Fly. And  gnocchi. 

Yesterday a plane crashed with 150 people on board in the foothills of the French Alps. Today, I’m 38,000 ft in the air; we’ve just reached the altitude of the plane that crashed yesterday had before it went into a fast, eight minute descent.

It’s easy to feel immense sorrow for all those involved in the Air Asia crashes, but closer to home, in European airspace, on a German plane that apparently crashed arbitrarily, with no bad weather reported, the risk seems greater. Taking a flight is still immensely safe, but it’s a little like playing poker. You have to go all-in to have any fun. Once you’re on the plane, that’s it.

I’m on my way to Moscow, but since hearing the news about the plane crash yesterday, I’ve felt jittery. There was once upon a time when that was it – I wouldn’t have set my alarm at 4am and I wouldn’t have gone to the airport. This wasn’t that long ago- just last January Sam and I were booked in to go to Morocco and I got as far as the plane. I chatted to the pilot, and then I calmly got off and took the bus to Amsterdam instead.

I’m an aviophobe, one who has spent their entire life trying to overcome it. Want to hear the hilarious twist of fate? I am, by profession, a travel journalist. I’m fascinated by aviation, new plane models, runways, airports, and, I guess, the destination. My job has been formed by my fear- my need to ask questions and to reassure myself that “everything will be ok.”

Fear of flying for me at least, is fear of fear itself. That lack of control when the plane is bouncing through the clouds, and the pure terror when the plane hits an airpocket and the captain comes over the tannoy with a strained voice: “Cabin crew, take your seats immediately.”

Nothing can floor me more than that – grief, physical pain, love. Nothing affects me more than inflight fear. So, it seemed cutting that the night before getting on a plane where I knew my stomach would be roiling, I should make something hearty, filling, and nutritious. To calm the nerves and cleanse the soul, so karmic turbulence wouldn’t hit!

Gnocchi with avocado sauce

Ok, I get it. This looks a bit green, and green doesn’t scream “yay!” It screams “health kick.” But hey, the blogs called Fly Green Vegan and I’m doing all of those things, so tough shit.

Serves two

Ingredients

1 cup gnocchi, boiled for three minutes until tender

One large, ripe avocado

Juice of half a lemon

2 tbsp olive oil

Enough almond milk to make it liquid

A handful of basil leaves

Salt and pepper

1 cup button mushrooms

1 leek, sliced

1 clove of garlic

 

Method

Add the chopped leek into a pan with a dash of oil and cook until softened. Add a dash of water to help things along. Add seasoning, a tsp of stock, and mushrooms. Cook for a further 5 minutes.

In another bowl, blend the avocado, almond milk, lemon juice, garlic and basil together until you have a liquid the consistency of double cream.

Add the avocado mixture to the mushrooms and leeks, and tip in the cooked gnocchi. Stir, and season to taste.

Hopefully this will quell any pre-flight terror you have!

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Salad season! Middle Eastern Fattoush

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The pool at Brockwell Lido

It’s the hottest day of the year so far (probably). This means we’re well into salad season.

London is heaving with ice-cream eaters, white pasty legs and babies in parasol covered pushchairs. The sun is out and people are picnicking, grazing and drinking in sunny beer gardens. London in the sun is like nowhere else on earth: still cool enough to move around, warm enough to show some leg! To make the most of this sunny saturday I went for a swim in my local outdoor pool at Brockwell Lido.

Apparently the temperature of the pool was 20.4 degrees this morning. I’ve been swimming here since the end of April without a wetsuit so the water felt like the Carribean… I’m lucky enough that my pool and gym has a little spa area attached to it (hot hydrotherapy pool with jacuzzi, sauna and steam room). It’s perfect after an April dip, but also soothing after a late June splash about outside. After my swim I picked up a new bike (NEW BIKE!) and headed to Maltby Street Market, one of the best places in London to browse artisan food stalls, second hand furniture and drink gin/beer/wine. According to trend predictors and estate agents, it’s all about SE16 in 2014!! Shame it doesn’t rhyme…

I found myself drawn to the Middle Eastern food stalls. I needed to go to Borough Market to pick up some strawberries anyway, and I had the toughest time trying to avoid buying a falafel wrap or a burger from the Veggie Table. Instead, I peddled back home and made some hummus and fattaoush, one of the best, tangy, sourest salads that acts as an antidote to all hot weather.

My favourite fattaoush in London comes (unimaginatively I know) from Yalla Yalla, but I had a decent helping from a Lebanese takeaway called Beirut in Detroit which was just spot on. I’m trying to save money though, so I made my own. Here’s how:

Mix all the salad ingredients together. A few minutes before serving, add the dressing and mix it all together, giving it a chance to soak everything up. Enjoy!

 

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Toast the pita

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Mix the dressing and salad ingredients together

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Serve with flatbread and homemade, garlicky hummus!

 

Ingredients:

A head of shredded romaine lettuce

Two inches of diced cucumber

Two diced tomatoes

I added some sour, shrivelled black olives, but it’s not authentic

I pita bread, torn and baked in the oven on high for 5 minutes until it’s crispy

Diced red onion

Eight very finely sliced radishes (this isn’t necessary if you don’t have it in the house!)

 

For the dressing:

Three tablespoons of good olive oil

The zest and juice of a whole lemon

Two finely diced cloves of garlic

Two teaspoons of sumac

(I added some zataar too, but only because I like a bit more spice)

 

 

 

 

Jet lag cure: spicy lentil, ginger and kale soup

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I’ve suffered from jet lag more than I’d care to admit this week, mostly because I’ve been a dumbass and rather than overriding it, have embraced it. But embraced it not in a good way. Yes, I’ve been staying up until 5am and not getting up until 11. I think I even climbed, sighing, out of bed and filled in two job applications. Such is the life of a vegan postgraduate journalism student. But I knew I had to put an end to this. So yesterday I went for a swim in the mahoosive, cold, outdoor pool next to my gym, took a run on the treadmill, dunked in the hot spa pool, cycled back, and cooked myself some warming, healing soup. 

Soup soothes frayed nerves, and this one soothes better than others. Fact. So here’s the recipe.

 

Ingredients

3 cloves garlic

A teaspoon of mustard seeds (not essential)

A teaspoon (or two depending on how smokey you want it) of smoked paprika

1 thumbfull of ginger

A white onion, finely chopped

One carrot, finely sliced

One red, medium chili, finely sliced

A hefty squirt of tomato puree

A shake of cumin, coriander and chill powder

A pint and a half of water

A shake of bouillon powder

 

Method

Fry the garlic, ginger, chili and mustardseeds in a teaspoon of oil. Add the chopped onion and cook until soft. (10 minutes should do).

Add the rest of the dried spices and stock, then add the water and puree.

Add the lentils. 

Cook until lentils are soft (about 20 minutes), then add the kale. Stir and cook for a further five minutes. 

And there you have your easy, warming soup. 

California inspired salad: pink grapefruit, kale and avocado

 

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Disastrously, the only salad picture we got was from a distance!! Sam eating salad in Zion NP

Ok, so the combination of ingredients might not immediately jump out at you as the most delicious combinations of vegetables and fruits you’ve encountered. But trust me, once you’ve put all these together you’ll be in heaven. This salad was so good that I made it eight more times while I was in America. That’s right, EIGHT more times. This includes mixing together all the ingredients in the dark in Zion National Park after we’d just arrived in the campsite and had forgotten our camping lantern.

Another time I sliced open my thumb hacking at an underipe avocado in the Grand Canyon Mather Campground (also in the dark) in my hurry to slice all these ingredients up. The most memorable of these salad making escapades was probably in a Quality Inn motel just outside Flagstaff where my partner and I had just hiked to the top of Humphrey’s Point (12000ft+) and were just dying. I prepared the salad in a massive washing up bowl, sprawled on the bed, feet up, while watching Big Bang Theory.

Seriously, this is a salad that will carry you through any situation. Best of all, none of the ingredients need to be cooked, although a handful of oven-roasted almonds could only add to the dish.

I’ll stop droning on and give you the ingredients now, shall I? Just a hint: the wonderfulness of this dish really helps if you have a Trader Joe’s nearby and can buy the spicy peanut vinaigrette. If not, then I’ll also give you a nice little vinaigrette recipe that works wonders!

And, best of all, because my photographs of the salad itself are so lacking, and you only have Sam’s rapturous face to carry through your belief that this is in fact the best salad you’ve ever eaten, below are a range of images from Zion NP. Because it was pretty.

Ingredients:

A handful of Kale, shredded

A head of Romaine

Finely diced red onion

Two fresh, ripe avocados

One pink grapefruit cut into chunks

(If more crunch desired, add some almonds)

Spicy peanut vinaigrette dressing (Mix a tablespoon of crunchy peanut butter with a dash of soy sauce, rice-wine vinegar, chili flakes, a pinch of brown sugar and two tablespoons of whatever oil you have around. Vegetable is probably best. Beat it all together until it’s a smooth liquid with the consistency of a soy milkshake.)

 

Method:

Literally, just mix everything together and slather in dressing. Serve with crunchy bread if desired, but I don’t think it needs even that. Maybe some crouton would be delicious with this, but the avocado is filling enough in my opinion.

 

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Easy Christmas Spinach, mushroom and chickpea curry

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Butternut Squash and Spinach Christmas Curry

Ok, ok I exaggerate. There’s nothing remotely Christmas about these curries, apart from the fact that I love to eat them on Boxing Day, after the stodginess of Christmas day food has passed. The freshness of the garlic, ginger and spinach makes you feel glowy and healthy inside, while the butternut squash curry (coming soon) adds that little bit of decadence to what could otherwise be a bit of a nutritious and dull meal.

Spinach, chickpea and mushroom curry – perfect with a dollop of tangy mango chutney

1. Throw an onion into a pan (with vegetable oil in) with some chopped up garlic and chilli. Add some mustard seeds, fenugreek (if you have it) a generous helping of turmeric, chilli powder, cumin and garam-masala.

2. Add a few handfuls of frozen spinach (or fresh if you’re feeling rich), a can of chick-peas and some chopped up mushrooms, add a bit of water and a sprinkle of stock powder and put a lid on.

3. It’s nice to add some chana dahl (some of the dried lentils) to the dish too, as they give it a little more crunch and more body.

4. Leave to cook for about 30 minutes ideally, add some more water if it’s sticking.

5. To finish, if you have it, sprinkle some fresh coriander and a squeeze of fresh lemon.

I love to put pumpkins seeds on the top of the curries as they can add a bit of texture to the meal, and also cut through with a healthy dose of saltiness. I do the pumpkin seeds by popping a good handful into a hot pan, pouring a healthy dash of soy sauce over the seeds and leaving the pan for around five minutes while I poke about with other things.

They’re great to eat as a snack on their own too, sitting in front of a good film and dipping your hand into the bowl of sticky, salty seeds.

My warming, spicy dal-stew

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This isn’t a very appetising photograph, so to make up for it, I’ve also added a picture of my 11 week old kitten underneath

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Neko, sleeping on the chair behind me while I was writing

This dish is a bastardisation of a variety of different cultures, I’m sure. It doesn’t promise to be authentic to either South Indian cuisine, or 1960’s vegetarian hippy cuisine, but it does hit the spot very nicely when London’s weather threatens to drop below -4 degrees Celsius. Jesus, London, won’t you brighten up a little?

I find as it gets colder, I get hungrier, and there’s nothing worse than being fat, pale and cold. So I like to make something that tastes good, but also something that fills me up so if I’m still peckish I can eat more of it and not worry too much about it. Luckily, with the lentils, a bowlful of this will usually do me just fine. Add rice or a naan bread, and you’re going to be full beyond belief. Like I said, the perfect winter warmer, just made for eating and then crawling under a thick fleece rug to hibernate somewhere. You’re welcome. 

 

Ingredients

Thumb of fresh ginger

2 garlic cloves

1 mouse-shit spicy green chilli

Whatever spices you have to hand. I use a teaspoon of cumin, garam masala, turmeric, ginger, ground corriander seeds and cinnamon

1 onion

1 big carrot

Whatever other veggies you have to hand-I find green beans and courgettes work well

1 can of tomatoes

1 can of coconut milk

A big handful of split peas and a big handful of lentils (your choice what colour. If no split peas, add more lentils)

(if you have it, a handful of fresh coriander and some pumpkin seeds crisped up with soy sauce)

Mango chutney if the feeling takes you

 

Method

Heat a little oil in the bottom of a deep pan and add the chopped up ginger, garlic, chilli, onion and spice mix. Turn the heat down and allow it to cook for 5 minutes. When it dries out, add a splash of cold water to make a kind of spice paste. 

Add the chopped up carrot and other veggies. Stir and then add the can of tomatoes and can of coconut milk. Mix and then add the lentils and split peas. 

Add 200ml more of water-the lentils will absorb a lot. Bring it to the boil, then turn the heat right down and leave it to simmer. The joy of this is that it works as a slow-cooker dish, or it will be ready in just 20 minutes depending on how hungry you are. I usually leave mine for an hour, just because the flavours all mix together wonderfully.

Just before serving, fry up a handful of pumpkin seeds with a splash of soy sauce so they become crisp and sticky. Keep moving them around the pan so they don’t stick. 

Serve hot, scatter a handful of fresh coriander, a dollop of mango chutney and some pumpkin seeds and stir it all together. Bliss. 

Kidney Beans-Not another chilli?

Spicy bean burgers-10 minutes to make

Spicy bean burgers-10 minutes to make

Last night my cupboards were looking a little bare. This is unusual, as I thought I’d adopted my parent’s trait of buying as many tins as I could, whenever I could, just in case the Queen popped over for dinner unexpectedly (This never happened and consequently my parent’s shelves were always groaning under the weight of canned peaches). Behind a tin of fragrant water-chestnuts -unopened since 2003- I found my last can of Value Range Kidney Beans. I am not fond of Kidney Beans. I hate that my immediate reaction when I find a can of Kidney Beans is “oh, chilli.” And then I get sad because nobody really wants chilli unless they are very cold, very hungry or they have lots of left-overs to play with. Don’t kid me-I know this is true. No matter how much quinoa and portobello mushrooms you add to it.

So I stared at this can of Red Kidney Beans, willing my mind to say something other than “Chilli.” I looked in another cupboard and found a very soft onion and an enormous sweet potato which had started to sprout antennae. I rejected the potato, took the onion and while doing so unearthed a carrot. One of those carrots that’s so floppy it wilts when you hold it. But I had my ingredients. I’d make some quick burgers. And to go with it? A few wilted lettuce leaves would do as the burger bun. Vietnamese style. It looks like I could use more than I thought. The sweet potato (with extraneous limbs removed) would do well baked for my lunch tomorrow. Ideal.

Ingredients (makes enough for 2-4 depending on how hungry you are-I made tiny ones)

A carrot, grated

A can of red kidney beans, although white would work

An onion, chopped finely

A heaped teaspoon of cumin

Chopped chilli (substitute powder if no fresh)

Chopped ginger (substitute powder if no fresh)

Desertspoon of GF flour (or normal if you’re not afflicted)

A handful of raisins.

Method:

Add the kidney beans to a pan of boiling water and let them soften. It should take about 5 minutes.

Drain and add the vegetables and spices. Fry together on a low heat with a dash of oil.

When the onion and carrot looked cooked mash together and add the flower. The consistency should be paste like. Roll into little balls and then press the patties flat. These ingredients should make 6 substantial ones.

Heat some oil in another pan and when it starts to steam, add the patties. Fry on both sides until cooked.

Serve with a dollop of chutney or with a lettuce leaf wrapped around it. May also work with bread and salad and rice if ravenous.