s alllll in the details!!
These flapjacks are common-place in our household. Whenever too many bananas are blackening in the fruit bowl, I always rotate between cookies, banana bread and these flapjacks. All handy snacks to have throughout a busy week. Fulfilling, healthy and full of wholegrains, natural sugars from fruit and lots of healthy fats and protein from nuts and seeds. A good dose of cinnamon is always thrown in, helping to balance out your blood sugar and adding some warmth and sweetness.
The original recipe comes from BBC Good Food, the Feelgood flapjacks. This recipe has banana and apple for sweetness, dried apricots and raisins and some mixed seeds. I omit the added maple syrup/honey as I don’t believe it is necessary and just add in some plant based milk instead. I also don’t add as much dried fruit, and make up the weight with extra nuts and on this occasion some dark 85% chocolate. It just felt necessary and was totally delicious.
The recipe is super easy to adapt depending on what you have to hand, or what flavours you prefer. Add in extra spices such as cardamom, nutmeg and ground ginger for a gingerbread kick, use anything from dried prunes, apricots, cherries, dates, cranberries or figs, and use your favourite nuts or seeds, toasted in the oven before to release all their flavour. Substitute some of the oats for desiccated coconut to go down a tropical route, or use any puffed grains to add some varying texture.
It’s time to boil the kettle, I’m thinking a rooibos with some oat milk, and have a moment of peace with your flapjack. To dunk or not, that’s up to you, and extra peanut butter spread on top? I won’t tell if you don’t!!
Banana flapjacks with peanut butter, pecans, raisins and dark chocolate
85g dark chocolate (85%) chopped into small chunks
Heat the oven to 160C/140C fan. Line a 20cm square tin with baking paper and set aside.
Put the pecans on a baking sheet and put in the oven for 5-10 minutes until toasty and browning slightly. Leave to one side to cool down.
Place the butter, peanut butter and milk in a large sauce pan. Peel the bananas, put in the pan and mash well until quite smooth. Place on a low heat and stir until melted. Add 100ml of hot water to the pan and stir well until mixed, and take off the heat.
In a separate bowl, put the oats, cinnamon, salt, raisins and chopped chocolate. Chop the pecans roughly and also add to the bowl, mix everything together.
Tip the dry ingredients into the saucepan, and mix well until everything is well-coated and you have a fairly wet mixture. Tip into the tin, press firmly and level the surface.
Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until firm and a golden brown colour on top. Remove and leave to cool on a wire rack.
Once cool cut into 12 chunks and store in a Tupperware in the fridge for up to 1 week.
I hope you make these and enjoy them as much as I do. I’m sure it won’t be long until your bananas are on the turn, in fact buy extra at the shop just so you will be flapjack ready any day soon!
It’s taken some time for me to bring the first recipe post of 2018 to the blog. No need for any of the excuses, I’m sure you’ve heard them all. It doesn’t matter anyway because I know you’ll like this one. It’s a good’un if I do say so myself 😉
It was a cold, typically chilly day in January. I was feeling the need for some warmth in my belly aided by spices all hailing from the Middle East. The fridge was full of odds and ends, only enough for a hodge podge of a meal. Half a bag of ready-cooked grains, half a yellowing cauliflower, a couple of chantenay carrots and some lingering leaves of kale. It’s what the majority of our fridges look like come the end of the week I’m sure.
Instead of forgetting about them, everytime you look in the veg drawer to see the victims gradually wilting out of existence (I do it too all the time!), let’s put them to use. It doesn’t have to be the same veg as what I’ve used here. Any root veegtables, sweet potato, squash, potato, swede, would all work. Anything green and vibrant too, peas, broccoli, green beans, spinach just add them towards the end to prevent them overcooking. If you have some leftover meat, throw that in, slow cooked lamb or some roast chicken would be marvellous, or use any other pulses that you have or prefer. The ready-cooked grains that I used were from Marks and Spencer. A mix of bulghur wheat, spelt and haricot beans, they soaked up all the flavour by cooking for the last few minutes in the stew, added texture to the softly cooked vegetables, and sustenance so you won’t be hankering for the biscuit tin 30 minutes later. Any ready-cooked grains will do though, some brown rice, quinoa, freekeh… absolutely. anything!
It made a few portions, enough to serve 2-3, maybe even some more leftover, depending on your appetite of course! If you are eating it the next day for lunch, which I highly recommend, it tastes even better as all the spices have muddled together. Serve with a dollop of yoghurt, some olives and some extra parsley leaves, you know just for the fancy touch. I know you’ll love it, I’m just waiting for my veg drawer to look sad again so I can make it for dinner this week.
Handful of parsely, stalks finely chopped, leaves picked
1 tin of tomatoes
vegetable stock cube
1/2 large cauliflower, chopped into small florets
1 courgette, chopped into half moon shapes
Handful of chantenay carrots, halved
Handful of curly kale
1 bag of ready-cooked grains (or half if that’s all you have leftover)
1 handful of raisins (or dried apricots, figs, dates, any dried fruit would be marvellous)
Olives and yoghurt to serve
Heat a little oil in a large pan on a low heat. Saute the onion with a pinch of salt until softened, then add the garlic, parsley stalks and fresh ginger and cook for a few minutes longer.
Add all the spices, and cook until fragrant stirring regularly, add a little splash of water if you’re worried about them sticking.
Add the tin of tomatoes, the stock cube and add two tins full of water. You don’t want it too thin, you can always add more water add the end.[rcipe Throw in all the chopped veg, but not the kale, stir and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and leave to simmer for around 15-20 minutes with the lid ajar.
Check to see if the veg is very nearly cooked, add the grains, raisins and kale and cook for another 10 minutes or so. We want everything soft and yielding here, the raisins and grains to plump up and the sauce to thicken.
Check for seasoning, finely chop the parsley leaves (reserving a few for the top) and stir them through the tagine and serve in a deep bowl with some yoghurt, olives and parsley. And a spoon! No knives and forks needed here!
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.
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…
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
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
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
Big handful watercress, roughly chopped
Big handful dill, chopped
Big handfull parsley, chopped
Good sized chunk of feta
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.
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).
Wrap in clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for a minimum of 30 mins. Can be made 1-2 days ahead.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In a bowl whisk the ricotta and eggs until smooth and season well with salt and pepper.
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.
Dot the rest of the courgette mix over the top, pressing it down lightly. Sprinkle the feta over the top.
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
1 tin sweetcorn
4 medium tomatoes
Handful of coriander leaves and stalks
1 green chilli, deseeded
Drain the sweetcorn and put into a bowl.
Finely dice the tomatoes, slice the coriander leaves and stalks finely along with the deseeded chilli and add all to the sweetcorn.
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.
2 ripe avocados
Slice the avocados in half and scoop out the flesh into a bowl.
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.
I love the gap in between meals. I love snacks. Particularly cookies for a snack.
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.
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?!?!
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!
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!
Carrot and oat chocolate chip cookies
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%)
Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan.
Chop the almonds or pecans into small chunks and put in a tin and roast in the oven for 8 minutes.
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.
Pour the almonds, oats and coconut into a bowl along with the cinnamon, turmeric, salt and psyllium husk and mix well.
Put the grated carrot, milk, coconut oil, almond butter, maple syrup and vanilla extract in a small bowl and whisk together.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I get it. We don’t always have time to prepare meals ahead, eat Instagram worthy breakfasts every morning, occasionally a proper meal doesn’t even get a look in. In reality breakfast is porridge splodged into a bowl dripping down the sides, and lunch on the go comprises of an apple and a bag of almonds. For those desperate times convenience food is called upon, whether it’s Pret, M&S, Itsu, ‘insert name of food place here’, they’re easy, offer lots of choice for all diets and appetite, however it sure can all add up.
The past few weeks I’ve been here there and everywhere. Last minute jobs and changes of plans resulted in throwing clothes in a bag (not forgetting the toothbrush) and making a dash for it. Packed lunches went out the window, dinner and mealtimes completely thrown all over the show, mouthfuls taken in between hair plaiting and foundation applying. At times like these food is fuel, not eaten mindfully and enjoyed as it should.
When I know I’m going to have a crazy busy day, no scheduled mealtimes and the lunch option only centres around curled up sandwiches and party sized bags of Haribo, I ensure to have a really good breakfast. One that’s enjoyed slowly, peacefully as a moment to myself. I cherish those moments. Something with a good mix of slow release carbohydrates, healthy fats, protein and a bit of sweetness. Overnight oats pretty much ticks all of those boxes. Plus, the added extra that it can be made in a jar ready to pick up on your way out via the fridge, and eaten on the train, in your car whilst stuck in traffic or al desko. WIN WIN.
I’m having a bit of a moment lately with muesli. The textures and sog that you get when it’s been soaking in milk for a brief sitting and every mouthful is just that little bit more different than the last. Yet again in the summer months I do enjoy a little fling with overnight oats. Porridge’s cooler friend, the one that was just thrown effortlessly together, walks with a breeze and without a care in the world with a touch of prepped smugness. I’ll have some of that please.
Grab your favourite muesli, I lean towards Rude Health’s Super Seed muesli, favouring more grains and seeds rather than dried fruit to control the sweetness levels. Prepared in the same way as we would overnight oats, stirred up with ground linseeds, yogurt, milk, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. We all have time for that surely? Prepare a large batch for the week ahead and divide into individual jars ready for the morning dash.
To make it super thick and creamy, yogurt is a necessity. It adds a tang along with soaking the grains so they are more easily digested. An organic full fat yogurt with probiotic cultures, such as Yeo Valley, is an accessible choice found in most supermarkets here in the UK. I love yogurt, and eat dairy so that isn’t an issue for me, however I do enjoy mixing things up a little. On the odd occasion going for a coconut yogurt such as Coyo or Coconut Collaborative, some goats yogurt or almond or cashew yogurt. We’ve had a sudden influx here of alternative dairy products, Nush and Abbot Kinney are both coconut, almond and cashew yogurt brands which have recently appeared on the shelves. I even spotted a rice milk yogurt the other day. Don’t get me started on oat yogurt, a variety I have been desperate to try for AGES, Oatly my favourite oat milk brand from Sweden are yet to bring the yogurt to the UK. I am waiting, fidgeting, not patiently at all, but waiting all the same. Yes, alternative yogurts are more expensive, but it’s enjoyable to try new products and discover what you like, even if it is only very occasionally as a payday treat.
This particular day I had an opened tub of natural Coyo (if you have ever tried the salted caramel flavour, it is so good it’s just plain wrong!). Coyo is a lusciously thick coconut yogurt, more like coconut cream, so you don’t need much to be satisfied. That’s why I manage to stretch out one pot to a few servings. This overnight muesli could be made with any yogurt as a substitute, whichever you have open or is your favourite.
I like to top this with fresh fruit, berries particularly are wonderful, or some mashed banana or grated apple stirred through just before serving to add a nice sweetness. A spoon of nut butter and some more seeds on top (you can never have too many) for crunch and bee pollen, because why not. If making your breakfast look pretty nourishes your soul, then go on and have a field day.
Coconut overnight muesli
This makes just the one serving but you can double, triple or multiply the quantities as many times as you need to make a jar for breakfast every weekday. Eat on the train or whenever you get a chance to breathe and enjoy, and DON’T FORGET THE SPOON!!
1 tsp ground linseeds (ground flax or chia seeds work too)
Small pinch of salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 (large) tbsp coconut yogurt
1/4-1/3 cup of milk (nut, oat, rice, cows, they all are good)
Berries to serve
Mix the muesli, salt, cinnamon and ground linseeds in a bowl.
Add the yogurt and stir until evenly combined.
Starting with a 1/4 cup of milk mix well, if it is still quite thick add a splash more until the thickness of pancake batter, remembering it thickens up overnight. Place in the fridge until the next day or whenever it is served.
At breakfast, give it a good stir add more milk if you like it thinner and top with berries, a sprinkle of sunflower seeds and bee pollen, of course the almond butter too.
If preparing for a few days ahead divide evenly into jars and add the toppings that you like where they will keep for 5-7 days, ready to be taken as and when needed.
I’m ready now for some much needed chill time. No more meals out of tupperware. Sitting at a table eating with a knife and fork (not plastic ones), perhaps a small glass of wine surrounded by my family. That’s what food should be about. And I cannot wait.
Hummus is my GO-TO thing. Lunch or dinner looking a bit dull? HUMMUS. Need a healthy snack full of protein and fibre? HUMMUS. Need a dish to take along to a friend’s party or gathering? HUMMUS. Ran out of the last lot of hummus? Time to make some HUMMUS.
I understand how easy and accessible hummus is nowadays, your local Tesco Express probably stocks at least 4 or 5 different varieties, and it is a good way of adding some healthy fats and protein into your diet. Looking at the label, the ingredients are pretty familiar but the levels of fat and salt can be pretty high, so the serving size is limited to 1/4 of a pot. Seriously, does anyone stick to that guideline? It takes some stroonggggg will power, one of which, I don’t have.
I’m totally ok with that.
I do prefer home made though. It leaves space to mix up the beans and pulses, as we all know eating a predominantly plant based diet requires lots of variety, so rotate those legumes. Chickpea is the classic, but try Butter bean or Cannellini bean for some smoooooth dipping. I always try to buy the best tinned beans I can afford, in the supermarkets they do an organic range which is in a carton with no added salt. I would soak and cook them myself but always end up forgetting, and this girl is not waiting for beans to soak to get her hummus fix. If you’re much more organised than me, than by all means using dried beans is a thriftier (and usually tastier) option.
I do wonder if she is a vegetarian sometimes
Most of my recipes and creations tend to involve using up a glut of things in my fridge. This time it happened to be coriander, which always wilts quicker than I can use it up. And the Saturday curry night never uses the entire bunch – I do love my coriander it gets sprinkled on everything – but still there will be some left. I also wanted to make a black bean dip to change things up a bit. Refried beans has to be up there in one of my favourite things to eat. Just give me a bowl of refried beans, guacamole and salsa. That’s one happy Thea, just leave me be.
So the general elements of hummus, chickpeas, lemon, garlic, cumin, olive oil, tahini and salt all get a little switch around. Here we have black beans (but feel free to use kidney beans if you can’t get hold of them), lime, garlic, ground cumin and coriander, chilli, pumpkin seeds, fresh coriander and salt. Rather simple, takes only a few minutes in the trusty food processor (mine is older than me, it’s vintage!) and is ready to dollop at your hearts desire. Carrot sticks at the ready!
Mexican Black Bean Dip
1 tin of black beans, drained
1 clove of garlic
1 small bunch of coriander
1 small handful pumpkin seeds
1 green chilli, de-seeded
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil/rapeseed oil
Put the drained black beans into a food processor along with the peeled garlic clove, pumpkin seeds and ground spices
Chop the stalks of the coriander roughly and add it all into the food processor along with the zest and juice of 1/2 the lime.
Chop the chilli and add along with a big pinch of salt and the oil and blitz.
Leave the motor running for a minute or two, you may need to scrape down the sides until smooth, then taste. Add any extra salt, lime or chilli you feel necessary.
Scrape into a serving dish or Tupperware where it will keep for 5 days.