Hey hey hey,
So I realised I’ve been nattering on about working at the crochet retreats on Instagram, but I’ve never actually talked about it properly here on the blog. It’s time for a proper introduction!
Last year my family friend and pseudo-super-cuz Ruby asked me if I would cook for one of the retreats she and her business partner Kim run for their crochet company, Frank & Olive. I said yes, straight away, because cooking for a few days in a farmhouse in Yorkshire sounded like a total dream!
The first retreat I came on board for was in November. My Mum and I bought as much fruit and vegetables as we could push home from the local market in York and on a chilly Friday morning I stuffed the kitchen’s pantry full of fresh produce. I was so nervous I decided to have Buffy The Vampire Slayer playing on my laptop via Netflix in the kitchen, so I’d think I was at home.
After that first weekend in November, Ruby asked me if I’d like to cook for all the retreats in 2016, and become the resident chef for the year. Of course I said yes! We’ve now done four, with another six to go this year. I’ve been able to test out so many of my Guac recipes with the guests, and hear how their perceptions about vegan food have changed.
Four retreats later and I’m beginning to get into the groove of it. Every Friday the kitchen work surfaces are covered in flowers and fresh herbs, and the fridge is packed full of vegan cheese, yoghurt, puddings and tarts. It’s like seeing Guac & Roll truly come to life. I play some classic Spotify playlists while Ruby and Kim set up the retreat and make multiple mugs of coffee for us, and before we know it, the coffee has turned into glasses of prosecco and it’s time to serve dinner.
As much as the weekends are hard work, I also find them a ridiculous amount of fun and so rewarding to cook plant-based recipes for people that often don’t think they’ve ever eaten a vegan meal. I love showing how easy it is to keep things vegan and make colourful, varied and exciting food without any meat, dairy or fish.
Now I know crocheting with wool isn’t something that’s vegan. But for me, showing people that often would never go near vegan food how accessible it is, is one of the most important things I think a vegan cook can do. And I hope the food I make for everyone sets an example of what eating food without animal products in can be. Ruby and Kim run a wonderful business all by themselves, started, as Guac was, from literally nothing but ideas and knowing how to be creative with them. So when the three of us get to work together, it truly does feel like a treat to have two other women on side that understand those pressures. I have so much respect for Ruby and Kim in trusting me to run the kitchen totally vegan, and their confidence in me is doing wonders for my cooking- every time I come back it’s with a bit more certainty and guts.
This past weekend felt like the first one of summer. I made fruit platters, nice cream, smoothies, roasted cauliflower, baked cheeses and quinoa salad, plus homemade burgers, raw slaw, roasted vegetable burritos and mushroom and stout pie. My favourite part was sitting outside with our first coffees of the day after breakfast. There’s a silence out in Yorkshire I’ve loved since I was a child visiting in the holidays, and I always forget how comforting it is until I get out to hear it.
On 2nd July we’re having a big party for the retreat’s first birthday. There will be exclusive workshops, special guests, unlimited wool, prosecco, and I’ll be preparing a huge birthday buffet feast on Saturday lunchtime, as well as an actual birthday cake! It'll be the perfect way to sample the retreat experience just for a day, and obviously to come and celebrate with some great creations and food!
In the meantime, here’s a quick recipe for the Retreat Granola I’ve started baking each night for the retreats over summer so it’s ready each morning.
Homemade granola is a little bit like a salad- you have the dressing and the grains (instead of leaves) and it’s just about adding the right bits in at certain times so it doesn’t burn (aka instead of dropping or going too oily as a salad would). This granola doesn’t use any dried fruit because I serve it with fresh fruit platters and strawberries, but you could add in dried fruits or nuts when you bake it for the second time.
300g rolled oats
Pinch of salt
Optional dried fruit and nuts
Pre-heat the oven to 150C. Grease two large oven trays- you want a much surface area as possible so everything can toast.
In a mug, mix together all the dressing ingredients. In a large bowl, combine all the granola mix ingredients. Then pour over the dressing.
Tip out on to the oven trays in two equal portions, spreading the granola out so it’s an even layer. Toast for 15 minutes.
Bring out of the oven and sprinkle over the coconut flakes and any other ingredients you want to use, then bake again for another 15 minutes.
Leave to cool in a switched-off oven overnight, or store straight away in an air-hight container to use the next morning. Keeps well for a few weeks but obviously, you probably won’t be able to make it last that long ;)