Cacao 'chocolate' porridge

I usually eat porridge for breakfast every day at work (at my desk, while checking emails, oh the glamour!), so by the time the weekend rolls round, I fancy something different. But this Friday I had the biggest craving for chocolate porridge - which is particularly strange because I haven't eaten that since I was little and tucked into microwaveable bowls of Ready Brek. For whatever reason, the belly wants what the belly wants, so I caved and decided to make a slightly more grown up version of my childhood favourite. 


Serves 2-4 (depending on how hungry you are!)

Ingredients

120g porridge oats

800ml almond milk (or substitute for your own favourite dairy-free milk)

2 mashed bananas

1½ tablespoons cacao powder

2 tablespoons agave nectar

Raspberries and chopped banana to serve

Method

Mix the oats, milk, mashed banana, cacao powder and agave nectar together in a saucepan and bring to the boil.

Reduce heat and simmer for five minutes, stirring regularly to stop the porridge from sticking to the bottom of the saucepan.

I poured in about 500ml of almond milk to start with, then topped up as the porridge simmered to reach the consistency I prefer - you may find that you need more or less milk depending on if you like your porridge thick or runny!

Spoon into bowls then top with raspberries, chopped banana and a sprinkle of cacao powder.


Sweet and filling, this chocolate porridge is a perfect weekend breakfast which feels a little indulgent. With oats, nut milk, fruit and cacao powder, it's also actually better for you than the name suggests - did you know cacao powder has more antioxidants than blueberries, is the highest plant-based source of iron, and has more calcium than cow's milk?! So, go on, treat yourself and heap another spoonful into your porridge...

By the way, cacao powder might sound like something you need to hunt through health shops to find, but I bought mine in Tesco. It's pricey but you need very little for a lot of flavour, so one tub will last for ages. 



Butternut squash, sweet potato and carrot soup

It's now officially spring, but I think the newspapers might be lying to us. Scotland woke up under a thick blanket of snow this morning and I made my way to work wrapped in my winter jacket, scarf and gloves. With the weather in sub-zero temperatures (I'm writing this while wrapped in a fleecy blanket) I'm back to craving comfort food, preferably something packed with vitamin C to stave off any spring colds threatening to make an appearance...





Serves 3-4

Ingredients

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

4 large carrots, peeled and chopped

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1.5 - 2 litre vegetable stock (depending on how thick you want it)

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes

4 teaspoons coconut cream

Salt and pepper

Handful toasted pumpkin seeds

Method

Heat olive oil in large pan.

Add butternut squash, sweet potato, carrot, onion and garlic. Fry for five minutes.

Add vegetable stock, stir, then simmer for 20 minutes.

Take off the heat and - carefully! - blend with a hand blender until smooth. 

Season with smoked paprika, chilli flakes and salt and pepper. 

Pour into bowls and stir a teaspoon of coconut cream through each.

Sprinkle with toasted pumpkin seeds, and more chilli flakes if you like your food spicy.

Serve with warm, crusty bread. 


With butternut squash, sweet potato and carrot all serving up healthy portions of vitamins, potassium and fibre, this soup is worth eating whatever the season. In fact, did you know that one cup of butternut squash provides 437% of your daily allowance of vitamin A, and 52% of your vitamin C?! With the added heat of smoked paprika and chilli flakes, you might even be tricked into thinking the sun is shining outside as well...


Spring menu at Zizzi

I'm obsessed with Zizzi. Ever since I tried the vegan options when they launched in March last year, I've lost count of how many times I've been back for another gooey, 'cheesy' pizza. With a full dairy-free menu and seasonal updates, Zizzi have given me - and other pizza scoffing vegans out there - the perfect excuse to keep going back. When I spotted on Twitter that their new spring menu includes a sticky chocolate and praline torte, I knew where I wanted to go for dinner this weekend...



For starters I ordered the vegan bruschetta, which has been updated for spring with Isle of Wight mixed tomatoes, red onion, roasted garlic, super green pesto and purple pea shoots. The tomatoes are a mixture of sweet and tangy and contrast perfectly with the roasted garlic and pesto. For anyone craving a little extra heat, I recommend drizzling some of Zizzi's chilli oil on top. As a self-confessed olive fiend, Sam chose the Nocellara giganti olives - these giant olives sourced from Trapani in Sicily are served 'naked', and, according to the menu, are the most sought after olives in the world. I'm not an olive fan so didn't try them for myself, but judging on how quickly Sam demolished the bowl, I'd guess they were pretty tasty!



Oh baby, those pizzas! I ordered the vegan classic margherita with butternut squash, caramelised balsamic onions and fire roasted peppers. I've tried other toppings which were all delicious, but these three are my absolute favourite - if you've never tried pizza with caramelised balsamic onions before, stop reading this blog post and go eat one immediately. The 'cheese' on top is a vegan mozzarella alternative called Mozzarisella, which is really creamy and soft - it's not stringy like some other melted cheeses and is more of a cheese sauce. The last time I ate in Zizzi with meat-eating friends, one of them ordered the vegan margherita to try and she said she wouldn't have known it was a vegan pizza if she hadn't read the menu, so Mozzarisella is a convincing dairy-free alternative! The pizza comes with three toppings as standard, so Sam opted for artichokes, roasted red onions and black olives - I told you he's an olive fiend!


Drum roll, please... Despite being stuffed, of course we had to try the sticky chocolate and praline torte! A dairy-free chocolate torte with a date, hazelnut and walnut base, served with coconut and chocolate ripple gelato, this was every bit as good as I'd hoped. Rich, creamy, and thick, if I didn't already need a lie down with my belt unbuckled before dessert, I did after eating this! I'd suggested to Sam that we order one to share, but he wasn't having any of it - when I couldn't manage all of mine, he polished off what was left, which I think might have been his clever plan all along...

If you haven't been to Zizzi before then get yourself along, pronto. If you have, then the launch of the new spring menu is your perfect excuse to go back. The chocolate and praline torte alone is reason enough to book a table. 

By the way, this post isn't sponsored or anything, I just really love that pizza...


Irish stew

Happy St. Patrick's Day! If you take a peek inside my baby book from back in Northern Ireland, you'll see that my favourite food was Irish stew. To celebrate today, I thought I would create a vegan version of an old favourite - I can't promise it will be as tasty as my mammy's though!

Even if you're not celebrating on March 17th, make a pot of Irish strew for the health benefits alone: while often labelled 'comfort food', don't forget that root vegetables are packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, iron, fibre, B vitamins, magnesium, antioxidants, calcium... The list could go on and on! 



Ingredients

2 carrots, sliced

6 potatoes, cubed

1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed

1 turnip, peeled and cubed

1 onion, sliced and quartered

2 leeks, sliced

½ small cabbage, finely chopped

150g pearl barley

60g soya mince

1.5 litres veg stock

2 tbsp wholemeal flour, to thicken

1 parsnip

1 tsp thyme

½ tsp coriander

Cracked black pepper 

2 tablespoons olive oil

Method

Simmer the barley in stock.

Fry the onion, carrot, and parsnip in oil for five minutes, then add turnip, cabbage, and chopped leek and fry for another 5 minutes.

Add sweet potato and potatoes, then pour in the stock and barley.

Simmer with the lid on for 30 minutes, then add soya mince, flour, and herbs.

Stir occasionally for 10 minutes.

Finish with a twist of black pepper.

Serve with warm soda bread


To thicken the mixture and give it a more 'meaty' texture, I also added soya mince from Tesco. I can't remember what the stew from my early days in Largy tasted like, but I hope this recipe is a worthy copycat - perfect if you're hosting dinner for any meat-eaters this weekend.

Whether you cook it tonight for a proper St. Patrick's Day dinner, or eat it tomorrow to soak up the hangover, let me know if you have a bash at making a big pot of vegan Irish stew. 


Irish soda bread

Saint Patrick's Day coming up on Friday is the perfect excuse to indulge in thick slices of homemade Irish soda bread with lashing of butter and jam. A dense, unleavened bread made with flour, buttermilk, salt, and baking soda, Irish soda bread has been eaten in Ireland since around 1845. While the traditional simple ingredients were perfect for a country stricken with famine, modern bakers often 'dress up' the recipe with add ins, such as raisins, sugar, caraway seeds or Guinness. 

Irish soda bread used to be a favourite of mine but I haven't had a loaf in over a year - with a breakfast craving which I knew nothing else would satisfy, I set out to make a vegan soda bread recipe. With the buttermilk swapped for almond milk and apple cider vinegar, and added sugar and porridge oats, this recipe definitely isn't for any soda bread purists out there, but it's still blooming delicious. 


Ingredients

1½ cup almond milk

1½ tablespoon apple cider vinegar

2 cups white flour

4 cups whole wheat flour

½ cup sugar

2 tablespoons baking soda

1 tablespoon salt

4 tablespoons dairy-free butter

Handful porridge oats

Method

Preheat oven to 180C.

Lightly grease a baking sheet.

Whisk the almond milk and apple cider vinegar together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Mix the white flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl. 

Use two knives to cut butter into the dry mixture. 

Create a well in the mixture and pour in the almond milk and apple cider vinegar.

Gently knead the dough together on a lightly floured surface. 10 turns should be enough.

Shape the dough into a neat circle.

Cut an X into the top of the dough with a serrated knife.

Sprinkle with porridge oats.

Bake for 40-45 minutes.

Once cooled, cut into thick slices and heap with butter and jam.



While my personal preference is to sweeten soda bread with sugar and jam, keep savoury and it's also a perfect accompaniment for soup, stew or gravy. 

By the way, while the X on top will help the bread cook evenly, traditionally it's also to let the fairies out, so don't forget it!




Go Vegan World campaign

You may have already read about the Go Vegan World campaign online or in the news. With advertising - on buses, taxis and billboards - appearing in major cities across Ireland and the UK, you may have come face-to-face with their striking message. I first discovered the campaign when Go Vegan Scotland shared photos of the Go Vegan World adverts projected from the huge digital billboards outside the St. Enoch Centre in Glasgow. It is incredible to see a vegan message in such a prominent place, with the potential to change the minds - or at least start an important discussion - with a large audience.




The campaign was founded by Sandra Higgins, whose interest in animal rights stems from her previous career as a psychologist specialising in trauma. In 2008 she was asked to care for two orphaned lambs, which had a profound change on her life and work and lead her to further research just how animal products are sourced. Before the Go Vegan World campaign, Sandra founded the Eden Farmed Animal Sanctuary in Ireland, which provides a lifelong home for approximately 100 rescued farm animals.

Sandra says 'If you asked most people if they think it is wrong to unnecessarily harm other sentient beings, they would answer that it is. This is because we all know that other animals feel. They have the capacity to experience pleasure... They experience physical and psychological pain when we hurt them. Like us, they have an interest in continuing their lives and do not want to die. Therefore, most people already hold the values that underpin veganism. Socio-cultural inheritance of animal use along with careful deception by the industries that profit from it, combine to enable us to behave in ways that are inconsistent with our deeply held ethical beliefs and values.

The aim of Go Vegan World is to expose this inconsistency between our values and our behaviour... We claim, as humans, to be humane, courageous and open minded, yet we refuse to look at the consequences for others of how we live our lives. As a result, our everyday lifestyle choices about what we eat for dinner, wear to work, or do in our leisure time, destroy them individual by individual, in their trillions, year after year. The Go Vegan World campaign aims to bring to light the processes involved in bringing a sentient being into this life, through their objectification in laboratories, zoos, circuses, and farms, into the slaughterhouse and back out as the commodities we use. These are the processes that we are responsible for, that we pay for, every time we make a choice that is not vegan.'




Go Vegan World launched in Ireland in October 2015 and is now touring the UK. The campaign is raising awareness of veganism on an groundbreaking scale: after launching on the largest billboard in Europe, on the M6, it has become the first vegan campaign to have adverts feature in national newspapers, as well as the first vegan campaign to ever be placed at an international sporting event, with an advert appearing at Stadio Olimpico in February during the Italy vs Ireland Six Nations rugby game. Last month, the campaign also took over the entire digital escalator at London Euston station, the sixth busiest railway station in Britain. 

With powerful, thought-provoking messages (such as 'Dairy Takes Babies from their Mothers', 'Humane Milk is a Myth: Don't Buy It' and 'Vegetarianism is Not Enough') and striking imagery, the campaign is designed to encourage people to question the notion that humans are better than other animals, and to get them to think seriously about the ethics of continuing to use animals as food, clothing, entertainment, and for research. 

Ran by volunteers and funded by donations, the campaign has already won a media award, and has hopefully inspired change. Sandra says 'Since I opened the sanctuary in 2008 I have been humbled by the character, personality, complexity, sophistication and courage of the individuals who have lived here. I have come to understand that they live for their own reasons, not ours, and that our objectification of them is utterly unjust. I witness how they treasure every day of their lives and I am heartbroken on their behalf that we take those lives from them before their natural end. I am appalled by the harm we inflict on them by our use of them. I am horrified by the hidden nature of this harm. Everyone needs to know about it. It is my hope that this campaign will bring public awareness to the truth of how they live and how they die.'

You can download Go Vegan World's free guide - which explain what veganism is, why we need to be vegan, and how to be vegan - from their website. 


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