The greatest love of all…

Raw carrot cake bites

I never thought I'd say this but I believe Whitney Houston was right. "Children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way..."

This rings true in so many ways but least not in how we teach our children to cook and look after themselves with food.

A few months ago I was privileged to be asked to run some food workshops at Bristol's first Children's Literary Festival, which actually took place yesterday. Children's authors and illustrators held talks and signed books, whilst I shared my passion for food!

In 4 half hour slots I saw over 50 children and we made pasta and raw carrot cake bites, which is a recipe I created especially for the festival. I regularly hear that parents are looking to think outside the box with children's snacks and these are simple, fun and delicious. Perfect for the summer!

I believe teaching our children how to cook and create food from simple ingredients is a life skill that will help them nurture themselves and their families in the future. An opportunity to introduce them to a love for food is a gift that may not be appreciated right now but may spark an interest to last them a lifetime!

Equally, I know that getting children to help with the cooking isn't always the easiest of tasks when there a deadline to feed the family! So over the summer in our Fuss Free Foodie community on FB, I will be sharing some of the simple recipes I cook with children in my school workshops. So come join our group here and we can share our ideas!

Let me know what you think!

Raw carrot cake bites

  • 35g porridge oats
  • 35g Medjool dates (2)
  • 35g raisins
  • 30g desiccated coconut
  • 50g grated carrot
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • 5 rasps of nutmeg
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • Extra few tablespoons of coconut for rolling the balls in
  1. Mix all of the ingredients together in a blender until it wants to start to form a ball.
  2. Take a teaspoon of the mixture and roll into a ball. Optional, roll it in coconut and set aside.
  3. Once all rolled chill in the fridge.
  4. Feel free to double up the quantities and freeze some and fully defrost before eating.
  5. To make into a small dessert, make a slightly bigger version and top with a cream cheese frosting. 100g cream cheese mixed with 1 tbsp of maple syrup (or more to taste!)

 

 

 

Bish, Bash, BOSH!

Ultimate Vegan Chilli

You could be forgiven for thinking that Vegans can be a bit militant but for me, 2018 is the year Veganism went mainstream.

This movement has firmly been helped by vegan converts, Ian Theasby and Henry Firth, who started their own youtube channel BOSH! to showcase their recipes creations. The BOSH boys are taking veganism mainstream, and whether you are full on vegan or just want to add some meat free days to your week, you're going to want to check out their style!

Ahead of their appearance at The Cheltenham Food festival on the 16th of June, I had the chance to interview the guys just after their trip stateside and I wanted to find out more about them, their ethos and also try cooking one of their recipes!

Welcome back! I have been watching your trip over in New York on Instagram and it looked amazing! What would you say were your highlights from the trip...food and places, you visited?

IanWe were in New York to cook on The Today Show, which was so much fun! We definitely made the most of our time there, as we also visited the United Nations which was incredibly cool and one of the highlights of the trip. Of course, we had to check out all the best vegan spots too – Champs Diner in Brooklyn is amazing, they do banging burgers and vegan fried chicken!

When did veganism first arrive on your radar? How did the journey unfold for you both, to go from meat eaters to vegans and evolve into BOSH today?

Henry: We both became vegan three years ago for different reasons. Ian became vegan on the back of a New Year’s resolution where he challenged himself to abstain from alcohol for 3 months. I became vegan a little later, after watching Kip Andersen’s Cowspiracy documentary and realizing the effect that agricultural farming has on the environment.

Although when we became vegan we found that there wasn’t much good food out there, we had to pretty much re-learn how to cook! As foodies, we embraced the challenge and wanted to create delicious plant-based recipes that were hearty and fulfilling! We take a lot of inspiration from food that we enjoyed when we ate meat and dairy, so you’ll never go hungry with our recipes.

What do you notice about the people that are coming to see you and what are the reasons they are interested in cooking more vegan food?

IanWe love meeting people who have bought our book or follow our channels. Everyone has their different reasons for cooking more vegan food, but it’s really interesting when we meet people who aren’t vegan and are just trying to introduce more plant-based cooking into their diets. It’s really exciting to see more and more people trying out our recipes and learning first hand how delicious vegan food can be!

What would be your top 5 essential store cupboard ingredients for cooking vegan food be?

Henry: Garlic – it’s the best thing ever and adds flavour to any dish.

Nutritional yeast, also known as magic dust! – it provides a great nutty, cheesy taste and a great source of vitamin B12.

Chickpeas – essential for hummus and falafel, plus aquafaba (the liquid ina chick pea can) is an incredibly useful substitute for egg and dairy in cooking.

Tinned tomatoes – a great base for sauces!

Pasta – a cupboard essential for a quick meal.

What do you feel is one of the most versatile vegetables that you work with when you are cooking?

 IanMushrooms are incredibly versatile when cooking, especially as a mince substitute. It’s so good that you can hardly tell the difference. Even my sister who hates mushrooms eats our Chilli!  The trick is to pulse the mushrooms finely and then fry them off, which creates a meaty texture and taste. We also use the mighty mushroom in our Big BOSH! Roast, which would satisfy any meat eater!

What are your two most delicious fuss free recipes that my followers would be able to cook and the whole family potentially enjoy?

Henry: Definitely our Ultimate Chilli or Spaghetti Bolognese, two classic family favourites that are full of flavour and incredibly filling!

Out of ALL of your recipeswhich recipes have you recreated that are essentially vegan versions of your favourite meals you used to eat?!

HenryOur ‘Fish’ & Chips are a great substitute for the real deal, made with tofu and incredibly tasty. I loved Fish & Chips, so this recipe had a lot of thought put into it!

I'm really looking forward to watching you cook at The Cheltenham Food Festival (15-17th June) Saturday at 12.45. What are you looking forward to most about being at there?

Henry: We can’t wait for the Cheltenham Food and Drink Festival! We’re looking forward to chatting with visitors and eating some really delicious vegan food! It’s going to be a great day.

So the recipe I decided to try was the Bosh Ultimate Chilli!  It went down an absolute storm with Mr Fuss Free, who quote "enjoyed it more than a normal chilli!" High praise indeed! After following the recipe to make the chilli I bought some tortillas, made a simple guacamole and tomato salsa (you could buy them if you wanted to keep it more fuss free) and layered up to make a nachos sharing platter!

BOSH Ultimate Chilli

Serves 4 (easily doubled for a freezer stash too)

400g mushrooms
olive oil
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
2 red onions, peeled
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 fresh red chillies, finely chopped
30g fresh coriander stalks removed and finely chopped, set aside leaves
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 red pepper, small dice
1 tbsp tomato purée
250ml red wine
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1 x 400g tin black beans
1 x 400g tin kidney beans
1½ tsp maple syrup
10g dark chocolate

FOR THE SPICE MIX 

1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 bay leaf

  • Put the mushrooms in the food processor and pulse until very finely minced (you can chop them if you prefer, but it’s quicker and better with a food processor)
  • Pour a little oil into the hot frying pan. Once the oil is hot, tip in the mushrooms with the salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl and set aside.
  • Place the onions and garlic in the food processor and mince. Add a little oil to the large saucepan. Once it is hot, add the minced onions and garlic, the finely chopped coriander stalks and the chillies, and cook gently for 5-10 minutes, making sure you stir regularly. Add the chopped celery and red pepper chunks to the pan and stir. Add the mushrooms back to the pan.
  • Add all the spice mix ingredients to the pan and stir so that the spices are well mixed and coat all the vegetables. Stir in the tomato purée to give a rich colour and depth of flavour. Pour the red wine, soy sauce and balsamic vinegar into the pan and turn up the heat to high. Stir constantly until the liquid has reduced by two-thirds and the alcoholic aroma has subsided. Tip the chopped tomatoes into the pan, stir into the chilli and simmer for 5 minutes, until the sauce is noticeably thicker.
  • Drain the black beans and kidney beans and add them to the pan along with the maple syrup, dark chocolate and the minced mushrooms. Stir everything together really well and then reduce the heat to a very gentle simmer. Leave this bubbling away with the lid off, stirring occasionally until it’s reduced to the right thickness (at least 10 minutes). You can leave it bubbling for longer to deepen the flavours, adding more water if needed to keep the right consistency.
  • Remove the bay leaf. Stir the coriander leaves into the chilli and serve.

As I was making this for children too I lightened the amount of fresh chilli and coriander. Also, I made use of a tin of aduki beans and a tin of green lentil I had in my cupboard which worked really well! If you wanted to make this into nachos like I did you can layer up tortilla chips with chilli, salsa and guacamole and (vegan) cheese. Do this twice and then bake in the oven for 15 minutes at 180 deg.

Credit: BOSH! by Henry Firth and Ian Theasby is published by HQ, HarperCollins in hardback BUY here for £8! https://amzn.to/2J1DbdX

The Cheltenham Food & Drink Festival is happening on 15th-17th June 2018 and also features wine expert Oz Clarke, live music and food demonstrations, wine tasting and children's entertainment. To win tickets:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The key to great gnocchi

Gnocchi with pesto

Last week I did something I have never done before.  Entering a darkened room before lunch felt unusual with only a few others present. We were the brave ones.  Bucking the trend.  Going against the grain of what most were doing before lunch on a weekday.

The feeling of this being unruly behaviour stems back 20 years; Selling books door to door in America for the Summer.  Working 80 hours a week was required for success and quit rates were high. Visiting the cinema was a way of appearing to be out working and a way of avoiding the next door! As fun as it may have been, it was apparent who passed their time watching movies and not working towards their summer paycheck!

Little did we know that life was actually pretty simple back then! As responsible adults, a working week with all the extra facets that family life brings, how does a one size fits all schedule work for the individual?

Now I know that we can't all work from home and be on flexitime; After my movie chill out, I sat in my car and watched the world go by. Cars whizzing around the roundabout, spinning off to where they needed to be. I wondered how many of those people felt that they needed to take their foot off the gas and pull over and take 5. Sometimes life can feel like groundhog day looping round the neverending roundabout.

As I shed the last of the tears I needed to shift I felt very grateful to have realised I needed some time out and had the ability to do so. Taking a little timeout can help us come back stronger, sharper, maybe even more efficient. Just a little time with a loved one without the kids can leave us feeling fulfilled. If we can work out a way to follow our internal sat nav (or intuition!) we can still get to where we need to go, literally and metaphorically. But more with a sense of calm, control and joy.

Next time you have that feeling...spend a little time with it and see what you need. It may just be 10 minutes with a cuppa in the garden or a walk in the fresh air appreciating the arrival of the Spring bulbs. If we don't look after ourselves....who else will? Lisa

Gnocchi with pesto

350g (2 medium sized) Maris Piper or King Edward potatoes (floury potatoes) Skin on
140g plain flour
1/2 egg (lightly beaten) or vegan egg replacer
Few twists of salt and pepper

  1. Boil the potatoes in their skins until they feel soft when a knife is poked through the middle (approx. 30 mins)
  2. Drain the potatoes and leave to cool for 10 minutes in a colander
  3. Peel the skins off the potatoes, and place in a bowl. Mash the potatoes with a masher or potato ricer
  4. Sieve the flour over the potatoes, salt and pepper and add the egg and mix until it's incorporated
  5. Dust the work surface with a little flour and pull the mixture onto the surface. Give a brief knead 3 times with the heel of your hand and then divide the mixture into 4 quarters
  6. Roll 1 quarter into a long sausage shape about 1cm thick. Cut at 1-inch increments on the diagonal and place the pieces in a single layer onto a tray which has been dusted lightly with flour.
  7. Repeat for the other quarters and place the tray in the fridge for half an hour
  8. Take the tray out of the fridge and with a fork, make an indentation on the cut side of the gnocchi, which should make an oval-shaped
  9. Place the 'forked' gnocchi back onto the tray and chill until ready to cook. Leaving at least half an hour (for a faster effect place for 10 mins in the freezer)
  10. Prepare a very large pan of boiling salted water. Place the gnocchi into the pan with a rolling boil (medium heat) and cook for approx. 3 minutes until the gnocchi float to the top
  11. In the meantime place 2 tablespoons of pesto into a frying pan on a low heat. When the gnocchi are cooked, drain gently in a colander and then place gently into the pesto pan and swirl the pan to coat the gnocchi
  12. If you like, add a couple of handfuls of rocket, serve with a little extra Parmesan

For a fuss free pesto I bought a high quality shop version. But you could simply make your own, or just serve with a little garlic lightly fried in butter, add some sage and grate over some Parmesan.

For more recipes and fuss free chat, remember to join the Fuss Free community on Facebook where we share and motivate each other to eat delicious food without the fuss!

Resolution Rebel…

West African Peanut Soup (Vegan)

In recent years I've rebelled against resolutions!  Those few months after Christmas before Spring is hard enough, so like an obstinate child, I would begin in February. To me, this felt a more gentle start to the year with a month to permeate the changes.....in line with what I wanted to do, rather than what I felt I 'should'!

It seems over the years the chance to morph into something new is ever increasing in January.  Become Vegan, tea total, adding or taking something away. But what does this say about ourselves?  Are we not enough already?  Will a change in January bring in a new perspective for the whole year? If you last 5 days or 2 weeks will you feel you have failed?!

I guess the answers are personal and are worth considering. Whilst these ideas are designed to bring about positive change, sometimes they may not turn out as we thought but can bring gifts all the same.  I am working on reducing plastic and my recycling offerings each week.  As I fast realised as I got into it, I cannot make these changes overnight without it becoming overwhelming. So 1 new change a week or every 2, is going to be massive over the course of the year.  We are now making our own yoghurt!

But life is pretty busy. Whether you are raising kids, working, looking after ageing parents, or all of the above....the modern world can be pretty full on. Expectations to do everything and be everything to everyone can leave us feeling a little overwhelmed.

So whether you are just grateful to start the new year and be alive (see my FB Live) or tweaking aspects of the wonderful you person that you are, I ask one thing. Please approach this with a big side portion of self-care and kindness.

Whatever happens, this January, say positive things about yourself and be kind to you! It's easy to feel like you don't have all areas of life together.  And that's OK! If you are making changes, have a contingency plan. It's not just about morphing into something new overnight, it's about the longterm journey and making changes to carry through the year.  And beyond!

If you are trying out something new and learning lots along the way, why not share your experiences in the Fuss Free Foodie Community on Facebook.  We inspire each other to cook but for January why not inspire each other across all areas of our lives!! Wishing you all the best in 2018! Lisa

West African Peanut Soup

I am looking this year at introducing more vegan recipes into my diet.  I am not feeling like eating so much meat at the moment, so hence this recipe.  It really surprised me at how satisfying and delicious it was! I hope you will give it a try. I adapted this soup recipe to make it more filling and substantial by adding lentils and quinoa.  It's rich and creamy and has a bit of heat to it too!  Sounds weird but trust me it's delicious.....give it a try!!

  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 green chilli, sliced
  • 2 tsp of grated ginger (or finely chopped)
  • 3/4 cup of red lentils, rinsed
  • 3/4 cup of quinoa or bulgar wheat, rinsed
  • 3/4 cup of peanut butter, smooth or crunchy
  • 1/2 cup of passata
  • 1.3L vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 3-4 cups hispi cabbage or kale or cavalo nero, finely  shredded
  • 2-5 tsp sriracha sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Twist of black pepper
  1. Add a slug of olive oil to a large pan. Add the onions, ginger and green chilli and fry on a medium heat for about 5-7 minutes.  If you are trying not to use too much oil, add a splash of water to help the cooking process if it dries out.
  2. Meanwhile, in a bowl mix together the passata, peanut butter and 500ml of the stock into a smooth (ish) mixture. Don't worry if it looks like it's curdled! Set aside.
  3. Once the onion is almost soft, add the garlic and fry for a couple of minutes.
  4. Add the tomato puree to the pan, stir and cook for a couple of minutes. Then add the peanut butter/passata/stock mixture to the pan and stir.  Add the rest of the stock to the pan and stir.
  5. Add the lentils and quinoa/bulgar wheat and stir and simmer on a medium heat for 30 minutes. Go back and stir the pot every 5/10 minutes to avoid it sticking! Season with the salt and pepper.
  6. After 30 minutes the lentils should be soft. Add the cabbage, kale or cavalo nero and stir through. Simmer for 5 more minutes. Add the sriracha or hot sauce. Stir and check the seasoning.
  7. Serve in a big bowl and enjoy!  I didn't feel like I needed anything else with it, as it was a meal in a bowl!

If you fancy some more of my fuss-free soup recipes...

Cabbage, lentil and bacon soup

Broccoli and stilton soup

Leek and potato soup (Vegan)

Pea and ham soup

Minestrone soup (Vegan)

Orbs, Entities and Egypt

Falafel

There was no specific reason why I wanted to go to Egypt....it was based on a feeling. I couldn't explain it but the pull was great. So I booked it. When people asked me what I would be doing out there...I didn't even know! I hadn't checked the itinerary!!

I was going with a few people I met on a retreat a year ago. In fact, I had thought it would be fun for us to hang out again, I just hadn't expected it to be here!

In the run-up to leaving our travel plans changed due to unrest in the area. But we were assured by our Bedouin guides that they had our safety at heart. I had to trust. And I did. But leaving your husband and children with even an element of uncertainty didn't sit well. But the feeling of growth and fulfilment far outweighed any fear.

I knew I had done the right thing on waking that first morning in Cairo. After 5 hours sleep, within arms reach of the Pyramids, I listened to Lou our group leader talk. She had been drawn to visit many places on her personal journey, based on a feeling. Tears silently fell from my eyes. I knew this was right. Like Autumn where life dies and awaits its rebirth, I knew I was going to be stripped back in order for me to grow.

The morning was spent visiting the Pyramids and venturing inside. On Saturday the 11th of the 11th we were inside the Great Pyramid at 11.11am! For those who love numerology...you'll enjoy that one!

What I hadn't realised was how quickly we would be heading to camp in the desert. That Saturday afternoon we were due to leave. And news to me ....we were camping for 3 nights, not 2! (I guess a quick read of the itinerary would have told me that!!)

Taking the bare minimum, we left and headed out into the darkness. Met half way by our guides, piled into 3 land cruisers and headed off in search of the desert! Now as you can imagine, a big part of the conversation was about the desert toilet facilities! Well, it's pretty simple... plenty of sand and space. Nuff said! But most of us were a little reticent at the prospect!

Arriving in the darkness it was difficult to see our home for the next few days, but with a roaring fire, and sheltered eating area, it felt comfortable. At this point, I felt that despite meeting the group less than 24hrs ago, we were really starting to bond as a tribe.

The next few days were spent visiting whale bones in the desert, and having quiet contemplation time alone with ourselves. Staring off precipices into vast open spaces, and swimming in beautiful lakes. Sitting together and sharing meal times; Gathering around the campfire, singing, drumming and drinking Bedouin whiskey (AKA super sweet tea!).

The nights around the fire were one of the most magical times. From the brightness of the day, it felt like the night time had no judgment and allowed you just to be. Losing ourselves in the flicker of the flames, finding our voices to the rhythm of the drums. Dancing to Bedouin music, under the watchful gaze of the stars. It seems that we were joined by more than just the millions of stars too, as a campfire photo showed up we were not alone!

In the quiet of the desert, you become super aware of the few things that are going on around you. The brightness and number of stars in the sky was totally mind-blowing. Lying on our backs you could notice the different constellations. It was here on the 2nd night that I noticed 2 orbs dancing in the sky.

In the pitch black of the night sky amidst the shining stars, these were different. As they randomly danced the do-si-do I couldn't keep my eyes off them. I'd never seen them the night before or indeed the night after. They were SO bright, bigger than the stars. I had never seen 1 let alone 2 orbs before! They gave me great comfort to see and made me feel connected to my two boys, especially as it was one of their birthdays......as if they were checking up on me to say hello.

Leaving the desert was tough for us all. We had all settled into camp life and bonded not only as a tribe but with our guides too. But we did one last thing....sandboarding! So as I jumped up to give it a go (and I am no boarder!) we went up the dunes. Figuring the more I thought about it the less chance there was I would do it... I jumped aboard.

As you can see from the video of our trip (Look right... before 2 minutes) I nailed it 3/4 of the way down. But I had neglected to ascertain one bit of info from our guide.....how do you stop?! As I reached the bottom and I started to spin around, my solution to break was to wipe out! And land on my head! That's definitely one way to stop! So my parting gift from the desert....momentarily took the wind out of my sails.

Heading back to Cairo was a shock to the system, least not because my body was dealing with effectively a whiplash injury! But lucky for us, we had 2 nights aboard a boat hotel on the Nile! In all the time I was in the desert, it hadn't bothered me that a couple of lake swims was the closest thing I got to washing. The sand didn't bother me one bit. It wasn't until I stood in the reception of this lovely hotel that I felt unclean and wanted a shower! And boy did it feel great when I did.

On our final day, we visited Saccara which is best known for its step pyramid, and vast ancient burial ground, and the Egyptian museum. The focus around death in Egypt was one I'd not contemplated before. Their beliefs of the soul returning to the body was the reason they placed a mask in the likeness of the persons face so it could return to the right body. The reason kings and gods were depicted with their hands on the heart is that they believe the heart to be paramount. And therefore was left in the body after to death.

This trip for me wasn't about acquiring facts about or memorising the details of Egyptian history. (I am no historian despite my interest!) What resonated with me deeply was the energy in these ancient times for the heart and the soul. The brain was inconsequential.....removed from the body after death but heart left in. For me, it was about opening my heart and awakening a part of me that maybe had been overridden by my head.

That feeling of joy, wonder, intrigue is still there in all of us. It's whether we allow these feelings to be covered as life's experiences make us protect our wounds. As we navigate less from our hearts and more from our heads, we work out how to not get hurt or feel that pain again. Adding layers of protection over the years can desensitise us to what life can feel like. If we allow ourselves to be open and to show our hearts.....we will get back to ourselves and feel so much more in return.

What I noticed on leaving Egypt and arriving back in the UK was the expectation of the western world. We are a society that works very much on external things and the money we need to earn to acquire things to 'get on' in life. What I loved about Egypt and in particular the desert was how there was nothing! No marketing. No feeling like you had to look or be a certain way. I had a sense of freedom I had not felt for many years to just be, and a connection to the stars I'd not had since the 90s rave scene!!

Back to reality, but at least on The Nile!
I realised that as a person I hadn't lost those intrinsic parts of me. They are in fact still there, but buried away under the responsibility and putting others first. My initial fears on coming home were that I would never get to feel this feeling and connection again. That 'normal life' would resume. I feared I would get to an age and reflect back and feel regret at what could have been. I guess that's why when people survive an accident or a serious illness they get a new lease of life to fulfil their hearts desires. They have another shot at living the life they want to lead and grasp it wholeheartedly.

So do we need to go through that to start living life today? My plan going forward is to bring in elements to my life that bring the joy of Egypt each day. Connect with my self to fulfil my own needs and nurture what needs nurturing. I know that my life and that of those around me will be richer from doing this. I hope you will find something for yourself too that will rekindle the fire inside your heart. Why wait. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. Carpe Diem. Tempus Fugit.

Next week is a big week for The Fuss Free Foodie, as we celebrate our 1st birthday and launch the new website!!! Keep an eye on the FB page too as I will be posting about the Hairy Bikers episodes I feature in too! Much love Lisa x

Falafel

2 cans of chickpeas, drained
1 large onion roughly, chopped
4 tbsp parsley and coriander
2 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
8 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp baking powder
8 tbsp plain flour

Put all the ingredients except for the last 2 in a blender and pulse until the mixture is a rough puree.
Add the baking powder and flour. Pulse gently and then place the mixture into a bowl.
Roll the mixture into walnut-sized balls.
Fill a frying pan with oil (about 1-1.5 inches deep) and heat to a medium-high temperature. Add half (or a third) of the balls carefully being careful not to splash oil on yourself or overfill the pan.
Cook the falafels until brown on one side, and then turn over. Remove from the pan, place on kitchen paper to drain. Fry the remain balls.
Serve the falafels with hummus and flatbreads. Enjoy!
Egypt ...The Movie!

Trick or Treat Vs Bar Humbug

Butternut Squash risotto

About now you will find a bowl of pumpkin scoopings lurking in the fridge.....patiently waiting. But this year I went one better. I had a whole un-carved pumpkin acting as a trick or treating beacon, that did not receive any love.

In light of my new attitudes and being kind to myself, I didn't feel the need to broadcast my #mummyfail! I managed to rationalise it as I took the kids trick or treating this year, and one can't do everything!

You see I've managed to avoid the whole trick or treating thing for the last 8 years. I'm not meaning to be a killjoy or mean mummy! With 1 very sensitive child with an active imagination ....I've always aired on the side of caution.

On our busiest night, I prepared in military fashion. Out of the pool, we had our scary outfits, face paints and packed tea so we could deploy straight from the car. Our neighbourhood is well organised for reminding partakers to display their pumpkins; So compared to my previous door to door experience, this was fun!

Friedly neighbours playing along, offering small quantities (thankfully!) of sweets. Chatting to people I'd not spoken to in a while or even before, dispatching their kids to our group. For a scenario I felt a bit 'bah humbug' about, this had a great sense of community.

And this is my style going forward. With 3 of our family birthdays within a month, Christmas looming (and all in between), there is the chance for overwhelm, not joy. The need to control what I allow in, and push out the festivities as late as possible. This year as I started Christmas cooking in September, I'm embracing it all!

It may even result in the Christmas feeling I crave, but never quite find. I'm going to do what I can, the best I can, and not beat myself up in the process. So I'm already over Lebkuchen, reading Christmas stories ....wonder how long until we watch the Snowman and the Snowdog!

Please keep sharing your thoughts in the FFF community and don't forget to follow the FFF FB page so you won't miss my Christmas TV debut!

Butternut, Sage and Goats Cheese Risotto

1 medium onion, diced
Small butternut squash (approx 500g) diced
1.5 Liters veg stock, hot
200g risotto rice
2 knobs of butter
2 tbsp sage, chopped
50g Parmesan**, grated
Slug of olive oil
Salt and pepper

1. Add 1 knob of butter and oil to a large, high sided pan on a low-medium heat. Once melted, add the onion and saute gently for 5-8 minutes until it is translucent.
2. Meanwhile, prepare the stock so that it's boiling hot.
3. Once the onions are done, add the squash. Stir and fry for 2 minutes. Add half of the sage, and season with salt and pepper.
4. Add the rice and coat in the oil and butter. Add 3 ladles of stock and stir for a minute. I don't continuously stir a risotto, but give it a stir every 5 mins or so.
5. Once the rice has dried out, add another 2 ladles of stock, stir and leave. Repeat this process for about 20-22 mins.  You know the rice is cooked when you bite a piece and it's firm but not chalky in the middle.
I like my risotto a little runny so it falls off the spoon, rather than thick like porridge.
6. Once your rice is cooked, take it off the heat, add the remaining butter and Parmesan (or alternative), season with a little salt and pepper (remember the Parmesan is salty). Stir, taste and serve. Dot the pieces of goats cheese on the top.
7. I sometimes get to the 15-minute stage and then leave the risotto to sit. Then I come back to it and finish it off later. If you run out of stock at this point, just add hot water to get the consistency you enjoy.

For more risotto ideas click here

**  Vegetarian Parmesan alternatives as recommended by the vegetarian society include Bookhams Vegi Pasta Cheese, Vegusto No Moo Piquant and Brazzales Gran Moravia.

Fuss Free Midweek Curry

Midweek Curry

In a world where we are constantly aware of our levels of connectivity,  it has never been easier to be disconnected.

Seeking hotspots and gateways to the virtual world as we go about our everyday lives, can lead us to feel detached and oblivious to what is right in front of us.

I stopped to talk to a woman doing a survey in the street yesterday and I realised that I knew her from a local networking group.  It wasn't until I got home that I realised we were FB 'friends', yet I knew very little about her.

If this is my experience as an adult, how is this scenario for our children? Already I hear stories of teens who are basing their self-esteem on the number of likes achieved on a social media post, or who have 'Friends' who may not even say hello in the school corridors.  It's must be confusing to try and work out how these 2 worlds operate....the 1 hard enough to navigate back in my day.

It is though, a double-edged sword that is difficult to ignore. Without this virtual world, my building of the FFF would not have happened this quick, so for that, I am grateful.  But it's probably not until you unplug, and totally connect and tune in to what surrounds you that you realise the hold the virtual world has.

Connecting to those 'real' things make me feel balanced, that everything is OK and that life is good. Getting out in nature, forgetting what I 'needed' to do to play a game with the kids or setting aside the bottomless list of to-dos and doing something for me. (Funnily enough, the list is still there when I get back!)

In connecting with others and ourselves we connect inwards to our hearts' true desire and not what is going on in our heads; Which can be logical and often fuelled with beliefs of what we feel we 'should' do. If we do this, it is the best example we can show our youngsters.

As half term starts, I intend to connect with my immediate world and look forward to unplugging a little... I hope you will enjoy that too!

Happy holidays! Lisa

FUSS FREE MID WEEK CURRY

Serves 2-3

2 tbsp Patak's curry paste (Madras, Korma, Rogan Josh)
1 onion, diced
1 tbsp grated ginger root
1 red or green chilli, sliced (optional seeds in or out!)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
200g mushrooms, chopped into quarters
200g potatoes, diced
200g frozen spinach
1 large ripe tomato, chopped
200 ml water
2 tbsps olive oil
Optional prawns/chicken/chickpeas

1. Put the olive oil into a medium-sized pan on a medium heat.

2. Add the ginger and chilli, and fry for a couple of minutes, then add the onion and frying until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.

3. Add the mushrooms to the pan, and fry on a high heat to extract the water for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat and add the tomato, curry paste, and stir. Add the potatoes, spinach (frozen)and add the water. If you are using chicken or chickpeas add them at this point and simmer for 20-25 minutes until the potatoes are cooked. If it is too thick add a bit more water.

4. Once the potatoes are cooked and you are nearly ready to serve, add the prawns.  If they are already cooked, just warm them through until piping hot, for a minute or 2. If they are raw, cook them for 5-7 minutes until they turn from blue to pink and cooked through.

5. Serve with boiled rice. Enjoy!

With this curry I would usually use, mushrooms and a red pepper, so feel free to mix up what you use by clearing out the fridge in the process! I would halve the amount of spinach I use if doing mushroom and pepper and omit the potato.

Doing a Meg Ryan…..

Moong Dhal with courgettes

I've got a new rule. When opportunities come knocking, I'm just gonna say yes! The cool thing with that is I don't have to let my brain get involved....and here's why. It totally means well, and is only trying to protect me, keep me safe and be logical by pointing out what could go wrong but that can take over from what my heart desires, and that's where the spark, excitement and joy can be in life. If I say yes, and it's meant to happen, it will. It just takes the control right out of my hands, and I'm OK with that!

So one of those 'Yeses' meant today I addressed 150 year 10, 11 and 12 students at a local girls school about my journey so far as the Fuss Free Foodie. Slightly daunting thought. A room full of eyes, being able to hear a pin drop and only my voice reverberating around the room. My head could've found many reasons why not to do it! But I did not allow myself to even get into my head about it. What's the worst that could happen!?! Sometimes its great just to bite the bullet and do it anyway and in the words of a well-known trainer company...Just do it! So let's see what comes up next that I have to say yes too!

I feel very blessed that so many of you are saying yes to the Fuss Free Foodie too, which I am so grateful for! Thank you! This week I've been hearing more of you giving my recipes ago, and even better you're families enjoying them as well! It's so easy to get stuck in a rut with the same 1-2 week recipe cycle, and we all experience that at some point and need to change things up!

This weeks recipe is still helping me use my yellow courgette glut (you could leave them out if you wanted but all part of your 5 a day!) and using those ingredients that lurk at the back of the cupboard. A fuss-free fast food, and is great for making ahead and reheating. Let me know how you get on! Lisa.

Courgette Moong Dhal

1 cup of Moong Dhal/yellow split lentils, well rinsed in water and drained
Heaped tbsp grated ginger
1 tsp turmeric
3 1/2 cups of water
2 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped
2-3 medium courgettes, sliced

 

Temper
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 red/green chilli, sliced
1-2 tsp cumin seeds
2-3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
5-6 tbsp butter/ghee/oil
Salt
(Optional 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1/4 tsp chilli powder)
I did it without and was still delicious

1. Put the lentils into a medium-sized saucepan with 3 cups of the water (retain the rest for later). Add the turmeric, tomatoes, and ginger. Stir, and bring to the boil and then return to simmer. Stir occasionally and add more water if it dries out or starts to stick.
2. This should take about 30 minutes until the lentil are broken down and the dal has a porridge consistency. Add the courgettes at this stage and let them cook in the dal for 10-20 minutes. Add a little water if is drying out. Season with a good pinch of salt. It's not going to do any harm cooking it for longer, just keep adding bits of water if needs be.
3. In a separate frying pan, add the oil/butter and raise the temperature to medium to high, so that you can add the cumin seed and fry for a couple of minutes with the shallot. It is OK to get the shallot brown, but turn down to a medium to low heat when you add the chilli and garlic. This doesn't want to be brown, just cook for a further minute or 2.
4. Add the tempeh to the lentil mixture, stir in thoroughly. Check the seasoning for any more salt, and serve with chapatis, rotis, naan or rice. I only had pittas and that worked well too!!

Remember if you love the Fuss Free Foodie, maybe you're friends will too, so please remember to keep liking and loving to keep me in your feed! Lisa x

Sexy summer salad

Sexy summer salad

I was never a fan of Star Trek, but I have to agree with The Borg that resistance is futile, as resistance can be the compass that steers us to our soul's true purpose. Let me explain further.....

A week ago I was invited to be a part of a kitchen demo at St Nicks market in central Bristol. Exciting! And this was literally my initial emotion and feeling as it's exactly where I want to be taking the Fuss Free Foodie.

However. The next feelings that came about were fear and self-doubt. Feeling overwhelmed with the work going on at home and challenges with the children had left me feeling like maybe this wasn't the right thing for me right now. The timing just wasn't right.

I had a few days to commit to the slot, and I sought counsel from friends who know me. As one rightly said, I was just dealing with fear. And I acknowledged and recognised this. Another stripped away my rationalisations. If you weren't overwhelmed with your kitchen and the kids would you pass up this opportunity? Of course, I wouldn't, I'd be saying yes straight away. I quickly fired off an email to say I'd do it.

And here's the thing. I listened to an interview with the author of the War of Art, a couple of months ago and he talks of resistance being the very thing that stops us being the person we are meant to be. That the actions that fill us with the deepest terror ARE the very things that we should be doing. Layers of conditioning, fears of failure, success and external judgments are what stop us from being internally directed.

I realised that this was what I was doing. The very thing I was resisting was what I needed to be moving towards, as it was closest to moving towards where I want to be. By listening to my own rationalisations I would have sabotaged this. As in the words of Steven Pressfield, our only job is to be the person who we already are. So when you feel resistance come knocking, don't fight it, run towards it with open arms! You are right on course to getting out of your own way to find your true calling.

Let me know what you think to this week's blog in the thread on the Fuss Free Foodie Facebook page or in the Fuss Free Foodie community, about the callings you are following or ones that you aspire to. If you would like to follow more daily what the Fuss Free Foodie is up to you can follow me on Instagram and Twitter too. Lisa

Caerphilly cheese, cherry and walnut salad

 

A handful and a half cherries pitted
A handful of walnuts (or pistachios) broken up
100g Caerphilly cheese, crumbled
Bag of mixed leaves, rocket or spinach leaves
Dressing:
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp red or white wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp maple syrup
Salt and pepper

To make the dressing place all the ingredients in a jam jar and shake.
On a serving plate lay your leaves on the plate and tear the cherries and lay on top.
Drizzle over about half of the dressing and then sprinkle over the walnuts and Caerphilly cheese.
Serve with some lovely bread or alongside an awesome BBQ.

Pesto courgetti salad with feta and almonds

3 medium-sized courgettes, made into strips with a veg peeler, julienne or spiralizer
A handful of cherry tomatoes, halved if large
3 tbsp high-quality pesto
100g sheep's cheese or feta
A handful of chopped parsley
A handful of almonds, roughly chopped (or walnuts would work too)
Half a lemon or tsp of white wine vinegar.
Take your courgettes and make the courgetti using whichever tool you have. If you don't have one, just use a veg peeler to make long ribbons.
Add the courgettes to a bowl, along with the parsley and tomatoes. Then add the pesto and stir through so they are all coated. Season with salt, pepper and add the lemon or vinegar. Stir again and taste for the seasoning.
Place the salad on a serving plate and sprinkle over the nuts and cheese.
This is a great salad to eat in its own right, or with a piece of grilled chicken, or even a piece of salmon. Some people don't enjoy fish and cheese, so you could leave the cheese out if serving with fish.

Risotto style rice and peas with salmon

Risotto style rice with peas and salmon

If food made with love tastes better, then surely a world filled with love would be more palatable too. In times when there are such displays of hate, it feels even more important to hold love in our hearts on a daily basis so that this echoes out to the world and we all resonate with the vibration of love.

Last weekend saw the One Love concert for those taken in Manchester and artists talked of healing the world with love. This has been long spoken of by pop legends like Micheal Jackson and The Beatles back in the day saying 'Love is all you need'. This is by no means a new concept, but one we still seem to struggle with.

As with everything it starts with ourselves. Do we love ourselves? Do we take the time and care to give ourselves what we need. Do we even create a space to hear our hearts desires? It's so easy in modern day society to do what we feel we 'should' do, or to conform to the norm and do what everyone else is doing, even if deep down we may feel we are destined for something else.

Day after day we embroil ourselves in things outside of ourselves like social media, 24/7 news, our businesses and our children. But what if we listen to our own hearts? We've all been in that situation when we have said yes to something we didn't want to do, which is saying no to ourselves. It doesn't feel right. It's not hearing what we need. Our hearts can give us the answers. When we listen and love ourselves we are in a far better position to be able to love and support others. Just imagine a world where everyone did this.

Food in Italy is often talked about being a 'labour of love'. Italian Nonnas who rule their kitchens with a rolling pin and a will of steel, who would spend all day preparing the meal for the family. Now as much as this is in my DNA and I love spending time cooking in my kitchen, I appreciate that this is not the act of love that most people choose or are able to display. But this aside most people get huge amounts of joy and pleasure by eating delicious food.

Risotto for me is one of those dishes. BC (before children!) it was easy to stand and stir a risotto until the rice grain reached a perfect balance of al dente without being chalky! But today the likelihood of being needed to referee a boxing match or a tablet tug of war means I need to be less tied to the stove. So I was really pleased that this recipe fits the fuss-free criteria with the labour of love results!!

So as my Italian ancestors turn in their graves, I wanted to share with you this awesome weeknight dinner, that needs just an occasional stir. To make it more filling I added a piece of salmon and if you wanted to make it more filling for a vegetarian, you could add some grilled asparagus on the top and use a Parmesan alternative.**

Let me know in the comments below or on Facebook your tweaks....you could easily use this fuss-free base for your favourite risotto recipe. So please remember to give a little like, share or comment to keep the FFF in your feed and spread the fuss-free love!

Risotto style rice with peas and salmon

Serves 3-4

  • 75-100g onion, diced
  • 40g butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 200g risotto rice (arborio is less likely to overcook!)
  • 50g Parmesan, grated (or vegetarian alternative)
  • 400g frozen peas (or fresh if you prefer!!)
  • 1L vegetable, chicken  or ham stock, hot
  • Salt and pepper

Optional Extras: 100g of salmon or chicken breast, a bundle of asparagus, a handful of rocket

  1. On a medium heat, add 1/2 the butter and olive oil to a large saucepan. Once melted add the onion and saute gently for 5-8 minutes until it is translucent.
  2. Add the rice and coat in the oil and butter, then add 3/4 of the stock and peas and bring to the boil and simmer with the lid on, giving a stir every 5 minutes or so.
  3. After 20 minutes check the consistency.  The rice should be cooked.  If the rice is too dry add a little more stock, I like it a little runny so it falls off the spoon, rather than holding its shape like porridge.
  4. Take off the heat, add the remaining butter and Parmesan (or Parmesan alternative), season with black pepper and a little salt (the Parmesan can be salty!). Stir and serve.
  5. Ladle onto a plate, if you are adding rocket, place a pile on top of the rice, and add salmon or asparagus.

** Vegetarian Parmesan alternatives as recommended by the vegetarian society include Bookhams Vegi Pasta Cheese, Vegusto No Moo Piquant and Brazzales Gran Moravia.

Got a favourite recipe you're going to try with this new method.....share your thoughts on the blog or on the FB page or FFF community! Lisa