Emma Cullen waves farewell to Fed Up & Drunk…

Goodbye flying cat

After many wonderful years of working with Food & Drink Guides, today is my last day. As I head out into the world to join the ranks of the Teach First movement, I know I will miss working for this wonderful company.

I’ve been thoroughly spoiled by the most delightful restaurant experiences, and come across so many establishments that would have remained hidden gems had I not had the insider knowledge procured by all at Food & Drink Towers. One of the most memorable reviews was an evening at the drop-dead gorgeous Lucknam Park. A real fairy-tale venue just outside Bath, Lucknam Park really is somewhere I can’t recommend highly enough for a special occasion. Every dish that leaves Hywel Jones’ kitchen is as elegant and carefully considered as the Park’s environment. It’s one of the few places that can truly transport you a different, more tranquil world.

M-x2lucknampark

Working with Food & Drink Guides has also given me the opportunity to meet and chat to some of the most fantastic chefs. Interviewing the inspirational MasterChef finalist John Calton was a highlight of 2014. And I certainly couldn’t leave without mentioning the fabulous Rachel Demuth, who is one of the best vegetarian chefs and cookery school hosts around.

The highlight of 2015, though, had to be scooping the award for best food and drink blog at the UK Blog Awards. This is soon to be followed by Food Festival Finder’s first birthday. Our sister site is celebrating its one-year anniversary this June as it grows and continues to be the best site to discover food festivals up and down the country.

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It’s a pleasure to have worked with such a dedicated, talented and creative group of people (who are all willing to go the extra mile for the good of an office picnic).

The Fed Up & Drunk blog is being left in the capable hands of Thom Whitchurch and we’re doling out a huge slice of cake to Michelle Grady who crafted the blog in its early years and dedicated so much time to the site we see today.

It’s always best to end with cake! This is what we’ll be spending the afternoon tucking into…

Emma’s vegan no-bake creamy cheesecakes

M-x2vegan cheesecake

I’ve used the recipe from the Minimalist Baker, but instead of making lots of little cakes, I’ve used the same recipe to create one large cheesecake (fit for us all in the office). Trust me when I say these are so delicious, you won’t even realise there is no cheese in them! In fact, if you’ve read our post on the benefits of coconut oil, you’ll deduce that these little treatlets are actually pretty darn good for you compared to your usual cheesecake recipes! I challenge you not to eat the mixture as you go along.

Top tip I love using coconut milk in recipes and if you’re after a creamier result, pop your coconut milk in the fridge (still in the can). It tends to separate the creamy stuff from the watery, so you can scoop out the ‘good stuff’. I added only a drizzle of the coconut ‘water’ to loosen the mixture.

Ingredients
(serves 12)
1 cup of pitted dates
1 cup of raw walnuts or almonds
1.5 cups raw cashews
1 large lemon, juiced
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp full fat coconut milk (see instructions for note)
1/2 cup maple syrup (or honey if not vegan)

Flavours
2 Tbsp salted natural peanut butter
1/4 cup wild blueberries (fresh or frozen)
Generous squeezes of squeezy caramel sauce

M-x2picka flavour

Method
1. Soak the dates in warm water for ten mins and then drain. Add dates to a food processor and blend until small bits remain and it forms into a ball. Remove and set aside.
2. Add nuts and process into a meal. Then add dates back in and blend until a loose dough forms – it should stick together when you squeeze a bit between your fingers. If it’s too dry, add a few more dates through the spout while processing. If too wet, add more almond or walnut meal.
3. Lightly grease a standard, 12 slot muffin tin. To make removing the cheesecakes easier, cut strips of parchment paper and lay them in the slots. This creates little tabs that makes removing them easier to pop out once frozen.
4. Next scoop in heaping 1 tbsp amounts of crust and press with fingers. To pack it down, use a small glass or the back of a spoon to compact it and really press it down. I found the bottom of a glass works well. If it sticks, separate the crust and the glass with a small piece of parchment. Set in freezer to firm up.
5. Soak the cashews in water for 4-6 hours (or if you’re pushed for time, cover them in boiling water and leave to soak for an hour). When drained, add all filling ingredients to a blender and mix until very smooth. Use all of the coconut milk or (if you’ve followed my tip) just use the creamy part for a richer, denser cheesecake. If it won’t come together, add a touch more lemon juice or agave or a splash more coconut milk liquid as the liquid should help it blend better.
6. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. If adding peanut butter, add to the blender and mix until thoroughly combined. If flavouring with blueberry or caramel, wait and swirl on top of plain cheesecakes (optional).
7. Divide filling evenly among the muffin tins. Tap a few times to release any air bubbles, then cover with plastic wrap and freeze until hard – about 4-6 hours (I left them overnight).
8. Once set, remove by tugging on the tabs or loosening them with a butter knife. They should pop right out. These will keep in the freezer for 1-2 weeks.

Emma Cullen

Emma Cullen

Emma is an ex-Fed Up & Drunker that has been released into the wild

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