All Posts By

Susan Jane

Lunchbox, Treats & Snacks, Vegan &/or Raw

Gin & Tonics and a Buttery Walnut Whip

Christmas is about giving (out). I like to give my husband material for his new play, so I activate my ego and let it loose alongside the turkey giblets. A playwright’s worst dream is having a happy Yuletide. It gives them Writer’s Block. I would never do that to my husband.

The run up to Christmas often feels somewhere between an Alfred Hitckcock movie and a bad Wes Anderson screening. Everything appears dreamy and beautiful. But beneath the surface, our collective passive-aggressive venom is enough to alarm the UN General Assembly.

So with military incisiveness, I start the season with a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) on my husband. I cannot begin to tell you how much this exercise enhances the Christmas spirit. When I’m feeling particularly generous, I even share my analysis with the in-laws.

In between, I cook, eat, feed and nark. Over the course of my theatricals, I have come to realise that irrespective of how hideously I behave, good food can mend moods and marriages.

 

If you’re looking for novel ideas, or trying to take the hell out of healthy, here are a few life jackets from 2016’s Sunday Independent Crimbo special. (Walnut & Rosehip Cookies, Lapsang Souchung Christmas Cake, Festive Florentines).

This pomegranate halva should add a sophisticated splash of romance to your Christmas party. One taste can ignite libido, like finding Bradley Cooper under the mistletoe.

But if you don’t want romance at your party (think family gathering) then feel free to horse into this walnut whip (recipe below). It’s got enough garlic to end up on Norway’s Richter scale. We serve it alongside special G&Ts, to take the nip off our bite (alos, below).

Merry Christmas my friends. See you in 2018.

 

 

Buttery Walnut Whip

Makes 18 pass-aroundies

 

130g good walnuts
1 fat clove of garlic
1 teaspoon ground all-spice
1-2 tablespoons water
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice
A few twists of the salt and pepper mill
Small punnet of redcurrants

 

Tip the walnuts, the garlic and your all-spice into a pestle and mortar. Pound for about 5 minutes, until you’ve got an oily butter. If the mixture is still crumbly, keep going my friend.

Now add the water, some lemon, and a few twists of the salt and pepper mill. Water tends to change the colour of the mixture from biscuity brown to light beige. Don’t worry – you’re on the right track. It’s really up to you how creamy or thick you want it.

Spread across discs of cucumber and crown with juicy redcurrants. If you’re crazy fancy, try filling teeny Brussel sprout leaves with this whip, and top with scarlet pomegranate seeds.

 

 

Gin & Cucumber Ice

Makes many, many ice cubes for your festive freezer

 

2 cucumbers, juiced
1 wedge of lime
25ml chilled gin
55ml chilled tonic water

 

To make the cucumber ice, press or juice 2 cucumbers. If you don’t have a juicer at home, you can purchase pure cucumber juice from your nearest juicer. It won’t be on their menu – you’ll need to coax them into giving it to you.

Pour and fill your empty ice tray(s) with this verdant green potion. Freeze for 6 hours before using.

A gin and tonic’s sweet spot is just about twice the amount of tonic, to gin. But some prefer a little extra tonic. Depending on how many lucky peeps you are serving, measure up, squeeze in the lime, and drop 2 cucumber ice cubes into each glass. Small, chilled glasses are best. If you want extra ice, you can always freeze some tonic water a few hours before the party. Fa la la la lahhhhhh …

 

 

 

Taking the hell out of healthy.

Hit “BOOM” at the top left corner with your email address my friend, to receive new monthly recipes direct to your inbox.  Namaste!

 

The Virtuous Tart cookbook

 

 

Salads & Suppers, Sides, x For Freezer x

A pot of Really Good Daal

During these biting wintry weekends, daal can be a life-enriching experience. It’s a form of spellbinding magic. My nostrils do an all-consuming samba as I inhale a whole load of happiness that only food chemists could explain. This is daal – noun, verb, adjective, it’s much more than a bowl of hot legumes.

Food is always my first medicinal port of call. I prepare daal to soothe indolent moods and sore hearts. It’s got to have lots of sizzling garlic and blood-thumping ginger. Like a hug, these are to help us feel grounded yet simultaneously lifted, something Indian cooking almost always achieves. The injection of chilli is life’s defibrillator – the bigger the burn, the quicker we wake and shake.

 

 

 

Yellow Daal

Serves 3-5

This daal’s got more kick than a bunny in heat. Yellow split peas will give the daal a chunkier consistency, boiled until softly crushed then stirred into slow cooked onions and spiked with spices.

Namaste, from my little Indian love nest.

 

250g yellow split peas, rinsed
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
3 tablespoons coconut oil, butter or ghee
1 white onion, finely diced
4 fat cloves of garlic
1 red chilli, sliced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
Chunk of ginger, lightly peeled and grated
Squeeze of lime
Generous handful of plum tomatoes, halved
Natural yoghurt, to serve
Fresh coriander, to serve

 

Cook the split peas and ground turmeric in a small deep pan, covering with unsalted water. Let them putt-putter for 30-45 minutes until you can crush the peas between your thumb and forefinger. You’re looking for a soupy consistency.

While the peas gurgle away, gently colour the onions in your preferred form of fat (butter, coconut oil or ghee) over a low flame for 12 minutes. Turn up the flame, add the crushed garlic, chilli, cumin and grated ginger, stirring for a few minutes to prevent charring.

Now you can add the lime, fresh tomatoes and turn the heat right down to let the flavours socialise under a lid. After 10 minutes of cooking, stir through the cooked split peas. Serve in large bowls alongside some natural yoghurt and freshly torn coriander leaves. A plump poached egg also serves us well.

 

 

 

 

 

Treats & Snacks, Vegan &/or Raw, x For Freezer x

Gingerbread Men

If my kitchen frolicking has taught me anything, other than the limits to my belt-expansion, it is that how food tastes qualifies as only one segment of its true appeal. When is just as crucial to our taste buds because of the memories it can set in motion. And who plays a decisive role in a food’s celebration.

Nothing demonstrates this better than Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Gingerbread Men are suffused with happy memories for me. I start pimping them from early November, just so I can bathe in childhood memories and mad amounts of oxytocin.

Happy holidays everyone! May endless mistletoe and sherry be upon you.

 

 

Ninjabread Men

A note for wily mums; you can replace some of the ground almonds with milled flaxseed or hemp powder, to inject some omega-3 artillery into your little ones.

 

4 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil

3 tablespoons maple syrup (or raw honey for snotty noses)

100g (4oz) ground almonds

1-2 teaspoons ground ginger

Pinch of unrefined salt

 

Gently melt your coconut oil in a small pan over a shy flame. Remove from heat and stir through the remaining ingredients. Scrape the mixture out over a sheet of baking parchment. Press it into a rough dough ball, then place another sheet of parchment over it and flatten with a pastry rolling pin. You’re looking for a couple of mm in depth.

Transfer to the freezer for 10 minutes, until barely set. Alternatively, you can freeze for up to 3 month and let thaw for 5 minutes before cutting into gingerbread men. Choose a cookie cutter, and off you go! No need to bake. We store ready-to-eat gingerbread men in a freezer bag, waiting for unexpected playdates and midnight munchies.

 

 

Taking the hell out of healthy.

Hit “BOOM” at the top left corner with your email address my friend, to receive new monthly recipes direct to your inbox. Free of charge. Namaste!