Happy Valentine’s Day!

Cooking for someone special…

It is no surprise that my social media feeds this week have been full of gorgeous looking food (So. Much. Chocolate) in preparation for Valentine’s Day.  Whilst there is something so satisfying about making food for those you love (and I am most definitely a feeder!) in all honesty I am not that big a fan of the big V day. The hype rarely lives up to the reality. So this year I have taken a slightly different approach – to make a lovely meal for yourself when dining solo. This post is about food as self care, rather than romance.

I think for a lot of us, the idea of putting lots of effort in to cook when on our own is a bit over the top. I am someone who hasn’t always had the easiest relationships with food or haven’t always looked after myself as much as I should. However, I truly believe that making food that is good for body and soul is one of the kindest things we can do for ourselves. This isn’t meant to be taken as a prescriptive, diet manifesto or the like. Food that might make you feel good can come in many different dishes. What is important for me is the act of cooking the food in the first place, not necessarily what I am actually cooking. That I feel I am worth the effort.

Now this is often easier said than done. If I am on my own for dinner in the evening, having done the bath and story time routines alone, head still throbbing from the noise of the soft play centre, sometimes the only thing I can manage to do is open a family size bag of kettle chips and a packet of biscuits. However, I am not suggesting making eight course gourmet taster menus. What I have tried to do over the years is have a few quick, go to dinners planned for when I am alone. These include hummus stirred into hot pasta with baby spinach leaves; jacket spud with baked beans; pasta and vegan pesto; rice or quinoa with hummus and salad or cooked veggies. I keep packs of microwaveable rice and other grains in the cupboard, bags of ready chopped salad in the fridge. I sometimes plan leftovers to use later in the week if needed.

For my solo dinner this week I had a ‘loaded’ jacket potato, an idea courtesy of plant based foodie Lindsay Nixon aka Happy Herbivore. In one of her books she has these recipes for baked potatoes with loads of yummy things like chilli, salsa, veggies, etc piled on top. So I did my own version with some leftover cooked veg and chopped salad. Yes, there is a potato under there somewhere!

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As it is Valentine’s Day, I also included some chocolate, in the form of a microwave brownie in a mug. This is so easy and delicious. There are lots of recipes for these on the internet. This is my take on it. In a large mug put 3 tablespoons of self raising flour, 1-2 tablespoons of sugar (depending on how sweet you like your brownie), 1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder and 2 tablespoons vegan chocolate chips and stir to together. Then add 3 tablespoons milk, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla and either 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil or melted vegan spread or unsweetened fruit pureé. Stir until all ingredients are combined into a batter:

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Add a couple more chips on top. Microwave on high for about 90 seconds, although microwave timings may vary depending on your particular oven.

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I turned mine out into a bowl to serve but you can just eat it out of the mug!

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Pudding in under 10 minutes – can’t argue with that. Happy Valentine’s Day to you all. Enjoy xxxx

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Vegan MoFo 2018 – Day 3

Infinite Variety – The Cleopatra Bowl

The challenge for today was to make something inspired by a leader so my contribution is a tribute to one of my favourite historical characters, Cleopatra. My interest in her has been a longstanding one. She fascinates me not just as female political leader in her own right, but also the immense influence she has had on popular culture, through art, literature and film.

In order to make something for this challenge I did a little research on what sorts of foods would have been eaten in Ancient Egypt to see if I could include some ingredients that may have been familiar to Cleopatra herself. These included lettuce, onions, garlic, pulses, dates, pomegranates, olive oil, spices. Now I should state clearly this is NOT an attempt at any sort of historical re-enactment of the food eaten in Ancient Egypt. That is way beyond my skills. This is merely a little culinary tribute to a woman who in the words of Shakespeare age cannot whither ‘nor custom stale her infinite variety.’

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The following is easily enough for two bowls:

2 fresh figs sliced in half

400g tin of green lentils, drained and mixed with a couple of teaspoons of the dressing

300g cooked barley with a teaspoon of olive oil and some salt and pepper mixed through

150g salad leaves

100g pomegranate seeds

Handful of chopped green olives

6 radishes thinly sliced

4 spring onions cut into small pieces

Sesame seeds to sprinkle

For the dressing whisk together in a small bowl 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon of date syrup, 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar and some salt and pepper.

Drizzle a little of the dressing on the fig halves and put them under the grill until they start to caramelise. In the meantime, divide the barley, lentils and salad leaves between two bowls or plates. Add the figs once grilled, radishes, spring onions and olives, sprinkle over the pomegranate seeds, remaining dressing and finish with the sesame seeds.

Enjoy xxxx