raw cacao bites with ginger

raw cacao bites with ginger

I won’t lie. I’m not usually drawn to things called raw cacao and ginger bites. These, though, my friend made me as part of a birthday present, and they really and truly are delicious.

They’re also very handy for keeping in the fridge for snacks. It’s a lot easier to only have 2 of these than it is of, say, chocolate fingers.

I’m not sure I can persuade myself that they’re healthy (blah… sugar… blah), but they’re probably better than a lot of the other things around at this time of the year. Fruit sugar + seeds + nuts > processed sugar + hydrogenated fats, right? Of course, if your colleagues are bringing in salads and exotic fruits instead of cookies and twix bites, well, sign me up for the job alerts please.

Recipe after the jump. Continue reading

minty orange gimlet

minty orange gimlet

This is one of those cocktails that it’s best to feed a crowd. You’ll need to make a flavoured simple syrup which will make six drinks, and if your usual drinking partner switches to beers after one cocktail, too, you might find that this is too many drinks. Especially if you have work in the morning.

It’s worth it, though. I think it’s perfect for when you get home from a wintry afternoon walk, the kind where you wear your hat pulled right down over your ears and your breath makes little clouds in the air.

minty orange gimlet
Recipe entered into Food52’s your best cocktail contest. I didn’t use a cocktail shaker, and I didn’t miss it, so I’ve given my lazier method below.

For the simple syrup (enough for 6 cocktails)

1/2 cup (or mug) caster sugar
Zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup (or mug) water

Put everything in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, then remove from the heat and let cool for 2 hours. Strain the liquid and set aside.

For each cocktail

1/4 orange, sliced
Mint leaves
3/4 fl.oz orange simple syrup (see recipe above)
1 1/2 fl.oz gin
1/2 fl.oz lime juice
Ice
Soda water

Muddle the orange slices and mint in the bottom of a short glass. Top up with ice, then add the syrup, gin and lime juice and stir. Top up with soda water.

Leftover syrup can be stored in the fridge for weeks.

lentils, cabbage and peperoncino

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A couple of blog posts appeared in my reader last week, both talking about a sort of food-related lethargy, and for the first time I thought I understand.

Usually, I love sitting down with a pile of recipe books and planning the week’s meals. I look forward to what we’ll eat later, and to getting home and spending a peaceful hour or so in the kitchen. Feeding people (myself included) is one of my favourite things to do.

Recently, though, food has been crammed higgledy-piggledy in amongst the rest of my life. Between training to be able to do this (I’m a little way off yet) and studying so that I can one day have this job, and spinning the usual family-friends-work plates that we all have to keep in the air, it doesn’t feel like there’s been much time even for eating, let alone cooking.

Left to my own devices, I can end up eating cheese on toast for 4 meals in a row, so I’ve been trying to keep a list of the kind of recipes that are super quick but are also, at the same time, mostly vegetables. This recipe is a good quick one if you buy one of those pre-cooked packs of lentils instead of cooking your own, but apart from that I’m pretty stuck. If you know of a good veg-heavy quick recipe, please let me know in the comments – I’d love to hear it!

Recipe after the jump.

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thai mango chicken salad

thai mango chicken salad

I came across a fantastic essay about food writing recently called Food Porn, by Molly O’Neill. I’ve been thinking about it a lot since I read it, and especially since Heidi Swanson’s piece on 12 years of blogging I’ve been thinking about it in the context of what sort of space I’d like this blog to be.

Because although I think that making things taste nice is supremely important, I can’t think about that taste in a vacuum. I’m fascinated by so many things about food: what dictates the choices we make and how they affect the people who supply our food; the effect of our food policies on the environment, and – closer to home – our waistlines; what our choices say about us; how our bodies respond to them; what to do about it.

It’s a big subject, food, and while I don’t ever want to preach or stand on my high horse and dictate what is right and what is wrong – there are enough people doing that already; eat these 5 surprising foods to burn belly fat, anyone? – I don’t want to sell either of us short, either, by skirting around the edges of such an interesting topic.

Of course, I’ll still be sharing recipes, because I still believe food is delicious. They’ll still be the same recipes I’d have told you about before now, because the way I eat is what I talk about here, and whatever I put on our plates has to muddle through all of that stuff above first.

And I won’t be sitting down to write an insightful, longform essay every week; I don’t have the time, nor probably the brainpower. But I will be less scared to share with you what I’ve been reading, or thinking about, and I hope that you’ll join in the conversation and make me think thoughts I hadn’t had before and read things I wouldn’t otherwise have read.

I’m looking forward to it.

In the meantime, here’s a salad from one of the food writers I admire the most. If you don’t have any of her books, I can’t recommend them enough, particularly A Change of Appetite (which this recipe is from) and Food From Plenty.

Recipe after the jump. Continue reading

plum and lemon verbena clafoutis

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I love train journeys. I don’t hang around railway stations with video cameras or anything (I’ve seen this. It’s a Thing), but I do enjoy watching the mist evaporate off the fields whilst other, more mad, people battle down the M4 at rush hour. It allows me to feel slightly better about having to spend hideous amounts of money every month just to get to work.

I particularly love taking the train through places I don’t know. For me, there’s no better peek into a country than winding my way up through its countryside as the locals start their mornings; or changing lines on the Italian/Swiss border, between the efficient silence of the Swiss trains and the Italian ones packed full of animated, chattering groups.

At home, on my usual journey, my favourite thing to do is to peer into people’s back gardens from my (not so) secret vantage point. People aren’t generally doing anything very interesting in theirs before breakfast, but halfway to work the track passes right by a little allotment plot, and I’m always delighted by the contrast between the neatly regimented plots and the straggly unkempt ones.

If I ever get to the top of the allotment waiting list, I know for sure which kind mine will be. I mean, I’ve tried my best to bring some order to my vegetable patch, but each year it seems like the plants hold a council among themselves – humans not invited – and decide who gets to survive and who doesn’t.

I’ll admit, this hits me hard. I was crushed when my borlotti beans were eaten by slugs overnight, and elated when the fig tree made it through the winter. However, regardless of the impact on my mental health, I’ve ordered a plum tree, among others, and I really hope it survives. Then I will eat this, all the time.

As long as the lemon verbena lasts the winter, anyway.

Recipe after the jump. Continue reading

hot toddy

hot toddy

(or, how to feel immediately better)

I’m back at work today though, and turning up at the office swinging a bottle of rum is probably a bit career limiting.

Say, though, that you’re at home under the duvet, snivelling pitifully to yourself. Or maybe in a cocktail bar in a freezing foreign city on a Sunday afternoon, not wearing nearly enough clothes (because it was sunny when you left, and Dublin isn’t THAT far away, surely). Well, then it would be totally acceptable to have one of these.

I’ve seen hot toddies listed as cocktails, but that is a lie. It’s medicine.

There is lemon for the vitamins, ginger or sage as an antiseptic, honey to heal and alcohol to decongest. See? Medicine.

hot toddy
This is usually made with whisky, but it’s much nicer with dark rum, although any dark spirit would be fine.

For 1 person.

Juice of half a lemon
1-2tbsp honey
5 sage leaves, or 1/2 thumb-sized piece of ginger, sliced
1 shot dark rum, brandy or whisky
Hot water

Put everything in a mug, and top up with the hot water. Stir a few times and then add more honey or lemon to taste (if you can taste anything).

Wrap yourself in a blanket, and drink.

negroni sbagliato

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This is a lovely cocktail, like a negroni (no surprise there, I suppose), but lighter in both taste and alcohol content. This is handy, as I quite often fancy a negroni at times when it’s not really appropriate to be drinking something that doesn’t include a mixer.

Here, the usual gin is replaced by prosecco, so it’s still probably not a lunchtime drink, but never mind – replace the prosecco with soda water and you’ve got an americano. Or, you know, there’s always lemonade.

negroni sbagliato
Recipe from Polpo, my new favourite cookbook for all things served on bits of bread.

I prefer the drink with just the one ice cube, in a coupe glass (the ones that look like a martini glass but with handily curved sides so you don’t spill your drink all over your shoes on the way back from the bar). Do you have a different way? Let me know how you make it!

For one:
Ice
5ml sweet vermouth
5ml campari
5ml prosecco (or white wine)
Slice of orange

Fill a tall glass with ice, and pour over the vermouth and campari. Top up with the prosecco, add the slice of orange and stir once.

vanilla almond butter

vanilla almond butter

I’ve been trying to eat more protein lately. It’s difficult, though; I’m far more used to worrying about the environmental cost of eating meat and whether I’m getting my 5 a day than I am about things like protein.

One of my solutions to all this is to put nut butter on everything. Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, I really hate peanut butter. I mean really. I’ve tried to like it, I honestly have, but me and it – we just don’t click. This puts me at the more ‘rummaging around in health food shops’ end of the nut butter selection straight away, and from there it’s – apparently – a short step to making your own.

I know. I’m just as surprised as you. Making nut butter is something I’d previously thought only people who lived in communes did, and John won’t let me move us into a commune. He can be very unfair.

Thinking about it, though, if it was a choice between using my supply of turbine powered electricity* to run wifi or a food processor for 30 minutes, I’d definitely choose the wifi. Maybe it’s just me with the nut butter, then.

* they had turbine powered electricity in the commune in the book Wild Abandon; this fact represents 100% of my knowledge about communes.

Recipe after the jump.
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