As I’m back home in the motherland, it seems only right that I should be baking some British classics – albeit with a bit of a twist!
Flapjack is, for me, a reminder of home. My mum makes the best flapjack in the world (IN THE WORLD I tell you!) and there’s always a cake tin full of it whenever anyone’s coming over. It’s all butter, sugar and golden syrup usually, although she has taken to making a vegan version because Putin and I love it so much (thanks, Mum!).
However, you know me. I can’t leave anything alone; everything needs to be spiced up a little! I’m currently in Edinburgh housesitting for my newlywed friends, and I noticed that I still had some almond butter and coconut butter left over in the fridge. These two seemed to be the perfect companion for oats and a little sweetener – and why not throw in the rest of the cherries that are sitting in the fruit bowl?
When I come back to the UK, I always tend to go back to more traditional recipes – mostly because my mum and dad’s kitchen is a lot more traditional than mine!
I still can’t help playing around with flavours, however, and this soup was made when I had a bunch of mint that I needed to use up. The peas – well, I would put peas in everything if I could. Peas are the miniature kings and queens of food.
It sounds strange at first but the subtle taste of the mint and the extra heartiness of the peas add a little more to this already fantastic soup. A new favourite in my house and a 30-minute week night dinner!
Before I was vegan, I used to love fish. I mean, I still do love fish – the smell of the sea, the freshness of the food – but I choose not to eat it for many reasons, a huge one being that the overfishing of our oceans is catastrophic, and many species of fish soon simply won’t exist.
However, it is true that I miss both the texture and the taste of flaked tuna. I ate a lot of it when I was younger, and I loved it. I’ve been lucky in that Putin has been making a lot of The Post Punk Kitchen’s faux-tuna salad a lot as he thinks that it’s wonderful, but for me, there’s not enough of a fishy taste in the recipe, and I hate vegan mayo.
So I did what I had to do: I made my own recipe.
You might never have heard of cranachan before. That’s okay; this is a uniquely Scottish dessert, and despite being from the north of England I’m not even sure that I pronounce the name of this correctly. Is it cran-a-chan? Cra-nacken? Who knows.
Anyway, the name doesn’t matter. What does matter is the content: thick, airy whipped cream with whisky and tart fruit. A stream of sweetener running throughout. The subtle crunch of toasted oats, and a general sense that this dessert embodies the true spirit of Scotland.
Of course, I can’t leave anything alone, and in veganizing this it has, of course, changed a little. The whipped cream is whipped coconut cream in this version. The honey is replaced by agave. My oats are toasted with ground cinnamon and ginger, and instead of the traditional raspberries, I’ve used strawberries – although, to be honest, this is because I simply couldn’t get raspberries in Panama. I would probably use raspberries given the chance.
I’ve just finished devouring the wonderful Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater. If you’re not aware of him, Nigel is a British chef known for his love of simple, high-quality ingredients and recipes that don’t have more than a few compoments.
This book has really helped to change my attitudes towards food, and I’ve been very inspired by his manner of cooking and loving food. This is a recipe inspired by him!
Harissa paste is a Tunisian chilli paste, although you can also find it in the cuisines of Morocco, Libya and Algeria. Its intense, hot flavour is thanks to hot chilli peppers; usually Serrano chillies are used, but you can use whatever hot red pepper you like. In this recipe, I’ve used aji chombo chillies, as these are very common in Panama and are hot as you’d like. These are also known as scotch bonnets, or yellow lantern chillies despite the fact that they can come in both yellow-orange and red varieties.
There’s nothing I like more than a cooking day with a good friend, especially when it’s hot outside and the camera is fired up and ready. Last weekend I took a bunch of random ingredients around to the kitchen of my great friend Catriona White, of MiniHaha Gourmet fame – and random they certainly were.
Randomness and chance go hand-in-hand, and sometimes it’s only by having a random collection of ingredients that you, by chance, come upon a wonderful recipe. This salad is absolutely, astonishingly good, with its delicate flavours and complimentary textures. The mandolin definitely made this healthy salad recipe a lot more impressive, given the sheer and beautiful slices that the mandolin allows, but if you can only slice these thinly, the salad won’t lose any of its clout. In fact, you could just go for chunky slices and it would still be fantastic.
When I think of good Chinese food, I think of sticky sauces and fresh noodles with crisp veggies. I think of subtle and not-so-subtle flavours, of greens and bright peppers and simple but powerful flavours. I think of these, and I get pretty damn hungry.
Unfortunately, many Chinese places in the Western world rely on MSG-packed sauces to bring the stickiness and the flavour. To keep things speedy and cheap, they throw that horrible white powder in there to bring the sauce together and to imbue it with fake flavouring. It makes you think that you can’t produce something more authentic in your own kitchen – and the truth is that you can!