Children that wake at 5:30am does not bode well for much besides elaborate breakfasts.
Brown rice with dates, sunflower seeds and soy milk. And a cup of ‘Be Happy’ tea. (I need all the help I can get that bloody early.)
Think only good thoughts on Valentine’s Day.
Because, really, it is never wise to be tricked by commercialism into thinking you are missing out on something. And you are quite lovely all days of the year; even though you get declined at the money machine and sometimes you say the wrong things and you put the bins out wearing only your knickers, certain that your vigilance somehow grants you the power of invisibilty. Your neighbours do see you, you know. But you look so adorable, all bed-ruffled and wild, they’d be fools to complain.
And though you get dressed from the washing pile and leave crumbs in the bed, and spend too much time on the internet and haven’t thought enough about current events or your savings account, and you complain bitterly about things you know don’t really matter and you didn’t go for a run today, I am sure there is someone, somewhere, who adores you completely.
And, sure, it may be your Mother or it maybe your dog or it may be your children or it may be your best friend. Or maybe you don’t feel you’ve yet met someone to adore you completely, in which case, you have so much to look forward to!
Or maybe you are lucky enough to already completely adore the person who completely adores you right back, and what a thing! For all of our foibles, there’s someone who loves us. And aren’t we lucky to be so adored.
So, today, let’s just love love. Let’s hug too long and say nice things and smile and show our teeth. And let’s be thankful that there’s air in our lungs and kisses to be kissed and chocolate to be eaten, no more today than any day.
And then, to celebrate all our good fortune, let’s make the most insanely decadent, sinfully delicious thing we can imagine.
And then eat it for breakfast.
Roast 3/4 of a cup if Hazelnuts in the oven at 175oc for 10-15 minutes. This helps seperate them from their skins, which will then come away when rubbed with a tea towel, or between your fingers, if you don’t mind the cursing it will entail as you burn your fingertips.
While these are roasting, pit 10 Medjool Dates. These are Dates for people who think they don’t like Dates. They’re huge and fresh and soft. They taste like caramel. If caramel came from heaven.
Place Hazelnuts in the food processor with half a block of good quality dark chocolate (I used Whittakers Dark Cacao), and half a tablespoon of brown sugar. Use Demerara, if you are feeling fancy – this will gives a great texture to the filling you are making for the Dates. Whizz on high while slowly adding a generous drizzle of Olive Oil to combine the mixture. (Pro-Tip: This is essentially Nutella in Veganism! You’re welcome!)
Now comes time for the secret ingredient! Booze! (I used Quick Brown Fox. It’s an organic-Coffee Liqueur, with a hint of cinnamon. It’s full and balanced and smooth. It’s flavours tell you a story. A story so delicious it’s ridiculous. It’s also accidentally Vegan! You can read more about it here: http://www.quickbrownfox.co.nz/) Add to suit your taste.
Once your mixture is combined, add just enough to fill the center of your Dates while still being able to close them seamlessly. This will be around half to a full teaspoon, depending on the size of your Dates.
In a double boiler, or a double boiler of your making (I find a bowl in a pot of shallow boiling water perfectly sufficent) melt the other half of your block of good quality dark-chocolate. With a spoon, roll the Dates in the chocolate until completely covered and leave to set on a plate lined with baking paper.
Once set, dip those suckers again! Because your decadence knows no bounds and maybe you are channelling Juliette Binoche in Chocolat and a Gypsy Johnny Depp was her boyfriend in that, so, you know. Sometimes, nothing succeeds like excess.
And now, to sweeten your day just that little more: A Valentine’s Day Giveaway!
In the spirit of the day, share the best compliment you have recieved; the one that tickled you pink, or put roses in your cheeks, or a spring in your step – on Valentine’s Day or any other day – and leave it in the comments section.
With help from Special Guest Judge: Arjun from Quick Brown Fox, a winner will be selected next Thursday the 22nd of February and sent a beautiful bottle of Quick Brown Fox all their own. Perfect for those loquacious evenings with friends, and for trying out this recipe!
(WINNER: Congratulations to ohdearred! That ‘your nose is as cute as all of Japan riding on a kitten’ is about the cutest thing we’ve ever heard. Enjoy your bottle of Quick Brown Fox – and make sure and high-five your darling from us, we’ll be using that line in future!)
So, Happy Valentine’s Day to you, dearheart. You look absolutely smashing (hunched over your monitor). xx
Be busier than is advisable for a person who only gets 4 hours sleep a night. Have tiny mouths that requiring feeding. Remember that if the tiny mouths are full then the chances of them being able to make so very much noise is ever so slightly reduced. Feel ever so slightly buoyed by this. Try not to think too much about Sisyphus.
Stand before your pantry with a large bowl. Conclude that you are simply too tired to walk to the refrigerator so this evenings meal must be able to be sourced without you having to move more than your arms. Open a can of cream corn you have had since you brought your house. 5 years ago. To this add 2 cups of the only flour you have enough of to fill 2 cups. It will be Wholemeal. That you brought in a frenzy of virtue that sometimes catches you, usually after reading some kind of printed-on-recycled-paper Wholesome Holistic Sustainable Living Magazine for people who make more money than you. Which isn’t hard. Throw in a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, 3 tablespoons of Olive Oil (this combination essentially equals 1 egg in Veganism) and season liberally with salt and pepper.
You are too tired to chop an onion, I understand. If, despite your exhaustion, you are able to make it out to the garden, a handful of finely chopped chives wouldn’t go amiss.
Use all the energy you have left to mix that thing until it’s combined. That is your upper-arm work-out done for the day. Look at you! Multitasking!
In a frying pan heat a drizzle of oil and place generous tablespoon sized scoops of this ugly duckling mixture into the pan at medium temprature, turning once the underside is golden brown, to produce a beautiful swan of a thing. Makes 6 huge fritters or 12 tiny ones. Maybe 9 medium ones? It’s not an exact science. This mixture can also be used for muffins! I know! Just add 1 teaspoon of baking powder and cook at 175 for 30 minutes. Two things, one recipe! We’re like pioneers!
Serve with (one of the 50 jars of ) tomato relish (your Mother made you for Christmas.) And maybe some steamed vegetables? Look, just slice them up an apple and a carrot, call it a day and a half and send everyone to bed.
Find, in every room of your house, a partially eaten Granny Smith apple. This is your reality now. Don’t fight it.
In a large bowl sift 2 cups of self-raising flour, 1 cup of brown sugar and a pinch of cinnamon. Add to the dry ingredients 1 tablespoon of vinegar (I use Apple Cider), 6 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 cup of luke-warm water. Mix until combined. Pour half of the mixture into a cake pan that you have either greased or lined or is made of silicone because you are terribly modern. Do this all very quickly, as to not attract the attention of the children. If they do wander into the kitchen, looking for something to eat or ruin, simply hold aloft one of the partially eaten Granny Smith apples and make leading and severe eye contact.
Thinly slice 2 partially eaten Granny Smith apples. Layer these on top of the mixture and sprinkle with brown sugar. Pour the last half of the mixture over top and smooth over with the back of a spoon until it is completely covering the partially eaten Granny Smith apples.
Bake at 175 degrees for 30 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack, dust with icing sugar and serve.
Pro-tip: The children will still not eat the apples. But Partially Eaten Partially-Eaten-Apple Shortcake is so meta it’s best not to think about it.
Get swept up in New Years Resolutions.
Somehow commit to doing only things that will guarantee to bring with them an abundance of stress and washing up. Vow ridiculous things that, perhaps, in the haze of champagne and idealism, actually made sense.
Pledge to get more creative about breakfast! Be resolute; mostly that little good will come from this. That now, instead of flinging toast at the children as they sit, dazzled by whatever electronic entertainment you allow until you are rightly caffienated, you will torture yourself to create an opportunity for Wholesome Family Togetherness. But that’s parenthood for you.
The reality of this lofty goal will see you storming about the kitchen in your undergarments; bleary-eyed as you bang all the pots and pans together, as if trying to cast a spark from the rubbing together of two sticks. You will fall over the cat and shake your fist at the toaster, that haughty bastard. You will yearn for the days when breakfast meant a coffee and a fag.
Then you will brush the hair from your eyes, drink a cold cup of tea with three sugars and smash out something delicious and beautiful, because you adore your children and they deserve the very best. Even though it is taking years off your life.
Polenta Three Ways (Hello, freaky google searchers. And welcome.)
Have no idea how to cook polenta. Place a pot of water on the element until at a rolling boil. Then unceremoniously dump a serving of polenta in there too. I went with a 3:1 ratio, water to polenta, because it felt right, you know? It worked out okay, I think. Look, I have no idea. Stir with great vigour over heat for 10 minutes or so, until the polenta has combined and scrapes freely from the side of the pot. It should be like a single substance now, a beautiful combined entity. It will taste like nothing. It’s consistancy should be like that of a very smooth scrambled egg, though, which as a Vegan is exciting (our lives our dull, but our karma is good).
Polenta with button mushrooms, black beans, tomato and coriander.
Season the bejesus outta that thing. I added a heaping tablespoon of Olivio and got liberal with the salt and pepper. Listen, polenta is never going to be the star of the show. But it will hold its end up if you treat it right.
Pro-tip: Serve this as brunch to those who mock your Veganism. This shit is delicious. And won’t leave you feeling burdened like porridge.
Polenta with brown sugar, soy milk and bananas.
Pro-tip: The children will love this. A great option for gluten-free baby breakfasts.
Pro-tip: Natural pink food colouring can be made by grating a fresh beetroot and the pressing the juice out through a sieve! The taste is undiscernable, but the colour is POW!
Wrangle your disinterested children away from the television. Ignore their bitter cries for Bob the Builder and bloody boring old bloody jam on bloody boring old toast. Lay before them a sumptious feast; prepared with love and minimal expletives, considering the conditions. Stand over them expectantly, awaiting the appreciation you so deserve. Keep waiting. Keep on waiting, sister.
Buy a bunch of bananas. On returning home, throw them in your freezer with their great many over-ripe brothers, hoping to one day be turned into cake.
Weeks later, yearn for a sweet thing after a tedious day at the coal-face. Stare longingly into your pantry, willing a treat to materialise.
Remember your multitude of frozen bananas. Do a happy little dance.
Into your blender place sliced frozen bananas. You will have to cut off their skins and your hands will freeze into claws, but it will be so deliciously worth it. 2 bananas is equal to one serving. Do maths. Be greedy. Let’s say this recipe for for 2 servings, for continuity. So, what’s that? 4 bananas. Maths, ho!
To the blender add 1/2 a cup of water OR the mock milk of your choosing, if you are fancy like that. Turn blender onto lowest setting. Add 4 heaped tablespoons of cocoa and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. A pinch of cinnamon? A little chilli? Get loose, you know? Make it once before you go buck wild though. We’re very poor this year and there can be no wastage.
Taste test. Be blown away be how delicious that shit is. Add more of anything that may be missing. The trick is to blend it for just long enough to make the bananas a creamy consistancy, but no so long as to melt them into a soup. Of course, you can just refreeze once you have combined all the ingredients, but let’s be honest, you’re not going to. So time is of the essence, my friend! Your stories are about to start and you have been waiting all day to sit in silence and watch various costume dramas. Enjoy.
Find a large bowl. This may be a difficult task considering you made a cup of tea in a gravy boat this morning, but press on. Into this bowl place 1 and 1/2 cups of flour. Preferably self-raising because that is one less ingredient for you to forget. Add to this 1 cup of sugar. Let the children sift these ingredients if you must. You can then feel you have done something with them today other than hiding from them in the laundry. Return to the bowl as much of the dry ingredients as the children are now covered in. Tell them they are good helpers. This is called positive affirmation. You no longer recieve this, as you are now a parent. No annual reviews for you, my friend. Welcome to the rest of your life. Now send them away so you can actually bake this bloody thing.
To the bowl add a generous heaping of cocoa powder. By now the children will have returned from the 30 seconds they were not under your feet or at your elbow. Try your best to keep them from the Quintessential Childhood Mistake of shovelling great helpings of the stuff into their gobs; thinking they have discovered endless chocolate riches. Half a cup should do. Throw half a teaspoon of salt in for good measure.
Stir. Remember that the secret ingredient is not actually love; it’s butter. But as this is a Vegan cake, love will have to do. Think about something nice. The fictional Vampire of your choosing; paying off your credit card; not being spoken to for an hour.
Make 3 wells in the dry ingredients. To these wells add 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence; 1 tablespoon of vinegar (I use Raspberry) and 5 generous tablespoons of olive oil. Throw 1 cup of tepid water over the whole shebang and get out all your passive agression mixing that shit together. Once combined cook in a greased cake tin of some description in a preheated oven at 190 degrees on fan bake. Half an hour should do it. Enough time to dump another load of washing on your couch and will it to fold itself. Maybe half-ass the hoovering. Or until a knife comes out clean.
Once cooked turn out on a wire rack and leave to cool. Or don’t. But you know the icing won’t set and you’ll wish you had waited. And yes, I know you could just put it in the fridge, but come on. Just do it bloody properly, will you? Or simply dust with icing sugar. I am not here to limit you.
Should you choose to make an icing; mix equal parts ‘yeah, nah, that looks about right’ of cocoa powder and icing sugar and a trickle of water. More dry ingredients if it is too thin, more water if it is too thick. You will end up with far too much either way. But then you can let the children lick the bowl. And they will be quiet. Take a picture.
Time the serving with Sesame Street and you just brought yourself an hours nap. Or, an hours uninterrupted worrying. Which ever is most pressing on your agenda. You’re welcome.
Send your children outside. Take a deep breath and remember that this portion of the evening means that you are on the downward slide towards bed. Or, if your children do not sleep, remember that you are on the downward slide towards them moving out.
Find the pot that was previously being used as a hat. Give it a rinse in the sink. Remember that heats kills germs. Place on element. Put cup of rice in pot. Put cup and a half of boling water over rice. Or cold water that has sat in the jug for 10 minutes because you were too tired to notice it wasn’t boiling.
Check outside to see if the children are playing nicely with something dangerous or playing dangerously with something nice. Remember what I said about them moving out.
Dice your onion small enough that it cannot be discernable from the rice and therefore cannot be complained about. It’s inclusion in this meal gives the old ‘but you do like it. darling. You eat it in ____’ argument, legs. Throw that in whatever pan is clean enough to not make you think briefly about food poisoning with a little oil and cook until onion softens. Stir the rice because your ability to cook it and pay your bills almost on time are pretty much the only things discerning you from your teenage self.
Find the least limp carrot in the bottom of your fridge and slice lengthways. Now do that again. Is your carrot in four long strips? Good. You may have only slept for 4 hours last night, but you are still able to follow the most simple of instructions. This is a good day. Now slice your carrot sticks in to teeny tiny pieces. Because they will cook faster and you are very tired. Throw those and a ‘yeah, nah, that looks about right’ of frozen peas in with the onions and absent-mindedly stir everything you are currently cooking. Remember when you had the time and money to actually Make Dinner. Think briefly about that restaurant in Paris you went to 10 years ago and how the Chef came out of the kitchen to kiss you. Break up whatever cracker-related argument the children are currently involved in.
Now at this stage all the water over your rice should have vanished via a magical process called You’re Doing It Right. Take off the heat. Have a rummage in the pantry and crumble whichever flavour Oxo cube you unearth over the rice. I use the Vegetable one. No Oxo cube? Any powdered instant packet sodium mix will no doubt suffice. Results may vary. Stir in and leave to stand with a lid on the pot. No pot lid? A plate will do; but that sucker will get hot, so mind your mits. You do not want the children to learn anymore profanity than they already know.
How is that other shit looking? Pretty good? Yeah, I reckon. Turn down the heat and clear the lunch dishes off the table. Find whichever very specific dishware the children are currently favouring. Shut all pets out of doors, lest the dinner you have just spent 15 minutes slaving over become theirs. Remember to let children in to actually eat the bloody thing. Make them wash. I certianly will not judge you for excluding this portion of the excercise, but mine live in the garden, so scrubbing is necessary. Sling your rice in with the cooked vegetables and fry while the children make a sodden mess of your bathroom.
Get everyone to sit down nicely, sit down nicely, darling. Yes, you both have the same amount. Yes, I will get you a glass of water. No, I don’t know where that very specific cup is. Sit down, darling. Sit down and eat your dinner please. BLOODY SIT DOWN, WILL YOU? And serve.