Picture this: I'm sitting in the office, minding my own business when one of my work colleagues starts taking about baking and healthy eating. My ears perk up. She's rather negative about vegan baking, so I'm definitely all ears now! Then she says: ''I don't like vegan desserts. For me desserts have to taste like proper desserts and that means they have to be made with lots of butter!''
What?!? She didn't just say that, did she? Ok, she's got my complete and undivided attention now! Firstly, let me be clear here. I greatly appreciate her honesty and completely respect her views (no, really I do). Secondly I must say, she's a total sweetie and I love her no nonsense approach, but there is no way in the world I can hear that comment and not respond. With words initially, but then with a much more powerful weapon: The best out-of-this-world-finger-lickin'-good vegan cookies ever (massive statement, I know - totally subjective, I know - but I stand by it 100%).
I wish I could say something inspiring, clever, thoughtful, reflective or funny even. And how I wish I could include a quote from some literary master. But the truth is life's been pretty hectic at the mo' and I gotta keep it short and sweet today. You see, motherhood has kept me busy :) as well as this MASSIVE biochemistry/nutrition exam I've been revising for. It's on Friday. :(. YIKES! So, everything else has kinda had to go on hold.
Thank goodness there was time to celebrate Valentine's day with my 3 loves though – hubby, son and... kale. I know the kale bouquet has nothing to do with today's recipe but it was so cute, I HAD to share it here with you guys. (Can you blame a proud mama?)
In December (oh gosh, that seems so long ago now!) I hosted a winter yoga workshop in a converted warehouse in South East London. Some lovely yoginis joined me for a sweaty and fun ashtanga yoga practice. Their hard work didn't go unnoticed and certainly didn't go unrewarded because after nearly 2 hours on the yoga mat, I made sure they had the opportunity to enjoy a nourishing and delicious vegan winter soup.
B/W Photos by: JOASIS PHOTOGRAPHY (gluten-free)
We all tucked into my seasonal curried butternut squash soup, a firm favourite from the blog. It was super yummy and I am proud to report that not a drop remained uneaten. Cheekily I also did some recipe testing on my students and 'made' them try some home-made Swedish crisp bread. I'd discovered the recipe during a girly get-together a few months earlier and wanted to make sure it was blog worthy. The recipe is on the blog today so I am sure you can figure out what the feedback was ;)
'You will run and try to hide
but I will never turn away
I know you
are tired and broken
are tired and broken
I know you
are fallen and feeling held down
are fallen and feeling held down
so you raise another glass to fall apart
I know you
are tired and broken'
are tired and broken'
Isn't family a wonderfuly funny thing? I mean has it ever crossed your mind that we don't get to choose our mother or father or our sons or daughters? And we certainly don't get to choose our brothers or sisters. Yet that bond we establish with these special people is incredible. No matter what happens, no matters what c**p you go through together, at the very end of the day, they are there for you, just like you are there for them. Always. No questions asked.
My sister Sumera and I are, well - how shall I put it? - total and complete, polar opposites. Sure, the 7 year age gap means we were never likely to be into the same stuff, but I dare say, it was always more than that. Whereas I was a planner, she was pretty impulsive. I loved social situations but she was more introverted. When we were growing up I easily adapted to the rules of academic settings. In contrast Sumera was super clever, but too free-spirited and creative to even have the desire to thrive in school. In short, I was the quintessential first-born, whereas Sumera lived up to the stereo-type of being the middle child. Needless to say, our different temperaments meant that we often clashed; though there was never a shadow of doubt in either one of our minds or hearts that we deeply, deeply cared for each other.
Photo by: Joost Vandebrug
HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone! It's sooooo good to be back. I really, really, really missed writing, creating recipes and taking pictures for the blog. And I missed being part of the blogging community :). But the 3 weeks off did me well and I can't think of a better month than January to start blogging again! I know lots of people think the first month of the year is too dark, too gloomy and too depressing but you know what? I am rather fond of January. That's because the beginning of the year to me means a chance to make a fresh start and to be a better, healthier and happier me :).
Like many of you, I tend to make a wish list of things I want to accomplish and achieve . (I don't like using the term New Year's resolutions as it kinda implies that it'll all fall to pieces before Jan is even over ;). Whereas wish list is more positive, more attainable and less conspicuous, don't you think?). I always post my New Year's wish list on my personal facebook page because the scrutiny of family and friends, as well as their support and encouragement, makes me work harder at completing all items on my list.
NOTE: The pictures were updated in September 2015.
A few weeks ago the lovely Ksenia - the blogger behind At the Immigrant's Table - nominate me for the Liebster Award (remember I mentioned Ksenia last week?). Please, don't get too excited, the Liebsters ain't the Oscars ;), but the award is a superdy duperdy cute way of making the food blogging world feel like a real, caring and tangible community. Consequently I was delighted and rather flattered that I'd been chosen for this award. Thank you soooo much Ksenia :).
First things first, the Liebster Award Rules:
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you by providing a link to their blog
2. Display the award badge
3. Answer 11 questions provided by the blogger who nominated you
4. List 11 random facts about yourself
5. Nominate 11 bloggers
6. Pose 11 questions to said nominees
7. Go to each nominee’s blog and notify them of their nomination
YIKES! I got my work cut out!
Before the arrival of 3-layered pistachio and pomegranate cake with buckwheat crunchies, before triple chocolate, gold-swirled brownies with salted caramel frosting and even before raw vegan cheesecake with popcorn flavoured fruit layers, there was the good old apple pie. (Please note I am using 'apple pie' as an umbrella term here. It in fact covers the following: apple cake, apple crumble, apple turnover, apple muffins and aything else apple/dessert related). Yup, this post is all about the humble apple pie, which has been so cruelly overlooked as things have become more and more extravagant in our kitchens of late. But I'm determined to change all that and take us back to the good old days.
However, honesty is always the best olicy and I must admit, that I too nearly forgot all about her. That was until I got my fruit and veg box delivery the other day and found several dessert apples hidden inside. Gosh, yes, why not make an apple pie, I though! Now all I needed was a lovely recipe.
With that in mind I made myself comforty in front of my (brand new) computer and searched the net high and low for the best apple pie inspirations I could find...
And OMG what I found was so drool-worthy, I knew I needed to create a blog post dedicated to all things apple pie related. And - lucky you! - here it is, a compilation of some of the best apple creations out there just waiting for you to put the oven on and start baking:
1. My starting point was the super moist looking apple cake by the very talented Ksenia. I loved what she made so much that I tried out the recipe myself (see my veganised version here). We had a friend over at the time and together finished the cake in 1 weekend! Yup, it was THAT good. So, from Ksenia's recipe I took the idea of making my apple creation gluten-free.
2. Ksenia got her inspiration from Karin, the ''Baking Guru of Israel''. You know you're onto something good when the words guru and baking appear in the same sentence, right ;)? Personally, I just loved the simplicity of Karin's cake. So from her I took the idea of making my creation rectangular and uncomplicated.
3. Next, I saw this to-die-for apple tart recipe by Yossy Arefi, the blogger and baker behind Apartment 2B Baking Company. I just loved how beautiful, yet understated and unpretentious the tart was. I couldn't help but want a piece of what she was having (*gush*). From Yossy I got the idea of sprinkling my version with icing's sugar.
4. Next there was Laura and Nora, the boggers behind THIS apple pie which just took my breath away. Those stunning pictures of the most perfect pie eating setting I ever did see - need I say more? I mean, how can you see that table and not want to sit at it?
5. Allison and her children's apple muffins hold a very, very special place in my heart. I love the muffins because I can just see my son and I in the kitchen making them together; that image alone makes me beyond happy. But there is more - what's the point of a nice blog post/recipe if the writing doesn't grab you? Well, Allison's blog entry certainly grabbed me. In fact it pulled pretty hard at my heart strings cuz it resonated with me as a woman and as a mother in a way that no other blog post had before. Thank you Allison.
6. Last but certainly not least, I bought the pretty and inspirational book DECORATED by April Carter. In it is a recipe of an apple and parsnip cake which looked divine. Though my recipe is rather different, I did steal her idea of combining apples and parsnips for my apple creation ;).
So that leads us to my little bake: a simple, yet delicious vegan and gluten-free apple and parsnip cake. I am rather pleased with this moist and yummy number and hope you too will give this a try in your kitchen. Happy baking!
UPDATED! GLUTEN-FREE APPLE AND PARSNIP CAKE (V+, GF, NF)
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 35- 40 minutes
225g (organic) sugar
300g gluten-free all purpose flour (see tips below for substitutions)
1tsp bicarbonate of soda/baking soda
1tsp (gluten-free) baking powder
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp ground ginger
½ tsp salt (I used pink salt)
¼ tsp organic vanilla powder or vanilla extract
3tbs milled organic flaxseed (see tips below for substitutions)
250ml olive oil (plus a tiny bit extra for greasing)
100g grated (organic) parsnips (about 1 parsnip)
200g grated (organic) apple (about 1.5 apples) (see tips below)
2 - 3 apples + juice of 1 lemon
A sprinkle of icing sugar (optional)
IMPORTANT: Please check the tips at the end of the recipe before you start making it as this makes 1 very large cake (like this one here) or two littler ones as shown!
Take out and measure/weigh all your ingredients and place them on your work surface.
Pre-heat the oven to 180C (356F) or 160C/fan (320F). Grease a 30cmx23cm (12¼ ‘’ x 8¾ ‘’) shallow cake tray with a table spoon or so of olive oil OR 2 round cake tins 20cm in diametre (around 8 inches). Line with non-stick, greaseproof baking paper. Set aside.
Mix the dry ingredients together (flour, sugar, spices, salt, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda). Set aside.
Mix the flaxseed and water together and set aside.
Wash , peel and remove the core of the parsnip and apple. Grate.
For the garnish wash, peel and core 2-3 apples. Cut into 4 pieces and slice the top finely, whilst still insuring the pieces hold together. Place the 1/4, sliced apple pieces in a small bowl and pour over the juice of a lemon. Mix the apple pieces in the juice until you are sure they are covered in lemon juice.
Next combine the flaxseed, water, oil and grated apple and parsnip. Combine nicely with the dry ingredients. Then place the cake mix into the lined and prepared cake tray or evenly distrubute into 2 trays if making 2 cakes. Spread evenly. Place the sliced apple on top as shown.
Next, place the cake(s) in the oven. Bake for about 30-40 minutes. As you take the cake(s) from the oven, it should have a little bit of a bounce when you touch it.
Leave the cake(s) to cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Then remove the cake(s) from the tray and let it cool another 10 minutes or so. Garnish with icing sugar and... enjoy.
IMPORTANT: Please read the tips below for substitutions
Tip 1: If gluten-free flour is hard to come by, remember you can use regular (organic) all-purpose flour instead. Your cake just won't be gluten-free though.
Tip 2: You can use milled chia seed instead of milled flax seed OR if you prefer replace the 3tbs of flax seed and 9 tbs of water with 3 eggs, making this a vegetarian rather than a vegan cake. It’s up to you.
Tip 3: Which apples should you use? That’s a good one. Frankly, I’m pretty relaxed about these sorts of things but for the grated apple I used tart baking apples. For the slices I used sweet red apples. Rather random as I don’t think it matters that much. Use what’s local, affordable and in season.
Tip 4: I updated this recipe in November 2015. Originally I had made 1 large cake, which is perfectly fine, but as I was re-shooting the pictures I tried using the cake mixture for 2 smaller round cakes (as shown) and found the recipe worked just as well.
Eat with... a glass of home-made seed milk or home-made almond milk. Perfect!
A few weeks ago, Agnes, who writes the beautiful blog Cashew Kitchen asked me on Instagram what 10 things made me happy. Little did Agnes know though that the day she posed this question, I was anything but happy.
My son had just started school, so I was feeling quite fragile. We had builders and gardeners turn our house upside down and it resembled more of a chaotic pigsty than a stylish family home. And I had literally tried to juggle way too many things with just two hands, resulting in me dropping and breaking my laptop :(.
Not the best time to thinking about happiness, or was it?
No one can claim that opportunities to learn about cooking aren’t all around us. For starters, the internet is such a wonderful source of cooking inspiration; the array of creative food blogs out there is near to overwhelming! And then of course there are 100s of cookbooks to fall in love with, countless stylish cooking magazines to subscribe to and free recipe cards galore to grab hold of at your local supermarket. I mean, come on, there was never a better time to be a food geek.
And though I have indulged in all the options noted above, this week I thought I’d go all old school and do something a little bit different... To celebrate ‘Homemade Bread Day’ I decided to emulate what women did centuries ago i.e. hang out near a big fire, catch up on village gossip whilst preparing a delicious meal together. To recreate a modern day version of this girly tradition I invited some pretty cool female friends into my kitchen where we chatted, cried, giggled, moaned about the pressures of being working, middle-class moms and baked some yummy scrummy goodies.
12 years ago this week, I married the most amazing man I have ever, ever met. Seeing he was born in the Andes, it feels like the perfect time to share this dish with you....
Please, please, please do not judge this curry on its appearance! What it lacks in looks, it makes up totally, utterly and completely in taste. This dish is so unique and its flavours so unexpected, I’m really, really proud to be able to feature it here on my blog.
The inspiration for this recipe comes from high up in the Andes.
When my husband was little and lived in the mountains of Ecuador, there was an old lady who used to sell cabbage and potatoes in a rich pumpkin seed and peanut sauce. She was the only person selling a vegetarian dish in the whole of the town. The old lady had her small stand on market day, just on the corner, where she stood behind a big black pot filled with boiled potatoes, cabbage and sauce.
''La vida no es como deberia ser, sino como es.'' - Facundo Cabral (1937 - 2011)
''Life is not as it should be but as it is.'' - Facundo Cabral (1937- 2011)
I had it all planned. So perfect. So organised. Thinking I was being really clever, I prepared 2-3 dishes for the blog in advance several weeks ago. I photographed and edited them, then stored them away in a file titled 'rainy day reserves'.
That rainy day came this week. It came with a vengence; you see it is getting colder, darker and well... rainier so finding the right lighting for my photoshoots has been quite hard. In addition, my son is off school, my husband is away on a business trip and consequently photographing and styling fresh material for the blog is completely impossible (I tried it in the past, but 4.5 year olds and food photography do not pair well;)).
Turn back the clock by about 6 years: It’s the morning of Halloween. I frantically run to the supermarket, get a family sized pack of miniature milk chocolate bars and - that evening - hand them out to unassuming children after they have politely rung our doorbell and chanted ‘trick-or-treat’.
Of course there are left-over chocolate bars. There always are. I eat 1-2 (honest ;)) and then take the rest into the office at the earliest opportunity, causing a handful of work colleagues to abandon their diets and yet strangly feel better for it; at least temptation is no longer within my four walls.
Fast forward: I become a mother. Then I learn more about nutrition. Then I question my actions...
NOTE: The pictures were updated and the recipe improved in June 2015.
I write this blog entry on my 4-year-old son’s first day of school (which is a few weeks ago by now). I had mixed emotions, to say the least, about him starting his formal education so young and would have preferred he spent another year or two climbing trees instead and letting his imagination run roit. But alas, the English education system didn’t allow for it.
My son must have picked up on my feelings as - before starting – he said he thought school was 'dumb' (I think he’d have loved to have used the ‘S....D’ word, but that isn’t permitted in our house – just for your info ;)). However, to my surprise, he whizzed into class today with a big smile on his face, barely able to contain his excitement. In fact, he was so quick he never did see my tears (Thank you God!).
NOTE: The pictures and recipe for this blog post were updated and improved in October, 2015.
This post is dedicated to all the breast cancer thrivers and survivors out there!
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and there is no way I'm not using this blog to raise awareness about the C word!!! Because, shall I tell you a secret? I HATE Cancer. I LOATH it. I DESPISE it! I've never had it (Thank you God), but too many people I know have and it's ain't pretty.
I particularly dislike breast cancer; as a woman this illness evokes very strong sentiments in me and as someone who works in a predominantly female office (I'm an adoption social worker), I feel I'm constantly surrounded by it or the threat of it. That is because I am...
Just in the last 18 months three work colleagues of mine have been affected by breast cancer in one way or another. Thank goodness they are alive and brave and strong and standing. And I admire their courage and determination to fight with all their might. All three of them seem to be doing amazingly well now, by the way :), but stats in the UK are depressing with more than 12,000 women and 80 men dying of the illness every year! :(
I know, it's not like me to write doom and gloom blog posts, so let's talk about the good news quickly, ok? The good news is that I so strongly believe that we each have the power to reduce our chances of getting cancer. Yup, you read that correctly. Big stuff eh?! So how can we take matters into our own hands and kick cancer to the curb? By eating the right food. Another big statement, I know.
Today is a pretty special day. I mean a super special day. I mean a super duper special day because my little sister’s first single from her first album has been unleashed! (I mentioned my sister Sumera before, here and here, remember?) (WHOOOOOOOOO!!!!! HOOORRRAAAYYYY!!! YIIIHHAAAA). Oh man, our entire family – in London, Spain, Holland, Ecuador, Colombia, Portugal, the Caribbean, the US - EVERYONE is oh so excited, proud and over the moon that all her hard work has resulted in the masterpiece that is WOLF. And this spot in cyberspace is MY opportunity to brag about Sumera because I am utterly and completely besotted with her work.
NOTE: The pictures for this blog post were updated September, 2015.
Let me be open and clear: As I write this post, we are not a dairy-free household. (Ouf, glad that’s out in the open and no, I am not planning a Swiss fondue recipe for the blog any time soon, in case you were wondering). Although I personally don’t consume any dairy and would love it if my husband and my son didn’t either, the reality is, they do. To be frank, I am ok about it because I appreciate that they have to find their own path in their own sweet time. I see my role not to judge them but to offer as many (better) alternatives as I can. I’d also like to stress though that I have the utmost respect for families who take a more definite and decisive vegan approach. Fantastic, amazing, wonderful :), I may even be a tad jealous, but I also know it’s just not for us.
Like I mentioned last week, we are really only just embarking on our plant-based journey and still have a long way to go. But it’s so exciting to be at the start of something so big; I love this moment right now, right here and all it has to offer in the form of new discoveries and the shape of awesome opportunities. Importantly though we’re making lots of big steps in the right direction, but ...
“…and the next moment all of them were filled with wonder. For they saw, standing in just the spot the screen had hidden, a little old man, with a bald head and a wrinkled face, who seemed to be as much surprised as they were.” ― L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
I don’t know how you see me. I don’t know if you visualise me snacking on carrot sticks, or better yet, never snacking at all. If you imagine me meditating for hours on end, before gracefully drinking my green juice. Or if you think I float out of my daily (!) yoga class whilst reading a book about the power of Vitamin C. If so, please erase these images from your mind, as they are as true as Dorothy’s image of the Great Wizard of Oz. (Although, if truth be told, I am rather partial to a little green juice ;)).
As you know from last week’s post, I’m on a mission to show that British food can be beautiful and tasty. So during my second and final week of celebrating British Food Fortnight I wanted to show off what food culture in this country is really all about and tackle a national favourite: The British pud!
Just like last week, I used cookbooks from the 1920s, 1930s and 1950s as my starting point. This time around, the thing that struck me was how much space each cookbook dedicated to desserts. In fact, about 50% of each cookbook was solely and completely about the art of preparing a good pudding that would make your fellow middle class female friends grind their teeth with envy and blush in awe. Fascinating stuff this thing of stepping back in time.
Looking through those cookbooks also showed me how the Brits’ obsession with a good old pud goes wayyyyyy back. It’s practically in their DNA. So the pressure of coming up with the goods was on.
Earlier this year, my 4-year-old son and I (my husband joined us later) took an epic journey to the Americas. We’d talked about the trip for weeks and were both beyond excited as we boarded our plane on a Thursday evening and set off to the first of many destinations: Miami, Florida.
To be frank, I had been quite nervous about travelling and especially about visiting the States (You know, I always feel rather overwhelmed and saddened by the excessive availability of cheap, unhealthy convenience foods on offer when I enter the US and I was worried about how my son would manage this new and surely tempting experience. (He was fine by the way)).
I knew that cooking and eating healthily far away from the comforts of my own kitchen wouldn’t be straight forward, so I needed to do lots of pre-planning and thinking about how best to make it all work. Sure, I didn’t want to obsess about food either, but I certainly wanted to be cautious and avoid any processed, (factory farmed) animal-based foods, if at all possible.
The flight went well. I brought a lot of healthy food with me and bought some water at the airport, meaning we ate really well and stayed hydrated for the whole of the plane journey. What I hadn’t expected was what happened at passport control…
I have been really keen to use this blog as a space to experiment and to explore what I am capable of in the kitchen. I feel The Little Plantation is the perfect excuse to step out of my comfort zone and just go for it. If I can’t be a daredevil in real life, I better be one in cyberspace, right?
My biggest fear has always been baking bread. I know it’s a bit ridiculous but I just never knew how or where to start and frankly I thought all that kneading business looked rather complicated. Plus I believed that you needed lots of patience (something I lack) and heaps of time (something I never have enough of) (SPOILER ALERT: I was right, you need both but it’s totally worth it and it ain't as bad as it sounds).
So, instead of making my own bread I’ve just popped into the supermarket and bought the best loaf I could find. But deep down inside of me I’ve always known that there is so much I am missing out on by going down that easy route. One of my yoga students put it really poignantly, she said: ‘We all originate from a place where we use our hands, sit around a fire, chat, share stories and make beautiful things.’