A Vegan & Vegetarian Culinary Experience Of London.

My husband and I were lucky enough to be given an amazing Christmas present from my sister-in-law Suzanna which consisted of a two night break in London including flights and accommodation with the biggest bonus of all, babysitting included, yippee! 
Having lived in London for the majority of my 20’s, London is a city close to my heart and I have many fond memories of living and working there. I couldn’t wait to get back.

Having time to yourselves as a couple after having children  is somewhat elusive. Life becomes much busier. Weekends of socialising with friends, reading and free time is replaced with numerous children’s activities so to say I was giddy with excitement is an understatement. 

Hot on my hit list of things to do was to sample the food at The Mae Deli, or as its affectionately know by her followers, Ella’s Deli. Ella cured herself of a medical condition through a whole-food-plant-based diet and has become an international sensation in the health food and business world. 

Having followed Ella for a number of years on social media, walking through the the doors of the deli seemed familiar even though it was my first visit! 

So much of the food displayed on the counters, the menu choices, the juices, smoothies and energy bites appealed so much to me that I virtually couldn’t decide! I finally settled on an açai bowl with fruit, while my husband had the porridge with fruit compote, coconut shavings and nut butter.


As expected not only was the food delicious but I felt great after eating it. No bloating or lethargy. 

We also took two of the energy bites to go which were the perfect pick-me-up while strolling through the streets of London that afternoon. 

Onwards to Selfridges and to my husband’s misfortune we entered through the doors of the food hall. A wonderland of food awaited from Livias Kitchen Raw Millionaire Bites, samples of matcha tea, decadent dark chocolates and a vast array of superfoods. Heaven! 


I also desperately wanted to sample the food at the Hemsley + Hemsley café but my husband dragged me away! 


Part of our gift was a three course lunch in a vegetarian Michelin recommended restaurant Vanilla Black. To my delight they also had a full vegan menu which I opted for. It’s not often you get to sample Michelain vegan food! 

The food was delicious from the olive oil (which was from Greece apparently, I had to ask the waitress!) to the rosé, the dessert was moreish but my favourite was the starter. 


The main, a mushroom dish had interesting flavour combinations which I hadn’t tried before and it was my husband’s favourite course. 


Finally the dessert as expected didn’t disappoint and it’s impressive how a dairy-free dessert can taste so delicious. Reflective of the talent and imagination of the chef. (And check out how flash the plate is 🙌🏻) 

With bellies full we ventured onto Covent Garden. Here we stumbled upon Marcus Wearing’s restaurant Tredwells. Being inquisitive I examined the menu on display.  Interestingly there were numerous vegan options. Starters of harissa glazed aubergines, mains of courgette and spelt fritters to mushroom ravioli and a dessert of virtuous chocolate brownie with coconut youghurt sounded more than tempting. One for our next visit. . .

The following morning before our flight we enjoyed a delicious brunch in a local pub. A green juice, americano and smashed avocado on sourdough brought this brilliant weekend in London to an end. Till next time. . . 


Bloom in the Park


I was thrilled and excited to be contacted by Imagine Marketing asking me if I would be interested in partaking in some cookery demonstrations this year in Bloom in the Park. This is such a prestigious annual flower and culinary show that I was more than delighted to participate. 

I was asked to send in a short demo video of me preparing some food. This I happily did with my husband acting as camera man and director! Not having any professional equipment or previous experience of vlogging we had to rely on his iPhone, cartoons in the sitting room for the children with me conducting the demo as efficiently as possible to try to get an idea of my style of food across on camera. 

Smoothies, being a regular part of my diet, was an obvious choice to prepare, given the limitating factors. 

Having sent in the demo, Imagine Marketing had me narrowed down as a finalist! I was asked to meet the team in their offices in Dublin. With two young children under the ages of four years, it is amazing how much planning was needed regarding childcare arrangements or the possibility of them accompanying me. I decided a phone conversation was probably more practical. 

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Shortly into the phone call I felt I was not a suitable candidate as four full days, 6 hrs per day and having to use eggs as a main ingredient unfortunately brought this exciting venture to a close. Being vegetarian but rarely cooking or eating eggs I didn’t feel I suited the brief. Next year perhaps!! 😀


Tickled Pink 💗

  
Smoothies are all the rage these days. There are few homes that don’t boast of the benefits of a Nutribullet or if you’re lucky enough a Vitamix. These machines might seem like a passing trend in terms of culinary equipment, however I’m converted. 

Green smoothies loaded with spinach have been my staple breakfast for years. The energy gained, compared to ingesting a standard westernised breakfast is incomparable. 

I’ve decided to deviate from my standard smoothie a few weeks ago in favour of a lighter fruitier version. This smoothie is absolutely delicious and more like a dessert! Packed with whole grains, seeds, nut butter, fruits and plant based milk it is a powerhouse of energy to supply you with numerous essential nutrients for your day. 
Ingredients 

 • 1 banana

80g frozen mixed berries 

1tsp almond butter

30g oats

2 heaped tbsp milled mixed seeds 

 250mls hemp milk 

Method

Pop all ingredients into a blender ( I use the Nutribullet) and blend until smooth. 

Serve in your favourite glass 😀💗
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Here’s the juicy bit. . . 
   

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We’ve all read of the importance of chewing our food correctly. It’s a simple rule but greatly benefits digestion and aids in the release of macro and micronutrients. 

Digestion starts in the mouth and signals the release of digestive enzymes, acid production in the stomach and bile to be released from the gall bladder. A cascade of  activity as you innocently chew your breakfast over the morning paper. 

If meal times are rushed, food may not be chewed sufficiently leaving  a lot of work for the stomach and intestines. These organs have to try and digest the food into their absorbable form so that we can utilise the fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals enabling us to carry out our numerous functions.

The benefit of blending food, as in smoothies, aids better digestion and the release of micronutrients from their bonds. 

If undigested food particles pass into your bloodstream, the immune system views these allergens as a potential threat which can lead to inflammation in the body and various ailments associated with inflammation. 

The simple rule  is — take time over each meal and chew your food well. 🍽


Pizza

                 
    
Trying to come up with varied evening meals everyday for the kids can be a bit of a challenge. Sometimes the meal choices can feel a bit repetitive and trying to eat healthy whole foods is not always convenient even with best intentions and weekly meal planning. 

It’s important to me that children are educated about food and the impact ones meals choices have on ones health, the environment and of course on animal welfare. I like to get our children involved in the food shop, cooking, baking and juicing. They seem to enjoy it too! 

After collecting my son from school one day he asked for pizza for dinner. Bingo, that took that decision out of my hands! I hadn’t got the kids to help me make pizza previously so I thought this could be an interesting meal to prepare together. It turned out to be a successful mini adventure with the kids and a tasty meal! 

I had wholemeal tortillas which I used as the pizza base. I got my son to spread tomato purée on the base. Together we grated some cheddar and he sprinkled this on top. I chopped some peppers and courgettes into bite size pieces and gently fried them on the pan in coconut oil until soft. I diced some fresh pineapple in bite size pieces too. Ciarán loved trying to evenly spread the various topping on the pizza. Finally I put a small amount of frozen corn on last. Into the oven for 8 minutes and voilà, a homemade pizza by a 4 year old!!

A great convenience about baking homemade pizza is that you can really choose any topping that you have in your fridge/freezer and cupboards. Red onion, pesto, olives, tomatoes, artichokes, mushrooms etc. It makes a reasonably nutritious meal and easy to include the little ones and get everyone involved. 

 

Ingredients
   
  
• Tortilla wrap or Pizza base. (If its convenient to make a cauliflower base this would be even better!!)

• Tomato purée 1-2 tbsp. Less is more here. ( again if it’s convenient puréed fresh tomatoes would be a fresher choice)

• grated cheddar enough to spread over your pizza base of choice. If avoiding dairy dots of pesto works well as a more nutritious option. 

• Half courgette diced into bite size pieces

• Half red pepper diced into bite size pieces

• Handful of pineapple diced into bite sized pieced

• Small handful of frozen corn

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Method

    
        
Turn oven to pizza setting or set to 200C

Put a tsp of coconut oil in a frying pan and gently fry the courgettes and pepper until soft, usually 10-12 minutes. 

Assemble the pizza starting with the tomato purée by using the back of a spoon to spread it across the pizza evenly. 

Next sprinkle the cheese on top. 

Follow with your veggie toppings.

Place in the oven or 8-10 minutes until the cheese melted and bubbling. 

  
  
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Here’s the juicy bit. . . 

  

Cheese is quite often the last food most give up when trying to go on a fully plant based diet. This is understandable. Cheese has a high fat content food so gives a feeling a satiety. It is not unusual for most to eat cheese daily, increasing our taste for cheese. 

However one of the greatest reasons that most find cheese so hard to stop completely is due the protein casein found in it. 

Casein has an opioid-like effect on the body. This drug-like effect increases our desire and cravings thereby making it difficult to stop eating.

As casein is digested, it breaks down into peptides called casomorphines. These have an opioid effect ( and release histamines which in turn produces mucus. Ever advised to give up dairy if you have a productive cold?) Opioids are highly addictive and give a feeling of euphoria . Now I’m guessing you’ve never eaten cheese and got a ‘high’ however overtime and with regular eating, one eventually  craves cheese regularly. 

The casein in cheese is more concentrated than in milk. It takes 10lbs of milk to make one l lb of cheese. In this process a lot of the water is removed and remaining is concentrated volumes of fat and casein. This probably explains why cheese and not milk is the more difficult dairy product to give up. 

I haven’t tried any non-dairy cheese alternatives. However if I order pizza out I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find a growing number of restaurants offering cheese free pizzas. At home I’ll either use cheddar sparingly or substitute with a few small dollops of pesto. 

Otherwise as an alternative on sandwiches I try to opt for avocado, nut butters & banana, or hummus. 

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A Dressing for Green Vegetables

  
  
If you try to get your daily intake of greens but find it a challenge this is a simple way to make green vegetables very tasty. A daily green vegetable juice can be a fantastic way to gain the nutritional benefits from green vegetables, but I know this is not available to everyone. The idea of a spinach or kale smoothie for breakfast is not everyone’s cup-of-tea so I have the simplest recipe to dress up vegetables prepared in the traditional way. . . steamed with evening dinner! No juicers, blenders or dehydrators here! A good old fashioned steamer. With this simple dressing, regular broccoli, asparagus and green beans are transformed and you could find yourself devouring large bowls of green goodness. I hope you enjoy. 

  
Ingredients 

2 tbsp tamari

1-2 tsp maple syrup

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar 

1 garlic clove – crushed

sprinkle of crushed chilli flakes

grating of fresh ginger- optional

Method 

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and pour over your choosen green steamed vegetables. 

Here’s the juicy bit. . . . 

Tamari is a much less processed form of soy sauce. Soy sauce, soy products and soya are highly processed and not necessarily a healthy vegan or vegetarian  protein source. It is also gluten free. This is good news for coeliacs or if you are trying to reduce the amount of gluten in your diet. Gluten can be an irritant on the lining of the digestive tract and can reduce its efficiency and the absorption of nutrients, for some people.