Well, it has definitely been a surprisingly chilly week in the UK. The temperature dropped to -6°C where I live and the mornings have been delightfully white and frosty. It’s the kind of weather that makes me want to curl up with a warm cup of dark hot chocolate or a soothing bowl of soup (or vegan chickpea curry!). It’s also perfect weather to wrap yourself up in many layers and get out into the bracing cold sunshine.
Unfortunately I haven’t been able to do much of the latter over the last week. It’s not something I tend to talk about too much, but I suffer from something called fibromyalgia, which sometimes flares up, leaving me exhausted and very achy. I promised in my last post that I’d be honest and share a few different sides of my business, and this is very much one of them.
Last week I had probably the worst flare up I’ve had in a few years and it kind of knocked me sideways a little. But it also forced me to completely slow down. It’s funny how our bodies take over and make decisions that we’ve maybe been trying to avoiding making, like the need to just stop for a bit. And so I did.
It was a really good reminder of why I started Food At Heart. Food At Heart was born out of the genuine joy I get from cooking and eating, but also my issues with fibromyalgia and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Good food is something that makes me happy, even when I have a sometimes complicated relationship with it. Over the last couple of years I’ve adjusted some of my ways of eating, what I’ve been eating and have been getting better at paying much more attention to how my body was feeling. Or so I thought.
My aim has always been share some of my own experience, either through my website or events, to help other people on their own journeys of discovery around the food that makes them feel best. It’s not about torturing yourself over a bowl of kale if that doesn’t get your juices flowing, but there will be other vegetables that you find delicious – and maybe eventually kale will taste good too if you just mix it with the right flavours. But this last week has been a good reminder that I’m still very much on the journey myself, and that I have to remember to listen to what my body really needs.
The truth is that across December I’d stopped listening and things got a bit too hectic for me. I do get frustrated as I want to have the energy to do EVERYTHING – but it’s important to say yes to just the right things and no to the others. This is not only important for my health, but also because I need to leave enough time for rest and get creative inspiration. I find when I’m cramming in too much it doesn’t allow any space for existing thoughts to develop or new ideas to bubble up.
My latest recipe, Coconutty Vegan Chickpea Curry, therefore contains lots of soothing and uplifting flavours, designed to make you feel good at a time of the year when many people aren’t quite feeling 100%. It includes the almighty turmeric, which seems to be touted as the cure to everything these days. It definitely has many health benefits, including anti-inflammatory ones, but it also lends a subtle earthy richness to food (as long as don’t overdo it!). It’s also a beautiful companion for cumin, chilli and pepper. Hopefully it’s a curry that will make you feel like you’re wrapping yourself with a nice woolly blanket.
As it’s Veganuary, the recipe is completely vegan. Even if you normally avoid vegan food like the plague or think something needs meat for it to be truly tasty, I’d encourage you to give at least the odd vegan option a go. I’m not particularly a fan of vegans ‘substitute’ ingredients that are full of weird additives, like dairy-free margarines. I prefer to choose foods that are naturally plant-based or products using real ingredients, such as good quality non-dairy milks. When you’re eating this type of food, the quality of the ingredients and lots of punchy flavours make a big difference.
I’d love to hear what type of food satisfies you, especially if you’ve taken part in Veganuary this year, and the kind of food that makes you feel the best in the middle of winter. Oh, and what you think of my chickpea curry recipe of course!
Coconutty Vegan Chickpea Curry (vegan, gluten free)
1-2 tspn olive or rapeseed oil
1 tspn cumin seeds
1 tspn freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, chopped
1 1/2 tspn ground cumin
1/2 tspn ground turmeric
1/2 tspn chilli flakes
1 medium carrot, chopped into chunks (I leave the peel on for this recipe)
2 good handfuls of kale, stems removed & ripped into small pieces
1/2 x 400g tin of chickpeas, rinsed & drained (120g drained)
1/2 x 400g tin of tomatoes
200ml coconut milk
1 tspn tahini
1/2 tspn Himalayan pink salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
75g rice noodles, broken into smaller pieces
A little extra pepper and salt to season if needed
A sprinkle of pumpkin seeds and coconut flakes to top
1. Gently heat the olive oil in a frying pan or wok for a couple minutes over a medium heat. Throw in the cumin seeds and black pepper, and stir until the lovely aromas are released. Add the chopped onion, ginger and garlic, and cook for 5-10 minutes until softened. Sprinkle the ground cumin, chilli flakes and turmeric over the onion mix, stir it through and cook for another couple of minutes.
2. Add the chopped carrot and kale to the frying pan, and cook for 5 minutes (stir regularly!) before stirring through the tomatoes, coconut milk, tahini and Himalayan salt. Bring to a gentle simmer (just bubbling) and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring every now and then. If it’s looking dry add a splash of water.
3. While the pan is bubbling, cook the rice noodles in a separate small saucepan by covering in boiling water and letting bubble away for 5 minutes. Drain the noodles into a sieve over a sink and give a very quick rinse with a little cold tap water. Add the noodles to the curry pan, squeeze over the lemon juice and stir well. Season with a little extra salt and pepper if you think it needs it. Cook for another few minutes and serve.
Serve in a bowl with a scattering of pumpkin seeds, coconut flakes, a dollop of (vegan) coconut yoghurt and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Some other flavour options:
– swap the lemon juice for lime juice
– use almond or peanut butter instead of tahini
– add a splash of tamari soy sauce
– during the summer, use 2 chopped fresh tomatoes instead of tinned ones
– throw in a handful of cacao nibs or toasted almonds for some savoury crunch
If you’d like to explore some uplifting flavours with me in person, check out my