Chai is an orgy of healthy spices that has become a sensation across certain postcodes of Cork and Dublin. Here’s why. There is ginger to warm your tonsils; cinnamon to ignite your toes; nutmeg and clove to heat your insides; and cardamom to excite your synapses.
Chai coffee is my winter battery. I just add a pinch to my French press, and let the spices perform acts that only a defibrillator could rival. A teaspoon of chai will also dazzle crumbles, cakes and bakes. We love it sprinkled on top of foamy hot chocolates with some crunchy cacao nibs and woolly socks by the fire. Or packed into dinky jars as little gifts for friends feeling under the weather during these crazy viral times.
However, packets of spices can be dastardly expensive and wasteful. Most recipes only call for small amounts, so what’s the point in buying big supermarket packets? I recommend ordering the exact quantity you need, from as little as 10g, at specialist refill stores. Check out paxwholefoodsecogoods.com for example where you can buy this recipe in its entirety, no excess, no waste, no plastic. Other nation-wide delivery options include thegoodneighbour.ie and thesourcebulkfoods.ie . (See here for a map of Ireland with refill / bulk stores nearest to you).
3 tablespoons green cardamom pods 4 tablespoons ground cinnamon 1 tablespoon ground ginger 2 whole star anise (optional) Fresh crack of the black pepper mill 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg 1 teaspoon cloves 1 teaspoon ground allspice (optional)
Coax the cardamom seeds out of their papery pods. You can compost the pods, and then transfer the seeds into a coffee grinder or Nutribullet.
Add the remaining ingredients, and grind into a fine powder. That’s it!
Store in a screw-topped jar and use within 5 months. A pinch is all you need on top of hot chocolate, or 2 teaspoons in cakes and bakes.
Originally appeared in the Sunday Independent December 2021
The mere mention of Yuletide normally has me sweating sequins. I hate feeling like a week-old party balloon before Santa even arrives. So I prep my Christmas menu in advance, and massage my synapses with an extra large vermouth. Vegeterian favourites include dishes like Beet Bourguignon, and buckwheat blini & beluga lentils . These mushroom-based scallops are out of this world, and will rock December 25th for vegans and carnivores alike.
For my GF and vegan friends, you’ll find a recipe for irresistibly-easy Florentines here. And my wholefoodie Christmas Cake, using W.B.Yeats’ favourite tea lapsang Souchong and the genius of Amy Chaplin.
This year, we’re doing Hassleback Squash (below) covered with festive pomegranate seeds and extra pecans. It works both as a side to the turkey, or as a centerpiece for vegans /vegetarian tables.
1 butternut squash, preferably organic
1 teaspoon of olive oil
3 sprigs of rosemary
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 fat clove garlic, grated
Good handful of pecans or walnuts
Flaky sea salt and freshly crushed black pepper
1. Fire up your oven to 190-200C. Peel the squash using a potato peeler and long strokes. This is easier than it looks and sounds! (Organic squash skins tend to be thinner and have considerably less chemical coating).
2. Carefully cut the squash in half, lengthways. Scoop out and compost the inner nest of seeds.
3. Rub oil all over your hands and each half. Pop each half onto a large roasting tray, cut side down, and cook in your preheated oven for 20 minutes only. You don’t want the squash to be too soft to cut.
4. Remove the squash from your oven, and carefully transfer each half onto a chopping board. Place wooden spoons either side of the squash half (I’ll show you this in the cookery class). You’ll need to find wooden spoons with similar width handles, but use whatever you have! Chopsticks work beautifully too.
5. Slice the squash from top to toe, all the way to the wooden handles (this will stop the blade cutting right through the butternut and falling apart). Take a peek at the picture, which will give you a good idea.
6. Tuck in tufts of fresh rosemary, followed by butter or olive oil mixed with grated garlic. You’ll need a good few cracks of the salt and black pepper mill too. Bake until the squash begins to colour on top (15 mins). Then parachute over your nuts, and return to the oven to bake a further 5-8 minutes. If you want to sprinkle some brown sugar over the nuts, or dried cranberries, I’m not going to stop you!
7. Serve in the baking tray/dish, resting on a chopping board to protect your table. Go ahead and pile Brussel sprouts around it, or whatever else is on your Christmas menu.
Check out Open Hive raw Irish honey, bee’s wax candles, and wild flower bee bombs. We took a tour of our nearest hive with Kyle and Sadhbh (photographed above) and fell in love with the majesty that is the Irish black bee. It’s a population that needs nurturing, so please consider supporting the work of bee keepers protecting native Irish bees.
Mushroom growing kit or foraging event with Ballyhoura Shrooms.
My next cookery demo, as a gift! 3-class course of celebrating veggies for €41. Just message me if you want a Christmas card posted with the order 😉 There are lovely courses by Terri Ann in River Run Ferments here too, for a kickass afternoon fermenting your own veg and baking sourdough.
Nibbed Cacao and their raw chocolate melting spoons for €2.95, made my auntie and niece duo in Wicklow.
Ot something celestial from the genius that is Bean and Goose. I usually get their 3 month tasting club as the ultimate gift for friends. (The gift that really does keep on giving!) Or a chocolate slab through the letterbox of someone you love.
Irish vintner Roisin Curley making mindblowingly good wine from the Burgundy region in France. Go Roisin! There’s also a unique Irish strawberry wine, perfect for foodie freaks like me, made locally in Wicklow.
Fermoyle pottery makes my food look 100% more beautiful. And if it looks better, it tastes better too!
Ireland’s first biodynamicly produced whiskey, called Luna. How awesome is this! And an outstanding vermouth made on Valentia island by two totally fabulous women. Your local Supervalu probably stocks Valentia Island Vermouth, or check here if you’re purchasing from oversees and would like a bottle delivered to an Irish address. Glint Studio make the most amazing glasses that are upcycled from Dublin pubs and bottlebanks. Check them out!
GIY grow boxes including a very special kids version, early spring edition, salad leaves grow box, all sorts of amazingness to help us connect with Mother N.
Organic blueberry bushes (2 are needed to pollinate) from Quick Crop Organic.
Two Wooden Horses hand carved and torched serving boards. You’ll see mine hanging in my kitchen, they are that beautiful.
Nobo Christmas selection box, dairy-free chocolate with compostable wrappers and designed to fit through standard letterboxes. All you need is your pal’s postal addy!
Loose leaf tea like no other. Try Lapsang Souchong, WB Yeats’ favourite tea, and Solaris legendary loose leaf camomile. Small company on the West coast of Ireland.
Bodhi Blends, fabu food for the skin. I’m using Glow Drops right now, and love it.
Gua Sha tool at Oxmantown based in Dublin. Lots of face oils too, and fabulous scents if you want to smell as fresh as your kitchen garden.
Dublin Herbalists never disappoint. Sustainably packaged, and thoughtfully curated gift packs.
Baressential goodies for the face and the soul. Grá Mór.
Sprouted broccoli juice for glowing skin and a battery boost! I’ve been taking this for nearly 10 years, when my system feels under attack or my skin feels dull. A box of sprouted broccoli shots will make a really thoughtful gift to someone cocooning over winter. Admittedly they are not designed to casually sip and drink, I shoot mine back and chase it with a slice of lime (had plenty of practice for that in my twenties!)
Hmm … Black Friday feels like junk food for the soul. It muscles artisans, small producers, Irish growers, and sustainable eco brands out of the market. Now, more than ever, our local economy needs support as does our culture, our artists, our environment, the very fabric of our towns and cities need cheer leaders. I was on Amazon.de checkout last night with a freaking bobble head of Dwight Shrute for goodness sake! It’s so easy to end up buying rubbish under time pressure. I don’t know how it happens, but it does.
So I compiled this list to keep me on track. I’m not perfect, but I’m trying my best!