Today’s recipe is simple, nurturing, festive and so easy to whip up and share. Stewed plums and raspberries spiced with star anise, and a vanilla whipped coconut cream. Food that will make you feel good, and also give you a lift. Sweet, sour, spiced, creamy, fruity, all those wonderful things. And quick and simple to make. Vanilla whipped coconut cream doesn’t overly taste of coconut either so you can serve it to anyone, and is just a lovely treat! YES! And star anise is, well, a star of spices! like licorice in flavour, adding its earthy goodness and going so beautifully with fruit. As is so often the case with herbs and spices it has medicinal properties, it’s healing, an antioxidant, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial, helping to ward off viruses and to give your body balance, which is especially important at this time of year with so much sweet rich food coming your way. This is my type of food, easy, tasty and good for you and it feels like a real treat ♥
I have so many Christmassy recipes that I wanted to share, nut loaves, chutneys, drinks, cakes, flatbreads, vegetable dishes, trifle… but life tumbles on, and they will most likely have to wait. I’ve had a chest infection for weeks and weeks, and then I also had a fall and sprained my ankle, which made me bedridden for days, my feet and ankles have now swollen up and I’m still not able to even go outside and walk anywhere. So things have had to slow down and so, seven months pregnant and with all the fire-fighting pressures of being an expecting type 1 diabetic I’ve had to accept that the super duper Christmas menu extravaganza just isn’t going to materialise into cyber-space! And also that our own Christmas food will be super simple, as I’m really unable to stand up for long to get much involved, and Dan is so extra busy looking after me. But it has made me focus on the simple things, and that’s been just what I needed. I wanted to share with you a simple, nurturing delicious recipe that anyone can make and enjoy, and that won’t leave you feeling stressed and exhausted after you’ve made it, but leave the house smelling beautiful and a smile on your face. No pressure. Time to put your feet up…
Today’s ‘Christmas Speech’ post was inspired by me everyday turning on the radio and hearing about the crisis in Syria, which is now intensified in Aleppo. And by often turning it off because I don’t want to hear it any more, over and over. Yesterday I just broke down and sobbed, begged for those people to be helped. Being pregnant I am more emotional, but then my usual response is probably less human, I don’t let myself cry that often about such things. It is just the most awful thing, and for us all to be listening in, hearing about it as we live in such relative comfort, hearing their pleas. Feeling it and then forgetting. Wars rage on and on, it’s a fire on this planet we collectively never put out and that most of us have nothing to do with. I’ve been listening to a truly fantastic (and really neglected) great UK post-punk band, The Sound. Check out ‘Missiles’. It says it all about war really, in such a real way.
who the hell makes those missiles, when they know what they can do?
Such is the terrible and never-ending juxtaposition of this world. We are as humans capable of so much love and so much hate. And it is only as humans that we have a choice, other animals are driven by instinct, we have rationale. Of course choice is relative, we are psychological and vulnerable, we each have different, and shared, weaknesses and tendencies. Madness is everywhere. I think on some very real level we are all mad, some way more so than others. And I’m not talking about medically recognised conditions, depression, chemical imbalances and such things, (although there is a spectrum and it is all part of the same massive ‘thing’) but just the human condition, the mind, the emotions, the subconscious mind, the past, time, it’s crazy, we’re all fighting through our own brand of craziness. Our ability to be self-deceptive, to be out of touch with ‘reality’, to hurt and let down others, to be selfish when we should be selfless, to feel hurt when we should turn the other cheek and let go, when we should have understanding for other people’s weaknesses. And if you can’t recognise this as our collective reality then I think you’re craziest of all. It’s called denial. Life is a process of battling through the mental sludge and trying our best to be the best we can be, to do the best we can do, to reconcile ourselves to what life is, to the body and aging, to death, to loss, to birth. Life. It takes more than a lifetime to get your head around what the fuck we are all doing here, if it is even possible at all really. And what does it come back to, the most important thing? The raw ingredient that is most valuable of all. You got it. Love. A word written down, an abstract concept, but what it is is real, the action, the energy, the positivity, the purity, the unobtainable purity of what love is in its real potential, something spiritual that our minds cannot understand and that we experience on a deeper level we can barely access. Often we most powerfully experience love as loss, through grief and the hole it leaves behind. But real love is more transcendental. It is not attached, it is not experienced through emotion or self, it is anti-attachment. It is peace. It is something we cannot really get our heads around. We can reach for it by being loving, to others and to ourselves. True compassion and lack of self. Learning, and trying to learn, what compassion means. What we mean, what we are and what we can be. What we think we are and what we’re really not. What can be extinguished in a second, and what remains? And then, what matters. And so what matters now? Although of course I spend most of my life moving objects around and looking after the basic and tedious needs of my clapped out body and thinking and feeling the same things over and over again like groundhog day over and over. Inside, somewhere, rising to the surface and ducking down in a maddening pattern, this battle is always going on. I feel like I am losing more often than not because progress is so painfully slow. Because distractions are so easy, walls so easy to build. Because my mind is unruly and seeking distraction, because my illnesses make things so damn hard and everything hurts. Because I am about to have a baby and then what, who will I be then, where will time go? Life and death are so difficult to face and to really learn about. Because we are stuck with this body, stuck with this mind also and the routes it travels, and it just isn’t good enough is it. It all gets in the way. And yet it is all so very precious and wonderful too, and that is so important to recognise. We are our resource, our tool, and our stepping stone.
we must treasure ourselves and nurture our resources.
Life’s tough. There are no two ways about it. A dear friend of ours’ Dad had a saying. His Dad was an amazing man, self-educated and mild mannered but very tough, you had to be back then in Salford, working hard jobs in mills and factories and down mines, having terrible industrial accidents, making a little go a long way. “Life in the raw is seldom mild.” I love this saying. And I think when we can get our heads around that and accept it, life becomes a lot easier to cope with.
Back to the human crisis’ that are playing out and to which we are all such horrified and jaded witnesses. Christmas preparations, how should we feel? What is right? We must still enjoy our precious Christmas’, still spread joy and love where we can, look after ourselves and cherish our lives. Still look forward to the next year as best we can and nurture our strength. But we cannot forget, for long, what the world is like out there, and how fortunate we are if our lives are untouched by such horror. We cannot shut ourselves off from our search to understand reality and what this life really is. Our countries are, and should be, a haven for the people in the world who have no rights, who have no hope, who have struggled unfairly. Our borders were built by suffering and by exploitation, but the world has no boundaries itself, and the world is always in flux. A little equality would go a long way wouldn’t it. A spreading out of the wealth. An opening up of all our eyes as to where the things we eat and wear and use so freely come from, how they came to us at every stage of their journey and what we can do about that if we’re not happy about what we hear. Life makes us put up walls inside ourselves, we cannot feel sad all the time about other people’s suffering. But we must find a way to make those walls permeable. There are some things we are helpless to change,but there are others we have some power over. And as Western Euro-American consumers, we have a lot of power. Let’s use it. Step by step let’s turn around and face reality and be so much stronger and more balanced for it. That is my resolution ♥
The food we eat, we cook, we share, is an aspect of how we can love in this world. Food is, should be, goodness, should be giving us and our loved ones the nutrients we need to be as well and as balanced and as strong as we can be to take on life and get the most out of it. It comforts, it nurtures, it fulfills basic needs and more complex needs too. It is something to be so grateful for, to treat with respect and to pour our love into.
wishing you all a merry Christmas and a happy new year, full of good food, love, compassion, peace and strength ♥
- STAR ANISE STEWED PLUMS + RASPBERRIES
- 10 plums
- 20 drops stevia (or more natural sweetness to taste)
- 5 star anise
- 4 tbsp maple syrup, or other natural sweetness
- 2 tbsp dark unrefined sugar
- 2/3 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp lime juice (or lemon)
- 1/4 cup of water or so
- VANILLA WHIPPED COCONUT CREAM
- 1 cup solid coconut cream from tin
- coconut liquid, as needed
- 2 tsp vanilla paste, or essence
- 4 tbsp sweetness, I used maple syrup
Halve or quarter the plums (if you want the plus to stew mostly intact then halve) I leave the stones in as I think it adds flavour, but you can take them out at this point for ease later.
Add all the ingredients bar the citrus juice to your saucepan and simmer on a low heat with the lid on for 10 mins or so.
To make it lower sugar I have added stevia drops, otherwise substitute more syrup or sugar, to taste.
Here I have mashed the fruit up as I prefer this, but it also is very attractive not to and to keep the shape of the plums, though they may need simmering a little longer to be very soft and need a little extra water.
Add the lime juice to taste, lemon is also very good though I prefer lime.
Remove the star anise before serving, making sure no segments have broken off and if they have fishing them out.
Remove the solid part of a can of coconut cream until you have a cup full.
Blend the coconut cream, vanilla and sweetness, adding liquid as needed - if you're using organic coconut milk it is usually more solid and will need a little extra liquid to loosen as it whips, so keep an eye on it and add more at a time if it is too dense.
Whip for 5+ minutes until smooth, light and creamy. Refrigerate until serving.
I’ve been (also) listening to… The Waitresses ‘Christmas Wrapping’
I’ve been reading… Iris Murdoch ‘The Philosopher’s Pupil’
I’ve been watching… ‘The Honourable Woman’