Balls to January. The only good thing about January is my birthday, and even that wasn’t very eventful this year (except the magic night cream, which is very good I must add)! It’s cold, Christmas is well and truly over (I love Christmas), and Spring is way off, so yes, balls to January! However this year, I decided not to let its misery get the better of me.
One of my other birthday presents was from one of my best friends, my little firecracker and party sidekick Jennifer, who like me, loves the idea of living healthily and has sudden outbreaks of “I must live like Gwyneth” every now and again, only to fall at the 2nd hurdle, normally head first into a large bottle of cabernet sauvignon! So when she kept asking me if I’d had a delivery from Amazon yet, my first thought was a self help book was about to arrive and start gathering dust, only to be pleasantly surprised to rip open the packet and find Jamie Oliver staring back at me.
You see, I love a good cook book, and Jamie features quite heavily on my shelf. However, unlike Jennifer and another BFF of mine Maria – am I too old now to use the term BFF?! – they religiously follow recipes, where as I, flick through oo-ing and ah-ing a lot, drooling over the images and sometimes even bookmark a page, but very rarely do I make a list of ingredients, go and buy from written list, and actually stand and prepare the full recipe. I try and remember what was in it, and grab what is in the cupboard/fridge and make it up as I go along, which of course is much more sensible!
An example of this, is when I was visiting another of my BFF’s (there I go again), who now resides in Ibiza (hurray for me!). We had decided to have lunch at hers after doing some much needed shopping at Troc (a story I will write about another day, as it is worth a full page on it), with a friend of hers who was helping re-design her office. I offered to prepare lunch using whatever she had in her fridge. Angela is a nutritionist, so I knew there would be plenty to work with. Therefore, after quizzing her on if she had the ingredients I needed, I hopped off to the kitchen to make a start. One of the things I was preparing was a dressing from a Gwyneth Paltrow cook book. This dressing was first presented to me by Jennifer, who had eagerly whipped up a huge jug full of it, along with some other lovely crispy things that involved very expensive quinoa flakes. Anyway, I was blown away with the dressing, and immediately got onto Amazon to buy the book, along with a pot of Glam Glow as it was on offer! I must add, that the reason for the Glam Glow was down to the fact I was staying with Jen that evening, and after dining on Gwynnie’s salad dressing, followed by 2 bottles of Didier Desvignes finest rosé, we donned a Glam Glow facemask each, to hopefully disguise our inevitable hangovers the next day. It kind of worked too!
Back to Ibiza, as I was trying to remember what actually went into the dressing, Angela informs me that she has the cookbook and just to look. So grabbing the book and flicking to the page, imagine my astonishment to see a list of ingredients as long as my arm. See, even though I have the book, in my head and how I always make it goes like this: – bunch of coriander, pinch of sea salt, glug of olive oil, squirt of 1 lime, some jalapeños, natural yoghurt and some honey. whizz it all up – Done. What the recipe actually says (and I swear I do not ever remember putting all this in it), basil leaves – eh? (this is precisely when I realised something wasn’t right), chives, coriander, parsley, tarragon, spring onions, avocado, vegenaise (whatever that is), raw honey, white wine vinegar, olive oil, water, salt and pepper!!! What! that is nothing like I remember.*
So, staring at Jamie Oliver’s happy little face, I start to flick and do some ooh-ing and ah-ing. At around the same time though, I spot a very healthy girl with super shiny hair on the TV talking to Lorraine Kelly, with lots of yummy looking chocolatey stuff on the table in front of her. Turns out that is Ella from Deliciously Ella, and she also has a new cook book out, one that shows you how to make energy balls, which are really really easy according to her. Here I go again, Jamie now pushed to the side for a moment whilst I grab the macbook and start typing ‘Ella’ in the search bar. I’m probably the only person I know who doesn’t have her original book, and whilst on the subject I don’t have the Helmsley sisters either. Too many smug looking pretty faces with healthy skin in my kitchen is way too much for me to handle. Give me pissed up Keith Floyd any day, at least he’s having fun whilst cooking.
Anyway, a week later, I decided I was going to try a bit of this healthy clean stuff, work out exactly what ingredients I needed, write the list, and actually buy from the list. Of course living in France, getting my hands on puffed quinoa (yep, I hadn’t known this existed either), was going to be a challenge, but I was determined to do this. However, looking at both books, I quickly realised that some of the recipes in there were very similar. Plus, there were some ingredients that either I couldn’t find here, or, could actually eat due to my ridiculously frustrating allergy to anything that comes from a tree with a blossom (yes, that exists too). So, as hazelnuts will immediately shut down my wind pipes, they were out, almonds, dodgy un-cooked, and recently proven to be equally dodgy cooked, raw apple and any other delicious tree fruit were out, which left me limited. Which could only mean one thing, yep, I needed to start making it up again, but this time, I tried my best to stick as closely to the recipes from both as I could.
First off, and not because I necessarily desired it, but due to the fact it was in a lot of Ella’s recipes, was the cashew butter. Luckily cashews are a nut I can eat, presuming that means it doesn’t have a flower, but I digress, so as it looked very easy to make I set to it. First obstacle has been finding some cashew nuts that are not doused in salt. The French love their salt, sugar and butter and laden almost everything in it. Once I’d oven baked the nuts, I then had to grind them in a powerful blender until they literally and magically turned into butter, very much like smooth peanut butter, which I guess makes sense. My first mistake was grabbing my nutri-bullet. Yes, it will grind the nuts down to dust, but let it go further and risk it breaking. Plus, at the point where it starts to turn to butter, it is extremely sticky and almost impossible to scrape out. I reckon anything I make in it from now on in will taste mildly of cashew. So, once the nutri bullet resigned from the job, there was nothing else for it but to dust off the Magimix. The Magimix resides at the back of a cupboard, but not any old cupboard, the cupboard with all the tupperware carefully stacked so the door will shut! I’m not sure why I have so much tupperware, and why I find it necessary to keep all the old Avent containers from when the kids were babies, but I do, and there’s lots of them. So of course, even though I very carefully tried to extract the container that contains the containers(!), yep, it all came crashing out in one big plastic explosion… That didn’t piss me off at all, I just booted it all across the room in a lady like fashion, and continued on my mission to retrieve the Magimix and put it together without the aid of the instruction leaflet. 30 minutes later and out of swear words, I was ready to continue blending. This time the goo was actually moving like I assumed it should. The only problem then was when to stop. As I had taken instruction from both books (both pretty identical except Ella adds vanilla powder and Jamie adds salt, which of course meant I added both), Jamie says blend until you get the consistency you want, where as Ella says to do it for around 10 mins which will make it more runny and therefore easier to handle. I’m glad she added this, and a point to Ella for doing so, as I was ready to stop at the very sticky can’t talk if you eat it stage.
So, nut butter done, now for the energy balls. This is where it got a bit confusing, and to be honest, i didn’t actually measure everything out properly as my scales broke. They actually broke about a year ago so I just try and be all ‘chef-like’ as they do on the tv, and just guess most of the time! As I can’t have hazelnuts or almonds, and was out of pumpkin seeds (forgot to write that on the list), I happened to have a pack of mixed seeds, which included pumpkin, sunflower and some others, and grinded them down first. However, as I speed read both recipes, I didn’t notice that you need to just chop the dates in the mixer and then add the other stuff before it becomes one big gooey mess! That meant that I had to try and mix in the seed dust to an already big ball of goo. I wish i’d video’d it, as it hilariously looked like a huge poo (a goo poo) going at snail pace around and around, picking up bits of seed as it went on it’s very slow merry way. I had also forgotten to add the orange juice (Jamie’s recipe), which really made it look bad! As it wasn’t going well at all, I thought I may as well completely make things worse and add some lime juice too (Ella’s recipe). Whilst I was patiently waiting for the goo poo to finish it’s final lap of the blender, it dawned on me that in the photos the balls had been rolled in something to make them look pretty. Hmmm, ah yes, the seed/nut dust, of which I had none as I’d used it all up in the mix. Quick thinking, as I now have a cupboard full of all things superfoody/health driven (except seeds now), I grabbed a bag of desiccated coconut and dished some out onto a plate. Again, not quite in the recipe instructions but looked like it was up for the job.
The outcome – AMAZEBALLS!!! I was expecting 12 balls like both recipes said, but only managed 9, of which i then greedily ate 3! but now I know what I’m doing, I will definitely make them again, only next time I will add a bit more nut dust, more cacao as my daughter complained they didn’t taste chocolatey enough, to which I agree, but the lime and orange juice together was utterly amazing, and I will keep the coconut too. I’m not sure the purpose of them is to eat them all at once like a bag of M&M’s, and I will try to limit myself to 2 a day in the afternoon, but for a girl who is crazy about chocolate, and I’m talking Wispas and Twirls, although I am also partial to Lindt dark choc with salt, these are a pretty damn good substitute. They are also very very easy to make. The only problem I have now is I need to re-home the Magimix, or chuck the tupperware – which if I’m totally honest is highly unlikely to happen!
*since Ibiza, I have looked through that stupid Gwyneth book again, and actually on page 57 is the Mexican green goddess dressing, the recipe in my head bar the spring onions. The other Green goddess dressing is on page 75. Why she couldn’t have just given them completely different names is beyond me!