tofu mushroom hotpot with miso and chilli by Philippa Moore

This dish isn't exactly instagrammable (is any brown food?) but if you're after moreish and delicious vegetarian winter comfort food that's also good for you, it doesn't come much better than this! It's also perfect to serve to people who claim they hate mushrooms (aka my husband). Add more chilli, garlic, ginger and miso to your own taste.

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TOFU MUSHROOM HOTPOT WITH MISO AND CHILLI

Makes 4 hearty helpings

300g white or chestnut mushrooms

2 cloves garlic

3/4 inch long piece of fresh ginger

3 spring onions

1 x 396g pack firm tofu (preferably organic)

1 tablespoon groundnut oil/coconut oil/chilli oil/garlic oil

2 leeks, washed and sliced

2 medium courgettes, sliced

1 tablespoon minced chilli or chilli paste (I like Gochujang - Korean chilli paste), more if you like it hot

4 tablespoons miso paste (Hikari red or brown is very good, and vegetarian)

850ml vegetable stock

Brown rice vinegar, to taste

Tamari, to taste

Two rough handfuls of spinach leaves

Sesame oil or chilli oil, to serve

Steamed rice, to serve

Pulse mushrooms, garlic, ginger and spring onions in a food processor until it resembles mince. If you don't have a food processor, get one. Or just chop everything finely and set aside :)

Drain the tofu from the packaging, patting off the excess liquid with a paper towel. Cut the block of tofu in half through the middle (as you might cut a sponge cake to prepare it for its filling) and then into roughly 2cm sized cubes. Set aside.

In a large pan, heat the oil over medium heat then add the leeks and courgettes. Cook for a few minutes until they begin to soften (but not colour too much). Add the minced mushroom mixture, increase the heat slightly and stir until combined. Add the minced chilli/chilli paste and miso paste, stir until combined and cook for a minute or two until fragrant. Add a splash of water (or even cooking sherry if you have it handy) if it starts to stick.

Add the tofu pieces, stirring gently to combine, then add the vegetable stock, again stirring gently to ensure everything is mixed in. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until everything is cooked through and the broth is flavoursome. Taste it - you may want to add more miso or chilli. A few minutes before you want to eat, add some handfuls of spinach, stir and simmer until the leaves are wilted. Add a splash of brown rice vinegar and/or tamari, to your taste.

Serve in bowls with steamed rice to soak up the delicious broth/sauce. Drizzle each portion with a little bit of sesame or chilli oil.

An excellent savoury muffin by Philippa Moore

savoury-muffins

Since my last visit to Australia, I've picked up a rather serious savoury muffin habit. It seems I'm not alone in this, as I encountered many savoury muffin admirers in my homeland - in fact, the woman behind me in a queue in a Melbourne bakery huffed and stomped out when I ordered the last one (hashtag, issues). But it was a bloody good muffin so perhaps she had a point.

SMs aren't really a thing in the UK, I've found. At least, if Miranda Hart's reaction is anything to go by:

But, Miranda, savoury muffins are anything but disappointing! 

This is my foolproof recipe, and I tried a lot of them in my quest to recreate the one I tried in that Melbourne bakery (and inadvertently ruined someone's day over. I hope she recovered).

I highly recommend procuring a kingsize muffin tin and those cute little brown wrappers. They make the job much easier and also you get a giant muffin! But a normal 12 muffin tin will do just as well, they'll just be gone in two bites.

Phil's savoury muffins

Makes 6 Texas-sized muffins, or 12 normal

300ml buttermilk OR 200g natural yoghurt plus 100ml milk (you can also sub creme fraiche for yoghurt)
60ml olive oil (I have used normal and extra virgin, both are good)
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon dried herbs of choice (I like basil, oregano or thyme)
200g savoury ingredients (my favourite combination is finely chopped fresh parsley, finely chopped red pepper, cubes of feta and cubes of roasted squash or sweet potato but you could use anything really)
Optional: 6 (or 12) cubes mature cheddar, for a surprise middle

Preheat your oven to 200 C/fan 180 C/Gas Mark 6. Line your muffin tray with paper cases.

Place the buttermilk/yoghurt and milk in a bowl with the oil and egg. Combine together with a fork.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture, stirring well to ensure no dry pockets. Have a light touch and try not to overwork the mixture. It will be a bit lumpy but don't despair, everything's going to be wonderful.

Fold your savoury ingredients in.

Spoon a small smount of mixture into each case, place a cube of cheddar on top of each one, and then cover with remaining mixture. If you're missing out the cheesy middle, just distribute the entire mixture evenly between the cases.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until the muffins are golden brown.

Marvel at your willpower to let them cool in the tin briefly once you remove them from the oven. Then transfer to a wire rack or board to cool. They are lovely eaten warm but I also like them as a portable snack the next day, as the melted cheese will have re-solidified and it's a bit like eating cold pizza, which we all know is one of life's most delectable treats.

I like them with a little butter when warm, but find butter is unnecessary when they're cold. But each to their own.

They freeze well and last up to a week in a tin....so I'm told.

 

what I've learned from meditating for 250 days in a row by Philippa Moore

"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." - Fredrich Buechner
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Apart from brushing my teeth, drinking coffee and telling Tom I love him, I don't think I've ever done anything every day for such a sustained period of time.

But on Saturday, Insight Timer* told me I had just meditated for 250 days in a row.

How does that feel, you might ask?

It's hard to explain, but I guess a rambling blog post is a good place to try. I don't know if I feel calmer - and calm was definitely something I wanted to feel more of this time last year, when my old friend anxiety had moved back in. After 250 consecutive days of meditation, if anything I think I feel my emotions more.

But perhaps the difference is knowing I *can* sit with them, and they will pass. I no longer feel afraid of anger, sadness or loneliness. All things I used to avoid feeling if I possibly could.

I don't feel at one with the Universe. There have been no giant revelations or moments of enlightenment. But there has been a clearing, of sorts. I do feel like I know my mind better. 

I have become more conscious of things in my life - and within myself - that I'd like (and need) to change. 

When you force yourself to get still at least once a day, you slowly learn how to switch your mind off, even if it's only for a few seconds at a time.

Those moments - those fleeting, precious seconds when I am actually not thinking and am just there, all breath, in my body and all I can hear are cars on the street, or the rattle and creak of the floorboards, or the wind or birds outside, or the oven warming up, or my neighbour leaving for the day, and my mind is empty and quiet, and I can feel the quietness of it - are bliss.

I meditate for an average of 10 minutes at a time. Occasionally I do 20 minutes, like I did this morning. I'd like to build up to more. That feeling - where everything drops away and I witness my mind emptying and getting still - has only ever lasted for a few seconds, so far. I've never been able to maintain it for very long but those few seconds are always worth it. They make me think "ah, this is the point of it all."

Meditation has helped me find ways to relax, to check in, to be in the present throughout the day, not just when I've got the app timer running. When you force yourself to stop and just be where you are right now, you start to realise how much of our mind's energy is spent fretting over the past and the future. 

Stress has not vanished from my life because I've been meditating every day. If anything, I'm more aware of how stress feels in my body. But when that happens, I employ a breathing technique which clears the mind and helps me relax. 

Meditation has helped me to be (slightly) more patient with and forgiving of myself, which I hope will translate into my interactions with others. 

It's become a wonderful way to start the day. I meditate before I do anything - no checking my phone first, and ideally immediately afterward I write in my journal or do Morning Pages (but that doesn't always happen). Once I've meditated, I go into the kitchen and find Tom has made a coffee for me (and unloaded the dishwasher!) and sit there, taking in the taste of the coffee, feeling reset for the day, my senses heightened.

Meditation has helped me feel more peaceful and content in my heart. Every time I hear the closing bell, I feel reassured that I'm a good person doing my best, trying to be kind, improve and move forward.

And that's worth making time for each day.

So what if instead of fearing the power of dark thoughts, we used our minds’ power to create safe havens within ourselves to explore them. Maybe literally envisioning cocoons inside our hearts where we can sit before cozy fires, hot drinks in hand, and ask of our fear and laziness and depression and shame and lust and rage and whatever other thing we might otherwise try to ignore: What is it you’d like to say to me? What indispensable nourishment do you have for the Life of trust I want to live? – Kristen Noelle (via Leonie Wise)

 

* Insight Timer is a free app and is the one I use based on recommendations from friends and well-wishers. I absolutely love it and am not being paid to mention it in any way! I just wanted to share because it has genuinely improved my life. 

 

things i like to do [video] by Philippa Moore

Following on from last week, I've now finished this week's MAKE FILMS assignment. Here is a little video about one of my favourite things to do....gardening. Specifically, growing vegetables and fruit - and then cooking and eating what I grow! 

I'm really lucky to have a garden (a rarity in London) so I don't take it for granted and am grateful for every bean, potato, tomato and stalk of rhubarb my little patch has produced so far.

Learning to garden has been very much a trial and error thing for me - sometimes I have successes, but more often than not things don't go according to plan! 

The greatest lesson gardening has taught me - which I try to apply to life in general - is that you have to let go of the things you can't control. You might take every precaution necessary to protect your plants from squirrels, slugs and birds, but then there might be a drought, or a storm, or you'll pick something or dig something up too early, and all your work is down the drain. You can't take these things personally, but merely chalk it up to experience, process the lessons for next time, and move on. 

It's also one of the most absorbing, calming, lose-yourself-in-the-moment tasks I can think of. Time stops for a while and you find yourself talking to your basil plants or watching in fascination as bees, pollen drunk, float from flower to flower. 

I'm always learning, trying to go with the flow of nature and the seasons, and every now and then there's a delicious triumph. 

Happiness comes with a bit of dirt under the nails, I think. 

PS: Turn the sound on for music - and spray bottle sound effects! Music is 'Take Me Higher' by Jahzzar - http://betterwithmusic.com/

scenes from the weekend [video] by Philippa Moore

I made a film! 

I'm taking Xanthe Berkeley's marvellous MAKE FILMS course, which I highly recommend, and this was our first assignment - "Scenes from the weekend" (make sure you put the sound on to hear the music!).

Tom and I went to a favourite (and lively) part of London where we took in Broadway Market, Columbia Road, Shoreditch and Brick Lane, so I had masses of footage by the end of Saturday afternoon.

There's something for everyone in this video - street art! Hot and jellied eels! Goats! Beer! Drums! Frida Kahlo!

Film-making is a very new medium for me. I'm completely out of my comfort zone, but I can see why people find it addictive. This was so much fun to film and edit together, so I hope you like it.