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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- Rinse the blender and then add the tinned tomatoes, basil, sugar, paprika, lemon juice and rind and the balsamic vinegar. Then pulse until smooth.
- 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.
- 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.
- Finally bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until the topping is crisped and golden.
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.
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
- 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.
- Meanwhile toast the cumin and fennel seeds for a minutes before transferring to a pestle and mortar and grinding into a fine powder.
- 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
- Finally heat a teaspoon of oil in the frying pan and add the sultanas. Fry until they become swollen and golden.
- 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.
- Add the roasted veg, olive oil, ground spices, cucumber, nuts, tomatoes and sultanas.
- Combine thoroughly before adding in the maple syrup, lemon juice, salt and pepper and stirring well before serving.
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
a handful of freshly torn basil
a handful of thyme sprigs, just the leaves
a tbsp of worcestershire sauce
a tbsp of honey or maple/agave syrup
1 red onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
rapeseed oil/ sunflower oil
salt and pepper
2 tsps of smoked paprika
1 tsp of ground fennel seeds
300g of new potatoes
- Wash your potatoes and put on a full kettle to boil. Then quarter the new potatoes (you can use regular potatoes, just cut them into roughly 2-3cm cubes, no bigger).
- Using the water from the kettle to fill a pan with a lid and bring back to the boil on the hob before adding the potatoes. Boil for around 8 minutes, you want them to be fork-tender but not falling apart but cooking times will depend on the size of your potatoes.
- When the potatoes are done, drain and place to one side while you prep the sauce.
- For the sauce add a dash of oil to a saucepan and gently fry the onion and garlic until soft. Add the tin of tomatoes and a tin of water to the pan.
- Bring to the boil for around 5 minutes and then reduce the heat and add the other ingredients. Leave the sauce to simmer for around 20-25 minutes.
- Meanwhile heat around 4 tablespoons of rapeseed oil in a large frying pan (you can also do the potatoes in two batches in a smaller pan just heat enough oil to thoroughly coat the bottom of the pan entirely.
- When the oil is hot add to potatoes and fry, turning regularly so that all sides are crispy and golden brown.
- Finally add the cooked potatoes to the sauce and serve!
Who says vegans can’t do comfort food? These potatoes are the ultimate healthy comfort food for summer. Despite the sun going in this week and the piles of revision notes slowly growing I seem to be able to find time to cook *procrastinate* every day. For me cooking is a wind down at the end of the day, it helps me relax and destress because I can move around the kitchen chucking ingredients in a blender/pan/bowl without thinking. When you’re making simple dishes, comfort food like these potatoes, cooking can be meditative in a way that creating a soufflé can’t. That’s why I choose simple meals during revision over anything fancy, this recipe is failsafe, it can’t go wrong, it’s designed to look messy and thrown together and yet it tastes incredible.
450g of new potatoes
a handful of fresh thyme sprigs, leaves taken off
a tsp of seasalt
4 tbsp of olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Bring a pan of water to the boil and add in the potatoes. Cook them until tender (able to push a fork through them but not falling apart). Depending on the size of the potatoes this should take around 12-15 minutes.
- Meanwhile crush your garlic cloves and mix with your oil, salt and thyme leaves and set aside.
- When the potatoes are done, drain them and transfer to a baking tray or ceramic baking dish. Push lightly on each potato with the back of a fork to gently crush (not mash) them. Finally spoon over the oil and garlic mix making sure to evenly distribute the crushed garlic and thyme.
- Baking in the oven for 20-25 minutes until crispy and lightly browned. Remove and serve.
Exam season is upon us and as the library suddenly changes from a barren wasteland to a scene that resembles New York stock exchange, we are forced to make the trek into uni at an ungodly hour. It is import at this time to maintain your library position, unless you want to risk becoming that hated individual who leaves an empty computer littered with worthless possessions in an attempt to mark their territory. Therefore, I tend to pack a multitude of snacks that force me to stay in position and not waste money on campus meals.
For revision I prefer snacks over lunches. When you’re stuck in one spot for the long haul its easy to get bored and snacks help break up the time between mind maps and note taking. These crackers are easy to whip up at the weekend and chuck in a tupperware for the rest of the week ahead. With a tub of hummus and a mountain of fresh and dried fruit this gets me through revision almost daily so I hope you enjoy.
100g of plain flour
1 tsp of fennel seeds
1 tsp of sea salt
3 tbsp of poppy seeds
2 tsp of dried mixed herbs
1 tbsp of ground flaxseed
50g of your choice of nut (I used walnuts but you can use almonds, hazelnuts or pecans i instead although bear in mind this will change the taste of the crackers).
3 tbsp of sunflower seeds
3 tbsp of pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp of olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius and line several baking sheets with grease proof paper.
- Place all the ingredients, apart from the olive oil and water into a food processor and blitz a couple of times until the nuts and spices have been ground into a floury powder.
- Transfer these dry ingredients into a bowl and add the oil. Begin to mix with your hands, adding a little cold water slowly, tablespoon by tablespoon until it forms a dough. Adjust as you see fit, if it’s too sticky add a little more flour or vice versa with water.
- Press the dough into a ball and transfer to a floured surface, knead for around two minutes until smooth.
- Flour a rolling pin and begin rolling the dough out, (I divide the dough in half to do this as you need to get it really thin).
- Roll the dough until its about 1/4 of a centimetre thick. Then cut the dough into squares, rectangles, use circular cookie cutters, or freestyle, its up to you. The dough won’t rise so any design will hold it’s shape but beware of any intricate designs because the dough is delicate and thin.
- Transfer your crackers to the baking trays and bake in the oven for 15-18 minutes. Keep an eye on them and check their colour regularly, because the dough is so thin it can go from perfectly done to charred in under a minute!
- Cool on the side for 10 minutes before serving with hummus, nut butter, guacamole or on their own.