Haiku 003

Without roots beneath

I crumble into dust

Devoured by rains

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Haiku – Shelves of Song

I challenged myself to write a haiku (or three) a day throughout August. Here is the first, somewhat misshapen, unrefined fruit of my poetry labour. Make of it what you will.

You can also follow this haiku project on Twitter: @ShelvesofSong

I

I shaped a woman

In the image of a king

And she fell undone.

 

II

That muse of many

A flower stripped of petals –

Muted by a gaze.

 

III

Deconstruct her form

And find, tethered, a mile long

Legacy of lust.

 

 

Roma – Journeys through June

The air here is thick with summer, clotted with heat that swells against the backs of our bare knees. It is an orange city. From the painted plaster to the low-hanging evening sky, and, more literally, the swollen fruit themselves that line the leafy walkways, trailing across boundary fences and clustering in breezy groves.

The city is extraordinary and we fall deeply in love with its ability to surprise us. It is drenched in historical markers, a topography of passing time tattooed between souvenir stands and the crass brashness of Dior display windows. We see everything, cramming our hours with a sprawling variety of visits and trips. It’s exhausting, but in an astonishingly gratifying way.

By midday, the sweltering heat has stopped us in our tracks and forced us to relocate. We sit together in a parched hillside park with peaches the size of our fists and I wish, perhaps childishly, that I could capture the sweetness of these moments – immortalize the ripeness of our youth as it speeds past. Perfection has always struck me as a potent, lazy word, but without its use here I am in danger of downplaying our happiness. Our friendship is such that we have found complete comfort in shared silences, momentary pauses that pepper our days.

As I’ve grown I’ve come to recognize that these types of soulful human connection are a rarity to find and so I cherish the powerful femininity I am surrounded by.

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There is a sadness here too. This trip is an ending, the punctual closing of a chapter, for me anyway. This is something I have never been much good at and I cannot help but let splashes of anxiety encroach on our evenings as I contemplate the mindless, unplanned minutes that unravel before me at the other end of that landing strip. Our time, collectively, is scattered with the unknown and we all, I think, want concrete, answers, rules and directions.

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Sunday Playlist: Seven Songs for Coffee and Contemplation

It’s Sunday and, as is the norm for the North in January, it’s gloomy, grey and frankly miserable. This particular time of year, and its weather, is usually the period in which I discover most of my new music for the year. This is due to a combination of a procrastination, hours spent inside and a longing for summer.

But these songs are the embodiment of warmth and winter evenings, the good parts of this season that we often forget amidst the almost-constant rain, post-Christmas blues and freezing temperatures. It’s a mixture of old and new, as with all good playlists which have just the right amount of folky nostalgia thrown in, so I hope you enjoy.

 

Vegan Pesto Pasta

As I sit down to write this I am filled with a sense of impending dread. It’s been a long summer, autumn and then winter since this corner of the internet received any attention from my keyboard.

Unfortunately I have no grand excuses for this misdemeanor. Only a guilty shrug of acceptance that I caved to the artistic stereotype; in that I became completely and utterly distracted with other projects. Us artists, we are fickle creatures… but our flaws aside, we never fail to return to our first creative loves, and, for me, that will always be cooking.

There is never a final year, student problem that could not served with the humblest of adolescent culinary dishes, pesto pasta. It was the first meal most people under the age of 25 cooked for themselves, and it is a failsafe; a comfort dish when we are weeping over ring-binders and water bills.

This pesto is simple. I’ve included measurements for peace of mind more than anything because it really doesn’t require any. Play it by eye and mix it up depending on what you have available. This recipe should be one for using up the odds and ends of your kitchen cupboards on a Thursday evening.

 

Ingredients:

100g of sunflower seeds (These should really be pine nuts, but I’ve opted for the slightly-less bankrupting option here. By all means sub for whatever your cupboards contain in the nut department, walnuts work well, so do cashews but steer clear of pecans and hazelnuts, save them for puddings and porridge).

2 large handful of fresh basil leaves (coriander or parsley also work here if you’re looking for a substitute).

a clove of garlic, crushed

the juice of half a lemon

2 large handfuls of rocket

salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Toast your nuts in a dry frying pan over a medium heat until they’ve started to brown. Then simple toss everything into a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth-ish.
  2. I warm my pesto with the drained pasta in a saucepan over a low heat for a couple of moments, but that’s total personal preference. Then simply serve. If you’re looking for variations on the pesto theme, pop some halved cherry tomatoes, sliced red onion, or whatever leftover veg you have available into a preheated oven for 20 minutes or so. Then stir that through to flesh out the dish into a proper meal.

 

 

Vegan/GF Chocolate Coconut Cookies

Packed lunches for little ones can be a mundane and boring task. As a result we so often reach for packets and foil wrapped snacks alongside simple sandwiches. Whether healthy or unhealthy, these prepackaged items can rack up the cost of your weekly shop especially if there are multiple lunch boxes to fill.

It’s not sustainable or achievable to set yourself the goal of producing Instagram-worthy lunches for your little ones every morning of the week because lets face it, we all have jobs and lives and spending an hour slaving over the stove for a school lunch is not the ideal use of our mornings.

So I suggest prepping some healthy homemade snacks that can easily be foil wrapped and popped into a lunch bag in under 30 seconds. Get the kids to help with the mixing, rolling and baking and then there’s an extra incentive to eat what is inside their lunchbox. So get out your bowl and ingredients and prep some of these cookies for the week ahead for easy, healthy lunchbox snacks.

Ingredients:

120g of crunchy peanut butter (make your own or buy a 100% nut butter like Meridian or Whole Earth)

105ml of agave syrup

1 flaxseed “egg” (mix one tbsp of flaxseed and 2 tbsp of cold water and allow to sit for 5 minutes)

1 tbsp of sunflower oil

2 tbsp of plant-based milk (I used oat but you can sub in almond or hemp/soya, etc…)

half a vanilla pod (seeds scraped out)

a pinch of salt

75g of gluten free plain flour

75g of rolled oats

1 tsp of baking powder

30g of dark chocolate chips

20g of chopped nuts and seeds (I used hazelnuts and sunflower seeds but you could sub in pecans, pumpkin seeds or some dried fruit like sultanas)

2 tbsp of desiccated coconut

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius and line two baking trays with greaseproof paper. Mix together the nut butter, vanilla, agave, oil, milk and the flaxseed egg until it becomes smooth.
  2. Add in the dry ingredients (oats, flour, and baking powder) and thoroughly combine into a stiff dough. Then stir through the coconut, chocolate and nuts.
  3. Finally roll the dough into golfball sized chunks and place on the lined trays. This dough doesn’t spread when baked so if you prefer a flatter, more conventional cookie then press down the cookie dough to flatten into a biscuit shape. But if you leave the dough and bake it will create warm cookie dough bites that are perfect for serving with ice-cream for a quick weekday pudding.

 

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Vegan Roasted Vegetable “Cheesy” Pasta Bake

Ingredients:

1 courgette, thinly sliced

1 red pepper, roughly chopped into medium sized chunks

1/2 an aubergine, halved lengthways and thinly sliced

100g of black olives, chopped

1 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

a handful of fresh basil

100g of cashew nuts (soaked for 6-8hrs in cold water)

1 red onion, finely diced

1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar

2 tbsps of something sweet (sugar, maple syrup, agave syrup or honey will do the trick)

1 clove of garlic, crushed

juice and rind of one lemon

1 tsp of sweet paprika

250g of corn pasta or normal pasta for a non gluten free option

salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius while you prep the vegetables. Then spread out the sliced peppers, aubergines and courgettes on a baking tray and drizzle with oil. The roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile drain the cashews and place in a food processor with the crushed garlic, a tsp of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Blend until smooth, adding a little cold water to thin out the consistency.
  3. Rinse the blender and then add the tinned tomatoes, basil, sugar, paprika, lemon juice and rind and the balsamic vinegar. Then pulse until smooth.
  4. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan on a medium heat and gently fry the onions until they are softened. Then add the tomato mix from the blender and add the olives. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, adding in the roasted vegetables when they are done.
  5. Boil the pasta in salted water for the prescribed cooking times before draining and mixing through the tomato sauce. Pour the pasta mix into a deep, ceramic baking dish and spread over the cashew cheese topping.
  6. Finally bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until the topping is crisped and golden.

 

Roasted Aubergine and Almond Giant Couscous Salad

For a brief moment England experienced summer this week and as usual we were totally unprepared. What’s wonderful about the temperamental English summer that is usually so fleeting is that everyone embraces the soaring temperatures wholeheartedly because we are well aware that they are short-lived and fleeting.

These are my favourite pieces of the year, the evenings are balmy with watercolour pink skies and you can smell burning charcoal everywhere as rusty barbecues are dragged out of garden sheds. Our snippets of summer may not be tropically hot but they call for summery foods. This salad is perfect for picnics or to bring along to barbecues as a quick, easy option for veggies.

Ingredients:

150g of giant couscous

3 tsps of cumin seeds

2 tsps of fennel seeds

1 tbsp of maple syrup

2 tbsp of olive oil

1/3 of an aubergine, diced into small chunks

10-15 cherry tomatoes, quartered

1/2 a courgette, quartered and sliced

1 red onion, finely chopped

1/4 cucumber, quartered and sliced

40g of flaked almonds

40g of chopped walnuts

30g of sultanas

juice of half a lemon

salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Lay out the prepped aubergine, courgette and red onion on a lined baking tray, drizzle with oil and roast in the oven for 25 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile toast the cumin and fennel seeds for a minutes before transferring to a pestle and mortar and grinding into a fine powder.
  3. Using the same dry frying pan, place it back on a medium heat and toast the flaked almonds until browning. Then remove and place to one side
  4. Finally heat a teaspoon of oil in the frying pan and add the sultanas. Fry until they become swollen and golden.
  5. When the vegetables are almost done bring a pan of water to the boil and add the giant couscous. Boil for 7-8 minutes before draining and transferring into a large bowl.
  6. Add the roasted veg, olive oil, ground spices, cucumber, nuts, tomatoes and sultanas.
  7. Combine thoroughly before adding in the maple syrup, lemon juice, salt and pepper and stirring well before serving.