Basic

We’re all a bit basic, aren’t we? The urban dictionary defines it as an adjective used to describe any person, place or activity involving obscenely obvious behaviour, dress or action.

I’ve only recently come to the realisation that I’m as basic as they come. I fill my Instagram feed (and my gob) with photos of avocado toast. I really, really like Taylor Swift (I have the T shirt to prove it), and I’m currently binge-reading Zadie Smith’s NW because the TV adaptation aired this week. Hell, I’m even writing about basic when it’s been a thing for ages. It’s basically basic to be basic, right?

Being basic was perhaps the biggest insult of 2015 (thank you, Kate Moss), but I think we’re more forgiving this year. You may have noticed that 2016 has been a bit bleak, and for many of us basic behaviour acts a blanket for all the bad news. As the future looks increasingly gloomy (Brexit, Trump, the Toblerone crisis), we may snuggle up in these simple pleasures as a way of hiding from the shit storm that’s happening outside. No wonder you can’t pick up a newspaper or magazine without seeing something about hygge.

Getting back to basics does have its merits; for a start, it’s usually simple, like an episode of The Gilmore Girls, which I hear is providing comfort for PTTD (that’s post-traumatic Trump disorder) at the moment.

No, let’s not overcomplicate things: no one wants to spend hours in the kitchen on a week night so I’ve created a very basic ‘bake’, a speedy (but satisfying) supper using parsnips and mushrooms. It takes less than 15 minutes to make and is easy on the washing up – and also on the waistline if you’re not too liberal with the olive oil.

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So basic that it’s a bit burnt…

This serves one but multiply the ingredients if you’re cooking for more people.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan. Take 5-6 chestnut mushrooms (or whatever you can find), rinse and dry with kitchen roll (it might sound basic, but wet mushrooms give you… soggy mushrooms) and slice. Then peel and slice one shallot – or half an onion. Add this, with the mushrooms, some thyme sprigs and a dash of balsamic vinegar, to the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes.

Meanwhile, grate one large parsnip and in a bowl, mix with one tablespoon of olive oil and one tablespoon of cider vinegar. Move the mushrooms over to one side of the frying pan and in the other half, add the grated parsnips and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently so that they don’t stick to the pan. Turn off the heat and preheat the grill on a high heat, then spread the mushrooms at the base of a small ovenproof dish. Slice 3-4 sundried tomatoes and mix in with the mushrooms, adding some tomato puree if you like. Using the same bowl as before, stir 2 teaspoons of wholegrain mustard through the grated parsnip and then spoon evenly on top of the mushroom mixture. Grill for five minutes – or until brown.

I’m so basic that I burnt this a little but no matter. Serve with green vegetables and relax.

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Pasta bake

My mum is a great cook so it’s hardly surprising that I was a bit chubby growing up. Mum makes mean meals and has instilled in me a real love for food and cooking.

Not that there was always time to cook meals from scratch, of course. One of Mum’s specialities was the simplest of suppers: a pasta bake, which she usually made with a jar of sauce. It was one of those Homepride sauces which, despite Fred the flour grader (and there I was thinking he was a chef) and his cheery demeanour, definitely wasn’t as wholesome as it looked. Oh, I remember that creamy sauce, the little shells of pasta and the melted cheese on top. Put it this way: there was always room for seconds.

Fast forward a fair few years and I’ve made a vegan version which takes a slightly more grown-up approach by using wholewheat pasta, a silky vegetable sauce and crushed walnuts for a crunchy topping.  OK, it’s not the speediest of meals but it’s well worth the wait. This is very much comfort food but it’s rather nourishing too, especially if you serve it with vegetables. If you want a little more decadence, you just add a tin of coconut milk.

I used pumpkin for the sauce as I still had some leftover from Halloween but butternut squash or even sweet potatoes would do the job too. The cauliflower isn’t essential but it does add a nutty sweetness to the sauce. Use the leaves to thicken the sauce and add extra goodness.

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Pasta bake

Serves 4-6, depending on how greedy you are. Takes about an hour and a half to cook.

Ingredients

One large pumpkin or butternut squash (around 350g)

Half a head of cauliflower (around 300g), broken into florets, and its leaves, chopped coarsely

250g wholewheat pasta

Can of tinned tomatoes (400g)

2 garlic cloves

3-4 sage leaves, chopped coarsely

Nutmeg

Two big handfuls of walnuts, crushed

Salt and pepper

 Method

Preheat the oven to 200C. Slice the pumpkin or squash into wedges (keep the skin and seeds on until later) and place onto a baking sheet (you may need to use two), then add a few tablespoons of water and season with salt and pepper. Place onto the top shelf of the oven and after 20-25 minutes, place the cauliflower onto a separate baking sheet (again, add water and salt and pepper), move the squash to the bottom shelf of the oven, and cook for another 25-30 minutes, or until all are soft.  In the last ten minutes of cooking time, place two cloves of garlic in with the cauliflower. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Keep the oven switched on.

Cook the pasta in salted water for 8-10 minutes, drain and spread evenly across the base of a large oven dish. Once the pumpkin or squash has cooled, remove the skin and seeds and place in a large bowl with the cauliflower and its leaves. Stir in the tomatoes and fill half the empty can with water then add to the bowl. Then stir through the sage and garlic (skin removed) and a generous grating of nutmeg, and blend the mixture in batches. If you don’t have a blender, simply heat the sauce on a low heat for about 10 minutes and use a wooden spoon to gently crush the cauliflower and pumpkin/squash as you do. Bear in mind that by doing this, you’ll end up with a slightly chunkier sauce.

Now, spread the sauce evenly on top of the pasta. Crush the walnuts in a pestle and mortar or using the base of a mug or small bowl and scatter evenly on top of the sauce. Add another grating of nutmeg and some salt and pepper, then place the dish onto the top shelf of the oven and cook for 25-30 minutes. Serve with green vegetables – or on its own.

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Can cook, won’t cook 

I have a confession to make: I don’t always want to cook. Sure, I’m that person who Instagrams every meal and yes, I actually dream in food. I love thinking of new ways to eat but sometimes I get a bit… tired.

You know those times when the day drags on and pretty much everything seem dark and dank? It’s not just the fact that Trump has triumphed or that it’s November (easily the bleakest of all the months, after January and February), because we can feel like this come rain or shine. Sometimes, the last thing you want to do is to get home and slave over a hot stove. Don’t get me wrong; cooking can be wonderfully therapeutic and it’s a great way to let off steam – literally.

Sometimes though, I don’t want to chop or stir or fry or bake or roast. Sometimes, I don’t want to wash up afterwards. Sometimes, the microwave is my mate. And this is where little shortcuts (call them hacks if you will) step in. The Hemsleys of this world may have their superfoods but I have my superheroes and I’m sharing them with you. These are convenience (not junk) foods, and all are pretty healthy and contain mainly natural ingredients. Serve with salad or vegetables and you’ll have a balanced meal – if that’s what you want. It’s perfectly acceptable to eat Marmite on toast in bed if the mood takes you.

Here are just some of my favourite superhero foods:

Baked beans

Well, obvs. Baked beans are cheap, relatively nutritious and my comfort food of choice. Stick ’em on toast (with Marmite for extra salt and B vitamins) or on top of a big ol’ baked potato and you’ll instantly feel happier. Heinz also does its famous ‘57 Varieties’ with a twist, and flavours include barbeque and piri piri. These chilli ‘beanz’ are the best though as it’s almost like eating a bowl of the real deal. You can buy supermarket own brand versions but they’re not quite as nice. Serve with microwave rice or a baked potato, a bit of salad and some mashed avocado. I’ve been known to add a dollop of houmous and if I’ve had a particularly trying day, I’ll pour a glass of red, too…

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Curry

I’m not sure how to pronounce it but Ashoka does curry for those in a hurry. You can pick up these pouches in the international aisle at the supermarket and boy, are they handy. Choose from Punjabi choley, dal, Kohinoor rajma masala and more. Simply heat in the microwave for two minutes (or on the stove) and serve with microwave rice and greens. Don’t be fooled by the packet instructions though: it serves one, not two.

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Microwave rice

On the subject of quick and easy, I’ve probably raved about microwave rice before. It’s a game changer, it really is. I don’t care if it’s lazy; if I can have rice in two minutes, I’ll have it. Everyone’s onto this now and Uncle Ben, Tilda and Merchant Gourmet do some tasty versions with spices, coconut milk, beans – you name it. Oh, and you can get varieties with quinoa and lentils too, if you’re trying to up your protein game. These are often on offer, depending on where you shop, but you can also buy the supermarket versions for as little as 60p. Great with canned lentils or chickpeas and some salad or vegetables.

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Salad pots

You know what I’m talking about here: those little pots of beetroot or couscous in the ‘deli’ aisle. Great for a picnic, be it in the park (although at this time of year you’d be brave to try it), on the sofa or – my favourite – in bed. Not all supermarket salads are born equal though, and Marks and Spencer do the freshest flavours out there; these include cauliflower and harissa chickpea, orzo pasta and tomato, and Mexican rice, quinoa and avocado, plus a lovely one with edamame beans, apple and sugar snap peas. These are not just salads…

salad-pot

 

Linda McCartney sausages

Actually, everything in this range is great but these are my favourite. Lovely Linda does the best veggie sausages out there if you ask me (why, oh why, Cauldron, aren’t your sausages vegan already?) and these are marvellous with mash, in a casserole or pasta bake, or in a breakfast bap at the weekend.

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Houmous

Oh houmous, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I’ll spread you on toast and in sandwiches, spoon you onto baked potatoes, salads and stews, or eat you straight from the tub. The plain Jane version is perfectly fine but most supermarkets offer variations such as sweet chilli, lemon and coriander, caramelised onion (stop me drooling) and Tesco even does one with broad bean, asparagus and mint version – hello…

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The prices for these vary, depending on where you shop and whether they’re on offer, but they are generally cheap and cheerful. Have you got any superhero foods? Let me know!

Bore Cothi

Heddiw yw Diwrnod Figan y Byd (World Vegan Day) a ches i fy ngwahodd i ddod ar y raglen Bore Cothi gyda’r hyfryd  Shân Cothi i siarad am fwyta a choginio fel figan. Braf iawn oedd hi i gwrdd â Sian a’r tîm ac rwy’n falch wnath hi fwynhau’r teisen des i i fewn iddi. Mae teisen wastad yn dda amser brecwast! Gallwch wrando ar ein sgwrs yma.

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Shân a fi

I ddathlu Diwrnod Figan y Byd, penderfynais bore ma i wneud bach o bobi – fel yr wyt. Mae’r deisen hon yn ffordd dda i wneud defnydd o bwmpen sydd dros ben o Nos Galan Gaeaf er gallwch chi ddefnyddio’r sawl fath o squash sydd ar gael amser ma’r flwyddyn, neu fydd moron hefyd yn gweithio. Os nad ydych chi wedi pobi fel figan o’r blaen, mae’r banana a’r saws afal yn cymryd lle’r wyau. Teisen bach llaith (nid llaeth!) yw hi gyda mymryn o sbeis a thopin crensiog a melys. Rhaid gyfaddef, mae’n flasus iawn felly beth am ei gwneud?

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Anodd iawn oedd hi i beidio bwyta rhain i gyd…

Teisen pwmpen ac afal

 

Cynhwysion

I’r deisen

200g blawd plaen

100g almwn mâl

2 llwy de powdr pobi

½ llwy de soda pobi

100g siwgr brown

100g pwmpen wedi’i gratio

100g afal wedi’i gratio

150ml llaeth almwn

50ml olew

2 banana wedi’i stwnshio

2 llwy de saws afal

1 llwy de finegr seidr

2 llwy de powdr allspice

 

I’r topin

25ml llaeth almwn

2 llwy fwrdd siwgr brown

2 llwy de o maple syrup

½ llwy de powdr sinamon

Llond llaw o gnau Ffrengig (walnuts)

Dull

Cynheswch y ffwrn i 170C (gas mark 3). Rhidyllwch y blawd, y powdr pobi a’r soda pobi mewn i bowlen fawr a chymysgwch gyda’r almwnau mâl a’r siwgr.

Mewn powlen gwahanol, gratiwch y pwmpen a’r afal, yna ychwanegwch y banana wedi’i stwnshio, y llaeth almwn, yr olew, y saws afal, y finegr, a’r allspice.

Yn y bowlen sy’n cynnwys y cynhwysion sych, gwnewch dwll yn y canol, arllwyswch y cymysgedd gwlyb i fewn a chymysgwch yn dda. Irwch tun 8×8 modfedd gyda bach o olew ac arllwyswch y cymysgedd i fewn gan wneud yn siwr i daenu yn wastad.

Rhowch y tun ar silff uchaf y ffwrn a choginiwch am 40 munud, wedyn tynnwch y tun o’r ffwrn a diferwch y syrup dros ben y tesien. Ysgeintiwch dros y siwgr a’r cnau a dychwelwch i’r ffwrn am 20-25 munud.

Gadewch i oeri am 15-20 munud a mwynhewch!

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Cerdded adre trwy’r ddail – cyfle gwych i dynnu llun Instagram (eto)