Brexit for breakfast

To say that I’ve got the Brexit blues is an understatement. Last Friday could be compared to the cruellest of Christmas mornings: staying up half the night but with a feeling of dread rather than excitement. Then waking up in the early hours to discover the worst ‘present’ ever: a divorce from Europe. Den and Angie ain’t got nothing on this.

I’m devastated. I’m genuinely gutted. Even more, I’m angry – with the politicians who lied, the papers that peddled the propaganda and the people who blithely believed the Brex-shit. I’m angry that over half the population voted not with heads, or even hearts, but with hatred – or at least, that’s how it seems. I’m angry that our party ‘leaders’ do not speak for the man and woman on the street and then wonder why there is so much apathy. I’m angry that the Remain campaign was piss poor and I’m angry with myself for not having done more. Too little, too late. Sara Robinson sums up how I (and many others) feel a lot more eloquently here.

Writing about food feels a little trivial at a time like this but carry on we must. Regular meals are one of the few constants in this topsy turvy world – and anyway, when the going gets tough, I tend to reach for the biscuits.

I’m going to try not to let Brexit ruin my appetite. Not everyone agrees that breakfast is the most important meal of the day but I’d be a wreck without my daily dose of caffeine and carbs.

Here are two rather different types of breakfasts: the overnight oats are ideal for rushed weekday mornings, while the baked beans are best enjoyed as part of a long and leisurely weekend brunch. Give them a try; they might give you fire in your belly to fight Farage and his friends.

 

Baked beans

Beans on toast: straightforward and satisfying, like the most uncomplicated of hook-ups. This is comfort food, pure and simple, and just what’s needed at the moment. I’ve taken this recipe for stovetop beans with a twist from Áine Carlin’s brilliant book, The New Vegan, which is full of easy eats that just so happen to be plant based. These beans might take a while longer to make than simply opening a tin of Heinz but the results are well worth it, plus they doesn’t contain the shedloads of sugar and salt you’ll find in the stuff you buy from the shop. If you can’t get hold of haricot beans, try chickpeas or kidney, cannellini or butter beans.

Stovetop beans with a twist.jpg
Beans for Brexit – sorry, breakfast?
Serves 2–4

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 garlic cloves

A thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger

400g can whole or chopped tomatoes

1 tablespoon tomato purée

½ tablespoon maple syrup

½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 heaped teaspoon Marmite

Splash of chilli or Tabasco sauce

400g can haricot beans, drained or rinsed

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

 

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan. Finely mince or chop the garlic, ginger and chilli and add to the pan, along with a little salt and gently fry.
  2. Pour in the tomatoes and if using the whole variety, break them up using the back of a spoon. Fill the empty can half-full with water and tip this into the pan. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes by which stage the tomatoes will have softened further and you can crush it into a passata-like sauce.
  3. Add the tomato purée and stir to combine before adding the maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, Marmite and hot sauce. Season and simmer for around 45 minutes or until the sauce has reduced considerably.
  4. Add the haricot beans to the pan, season and stir before simmering for a further 15–20 minutes.
  5. Serve immediately on toast or, alternatively, reheat the following day,

 

A brisker breakfast…

Good old Anna Jones. She has a no-nonsense approach to cooking but still comes up with amazingly unique and flavoursome recipes. I’ve been making overnight oats for a little while now but Anna’s take on things is a lot more exciting. The idea here is that your breakfast is pretty much ready for you when you get up in the morning, meaning that you save loads of time. If you’re anything like me though, you’ll faff over work emails/Instagram/the latest in the ongoing Brexit crisis, and end up late for work anyway. These are also great for taking into work (tip: save those houmous tubs as they’re perfect for storing these breakfasts) and eating at your desk. Here are two of Anna’s recipes taken from her original feature in The Guardian.

Roasted strawberry and chia bowls

Don’t let the chia seeds put you off. You can get them dead cheap in Home Bargains. And while the roasted strawberries are lovely, simply mashing some uncooked ones will do the trick if you’re pressed for time.

Roasted strawberry and chia bowl
Not as pretty as the one Anna made, but hopefully just as tasty.
Makes 2 bowls
Ingredients

For the overnight chia 
4 tablespoons chia seeds
300ml almond milk (or other milk of your choosing)
A handful of fresh strawberries
A pinch of sea salt
Zest of 1 lemon
A splash of natural vanilla essence
2 teaspoons honey or maple syrup

For the roasted strawberries
500g strawberries
1 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons honey or maple syrup

To serve 
Toasted coconut flakes
A drizzle of honey or maple syrup

Method

  1. The night before, combine the chia seeds with the milk and stir well. Mash a handful of fresh strawberries with the salt, lemon and vanilla, then stir them into the chia. Refrigerate overnight so the seeds can bloom and soften.
  2. For the strawberries, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. It is important to use a baking tray with a lip or a large baking dish to prevent the juices from running off the sheet on to the bottom of your oven. If you are using a baking tray, line it with parchment paper.
  3. Cut the strawberries in half. Put the berries on the tray and pour over the olive oil, maple syrup and the salt, toss gently around the tray until coated.
  4. Arrange the strawberries in a single layer and roast for about 40 minutes, just long enough for the berry juices to thicken, but not long enough for the juices to burn. Watch the edges of the pan in particular. While still warm, scrape into a jar and put in the fridge for the morning.
  5. Just before serving, sweeten the chia to taste with a little more maple syrup, if you like, and top with toasted coconut flakes and a spoonful roasted strawberries.

Overnight oats

Anna uses peaches in this recipe, but strawberries, raspberries, blueberries (frozen work just as well as fresh) are good to use as well. I didn’t use rye flakes but only because I didn’t have any.

Overnight oats
I’m sure not feeling peachy at the moment…
Makes 2 bowls

Ingredients
For the overnight oats 
80g rolled oats
50g rye flakes
1 apple
1 lemon
200ml almond milk (or milk of your choosing)

In the morning 
1 teaspoon barley malt or maple syrup
2 ripe peaches
A dollop of Greek yoghurt (optional)
A handful of almonds, toasted and roughly chopped

  1. Before bed, mix the oats and rye flakes in a bowl with the zest of half the lemon and the milk. Grate the apple into a little bowl and squeeze over a tiny bit of lemon juice and toss to stop browning then add to the oats. Cover and put in the fridge overnight to soak. In the morning, sweeten the oats with a drizzle of barley malt or maple syrup and mix well.
  2. Divide between two bowls and slice the peaches over the top. Finish with a dollop of Greek yoghurt and some chopped almonds.

If you’ve lost your zest for life/cooking/shopping, treat yourself to brunch out while you still can. In happier times, I wrote a Wales Online feature about the best places in Cardiff for veggie and vegan breakfasts.

Have a Bloody Mary for me, won’t you? But if you’re one of those people telling me there’s no point crying over spilt (soya) milk, you know where you can go.

Tuesday at the Tramshed

I can’t believe that I hadn’t been to The Tramshed until tonight. This former tram depot is a beaut of a building (grade II listed) and re-opened as an arts and music venue last year. It’s within walking distance of the city centre (it’s located on the cusp between Grangetown and Riverside) and is the perfect tonic for anyone wanting to escape St Mary Street on a weekend night.

Now that its long awaited café and bar has opened, The Tramshed is sure to attract even more visitors. The Waiting Room serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and its vibe is cool, calm and collected, something I’m very glad about after a particularly trying Tuesday.

I’ve long thought that Tuesday is the worst of all the working days. Sure Mondays suck but Tuesday is when reality hits: that work you didn’t do last week still needs to be done and the weekend (past and future) seems like a distant dream. I meet my friend Cara after work and we’re both tired and tetchy but the staff at The Waiting Room are warm and welcoming and soon put a smile on our faces. They’re quick to take our order too; maybe they sense that I’m a bit hangry.

We’re meant to be off the booze (we’ve not long returned from a hen weekend) but manage a couple of cheeky halves. There’s a great choice of craft beers and lagers at the bar as well as cider, wine and the usual spirits. The food is simple and American influenced and offers a selection of sliders (those are mini burgers to you and me) and sides which include fries, potato salad and mac and cheese. It’s really good value (choose three sliders and a side for a tenner) and most importantly, there are lots of veggie and vegan options, meaning that I’m pretty excited as I wait for the food to arrive.

Sliders and sweet potato fries.jpg
Admittedly not by best shot at food photography but it sure tasted nice

First up is the Patti Smith, a patty (see what they did there?) made of beetroot, black beans and brown rice with crispy shoestring potatoes, caramelised onion and roast tomato chipotle salsa. It might sound a bit virtuous but Cara says it reminds her of the burgers you get at the fairground thanks to those sweet and ever so slightly unctuous onions. It’s a good, honest burger with subtle, earthy flavours, although I’d argue that it needs more salsa (it’s a tiny bit on the dry side) but then I’m a saucy girl.

The Johnny Marr is a dream come true: marinated and grilled mushroom, roast pepper, roast tomato chipotle salsa and cauliflower houmous. I have two of these bad boys because they’re that good. This is smoky and spicy, a real wallop of warmth.

A lot of thought has gone into this menu. These are good quality ingredients cooked well and with a real flair for flavour. And it’s such a nice change to see imaginative vegan options that even the most committed of carnivores will want to try. Having said that, I’m told that the beef burgers are tasty and succulent so it’s good news for everyone.

Oh, and let me tell you, the sweet potato fries here are the best I’ve ever had. Fact.

We probably didn’t need pudding but we’re greedy girls, and besides, it would be rude not to try the desserts which are all homemade. I go for the dark chocolate pot with toasted cashew crust and berry vanilla sauce which is divine, while Cara has the carrot cake which sadly isn’t vegan, but I’m assured that it’s nice and moist with ‘plenty of carrot’ – always a good sign.

Chocolate pot.jpg
Dessert is served…

You get a lot of burger for your buck here and remember, these sliders are small but they’re substantial. My eyes are often bigger than my belly although I manage to clear my plate and as I sit here writing this, I’m patting a little burger baby.

As its name suggests, The Waiting Room is a retreat of sorts. It’s an ideal stopping point for a quick post-work pint (if you live in that neck of the woods), and somewhere to take stock before, during or after a gig. Come here for breakfast, a burger or a beer – or all three – and you might not want to leave. I’ll certainly be returning.

TV dinner

I’m a terrible flake. In my mid-twenties, I’d say yes to pretty much anything I was invited to and would then run around like an idiot trying to fit three different events into one evening. I still do this to a lesser extent but now I’m more likely to bail. Yes, I am that person.

Take tonight, for example. I’d half-committed to watching the footie in the pub (I’m even a fair weather fan of that) then got home from work, flopped on the sofa and didn’t feel motivated enough to get up again. In my defence, I do have some proofreading to do this weekend and felt a night off the pop would be a good idea. And a Friday night in is such a rare treat and it is raining. Nick, I’m sorry.

Anyway, I’ve just had a great little TV dinner (sadly not on a tray) and it reminded me about the Radio Times serial from the nineties in which famous folk told us what they ate in front of the telly. I’m almost certain that potatoes featured heavily. I’m into baked potatoes in a big way at the moment. They’re so comforting, soft in the middle and crispy on the outside, and contain a big old dose of vitamin C. Plus you just bung them in the oven and go off to do something for an hour or so (and for me tonight that was reading about electric bicycles) while they cook.

A jacket potato with beans is a vegan’s failsafe option when ordering lunch at a café or pub and they’re always pretty cheap too. I used to think they were really boring it’s all about the toppings you choose. Veggie chilli is always a winner and so is houmous (with or without baked beans) and tonight I made an oil-free version with beetroot. Now, I love olive oil as much as anyone and I know it’s really healthy, but I’m conscious that my holiday in the sun is only two months away so I thought I’d give this one a try. Many thanks to my Instapal Lucy aka @alittledishy for the inspiration here. She has a great blog full of tasty vegan meals so check it out.

Baked potato with beetroot houmous.JPG

I used bog standard vacuum-packed beetroot (the kind that costs about 60p for a pack of four) but you can use fresh if you’d prefer.

Beetroot houmous

Makes one large bowlful

Ingredients

1 tin of chickpeas

2–4 small beetroot (fresh or vacuum-packed)

1 clove of garlic

1 teaspoon of cumin powder

1 tablespoon of soy sauce

1 tablespoon of cider apple vinegar (or lemon juice)

Method

Drain the can of chickpeas but save some of the water from the tin and place in a food processor. Add the beetroot and the other ingredients and blend until smooth. Use to top toast, baked potatoes, salads – or just eat it on its own.

There’s a recipe for a more luxurious houmous made with oil and tahini here.