Sunday, 16 November 2014

Howdah review& go get your snack on!

I'm a snack loving girl. Yes, yes, I love a good hearty meal as much as the next gal but when there's snacks about....well, they may not last very long with me about! When I'm doing my impersonation of a sofa sloth, my go to snacks are the usual crisps and chocolate...but even I know that although tasty, they're not doing my health any favours. 
I was so happy to discover Howdah, their snacks contain NO additives or preservatives even though they're full of great taste. Their products are produced in India, using locally sourced ingredients which is what creates the wonderfully authentic flavours. On weekends when T and I are in full snacking mode or in the evenings after work when we're having drinks with friends, it's nice to have something different to nibble on. Howdah's snacks hit the spot when you want something different to a packet of crisps or peanuts. 

They have a range of six snacks, including Onion Bhaji's, Peppered Banana Chips, Bombay Puri, Bakarwadi Bites, Peanut Pakoras and Masala Banana Chips. 
I have been munching my way through them and have so far tasted the Onion Bhaji's, Peppered Banana Chips and Bakarwadi Bites. You can read my review of the Onion Bhaji's here. 
The other day the lovely Howdah people sent me these to try -

I think my favourite is the Banana Chips; crisp and salty with lots of black pepper to kick your taste buds and make you salivate. They're very moreish, so it's good that there's lots in the packet! They're unlike other banana chips I've tried, because they're not that sweet and they're more crunchy, like potato crisps. 

I was initially unsure if I'd like them as in the past the banana chips I've tried were just hard chunks of banana that left me feeling sick after a while from all the sugar. And then of course there's some brands that use honey so aren't even vegan! A banana that isn't vegan?! What is the point?! So these VEGAN Peppered Banana Chips were a wonderful delight, spicy and oh so tasty when dunked into guacamole....or even baked into cookies?!...more on that later!

I was a lucky girl and got to sample the Bakarwadi Bites too. I can honestly say I'd never eaten anything quite like them, and I mean that in a very good way. They're like tiny crunchy sweet and spicy pastries...sort of.

 I really recommend trying these, when I was gobbling them up I kept tasting hints of coriander and cumin and then waves of chili, all mingling together in a warming mix of spices. Serious yum. 

I love that all of their recipes are traditional and authentic, handed down through different generations. It makes me feel cosy and happy because it brings back memories of baking at home with my mother, using recipes that she had collected from her family. I remember the smells in the kitchen that wafted through the house, tempting my brother and father in from the garden when tea time rolled around. 

Food is important, and a love for good food brings people together. When I think about my parents house, I immediately think about the kitchen; the wonderful food and all of the family sat around the large table, sharing stories from the day. One of the most valuable things my mother has taught me is the importance of cooking with good quality ingredients. I try my best to stick by this advice, from vegetables right through to the snacks I buy. This is why I love that Howdah only use fresh herbs and spices and flours in their range, not only does it make the products taste better, it's also nice to know you're not filling up your wonderful body with lots of rubbish artificial flavourings. Win win!

Now then, if you haven't already tried some of Howdah's snacks I have quite the treat for you! The wonderful people at Howdah have given me One of each of the Six snacks to give to one of you lovely people! 

To get your hands on these all you need to do is leave a comment below, or tweet me @CountryGirlBlog and I'll pick a winner at random...the old fashioned way out of a hat! Let me know your favourite vegan snack, your prefered type of hummus or simply that you'd love to eat your way through all these fab treats! The giveaway will end Sunday 23rd and I will announce the winner on Monday 24th, bright and early in the morning to chase away some lucky persons Monday blues.

I will also be posting the recipe for Chili Chocolate Cookies with Peppered Banana Chips next stay tuned!

Happy eating! x

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Almond Butter&Banana Chocolate Chunk Cookies

T and I had a lazy weekend, sleeping in until the clock ticked over into the afternoon and drinking coffee to wake our sleepy heads, before wandering around town in search of food.
Doing nothing in particular is an art, one we have almost mastered. I say almost because I think to become a true master of a weekend of nothing, one must be able to feel fully refreshed come Sunday evening. We however, were still drowsy. Our limbs, heavy with too much sleep lay tangled together on our too-small sofa, aching slightly.

So what does one do when it is 6.30pm on a Sunday and Monday morning is looming not so far away? I delayed packing T's sandwiches and the washing up in favour of baking up a small batch of cookies, just enough to satisfy our stomachs before bedtime.

A little recipe, this makes a batch of 8 mini cookies, small enough to gobble if you have an evening to yourself and big enough to share with a lucky someone.


1 oz Almond butter
1 oz Vegan butter
1 oz Banana, mashed
1 oz Brown sugar
2 oz Plain flour
Pinch (1/4 tsp) Baking powder
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of ground ginger
Handful of flaked, toasted almonds
Handful of dark chocolate, chopped
Splash of vanilla extract

Very simple now, so pop the kettle on ready for a cuppa tea, because these cute cookies are rather charming once dunked.

Using your wooden spoon, cream the vegan butter, almond butter and banana together. 
Now add the brown sugar and a few drops of vanilla extract and stir it in.
Measure out the flour and sift it into the mixture along with the salt, baking powder, cinnamon and ginger. Keep mixing until it starts to cling together as a dough.
Now use your hands to incorporate the flaked almonds and chopped chocolate throughout the dough.
Squish the dough up into a ball and break it in two, then break each half in two again and then again so that you have 8 little pieces of dough.
Use your hands to form them into little balls and flatten them with your palm.

Bake in the oven at 180c for around 10 minutes or until they're starting to turn golden brown.

Cool on a wire rack and devour with tea.

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend and I do hope you bake these mini cookies, they really will brighten your day and warm your night.

Happy baking! x

Monday, 27 October 2014

A Lazy Sunday&Love Food Festival

So On Sunday T and I hopped along to Love Food Festival which was at The Paintworks in Bristol. It wasn't a planned thing, we were having one of those lazy Sundays, the kind where I got up, baked brownies and soda bread and then got back into bed with T and we drank coffee and smoked cigarettes until 1pm. 

I happened to see it mentioned on Twitter so we decided to take a stroll on down. It took us around 30 minutes to walk there, our legs moved slowly as we chatted and laughed and pointed at the river and birds and dogs.

Unfortunately it wasn't a very vegan friendly festival, but I enjoyed it all the same. T bought some kind of organic smoked cheese and I bought my mum a bottle of elderflower champagne.

Then our hearts jumped when we saw a stall selling wonderful is safe to say that T and I LOVE chutneys. So we decided on a red onion chutney, which tastes UNBELIEVABLE. It's like, a jar of caramelized onions. Yes, there did come a point yesterday when I had a spoon in the jar.

But the best thing was the table heaving with loaves of bread...sourdough, focaccia and pizza breads....DROOL.
So we opted for two loaves of sourdough, one white one granary. 
Then we went home, sliced up onions, tomatoes, capers and spinach and made a thousand sandwiches and ate them all.

I'd forgotten the power of a good sandwich. 


Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Vegan Kind

So last Thursday this gorgeous little box landed in my post! And yes, I am not ashamed to admit that most of the contents have already been scoffed...look at the packet of chocolate raspberries...I couldn't even wait until I'd taken a photo before tearing them open and gobbling half.

If you've not heard about The Vegan Kind, they're a wonderful monthly lifestyle/beauty subscription box for us vegans (and everyone else too!) Each month you get a great selection of vegan products, from tasty treats to cosmetics and cleaning supplies. 
They currently have two types of box; a monthly lifestyle box (this is the one I received) and the beauty box which is every 3 months.

If you are new to the vegan world then this is a great way to test out lots of different products to find out which ones you love. Becoming vegan can sometimes feel daunting, and if you're unsure which companies are cruelty free or which brands are vegan friendly, be it food or other products, I would definitely recommend The Vegan Kind.
If however you're like me, and you have been vegan for a while now and are well informed about vegan products, then this is still a great way to try out new products that are coming onto the market that you might not have heard about. I can sometimes get stuck in a routine of always buying the same stuff, I do my food shop and come back with the same type of vegan this or that. But having a bunch of new produce landing in your life every month shakes things up a bit, and it's exciting! It's like a big present, full of goodies for you to 'ooh' and 'ahh' over. 
You also get a lovely little recipe card in each box, and I don't know about you, but I am always welcoming new vegan recipes into my kitchen.

Inside this box I received;
Angelic Gluten Free Double Chocolate Cookies
These were very tasty, as a keen baker I never usually buy cookies, I always bake them, so I didn't know how I was going to get on with them. But since they were gluten free as well, they were surprisingly moreish. Although I would call them biscuits, rather than cookies, because of their crunchy texture. 

Howdah Onion Bhajis
Ooooooh well these were rather gorgeous. They reminded me of a bhaji flavoured wotsit. Me and T devoured them in about 30 seconds.

Premae Skincare Triumph Creme Balm
Soft and buttery with a lovely gentle fragrance. Not greasy or slimy.  

Landgarten Organic Dark Chocolate Covered Raspberries 
These were my favourite in the box! A really simple idea but sooo amazing and tastes SO GOOD. Just a little raspberry...smothered in dark chocolate....bite sized pieces of heaven.

Nom Organic Oat Bar 
Again, if I'm craving a flapjack-y thing, I'd just whip up a batch. So I have to admit I didn't get round to trying this one until yesterday. I left it in my bag thinking I'd probably get hungry one day when I'm out and about and low and behold I did! I was shopping you see, for Halloween party supplies, which can really take it out of a girl. It wasn't what I was expecting at all, it was soft and crumbly and sweet and soooo not like some other brands where they're all dry and tasteless. This is one I'll definitely buy again, they'd be good for taking to festivals or on long train trips.

I hope you all go and check out The Vegan Kind, they really are wonderful, and I love that 10p from every box goes to they chosen animal charity of the month.

Happy eating! x

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

On Toast...

Sometimes, all you want is a piece of toast...

Rosemary Soda Bread

Chickpea Scramble

Avocado and Chickpea Mash with Roasted Tomatoes and Capers

In my humble opinion, toast is a wonderful thing, warm and comforting, quick and easy, delicious and satisfying and just damn good food.
For me, toast reminds me of lazy Sundays, the mornings baking filling the flat with a wonderful smell. Of the day after the night before, devouring piece after piece to soothe fuzzy heads. Of weekends at my parents, fat slices smothered in peanut butter and dunked in hot coffee.

What are your favourite toppings for toast?


Monday, 13 October 2014

I Can Be Happy

Life lately has been...busy. City life can sometimes become overwhelming for this country girl, I start craving the green fields and starry skies of my home village. So after a week of rainy mornings walking to work and tired evenings with hot soup to keep the cold away, me and T caught the train back to the country and spent the weekend in The Forest with my parents at their house.

We stayed up late on Friday night talking and drinking, my brother left for Spain on the Saturday morning so it was wonderful to spend some quality time all together.
I woke early in the morning, T slept gently next to me as I lay in my old room, the glow in the dark stars still covering the ceiling. I could hear mum making coffee downstairs so slid out of the bed as quietly as I could, pulled on an old jumper and tiptoed into the kitchen.
After the first pot of coffee had been drunk dad had woken up and put on another pot. We chatted quietly, easing ourselves into the pale morning, letting the sun warm up before me and mum took the doggies for a long walk. We ambled up and over muddy fields, down through streams and kicked our way through the pretty fallen leaves. Autumn is my favourite time of year and I felt so happy being completely immersed in it. 
My skin felt drenched in winter sunlight, my eyes teary and nose red from the cold air. I breathed it in as deep as I could, great big gulps of damp, Auntumn air that filled my lungs and tasted of wet earth.

When we returned home almost two hours later I woke T with coffee and the promise of a pub lunch. I showered quickly, scrubbing the dirt from my skin and beneath my finger nails, noticing that this made me sad, like I was somehow washing away the last traces of magic.
Lunch was eaten in a tiny little pub with sloping walls and wonky floors. We ate big plates of bread and olives, followed by alcohol and cigarettes.
I baked cake in the afternoon, whilst my parents dozed and T read the paper. The rain was falling hard but baking in the warm kitchen transported me away from the wind and the wet. T and I had had just enough time to pick the last of the raspberries and blackberries from the garden, and I stirred them into the sweet vanilla batter along with chocolate and hazelnuts. 
 T and I caught the train back late Saturday night, my head felt fuzzy and tired, my limbs were heavy and I had a sadness that settled over me like a fine layer of dust. I am always sad to leave The Forest. 
Yet since being back in our little nest I have cheered up and wanted to share with you the cake I baked on the weekend. It's a sweet little cake, so simple and can be adapted for whatever fruit or berries you may have found. I made quite a large, deep cake, about a 7" deep, loose bottomed cake pan. But you can always half the recipe for a smaller cake.

For the basic Sponge you'll need...

12 oz Plain flour
5 oz Vegan butter
4 oz Golden caster sugar
5 tsp Baking powder 
1/2 Pint of plant milk
2 tbsp Maple syrup
Splash of vanilla extract
1 tsp Lemon zest
Small pinch of salt

For the Crumble topping you'll need...

1 oz Vegan butter
2 oz Plain flour
Sugar to taste
Handful of bashed hazelnuts 

The yummy bits...

I added a big handful of freshly picked blackberries and raspberries into the sponge batter, along with some chopped dark chocolate (about 60g...would have been 100g bar but some of it got, um, eaten.)

So firstly, use your favourite wooden spoon to cream the sugar and vegan butter together along with the syrup.
Then add in the vanilla extract and lemon zest.
Sift the flour into another bowl along with the salt and baking powder.
Now add a little of the milk to the batter, then a little flour, then a little milk, then a little flour...until all the milk and flour have been incorporated and you have a wonderfully smooth batter.
Now add the berries and chocolate and give it a stir, the colours are beautiful!

For the Crumble, use the tips of your fingers to rub the flour into the vegan butter until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. Then add in enough sugar so it's as sweet as you like it.
Pop some hazelnuts into a bag or under a tea towel and use a rolling pin to bash them up!
Stir them into the crumble mixture.

Spoon the cake batter into your tin, sprinkling the crumble on top.

Bake at 180 c for about 45 mins to an hour, until a knife comes out almost clean when inserted into the cake. (Mine still had a few crumbs on it as I wanted it to be gooey, perfect with hot custard or coconut cream!)

This cake above was what gave me the inspiration for the one I baked on the weekend. Whilst I was at my parents in September, the end of summer was approaching and the trees in the garden were groaning with plump, shiny red apples. I brought a load of them back with me to Bristol, along with a big bag of blackberries. 
I made a beauty of a cake, Apple, Blackberry and Almond Crumble Cake. 

I made this cake slightly smaller, as it was just for me and T. I used a 6" deep, loose bottomed cake pan.

For the Sponge you'll need...

6 oz Plain flour 
2 oz Golden caster sugar
1 tbsp Maple syrup/Agave syrup
3 tsp Baking powder
2 1/2 oz Apple sauce - I made my own with just 2-3 apples, chopped and stewed with a little water and 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon until mushy
1 tbsp Oil - coconut/olive/sunflower
1/4 Pint plant milk
Splash of vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 tsp Lemon zest
1/2 tsp Ground ginger
5 oz Blackberries

For the Crumble you'll need...

1 oz Vegan butter
2 oz Plain flour
1/2 tsp Ground ginger
1 oz Brown sugar - or to taste
Handful flaked almonds

Simply mix the apple sauce with the oil, sugar and syrup.
Then add the vanilla and lemon zest.
In another bowl sift the flour, baking powder, salt and ground ginger together.
Add a little of the milk, then a little of the flour to the apple mixture and keep adding it little by little until you have a glorious, smooth batter.
Stir in most of the blackberries, leaving a small handful aside.
Peel and core a small apple, then slice it thinly and set aside.
Pour or spoon the mixture into the tin and level the top. Then place a layer of sliced apple on top along with the leftover blackberries. 
Now sprinkle the crumble over the top.

Bake at 180c for about 30 mins, or until a knife comes out mostly clean.

I hope you've enjoyed these two little recipes, simple they are but sometimes it's the simple, homely recipes that are the best. I love strange and wonderful recipes with stranger ingredients and flavours, but sometimes, it's the recipes that I can make whilst chatting to my family and friends in the kitchen that I enjoy the most. The recipes that you can make without having to run out to the shops, the recipes where you know as long as you have vanilla extract in the cupboards and berries in the garden you're good to go. I find that these are the recipes that soothe my soul, ease my worried mind and calm my knotted stomach.

Much love and happy baking! x

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Liebster Award

So last week, whilst at work feeling miserable because I'd spent the last half hour with my arms elbow deep in dirty, greasy water washing up, I popped out for a cheeky cigarette and what did I see? Only a lovely little comment from the wonderful Sian from The Cheeky Vegan !

The Cheeky Vegan is a great blog, always so many recipes to drool over. I'm a fan of all of Sians recipes, but I love her slightly more simple recipes the most. Her Bread and Garlic is a beautifully quiet dish, a recipe made for Sundays, when you've been for a long walk through the fields. I also share her views on onions! "Onions are the centre of the culinary universe" 
These delights are made to be gobbled and to not care that the oil and garlic are dripping down your chin and getting under your fingernails.

I think The Liebster Award is a lovely way of getting to know other bloggers and also helping to spread the word of a good blog to read. 
Here is a list of things the award needs me to do...
1) Thank the wonderful person who nominated little old me-click on the link to check out her blog!
2)Answer 11 questions asked by the person who nominated me
3)List 11 random facts about myself
3)Nominate other bloggers whose blogs I love to read
4)Write 11 questions for the other bloggers to answer
5) Let each of the nominated bloggers know they have been nominated

Now for the questions!

What made you decide to start a blog?

I have a habit of talking to myself, something that I have inherited from my wonderful, if slightly mad mother. A blog seemed a good way to get all of the stuff that rattles round my head out into the world, without resulting to talking to the stray cat. Who knew that baking would start to consume my world and therefore my blog? :)

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Well, as a child I think I would have been perfectly happy spending my days wherever the wild things were. I wanted adventure and talking naturally I wanted to be a pirate.

What is your earliest memory?

It's very foggy, but I can remember being in the bungalow my parents and I used to live in before we moved. My dad was telling an animated story, waving his arms around and laughing. My mum was sat on the sofa laughing really really loudly, the kind of laughing where you hold your stomach and tears fall down your cheeks. It's a happy memory and I'm glad I remember it.

If you could jump on a plane and fly anywhere tomorrow, where would you go?

Buenos Aires in Argentina, because my boyfriend T went there once and loved it so much he said it was his favourite city in the world, and the way he describes it, it sounds magical, so I would love to see it someday.

Which three foods/ingredients could you never live without?

Chickpeas. They amaze me because there is no end of things you can do with them. Chickpea flour omelette, falafel, them straight from the can with a sprinkle of salt...need I go on?
Chocolate. A bit predictable? Maybe...but then I don't really care as long as I've got my box of vegan dark chocolate truffles to scoff. Dark chocolate is my favourite, that bitter sweet glorious food of the gods. I love eating it for breakfast on Christmas morning, I love baking with it, watching it melt into cakes, making them glossy, I love having it in my pocket to munch on when I'm walking with mum and the doggies, on cold Autumn afternoons when you can see your breath hang in the air as you breath. 
Coconut milk. I use it in pretty much everything; soups, cakes, breads and smoothies. It makes recipes richer, more indulgent and above all it's the base to my Rum Coconut Caramel which is damn well tasty! 

Have you had any big kitchen disasters that you can share?

I once tried to make chocolate croissants...'Once' being the appropriate word. I was very young and foolish and thought I could just whip up a batch without even so what as glancing at a recipe book...yeahhhh. Lets just say it involved shortcrust pastry, a moment when I forgot to add any sugar and my dad saying 'it's a bit like eating a savoury pasty but with chocolate inside'...lets leave it there shall we?

If you had one opportunity to time travel, which time period would you go to?

Maybe the 1920's, I'd dance in fantastic dresses and drink too much alcohol, I'd have a short pixie haircut and be best friends with Gatsby and life would be totally fabulous dahling.
Or possibly the 1940's, just for the night, so I could paint a stocking line down the back on my legs, curl my hair and go dancing with an American soldier. 

If you could be a member of a TV sitcom family, which one would you pick?

I'm not sure if it's technically a sitcom, but I loved the TV show Spaced, I know they're not all related, but they're all friends that live in the same block of flats, so kind of like a family and they're all pretty crazy and amazing.

Who would play you in the movie of your life?

I want to say Zooey Deschanel. Not because I look anything like her (well, we have a similar fringe!) but because she's god damn amazing. And the whole quirky thing, people tell me I'm a bit strange.
Or maybe Zoe Kazan, because she was wonderful in the film Ruby Sparks, again, quite quirky and a bit of an oddball.

If you could un-invent one thing, what would it be?

Guns, weapons, anything designed to hurt people. That might sound naive or child like, but If I could I'd love to believe that people are all born with a good soul, and that maybe if there was nothing to fight with, then maybe they wouldn't fight.

What is one thing you always wanted as a child but never got?

Every time I came across a wishing well or had a birthday cake or lost an eyelash, I always made the same wish; to be able to fly like a bird. I remember telling my mum that my wishes never came true and after asking me what they were I told her. She gave me a hug and ruffled my hair, 'my silly girl' she laughed. Years later when we went to Greece I remember her nudging me as we were sat on the plane and saying 'look millie, we're flying!"

Ok, so here are 11 completely random and bizarre facts about moi

  • I have the words 'Blue Skies' tattooed along the inside of my middle finger on my left hand.
  • I can't whistle.
  • I eat spinach with pretty much every meal.
  • When I'm all growed up me and T want a dog, cat and rabbit called Claude, Jam and Gatsby.
  • Candyfloss is one of my all time favourite things to eat, but I only eat it when I'm at the seaside or fair, because it tastes better with salty air and carousels.
  • The carousel is my favourite ride.
  • I love Autumn the most, when the air has a bite to it, the leaves spiral around my feet and the promise of Christmas is all around.
  • I cry a lot, I cry when I'm happy, sad, excited, nervous, angry. And when I cry I am not one of those girls that looks pretty or delicate, I cry big loud sobs with lots of tears, snot and hiccups.
  • When I eat broad beans I only eat the middle part and leave the skins.
  • I grew up in the country, with roaming fields, streams deep enough to swim in and and secret woods. I now live in Bristol and although I love it, I do miss the countryside everyday.
  • I am very much like my mother, and I am very happy about that.

I nominate these wonderful people...

Clem from The Vegan Cookie Fairy is a beautiful lady with a beautiful blog, lots of sugar to satisfy any sweet tooth.

Taylor from Gluten Away isn't a strictly vegan blog, but he has some great vegan recipes and all of them are also gluten free, so great for those with sensitive tummies! Plus, there's lots of information on gluten and how to eat gluten free, and he's such a little cutie!

Jenni from Raw Shakti is one of the most amazing people I have ever met and I am lucky and blessed to call her a friend. Her blog is fairly new but contains amazing, simple recipes for raw food everyone can enjoy. Every time I read one of her posts I feel like going and sitting in a field of wild flowers, soaking up the sunshine whilst eating raw vegan cheesecake.

Jade from Jade Green Vegan is lovely, an animal lover and great blogger. Her lifestyle blog is great for finding random vegan dishes is big non-vegan places. Thanks to her I know I can even eat at Nandos if I want to!

Lisa from We Don't Eat Anything With A Face is a vegetarian mum with some great recipes. Although she's not vegan lots of her recipes come with vegan alterations. I love her warm, chatty and friendly posts!

So here's my 11 questions to my nominees:

  • When did food start becoming more than just food, and start becoming something you were excited about so much you wanted to rant and rave about it? 
  • If in an alternative universe you were a child raised by animals, which type of animal would you want to grow up with and learn from?
  • What is your favourite quote?
  • Have you ever gone out to a restaurant and only eaten dessert?! 
  • Favoutite kind of potato...sweet or white? Baked, mashed, fried, boiled, roasted, chips, fries, curly, crinkled, waffles, hash browns...?
  • Did you have any pets when you were growing up? If so then what were their names?
  • Do you have any food or meals/snacks that you personally associate with certain occasions? (Simple example - mince pies at Christmas).
  • What is your favourite time of day? Are you an early birdie or a late night owl?
  • If you could go back in time and re-live one moment, but only to re-live it, not change it, what moment would that be?
  • What snack food or meal do you wish grew on trees?
  • What's your favourite song to dance to?
Thanks for reading, hope you've enjoyed finding out a little bit more about me!
Mucho love! x