What’s Your Story, Katie?

Chapter Two:

A lot has happened professionally and personally since we first connected through Instagram. Can you give us the highlights?

Yes, I’ve now past my 4th year of living in Ghana and we’re coming up to 4 years of Pen to Paper Ghana in December! How time flies. Since we last spoke and after running Pen to Paper Ghana for a year whilst just living off my savings, I had to find a job. It was not as easy as I thought since you must find a company that will support a working permit, but I’ve been fortunate enough to land myself a job working as an Accounts and Administration manager for a timber company. As much as I’d love to be out doing charity work the whole time, the financial practicalities of it didn’t work out, which was a shame. However, we did manage to recruit one full time local worker for the charity who teaches throughout the week. On weekends I teach with him.

Other than the NGO, I’m now married to Richard (co-founder of our NGO) so that was an exciting event for 2018 with over 20 of my friends and family joining us from the UK. Last month, we moved to a new house and got a puppy, a new addition to our family. She’s a mix between a German and Caucasian Shepherd – it feels like we’re new parents. So yeah, everything is still going well in Ghana.

How life transforming your move to Ghana has been! All the best for the new season in your life. Pen to Paper Ghana has grown and today have branched into 4 divisions. Can you tell us a bit about them?

Literacy has always been our key focus as we feel it is the heart of education, for without it children struggle with all subjects becoming a bigger struggle when they become adults. Our experiences being in schools we saw other needs too, so our 4 main divisions are:

  1. Literacy – we teach free daily phonics classes to teenagers struggling to read. We work in government schools where we assess all students and run classes for those unable to read. With often over 40 children in a class, it’s not uncommon to have teenagers sitting in class all day but unable to even identify the alphabet. We also run workshops for teachers so they’re confident in teaching reading skills correctly. We also have a mobile library to provide book resources for children to take home.
  2. School Infrastructure – we feel that developing facilities in schools helps to increase school attendance, motivation and academic performance as well as the well-being and attitude of teachers. For many schools in Ghana, children must share desks, often 3 child per desk with some sitting on the floor. We try to raise funds to provide desks as well as other projects such as wells for the community and writing resources, for instance our latest Pen to Pencil case project where we asked people to donate a pencil case with writing equipment.
  3. Education Scholarships – for many children in Ghana dropping out of school is common and mainly due to financial struggles. At Pen to Paper Ghana when we identify any of our pupils as being highly academic but without the financial means to continue their education, we do our best to provide educational scholarships to pay for their school costs and help them to have a brighter future. We have a waiting list of students we want to help but obviously we have limited funds to be able to help all.
  4. Medical and Education Mission – this is a small strand of our organisation but it’s a worthwhile one! Every year we volunteer with an American charity called Assist Africa to run the education part of their 2-week summer mission. They bring trained medical and education professionals (mainly from the US) and in collaboration with local workers, we run an outreach clinic with free medical care. Pen to Paper Ghana’s role is to run a summer programme for the children in the villagers which involves literacy and numeracy classes, hygiene workshops as well as sports and art activities.
Co-founders Katie and now husband Richard are pictured in the bottom right hand corner.

Besides the wonderful work of the 4 new divisions to the foundation, you managed to get the mobile library up and running through a Go Fund Me page. Is there a route the bus operates within? How does the library operate regarding the loaning of books?

We started the mobile library in 2017 and it has been a big success. We’re so fortunate for the individuals that donated through Go Fund Me, The Anne Frank Foundation, Ghana School Aid and Assist Africa. We were awarded a Community Champion Award presented to us from the Daily Mail and General Trust – their generous support also helped to purchase the van.

The mobile library drives to schools where we allow any child in the school to take a book home. We operate on a 1 book policy so a student can take a book home and when we come back (usually once a week) they can swap it for another. If they finish a book early, they can swap with their peers too.The main thing that brings joy to me is when I see all the kids running to us in the van during their lunch break with so much excitement. Books are available in Ghana but it’s more the problem that parents cannot afford them or do not priorities books over buying other vital items. Most schools do not have a school library nor the funds to run one, so the mobile library has been a great way for the children to obtain books.

Today when you see the faces of the children you helped, witnessing their reading and writing skills progress it must bring so much joy and accomplishment to you. How does the teaching structure change as they develop?

We work on a one to two term process, so we teach our free classes for up to 2 terms and then move on to another school. In this time a teenager can go from not knowing the alphabet to reading confidently, even within a few weeks I can see so much change in the child. Not only does their reading improve, their confidence and self-esteem changes dramatically.

I’ll tell you a little story that made me cry – from happiness! We were nearly finished with our 1st term in one school and a teacher came bounding up to us as we arrived at the school and said “I hugged a pupil today. Can you guess who?” She had hugged a 14-year-old girl, who when we first started in the school did not know the alphabet and had always been hiding at the back of the class. She was very reserved and shy, in fact when we first started, she kept missing classes as she was embarrassed for not being able to read. After going to her home (which we often do to meet the parents) we encouraged her to start classes and she made heaps of progress. The teacher then said, “I’ve taught this girl for many years and today is the first day she volunteered to come to the front of the class and try to read what was on the board. I’ve never seen her do this and I’ve just noticed what a beautiful smile she has.” Learning to read does not just improve their education, it develops confidence and happiness – and in this girl’s case, also brought friends.

For many of the teenagers we work with since their reading level is very low many of them struggle in all other subjects. It’s hard for us to follow up with all individual cases but we sometimes go back to schools to find out how they are getting on and it’s incredible to see the difference in their education progress. We sometimes get calls from previous students letting us know how they’re getting on and it’s nice to hear when they’ve accomplished good enough grades, that they can go on to Senior High School.

In summary, it’s astounding how 3 like-minded people come together with a dream and in 4 short years impact 1000s of children’s lives through something as simple as teaching a child to read. I say simple for in the Western world we simply take education, literacy and books for granted for lack of wanting to harness the power these tools so readily provided to us.

The story of the 14 year-old teenager blossoming into a confident young woman for she can now read is touching in its innocence and powerful, for you’ve just witnessed the human side of change, yet it is tragic for literacy rates in poor countries such as Ghana still fall behind the rest of the world. The global literacy rate has increased by 4% every 5 years – from 42% in 1960 to 86% in 2015(1) according to a report compiled by Max Roser and Esteban Ortiz-Ospina for an article posted on Our World in Data site regarding Literacy rates. The OECD released a school ranking listing Ghana at the bottom of the list of 76 countries. Organisations and the team behind Pen to Paper Ghana need to be commended and supported for they are personally and professionally invested in doing the ground work – helping to rebuild the educational and social system of Ghana in the hope to one day see generational change come around and see the fruits of their dreams come true.

Since conducting the interview in October, Katie has lost her full-time job. She is currently looking for new employment so she can financially support herself whilst volunteering at the foundation.

Please support Pen to Paper Ghana by visiting their website where you can donate. 

http://www.pentopaperghana.com   

Citation

References

According to the OECD report “How Was Life? Global Well-being since 1820” Literacy rate in 1900: 21% Literacy rate in 1960: 42% According to the World Bank: Literacy rate in 2015: 86%      

She could not look the other way no longer.

N.B. This interview was conducted in 2016 and posted on a previous site. I’m reposting it on our current site for the topic and struggles are still as relevant today as they were 3 years ago and beyond – for the children of Ghana and their families, the struggle to access free education is still an issue and for organisations such as the one co-founded by Katie, rallying support, awareness and funding is an ongoing effort.

CHAPTER ONE

What’s your story Katie? This is a story of a girl with the bluest of blue-eyes that one ever did see. These eyes have seen (and I mean really seen); for she has looked into the eyes of a child of Ghana.

This is where the story begins…

My name is Katie Emerson and I am one of three co-founders of an organisation called Pen to Paper Ghana. I’m 23 and from the UK, now residing in Ghana. Pen to Paper Ghana is a registered Ghanaian NGO that aims to help improve literacy rates to help the youth of Ghana, in the hope of giving them grounding for a successful future. With less than 50% of children able to read a single word, Pen to Paper Ghana (working in partnership with the Ghana Education Service) is instrumental in providing free after-school literacy and reading classes. We also make weekend home visits with the aim to increase their passion for reading in the home. Our resources are also used to improve school infrastructure to provide a more pleasant and safe learning environment for pupils and teachers; this also increases attendance rates and improves the child’s learning abilities.

What triggered you to pack up your comfortable life in the UK and move to Ghana?

After volunteering in Mongolia while I was still at school, I knew one day I would go and volunteer again and help other people. Having finished school, I entered a program with one of Europe’s renowned retailers, working full-time in Retail Operations, all the while being sponsored to do a distance-learning degree. After completing the degree, I took a 5 month career break to travel. My first stop was to Ghana for a 3 week volunteer trip. I was building school libraries and homes for orphans. Back to my job in the UK, sitting at my desk analysing data, my perception of work changed. Having seen the struggles of people in countries I’d visited; I longed to help in a direct way again. At that point, I decided I needed to take a leap of faith and pack up and move abroad. Remembering the many close friendships I’d made in Ghana, it seemed the best place to start. It has been the best decision I’ve ever made!

Tell us what the first year of your journey has been like?

I moved to Ghana permanently in August 2015 and volunteered for an organisation for a few months before Pen to Paper Ghana was created. Our foundation was initially launched in December 2015 and has been a great journey so far! I have two amazing co-founders, Richard my partner (who is Ghanaian) and Emma, who is British and based in the UK. They both bring great passion and determination to the foundation. We have also had great support, not only from friends and family, but also people around the world who share the same passion for the children of Ghana and their education.

And the impact you’ve made on these children?

We’ve had donations to build school desks and bunk beds, improve flooring and even build a well that now supports a whole community! As well as improving infrastructure, we run after-school programs, beginning with 16 teenage girls and has now increased to 25. Initially, the girls couldn’t read basic three letter words, such as ‘you’ or ‘can’. We adopted and implemented a phonics programme, invented by a literacy specialist from America, who has been really supportive in providing information and teaching resources. Recently, we’ve been working with 40 pupils from a primary school who have officially incorporated our teaching classes into their normal school program.

What are some of the struggles you’ve faced so far?

Of course, with starting any foundation or business, there have been stresses as well. It’s been a massive learning curve; for example, having never built a website before, hours were spent reading articles on website development. Also the bureaucracy in getting the charity registered was challenging but has now been completed. Our main issue now is obtaining finances for various projects. Currently we are working completely voluntarily, with no paid staff and have used our own savings in order to progress the charity. It has been difficult to obtain grants for our latest campaign to acquire a mobile library van.

Katie’s struggle AND the challenges Pen to Paper Ghana face do not end here. If you would like to donate, visit their website at http://www.pentopaperghana.com or send an encouraging message via their social media platforms.

Chapter Two coming soon

California dreaming

‘I love California,’ words that echo in my heart today…. for this time last year, I was visiting family in Arcadia and Alhambra. Whilst in Arcadia, I’d stumbled into, yet another bookstore called Vroman’s located along Foothill Blvd in the Hastings Ranch Shopping district.

As a collector of all things literary, cookbooks included, I went about perusing the shelves looking for the perfect souvenir book to bring back with me. I noticed the cover with famed designer and lifestyle editor Nathan Turner on the front; flipping through its pages it was the souvenir I HAD to take home. BUT I had a weight problem – my bags were already bursting at the seams having spent the past 3 months in The States. Guess, I’d have to settle for a postcard instead….

I love California - a cookbook review.
Features local recipes and how to entertain ideas such as table setting and home decoration.

Back home I managed to grab a copy (not as cool as having brought it in Vroman’s in Arcadia, L.A and carrying it all the way home) but it’ll have to suffice. Reminiscing whilst flipping through the pages, the book is quintessentially Californian with pages upon pages of local recipes from NoCal (what the locals term Northern California) to sun-kissed SoCal (local lingo for Southern Cali).

During my stay in LA, I had wanted to try fish tacos having seen it sold pretty much everywhere – you can only eat so much. Nathan’s book has a wonderful and easy fish taco recipe with a handy hint or two. There’s also an interesting cake recipe for prune’s and coffee cream cheese frosting. I love the combination of dates and coffee but prunes? You never know till you’ve tried it, I guess. I’m thinking to try the recipe out but with a Vegan twist. Will post if it works.

Aside from the recipes, I love how the book is written and laid out with handy travel tips only one born and bred would know. Tips on table setting will help you plan your next dinner party effortlessly; by the end of the book you’ll be pouring cocktails like a pro bartender/mixologist impressing your friends with the San Franciscan pisco punch, The Martinez martini, Hope Valley’s Pimm’s cup and the classic Margarita. Bottoms up.

The Little Stowaway

An ANZAC true story – by V. Bennett. Illustrated by Tull Suwannakit

It’s the Sunday after ANZAC Day and the family is gathered at Nan’s house. Millie, my niece waits patiently as Nanna Yen hops off the computer so she could hop on – Millie’s a gamer at the ripe old age of 10. She’s only allowed to play computer games once a week on the Sunday, the rest of the week is off limits. The problem is when she’s on the computer, she’s on it for about 4 hours straight, grrrrr!

I put a book in front of her hoping to steer her attention away from the computer to get her to read. The book is titled ‘The Little Stowaway.’ I’d noticed the beautifully illustrated cover by Tull Suwannakit of a little boy tucked inside an oat sack, further drawing me were the words ‘a true story’ – a perfect way to share an ANZAC story and excuse to bake ANZAC cookies with her.   

The book tells the story of a big-hearted airmen named Tim Tovell who in the midst of war befriends a little French orphan boy smuggling him out of war-torn Germany back to Australia. Henri is the name given to the boy by the airmen in the camp for they can’t pronounce his French name, Honore. Henri stays with the men of the 4th Squadron and becomes their unofficial mascot even earning the nick name Young Digger, as Tim lovingly calls him. Whilst staying at camp Young Digger is taught to box, ice skate and helps around the grounds by catching the rats infesting the camp. When the wonderful news blaring through the radio that the war was over, Tim Tovell not wanting to abandon Young Digger plots a grand plan to smuggle him in an oat sack. So, over the shoulder Young Digger is carried onboard the ship to heading to England. What an adventure for Little orphan Henri!

They arrive in London where Tim has an Australian Army uniform made for Little Henri so he could march with them in the victory parade of 1919; he marches proudly saluting the Prince of Wales. It was now time to sail onto Australia, but news circulates there is a stowaway onboard; Little Henri can still be sent away to an orphanage and never get to see Tim, Gertie or his new sister and brother. Tim devises another plot hiding Young Digger in a basket. All aboard, they bound for the great Southern Land.

The story continues for Little Henri as he begins a new life in Queensland, Australia with his adopted family. This story captivated many Australians after the war, with newspaper reports picturing Little Henri sitting in the said oat sack and Tim Tovell. Henri lived with his new family for 5 years before embarking on yet another adventure of his own arriving in Melbourne at the age of 18 to pursue a career in aircraft mechanics. Sadly, Henri was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. Yet his story doesn’t end here for the mystery of his true identity remains and the search for his remaining living family continues. For more information read Anthony Hill’s newly adapted novel with latest findings, ‘Young Digger,’ published 2016.

https://www.anthonyhillbooks.com/youngdiggermain.html

Freshly baked ANZAC biscuits awaiting Millie after school, a plan devised to get her to sit and read.

A little history on the ANZAC biscuits – established in WW1 the biscuits were baked by wives and mothers to send to their loved ones fighting overseas. The biscuits travelled well for they kept well during the transportation. The hardy ingredients kept the biscuits from spoiling which meant the soldiers could keep them for months. Below is my own adapted recipe from Taste as I’m trying to encourage my nieces to steer away from refined white flour and sugars. The result, Millie, 10 years old, Mia and her high school BFF loved them! And they were all full till dinner time 😊

Chewy Spelt flour ANZAC biscuits

Ingredients – refined white flour & sugar free. Recipe adapted from Taste magazine.

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup wholemeal spelt flour
  • 2/3 cup coconut sugar (if desired)
  • 2/3 cup desiccated coconut
  • 125g coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Method –

  • Step 1

Preheat oven to 160°C/140°C fan-forced. Line baking tray with baking paper or flour to keep the mixture from stocking to the tray.

  • Step 2

Combine oats, spelt flour, sugar and coconut in a bowl. Place coconut oil, syrup and 2 tablespoons cold water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir for 2 minutes or until melted. Stir in bicarbonate of soda. Stir coconut mixture into oat mixture.

  • Step 3

Roll level tablespoons of mixture into balls. Place on trays, 5cm apart. Flatten slightly. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden. Stand on trays for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy with a cold glass of unsweetened soy or almond mylk.

The Rosie Project Book Review

A review of Graeme Simsion’s break-out novel, plus a few notes on how I came to encounter the Aussie based novel whilst galivanting across the US continent and how it spurred me to embark on two of my own projects – The Vegemite Project (completed) and The Book-Picks-You Project (incomplete)…read on to find out the reason it isn’t complete.

It was my third and last month in what was an arduous US trip. I stayed with family all the way through, had many wonderful conversations and laughed at their type of humour; yet I couldn’t help but feel there was something I was missing…Was I subconsciously longing for home, for the best city in the whole-wide world and the home of the best coffee ever – Melbourne, or was I simply missing the vegemite (the very essence and taste of home) left behind in Indiana, where it’d just be shoved to the back of the pantry for no right minded American would dare to touch it nor open it? Getting my hands on a small jar of Vegemite would cost me upwards of US$10. I was desperate, but not at a mark-up of approximately 300% – my calculations include the exchange rate of US0.72 cents in the dollar and the hefty price of an imported product. So, I set about on my own project titled ‘The Vegemite Project.’                                                                   

Five days before I was scheduled to fly out of Virginia to Indiana, out of the blue I received a much-welcomed lifeline, a message from a dear friend back home. Peter is an American living in Ascot Vale who originally hails from ………. Peter was going to be in Virginia to visit family and we’d have a 48-hour window of opportunity to meet up before I flew to LA! There was my opportunity, Peter was going to be my mule, whoops sorry typo…. the man to bring me a jar of the black gold.

08/03/2018, 12:50 AM – Hi Peter, thank you for picking up the chicken salt. If you could grab a small jar of vegemite and a bag of caramel koalas, it’d be amazing. These were items I was missing.

08/03/2018, 8:41 AM – Where are you staying? On my way to Woolies now to pick up the stuff.

08/03/2018, 9:37 AM – In the north somewhere, at the end of Shady Grove station.

08/03/2018, 2:32 PM – I’ve got the goodies! I’ll stick with the plan. Will phone or message you. Sunday will be Plan B if any dramas at my end!

11/03/2018, 2:07 AM – Hi again, text me when you’re here and I’ll sneak out. The household is still sleeping. Thank you!

It was a dangerous exercise for me and a futile one, some may say. It was however a necessary ‘project’ for myself for I was in desperate need of some Vegemite B vitamin vitality, or quite simply put – a remedy for my ‘homesickness.’

I did eventually meet up with Peter, the package was exchanged and now carefully packed in my suitcase I made my way to Chicago…a 10-hour train ride to Valparaiso, Indiana. Certainly, they’d appreciate Vegemite there?

Whoa, what’s that smell?! I hear my Dutch-born relative say. It’s Vegemite, I inform him, thinking to myself, ‘why are you screwing your nose when your national dish is um…pickled fish with a side of diced onions.’ My Vegemite Project failing there…. I packed my suitcase ready to head towards SoCal. The place of Angels and the birth place of Veganism, Raw Food, Food trucks, Keto, Paleo, Buddha bowls, Kim Chi pancakes…. surely my LA family would welcome me and my Vegemite jar with open arms? Not so, I received a message from family in Indiana.

‘You left your Vegemite jar in the pantry.’

Along the way I did catch up with some Aussie mates, it was so good to hear that ‘twang’ and have a familiar conversation with someone who understood and knew the dialect with which an ‘Ostraylan’ spoke. I didn’t know how alienated I’d felt till I walked into a Goodwill Op shop in Arcadia, a suburb located in the Foothills of LA.

Whilst perusing the book section hoping to find the fourth instalment of Game of Thrones, I noticed the title on the book spine – a title I’d seen many, many times before back home in local bookstores in Melbourne. It was ‘the novel’ to read back then, but I was a GOT follower and still am. With no luck finding what I wanted, I finally took that yellow coloured book home on the third trip to the store and walked back to the gorgeous Californian bungalow I was staying.

That afternoon as I settled into the guest-room with its window facing the foothills of The Valley I embarked on a journey that took me back to Melbourne and the all too familiar surroundings, the Melbourne University grounds I so frequented during my High school years and surrounding suburbs. I never attended Melbourne Uni but laid on its hallowed grounds as my school friends and I wagged classes held across the road at University Highschool. What a small world! This unplanned anomaly proves my theory that books pick you. Maybe I should embark on another scientific project proving this theory? Or I can leave it to the Don Tilmans of the world.

About the book…

Don Tillman is an aspie (for those unfamiliar with the aussie slang it refers to a person diagnosed with Asperger’s. I don’t believe it’s in the dictionary as yet. He is a Professor of Genetics who approaches life scientifically, methodically, quite brilliantly, yet quirky and comfortably accepting of his own personality faults and oddities, a beautiful lesson of self-acceptance for us all.

The chance meeting of Daphne, the elderly Alzheimer’s patient who lived above Don was his first project, naming it ‘Teach Daphne Genetics Project’. They celebrate her 78th birthday when she makes the comment that prompts Don to embark on the infamous Wife Project.

‘Don, you would make someone a wonderful husband,’ observes Daphne. A contrast considering woman had rejected Don all his adult life due to his quirky and yes controlling-at-times character.

The Wife Project failing, Don comes across Rosie Jarman, a genetically flawed creature according to Don’s findings who never knew her father. Their chance meeting brings them together on The Father Project, Don’s area of expertise being a geneticist. As love goes, the two characters fall in love proving the theory that opposites do attract. So, Chalk and Cheese embark on a hilariously heart-warming relationship, filled with social debacle after social debacle, like the time Don (inexperienced in the formalities of sex) practices on the skeleton obtained from the Anatomy Department. Initially borrowed for the dance lessons needed to prepare for the Faculty Ball, it doubled as the ‘second person’ Don needed to practise the Cowboy Position. In walks the Dean and a colleague to discuss the funding package for the research Don was working on.

‘The Dean was making hand signals and contorting her face, and I guessed she wanted me to misrepresent my study as requiring funding…. I feign lack of comprehension. It was only afterwards that I realised that I should not have left the sexual positions book open on the floor.’ Pg. 175

Then there is Don’s family who live in regional Victoria. The family hardware store is run by the father and the younger son. Don’s younger brother doesn’t like him, seeing Don as a ‘threat to his dream of inheriting the store and now doesn’t respect his alternative choice.’ Pg. 205.Go figure…. hardware store owner or Professor of Genealogy. Which would you choose?

Don’s mother calls every Sunday and is still affected by the loss of his sister. All this shared with Rosie during their flight to New York; the trip meant to shed more light on the Father Project to collect more DNA that could lead to the identity of Rosie’s paternal father.

If you’re looking for a larrikin-type story line filled with witty humour, P. I. C. content that you can’t help but laugh out loud at, then this is the novel for you. A character that warms your heart for his quirkiness leaves you boggled, his innocence of character makes it hard to hold any grudges – though some of the things that come out of his mouth leaves yours agape. If you love Big Bang Theory, as do I, you’ll enjoy Don Tillman as a novel character for I find him very Sheldon-esque in character. Give the books a go and see if you find any basis to my theory?

Happy reading all! 

Coconut Agar stars & Cold-brew coffee with a twist.

5 ingredients:
1 packet Agar jelly net wt. 1.5 oz 42 g (can be found in strand or powder form)
1 litre & 1 cup cold water
1 teaspoon Matcha powder (optional)
50mls Organic coconut cream
100mls Cold brew coffee
Coconut sugar and stevia sugar
Directions:
1. Combine the water and agar and bring to boil, this usually takes about 10 to 15 mins, remove from stove asap. Give the pot a stir to help the agar dissolve evenly. Do not leave on the hot plate as the substance can boil over quickly and you’ll have a sticky mess on your hands. Cool the batch down by placing the whole pot in the sink surrounded by cold water. Do not add cold water to the pot but rather rest the pot in the cold water.
Tip: Be careful not to over stir the mixture as it causes it to cool down and clump up before we’ve had the chance to work our flavours in.
2. Ready your flavoured mixtures. To make coconut stars combine stevia sugar (to taste), 50mls of the cream and 250mls agar mixture which should have cooled a little by now, stir gently, pour into moulds.
3. In another bowl have your cold-brew coffee ready, adding coconut or stevia sugar to taste and mix well before combining with the rest of the agar mixture. Gently pour into moulds.
4. You can pour the mixtures into individual moulds as I did with my coconut stars and coffee hearts or simply into one large bowl to be cut up later.
5. Let the mixtures cool completely before putting into the fridge. It’s ready to eat in about 4 hours. The colder the better I say!

More tips:
To clean any spilt agar jelly, allow it to cool completely before wiping with a damp cloth. This way the agar jelly washes off cleanly rather than sticking to the cloth.
If opting for matcha, dissolve the powder by adding about 10mls of lukewarm water mixing well to ensure all clumps are dissolved. Add 50mls coconut cream and white stevia sugar. Give it a taste and tweak to your liking. Personally, I add only half the coconut cream as I prefer the taste of matcha over the creaminess of the coconut, plus it also has a high-caloric content.
Remember the more you stir the faster the agar sets, so even if your mixture looks marbled, don’t worry as that adds a pretty effect to the agar jelly. The reason we don’t use coconut sugar in the matcha or coconut is because it browns the mixtures. For these flavours, we’re looking for a nice matcha green and smooth coconut white to the desserts. Below is an example of what happens when you don’t blend the matcha evenly and the effects of the agar cooling down. I decided to use the mixture anyway and it went down a treat!
To mix flavours choose your preferred base, mine is the coffee (*follow step 4) then drip the coconut mixture in. Once you’ve dripped the secondary flavour in, it should begin to imbue into the base flavour. If you find it isn’t, as the mixtures have cooled down too much, grab a skewer and gently give it a swirl. Remember you’ll need to work fast as once the agar sets, it clumps up and combining flavours will look like a right royal Eton mess. Been there, done that 😊.
Health and nutritional benefits:
Reported to be rich in micronutrients, but some evidence shows that agar agar can help support regularity, promote satiety and enhance weight loss, giving you plenty of reasons to give this natural thickening agent a shot.
A plant-based product, it is a great vegan alternative to gelatine derived from red algae. Void of flavour and versatile, it can be found in powder, strains or bar form. A popular Japanese product often used in desserts has made its way into the Western food culture; used in soups, sauces and Vegan meals.
In its raw form agar is low in calories and carbohydrates and high in fibre which is a great digestive. The high fibre content adds to the satiety leaving you feeling fuller for longer. Popular in our household during summer, instead of reaching for ice or nice cream, agar is a wonderful alternative. Cool, crisp and clean tasting to sink your teeth into and literally fills you! Also rich in folate, iron, magnesium, manganese and calcium, the benefits are endless!
                                              Happy eating foodies and bon appetit!

Supergreens Vietnamese Coleslaw with Roast Chicken

Trying to fit a million things into our daily lives is the norm these days, and that includes trying to eat as many super greens, pre and probiotics, and, and, and all in the one day! This quick and easy salad takes about 20 mins to prepare. It’s packed with protein and fibrous greens yet light and packs a microbiome punch which your tummy will thank you for, so you can keep going and going. Serves 4 to 6 people dependent upon protein requirements.

Supergreens Vietnamese Coleslaw with Roast Chicken
Supergreens Vietnamese Coleslaw with Roast Chicken

Salad ingredients:

1 medium roast chicken from your local supermarket, preferably free range.

1 small red or white cabbage, or both to add colour to the mixture.

1 medium carrot

1 small Spanish or white onion

1 small bunch of Tuscan kale

Vietnamese herbs such as peppermint, mint, purple perilla if you can get your hands on them. If not coriander and mint will do.

Fish sauce ingredients:

To make 1 cup or 250mls.

200mls fish sauce

3 tablespoons coconut sugar

1 medium lemon or 50mls white vinegar

1 medium Vietnamese chilli (optional)

Directions:

1. Using a mandolin slicer or grater, run the carrots and cabbage through the coarse part as we want a fuller texture and place aside in a large bowl. With a knife finely chop 4 Tuscan kale leaves and herbs, being careful not to bruise the herbs, place in the bowl. Thinly slice the onion into rings, adding it to your mixture as well. If you find onion too overpowering, then slice half or leave it out altogether. Finally, shred the chicken adding that to the salad mixture as well.

2. Place the raw salad aside while we make the fish sauce that will bring the salad together.

3. In a small bowl, combine the coconut sugar with a few drops of luke-warm water to dissolve the sugar completely before adding the fish sauce and lemon or white vinegar. Give it a good stir.

4. Thinly slice the chilli adding it to the fish sauce if desired.

N. B. Dependent upon your palate you may find the fish sauce too strong if so, add a tablespoon of water at a time and taste before adding the next tablespoon. This is the best way to dilute the dressing, as once you add too much water it’s harder to fix and you may need to add more fish sauce, more lemon etc to get the fish sauce balanced again. If you find you want more of a tangy twist, then add a few more drops of lemon or white vinegar. As fish sauce is a dressing, it can be altered to the individual’s palate.

5. Gently mix all the ingredients together drizzling the fish sauce dressing one tablespoon at a    time. Always taste as like salt it cannot be taken out. Then it’s ready to be plated.

N. B. I always serve the Coleslaw with extra fish sauce dressing, lemon and chilli on the side for individuals to add to their salad if they opt to.

Bon appétit everyone!