Vegan Pot de Crème

A trip to Paris is on my 30 things to do before 30 and we hope to make it happen before the end of the year, particularly because I have a good friend we’d like to visit, who lives there.

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Whenever we talk about planning the trip, we end up daydreaming about the food. That may be a bit tricky because Laurence is sensitive to wheat and dairy (he may just have to break the rules and book time off to recover!). When La Redoute asked me to create a recipe for a French-inspired dish, I was intrigued to try to make it dairy-free. In fact, this pot de crème is vegan.

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We prefer to use sweeteners that have nutritional value but aren’t as high on the fructose as refined cane sugar. We used molasses this time because it’s rich in minerals and the girls and I love the taste. However, you might want to replace that with maple syrup (or even caster sugar) if you’re not a fan. I mention this because it was too rich for Laurence – just more of it for the rest of us!

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As always, the tasting starts with licking the bowl. No wonder the kids love helping me in the kitchen!

Ingredients
1 tin of coconut milk
100g cacao nibs
3-4 tablespoons of molasses or maple syrup

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Method
Put the cacao nibs and coconut milk in the blender. Blend until combined. You want the mixture to be reasonably smooth but you’re going to strain later so don’t obsess over this.

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Pour the mixture into a saucepan on medium heat. Mix continuously while heating for 5-10 minutes until the coconut milk thickens a bit. Mix in your sweetener of choice.

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Strain into a bowl, using a spoon to push the liquid through. Pour into small tea cups. Cool to room temperature. Put the tea cups in the fridge to firm up for four hours. Serves four.

For this and other French inspired dishes, check out La Redoute’s blog.

The clothing featured in this post is all from La Redoute, who have commissioned this post.


Avocado potato salad

This is not that groundbreaking but this avocado potato salad is something I’ve been making recently so I thought I’d share it. Our diet is mostly vegan/vegetarian these days – we’re eating little meat and sourcing it carefully – and salads are perfect summer time fare. This potato salad works perfectly with that, swapping mayonnaise for avocado.

Boil your potatoes (don’t overcook – I did a little in the picture above). In a bowl, mash an avocado. Mix in chopped mint, fresh lemon juice, crushed garlic and salt. Add the mix to your potatoes, gently stirring.

A meal of three salads (maybe green, potato and chickpea?) is surprisingly satisfying. Maybe it’s the variety that does it. It’s also the kind of thing that you can make ahead of time so you’re not worried about being pressed for time.

To my Trini friends reading this, enjoy a nice, big zaboca for me. It’s never quite the same here. To everyone, hit me with your favourite salads.


Mexican sausage and bean chilli

I’ve mentioned before that Talitha can be rather, um, selective in her eating. I’m not sure that really conveys the level of frustration I feel about a lot of our meals but I’ve had to let it go. Bit by bit, she is branching out on her own. She recently decided to add sausages and, off and on, beans to the list of things she will eat so I’ve been keen to try recipes that incorporate these.

Thinking about it, I hadn’t made Mexican sausage and bean chilli in yonks so I thought I’d give that a go. At first, she eyed it and was like, “What is this? It’s not sausage.” But I shrugged and, out of the corner of my eye, watched her try it…and eat all of it. So, a success.

We have it in our heads that we will go traveling and when we do, the hope is that the kids will be able to eat whatever we come across. This may not be totally realistic but at least I can give them the chance of not finding different cuisine totally alien by offering a range of flavours now.

While I’m not sure my chilli is that authentic, Mexico is definitely on the list of places we’d love to visit some day. White sand beaches, the floating gardens at Xochimilco, Mayan ruins, the pyramids at Teotihuacán, the burritos, the handwoven textiles – there is just so much that draws us to think about holidays in Mexico.

On to the chilli. This is a super quick recipe that serves two adults and two children.

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What you need:
300g cooked or tinned mixed beans (I used black, kidney and pinto beans)
300g sausages, veggie or meat (take care with meat sausages to look at the ingredients)
2 peppers
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp cumin
1 tin tomatoes
a little oil or butter (I used coconut)
salt and pepper to taste (I left this out for the kids)
avocados and brown rice to serve your chilli with

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What you do:
Brown your sausages in the pan. I cut mine up beforehand so they would fall apart a little as I wanted the meat to go a little further. Cut up after they’re brown and return to the pan if you want them to retain their shape more.
Add the onions. Once they’re soft, add the garlic and cook for a minute or so. Add the tomatoes and break them up in the pan unless they’re already chopped. Add the cumin and salt and pepper to taste (I left the latter two out).
Reduce heat to slow simmer. Cook for 30 mins. Enjoy with brown rice and avocados.

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Thanks to First Choice for working with me


More olives in our cooking

With the craziness of Christmas and New Year, I’m only just getting around to telling you about the Spanish cooking class Laurence and I took last year. Well, that’s misleading. He and Sian of The Bristol Eater did most of the cooking and I mostly chatted and drank wine! We were invited to take part in an olives cooking class at Bordeaux Quay Cookery School with Spanish chef Omar Allibhoy of the Tapas Revolution.

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We dropped the kids off with my brother and his wife (thanks for moving to Bristol, guys!) and got set for a date with a difference.

Admittedly we hadn’t eaten olives much lately. It’s not something we’d had much imagination for which is odd because olives make their way into a few Trini dishes. In fact, they feature in pastelles, the traditional Christmas cornmeal patties that we ended up making (well, actually, Laurence did!) despite saying we’d give them a miss this year.

It’s safe to say, we love the taste of olives!

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Olives also pack a punch, nutritionally. They’re a rich source of Vitamin E and act as an antioxidant and have been credited with everything from aiding fertility to reducing the effects of Alzheimer’s. So, we were keen to work them into our cooking with a bit of re-inspiration.

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Omar’s class certainly offered that with a menu that included queen olive-stuffed beef meatballs with tomato and olive sauce (the vegetarians did aubergines), coarse pate of mixed olives, manchego cheese and pistachios, candied pitted olives and cherries in sweet sherry wine, with lots of yummy bread and, of course, wine. We were blown away by all of it (who says food doesn’t taste as good when you’ve cooked it yourself?) but the olive dessert was a particularly pleasant surprise.

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The class was well-timed for us because we’d been trying to figure out what to serve up for Ophelia’s dedication. When Omar mentioned that the meatballs could be cooked in the oven, we decided to go for that as we were cooking for lots of people, and it was a real hit. We accompanied it with roasted potatoes and even snuck olives into the salads.

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We were invited to this cooking class as part of the Olive it! campaign to educate the UK about olives and get us all working more of them into our cooking. We certainly haven’t needed any more encouragement since.

Do you cook much with olives?


Win a private tapas cookery class for two in Bristol with Omar Allibhoy

I was recently invited to take an olive cooking class with celebrated Spanish chef Omar Allibhoy (pictured above) in a couple of weeks. Since it’ll be my turn to plan date night, I thought I’d go big and fancy and invite Laurence along. We’ll be learning to make a selection of tapas, followed by dining on all the food prepared and enjoying carefully selected wines. I’m not quite sure how he’ll top that. I may just have planned date of the year.

I always think of olives as being quite a festive food. We eat a lot of them in December, as appetisers and in pastelles, so I think it’ll be fun to learn new ways of cooking them and maybe even treat our families to tapas this year. The idea with this course is that by the end of it we should be equipped to host our own tapas party.

Sounds pretty amazing, right? Well, I thought you might like to do it too. I’m offering one reader the chance to win a private tapas cookery class for two with Omar Allibhoy on Thursday 4th December from 12.00pm to 3.30pm in Bristol. Here’s the blurb:

“You and one guest will experience hands-on tuition in an atmospheric and professional cook school in the heart of Bristol, at the Bordeaux Quay Cookery School. In this exciting cooking course you will be inspired to get creative in the kitchen and learn how to make a selection of delicious tapas with the ‘master of tapas’ himself.

Omar Allibhoy will take you on a culinary journey where you can explore the exciting flavours of the Mediterranean and learn how to make a selection of beautiful and mouth-watering dishes that will impress friends and family. Take a look at our website for recipe inspiration.

Olives are an essential ingredient in the Mediterranean diet. Versatile and full of flavour, olives also have important nutritional properties and the black variety are a source of iron and vitamin E. What’s not to love? This tapas cookery class with Omar Allibhoy is a perfect way to experiment with flavours of the Mediterranean and will leave you fully equipped to host your own tapas party! Each session ends with a mouth watering feast of all the food prepared, accompanied by some carefully selected wines.”

To enter, use the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Open to UK residents only
Entrants must be 18 and over
Prize will be fulfilled by the event organisers
Winner will be contacted by November 29th, 2014
If the winner does not respond by December 1st, 2014 another winner will be selected
Winner is chosen at random


Vegan and Vegetarian Food Guide to London

We used to go to London loads when we lived in Brighton. It was strange to me how normal this fantastical city I’d grown up with in books, songs and films once I moved to this country. It took on a new look for me again when I worked in Sloane Square. And now, every time we visit, I see it through the eyes of my children. London is always changing.

I feel like I want to keep the magic of the city going for them – especially as they actually get to visit the place – so when we take a trip there, I aim to plan ahead to avoid unnecessary stress (not always successfully, mind!). Of course, a big part of that is thinking about somewhere to eat that will be an experience in itself.

Though we’re not vegetarians, Laurence and I have always consumed very little meat. Well, maybe I should edit that to say that since we’ve been together he’s eaten mostly vegetarian food, though he has now got veggie cooking down to a fine art. We see meat as something that should be eaten infrequently.

This has become increasingly so since we started gardening. We’ve become a lot pickier about what we consume and, as we eat up our garden, it’s become natural to choose wholesome vegetarian options whether we’re in or outside our home.

Now that he needs to avoid dairy, we’ve found that eating vegan when out is actually the safest option. It’s surprising what has butter or milk in it once you ask!

That can become a bit of a minefield when out in another city, especially if meeting up with friends. Particularly those who also have dietary restrictions to add to our own. One of my best friends is Muslim and we’ve often ended up choosing vegetarian or vegan as a way of avoiding the issues around halal.

Having a vegan and vegetarian guide like the ones HouseTrip have launched to Paris, Berlin and London just takes the headache out of it all. You can even search by “best for families” and “best for special occasions”. I’m looking forward to giving it a go next time where over in the big smoke.

In association with HouseTrip


Five nourishing foodie must-reads

We have been thinking and talking a lot about nourishing food recently. We want our children to grow up with a healthy relationship with food, connecting it to both the land and to its effects on our bodies. Actually, we want this for ourselves too.

Here are five places we’ve been looking to lately for a bit of inspiration.

1.Refined to Real Food: Moving Your Family Toward Healthier, Wholesome Eating
This book gives a great foundation in the basics of eating whole foods as a family and makes a strong case for moving away from processed, convenience “food”. I’ve always been enthusiastic about nutrition, even as a teen, and loved that I had a few aha moments while reading this book. From how to store vegetables to what to prioritise if you can’t buy everything organic, it’s full of lots of great little tips.

2. Well-Nourished
This one’s a website. A tummy-do-a-happy-dance delicious and oh-so-good-for-you website. A friend put me on to it when she mentioned she’d made a sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free cake for her children and I was like, “How?” I especially love her ingredients glossary and the cacao roughs are a real hit here. I even subscribe for weekly inspiration.

3. I Quit Sugar: Your Complete 8-Week Detox Program and Cookbook
We bought this one as a birthday present for my mother-in-law. I didn’t know masses about it at the time but it kept popping up everywhere and I knew that she was keen to reduce her sugar intake. Well, she raved about it and I loved the snippets I read whenever we were at her house, so I decided to finally buy a copy for us.

The recipes and ideas in this book are really useful for anyone wanting to address a sugar addiction. I’m a prime candidate for following its eight-week programme to quit sugar. I’m prone to cavities, energy slumps and mood swings, and have zero self-control when it comes to sugar. I’m definitely an eat-my-feelings kind of woman. So, this book’s straight-talking, sensible advice is welcome to help me hit reset on my tortured relationship with fructose. There are some tips for kids too.

4. Organic Gardening: The Natural No-dig Way Ok, ok, it’s a gardening book but it’s totally about food. It’s all about getting the most out of your food, packing it with nutrients by getting those nutrients into the earth and losing the nasty stuff. It focuses on making growing food as simple as possible and keeping things seasonal.

5. Gaia’s Feasts: New Vegetarian Recipes for Family and Community This is a great companion to the previous book. It teaches you how to eat up your garden. I gave Laurence a bit of a hard time over his buying this as he’s been a bit of a meat fiend in the past but he pointed out that, actually, most of what we eat is vegan. I am loving cooking my way through this beautiful book. It has, hands down, the best gluten-free bread recipe I have ever tried. The texture is perfect!

Do you have any recommendations to add? I’d especially love to find more nutrition blogs.

This post contains affiliate links but these books are absolutely ones I recommend.