This is one of my partner Jane’s favourite cookbooks. It was a tough choice as there are so many amazing vegan chefs out there writing brilliant books; Aine Carlin, Isa Chandra Moscowitz and Angela Liddon to name but a few, but my cooking influences come from all sorts of angles.
The Mystic Cookfire is beautifully written with an open heart and lovely illustrations. It’s the rare kind of cookbook that you could quite happily read like a novel, tucked up in bed, with some hot chocolate. On the rare occasion that I have a day off playing with pots and pans, this is Jane’s go to cookbook, we eat from the ‘Mystic Cookfire’ (what a name!!).
I love eating food with soul, something so intangible, but you know the kind of food I’m talking about. Home cooked happiness! These recipes are simple, plant-based and nourishing; the kind of food that can make a house a home, dishes that will become family staples for years to come.
This book also focuses on the deeper relevance of food and cooking. How it is much more than just throwing some ingredients together. Cooking can be a daily routine that accentuates the lives of cooks, families and loved ones.
I’m a sucker for a good quote and this book is packed with amusing and informative references and quotes. Good cooking for me comes from a place deeper than just sound technique. There has to be some love in the mix!
As a long-term vegetarian, and someone who truly enjoys creating good-tasting food, the idea of a vegetarian wedding really appeals to me.
My own wedding was: in lieu of presents, please bring a home-made vegetarian meal to share. It was fantastic, and really brought the guests together in their shared commitment to honour our wedding day in this way. For twenty years I’ve held this memory with deep gratitude and joy.
Unless you absolutely know that a wedding venue can meet your needs, brace yourself for disappointment or another choice of venue. If the venue you’ve chosen isn’t capable of providing you with a first-class vegetarian reception, ask to bring in your own caterers.
I recently attended a local wedding venue that was featuring a new room. As a marriage celebrant, I was most excited to see this space. Well, it sure did look beautiful! However, I paid £15 for the honour of trying their gourmet canapés. Well in advance I put in my request for gluten-free vegetarian. Imagine my disappointment (and, to be honest, some seething ‘wtf?’) when I was pointed to olives (which I could have bought at the supermarket) and nuts. Seriously? I can hand on heart say I felt duped.
Vegetarian meals at most weddings may fall under the following categories: improvised, salads, sides, buffets that feature a couple of plant-based options. Check that your venue is skilled at vegetarian-only menus and that they treat it with the respect and care it deserves rather than as a last-minute thought or attachment.
Buckland Hall is the only all-vegetarian wedding venue in Britain.
If that doesn’t inspire you to choose a vegetarian menu, nothing will.
Some venues can be downright rude and unfriendly when you say you want a wedding sans dead animals.
No matter if your choice for a vegetarian wedding is based on a desire for a low eco footprint, animal ethics, or a wish to keep things simple, this is YOUR wedding day, and you have the right to create it in the way that is comfortable for you. Don’t be scared to shop around and make other plans if you feel you’re not being heard.
Some brides feel pressured by guests into having meat options at their wedding. Your guests are there to honour your commitment to love another person. The wedding is a template of who you are, and your values. If you feel strongly about having a cruelty-free menu, then stand your ground. If a guest feels that they can’t go one meal without meat, then perhaps they could eat a burger before arriving at the wedding?
Contrary to the argument that meat eaters offer vegetarian meals (ha! barely) at their weddings, so it should be the same for veggies to offer a meat option, it isn’t as simple as that. Choosing to not be part of the loss of an animal’s life speaks to the heart of a person. It defines an aspect of who they are. Why would any guest expect someone with such heart-felt beliefs not to be true to themselves on what is considered by many to be the most important day of their lives?
If the chef in question needs inspiring, send him samples of vegetarian wedding meals such as those of Buckland Hall. Why not choose a wedding away from a hotel, and ask your guests to bring a home-made vegetarian meal? Or you could hire a vegetarian food van (such as a falafel truck), and keep it really casual.
Food is such an important element and ritual of ceremonies. It is natural that your food ethics would be reflected in your wedding day.
Planning a wedding is a good test for married life. Every step of the way is about compromise: season, style, venue, catered or not catered, colours, themes, guests, music, flowers and so on. Compromise, however, is about what feels good for the soul, and shouldn’t be about sacrifice. If you walk gently on this Earth by not eating animals, and want your wedding to be an example of that, then be true to your core values.
Vegetarian food, when made with love, care and flair, is deeply nourishing, tasty and fulfilling. Don’t be fobbed off with anything less than the best.
My motto is: Your Day, Your Way.
Veronika Robinson has been officiating weddings since 1995. She trained at Unity Church in Auckland, New Zealand, and was authorised to conduct legal weddings under the New Thought Ministries umbrella. She has a deep love of the sacred, and derives great joy from creating, writing and officiating personalised ceremonies for people. She specialises in handfastings, but is equally at home conducting more formal weddings, as well as namings, blessingways, vow renewals and funerals. Veronika officiates inspirational ceremonies throughout Cumbria, northern Lancashire and Southern Scotland, and is particularly fond of outdoor ceremonies. www.veronikarobinson.com/celebrant
The kitchen, that sacred space where we prepare food to share with and nurture friends and family, has long been part of domesticated human culture.
It’s a grey, wet day here in Cumbria. In my oven is a delicious bread, free of flour and yeast, but based instead on seeds and nuts and psyllium husk powder.
A glass bowl sits on the bench, with black beans soaking for dinner. I still haven’t decided what to do with them. They might become a Latin stew, or bean and sweet potato burgers. Maybe they’ll become a bean loaf or black-bean minestrone. I have no doubt the inspiration will come to me as the day unfolds gently before me.
The kettle has boiled, and I steep peppermint tea. The aroma fills the room and my heart melts as I listen to the classical music station play Pachabel’s Canon.
As a writer, many inspirational ideas come to me as I potter about in the kitchen. For some reason, my intuition kicks in and my mind is more receptive.
My teenage daughter has just made the most scrumptious lunch: chickpeas in a mashed base of sweet potato and dill on brown rice noodles.
For me, the kitchen is a place of visible sacred ceremony. It is here I come to honour and give reverence to the Earth and Sun and Moon for growing the plants which I’ll eat. Lovingly, I prepare my fruits and vegetables to feed my family. The kitchen is, for me, a play space, a work room, and a devotional altar to all that is good in this life.
Veronika is the author of the popular recipe book: The Mystic Cookfire, the sacred art of creating food for friends and family (published by Starflower Press). She is currently writing Love From My Kitchen (more delicious plant-based recipes!), soon to be published by Starflower Press.
https://veronikarobinson.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/logo-1.png00Veronika Sophia Robinsonhttps://veronikarobinson.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/logo-1.pngVeronika Sophia Robinson2015-11-07 12:41:112015-11-07 12:41:11The Kitchen: heart of the home
I guess our dining table is more than 100 years old. How many meals families have eaten around it, and how many celebrations they shared, I’ll never know.
The wood is old and worn, and the way it feels under my hands satisfies my sensual self. I know my mother, who loves tablecloths, would want to cover it in fabric. I prefer to see the wood, and to connect with the history of this antique piece of furniture.
In my home, and in my heart, I consider the dining table to be a sacred space designed for flowers, candles and meals made with love.
It’s also a place we can gather, at the end of the school day, with a cup of tea while we chat and catch up.
Indeed, the dining table is a ceremonial space, not just for birthdays or Christmas, but for every meal. As with other ceremonies, I light a beeswax or plant-based candle, play music, and express gratitude. Doing this changes a meal from being a source of fuel to something sacrosanct. It takes little extra time, but it does take a change of attitude to bring consciousness to each meal.
Love From My Kitchen: kale and polenta fingers. Photograph by Veronika Robinson
This morning as we sat together, enjoying breakfast in each other’s company, we talked of ethics and philosophy; about fate, free will and determinism. Conversation included past lives and dreams. Taking time in our busy lives, to ‘break bread’ with our loved ones, is one of the most important rituals we can have as a family. It slows us down. It encourages us to take notice. It says ‘I’m showing up for me, and I’m showing up for you’.
Love From My Kitchen: peppers stuffed with ragout. Photograph by Veronika Robinson
As a family, there can’t be many topics we’ve not discussed in one form or another over the years. What I truly value about a dining table is that each person gets to face another. There can be real heart-to-heart connections, even when you eat in silence. It brings a family together, and when we recognise each meal as a gift, a celebration, and the opportunity to commune with our loved ones, the dining table takes on hallowed significance. Indeed, for me, it is one of the most important pieces of furniture in our home.
Love From My Kitchen: courgette and cranberry cake (gluten free). Photograph by Veronika Robinson
From when my daughters were born, they joined as at the dining table; long before they ate solid foods. They grew up learning the ways of this family, and what values we held. Gratitude for our food was as much a part of a meal as was the eating.
Our prayer was:
Earth which gives us this food Sun which makes it ripe and good Dear Earth, Dear Sun, by you we live Our loving thanks to you we give.
In more recent times, we’ve included another prayer of gratitude.
Thank you for the food before us Thank you for the family (and friends) beside us Thank you for the love around us
Yesterday I was writing a scene in my novel, Behind Closed Doors, whereby the family gathered to share a meal. I felt right at home around that old farmhouse kitchen table, listening to the laughter, enjoying the meal. I hope that my passion for such a daily ritual is reflected in the way the characters share their stories. How different an experience to share our days in this way than eating on the run, or standing at the kitchen counter because you don’t have time to eat. Don’t you think?
Tell me about your dining table? What family rituals do you have around meal times?
Love, Veronika xxx
PS Do sign up to my mailing list if you wish to be notified of when Love From My Kitchen (my next recipe book) is published.
“What’s for dinner, Mum?” my teenage daughter asked me when I picked her up from her after-school job.
I looked at her blankly. “You expected me to make dinner?” I replied when I was in my chauffeur hat.
It was a bit mean, I suppose, but I did smile pretty quickly to let her know I was joking. Of course there’d be dinner on the table when she got home!
When I relayed the story to her elder sister, the response was “We don’t expect you to make dinner, but we’re so grateful that you do!”
And dinner? I had made Aduki Bean and Quinoa Burgers.
I’d had the beans soaking in water overnight, and wasn’t sure what I’d do with them. Soup? Bake? Stew? And then my fridge reminded me I had a load of cooked quinoa which needed using up! Two birds. One stone.
Okay, so I had a lot of beans soaking, and a lot of quinoa to use up…
This recipe made about 30 good-sized burgers. My plan is to freeze a bunch of them (if the house mice don’t gobble them overnight!) Obviously if you don’t want to make this many, cut the recipe in half!
Scrummy. Satisfying. Filling.
Oh, and dairy free. Egg free. Gluten free.
A friend gifted me with some dulse flakes that I wanted to use in the recipe. Feel free to omit.
5 cups of cooked aduki beans
5 cups cooked quinoa (cold)
5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 small onions, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 sticks celery, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
4 T brown rice miso
1 T dried mixed herbs
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 T dulse flakes (optional)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 – 2 teaspoons Celtic sea salt
Generous grindings of course-ground black pepper
200 g tomato paste
Olive oil (optional)
A cup or so of brown rice flour for rolling
Sauté the onions, garlic, carrots, celery and pepper until soft. Add all the seasonings and mix well. Add a cup or so of water once the tomato paste is in. Mix well.
Mix everything together with the mashed beans and quinoa until the seasonings are well combined with the mixture.
Roll into burgers, and then coat with brown rice flour. Place on a baking sheet (drizzle with olive oil if you want crunchy burgers) and baked at 200C for 40 minutes. If using olive oil, turn the burgers over half way through cooking.
I adore cooking (unless I’m exhausted). Beans and pulses soaking overnight in water, fresh herbs on a sunny windowsill, chatting with my husband or daughters. The scent of freshly ripped basil leaves or ginger or lemon zest invading my senses. Delicious.
All these things, and more, make a kitchen feel like home. The scents and flavours absorb my attention. It is my creative workspace, and interestingly, it is in my kitchen cooking up meals where I often cook up ideas for my novels.
I dream of a large open-plan kitchen with conservatory style ceiling, and an Aga for those chilly Winter months, with a huge old oak dining table for friends and family to gather around. But even in a regular kitchen, I feel at home with my tools and ingredients.
A few years back, I wrote The Mystic Cookfire. It was meant to be a small collection of favourite recipes I cooked when I was editor of The Mother magazine and hosted annual family camps. The book is anything but small, with over 280 plant-based wholefood recipes, and a whopping 434 pages.
In amongst writing my novels, I have a couple of other recipe books on the go. In My Kitchen, and Cooking by Degrees (recipes for university students). I hope you’ll join me as I share recipes (all trial and error, of course) on my blog from time to time. I’d love your feedback.
Beans are a fantastic source of protein, regardless of whether you adhere to a plant-based diet or not. It’s easy to soak beans (and by soaking them yourself you’ll be unlikely to experience wind like you would with canned varieties). Simply soak overnight, and rinse, then leave to soak some more until you’re ready to cook.
Pinto and Sweet Potato with balsamic rice Serves 6-8
500g dried pinto beans, soaked overnight (minimum of 12 hours), rinsed
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 large sweet potato, cut into 1 cm cubes
2 peppers, chopped
5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 T tamari (wheat-free soya sauce)
4 bay leaves
4 T smoked paprika
2 T sea salt
1 T coarsely ground black pepper
2 t bouillon
4 T balsamic vinegar
1 T honey or maple syrup
1-2 cups water
Cook the beans until soft.
When done, rinse and leave to one side. Cook the onion in a little olive oil until soft, then add the sweet potato, bay leaves, and peppers. When softened, add garlic and paprika. After a minute, add the water and leave to simmer for a while until the potato is tender. Add the remaining ingredients including the beans. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Yesterday a friend mentioned she baked the lemon cookies from my recipe book The Mystic Cookfire. (Available from www.veronikarobinson.com, www.starflowerpress.com, Amazon and other online retailers, good bookshops and libraries)
Here’s my updated gluten-free version. They’re quick and easy to make, and taste fabulous!
Veronika’s gluten-free lemon cookies
½ cup softened organic coconut oil or organic sunflower oil 2 large spoons of egg replacer or two organic free range eggs Zest of one large fresh lemon (organic) ¼ cup fresh lemon juice 1 tablespoon quality lemon or orange essence ½ teaspoon gluten-free baking powder 1 cup quinoa flour 1 cup rice flour ½ cup coconut flour 1½ cups coconut blossom sugar or soft brown sugar
Cream oil and sugar with a whisk, then add the egg replacer/eggs, followed by the zest, essence and juice. Keep mixing. Add the baking powder and flour. Put the dough into the fridge to chill for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 180C. Use baking paper on your baking tray. Place a spoonful of dough for each cookie. Bake for fifteen minutes.
Cool for a few minutes before putting onto a cooling rack.
These cookies are delightfully chewy and perfect at any time of year, whether for a garden party, picnic or lazy afternoon reading a book by the fire.
Don’t ask me why Saturday night is dessert night in our home, rather than say Wednesday or Monday…because I don’t know.
Last night we had one of my favourite desserts: pear and coconut crumble. It’s quick and easy to make, and tastes gorgeous!
I first wrote about this dessert in my novel, Bluey’s Café:
Home alone on Saturday night, instead of crawling into bed or watching late-night TV, Bluey headed to the kitchen. A small hessian sackful of ripe pears were begging for her to take notice of them. She peeled half a dozen, and sliced their tender juicy flesh in half, laying them in a pan with coconut oil and brown sugar. They began simmering. Their buttery and gritty flesh was perfect for a crumble. Coconut cream swirled around the pears, and a sprinkling of ground ginger dusted the top.
Bluey loved cooking with coconut, and always found it lent an erotic edge to her recipes, not to mention that it reminded her of Cole Hadden, a dashing young English businessmen who had taken her to dinner while in Jamaica several years ago. His kisses tasted like coconut with a hint of cinnamon and Caribbean sunshine. She could never look at coconuts in the same way again.
Serves four to six
4-6 large ripe pears 30g coconut oil (or margarine) 50g coconut sugar (or other unrefined sugar) or maple syrup Juice of half a lemon 500ml coconut cream Dusting of ground ginger
Crumble: 85g solid coconut oil (or margarine, but coconut is better) 100g coconut sugar (or other unrefined sugar) 2 cups jumbo oats 1/3 cup desiccated coconut 100g 80% dark chocolate, broken into pieces (ginger chocolate is especially good!)
Preheat the oven to 180C. Peel the pears, cut in half and remove the stalks and seeds. Drizzle with lemon juice to stop browning.
Melt coconut oil (or margarine) in a pan, and add the pear halves. Add the sugar, and allow to caramelise.
After about fifteen minutes, add the coconut cream. Place the contents into a casserole dish. It will look like there’s too much liquid, but don’t worry, as it will be absorbed by the crumble.
Make the crumble. I prefer not to use flour in my crumble as I’m gluten free, but if you’d like it, use about 80g flour, and half the amount of oats. Rub the oil or margarine into the oats. Add the sugar and desiccated coconut. Add the pieces of chocolate and mix well. Place the mixture onto the top of the pears. Bake for 45 minutes.
Today I’m collating recipes and photos for Veganuary. Have you heard of it yet?
It’s launching this September, and the campaign is kick-starting in January 2015. The campaign aims to reduce the suffering of animals by inspiring people to ‘try vegan’ every January… Their goal is: to show the wider world how exciting, delicious, vibrant and varied vegan food really is.
Veronika’s pumpkin and chickpea curry
Clea Grady, Marketing Manager for Veganuary, says “Recipes will be a huge and vital part of this website and of our campaign; we want to showcase every type of dish and cuisine there is.”
Veronika’s vegan dandelion tart
She is interested in hearing from bloggers, chefs, cooks and ‘everyday’ vegans to see if they’d be keen to contribute.
Clea says “It is absolutely up to the contributor as to how many recipes they provide – all will be accredited back, and we will link back to blogs/websites/online profiles and shout your name from the rooftops on social media.”
If you want to contribute to Veganuary, visit www.veganuary.com or email: clea (at) veganuary (dot) com
https://veronikarobinson.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/logo-1.png00Veronika Sophia Robinsonhttps://veronikarobinson.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/logo-1.pngVeronika Sophia Robinson2014-09-25 10:12:242014-09-25 10:13:49Vegan for a month
Oh my gosh, it’s suddenly come on all dark, grey, damp and chilly here in the north of England.
My feet are cosied up in thick socks, but the goosebumps on my arms make my thoughts turn to lunch: red lentil soup.
My daughter, Eliza, has started taking a thermos to school so she can bring soup for her lunch. What a treat to have something hot and delicious to look forward to in the middle of the day.
There are more than 40 soup recipes in The Mystic Cookfire, so she’s not likely to get bored!
Illustration by Sara Simon, from The Mystic Cookfire
This week she’s enjoyed red lentil and vegetable, leek and potato, and tomato.
Tonight I’ll make some red pepper soup (her favourite) for tomorrow’s lunch.
Thinking ahead, next week’s lunches will include: Bay and Onion, Black Bean, Potato and Corn Chowder, Italian Peasant Soup, and my favourite: Goan Potato.
Illustration by Sara Simon, from The Mystic Cookfire
What I love about soup is that it’s quick and easy to make; and the house always smells amazing while there’s a pot simmering on the stove. It’s also (ever the crafty mother) a great way of slipping in vegetables and fresh herbs that would otherwise be rejected. Amazing how things just ‘vanish’ when you blend a soup!
What is your favourite soup?
Wishing you a delicious and rather tasty Autumn! Love, Veronika xx