Category Archives: festive

Newness and Gingerbread Cookies

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New Year. New you? New resolutions? New beginnings? What is it that makes us so fond of newness? Newness is inherent. It is our very nature. Must we wait ‘til some arbitrary moment on a calendar to feel the newness of ourselves? Why no, for we are new in every moment. Each one now is not the same as the one just passed and you need not await the timing set by another to embrace alternative perspectives, take on dream-worthy challenges, experience life differently.

Life, as nature, has a rhythm. Allow yourself to feel your own rhythm and when you are ready to grow to move to fly, it might not be the new-year, it might not even be Spring. It may be the coldest depths of winter when that creative urge begins to stir within you. Heed that call. Dance to the tune of your inner calendar. It’s the only one that will guide you home. It’s the only one that will tell you just how old you are; whether it’s time to settle down or power forth with that creative vision you’ve submerged for so long.

For too long we have danced to the tune of common causes. Be it new year festivities or valentines day roses; be it the arduous mill of the corporate grind or the greasy rung of the mortgage ladder, be it legalizing love into the defined parameters of what society calls marriage or acquiring false security through such unreal notions as money.

Stop.

Go eat that sugar filled jam doughnut if you want to, even if it is the 2nd of January. Go hug a colleague even if every fibre in your fearful body tells you that it is entirely socially unacceptable. Go destroy a project you’ve been trying to complete with all guts and no heart. Whatever your tune is, sing it.

It is not a ‘new year’ for newness is all there is.  Enjoy celebrating this year, this day, this moment. Now.

I’ll leave you with this recipe for spelt gingerbread cookies. I’ve never cooked with spelt before :)

Spelt Gingerbread Cookies (adapted from www.mynewroots.org)

Ingredients: (makes 15 cookies)

350g whole spelt flour
¼ tsp. sea salt
½ tsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. ground ginger
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
5 tbsp. coconut oil
70g dark brown muscavado sugar
½ cup date syrup
3 tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Sift the dry ingredients together.

Melt the coconut oil and mix in the date syrup, applesauce, and vanilla.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry, and fold until it just comes together into a dough. Roll into a ball and wrap it into a plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C. Remove dough from the fridge, unwrap and place the dough between two pieces of baking paper and roll out to about 2mm thick. (I needed to lean into this quite hard). Remove top half of the paper and cut out desired shapes. Gently place on a lined baking sheet.

Place cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 7-10 minutes (depending on how chewy you like your cookies). Remove from oven and let cool… if you can resist!

So I went to India…. Again.

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So I went to India. Again. I didn’t mean to. It just kind of, happened. Quite spontaneously a friend of mine mentioned that he was going home to Pune, for Diwali festivities and asked whether I would like to join (I assumed it was a rhetorical question and my flight was booked a few days later).

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Whilst this may not have been my first trip to the ‘motherland’ in many ways it was my first. It was the first time that I loved it instantly and ongoingly and let myself be taken by its breathtaking beauty, it’s the first time I stayed with an Indian family and travelled with a local, it’s the first time I allowed myself to indulge in guilt free feasting all fortnight, it’s the first time I engaged my linguistic capabilities to learn the national language and really it’s the first time I let go. For that is what there is to do in India; is to “leave life alone”, as a wise friend had put it. I didn’t interfere with the quiet chaos of the roads, or the deafening silence of the trees, or the sweet stinging of mosquito bites, or the intoxicating air of the mountains or the eye watering burn of spices, or the smell of the vast contrast between rich and poor, or the tangible romance embedded in the Indian air. I let it all be, and the result was astounding. My entire being was saturated with the Indian experience of myself. Having an Indian heritage and experiencing the full weight of that heritage are two very different things, I discovered on this trip. Perhaps during my previous visits I was not mature enough to see that or experience it, or perhaps I became ready to see what life had to show me. Either way, I am infinitely grateful.

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It’s difficult to pinpoint experiences and I wish I could describe them in chronological journal style as I have done before but it’s difficult to encompass the entirety of the experience with a day to day breakdown since each day was drenched in substances like fresh sugar cane juice, or hot Indian wind sweeping through my hair whilst riding on a bike, or the taste of poetic Hindi dropping like honey into my ears, or love, curiosity and carefreeness in the eyes of strangers.

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That said, there are some special occasions that are worthy of mention:

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My 31st birthday: which did not go amiss, with a cake, some candles and a small party of people to share the wishes that I blew into the candles.

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Diwali: the Hindu festival of light. It has been a longstanding dream to experience the full technicolour vivacity of that celebration in India and this year I got my chance; the divas lit outside and around the home made the place truly magical. The evening ended with standing on the rooftop terrace being showered with fireworks, all of them cascading light in a cadenza of colour and noise, it was an experience that mere words cannot do justice to.

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Sinhagad: to say that the mountains at Sinhagad were majestic is an understatement of mammoth proportions. I recall one moment of solitude when I stood atop the mountain, drinking in it’s majesty, it’s energy and thrill of beauty. To expand into such a wide open space whilst measuring one’s infinitesimal position against the backdrop is a glorious feeling. The road trip itself was fun too, singing to old Bollywood songs.

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Alandi: There was nothing special about Alandi; which is why I loved it. A village, with the slow paced intricacies of village life. The gentle swaying of trees in the hot breeze or the dust swept up by a passing truck, or the soft laughter of children outside a home. These are the simplicities that make Alundi, and all other villages special. We sat, under the cool shade of an empty temple for some time, talking, lazing, sharing that special moment. For all the fast paced materialism of my London lifestyle – that moment was priceless.

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Family: If I said that I stayed with one of the most loving and welcoming families in all India, I would say it with conviction. My friend’s parents stretched out their arms, their hearts and their home so far that I practically fell with a hard thud of love upside my stressed out head. It took me no more than a nanosecond to surrender to that love. Speaking of which, in true customary fashion, I was overfed. A lot. I was called a ‘sparrow’ for my Western dietary tendency of eating small amounts of food (nuts and grains as preference). Well that soon changed. My friend’s mother ensured a consistent supply of amazing food, not least sweet delicacies to satisfy my inner sugar monster. I am surprised that my teeth did not dissolve in sugar to be honest. My dentist would be horrified. My post vacation tummy is furious. Just this morning it was screaming ‘what? Where is my hot chapatti with fresh homemade butter and sugar? What do you mean we are having a banana today?’.

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Food family and friends. That composition is enough to make a magical life anywhere but India really is something special. Experiences to highlight, remember and replicate: The food market at Pimpry, the mountains at Sinhagad, Things I would not recommend: walking around in the evening dusk without mosquito repellent, continuing to eat on an upset stomach, or losing a visa; I would most definitely not recommend that.

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3 ways with apples

Lets continue with the three-ways theme shall we?

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This week I have been harvesting (and by harvesting I mean picking up the fallen apples from the tree as I come home from work) all the apples from the tree in my garden (yes I’m lucky enough to have a garden, for now). So many apples and only so many apple pies one can eat (ahem).

Since Christmas is just around the corner (don’t worry you too can bury your sweet ostrich head back in the sand as soon as you’ve read this post), I figured some apple chutney stored in jars and ready to give away as gifts wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Next I made a paleo vegan gluten free sugar free apple pie, and then some sugary buttery apple cookies. My diet, as my life, may be full of apparent conflicts and contradictions but in the end it always boils down to the maximisation of pleasure…

Roasted garlic and apple chutney

(recipe adaptation from Abel and Cole)

1.5kg apples, peeled cored and roughly chopped
1 whole bulb garlic
3 large onions, peeled, chopped into chunks
2 handfuls raisins
1 mug organic apple cider vinegar
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp salt
1/2 mug brown sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 190C.  Slice the top off the garlic bulb so that you can just see the flesh of the garlic cloves through the skin. Put into the oven and leave to roast for 40mins.

In the meantime put all of the remaining ingredients into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Stir and bring down to a simmer.

Once the garlic is roasted, squeeze the bulbs out of the skin and into the saucepan.  Continue to let the chutney simmer for about 1.5 hours until it reaches a thick porridge-like consistency.

Cool and spoon into sterilised jars, saving for Christmas!

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Apple pie (paleo-vegan)

For the crust:
300g raw cashews
200g pitted dates
140g brown rice flour
40g gluten free oats
2-8 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract
a pinch of malden salt

For the filling
4 apples
200g pitted dates
juice from ½ lemon
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp cloves
Pre-heat oven to 200C.

Make crust: place all the dry ingredients into a food processor and pulse until you have a fine flour. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside. Place the dates, vanilla nd 2 tbsp of water in the processor and run until you have a complete smooth a creamy mixture. Scrape down the sides and add more water if necessary. Scoop this into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mx together using your hands. The dough should eventually be firm enough to form into a ball.

Split the dough ball into two. Roll one half out and press it down into a pie pan lined with parchment paper. Prick the crust and place in the oven to pre-bake for ten minutes.

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Make filling: slice apples into wedges. Blend dates, lemon, vanilla and spices in the processor. Mix in with the apples. Press the mixture into the pre-baked crust.

Roll out the other half of the dough and place over the pie dish. Press the edges down and cut four slits in the centre of the pie.

Bake for 30-40mins until the crust has browned a deep golden.

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Apple Cookies

40g softened butter
130g light brown sugar
3 medium apples, peeled, cored and grated
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
125g wholewheat organic flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
handful of nuts (walnuts or pecans)
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Yields 10 cookies, if you don’t eat the mixture.

Set the oven to 350F.

Cream the sugar and butter. Next mix in the egg and then the grated apple and the vanilla. Don’t eat the raw mixture.

In a separate bowl mix together the flour, cinnamon, salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and mix together. Fold in the nuts. Don’t eat the raw mixture.

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Dollop about a tablespoon of cookie batter onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper leaving at least an inch of space in between the cookies. Cook for 15-20 mins until the cookies are golden across the top.

As soon as they emerge from the oven, sprinkle some more brown sugar and cinnamon mix across the top.

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New Year’s Eve Granola

As it’s New Year’s Eve I decided some spring cleaning was in order. New year, new beginnings n all that. So off I marched into the kitchen to start there. Sponge cloth and cleaning spray in hand, I opened the cupboards, and only moments later was busy making some homemade granola. I don’t know how these things happen. They just do. Spontaneous cooking is often the best kind. It makes for a truly happy moment, rummaging through one’s larder to find a perfect combination of ingredients to make something nourishing to eat. Homemade breakfast of granola is also on the list of feel-good, body-energising, tummy-happy foods. I confess, I ate ice cream for breakfast yesterday.

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Eventually I did get the cleaning done and the granola made and even some reflective journal thoughts written. Reflecting on the year past is a beautiful gift to give oneself. Whatever has happened; whatever accomplishments, upsets, failures, victories, happy moments and sad; to stand and take stock of those things is to allow for pride and a pat on the back, to allow for grieving and gratitude, to allow for forgiveness and letting go, to allow for an acknowledgement: this is me, this is my life and this is where I’m at. Tomorrow, I shall be spending with friends to create the coming year and all that we would love to see unfold. I’m excited about that for two reasons; creation is always fun and I’ll be fed by Marc, whose culinary talents are too wonderful for words. Along with a bottle of wine I think I’ll take some truffles. Mmm… truffles. Perhaps I’ll blog about those later.

Anyway, I digress. See below for the granola recipe from ‘Good Food’. It was super quick to make and easily ‘customisable’ in that you can experiment with dried fruits or seeds, different types of honey or even spices. Cinnamon works a treat. Whilst the recipe instructs to allow time for cooling, my own patience when it comes to food is virtually non existent so I tucked into the granola as soon as it emerged from the oven. I also grated some 70%  good quality dark chocolate onto mine. I’m not suggesting for one moment that you do the same. I’m just saying, I did.

Ingredients

2 tbsp vegetable oil (I used avocado oil)
125ml maple syrup
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
300g rolled oats
50g sunflower seeds
4 tbsp sesame seeds
50g pumpkin seeds
100g flaked almonds
100g dried berries (I used cranberries)
50g coconuts flakes or desiccated coconut

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Method

Heat the oven to 150C/fan 130C/Gas mark2.

Mix the oil, maple syrup, honey and vanilla in a large bowl. mixingoil0034

Tip in all the remaining ingredients, except the dried fruit and coconut, and mix well.

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Tip the granola onto two baking sheets and spread evenly.

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Bake for 15 mins, then mix in the coconut and dried fruit, and bake for a further 15 mins.

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Remove and scrape onto a flat tray to cool.

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Happy Holidays

This year, whilst my stomach has groaned under the weight of festive foods I have been unrelentingly feeding it throughout December, I haven’t actually taken many pictures nor posted any Christmassy recipes. I felt I should mark the festive season with something, however. For me, the summation of it is in these chestnuts I roasted last week. Crisp and crunchy, soft amd yummy. Just like families, friends and festive times. Happy holidays.

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