Instructions for a heatwave

You know what they say about the sun – mad dogs and Englishmen and all that. Well, it’s true. I’m sure I’m not the only one whose brain is a bit addled by the current heatwave. I’m so glad that I no longer work in an office or worse still, have to face a hot and sweaty commute to work. Still, it’s had going. Without wanting to sound like one of those people, it’s a bit too hot, isn’t it?

Anyway, ‘tis the season to eat salad (or sorbet, if you’re a vegan with a sweet tooth) and it’s pretty much all I want at the moment. I fell in love with a little lunch pot I bought from Marks and Spencer at the weekend and decided to try to recreate it.

The flavours in this salad verge on the sublime, thanks mainly to a creamy lemon and parsley dressing, and it’s a good way to use courgettes which are just in season. The peas (also in season if you use fresh) and chickpeas are full of protein so it’s a sustaining salad, too. Instead of fregola, I’ve used orzo, which looks like rice but is actually a type of pasta but much lighter – ideal if your appetite isn’t up to much in this weather. You can buy it in most large supermarkets but if you can’t find it, quinoa, couscous or brown rice will work just as well – just adjust your cooking times.

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Orzo with courgettes and peas and a lemon and parsley dressing

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

For the salad

100g orzo pasta

200g peas (fresh or frozen)

1 large courgette, diced

1 can of chickpeas (400g), rinsed and drained

2-3 handfuls spinach

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper

 

For the dressing

Juice and zest of 1 unwaxed lemon (if you can’t get unwaxed, use the juice only)

½ tsp mustard seeds (black or yellow) or 1 tsp wholegrain mustard

1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 handful of parsley, finely chopped

1 tsp maple syrup

Salt and pepper

 

Method

Add the orzo to a pan of salted boiling water and cook for 6-7 minutes, then drain and set aside. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pan, then add the peas (shell them first if you’re using fresh) and courgette and squeeze over the lemon juice. Cook for 5-6 minutes, then add the chickpeas and the spinach and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir through the orzo then quickly make the dressing. If using mustard seeds, grind them using a pestle mortar or the base of a large mug, then mix together with the other ingredients – you can do this in a bowl by with a whisk or a fork or you can pop everything into a jar and give it a good shake.

Stir the dressing into the salad and serve. This goes particularly well with a cool glass of crisp white wine. Enjoy.

 

Broad strokes

Is it really a week since the general election? A lot has happened in the last seven days. We still don’t have a government so to speak, Tim Farron’s stepped down as leader of the Liberal Democrats (although really, that’s no bad thing) and fair-weather friend Owen Smith now has a starring role in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet.

It’s certainly not the hung parliament we were expecting last Thursday night. Mind you, most of us were hungover (get it?) the next morning and boy, am I feeling that today. Yesterday the weather was GLORIOUS and like so many  of us sun-starved Celts, I found myself in a beer garden. To give myself credit, I delayed drinking until a very respectable 6.30 pm but in the space of three and a half hours, I got through a hell of a lot of white wine. There was no dinner, unless Kettle Chips count. Oops.

I’ll survive – and I think Labour might too. Over 70 per cent of people aged 18–25 turned out to vote last week (that’s astonishingly good) and it’s a fair bet that many of them were voting for the many, not the few. If the reds had won just 15 more seats they could have formed a coalition with Plaid Cymru, the SNP and the Greens. Sigh.

The good news is that Labour won back its seats from the Tories in Cardiff North, Vale of Clwyd and Gower. I’m moving to Swansea in a few weeks and while Gower isn’t my constituency (I’m Swansea East, baby) I’m pleased as punch. I was in Mumbles on Friday afternoon and when I saw these Gower broad beans, I saw it as a sign and had to buy them. If you’re ever in the area,  by the way, The Choice is Yours is a great greengrocers.

I love broad beans, even if they do require a bit of TLC. Shelling peas is pretty simple but with broad beans you need to double-pod them, which means removing an extra layer – a bit like a vest, I guess. It takes a bit of time but it’s worth it for the flavour. I had a merry little time shelling peas and broad beans the other night while I caught up with Orange is the New Black (no spoilers please; I’m still on season four); then I used them in a dreamy Thai green curry.

Once you’ve prepared the peas and broad beans dish (of course, you can use the frozen variety if you’re in a hurry), this is a really quick and easy dish. It’s also pretty healthy and if you want to make a lighter version you can use coconut milk from a carton (the kind you’d pour over cereal or have in tea or coffee) instead of the canned variety. It can be tricky to find a vegan Thai green curry paste (most of them contain fish sauce or shrimps) but the Blue Dragon version is a good option and if you can find it, there’s also Geo Organics, which I used.

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Thai green curry with peas and broad beans

Serves 4

Ingredients

200g peas, shelled

200g broad beans, shelled

300g spinach (or half a big bag)

1 small onion or 2 shallots, diced

3 carrots, diced

1 tablespoon sesame or coconut oil (olive or vegetable are fine too)

1 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons Thai green curry paste

1 can (400ml) coconut milk

1 to 2 teaspoons maple syrup

The juice of 1 lime

1 to 2 teaspoons soy sauce

Handful of parsley or coriander, chopped

425g brown rice

 

Method

Start by cooking the rice. Bring a large pot of water to boil, add the rinsed rice and continue boiling for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, warm a large saucepan or wok over a medium heat and when it’s hot, add the oil.

Cook the onion, ginger and garlic with a sprinkle of salt for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the carrots and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the curry paste and cook (keep stirring!) for 2 minutes.

Pour the coconut milk into the pan, along with half a mug of water and the maple syrup. Bring the mixture to a simmer then reduce the heat and after 5 minutes, add the peas and broad beans. Cook for another 5-6 minutes until the vegetables are tender and cooked through. Now stir through the spinach and cook for another minute or so – or until it’s wilted.

Remove the curry from the heat and season with the lime juice and soy sauce. Divide the rice and curry into bowls and garnish with herbs and sliced red chilies, if you like.

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Half-baked

Another day, another omnishambles. The fallout from last week’s general election is unfolding like an episode of Borgen and I’m struggling to keep up with the subtitles. After the Tories failed to win its predicted landslide majority, Theresa May is hoping to get into bed with the DUP (eew) to form a minority government. Now, The Queen’s Speech (which is basically when the government sets out its legislative programme) has been delayed until the deal is done and dusted. Oh, and the speech is still written on vellum – yes, that’s goat’s skin – which takes a few days to dry. Because of Tory negotiations with the DUP, it won’t be ready in time, hence the hold up.

I’m confused, bemused, and actually a little amused. The news this weekend has had me chuckling away, because it’s not funny – it’s bloody farcical. I’m no political expert but surely it was a bit half-baked to trigger Article 50 and then call an election?

It’s so bad it’s almost good – and it is if you consider that Labour has had a surge in popularity and for the first time in ages, the party is putting on a united front. It doesn’t excuse the previous backstabbing (I’m looking at you, Eagle and Smith) but Corbyn is now the poster boy for common decency because a. he’s a genuine guy who seems to give a damn about other people and b. next to the May and her ilk, anyone’s a Messiah. And then, proving that like us, he’s an average Joe (or Jeremy) there’s this.

I could watch it for hours.

Apart from Labour, no one seems at all happy, apart from Arlene Foster and former Chancellor George Osborne who was swiftly sacked by May as soon as she became Prime Minister. Now the tables have turned, he can barely contain his glee at her inevitable demise, and like the cat who got the cream, he’s described her as a ‘dead woman walking’. Meow. That schadenfreude sure does look delicious.

It certainly appears that there’s trouble in paradise, and in a leaked WhatsApp conversation, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has urged his Tory chums to ‘calm down and get behind the prime minister’. Good luck with that one, Bo Jo; the claws are out.

Carry on we must and on that note, I turn to tofu. You might think it’s as rubbery as Michael Gove’s face (and politics) but it’s actually a wonderful addition to any recipe because, like a sponge, it absorbs everything – and yes, that means all the flavour. Recently, I’ve had a go at baking it and have discovered that it’s dead easy and it keeps its shape better. This recipe is tried and tested (unlike whatever the hell is going on at number 10 right now) and I promise you that you’ll like it.

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Here’s what you need to do…

Take a 400g block of firm tofu and use kitchen roll to blot and absorb all its water. Take a heavy wooden chopping board or a hardback book (wrapped in a clean tea towel) and place it on top of the tofu. This will press down on it and absorb excess moisture. Leave for 10-15 minutes then slice into medium-sized strips.

Preheat the oven to 200C (gas mark 6) and in an oven-proof dish, mix a tablespoon each of soy sauce and sesame oil, plus a little grated ginger and the juice of one small lime. Coat both sides of the tofu strips with the mixture and leave to marinate for 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle over some sesame seeds so that both sides of the strips are covered and bake for about 30 minutes, turning every so often.

Serve with stir fried vegetables and noodles or rice.

Peas please

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I love this time of year. With each season, I look forward to a new chapter (mainly in the weather and the food but also, just like at the start of a new school term, starting afresh) and when I think of June, I imagine weddings, gin and tonics enjoyed in the garden and slow summer days and evenings. Obviously, real life often gets in the way and even if it’s not pouring with rain, we often find ourselves stuck at the office when the sun’s shining outside.

One of the nicest things about summer is the all that fresh fruit and vegetables and because it’s so easy to prepare, you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying the summer – when the weather’s playing ball, that is. This is when peas and broad beans are just coming into season and once you get them out of their pods, they cook in a matter of minutes and by adding fresh mint, olive oil and lemon juice, they’re delicious served on their own.

Shelling peas is the closest I’ll ever get to mindfulness. I have the patience of a sinner but even I’m willing to sit down for half an hour and focus my full attention on popping them out of their pods. If you don’t want to completely switch off, shelling peas gives you a good excuse to catch up with a podcast or your latest Netflix binge.

Believe it or not, peas aren’t actually vegetables as each pod and its contents is collectively fruit and the peas are the seeds. That explains why they’re so sweet and how it’s almost impossible to shell them without snacking on a few.

Peas are something of a nutritional powerhouse as they’re low in sugar and a 100g portion provides you with 66% of your daily recommended allowance of vitamin C. Peas are also a good source of fibre and protein. If you can’t get fresh peas just use the frozen kind.

Peas please2

Spaghetti with pea and avocado pesto

Serves 2

 

Ingredients

200g spaghetti

200g peas, shelled and rinsed

1 lemon (juice only)

1 ripe avocado, peeled and halved

3 large handfuls kale, cavolo nero or spinach, torn

5-6 basil leaves, torn

1 clove garlic

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Flaked almonds (optional)

 

Method

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook your spaghetti for 8-10 minutes, then drain. Steam the peas for one minute before adding the kale, then cook for a further 5 minutes. Meanwhile, place the avocado, basil, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper into a blender. When the kale is cooked, allow it to cool for a minute, then add to the other ingredients and blend – you don’t need to be too thorough with this as you want a fairly coarse consistency. In a pan, mix the spaghetti and the peas and stir through the pasta, heating for a minute if you want to eat it warm, and serve. Scatter with flaked almonds for added crunch and a few basil leaves, if you like.

Ode to asparagus

A bit like Danny Devito, British asparagus season is short but sweet. You can buy it all year round but it’s a pale imitation of the stuff you’ll find during the spring and summer months.

Asparagus is full of vitamins A and C, potassium, iron and calcium and it’s also a diuretic – and as we all know, it makes your pee smell. That’s because (here comes the science bit) it contains a sulphurous compound called mercaptan, which is also found in rotten eggs, onions and garlic.  When your digestive system breaks down mercaptan, by-products are released that cause the strange smell.

Don’t let that put you off though; in-season asparagus has long been regarded as a delicacy and is delicious lightly steamed and seasoned with salt and pepper, lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil.

In this salad, the asparagus is the star of the show, with zesty lemon and salty pistachios as its backing singers. The giant couscous and chickpeas make it a substantial meal and it’s perfect for a packed lunch or picnic – or a speedy supper as it takes under 10 minutes to put together. If you can’t get hold of purple sprouting broccoli (its season is almost at an end, after all) use the ordinary kind.

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Asparagus salad with chickpeas, giant couscous and pistachios

(Serves 2–3)

Ingredients

100g giant couscous

1 can (400g) chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 packet of asparagus (or 7–8 spears)

1 packet of purple sprouting broccoli (or half a head of broccoli, cut into strips, including the stems)

Half a bag of spinach

2–3 handfuls pistachios, shelled

1 lemon, juiced

2–3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to season

 

Method

Using a sieve, rinse and drain the couscous then add to a pan of salted boiling water and cook for 5–6 minutes. At the same time, in a separate pan, boil or steam the asparagus for 5–6 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix the chickpeas and spinach and massage with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and half the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Drain the couscous and add to the bowl (its warmth will gently wilt the spinach leaves) and do the same with the asparagus and broccoli. Top with the pistachios and dress with the remainder of the lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

British Sandwich Week

New York Deli

I love a good sandwich (my nickname at school was Sarah Bread Head – go figure) but now that I’m vegan, I rarely find anything other than the ubiquitous falafel wrap when I’m out and about. I’ve done my research though, and as it’s British Sandwich Week (14–20 May), I’ve rounded up the best vegan (and veggie) sandwiches you’ll find in Cardiff. Enjoy.

Wally’s

Wally’s has been something of a food fairground for me since I was a kid and turning vegan hasn’t stopped that. The Kaffehaus is king of the open sandwich and although there’s lots of meat and cheese on the menu, the staff are happy to change the fillings for you. For example, you can make the Linz vegan by simply taking out the halloumi and adding extra avocado. Win win.

New York Deli

This is another Cardiff institution and somewhere I’ve shied away from since ditching the pastrami as I assumed there’d be nothing there that I could eat. Turns out I was wrong. This heavenly hoagie (that’s a submarine-type roll to us non-Yanks) contains two types of vegan cheese, and all the salad, relish and sriracha sauce a girl could want. Other vegan options include a bagel burger and the grinder with veggie mince.

The Moos

Don’t be fooled by the name; everything at The Moos is 100% vegan and delicious to boot. Check it out for super sandwiches, cakes and hot drinks with a twist. The menu changes with the seasons which is a good excuse for me to go back.

Falafel Wales

I’m in love with this cafe on Cowbridge Road in Canton. Pop in for a Middle Eastern breakfast, some of the best houmous in the capital or this fabulous falafel wrap. Ask for it with everything (I always get extra hot sauce) and prepare yourself for one filling lunch. At £3.50, it’s a bargain too.

Falafel wrap. I asked for it with 'everything'.

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Chapter

The veggie sausage from Chapter is pretty perfect, especially with heaps of HP sauce and a strong Americano. It’ll power you through the fiercest of hangovers, a looming deadline, the latest art house film – or simply the little darlings running around the place.

Fresh Baguette

This tiny little baguette shop is tucked away in the Royal Arcade and every lunchtime, a queue forms for one of the tastiest (and best value) lunches in the city centre. Gareth’s been feeding Cardiff’s office workers for over 15 years and is passionate about using high-quality fresh ingredients – the clue’s in the name, really. There are plenty of veggie options on the menu and you can easily ‘build’ your own baguette. This one with houmous, vegan pesto and roasted vegetables is just amazing.

Wyndham Tea

I’m so pleased that Waterloo Tea opened a branch in the city centre, because it does some FINE tea, sandwiches and vegan cake. The open sandwiches are the stuff of dreams and especially tasty when served with the soup of the day.

Dreamy lunch @wyndhamtea #vegan #vegetarian #vegansofinstagram #whatveganseat #cardiffvegans #veganfoodshare

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Kemi’s

Kemi’s in Pontcanna is best known for its sunshine salads but if you’re more of a bread head, try the sandwiches and wraps on offer. This combination of houmous, baba ganoush, sweet potato and caramelised onion wrap is genius.

Grazing Shed

Grazing Shed is home to Cardiff’s beefiest burgers (and also does some veggie and vegan options – if you haven’t tried the Wah Wah, what are you waiting for?) and at the weekend you can do brunch at its St Mary Street restaurant. As well as the ubiquitous avocado smash, you can also enjoy this kale fritter with cashew cream.

Stir crazy

I’ve never had much time for risotto. It takes patience and I don’t have it. I’ve tried to practise mindfulness but it’s no good; I’ll always be thinking about something else. Before you mistake me for some type A person (and anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m definitely not in this camp), the reason I’m not very good at relaxing is because I’m quite easily distracted.

Risotto has its uses though. For a start, it’s pretty good comfort food and we’re certainly in need of that at the moment. Just as we sloped back to work after a long Easter weekend, Theresa May (who, in some circles, is nicknamed Tresemmé) called a general election. Some called it a snap election; I’d liken it to Mayday. My first reaction can’t be repeated in polite company so I’ll leave the politics there but you get my drift. To paraphrase Whitney, it is right (wing), but it’s not OK.

So back to risotto. It’s actually pretty easy to make but does require a fair bit of stirring which, I discovered, is rather soothing – meditative, almost. I’m not promising that risotto will make you feel any better about Britain’s future but it might help a little. This recipe is also a good way to use spring greens and in-season asparagus and peas – and getting your vitamins will give you more strength to fight the system, right?

One last thing: what exactly is a ‘clean’ Brexit anyway? If it’s anything like clean eating, I’m sure that most of us will agree that it’s a load of bull…

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Easy peas-y risotto

Serves 4

 

Ingredients

300g risotto rice

200g frozen or fresh peas

2 shallots, diced

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 litre of vegetable stock

1 tbsp olive oil

300g frozen or fresh spinach leaves

Juice of 1 lemon

A few leaves of fresh mint, finely chopped (optional)

Freshly ground pepper

 

Method

Heat the oil in a large pan, then add the shallots and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes. Using a sieve, rinse and drain the rice, then add to the pan. Mix well, coating each grain in oil – add a little extra if necessary.  Add a ladleful of the hot stock to the rice and stir well. Bring to a simmer as the liquid is absorbed by the rice.  Continue adding more stock, a ladleful at a time, letting the rice absorb it gradually; do this for about 15-20 minutes, until the rice is soft. Add the peas and stir through. After 2 minutes, add the spinach, lemon juice and black pepper until the spinach is just wilting.

Stir through the mint leaves (if using) and serve with steamed asparagus, green vegetables or on its own.

You say potato…

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Poor old potatoes. The starchy spheres are often cast aside, especially now that the likes of courgetti and cauliflower rice are favoured over good old-fashioned carbs. I still enjoy a spud once in a while because sometimes only chips, mash or roast potatoes can fix a bad day, a broken heart and many maladies in between. In Heartburn (if you haven’t read it, what are you waiting for?), the late, great Nora Ephron writes about potatoes and love.

“I have made a lot of mistakes falling in love, and regretted most of them, but never the potatoes that went with them.”

Amen, Nora. I don’t think I’ll ever fall out of love with potatoes either.

This is a zesty take on classic roast potatoes and adding the spring greens makes it a lovely lunch for lighter, brighter and (hopefully) warmer days. Also, it’s asparagus season so any excuse to eat ’em… The ras el hanout, which is available in lots of international supermarkets and shops, works a treat but use a little cumin and cinnamon powder if you can’t get hold of it. Likewise, if you can’t find pomegranate molasses, just leave it out of the dressing.

This makes the perfect amount for two people but obviously you can change the quantities if you need to – potatoes are cheap, after all. I used Maris Pipers (my mum won’t use any other variety for her roasties) but any kind will do.

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Zesty potatoes with spring greens and creamy tahini sauce

Serves 2

3-4 large potatoes

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Juice of ½ lemon

1 teaspoon ras el hanout

5-6 sundried tomatoes, sliced

3 tablespoons black olives

 

Green vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus and cabbage

For the dressing

2 tablespoons tahini

1 tablespoon olive oil

Juice of ½ lemon

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

Salt and pepper (to season)

 

Method

Rinse and scrub the potatoes (leave the skin on for extra crispness) and cut into even-sized pieces – you’ll usually get 3-4 from a large potato and 2-3 from a smaller one. Place the potatoes in a pan, cover with cold water, add a pinch of salt, and parboil for 7 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200C (gas mark xx). Drain the potatoes and then return to the pan, cover with a lid, and give the potatoes a good old shake – this helps make them really crispy.

In an ovenproof dish, mix the lemon juice, ras el hanout and olive oil and add the potatoes to the pan making sure that they are coated in the mixture. While the potatoes are cooking, make the dressing: simply place the ingredients in a small bowl and stir well. After 20-25 minutes, remove the potatoes from the oven and stir through the sundried tomatoes and olives. Return the dish to the oven and roast for a further 5 minutes. Now, stir fry or steam the green vegetables for about 5 minutes and in a dry pan, toast the pine nuts for 2-3 minutes – any longer and they will burn.

When everything is ready, sprinkle the pine nuts and chopped mint onto the potatoes and drizzle the tahini dressing over the vegetables.

Under the weather

I don’t want to annoy anyone (or tempt fate) but I hardly ever get ill. No, I’m not a virtuous vegan; I’ve always had a pretty hearty constitution. So when I get a case of the sniffles, it always comes as a bit of a surprise. I’ve been known to have what I call a ’24 hour cold’, which is when, you’ve guessed it, my symptoms magically disappear after a day or so. This weekend, however, I was poorly for a good three days – well done, common cold. And while I definitely didn’t lose my appetite (that will never happen), I was definitely less hungry than usual. Yes, it’s true that I managed a trip to Wahaca on Saturday (spicy food is good for a cold, OK?) but generally I stuck to soups and salads as my body was clearly in need of a vitamin boost.

I thought I’d share some simple recipes that you can make when you’re feeling under the weather. They’re quick and easy to make and full of goodness – they should make you feel better, even if it’s only because they’re delicious.

 

Super sunshine salad

This takes ten minutes to put together and will make you feel full of the joys of spring (hopefully) – and doesn’t it look pretty? Purple foods like radicchio and beetroot are full of antioxidants which help the body produce nitric oxide, which improves blood flow and may have other cognitive benefits too, so this this salad is good for your mind as well as your body.

The picture and caption (can you spot the typo?) below tell you all you need to know. I used tinned green lentils and vacuum-packed beetroot but you could use the fresh stuff. Any salad leaves will do, although I do think that radicchio, watercress and romaine work pretty well. Oh, and I’d normally add capers but didn’t have any in the house. Don’t forget to squeeze some of the blood orange juice over the salad to give it extra zesty freshness.

 

 

Cheering carrot and sweet potato soup

Next up is this carrot and sweet potato soup. I was feeling pretty cranky when I made it and all the chopping, stirring and subsequent slurping really did soothe my spirits. The cumin, chilli and ginger work wonders for a cold, as do the carrots and sweet potato as they’re full of vitamin A which helps form and maintain healthy skin, teeth – and mucus membranes. Tasty.

This will take about 45 minutes to make. It’s best to prep all the vegetables so that they’re ready to chuck into the pan when the time comes.

Heat a large pan and melt two teaspoons of coconut oil (or olive oil if you prefer). Add a mugful of red lentils and a teaspoon of cumin (powder or seeds), grated ginger and a finely sliced red chilli. Allow the lentils to absorb the flavours for 2-3 minutes, then add three shallots (or a large onion), finely sliced, a sweet potato and 5-6 carrots, both chopped into small cubes, to the pan. Now add 1.5 litres of stock (I like to use Bouillon) and season with salt and pepper. Squeeze in the juice of one orange for a hit of vitamin C. Place a lid on the pan and cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring regularly. If you’re blending this, allow it to cool for 10 minutes or so and then use a hand-held blender until you have a fairly smooth and creamy consistency. Serve with bread or on its own.

 

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This is bound to brighten your spirits

 

Season’s eatings

Rhubarb and blood oranges are in season so I’m having a field day. Not really, but I am taking every opportunity to eat them. If you’re feeling full of vigour (i.e. not ill) you might like to try this tasty rhubarb and apple cake. Otherwise, just stew and slice – sounds like a torture method, right? Stewed rhubarb is such a simple pleasure. Because of its sharp flavour, you’ll need to add some sweetness with sugar or a spoonful of date syrup – or just stew some apples with the rhubarb. Ginger and cinnamon (root or powder) go very nicely with this. For pudding the other night I had stewed rhubarb with sliced blood orange and a dollop of soya yogurt – tip: the Tesco unsweetened version is the nicest I’ve tried.

 

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And the prize for the most seventies-esque crockery goes to…

 

Otherwise, just spoon onto porridge – ideal for the days when you just crawl back into bed…

 

 

Try these bowls of comfort food when you’re feeling less than tip top; they might just be what the doctor ordered.

Love your lunch

A recent survey has found that one in six Brits eat the same lunch every day. That’s a lot of ham sandwiches. I get it, working at an office doesn’t exactly inspire creativity, but surely a nice lunch (away from your desk if possible) is something to look forward to during a day that is normally punctuated by emails (and sometimes, even worse, actual meetings) about ‘projects’ and ‘objectives’. Even if you’re a freelancer or work from home, taking a break for a quick bite to eat is one of the healthiest things you can do.

Now, if you’re vegan, you might think that you’re destined to eat houmous on rice cakes for the rest of your working life (sometimes when I’m lazy I do this) but with a bit of forward planning, your lunchbox might become the envy of your colleagues – or your Instagram followers.

If I haven’t been organised enough (me, disorganised?) to make something the night before, I’ll pop to the supermarket on a Monday and stock up on enough food to make lunches for the week. Granted, I’m lucky that my office is within walking distance of three convenience stores but unless you’re in the middle of an industrial estate (and if you are, I’m sorry), you should have a Tesco nearby. A bag of spinach, a punnet of cherry tomatoes, a couple of tins of chickpeas or kidney beans, some avocados and a lemon are all you need. And maybe a tub of houmous and a few pouches of microwave rice, too. I know I keep banging on about these, but they’re amazing – my new fave is the Sainsbury’s one with lime and coriander).  If you keep olive oil, Tabasco sauce,salt and pepper in the office cupboard, you can add a bit more flavour, too.

lunch

In need of some vitamins? You can steam broccoli in the microwave and add it it to cooked quinoa, chopped carrot and cucumber, spinach and houmous. Dress with a little olive oil and lemon juice and voila, a super healthy lunch.

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Leftovers always work well, too.

You can’t go wrong with beans on toast. Or avo toast, for that matter.

And if you really can’t be bothered or are in a rush, don’t dismiss the usual suspects like M&S, Pret A Manger and Sainsbury’s. Shop carefully and you can pick up a tasty little vegan lunch.

Keyboard clacking driving you mad? This dreamy combo from Sainsbury’s will soothe you. I usually find a walk helps, too…

Sainsbury's

The new vegan options at Marks and Sparks are marvellous.

Pret’s pretty perfect, too, and offers a fair few vegan sandwiches, soups and salads.

And how’s this for a balanced meal? Thank you, Waitrose.

Car picnic. 'Balanced' meal 🙄 #basicbitch

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Food for thought, whether you’re chained to the office desk or working at home in your PJs.