Boshing About With Baba G

Cook up a vegan storm with E

I wasn’t hungry…but suddenly I am now!

As I’ve mentioned previously, I love my cookery books and over the past years my collection of vegan and plant-based recipe books has grown and grown. One of my favourites for straightforward and exceptionally tasty vegan food is “Bosh!”, the original publication from Henry Firth and Ian Theasby. I was excited to get my hands on the latest release from the Bosh boys in early September: “Speedy Bosh” promises lots of new recipes for “amazing food” in 30 minutes. I know (because I bought them) that Nigella and Jamie have previously put together volumes for the time-conscious cook, but this is the first, all-colour, mainstream (for plant-based eating has undoubtedly swum to the mainstream) release I’ve seen for vegan cooking.

“Speedy Bosh” has great kerb appeal: it’s all hot pink and black, stuffed with Insta-worthy photographs of plates, bowls and boards of the prepared recipes and offers lots of hacks (for anyone not down with the latest lingo, this means hints and recommendations) for speedy cooking. The recipes are clustered together in sections covering hearty, takeaways, sharing, lighter, sweet, drinks and breakfasts. The weekend I got my hands on the book, I thought I’d start by cooking the first two recipe in the hearty section: cheat’s toad in the hole with curry gravy and aubergine and lentil meatball pasta.

We love a flat lay

The cheat’s toad in the hole is a great idea, using ready-rolled puff pastry instead of a traditional egg and milk-heavy batter. It was quick and easy to assemble and the addition of a tablespoon of curry powder to the wash for the pastry is inspired, adding richness to the colour and taste of the finished meal. The curry gravy is also a doddle to make though I deviated from the recipe by crushing in a couple of cloves of garlic and allowing them to cook out with the onion, rather than putting them in whole and removing just before serving. It added a few extra minutes to the overall cooking time but I wasn’t in a rush and wanted to get a more garlicky depth to the gravy. As ever with the Bosh boys, as well as dollops of ketchup, mustard and soy sauce and a good sprinkle of curry powder, the gravy had the extra flavour boost of nutritional yeast (nooch, as the L likes to call it). If you haven’t investigated nutritional yeast, let me introduce you to this incredible product: deactivated yeast, dried and sold as feather-light golden flakes which, when added to dishes, gives a nutty cheesy taste. My incomparable sister-in-law, Christine, says it smells like old socks. I think it smells delicious and opening the tin and having a deep sniff is a guilty pleasure and takes me back to being a child and inhaling greedily the scent wafting from a bag of freshly opened cheesy Wotsits. 

A quick and easy recipe that made for a tasty Saturday evening dinner, served with a green salad, and left plenty for lunch on Sunday. Apart from anything else, the recipe reminded me how utterly joyful it is to cut into well-baked puff pastry and watch the explosion of flakes land in a close perimeter around your plate, and the pleasure of collecting up all the crumbly flakes with a (washed, sanitised and) dampened finger. This one is being added to my rep.

The following morning I went in search of a tub of baba ganoush for the second recipe I wanted to try: aubergine and lentil meatball pasta. I won’t retell here the sorry story of the lack of baba ganoush in the Surrey/Kent/Sussex borderlands in mid-September but four supermarkets, three convenience stores and a seven-day Post Office later, I gave up on my quest to find a tub, instead buying five aubergines and deciding to make my own. Inevitably this drove, as we like to say, a coach and horses through the 30 minute prep time. And all for four tablespoons of baba G in the meatball mix! It was worth it though, as we had enough left over to enjoyed as “cracker snacks” until mid-week.

Baby, Ganoush look good to me

Essentially this is a “spaghetti and meatballs” recipe where the meatballs are speedily assembled (baba G permitting) using a packet of pre-cooked puy lentils, breadcrumbs, pine nuts and sun-dried tomatoes. The baba ganoush acts as the binder which, of course, results in quite crumbly meatballs, a fact acknowledged in the recipe. I cooked the meatballs in the oven, rather than risk them falling apart in a frying pan as recommended by the boys. Oven-baking produced a crispy shell and soft inside, and they held together. The addition of fresh mint to the meatballs alongside the more usual parsley was an innovation I wasn’t sure about, but it worked very well and I’ll definitely use this again.

The recipe called for the cooked meatballs to be added to and moved through the warmed pasta sauce prior to serving but I decided they looked too fragile so served them on top of the sauce which resulted in a finished dish that had a look of the falafel about it, but tasted great. I’m not sure I’ll return to this recipe any time soon, partly because of the memory of baba G-gate is still too raw, but mainly because Waitrose does excellent frozen vegan meatballs – better even than Ikea’s, I think – which taste great and do hold their shape so I can throw them around the pan with abandon.

The next recipe in the hearty section of the book is for a deep, dark and smoky chilli, and I’m going to head there next. ~ E

Feast your eyes on this midweek winner dinner!

My Morning Routine

Get ready this morning with the de-la-Haye Girls.

A bright, crisp morning is probably our favourite time of the day. The possibility of the day, stretching out ahead, sparkling with potential. For the longest time we have both been fascinated by how others start their days, what tips and tricks people use to help maximise their productivity and wake up well.

With this in mind, we thought we’d share with you what each of our morning routines look like, perhaps to give you inspiration to spruce up your own AM habits…

L’s laid back morning of mindfulness

  • 10am: Rise and shine! I’ve never been much of an early bird, especially if I’m working in the theatre the night before. Normally a show won’t come down until 10.30(ish). By the time I’ve had a drink with colleagues to decompress and travelled home it’s pushing midnight. I like to snuggle down with a crime procedural and get in a full nine or so hours of sleep. My body is pretty good at waking me up naturally, plus my boyfriend is now WFH so the gentle hum of a conference calls acts as my alarm clock. Still in my pjs, I stumble to the Nespresso machine. Coffee is an essential part of this de-la-Haye girl’s morning, except on Sundays when I treat myself to a Tetley.
  • 11am: I carefully transfer the mug of magical liquid back to bed. Yes, I do get back into bed. There’s something so luxurious about it, sipping my brew in between the sheets. If you’ve got the time, I recommend you try it. I take this time in the morning to journal. Now wait – before you eye-roll – I think this act of self care is more common than we think. Some call it “morning pages”, others “free writing”, but whatever you call it, the process remains the same: you take some time simply to put pen to paper and clear your mind of all its mental chatter. You can use the pages to document all your worries or give gratitude or, mine and E’s favourite pastime, write a list. Stick some music on and let your mind wander!
  • 11.30am: I air the bed, Febreezing and “Hinching” as I go. Then it’s into the bathroom to cleanse my face and brush my teeth. The less I put on my face the better my skin tends to be so warm water, a little moisturiser and some sunscreen in all I need. By this point I’m normally on my second cup of coffee. I grab the matches with my free hand and light a candle in each room. Even in the daytime, I just think they’re magic.
  • 12pm: Hair goes up on top of my head and sports bra is wriggled into. If I’ve a show that evening then I take this time, just as morning slides into afternoon, to run. I aim to do a 5k three/four times a week. I normally hate every second of it but once in a blue moon, it’s not too bad and it’s always worth it for that post-run hit of endorphins. If I’m between jobs this is my time for yoga. I aim to do a little work on my mat each day. It is so much more than stretching and slow breathing: for me, yoga is a spiritual activity and it makes me feel so powerful. I notice such a difference on the days I don’t allow myself the time to practise.
  • 12.30pm: I jump in the shower and do a quick vocal warm up. The steam is great for my voice which needs a bit of gentle coaxing to get going. Finally, I check my emails, Whatsapp messages and, of course, our blog. Often E will have sent something hilarious to the family group chat that brightens up my day. I catch up on any laptop-based work or teaching admin while I make my breakfast. I can’t bear eating first thing but once I’ve moved my body, my tummy will start to rumble. Brekky is undeniably my top meal of the day. Seriously, if I worked in an office all my meetings would be based around this meal time. Banana pancakes, smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel, sourdough with avocado and eggs and filthy Nutella oats are all on heavy rotation for me.
  • 1pm: I double check my to do list, ticking off anything completed from the previous day and catch up with my boyfriend on his lunch break. Then I’m off out and about, masked up, teaching, rehearsals or auditioning. Ready to handle whatever a day in 2020 fancies throwing at me!
The happiest of mornings when this delivery arrives!

Zooming about with E in the early AM

  • My morning routine begins very differently to L – if L is an owl, I am a lark – but other parts of our routine are similar. Prior to the arrival of Covid, I travelled all over the UK and often overseas for work. My morning routine then would begin about 6am in whichever hotel I was staying in and had a laser-focus on getting ready to meet my clients and spend full days working with them. Since March, my morning routine has been rather different.
  • Any time between 5 – 7am, depending on who I am working with that day, and which part of the planet they are based, I’m woken by my alarm. I am “up and at ’em” as I’ve learned from very stressful experience that the snooze button really doesn’t do me any favours. I head straight to the bathroom to spruce up for the day, avoiding, if at all possible, a morning shower that involves washing my hair. A warm body shower is perfect, but my hair is thick and heavy and I am incapable of blow-dry styling myself so if I wash it in the morning, I drip all over myself for hours and I’m lucky if it’s fully dry by late afternoon. My morning face routine has not changed for 25 years: Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish, followed by Liz Earle skin tonic and, yes, you guessed it, a mixture of Liz Earle Skin Repair and Superskin moisturisers. I used to spend about 30 minutes each morning on my daily make-up but my professional life is now based around Zoom and I have discovered the beautify filter, so a lick of mascara and my lipstick (always) is all I need.
The most important items in E’s office
  • 7:30am: downstairs to five, unalterable, “must dos”: feed Tyler and let him out for his morning constitutional; take my fistful of vitamins with a glass of Berocca; boil the kettle for a steaming mug of fruit or peppermint tea (I don’t do coffee or “normal” tea, and don’t get me started on the vileness that is green tea); crack open my journal to capture thoughts and notes that have occurred to me overnight and remind myself about what I plotted the previous evening as my actions for the day; and have a quick shufty at the latest comings and goings on my social media. I am verging on the compulsive with my journal; it is part reflective log, part daily agenda but mainly lists. I then hit work, invariably these days via one video conferencing platform or another, and there I am, in my little broadcast studio cum office, powered by Twinings’ peach, orange and boabab tea until lunchtime.
  • 12:30pm: my morning ends with food! Like Lily, I don’t eat in the morning but come early afternoon, two slices of The Sussex Kitchen’s delicious wholemeal sourdough are plunged into the toaster and the latest jar of Marmite crunchy peanut butter is cracked open. It truly is the superior brunch and, in the interests of candour, I share with you that most days, I am too impatient for the toast to pop and snaffle of couple of teaspoons of the Marmite peanut butter straight into ma bouche – yum-yum! These two slices, a piece of fruit (I’m not a complete savage) and another bucket of Twinings set me up for the afternoon’s work.
Manna, thank you.

The weekend routine starts later, of course, and is less structured and more relaxed; Tyler, tea and toast are constants though.

Nuttily Good

Yummy vegan creamy pasta sauce

We are both avid and ardent collectors of cookery books. I think this is because we are both avid and ardent lovers of food. It’s not just the recipes these books contain that inspire us but the food styling and photography they showcase. Our favourites also incorporate a few lines per recipe sharing the author’s history with the recipe, or its provenance, or some brief reminisce of where it was first served and eaten. What we’re trying to say is that we both enjoy cookery books as much for reading as for cooking!

Disclaimer: we do also both enjoy embellishing a recipe; you’ll find no slavish devotion to the ingredients and quantities here except, of course, when we’re baking. We’re both confident (or foolhardy) enough cooks to switch out ingredients to whatever we have in the fridge or pantry, or for whatever takes our fancy. 

I did a stocktake, dust and re-arrange of my cookery books at the beginning of July (look, cut me some slack, I worked as a library assistant for six months in my youth and some things never leave you). My 83 vegan cookery books are those I spend most time with these days, though I still dip into the other recipe books I own; I do love the challenge of “veganising” recipes and no, they aren’t always successful. And yes, of course all my cookery books are listed, in order of publication date, thank you for asking.

The Plantpower Way by Julie Piatt and Rich Roll is a gorgeous book of vegan recipes inspired by the Italian countryside. The book also contains a range of recipes for plant-based cheeses like one for roasted almond and sun-dried tomato cheese and another for creamy garlic Gorgonzola made with cashew nuts. These are both on my “to do” list. 

I made the book’s walnut porcini cream sauce for dinner the other evening, serving it over wholemeal fusilli with steamed broccoli. Brazil and macadamia nuts were switched out for some of the walnuts and all nuts were soaked for an hour in hot water first to soften them. My staple of a couple of tablespoons of nutritional yeast (“Nooch” in Lily’s vocab) were also added. Like so many recipes utilising nuts to create the smoothest creamy consistency, a high-speed blender is required, but this sauce wouldn’t be unpleasant if it retained a bit of nutty graininess. And hold back a mugful of the pasta cooking liquid to loosen the sauce – it ends up a pretty thick consistency and the mug of hot, starchy water ensured each corkscrew of pasta was well coated. A delicious sauce and definitely one that’s going to be added to our regular repertoire. ~E.