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Merry Christmas

It’s Christmas eve! This year has gone scarily quickly and I know a lot of you can’t wait for this year to be over. Some of us (like me!) have had a great year and others have really, really not but hopefully we can still all spend tomorrow celebrating what we have in our lives right now.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night! 

Seasons greetings from London.

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Lazy Vegetarian Meal Ideas #20 Baked Camembert and Garlic Bread

I do like a bit of Camembert, and it turns out it tasted even better baked! I am not sure if it is meant to be as melted as mine turned out or if this is what Jamie Oliver had in mind, but damn it tasted good.
Garlic bread is also ridiculously easy to make and tastes so much better than the shop frozen shop bought ones, and as it works out cheaper as well there is no excuse not to at least give it a try.

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What you need: A whole Camembert, a few sprigs of thyme, two or three garlic cloves, olive oil, a baguette or two, garlic paste, a few chunks of butter, a few fresh basil leaves, some dry oregano

1: Take the Camembert out of its packaging and either place it back in the box if wooden or put in a baking tray with some baking paper (I did this rather than the box thing as I was a little concerned it might catch on fire).

2: Drizzle the Camembert with olive oil and cut a few slits in the top, in which you will put the sprigs of thyme and two/three garlic cloves. Set the oven to a medium heat and cook for 20-30 minutes until it is starting to brown

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3: Whilst the Camembert is baking, heat butter in a sauce pan. When the butter is melting, add a few spoonfuls of garlic paste (amount will depend on how garlicy you’re feeling) stir and cook for a few minutes. Then add the basil and cook for a minute or two more. Be careful not to let the garlic burn so make sure it stays on a medium/low heat. Cut the baguettes in half and apply the garlic butter generously, make sure all the baguettes get a bit of basil!

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4: Sprinkle the baguettes with oregano and bake in the oven for 10-20 minutes until crisp and smelling delicious

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5: Enjoy as a decadent starter or a slightly more acceptable main course.yeees

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Lazy Vegetarian Meal Ideas #19 Kale, Spinach and Cashew pies

When I was planning my Christmas Dinner I wasn’t really sure what main to make. Most Vegetarian or Vegan Christmas recipes are all about nut roasts or some variation of toad in the hole, neither which I’m particularly crazy about. I had never made a pie before Christmas Day, but I am really glad I took the plunge because it turned out really well. I was a little concerned about the egg factor as pretty much every pie recipe calls for at least one egg, but it turns out warm butter works fine, and even though I had some moments of doubt here and there it turned out to be one of the easiest things I have ever made.

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What you need: A rolling pin, a flat chopping or bread board, a pack of frozen puff pastry, a few dollops of salted butter, about five big handfuls of fresh kale and spinach, a few chopped mushrooms, two chopped chillies, garlic paste, olive oil, cashew nuts, one small onion, cheddar cheese (optional) a few baked potatoes (optional), a few small muffin tins (optional, you can make this as a long pie or small pies)
Spices: Salt, Pepper, Chilli flakes, a few sprinkles of thyme and oregano

1: Prepare the filling. Heat olive oil in a medium sauce pan and add a spoonful or two of garlic paste and the chopped chillies. After a minute or two, add chopped onions and fry until the onions are translucent (around 5-7 minutes). Add the mushrooms, cashews and potatoes (if using) and sauté for a 2/3 more minutes, then add the kale, spinach, salt, pepper and spices and cook on a medium/low heat for a further few minutes.

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2: Defrost the pastry in the fridge the night before cooking, then on the day remove from its packaging and if completely defrosted roll out with a rolling pin. If making small pies, use the pie tins to cut the pastry into circles, or if not just roll out until flat

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3: Heat butter in a small sauce pan and when melted coat both sides of the pastry. Then bake the pies in the oven for five minutes or until they are starting to puff

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4: Add the filing and place pies in the oven on a medium heat (around 150/gas mark 5/6) for 10-12 minutes. If adding cheese add it after this time and then bake for a further 30 minutes or until the pastry is starting to brown and is sufficiently puffed.

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5: For best results enjoy with my roast potatoes and some onion gravy

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Lazy Vegetarian Meal Ideas#18 Roast potatoes

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I hope you are all enjoying the festive season. The last few days have been quite exciting in the recipe department; on Christmas Day I made the entire Christmas dinner for me and my family. I may have gone a tad overboard as I ended up making a feast for at least 20 people when there were only 3 to feed, and so naturally we had to eat it all over Christmas Day and Boxing Day. I may have to start seriously going to the gym and eating zoodles every day when the new year starts, but I got to try out so many new recipes and feed people so I’m pretty happy about how it all turned out. I’ve made so much food over the past few days that I’m having to split this into a few parts, so for now feast your eyes on my super easy and uber tasty roast potatoes and look out for my first ever attempt at veggie savoury pies (so easy), baked Camembert and so much more coming soon.

Roast potatoes 

Roast potatoes are very easy to make, and yet somehow everyone still seems to have their own way of making them. I personally like to cook them with some chopped chilli’s and mushrooms or peppers as I think it adds to the taste, also obviously olive oil rather than goose fat and some nice fresh herbs. As always please feel free to play with and add to the recipe, and let me know how you make your own potatoes.

Note: I would normally add Rosemary, but unfortunately I forgot to buy any. If you have any add it, but they were fine without.

What you need: Peeled and chopped potatoes, olive oil, a handful of chopped chillies, a few chopped mushrooms, a large pot and a roasting tray
Spices: Fresh Thyme, salt, pepper, a handful of chilli flakes (optional)

1: Peel potatoes and chop them into chunks; I like mine a little smaller than most people but that’s just me.

2: Boil potatoes with a little salt for around 10-14 minutes

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3: Whilst potatoes are boiling, pour a little extra virgin olive oil on the roasting tray. Add chopped chillies, mushrooms and a few sprigs of thyme and toss with a few pinches of salt

4: Add the potatoes and toss all the ingredients together, adding salt and pepper to taste

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5: Bake on a medium heat for about 40 minutes/ until the potatoes are crisp and brown

6: Enjoy on their own or as part of a festive/Sunday feast!

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It’s Christmas!!!

It’s officially Christmas Day! Tomorrow I’m going to attempt to cook a vegetarian Christmas lunch/dinner and if successful will share the recipes and pictures with you lovely people, but for now I would just like to wish everyone on wordpress and the  world at large a very merry Christmas and a fantastic new year. I love Christmas. Not because of the religious aspect (Churches are pretty, but I am not a Christian) or because of the extended family thing (most of my larger family live in a far away country so my Christmas is quite a small affair), but because I do believe Christmas is a wonderful time of year. It encourages us to spend time with our families and loved ones; in this age of Netflix and commuting and eating on your own (with Netflix) and being basically glued to our phones all the time, a lot of us may not realise how little we actually see some of the important people in our lives, like our parents or grandparents (if applicable). For one day it’s nice to spend that little bit of extra time with other human beings, because ultimately these are the times you will remember and you need to make the most of it. Also winter is (at least in theory, although global warming’s kinda messing with that at the moment) cold and depressing in this country, and it’s good to have some festive lights and decorations to perk up the otherwise dismal time of year.

 

Have a fantastic Christmas, and wish me luck for this dinner!

Disclaimer: Pictures sadly do not belong to and were not taken by me.

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Matthew Bourne’s ballet revolution: Sleeping Beauty at Sadlers Wells

Yesterday evening I was lucky enough to attend the opening night of Matthew Bourne’s  Gothic adaption of Sleeping Beauty at Sadlers Wells. The ballet featured babies crawling up curtains, vampiric fairies with fetching wings and a wonderful blend of contemporary dance and classical ballet. Bourne is a fantastic choreographer with an avant garde and very effective approach to traditional ballet, and this show was no exception

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The story starts in 1890 with the birth of princess Aurora, a mischievous baby played by a very convincing puppet. The first dance numbers featured the baby getting up to all kinds of mischief, such as climbing up curtains and making the palace staff chase after it in a variety of amusing ways. The first ten minutes or so didn’t feature a great amount of dance as such, but it did show a lot of  impressive acting skills from the cast and was funny enough to lighten the mood and draw the audience into the story, as well as introducing Aurora’s character and presenting her as a bit of a changeling in contrast with the way she is usually portrayed . Later in the ballet Aurora grows into a rebellious and feisty young woman, and it was nice that she had a bit of an edge as a character and had a stronger personality than many heroines in traditional ballet. The later garden scenes set in 1911 were quite realistic, and there was a nice contrast with Aurora pretending to be the prim and proper Edwardian lady and sneaking off with one of the servants when no one was looking. The theme of secret young love was easy to identify with and made the characters very likable. The second half of the ballet featured a selfie dance, dreamy sequences and attempted murder, and the story as well as the dancing was compelling from beginning to end. The costumes, quick set changes and lighting also deserves a mention, it was all very impressive.

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SLEEPING BEAUTY by Bourne, , Director and Choreographer – Matthew Bourne, Designer – Lez Brotherston, Lighting – Paule Constable, New Adventures, Theatre Royal, Plymouth, 2015, Credit: Johan Persson/

The stage featured a moving floor section which gave a really impressive gliding effect that worked really well with the fairies and the dream sequences, and the set in general was beautiful and reflected the scenes flawlessly.
The use of faceless masks for the future Aurora and her love interest was a really powerful image; its not often one sees faceless dancers and it  brought an element of horror to the show.
What really struck me about the dancers was their excellent use of timing; something as small as turning your head at the right moment with the right music can be really effective and is essential for the comedic elements of the show, and whilst it is a small thing it is actually really hard to execute perfectly and all dancers really pulled it off. The show combined comedy, romance and horror very well and the audience was really drawn into the story as well as the dance.

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SLEEPING BEAUTY by Bourne, , Director and Choreographer – Matthew Bourne, Designer – Lez Brotherston, Lighting – Paule Constable, New Adventures, Theatre Royal, Plymouth, 2015, Credit: Johan Persson/

The dancing properly got under way with the arrival of the fairy’s, played by assorted male and female dancers in Gothic inspired attire. The Lilac fairy, traditionally one of the most prominent parts in the ballet was played by a male dancer. I thought this was a  great move not only because the dancer in question was very talented but because it brought a lot more versatility to the part and the ballet in general. Whilst men play prominent roles in traditional ballet, they can seem a bit constricted and are often limited to duets in which their main task is lifting the female leads. When they do dance solo’s they are often overtly energetic with lots of jump sequences; both of these can be very impressive, but it can also limit what male dancers are expected to do on stage.
Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty had all of that, but his male dancers also performed in softer routines and there was even a short duet between the Lilac fairy and Aurora’s love interest, which was really nice to see because you don’t often see male dancers in that scenario. The roles were more equally split between the male and female dancers than is normally seen in a traditional ballet like Sleeping Beauty, and I felt the male roles got a lot more floor time than they normally do which made the show more balanced and powerful. The costumes were also very impressive, some of the best being the fairies burlesque/masquerade style outfits towards the end of the second act.

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SLEEPING BEAUTY by Bourne, , Director and Choreographer – Matthew Bourne, Designer – Lez Brotherston, Lighting – Paule Constable, New Adventures, Theatre Royal, Plymouth, 2015, Credit: Johan Persson/

The chemistry between Aurora and her love interest was amazing; the mixture of cute and wildly energetic young love was really enjoyable to watch and it really felt like the two had genuine affection for each other. Bourne’s choreography differed from the traditional in that he used levels, so there was a lot of floor work combined with more traditional ballet moves.
What was really striking was that the female lead spent most of the ballet dancing in bare feet; most ballets tend to rely quite heavily on pointe work, and whilst pointe can be amazing to watch there is a lot more to ballet than that and not having pointe as the main focus meant they actually had a far greater range of moves than you might expect. Spending most of the show barefoot was a nice contrast with the 1911 context and portrayed some of Aurora’s rebellious nature. This doesn’t mean there weren’t classical moves, in fact the duets and lift sequences were some of the best I have ever seen, but it was all the more impressive because there were so many other things going on and there was far more flexibility and borrowing from different styles. Contemporary never has enough mainstream exposure, so it was great to see it incorporated in such a classical story with the traditional music.

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SLEEPING BEAUTY by Bourne, , Director and Choreographer – Matthew Bourne, Designer – Lez Brotherston, Lighting – Paule Constable, New Adventures, Theatre Royal, Plymouth, 2015, Credit: Johan Persson/

Whilst the story was sometimes hard to follow, the dancing was so impressive and dreamy that no one really cared and against all odds it ended on a happy note. Using a recording rather than live music may not sit well with some people, but it worked with this ballet because they had greater control over the levels of sound and could add some special effects (I’m also pretty sure Sadlers Well’s does not have an orchestra pit). The show lost energy at times, but altogether it was an incredible performance from the cast and really well executed. Matthew Bourne is bringing ballet into the 21st century by combining traditional ballet and freeing it up to include levels, bare feet and gender versatility that other ballet’s could do well to learn from. Anyone who thought ballet was strict and rigid really needs to see this show, hopefully Bourne’s ballet revolution will catch on and allow more choreographers to explore new styles and bring ballet to a wider audience.