Posts Tagged With: food

The Pyramid Cafe Salad and Natural Healing

The Pyramid Salad - Rishikesh Classic

The Pyramid Salad – Rishikesh Classic

A crunchy Rishikesh classic, surely India’s first ever ‘superfood’ salad.  We love salads like this, no strong dressing, the glorious veggies do all the talking……..

This is a little like the Israeli Salad that we wrote about a few posts ago, but The Pyramid Salad has bells, whistles, trimmings and shavings.  This is the ultimate traveler salad in India.  You know that Jane and I love a bowl of crunchy veggie goodness and granted, in many parts of the world, salads may seem quite everyday.  But in India, when you’re on the bumpy, dusty road filled with spiced and deep fried delights, a bowl of salad becomes an sheer delight.  Especially when its sprinkled with gloriously green spirulina!  Indulge us…….

The Pyramid Cafe in Rishikesh is  traveler institution and has been for ages.  It’s one of the only places you used to be able to get a fresh and crisp salad, decent filter coffee and very good vibes (they play the Jungle Book theme tune sometimes at night, “It’s those bear necessities……!”)  It has changed alot recently, Lali and his family have been doing some building work, the pyramids are getting much higher, but the quality of the food remains awesome and fresh, fresh, fresh……  Also Lali and his family are still lovely hosts and their son Rahul, who I met six years ago and has changed from a young lad into a strapping fella, has taken over the running of the restaurant.

We always hike up the steep hill to the Pyramid Cafe, it has wonderful views of the turquoise Ganges and is a quiet little spot in the otherwise hectic Laxman Jhula area.  When this salad greets you, your body and palate become very excited.  You feel healthier just by being in its presence.  The Pyramid Cafe has always been a superbly healthy mecca for wellness, they sell; kombucha, organic spirulina, cacao beans, vanilla pods, silver collioidal and there menu used to double up as an alternative health bible.  Great reading when waiting for dinner.  Sleemy is the man behind the sparkling health approach.  Sleemy was born in Switzerland, but has been living in India for an age and rides around, from North to South, on his customised scooter, known as the ‘Chapatti Express’.  He is a living legend in the Indian travel scene and pops up when you least expect him in Gorkana, Goa or small villages in the high Himalayas.  He is full of wisdom like ‘The best medicine is the one that teaches you how not to need it’.

The bare necessities of life!

 

 

 

NATURAL HEALING

Sleemy has been a student of health for over 30 years and is an advocate of all forms of natural health; yoga, naturopathy, holistic medicines and ayurveda, check out his website here.  Sleemy is a font of information on acheiveing a state of sparkling well being and as he says, “I have built myself an iron cast immune system, and since 1975, I haven’t been ill at all, (not even a cold in winter), and I didn’t consult any doctor since then.”  Sleemy has even wrote an ace travelers health manual named “The Hitchhikers Guide to Medicine“.  It’s well worth a read.  

We also believe that getting ill is the final stages of a problem, not the beginning.  We must work at the roots of good health to prevent future illness, using a varied and radiant diet, healthy habits and regular exercise to prevent the growth and manifestation of illness both physical and mental.  Positive thinking is also a must, laughing alot is very important (as are hugs) along with a basic idea of nutrition.    We also believe that breathing is highly underrated.  Breathing well, deeply and slowly, is a sure fire way decreasing stress and enlivening our body with huge amounts of good energy.  Breathing is our number one way of absorbing pure energy, much more immediate than the food we consume.  Love is also imperative.  Self love and loving relations with relatives, friends, neighbours, work colleagues etcetc.  Wherever possible, love is the answer (and its always possible!x)

Jane and I overlooking the jade green Ganga

Jane and I overlooking the jade green Ganga

Until just a few years ago, salads in India were like playing digestive roulette. Now things are much better, many places wash raw veggies in filtered water, but a few can still lead to upsets. The Pyramid has always known the score and has always been a safe haven for going raw.  They also happen to whip up the finest falafels in the sub continent.

Bright red carrots!!!!!  Please do not be unduly alarmed, carrots in India are dark red, almost crimson in colour.  This is very normal.  Use your preferred/ local shade of carrot in this recipe.  Remember that organic, local carrots, will have loads more nutrition than anything industrially grown.  We have just read some shocking facts about the dearth of nutrition in most non-organic veggies.  Minerals and other nutrients can be as much as 2/3 lower in veggies grown using artificial fertilizer and in depleted soils.

I have guessed what goes into this mythical creation, to be fair, it was not that hard, but worthy.  This salad has enriched many an aspiring yogi and wayward wanderer, finding their way up into the free and liberating spaces of the beautiful Himalayan wilderness.

The Pyramid Cafe also for the best falafels in India

The Pyramid Cafe also for the best falafels in India, brilliantly served in edible bowls (cabbage leaves)

 

The Bits – For 4

2 good sized carrot (grated with a grater, also grate roughly six long slices per person with a potato peeler for presentation – see the photo)

1/2 small white cabbage (grated or very finely sliced)

1/2 small red onion (not a strong one, very finely sliced)

1 little gem lettuce (finely sliced)

3 radishes or 6 inches mooli (grated)

3 tomatoes (finely chopped)

2 big handfuls crunchy sprouts (brown lentils used here)

1 handful alfalfa sprouts

 

Serve

Small bowls of tamari (or good soya sauce), wedges of lime and unrefined oil of your choice

Topped with more sprouts, a hearty sprinkle of spirulina/ wheatgrass/ barley grass.

In India, it would not be unheard of to sprinkle over some dried chilli flakes to perk things up a bit.

Also pleasant with:

Slices of Brown Bread or Wholewheat Chapattis

 

Do It

Beautifully simple.  Combine all in a bowl, toss gently.  Pile up into the centre of  plate, pyramid style.  Lay a few of your carrot shavings over your pyramid of intense delight and sprinkle with sprouts and green powdered joy.

 

Serve

Warm the bread a little and enjoy.

The Pyramid Cafe Superfood Salad

The Pyramid Cafe ‘Superfood’ Salad – pure eye candy for the sabji weary traveller

Foodie Fact

Spirulina is a highly nutritious green/ blue algae that has been eaten by humans for millenia.  It is a great friend of the BHK and is something we eat regularly, especially when we are on the road.  It means that we are getting a concentrated health boost every morning and start the day in the most brilliant way.

Spirulina is made of 60-70% protein and is a great source of amino acids and also has good levels of calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, manganese, folic acid, niacin, vitamin B, caroteniods and iron.  Of course, being so beautifully green, it also contains bags of chlorophyll which has many benefits, including aiding our chemical reactions creating protein, vitamins and sugars.

For more info, check out the post we wrote about Spirulina.

Our favoutire chai spot between Laxman Jhula and Ram Jhula (closed unfortunately)

Our favoutire chai spot between Laxman Jhula and Ram Jhula (closed unfortunately)

Categories: Healing foods, Healthy Living, Recipes, Salads, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Happiness is the highest form of health – The Dalai Lama

No matter how many kale smoothies we drink, no matter how much we demonize sugar or potatoes, “happiness is the highest form of health.”  I found this little quote put much of our current eating habits into focus.  Enjoy your grub, whatever you’re eating!!!!!  A healthy, content and happy mind inevitably leads to a healthy body.

Happy gardener, happy cook, happy food, happy eater.

Jane and I are up in Mcleod Ganj, India, at the moment, spending time with the Tibetan Community in exile.  Read more about our antics here.  If you like this quote, we post regular things like this on our Facebook page.

Chagpo Nang (take care)……

Long life to the Dalai Lama!

FREE TIBET

Categories: Friends of B.H.K, Healthy Living, Inspiration | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Himalayan Monkey Munch Porridge

Monkey Munch Porridge

Monkey Munch Porridge

Here we have our Himalayan retreat breakfast of choice; filling, warming and packed with monkey flavas!!!  There are monkeys galore up here in Kasar Devi (Uttarakand) and they bother our banana stash daily.  We are looking out towards Nanda Devi (India’s highest mountain) and the giant massif’s of the Great Himalayas.  Spring is just about settling in, meaning chilly nights and generally bright and warm days.  Clouds have obscured the mountains most days, but even the most occasional of glimpses, is more than enough.  We have hired small red brick cottage with a simple kitchen from a lovely local family. The cottage has quickly become a home away from home and we have been doing a little cooking and plenty of tea making.

Monkeys flock around our little garden, the mischievous macak variety, desperate to liberate you of any stray snacks that may be lurking around half opened windows and doors. There are also flocks of little and large birds, woodpeckers, small owls, vultures and eagles soar regularly overhead and a three local leopards pay regular visits to the village. They make a sound like sawing wood, an excited pant.  This makes the evening trip to the outdoor toilet a bracing affair.

Dawn raider, banana botherer, meddling Macak, monkey brotherx

Dawn raider, banana botherer, meddling Macak, monkey brotherx

We have found a slice of beauty, a place where many hippies used to flock; folk like Herman Hesse, Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens, to name a few, have graced this thin ridge in the 60’s and bar a few houses, not much has changed really.  There are a couple of restaurants (the Rainbow Restaurant especially is brilliant, Hari makes the best pasta in India!) and a little cafe known as ‘Baba Cake‘ which is set in a corrugated metal shed and serves awesome South Indian coffee, local organic herbal infusions and lip smacking Indian nibbles.

We have met many like minded folk in this secluded corner and the local people are all exceptionally warm and full of smiles.  Five days has just not been enough, but we have had time to do plenty of thinking and dreaming, way up here in the clouds and rare airs there is little else to occupy time.

It has been wonderful to take control over our diets again, and porridge, of course, plays a major role. We are British after all!  We picked up a 2kg bag in Delhi of these precious grains and carted them all the way up here to find that a small local shop sells crates of healthy muesli and porridge oats. Who knew? All the way up here, close to the wild expanses of Nepal there would be such good western breakfast options!

One morning, watching the monkeys reek havoc on the neighbours in their own immutably comical way, I thought I’d dedicate a dish to them and stick as many of their favourite foods in it. The ones they like to pinch anyway (a monkey once stole the banana out of my sandwich one morning in Rishikesh!)

Outside the legendary Baba Cake

Outside the legendary Baba Cake

We would add a handful of flax/linseeds to this at home, but they are hard to come by here. Roasted peanuts are better because the taste is more intense and you can finish is off with coconut flakes or desiccated coconuts if you have some handy. We used green raisins here, but any tasty raisin will do.  For richness and even greater nutritional pizazz, why not try a heaped teaspoon of coconut oil, stirred in just before serving.  This is India, the cardamom is essential!  Like many of the spices used in classic Indian cuisine, cardamom is not just a fragrant delight, but actually acts as medicine for the body; giving it a huge boost, especially needed in the morning.  People over here actually chew cardamom pods, they are an acquired taste to most, but act as a super charged breath freshener and have been known to help smokers quit.  Everytime you fancy a ciggy, pop in a pod instead.  We even like to pop the crushed, black seeds into a pot of tea to jazz things up a little.  So please chew your cardamom pods with gusto, don’t spit them out!

The Bits – For 2

Let’s keep it simple, handfuls only here

5 big handfuls porridge oats

2 big, ripe bananas (mashed with a fork)

1/2 tin coconut milk (or 200 ml non-dairy milk of choice)

4-6 green cardamom cloves (crushed a little, until cracked, in a pestle and mortar)

2 big handfuls roasted peanuts

1 big handful green raisins (or normal ones will do)

Sweetener of your choice (nothing white or processed please!)

 

Topping 

Roughly 1/2 handful of grated coconut, more bananas, raisins and peanuts

(sprinkled over both bowls for an extra special touch)

 

Do It

Check which porridge oats you’re using and cook accordingly, as per the packet.  It doesn’t really matter which ones you use, this monkey madness will be a delight.  Take it easy, rushing porridge leads to a stick pan bottom, a gentle simmer is good.

Add all the ingredients to the pan, cover the oats with around 1 1/2 inches of water and bring to a slow and gentle simmer, stirring regularly.  Add more hot water to get your desired consistency, we like it thick and yet pourable.  Not too gluey sticky.  In less than ten minutes, you’ll have a yummy breakfast.

Himalayan Monkey Munch Porridge

Our cottage it tucked away in there somewhere.  Behind the tree!!!!

Serve

Piping hot, straight from the pan (using a spatula or something like it, to scrape out all that porridge goodness).  Sprinkle over your toppings and munch way like happymonkeys!

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Himalayan Monkey Munch Porridge

 

Foodie Fact

Why Cardamom is a must! 

Cardamom (or Elaichi) is native to Southern India and is well regarded for its medicinal properties, especially in the Indian holistic system of Ayurveda.  There are such a huge list, I’ll summarise.  Cardamom has many anti-oxidant, disease preventing and health promoting properties.  They contain a long list of volatile essential oils and help greatly with digestion.  They are a good source of minerals like manganese, iron and potassium, as well as copper.  They are also high in vitamin C and riboflavin.  A true gift from nature.

Jane taking in some rays outside the cottage - Kasar Devi

Jane taking in some rays outside the cottage – Kasar Devi

 

Categories: Ayurveda, Breakfast, Dairy/ Lactose Free, Nutrition, Recipes, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Taste of Goan Cuisine and Papaya Paradise

 

Papaya Paradise - Papaya, cashews and a drop of coconut milk.  A fruity delight.

Papaya Paradise – Papaya, cashews and a drop of coconut milk. A tropical tickle.

Paradise for me involves papaya, cashews and coconut. Maybe a beach and a few palm trees lolling in the background. Put all those in a bowl (minus the salt water, sand and chewy leaves) you are approaching my idea of a fruit-based nirvana.  We are in Goa and all of these things are plentiful, there are stalls that enforce coconuts on you with each passing, men gifting papayas to you on a regular basis and cashews, the size of small curved chipolatas, are sold for peanuts.  Also, it is not mango season in India, so there is no fruity conflict for me, the papaya reigns supreme.

Peter (the wonderful man who looks after the apartment we are staying in) gifted us the largest and ripest papaya I have ever clapped eyes on yesterday. Carving it is something like hollowing out a canoe from a large orange tree trunk. Peter obviously has a secret local supplier, I’ve never seen a papaya like this is the stalls by the side of the road. It would take up half the stall!

I am not sure if you’re going to be able to get a decent papaya in Europe and beyond. Maybe try a Caribbean or Asian shop, you know the one, the Aladdin’s cave of interesting ingredients from all corners of the world. The little space that transports you to Africa, Jamaica, Thailand and Pakistan just by the power of the brands they stock, the occasional aroma and random, unknown, packet of semi-illicit looking spice that just has to be experimented with.

Se Cathedral - the largest cathedral in Asia (with the largest bell also)

Se Cathedral – dedicated to Saint Catherine, the largest cathedral in Asia (with the largest bell also)

Goa is a magical land, totally different from the rest of India, the cuisine is very interesting, a mixture of many things, Indian and Portugese especially. Each dish changes from region to region and this is not a huge state by Indian standards.
I have been reticent to cook much in the apartment, not wanting to stock up on loads of spices and ingredients, we are only here a short time and whenever I travel I always end up with kilos of half used packets and sachets lurking in the depths of my backpack. This time, I’m trying not to waste a thing.

Tonight I will try something like a Goan Curry, which normally has a good tang to it, created by adding toddy vinegar or tamarind. Adding vinegar to food was the main influence of the Portugese who were here for hundreds of years, in fact, Vasco de Gama landed in 1498 and they hung around until well into the 17th century.  Old Goa had population larger than Lisbon or London at that time. The Portugese also brought some other quite important staples across the waves; namely, chilies and potato, along with some very common spices, especially nutmeg, which the Goans love to use liberally in savoury dishes.  The Portugese also influenced the Goan desserts, many resemble the flans and tortas of the Iberian Peninsula.  Most of our local friends, living around the apartment have Portugese ancestory and could actually emigrate to Portugal if they wished. Interestingly, most of them have the last name ‘De Souza’, there are a few ‘Courtinho’s’, ‘Perrera’s’ and so on.

Dad does an Abbey Road Impression - in front of the Bom Jesus Cathedral, Old Goa

Dad does an Abbey Road Impression – in front of the Bom Jesus Cathedral, Old Goa (‘Bom’ means ‘good’ in Portugese.

Goa is mainly divided between Christian and Hindu (with a small population of Muslims), they have lived in harmony since the beginning and even share some festival days. Religious background affects the way that dishes are prepared, one Xacutti or Kodi will differ greatly depending on the faith involved. Goan cuisine is incredibly traditional and diverse, awe inspiring really. I have never tasted anything like the Vegetable Xacutti I had yesterday in the excellent ‘Viva Panjim!’. A restaurant tucked down a side alley in a sedate quarter of the capital city, Panjim. ‘Viva Panjim!’ is located in the old Fountainhas area of the city, with many colonial looking buildings forming small quiet alleyways and nooks. In this place you can really see what things would have looked like under Portugese rule. My Xacutti involved alot of roasted coconut and was heavy on the warming spices, especially cinnamon and clove, there was definitely some kind of nutmeg/ mace going on in there as well . Dad opted for a Kingfish Goan Curry (like a ‘Vindalau’ – as they call it here), which has a vibrantly red coloured sauce which contained; Kashmiri chillies, tamarind, lots of onions and garlic, cumin seeds and tomatoes. It looked sensational. All of this served in an old colonial home with slow fans and hand carved furniture. The owner Madam Linda D’Souza sat at a desk overseeing things and when we showed an interest in the cuisine, how it was prepared (I was digging for a recipe or two of course) she gifted us a beautiful cook book, packed with the history of Goan culture and very personalised recipes from local home cooks and chefs.  There are even diagrams of how to climb a coconut tree and work a rice paddy.

In 'Viva Pajim!' one of our finest dining experiences to date

In ‘Viva Pajim!’ one of our finest dining experiences to date

Goa has no end of old school hippy joints that sell homemade tofu or seitan, pancakes, vegan cakes etc which was fine for a couple of meals (Bean Me Up, Blue Tao, Whole Bean Cafe and the legendary German Bakery were particular favourites) but we are now definitely in the hunt for more Goan delicacies. The only problem is we’ll have to leave the beaches and head inland, to the small towns to find the real deal. It seems that travelers/ tourists are not really into the local wonders. Which is a real shame. We have been invited by two real old school gents, Patrick and Peter (who run a tiny bar beneath our place) to their home for a home cooked (vegan!) dinner on Sunday. Something we are both very excited about. Will keep you posted.

Vegetable Xacuti, Fried Aubergine Chips and Dad's Goan Fish Curry

Vegetable Xacuti, Fried Aubergine Chips and Dad’s Goan Fish Curry

Categories: Curries, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Tribal Vegans of the Bishnoi Villages, Near Jodphur – 20th January 2015

I’ve been writing a travel blog about my Dad and I’s journey around India, ‘The Jalebi Express’.  We visited some tribal vegans recently, wonderful peace-loving people living in the Thar Desert, Rajasthan.  I hope you enjoy the article!

The Tribal Vegans of the Bishnoi Villages, Near Jodphur – 20th January 2015.

Grinding millet into flour

Categories: Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Israeli Salad (The Indian Traveler Classic) and Tribal Vegans

 

Israeli Salad

Israeli Salad

B.H.K. IN JODPHUR, INDIA

I actually had our homestay’s version of this for breakfast today, sitting on a roof terrace feeling inspired, taking in the massive Mehangarh fort and early morning city skyline with black kites hovering overhead.  The perfect breakfast setting!  I had forgotten about this traveler classic salad.  I enjoyed it so much, I’m having it twice today!  This type of salad is so quick and fresh , apparently hailing from Israel.  Salads like this are almost naked, stripped down and a showcase for glorious veggies.  They have this kind of salad in many countries, Morocco, Turkey, Iran etc, it’s one of the world’s finest side salads that compliments almost any meal.

Any traveler around India will recognise this salad, it’s served in most traveler/ backpacker style restaurant or cafes.  India is a home for many hybrid style world cuisine dishes.  For example, German Bakeries are everywhere selling bready croissants and random biscuits.  I guarentee that from Pushkar to Rishikesh, Gorkana to Leh, Varkala to Darjeeling travelers will be eating this salad right now with grins on their faces.  Salads are rare and normally a very small deal in India.  I am not sure exactly how Israeli it is, there are obviously some missing ingredients in India, like the gorgeous olive (which I miss deeply when on the road in the East).  I’ve been totally spoilt for olives in Spain over Christmas, we have our own olive man down the market who always sorts us out with a local and diverse range of those delightful orbs of oily goodness.

So I whipped my version up tonight for dinner (well Dad added an omelette to the mix, but he’s doing amazingly well to steer away from meat and embrace veganism).  I love making dishes in hotel rooms and always travel with my trusty little knife and a couple of plates and spoons.  Add to that two big tin cups and you have all the apparatus needed for a salad smorgasbord.  Jane and I have traveled with a grater before and other such bits, but space is at a premium in my backpack this time.  Making things in your room means you know exactly what went into it, sometimes in India they stir a little curd or cream into this salad.

I miss the crunch and vibrancy of a massive bowl of salad, all that raw food goodness.  I adore curry, but making my own fruit salads and veggie salads in my room is a real treat.  When I’m eating it, I can almost hear my body thanking me.  Keeping yourself topped up on nutrients and vitamins especially when travelling is a must to stay on top form.  I even have Dad taking part in my morning spirulina ritual, you can buy it over here inexpensively and organic.  Adds a touch of zing to proceedings!

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Dad striding through Sadar Market, Central Jophur with the giant Mehrangarh Fort in the background.

So, here I am with Dad, Jodphur, in Rajasthan.  A wonderfully historic city, I am typing beneath the giant fort, fantastically lit each evening.  In fact, it reminds me a little of an old Spanish town, dominated by a medieval fort.  The streets are small and windy and the people wonderfully friendly, something I find all over Rajasthan.  We are staying with a incredibly hospitable family (the Hill View Guesthouse), headed by the laugh a minute Zafran, who is also a member of the local government…..I could go on at this point for a long, long time, but Dad and I are starting a blog called ‘The Jalebi Express’, coming to wordpress very soon (aka when we can get a decent blast of reliable internet access).  It’s going to be a hoot, with all of Dad and I’s adventures around this truly awesome land.  For regular Beach Housers, the other half of the BHK, Miss Jane Legge, will be joining up with us in Delhi in some 5 weeks time.

VEGAN INDIA

Being vegan is a serious challenge in India, normally involving turning down sumptuous looking food and regular boughts of impromptu fasting.  I like yoga, I believe fasting to be very good for the health, but if you’re not expecting to go hungry it can be just plain pants!  Trying to explain not eating ghee to an Indian is a little like going into an Italian Mama’s kitchen and saying “What are you doing with all those rank tomatoes and this wine is like a poor man’s Vodka and Red Bull and as for that dodgy mouldy looking cheese, I’m going nowhere near that, smells like feet, and as for those dodgy noodle things.  Sorry, just not my thing at all.  I’m English you know.  Our food’s great etcetc…….”  I approach with hopefully a little more tact but the ghee issue constantly rears its head and seems to sneak into the most unexpected things.  I will soldier on and still have plenty of oatcakes left from Lidl!  Turning down things like camel milk tea, traditional village cooked dishes, constant streams of delicious looking steaming masala chai, basically all Indian sweets is one of the most difficult part of being a vegan.  It’s well worth it though, this is after all, very much my own choice. It’s just when cultures shift, so does the ethical playing field and in India, the cow is Holy and what comes from the cow, the milk and even the poo has sacred connotations.  I have started to go for the approach of lots of laughing and pointing at my head with a zany look in my eyes, trying to convey that I am slightly mad.  Lots of shrugging and confused looks ensue.  It rarely works.  Any ideas?

Down at the market, Jodphur

Down at the market, Jodphur

I had a magical time down at the market today gathering a few bits.  I have been to Jodphur before and love the little veggie market near the stately Victoria Clock Tower, a hopelessly British looking thing poking above the skyline of Maharaj buildings, Mosque Minauret’s and an enormous palace.  I always get local price there and meet so many characters.  The salad, with plenty of leftovers, cost around 1 pound to amass.  The experience of chatting with characters selling fruit and veg (market vendours are always a hoot all over the world, why is that?), local folk who are interested in my nationality; reasons for visiting India, marriage status, occupation, age, university back ground, next destination (a very standard range of questions fielded on average 30 times per day) and having a laugh is of course quite priceless.  I gently elbowed my way past many a ferocious, single minded house wife.  In the market, they mean business.  When buying veg I have regularly been elbowed out of the way or body checked away from the freshest looking produce.  It can get a little hectic.  All part of the fun.  For my quid I also got 6 small lemons and a wedge of ginger for morning beverages.  Not a bad price all considered!

TRIBAL VEGANS!

In fact today I’ve been quite busy in the kitchen.  Earlier on Dad and I visited a Bishnoi Tribal village, a very interesting branch of Hinduism (see here).  They are vegans!  The Bishnoi’s do not believe in harming nature, no cutting of trees, no animal products at all.  They eat grains and vegetables grown in local forests and this philosophy of life can only be found in Rajasthan, just 28 villages in fact.  You’ll see me busy below grinding millet to make flour which is them mixed with a little water and made into lovely, toasty chapattis.

Grinding Millet for chapati, Bishnoi Village, Jodphur

Grinding Millet for chapati, Bishnoi Village, Jodphur

Tomorrow, Dad and I are helping with the food preparation for a engagement party, some 300 guests are expected!  Fortunately Dad is an ace carrot peeler and garlic basher.  Indian’s love a wedding and this is wedding season.  We went to visit the brides house last night, Dad and I carrying plates of fruits and nuts down through the winding blue walled lanes of Jodphur.  The bride to be lives beside a large white mosque and we were welcomed like long lost family.  Dad has some tender looking mutton, I opted to nibble on roti (flatbread).  Tomorrow night, the brides family come to visit our homestay, with Raja (the amazing, 18 year old son of the family) taking centre stage.  Zafran is organising the feast and it sounds like a mutton affair again.  I’m looking forward to getting behind the scenes of mass Indian wedding catering.  The pots are normally the size of a small jacuzzi.  Maybe I could rustle up a salad?!

The Chef at Raja's Brides House (lovely fellow, cooking on wood fires for hundreds of hungry party goers)

The Chef at Raja’s Brides House (lovely fellow, cooking on wood fires for hundreds of hungry party goers)

I have made a few wee embellishments to the classic Indian/ Israeli salad.  You knew I would.    They are not really taste based, more with nutrition in mind.  I cannot live for long without green things in my belly.  So I’ve added loads of coriander and mint which is plentiful over here and 10p for a massive bag.  You could also use spinach or even watercress, and if you love parsley, parsley.  Flax seeds are one of my favourite things.  They are powerhouses of all sorts of nutrition.  I’ve added flax seeds which I bought in Dilli Hart in South Delhi (a wonderful craft market if you’re ever in the area).  In a classic Indian twist, these flax seeds turned out to be deep fried and smothered in salt and masala spices.  My diet flips on its head in India and after a week, my belly is just about coming up to speed.  Lots of carbs and a huge decrease in vegetation.

Dinner time, Dad and I getting ready to eat off newspaper on the roof of a Jodphur Blue House.

Dinner time, Dad and I getting ready to eat off newspaper on the roof of a Jodphur Blue House.

A (VERY) BRIEF HISTORY OF CARROTS

In North India, carrots are a shade of deep pink, potentially red.  Striking looking things and ours today was a whopper, about 2 foot long.  It stuck out of my ‘man bag’ like a baseball bat.  Originally carrots in Europe were black (it was the orange loving Dutch who changed the colour to and trend, the Dutch are excellent market gardeners and the British were not.  Many of our techniques for market gardening, meeting our supply of veggies in cities etc, we’ve borrowed/ bought from the Dutch.)

I say things like extra virgin olive oil and sea salt almost in jest.  There is very little of that touching our lips here.  I am sure there is a hotel in Jodphur serving these types of delicacies tonight, but not on our budget!  A miniscule sacrifice for travelling India, but would have embellished this salad very nicely indeed.  Instead we use two sachets of olive oil that Dad had pocketed from our dinner on Turkish Airways from Istanbul.  Genius!

Remember this a traditional Indian Israeli salad and if you decide to make it, you will be joined by thousands of travellers over here, chowing down on exactly the same crunchy, vibrant goodness.

Make this salad super fresh, straight off the chopping board, just like they do in Marrakech, Tehran, Jodphur and  Istanbul.

The Bits – For 4 as a side salad

2 carrots (black, red, orange…….white I hear are quite tasty)

5 tomatoes

1 large cucumber (peeled or non peeled, some say that the skin is hard on the digestion)

1 small, sweet red onion (finely sliced in half moons, nice for presentation)

1 green pepper (finely diced)

3 big handfuls fresh coriander leaves

1 big handful fresh mint leaves (finely sliced)

4 tbs extra virgin olive oil

3 tbs flax/ linseeds

½ lemon juice

Sea salt (to taste)

Do It

Chop your carrots, cucumber and tomato in similar sized 1-2cm chunks.  Arrange your coriander leaves around the edge of a serving plate.  I like to add texture and layers to the salad so mix the mint, tomatoes and onion together (holding back a little onion for topping).  Pile as a base layer between the coriander.  Now mix the cucumber, carrots and pepper together.  Scatter/ pile on tip of your tomato layer.  Scatter the flax seeds and a few thin slices of cucumber on top.

Israeli Salad (The Indian Traveler Classic) ready for action

Israeli Salad (The Indian Traveler Classic) ready for action

Serve

When ready to serve, simply drizzle the oil over the salad and squeeze the lemon on top (watch those pips!)

In India, you can serve this with warm chapatti in most other parts of the world, crusty bread is nice.  Or keep it purely raw for optimum nutritional benefits.

PS – Carrots are of course a bit crunchy.  Maybe you’d prefer slightly more refined, smaller chunks.

Foodie Fact

FLAX SEEDS = PROPER ‘SUPER FOOD’, CHEAP, LOCALLY GROWN (It pretty much grows everywhere)

Flax seeds have outrageous amounts of Omega 3 fats, they are superb for anit-oxidants and have plenty of vitamin B.  You will also find them to ease and assist digestion.  They are also cheap to buy, no ridiculous ‘super food’ price tag here.  Not bad for a humble brown grass seed.

Happy muncher!

Happy Muncher!

Categories: Healthy Eating, Raw Food, Recipes, Salads, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Reasons to be Vegan 1,2,3……+ Inspiring Vegan Quotes (pt 2)

(I never really liked Ian Dury, but ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’ is a stone cold classic.)

Being a vegan quickly becomes a major talking point in life.  Its unavoidable and certainly makes you think about lifestyle choices in a deeper way.  It’s a challenging stance to take and many people feel threatened by it.  It requires a complete re-evaluation on our approach to producing food and the way that we source and buy our food.  Having an open mind to such a drastic change is paramount, if you are against veganism on principle, please read on with an open heart and see what settles.  I’d love to hear constructive comments, but generally, I receive strangely thought out theories on why meat is essential to modern human existence.  All I would say is that ethics and social behaviour can change quickly, especially when backed by governments and the powers that be, just look at the huge changes we went through with the smoking ban in public places.  Veganism or eating far less meat and dairy, is surely next on the agenda.  We have to stop consuming so much.  It is the most effective way we can minimise the degradation of our environment and create a cleaner, healthier future.

Most people I meet are interested in the vegan lifestyle and normally ask ‘why?’ (many shaking their heads like I’ve lost my marbles.)  I seem to be missing out on so many goodies when we go to restaurants, bakeries, bars, etetec  This is not an easy question to answer for me as there are many reasons and not eating a croissant ever again seems like a small sacrifice to make:

1)  The food is amazing.  I love to cook vegan food and experiment with new ideas and fresh approached to nutrition and cooking techniques.

2)  It’s superbly healthy for ourselves and the planet.

3)  Its a life style that is against the exploitation and suffering of animals (and humans for that matter)

…….the list goes on and I can find no negative aspects to a vegan diet.  None.  That is using the most objective angle I can muster.

I told some friends recently to check out the blog for more inspiring vegan info and bar the food, realised there was little else to get the vegetal flow moving.  I have gathered some vegan quotes that inspire me, with cool pictures of friendly animals and thought I’d do a little sharing.  I posted pt 1 a while ago now and with the new year upon us, it seems that pt 2 is ripe.  I hope you find them equally inspiring.

What better time of year to give veganism a go!  These quotes may give you the final push to change things up a little.  After all that indulgence over the festive period, we all need light and super nutritious food to give us a detox hug and new year sparkle.  There are plenty of recipes on the B.H.K to fit that bill, but today we are going in a quote/ ethics direction.  Being a vegan is much more than delicious food, its a statement about how you wish to lead your life and treat other living things.  Vegans are for peace and a healthy future for the planet and our new generations, after all, if everyone in the world stopped eating meat, there’d be enough grain available to feed the world population at least seven times over!  If every person in the world stopped eating meat for just one day a week, there would be enough grain to feed our world population, 7 billion, one time.

Some of the quotes are quite full on, but this is a highly emotive issue and rightly so.  I cannot ethically equate the suffering of animals for food within the society I live in.  Britain is well renowned as a nation of ‘animal lovers’.  I believe that the way that we treat our animals says a lot about out culture, that is all animals and not just those classed as pets.  The industrialised meat and dairy industries are torturing animals on a daily basis to present us with the foods that we prefer.  Its a matter of choice, not necessity.  I’m not saying we should all become vegans overnight, but we should be aware of the processes of cruelty that are involved in providing cheap dairy and meat products, when we realise this, surely as compassionate human beings, we move away from foods which undoubtedly promote torment and suffering, towards a healthier plant based diet.

Veganism is not just a lifestyle trend, its a statement of intent.  In simplest terms, I feel that being a vegan stands for a peaceful future for all.  Going vegan has a MASSIVE effect on the world socially and environmentally.  We are gradually moving away from our current eating trends and awareness is spreading, but we must act quicker.  There is alot at stake.  Human life itself is at stake.  What better cause to wake us up and turn to tofu!

If you want to change the world, go Vegan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Have an amazing start to 2015, hopefully with a few plant based wonders on your plates:

“Eating is always a decision; nobody forces your hand to pick up the food and put it into your mouth.” Albert Ellis

“The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men.” Leonardo Da Vinci

“As long as Man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings, he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.”   Pythagoras

“We are, quite literally, gambling with the future of our planet- for the sake of hamburgers”  Peter Singer

“Truth has no special time of its own. Its hour is now – always.” – Albert Schweitzer

“To a man whose mind is free there is something even more intolerable in the sufferings of animals than in the sufferings of man. For with the latter it is at least admitted that suffering is evil and that the man who causes it is a criminal. But thousands of animals are uselessly butchered every day without a shadow of remorse. If any man were to refer to it, he would be thought ridiculous. And that is the unpardonable crime.”  Romain Rolland

“We do not need to eat animals, wear animals, or use animals for entertainment purposes, and our only defence of these uses is our pleasure, amusement, and convenience.” Gary L. Francione

“I am grateful to realize that my desires do not entitle me to add to another’s suffering.”  Zoe Weil

“Man is the only animal that can remain if friendly terms with the victims he intends to eat until he eats them.”  Samuel Butler

“Be a fearless cook and never apologise.”  Julia Child

“The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking.” John Kenneth Galbraith

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Albert Einstein

“The belly rules the mind.”  Spanish proverb

“I have no hostility to Nature, but a child’s love to it.  I expand and live in the warm day like corn and melons.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Only when we have become nonviolent towards all life will we have learned to live well with others.”
César Chávez

“The thinking man must oppose all cruel customs, no matter how deeply rooted in tradition and surrounded by a halo. When we have a choice, we must avoid bringing torment and injury into the life of another, even the lowliest creature; but to do so is to renounce our manhood and shoulder a guilt which nothing justifies.”  Albert Schweitzer

“You either approve of violence or you don’t, and nothing on earth is more violent or extreme than the meat industry.”  Morrissey

“A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food: therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking an animal life merely for the sake of appetite.  And to act so, is immoral.”  Leo Tolstoy

“The human body has no more need for cows milk than it does for dogs milk, horses milk or giraffes milk.”  Michael Klaper MD

“Suffering is suffering. It is always ugly. It is always unwelcome. It always needs to be stopped. There are no exceptions. A person with the capacity but not the inclination to cease suffering is morally incomplete.” Mirko Bagaric

“It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”  Krishnamurti    

“A human body in no way resembles those that were born for ravenousness; it hath no hawk’s bill, no sharp talon, no roughness of teeth, no such strength of stomach or heat of digestion, as can be sufficient to convert or alter such heavy and fleshy fare. But if you will contend that you were born to an inclination to such food as you have now a mind to eat, do you then yourself kill what you would eat. But do it yourself, without the help of a chopping-knife, mallet or axe, as wolves, bears, and lions do, who kill and eat at once. Rend an ox with thy teeth, worry a hog with thy mouth, tear a lamb or a hare in pieces, and fall on and eat it alive as they do. But if thou had rather stay until what thou eat is to become dead, and if thou art loath to force a soul out of its body, why then dost thou against nature eat an animate thing? There is nobody that is willing to eat even a lifeless and a dead thing even as it is; so they boil it, and roast it, and alter it by fire and medicines, as it were, changing and quenching the slaughtered gore with thousands of sweet sauces, that the palate being thereby deceived may admit of such uncouth fare.”
― Plutarch

“Dominion does not mean domination. We hold dominion over animals only because of our powerful and ubiquitous intellect. Not because we are morally superior. Not because we have a “right” to exploit those who cannot defend themselves. Let us use our brain to move toward compassion and away from cruelty, to feel empathy rather than cold indifference, to feel animals’ pain in our hearts.”  Marc Bekoff

“I will not kill or hurt any living creature needlessly, nor destroy any beautiful thing, but will strive to save and comfort all gentle life, and guard and perfect all natural beauty upon the earth.” John Ruskin

“In the hopes of reaching the moon, men fail to see the flowers that blossom at their feet.” Albert Schweitzer

 

Categories: Healthy Eating, Healthy Living, Inspiration, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

A Massive Festive Hug!

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The depths of winter on Mojon Beach

Just a quickie to say:

MEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRYYYYY CHHHHHHHHRIIIIISSSSTMMAAAAASSSSSS!!!!!!X

and then:

HAAAAPPPPYYY NNEEEEWWWWWWW YYEEEEAAAARRRR!!!XXXX

Hope you have a very magical time with plenty of tofu pie and pumpkin crisps………and the odd sherry to wash it all down.

It seems like an ice age since we last said a little ‘hello’. We have been suffering from a very Spanish dilemma over here in Murcia, cooking loads of gorgeous nibbles and bites, but easing into the manana (tomorrow) lifestyle a little too easily. “Manana, manana, manana…..” its a magnificent way to live, but leads to a lack of posts and far too much time to contemplate dinner whilst lounging on a beach. Its 20oC today, Christmas Eve and we are soaking up the rays on behalf of all Beach Houser’s out in lands not so well endowed with festive sunbeams. We salute you!

We are planning a quiet Christmas on the terrace with my Dad and some stunning local vino and a mammoth veg-fest terrine (not necessarily in that order!).  Jane is plotting a platter of potato served three ways, as you all know, Jane is partial to a patata or three.  Dad is fully on board with the vegan express and we’re going totally  vegetal this festive period.  Bravo big man!

2014 has been a great year at the Beach House, thanks for all of your support and inspiration. Jane and I are in India in the new year, so you can expect plenty of curry based action very soon. Our new year resolution will be to whip up more posts, hopefully this year, we’ll actually get around to it. Life so rich and ‘Manana’ an ever viable option…..

Peace, Love and Light,

Lee and Janexxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

The Winterwonderland (a massive calcite wave with turquoise pools) Pammukale, Turkey

The Winterwonderland (a massive calcite wave with turquoise pools) Pammukale, Turkey

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CHEERS! (G+T’s all round)

 

Categories: 'The Good Life', Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Brazil Nut and Banana Breakfast Cookies and the Trials and Tribulations of Vegan Travel

Brazil Nut and Banana Breakfast Cookies - Fresh from the oven

Brazil Nut and Banana Breakfast Cookies – Up close and personal

Warm, healthy cookies for breakfast.  Yes, please!!!!!!  A fine start to any day and even the sleepiest of heads can cope with the simplicity of getting these together.  This is a nourishing and energy giving breakfast on the run and one of these cookies contains much more nutrition than your average bowl of cereal.

A strange post to be winging it across from the Turkish Med, but the weather in the port town of Antalya is dreadful.  Jane and I are tucked up in bed with cups of well stewed Turkish tea.  We were here two weeks ago and the sun was blazing, it now resembles a supermarket car park in Leicester town centre in a November hail storm (with the occasional roman aqueduct thrown in).  Amazing the difference some pants weather can make.

THE BEACH HOUSE ON TOUR

A quick update as to our wandering ways.  We’re in Turkey, as mentioned and have been whizzing around in a hire car for two weeks, covering thousands of kilometres in this fascinating and rich land.  Firstly, Turkey is a country with many layers of incredible history and culture, stunning and varied landscapes, but the real star (as ever we find) is the people.  The folk we have met have been absolutely brilliant, wonderfully hospitable, kind and funny.  Jane and I have felt very at home ever since, on the first night, a genial waiter Abdullah, offered us his house to stay in for as long as we like. We declined his more than generous offer, so he halved our bill and sent us on our merry way.  This has become quite normal, every day we are confronted with bare faced kindness and highly welcoming behaviour.

The view from our hotel in Antalya on the first day, now it looks considerably greyer with occasional lightning forks crackling over the mountains.

The view from our hotel in Antalya on the first day, now it looks considerably greyer with occasional lightning forks crackling over the mountains.

We’ve been so active in the last 14 days its quite hard to recap that’s been done.  Having taken in most of the Turquoise coast, with its stunning ancient Greek and Roman Ruins and beautiful beaches, we headed up to Pammukale, which is a massive calcite wave with hot thermal springs (and an almost token vast ancient Greek settlement on top).  We then whisked our little Fiat up through the Alpine clad mountains, inland and across a vast Anatolian steppe to Konya (the resting place of the poet Rumi and the home of the whirling dervishes) and then spent a few days exploring and hiking in the ridiculously unique and surreal rock features of the Cappdocian valleys.  We stayed in a luxury cave, carved out of compressed volcanic dust.  The beauty of having a car is being able to stop alot along the way and get lost.  Getting lost I find is the best way to get to know a country properly.  The out of the way places are always more fun than the tourist ‘hives’.

Now we’re back on the coast, having traced the silk road for a while and hung out in caravaserai’s.  We’re readying ourselves for a weeks volunteering and cooking on an organic farm and animal sanctuary (meaning sitting down for a day).  Phew!  In a nut shell, its been intensely brilliant.  It feels like we’ve been away for years.  Pictures will hopefully follow when a better internet connection arises.

THE TRIALS AND TRAVAILS OF VEGAN TRAVELER 

Being a vegan foodie traveler outside select parts of LA  is never going to easy, but many Turkish staples are easily veganised and we haven’t struggle for sparkling sustenance thus far.  Saksuka, corba (soup, lentil normally), bean stews, gorgeous pides (Turkish pizza), village rice dishes, shepherd salads, smoked aubergine and pepper salads, many clay pot roasted veggie variations (in wood fired ovens), and lashings of white bread ( no whole grains on the horizon) have kept us ticking over quite nicely.  All washed down with plenty of tiny glasses of Turkish Whiskey (well stewed tea normally grown around the Black Sea).

We do have a very unique diet in the Beach House Kitchen and we always feel the pinch the first few weeks of a travel.  Gone are the 6 vegetable morning juices and rampantly organic raw salads and layered tofu bakes.  Having said that, back here in the big city Antalya (population 11 million) we have just enjoyed a slap up mezze-fest in a white table cloth joint.  Radical selections of local leaves, beetroot, funky turnip juice, fresh steaming white bread, melt in the mouth aubergine dishes (known as the ‘sultan’ of vegetables in Turkey and quiet revered), interesting and intense tomato rice (the shape of which I’d never seen before, very squat and dumpy grains).  Great stuff and an open fire to boot.

Generally travelling as a vegan means scouting out as many fruit and nuts as you can find.  I’m not a huge supplement fan, but do travel with some Spirulina which I picked up in India, see this article I wrote for more info on this wonder green powder.  Getting balanced nutrition is a happy quest when on the road.  A vegan traveler has to be more patient with food and accept the occasion stray lump of cheese or gristle with grace and impeccable manners.  After all, we are ambassadors of something highly  positive, why ruin it all with a restaurant rant.  It can get a little embarrassing on occasion, especially when in a home.  No matter how much you explain yourself, language barriers can become chasms when ordering in a restaurant.  It is quite an alien concept in most parts of the world.  So far, on this trip, I have been fine and had no encounters with surprise ingredients.  There is an element of keeping it simple and realising the the cornucopia of local food is generally out of bounds and you will have to settle with some simple veggies dishes and many baffled and perplexed looks from local waiting staff and restaurant owners.  Jane and I also make alot of salads and simple veggie dishes ourselves, we always travel with a good knife and some plates.  This keeps costs down a little and means that we can pack loads of gorgeous local veggies into diets with relative ease.  Overall, Turkey is a great country for vegan travel and much of the produce is organic and seasonal.

I made these cookies just before we left the Beach House for our travels around Turkey, Spain and India.  They were a real hit with our friends over coffee and chats.  As usual with our sweet things, they are an attempt at taking a gorgeous cake/ cookie recipe and making it as healthy as we can, without compromising on delicousness.

These baked beauts are packed with nutrition and low GI, all that shebang!  They are also super tasty and almost a meal  in themselves.  After one of these for breakfast, we feel pretty much sated for the morning.  We’ve basically put loads of the things that we love in a bowl and baked it, most are ingredients that we believe will do our body the most amount of good first thing in the morn.  A novel way of approaching cookie making you may say?!  But the cookie taste it there, it just so happens that we snook in a few wonder foods as well.  We’ve got oats, flax seeds, bananas, maple syrup, brazil nuts, cinnamon……it’s like a health food shop condensed down into small disc of crispy happiness!  All these things are going to make your body smile and sing.

Gluten free folk may like to try buckwheat flour or your favourite gluten free flour mix instead of the wholewheat flour, we haven’t tried it, but are sure it will lead to magic results.  Gluten free oats are also readily available.  You can also just use oats, but the cookies won’t quite have the density and firm texture that these will.

Fresh out of the the oven

Fresh out of the the oven.  Would you call this a cookie or a biscuit?

SO WHEN IS A BISCUIT A BISCUIT, AND A COOKIE A COOKIE?

I think this is a matter of cultural surroundings and varying criteria.  Personally, a cookie is moist and chewy and a biscuit is crunchy and crumbly.  Cookies are normally fatter and biscuits are thinner.  Cookies are not traditional in the UK, so any new and magical ingredients normally take things in a cookie direction.  What do you think?  I know in the States biscuits are served with savoury dishes, they seem to be more like a semi-scone, but generally quite heavy.  I know one thing, there is no way anybody would refer to these whoopers as a biscuit, maybe a ‘slab’ would be better way of describing them, or a ‘chunk’.

Use any variety of nuts and seeds here, whatever’s handy (although poppy seeds are probably best used only if you love ‘em dearly).

Once baked and cooled fully, these cookies will keep for a few days in a tight fitting container or biscuit tin and don’t just eat them for breakfast, eat them all day if you like!

 

The Bits – 6-8 big cookies

200g Scottish oats (50g more reserved)

30g wholewheat flour

2 bananas (mashed with your hands)

3 tbs sunflower seeds

1 ½ tbs flax seeds

1 handful brazil nuts (roughly chopped)

200ml sunflower oil/ light olive oil

3 tbs maple syrup/ brown rice syrup/

1 teas bicarb of soda

1 ½ teas ground cinnamon

1 teas almond extract

In the mix

In the mix

Do It

Preheat an fan oven to 180oC.

Mix together all the bits in a large bowl until a smooth dough is formed, then add the rest of the oats and stir in.  This will give the cookies a little bite and texture.

For soft cookies bake for 10 minutes, for slightly crisper cookies, turn the tray and bake for a further 2-3 minutes.

Breakfast is served!

Breakfast is served!

Serve

Using a flat spatula, place on a wire rack and leave for 15 minutes to cool.  Best served with a nice big cuppa tea.

Foodie Fact  

Many people believe bananas to be high GI (Glycemic Index) foods, meaning they release their carbohydrates straight into your blood stream and leave you with a ‘sugar spike’ that can lead to blood sugar level mayhem and long term ailments.

Bananas are actually low GI and are our friends, meaning they help against diabetes and keep our heart healthy.  The greener your banana, the less sugar present.  Plantains have the lowest sugar levels.

Goodbye from the Med!  (expect more pics soon)

Goodbye from the Med! (expect more pics soon)

 

Categories: Baking, Breakfast, Recipes, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Autumn’s End at the Beach House Kitchen

A very belated Happy Samhain/ Halloween to you all!  We spent it packing up the house, soup bubbling and preparing the garden for winter.  Here are a few images of the last days of Autumn, a week ago, in the Beach House Garden.

We have flown the nest again like migrating birds.  We’re in Turkey, up to our necks in ancient ruins and scrumptious kebabs and salads.  Looking at these pictures makes us feel privileged to live in such a special little corner of the world.  More news from Turkey, Spain and India soon…..goodbye Beach House until AprilXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The Beach House Garden bracing itself for the Welsh winter

The Beach House Garden bracing itself for the Welsh winter

Our Hawthorn tree all red and sparkly

Our Hawthorn tree all red and sparkly

Last of the blackberries, still fruiting into late October!?

Last of the blackberries, still fruiting into late October!?

Autumn sunset off the Llyn Peninsula

Autumn sunset off the Llyn Peninsula

Late Autumn and the chills are setting in.  Soup tonic, Pumpkin, Fennel and Leek with Soda Bread.

Late Autumn and the chills are setting in. Soup tonic, Pumpkin, Fennel and Leek with Soda Bread

Kindling ready for the fire

Kindling ready for the fire

Potato patches covered with manure and compost, ready for next year

Potato patches covered with manure and compost, ready for next year

The source of great potatoes, our neighbourly horse who lives next door.

The source of great potato manure, our neighbourly horse in the next field.  Not the friendliest, but quite a quite prolific manure provider

Stash of funky rocks from the beach

Stash of funky rocks from the beach

Steamy kitchen action, Welsh cottages not cut out for heavy wok action

Steamy kitchen action, Welsh cottages not cut out for heavy saute action

Wake up, 3oC, warm Banana Bread cookie time (recipe to follow)

Wake up, 3oC, warm Banana Bread cookie time (recipe to follow)

 

Categories: 'The Good Life', Autumn, Garden, Photography, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Step-by-step planting recipe for the perfect apple tree

We’re in the process of turning the Beach House garden into an orchard of sorts.  Each birthday and christmas I will be hopefully getting a new fruit tree to plant, I have my eye on a rare pear tree (pink inside and tasting of fennel) which has been discovered by Ian Sturrock who has discovered many different rare fruit trees all over North Wales and the UK.  Soon we will have pears and peaches to add to our gorgeous bounty of garden fruits.

Our latest tree is called Johnny (named after Johnny Appleseed, a very interesting American folk hero who basically spent his whole life wandering around planting apple trees) and it is a Bardsey Island Apple Tree (see here for more info on this almost extinct apple variety).  My Mum bought it for me in May for my birthday and its been sitting quite happily in the front garden and even produced quite a few very tasty apples.  A few weeks ago, just as the warm, light nights began to taper in, we knew it was time for Johnny to find a more permanent home.  We cleared away a hidden rockery, unearthing some lovely little heather plants, and planted Johnny in a nice big hole, filled and surrounded by rich soil.  If you are looking at planting trees this autumn (its a little late now I know, but still very do-able) here are the basic steps in a successful fruit tree re-location.  These steps apply to most ages of trees and sapling, ours is roughly 2-3 years old.

Potted fruit tree, the type you buy in garden centres etc

Potted fruit tree, the type you buy in garden centres, from orchards etc

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Find a suitable spot, reasonably shelter with plenty of deep rich soil, dig the hole two times the volume of your tree pot

Gently loosen your sapling from the pot

Gently loosen your sapling from the pot

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Check that your roots are nice and white (alive!)

Loosen and untangle the majority of the roots

Loosen and untangle the majority of the roots

Lower gently into your ample hole, laying out the roots gently

Lower gently into your ample hole, laying out the roots gently and filling in as you go

Find a suitable spot, reasonably shelter with plenty of deep rich soil

Once the tree is settles and looking comfortable, cover with plenty of soil but no compost.  We’ like the roots to seek food, expanding outwards and not spiraling around the base.  The roots will naturally for a wide anchor for the tree.

Water well, we used two watering cans worth

Water well, we used two watering cans worth

Always have a glamorous assistant nearby

Always have a glamorous assistant nearby

And a mascot

And a mascot

Marvel at one of summers last sunsets

Then feel free to marvel at one of summers last sunsets

If you are planting the tree in a windy location, you will need to support it until it is established.  A tree blowing around in the wind will form a well in the base of the trunk where water will gather creating what is called ‘butt rot’.  Which doesn’t sound like a good thing!

It really is quite straightforward and incredibly rewarding.  To think of the pies, crumbles and unadulterated apple fun that Johnny is going to provide us and hopefully future generations with can only make you feel very wholesome and satisfied.  Planting trees is surely one of the finest hobbies anybody could have.  We are planning on starting small nurseries or rowan, oak, hawthorn etc all over Tiger Mountain (the hill that we live on).  Queue guerrilla tree planting sessions all around North Wales, where much of the forests and woodlands have been cut down to accommodate huge amounts of sheep.  We’re bringing back the trees!  One ‘Johnny’ at a time and when they happen to provide delicious fruits, it seems that nature is surely spoiling us!

If you like the sound of planting trees and making efforts to reforest the planet, you may like the book ‘The Man Who Planted Trees’ a beautiful little story about one mans life time quest to reforest a barren area in the Alps.  I read this book in Auroville, India.  A experimental township with over 5000 inhabitants where the entire area has been completely reforested, taken from a barren, dusty land to a thriving verdant forest where monkeys and big cats are moving back to and where a state of natural equilibrium has returned.  It is stunning to think of what we could do, in a generation, if we planted a few trees along the way.  It only takes a short time and will definitely have a very positive effect on the earth and future generations.  Just like ‘The Man Who Planted Trees’, bury a few acorns the next time you wander around some tree-less areas and in a few years, you may  have your very own saplings to be proud of.

For a proper professional in action and a very interesting site relating to all things orchards and fruit trees, see Ian Sturrock and Sons.








 

Categories: Autumn, Garden, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Top foods that moderate/ lower cholesterol

Here we have a variety of vegan friendly foods that have been shown to moderate cholesterol, as effective as any drug out there.  These foods lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and raise HDL (the good cholesterol).  If eaten in the correct quantities, they will result in lowering cholesterol (as part of a balanced diet etc).  Most of the gorgeous nibbles will also aid diabetes and low blood pressure.

Cholesterol-lowering foods

(Daily amount needed)

Almonds (2 handfuls): Lowers LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol.
Apples (½ cup dried): Lowers LDL cholesterol by 23 percent; total cholesterol by 14 percent.
Apple (1 raw): Lowers LDL by 40 percent.
Avocado (1-2 a week): Fiber and beta-sistosterol compete with cholesterol for uptake (and win).
Beans, peas, lentils, and lima beans (¾ cup). Lowers LDL and total cholesterol.
Blueberries (2 cups frozen): Reduces heart disease by 40 percent.
Chocolate (1-3 ounces): Increases HDL, counters LDL oxidation, lowers total cholesterol.
Citrus fruits (½-1 cup): Rich in pectin, a type of soluble fiber; lowers LDL.
Cooked leafy greens (½-1 cup): Proteins and fiber bind cholesterol.
Garlic (1-4 cloves): Lowers total cholesterol.
Hibiscus (1 cup infusion): Lowers LDL.
Nourishing Herbal Infusions (1-4 cups): Polyphenols and phytosterols reduce total cholesterol and counter oxidation of LDL.
Nuts (handful): Lower LDL.
Oats (½-1 cup): Soluble fiber lowers total cholesterol.
Olive oil (2-4 tablespoons): Lowers total cholesterol.
Pears (dried or fresh, 1): Even more soluble fiber than apples; too bad for LDL.
Roots: The edible roots of plants are concentrated sources of phytosterols and polyphenols.
Shiitake mushrooms: Reduces cholesterol.
Tea, green (2-5 cups): Reduces LDL cholesterol.
Whole grains, including barley, kasha, rice, quinoa, amaranth, millet, wheat, oats: Soluble fiber lowers total cholesterol.

Information used from a post by the ever wonderful Susan Weed.

Categories: Healing foods, Healthy Eating, Nutrition | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Swede and Sorrel Autumn Soup

Bigger than a football, our giant swede (3kgs+)

Bigger than a football, our giant swede (3kgs+)

Swede is a root star!  You may call it a neep, a rutabaga or a yellow turnip.  Whatever the name, not many people agree with me!  Swede is a wonderfully flavoursome vegetable with a real kick of secret mustard-iness that I appreciate (think a concentrated cabbage stem for first time users).  Mashed swede was always my favourite part of my Mum’s traditional Sunday dinner and this soup is like a Sunday dinner in a bowl.  I’ve added a hint of mint here, because our Sunday dinners always came with mint sauce.

Swede is always very cheap, probably the cheapest veggie in town and can be used in so many different ways, check out our Swede, Pear and Tahini Salad to name just one!  Swede has long been known as the ‘poor mans turnip’ which is surely some form of an insult!!!  On my travels around this great globe, I have normally preferred the alleged ‘poor mans’ pickings to the lavish platters of the rich (rich by means normally results in rich OTT foods).

 

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Bigger than my head (that is quite huge!)

This is proper traditional fare, which is perfect as autumn has arrived with a stormy bang in North Wales.  The Beach House is clinging onto Tiger Mountain as the gales and storms (apparently hangovers from some distant hurricanes) are battering us.  We’re inside, eating soup mainly and venturing out in the mornings to see if our new apple tree has blown over and to check that our roof is still all there.  Soup like this, thick and substantial; using things that grow in the garden and veg patch, are what we love to eat when the nights draw in.  Packed with extra nutrition and the antioxidants we need to fight things like colds and other early winter bugs.  As ever, trying to keep things simple and local is a great challenge for me!  I love food from all over the world and cannot help but lob a little spice and a smidgen of chilli into most of the dishes I cook.  This swede soup is stripped to the stem and given a frilly sorrel lining.

The sorrel here grows like wildfire in our garden and we are ever attempting new ways to use it up.  In soups and stews it does lose its vibrant green hue, but maintains that lovely punchy, bitter apple like flavour.  We stir the leaves in at the end to maintain all their vitality and potency.  Use alternate leaves like spinach if sorrel is not growing in your garden or local area.  If you’re in the UK, Im sure you’ll find some hanging around hedgerows or woodlands.

Prepare yourselves, for a classic British Sunday dinner, it a bowl!

Fresh garden rosemary

Fresh garden rosemary

The Bits – Maks 6 decent bowls

1 tbs oil

750g swede (a mere small chunk out of our behemoth)

3 potatoes

2 large celery sticks

1 onion

2 carrots

(All cut into rough chunks)

2 large sprigs rosemary

1 teas dried mint

4 big handfuls of sorrel (keep a few smaller leaves to make it look nice at the end)

750ml warm vegetable stock (with hot water ready as needed)

Salt (if needed, stock is normally salty to start with)

 

Nutritional yeast flakes (optional – for added vegan savoury fun)

Simmering Swedes

Simmering Swedes

Do It

In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, warm the oil on medium low heat and add all the veggies at once. Stir and sauté for 5 minutes, then add the stock and rosemary, covering the veggies by roughly 1 inch with liquid.  Pop lid on and simmer for 45 minutes until the carrots are soft (they take the longest to cook).  Add the dried mint, pick out the rosemary sprigs and blend smooth with a stick blender or pour in batches into a food processor.  Stir in the sorrel leaves and pour into bowls immediately.

Serve

Scatter a few little sorrel leaves on top to look nice and serve to empty bellies and full hearts.  I f you like easy to make bread recipes, try Jane’s Wonder Loaf, preferably toasted and drizzled with rapeseed oil.

Swede and Sorrel Soup

Swede and Sorrel Soup

Foodie Fact

Swede comes from guess where?…….its a tough one I know, but the answer is Sweden.  It was traditionally grown to feed cattle, lucky cows!

Swede is a member of the cabbage family.  It is a great source of nutrients, especially vitamin C and A, making it a perfect autumn boost.  It also contains plenty of fibre, potassium and even calcium.  It also happens to be low in calories, probably due to its cabbage connections.  For all these reasons and because it tastes great, we should all be eating swede like happy cattle.  Its just not very cool is all!

Our neighbourky horses didn't think much of the swede

Our neighbourky horses didn’t think much of the swede

Categories: Autumn, Recipes, Soups | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Homemade Baechu Kimchi

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Homemade Baechu (Cabbage) Kimchi

Kimchi is certainly pickle/ condiment royalty.  Very Korean and yet superb with traditional British veggies, a home for all your seasonal veggie fest’s and the perfect way of preserving the ‘gluts’ that we experience at this plentiful time of year.

I don’t know why I’ve used the ‘Homemade…’ in the title, it seems quite obvious that it would be homemade, but it does give a nice homely ring to a dish and there is nothing like the rancid smell of festering cabbage to make me feel settled and comfortable. I love the smell of kimchi and sauerkraut in the house, but I must admit that after a week or so, the garage beckons for our fermenting friend. Kimchi is a labour of love, but isn’t all cooking. Surely when we cook we are bucking the convenience trend and doing something for ourselves that is quiet intangible, but easily felt and munched. Food made with love, fermented with relish, is as integral part of any home. Sacrifice for our bellies is a worthy sacrifice I say. Kimchi will test your culinary resolve and passion for pickles to the max. Its like marmite you could say, there is an intense love/ hate things going on, Jane and I are in the Korean cabbage love camp.

Kimchi is a great place to start fermentation exploration, a spicy pickle that can be taken in many different directions from a flavour point of view.  This Baechu (Cabbage) Kimchi recipe is basic and very open to embellishments.  It is normally made with fish sauce, but for obvious reasons, your won’t find that on the BHK.  It is not missed either.

Kimhci is very simple to make and the toughest part is being patient enough to let it ferment properly before you munch it.  Kimchi lights up any meal, especially salads and rice dishes and can even be used in soups, stir fries and stew .  It is the national dish of Korea, where they eat it with pretty much anything and in vast quantity.   Your average Korean eats 125gms of Kimchi per day.  Three quarters of the Kimhci consume in South Korea is still made at home, which is great  to hear, although most South Korean residential areas must have quite a fragrant cabbage pong going on!!  Surely they have a special Kimchi closet or well ventilated area for its maturation.  Many businesses in Korea give a yearly ‘Kimchi’ bonus, so employees can go out and buy the ingredients to make a years supply of this wonder pickle.  Kimchi made in Korea is controlled by a legal standard, basically if it isn’t made the traditional Korean way, it just ain’t Kimchi.   In Korea instead of saying ‘cheese!’ when you have a photograph taken, they say ‘kimch!’.  Its a happy sounding word!  It certainly makes me smile.  Koreas obsession with Kimchi and the fact that it is normally eaten with rice or noodles is one of the factors keeping obesity out of Korea, generally they enjoy a high fibre, low fat diet with Kimchi as a tangy constant.

Kimchi is alot like its German sibling Sauerkraut, the only major difference being flavouring and the fact that Kimchi is softened in very salty water to start with and then fermented in less salty water.  Sauerkraut is slightly more straightforward.

We make a big batch of Kimchi, you can half this quantity if you are just starting out and are unsure as to whether Kimchi will become a major part of your life.  You will not be disappointed with the results, as I said, homemade Kimchi cannot be replicated and it is surprisingly easy to prepare.  Lastly, we should mention that Kimchi is ridiculously good for you and contains all the magic of other fermented foods.  This type of pickle cleanses the palate and also aids digestion.

If you are on a low salt diet, you can make Kimchi and Sauerkraut without salt, just substitute with wine, seeds like fennel, aniseed, dill, carraway etc or even seaweed (which contains sodium naturally).

One thing is for sure, fermenting is addictive and once you start, it opens so many doorways for tasty pickles to complement any meal.  Being fermented, they also store very well, so for minimum effort, you can have a constant supply of glorious tangy condiments.

Kimchi can also be made with most root vegetables; Swede, Turnip, Burdock, Jerusalem Artichoke, Horseradish……etc in Kimchi is awesome and any radishes are always welcome (and quite traditional to boot).

Chinese cabbage is easy to find in Asian/ Oriental Food shops throughout the UK and I’d imagine, the world.  Local cabbage also works well, it just isn’t quite as Korean looking or tasting.  Where you find Chinese cabbage, you will also find Daikon radish.

Have fun with your microorganisms!

The Bits – Fills one massive gherkin jar (see picture above)

1 kg Chinese cabbage (you can use bok choi or white cabbage as subs)

2 Daikon radish (or a large handful of radishes)

3 carrots (or turnip)

3-4 onions (or 1 large leek)

6-8 cloves garlic

6-8 red chillies (depending on how hot you like it!)

6 tbs fresh ginger (grated)

Sea salt

You may also like to add green peas, seaweed, artichokes, in fact most veggies that are seasonal can be added to a Kimhci to great effect.  Potatoes do not work so well.  

Veggie mix after overnight soaking

Kimchi veggie mix after overnight soaking

Do It

Grab a large saucepan or bowl with vertical sides that is big enough for the job.  You will also need a lid/ plate that fits snugly into the pan/ bowl, something that will be suitable to press the kimchi down and keep it submerged beneath the brine.  You don’t need purpose bought equipment here, just use whats hanging around the kitchen.  You’ll also need a weight, we use a large jar filled with water, anything good and heavy.   Really, the heavier the better.  The more you press and bash the kimchi, the quicker it breaks down and better it tastes (all the flavours can then get right into the cabbage and veggies).

Mix your brine, 2 litres of water and 9 tbs of salt.  Stir to dissolve salt, taste to check that it is very salty.

Roughly chop the cabbage and finely sliced the radish and carrot.  Leave these veggies to soak in the brine, weight them down and leave overnight to soften.  Add any other seasonal veggies at this stage.

Grate the ginger, mash and slice the garlic, remove the seeds from the chillies and slice (pop them in whole to reduce the heat of the kimchi), use loads of spices and flavourings, Kimchi loves it!  I then like to add the spices to a pestle and mortar and mash them up a bit, this can also be done in a food processor (just pulse a few times).

Drain the brine off the vegetables (reserve the brine) and taste them to ensure they are salty enough.  If they are too salty, unpleasantly so, rinse them with fresh water.  If they are not salty at all, sprinkle in a few more teas of salt.

Mix the veggies with the spice paste thoroughly and stuff into your saucepan/ bowl.  Pack it down tightly, bash it around a little bit with a rolling pin if you like, lovingly abuse it!  Press down with your plate/ lide until the brine is released and rises above the veggies.  You may need to top it up a little using your reserved brine.  Leave the kimchi, with a weight on top, for a day, covered with a kitchen cloth or anything that will keep out insect intruders and dust.  Any bits of vegetable that float to the top, escaping the lid, just throw into the compost bin.

Leave to ferment in a warm place, the smell will be overpowering at times, so bear this in mind.  Taste the kimchi everyday or as often as you can (or remember to do so).  When the Kimchi tastes ripe, tangy and very flavourful, place in a sterilised glass jar (or several) and keep in the fridge.  This will take between one to two weeks.  The warmer the place, the faster the fermentation.  Keep the Kimchi well weighted and pressed, you can even do this by squeezing it with your hands on a daily basis (which I quite enjoy).  Microorganisms work better in the heat.

This is a relitively low salt Kimchi, traditonally in Korea it would have more salt and be left in a cooler place to ferment for alot longer.  This works if the smell is overpowering your house and it needs to be moved to a cellar/ garage.  We are gluttons, we cannot be that patient unfortunately!!!!

Pressing the Kimchi down evenly is very important

Pressing the Kimchi down evenly is very important

Any mould/ spores that form on the brine surface are perfectly natural, just skim them off regularly.  Your Kimchi is very safe in its neutral brine home with its friendly and beneficial bacteria.  Bacteria has such a bad rap, but we are made up of billions maybe trillions of them!

Serve

I like it stirred into plain rice, a very Korean way of eating it.   Jane likes it on a mixed salad plate.  Stir frying it with tofu is a real treat, or use it to liven up soups, especially miso based soups we have found.

We both like it pure, spooned straight from the jar into our mouths, no nonsense, no additions required.  Kimchi is a flavour-fest straight up.

Foodie Fact

Kimchi is packed with vitamin A, B and C but its real star is the healthy bacteria present in all fermented foods, called lactobacilli.   It is normally found in yoghurt, so for vegans, eating fermented foods is a great way of getting this wonder bacteria into our diets.  Loctobacilli helps with digestion and works to prevent yeast infections.  Fermented cabbage has also been shown to help fight cancer.

The Beach House at sunset (through the Hawthorn tree)

The Beach House at sunset yesterday (through the Hawthorn tree) – we’re having an amazingly sunny autumn up here.  Summer hasn’t ended yet and its Oct 1st!!!! 

Categories: Fermentation, Healing foods, Recipes, Side Dish | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Bardsey Island Apple and Plum Chutney plus the Tale of Johnny Appleseed

 

Bardsey Island Apple and Plum Chutney

Bardsey Island Apple and Plum Chutney

Its that time of year in the Beach House garden, when you step outside, you’ll probably find some form of fruit landing on your head.  Its raining fruit! Jane very sensibly converted a load of our plums and apples into small pots of gorgeous chutney, I have to say my favourite bit is the label, all hand designed.  Family and friends, may we introduce you to your Christmas pressie!  Chutney bubbling is such a British autumnal pursuit, it seems heavily engrained in our consciousness, we were born here; on this fare island to conserve and pickle at will, then spread it all on a seeded cracker…….with a brew (cuppa tea).

Mum bought me a Bardsey Apple tree for my birthday back in May.  We are preparing a rockery out the back for it to live, but it has thrived this summer after missing the storms and gales that robbed the blossom from our more established apple trees.   Bardsey apple trees are very special, all can be traced back to the ‘Mother’ tree on Bardsey Island, off the rocky tip of the Llyn Peninsula (the eyebrow of Wales when you look on the map).  The Llyn is like Devon or Cornwall 20 years ago, especially the North Coast and Jane and I love to camp over there on the beaches and do some seal watching (they’re massive and quite sociable).  The Llyn is a special place and all roads over there lead to the mythical Barsdesy Island.  I wrote an article on my other blog about it, Bardsey Island – Island of 20,000 Saints and there is plenty of info here about Ian Sturrock and his single handed resurrection of the Bardsey apple tree.  Ian discovered it growing beside an old house on the isolated outpost and ancient pilgrimage site.  After testing the tree, he realised that it was completely unique, nothing like it in the world.  Since then Ian has grafted and grown probably thousands of the trees and exports them as far a field as the U.S. and Japan.  It amazing to think that we are eating almost extinct apples!

The original Bardsey ‘Mother’ Tree

The Bardsey Apples themselves are succulent and golden and a very good ‘all rounder’.  They go great in a pie and a have a lovely sweet and sour twang to them, nice crunch too.  Our little tree has done a great job this year, its young branches heavy laden with apples for most of the summer, it has even survived the regular gales we get up here (even in summer!), Jane and I have had to pick it up a few times after finding it blown across the front garden!  Proper gales up here on Tiger Hill!!!!

Other than the apples, this year has seen a bumper crop for fruits of all varieties.  I have never seen or tasted blackberries like it, huge and super sweet and fragrant.  Our plum tree has gone made, its branches full of plums, reminding me of an abundant Mediterranean grape harvest, not a craggy, long suffering plum tree cowering behind a dry stone wall.  Add to that a huge raspberry harvest earlier in the year and from a fruity perspective, we’ve had a ball!!!!

I’m not sure how Jane dreamt this chutney up, we have been experimenting whenever we have gluts of things in Spain and Wales.  Whatever happened in the pan, it worked, this chutney is well balanced between sweet and sour and had gorgeous occasional chunky surprises like the soft raisins or a lump of plum.

Good organic apples are essential here as apples grown non-organically are normally treated with high levels of pesticides which you cannot get rid off, even after a good rub on your jumper.  Heres an article we wrote about the ‘The Dirty Dozen’ – The 12 worst foods to buy non-organic, not exactly a light read, but worthy information that we regularly incorporate into our fruit and veg foraging escapades.  Organic apples also have a habit of tasting loads better.  As usual, we are lucky sorts, having a bumper crop down at Trigonos has also meant that we can keep things local this year.  I absolutely love apples and Judy’s Discovery’s are up there with some of the tastiest, crunchiest apples I’ve ever scoffed.

I think its probably worth making this all organic actually, especially if your giving it to loved ones as a gift (that seems to be what we end up doing with chutneys and jams).  Our bodies love organic food and non-organic food puts serious pressure on our digestive systems, liver and kidneys, to try and deal with the poison. Its a strong word I know, but pesticide is undoubtedly a poison and when we eat non-organic, we have to deal with it somehow.  We fully appreciate that unless you are rather wealthy, very devoted or have an organic small holding/ farm, being 100% organic in life is a tall order.   We are mainly organic and there is something intangibly wonderful about starting the day with a 100% pure organic juice/ smoothie.  It probably all in the mind, but I am (almost) literally floating around the place after one of those beauts, charged with energy, it certainly cleans out your tubes.

Our little Bardsey Tree (thanks Mum!) - Awaiting a proper home in the back garden

Our little Bardsey Tree (thanks Mum!) – Awaiting a proper home in the back garden

If you live anywhere near a farm or even better, someone with an orchard, knock on their door with a hefty chocolate cake and get into some gentle chatter about how you enjoy apples and wondered if they liked cake.  Trade could happen and you may end up with bags filled with proper apples to make into things, eat whole or have a go at Apple Hooch (basically crush or juice the apples, leave in a clean bucket with a light covering and taste after a week, then everyday after that.  Eventually it will ferment and become alcoholic and you have just made the easiest and probably one of the healthiest forms of booze known to humankind.)

You can buy pickling spice from most shops, even the supermarkets have it.  If you are just making this as a one off, you can use roughly 1/2 teas of the following whole spices (namely, not ground): coriander, cloves, mustard, dried ginger, chillies, all spice and wrap them in a bit of muslin.   If you don’t have them all, add a little more of the others although I would go easy on the cloves and all spice unless you love ‘em dearly.

If your planning on keeping this chutney for a while you will need very clean jars.  We keep a stash in the garage, a decent jar for us is a real gift!   Janes method of jar sterilising works every time and we regularly keep chutneys for months without any obvious microbial issues.

Big BHK Love to all happy chutney bubblersX

Gorgeous plum-age

Gorgeous plum-age

The Bits – 8 Medium Jars

750g tomatoes (peeled and chopped)

500g apples (hopefully from a local tree – chopped into small chunks)

120g Onions (chopped)

400g plums (stones removed)

15g pickling spice (tied in a muslin bag)

15g mustard

10g salt

150ml apple cider vinegar

110g sultanas

130g light brown sugar (unrefined)

 

Some of the lovely assembled bits

Some of the lovely assembled bits

Do It

Put tomatoes, onions and apple into a pan and stir, on medium heat, until they start to soften. Add a little water to stop it sticking if you need to.  Then wrap the pickling spice in a muslin bag and add to the mixture, stirring as it simmers.

Blend the mustard and salt with a little vinegar and stir it into the mixture. When the ingredients have softened add the sultanas, sugar and remaining vinegar.

Continue to simmer, stirring often until you have a thick smooth chutney.

Chutney bubbling

Chutney bubbling

While that is going on, sterilise your jars.  Give them all a good wash in hot soapy water, rinse and dry.  Put your jars on a baking tray and place in an oven, turn on the heat to 180oC.  Leave for 10 minutes and then pop in the lids (make sure the’ye not plastic!) and leave to warm up for between 5-10 minutes.  Remove them and leave to cool for 5 minutes.

The jars will still be hot so use a kitchen cloth to handle them.  Pack the chutney into the hot jars, wiping away any spillages around the lip.  Screw the lid on tightly, pressing the ‘button’ down on top.  This should make an airtight seal as the chutney cools.   Store for 2 months or longer before opening.  If you can resist its fruity charms!

Serve

Chutneys go with almost anything, but we found that this went like a dream with home-made loaf toast, or a breakfast pan-bread. Try it on the side with salads, or generously lathered on crackers with fresh sliced tomatoes and salad leaves as a midday snack!  We have also paired this chutney, with great success, with a Goan style curry (one with tamarind/ lemon in to make it a little tarty).  Bascially, you’ll find any excuse to eat this type of chutney!

We Love it!

Sweet and sour, can be eaten at anytime of day on almost anything, we can find little to not like about chutney, especially when its falling from trees!   Money does not grow on trees, but chutney does and it tastes alot nicer than a fiver (that’s 5 British pounds).

Danger - Plums falling!

Danger – Plums falling!

Foodie Fact

“An apple (or two) a day……..”

Apples are part of the rose family, a surprisingly comprehensive family of fruits and nuts including almonds, apricots, plums, cherries, peaches, pears and….roses.

We all know that apples are beautifully sweet, but this does not mean that the sugar is doing us harm.   Apple contain phyto-nutrients that actually regulate our blood sugar levels.  Apples have good levels of fibre, but due to the unique mix of chemicals within apples, this decent level of fibre is transformed into benefits that would normally be associated with foods containing vastly higher levels of fibre (long winded description, but cool non-the-less!)   Apples also allow us to absorb more goodness from our foods in the large intestines.    Apples do contain vitamin C, but not loads, they do however boast a load of polyphenols (which actually act as a sunscreen and are the main reason why apples brown so easily) and most of these chemicals acts as strong antioxidants.  Regular munching of apples will also lower bad cholesterol.

JOHNNY APPLESEED

The coolest story we know about apples is that of Johnny Appleseed (aka Johnny Chapman) who lived in the U.S. in the 1800’s.  He spent a large portion of his life wandering barefoot around the country, some say 100,000 sq kilometres, sowing apple seeds as he went which provided early settlers with food.  He was a generous and caring nurseryman who placed huge significance on the symbolism of the apple and conservation of nature.  Folk who plant many trees and conserve nature are surely worth remembering, in our eyes they are the real heroes.

Categories: Foraging, Garden, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Detox Greens Soup with Welsh Miso, Ginger and Green Lentils

Detox Greens Soup with Welsh Miso, Ginger and Green Lentils

Detox Greens Soup with Welsh Miso, Ginger and Green Lentils

There is just the hint of winter in the air as we move through autumn and this slight chill always gets my soup bells ringing.  Here is a soup that ticks all of the autumnal boxes, tasty and utterly loaded with healthy things, even (almost) locally made Welsh Miso.

This recipe takes care of all of our seasonal fare on Tiger Mountain, all of them green and when simmered together for a time, transform into a tasty health elixir.  The flavours are hearty and comforting with a tinge of ginger and miso in the background to keep things interesting and offer a little Japanese style twang.

My Dad, John (aka the big yin, aka ‘heed’, aka Johnnie Boy) has been visiting for a week and he knows how to enjoy himself, Jane and I struggle to keep up!  We’ve had a week of wonderful times but lets just say that many of them were not exactly beneficial to the health.  Our wine rack is bare (a very grim sight) and our ale stores seriously depleted.  After waving Dad off at the station, we both decided that our bodies needed some kind of green wake up call and nothing comforts and revitalizes more than a decent bowl of soup.

The 'Big Yin' at Aber Falls, near bangor

The ‘Big Yin’ at Aber Falls, near bangor

Cabbage is the backbone of this soup, and a good cabbage is essential late autumn behaviour.  Not the most glamorous of ingredients but when handled with care, one of the tastiest and versatile veggies.  I love wrapping things in cabbage leaves and baking them, or even blanching the leaves and using them as an alternative to something like a spring roll.  One things for sure, in north Wales, we’ll never be short of cabbages, they love it up here and at work the other day (I cook in a retreat/ alternative learning centre), I had the privilege of tackling the largest cabbage I have ever seen.  Judy (farming genius and very much more) wandered into the kitchen bearing a green globe at least 2 feet across!!!!  I swear there must be something magical in the soil over there, we can hardly eke a Brussel sprout out up here!!!!  If you can’t get hold of a good organic cabbage, you may need to add a little more stock to the mix, your taste buds will be the guide…….

We have been building up to making our own miso for a while now, but are fortunate to have Welsh miso being produced almost on our own doorstep, give or take a few hundred miles, in the same country at the very least.  They guys at Source Foods seem like a very decent bunch and their products are top. We recently got hold of a pot of their hemp miso (thanks for forgetting it Helen!) and its a wicked addition to their fabulous fermented offerings.  They use all organic ingredients and without sourcing bits from Japan, which has been very unfortunately effected by the Fukushima tragedy.   Welsh Miso, quite randomnly, is our amazing stuff!

Miso adds unmistakable vitality and deliciousness, but comes with bags of sodium.  If you are serious about making this a detox soup, give your kidneys a break and take it easy on the miso, 2 tbs is enough.  There is however new research coming out that highlights the difference between salt and miso, they are handled differently and have different effects on our bodies.  Salt leads to higher blood pressure and for some miraculous reason, miso does not.  This is backed up by the rate of heart problems in Japan, where high levels of miso is consumed regularly.  We used light miso here, but you can use a darker variety, just use less.  See the ‘Foodie Fact’ below for more info on marvelous Mr Miso.

This soup falls into the bracket of ‘a meal in itself’ and we regularly eat it like a stew, without much liquid and plenty of lumps.  In this state, it will be wonderful with brown rice, but we find it filling enough by itself.

The Bits – For 6 good bowls

1 teas olive oil

1 teas toasted sesame seed oil

1 leek (finely sliced)

1 1/2  inch fresh ginger (finely diced or roughly grated)

2 celery sticks (finely sliced)

1/2 medium savoy cabbage

1 cup green/ puy lentils

1 small head broccoli (cut into small florets)

6 handfuls spinach leaves

600ml warm organic vegetable stock (use only water if you trust your veggies to be amazing)

1 teas dried rosemary

2-5 tbs light miso (to taste)

sea salt (if needed)

 

Drizzle of olive oil (optional)

The Bits all prep'd

The Bits - pre-prep

Do It

In a large heavy bottomed saucepan on medium heat, drizzle in the oils and when warm add the leeks, ginger and celery.  Stir and fry for 4-5 minutes, until soft.  Add the cabbage, lentils, stock/ water and rosemary to the pan.  Bring to a boil and lower heat to a steady simmer, pop a lid on and cook for 20-25 minutes, until the lentils are soft.

Add the broccoli and spinach, stir into the soup and pop the lid back on, cook for a further 5 minutes on a low simmer.  Stir in the miso to taste.  Pulse a few times with a stick blender, or add a quarter of the soup to a food processor and blend until smooth.

Pop a lid on and leave the soup to stand for a couple of minutes.  Miso is really like salt with benefits, it will enhance and deepens the flavours.

Definitely looks healthy!!!

Definitely looks healthy!!!

Serve

Straight away, add a little splash of olive oil for added richness.  If its a very special occasion (or a Tuesday) you could stir in 2-3 tbs of hazelnut butter to add silky creaminess.   Inevitably, Jane’s Easy Seeded Wholemeal Loaf, lightly toasted would be a belter of an accompaniment.

Foodie Fact

‘Miso’ is Japanese for ‘fermenting beans’ and miso can be made with any grain/ bean.  We used soya based miso here but you can find barley, rice, buckwheat, wheat, hemp seed….the list goes on.  Obvious what the miso is made of will alter the nutritional benefits but soya beans are normally used as a base in the process.

Miso involves fermentation, which of course means funky mould (or fungus if you will).  The fungus in question is the brilliantly named  ‘Aspergillus oryzae’ and its highly magic!  The key discovery made in the production of miso was how to keep these spores alive and transportable.  Miso on the move.  People have been fermenting foods in Japan and China for thousands of years (its also traditionally made in Indonesia and Korea), it was referred to as ‘Koji’ and they were well aware of the health benefits brought about by these amazing moulds.  This is the same process used when making sake, soya sauce tamari etc.

To make miso, you basically add the Aspergillus (or other sometimes other bacteria’s/ micro organisms are used) to soaked and cooked soya beans to get things started, this is in turn added to soaked and cooked grains/ beans and the miso is left to mellow and mature.  Miso comes in all sorts of shades and colours, normally white, red and dark brown, the fermentation process dictates the depth of flavour and colour.  Normally the darker the colour, the more intense the flavour, red and brown miso can be matured for three years and ‘Hatcho’ Miso, which is famous in Japan, is matured in 200 year old vats for three winters.

Buy organic miso when you can and ensure that no MSG has been added, cheaper makes will do this.  Miso is very nourishing and is a good source of fibre and protein, it is a very tasty way of adding legumes to your diet, 2 tbs of miso normally contains the nutrition of 2 cups worth of legumes.  The fermentation process of miso means that some of the beneficial chemicals present are already broken down by the magic fungus, giving our digestion a break and allowing our bodies to easily absorb all the goodness.   Misos main attraction, from a health point of view, is its outrageous list of beneficial anti-oxidants, our free radical scavenging friends.

We also just like the word ‘Miso’ and have decided that if another cat decides to move in with us, there are few appearing round our way, we’ll name it ‘Miso’.  Could we get away with calling a child ‘Miso’?!  Hmmm…..

Somethings we’ve cooked with our friend mighty Miso:

Mug of Miso

Sprouted Buckwheat, Onion and Miso Crackers (Raw)

Sava’s Elephant Garlic Flower Salad

Miso and Tahini Dressing

Black Prince Tomato and Coriander Soup (Raw)

Soup on the hob

Soup on the hob

Categories: Detox, Fermentation, Recipes, Soups, Welsh produce | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

One Pot Wonder! Sweetcorn, Carrot and Millet Casserole

Corn and Millet Casserole

Organic Sweetcorn, Carrot and Millet Casserole

Millet is birdseed right?!  No,nononononononono.  We see it more as future of food and it certainly makes a tidy casserole.  Millet can be creamy and fluffy, sweet and savoury, roasted or steamed like cous cous (although gluten free).  It is a hugely versatile grain and one that we peck at regularly.  We reckon Millet also has a bad rap due to the sub-standard outdoor equipment shop (named ‘Millets’) that has tried to steal some this wonder grains glory.

This is one of those substantial veggie dishes which makes me think of old fashioned vegetarian fare from the Cranks days (one of the first veggie restaurant chains in the UK, sadly now closed, but there is one left in Totnes I believe, fighting the good fight).  We have a load of Cranks recipe books from the ’70’s and ’80’s in the kitchen where I work and I love to leaf through their worn pages and pick out some proper golden oldies.  Most are simple and hearty, I love their simplicity, it feels like honest food.  This casserole is a perfect, quick, one pot wonder for a chilly autumn eve.  If I was a mother of many children (and lived in a shoe!) this is the type of dish I’d make every Tuesday or Wednesday……Its even a little bit pretty, with striking colours.  Not something you associate with the word ‘casserole’. 

I’d had a busy day cooking for quite particular meditators at the retreat centre (it’s a lovely place called Trigonos) and was not exactly in the mood for more pot and pan bashing.  Jane stepped in and whipped up this little beauty in a flash and it was a very comforting, wholesome dish, filled with the joys of early autumn and millet.  Millet is a superstar, see the ‘Foodie Fact’ below for the many reasons why.

Cooking grains, especially slightly odd ones like millet, can be tricky at first.  Once you’ve mastered a few techniques, millet is simple to prepare, not dissimilar to rice but even sweeter and a tad nuttier.  Here are some ways we like to go about it:

Tips on Cooking Millet

There are three main ways to treat millet.  Always rinse it first and leave to soak for a couple of minutes, picking out any weird looking things that float to the top.

Fluffy – mix one part millet to two and a half parts water in a pan and bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.  This will result in light fluffy grains, something like a rice with bells on.

Mashed – follow the steps above, but stir regularly adding water as you go.  Keep stirring and adding little splashed of water until you have your desired ‘mash’ consistency.

Toasty – In a dry saucepan on medium heat, toast the millet gently for around 7 minutes, stirring regularly until the turn a darker shade of gold.  Then add the water, cover and cook for 25 minutes.

I generally like to add just twice the amount of water to millet which cooks the millet, but gives it a little more bite.  Millet is so versatile, one of its many amazing traits (WE LOVE MILLET!!!!)

Getting the best from your birdseed (I mean millet)

Millet swells up nicely, roughly the same volume as rice.  If you have leftovers, it makes for a great alternative in Britain’s new favourite dish, Tabouleh or any cous cous/ quinoa style awesome salad.  You can also mix leftover millet with milk, warm and serve for breakfast as a porridge sub (adding your favourite adornments).  I also like to make millet Halwa, using it instead of the traditional semolina.  I find millet more flavoursome.  Millet will aslo make the best burgers/ falafels, it has a slight stickiness to it, espcially if you cook it like mash.  There is also the option of grinding your millet into flour (use a coffee grinder or a decent food processor) and add it to bread/cake/muffin recipes, it makes for a mean gluten free flatbread.

Jane is enjoying her new cookbook, The Mystic Cookfire by Veronika Sophia Robinson, a mighty tome overflowing with pot bubblin’ recipes and a huge amount of wonderful guidance regarding a holistic, vibrant approach in the kitchen and in life generally.  I bought it for Janes birthday and since then we’ve tried a few of the lip-smacking recipes and love ‘em.  If we were dishing out marks out of 5, we’d give it a 4.9999999999999999999999999. I believe this recipe resembles the ‘Carrot and Courgette Casserole’ in T.M.C.

We have been revelling in the weather of late and Beach House has been bathed in sun for three days now.  THREE DAYS OF SUN.  So much, we don’t know what to do with it all.  If only we could bottle it for January time!   Dad’s here and revels in a good feed, we’ve been picnicking in the garden, what we call a ‘Fridge Clearing Tapas Adventure’.  Random jars, packets and potions appear on a chopping board and then we go and sit in the long grass and if you’re Jane, paint rocks, if you’re Dad, drink wine and if you’re me, do both.

Picnic time

Picnic time

All of these ingredients came in our veg box this weeks from Pippa and John in Bethel (few valleys to the East-ish).  Its fully organic and this situation always brings smiles to our bellies and faces, we even topped it with parsley from the garden for that extra homegrown vibe.

A B.H.K. 'Fridge Clearing Tapas Adventure"

A B.H.K. ‘Fridge Clearing Tapas Adventure”

You could use any variation of vegetables with this recipe, just make sure that they will cook evenly (harder vegetables will need cutting thinner than softer ones).  Soggy veg is simply unacceptable behavior!!!!  Millet absorbs alot of liquid, you may prefer this dish served with a little soya yoghurt on the side, mix freshly chopped herbs and a little lemon juice into the yoghurt an even better version appears.

How to handle a cob

Sweetcorn is one of my favourite autumn treats.  They are probably best roasted or steamed whole and gnawed at like a content doormouse, but sometimes the cob just gets in the way and you want to spread those kernels for extra YUM!  The technique goes like this;  stand the cob on the stem end, holding it firmly between thumb, index and middle finger, bring a sharp knife, in sawing motions down the cob, cutting evenly at the base of the kernels.  They should come off in a lovely corn sheath, you then simply twist the cob around slightly and continue your merry sawing until all kernels are liberated.  This takes a little practice and please watch those lovely digits.  There is no comparison here with sweetcorn from tins, they are two very different shades of delicious-ness.

Mwynhau!  (Enjoy!)

P.S. – Dear Brits, you know how we generally use cups.  Soz.  Its just so much easier than weighing things out in grams.  Is this a pain for you to convert?

The Bits – For 4

2 tbs olive oil
2 medium carrots (sliced into thin batons)
1 small red onion
1 small red cabbage or half a medium sized one (sliced)
2 corns on the cobs (kernels removed using a sharp knife – technique mentioned above)
1 cup millet
1/4 cup sultanas
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
2 2/3 cups good vegetable stock

2 bay leaves
1 1/2 teas ground coriander
1 teas cinnamon
1/2 teas smoked paprika
Large pinch of cayenne pepper (more if you like a big chilli kick)
1 teas ground ginger
2/3 teas ground cumin
1 teas sea salt (to taste)

Optional Tasty Extra

2 tbs light tahini (mixed with 2 tbs water – stirred in at the end)

Garnish

1 handful of fresh leafy green herbs (coriander or parsley will work well)

 

Do It

Warm the olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan or a casserole dish (hob friendly). Add the onion and fry for 5 minutes, then add the carrots, corn and cabbage. Fry and stir for 3 minutes, then add the millet, seeds, sultanas, salt and spices, pouring over the vegetable stock.  Warm an oven to 180oC, pour into a casserole dish, pop a lid on and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the carrots are softened and the millet is cooked and fluffy. Try some, if its slightly ‘chalky’ when bitten, give it another 5 minutes.

Alternatively, if the oven is not on, opt for the pan-casserole, a Beach House approved phenomenon which saves energy.  Basically, follow the above method, but simply pop a lid on the saucepan and leave to simmer for 15-20 minutes.

If the millet has absorbed all of your gorgeous stock and you feel its a bit dry, simply pour in a splash warm water (from the kettle is best), stirring as you go. Until you reach your ideal texture.

Organic Sweetcorn, Carrot and Millet Casserole

Organic Sweetcorn, Carrot and Millet Casserole

Serve

Sprinkle over some fresh leafy herbs and a drizzle of olive oil. We have also stirred light tahini into this dish, which is amazing!  We served ours with a light green salad.

Foodie Fact

Millet has been around since we dropped down from the trees and started wandering around.  It is very popular in African and in India they make roti  out of ground millet.  It is much more widely consumed outside of Western countries and in India especially, is making a real comeback.  It seems that we turned our back on millet, opting for what seemed like more appealing grain varieties, specifically rice and wheat.  Most countries in the West ate millet before we discovered corn and potatoes in Latin America.

Millet is not so common, but you’ll always find it in your friendly local health/ wholefood store in the grain section (although it is actually a seed).  It is worth the extra effort and we admit to being millet hoarders, we can never buy just one bag of the stuff.

Millet is high in magnesium  which makes it good for the heart, like oats, and can also help to fend off migraines and asthma.  It is high in fibre and also contains phyto nutrients (like antioxidants), especially lignans (very good guys).

Add to all of this the fact that Millet is completely gluten free and grows very well in the U.K. we surely have a contender for the future of allergy friendly, nutritious grain of the future.

Its also cheap.  Cheep!

Did someone say millet?

Categories: Dinner, Gluten-free, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Simple Blackberry Compote and Tips on Berry Foraging

The BHK bumper blackberry crop

The BHK bumper blackberry crop

We decided to let our brambles run wild this year, the back of the garden has sprung into a thorny, berry heaven.  Brambles are so prolific and need no encouraging to take over the joint!  We’ve had a bumper crop with kilos of blackberries flying into the kitchen and looking for a home.  I like what the brambles have done to the nether regions of our garden, creating a home for all sorts of cool creepy crawlies and a decent amount of little mice, which are big friends to our developing garden.

On our green and good isle, Britain, we are enjoying a good start to September, the extra rays of sunlight are resulting in some massive, succulent blackberries, so we’ve been making chutneys, wine (this recipe will no doubt appear here soon) and compotes/ jams. We are nicely stocked for the upcoming Christmas/ birthday present-athon. What better gift than a spicy chutney?

Blackberries are such a bountiful autumnal bonus and along with elderberries, are two of my favourite fruity treats. This is such an abundant time of year, it seems like all the warm weather we’ve had this year has come to fruition. Its hanging from almost every bush! It makes all that messing around with soil and late night slug raids on the veg patch worth while. We can eat from the land and there are few things more satisfying than a fruit salad made from you’re own (British!) garden.

Berry foraging bonus - fresh lavender smells around the house

Berry foraging bonus – fresh lavender smells around the house

Blackberries are native to Northern Europe and they grow as far north as Siberia!  Our berries, like most, just run wild all over the place.  You can be more organised and precise and run them up trellises etc.  But thats proper gardeners territory and we’re not there yet.

When making this compote, it will rarely get easier when playing with pots and pans. Two ingredients and a little heat, a jar and a cool place.  All you need for a knockout compote.  We took this in what is known as a ‘sugar free’ direction as a friend was visiting who is avoiding the heinous white powder.  A sprinkle of dates sorts out all of our sweet tooth requirements and also brings a thicker texture to the party.  Taste the compote after 5 minutes bubbling on the hob and add more dates if not quite sweet enough.  We are not sure how long it will last in the fridge, this compote is not made as a ‘preserve’ but should be eaten soon after cooking.  We’ve had a huge pot in the fridge now for over three weeks and its fine.  I did think that the reduced sugar content would shorten its life, but its still soldiering on.

Good blackberries are essential for this type of embellishment free behaviour, raid you local hedgerow to find the finest blackberries.  You will probably have a nice time too, just avoid those vicious thorns and if picking on a road, avoid speeding buses!

TOP TIPS FOR BERRY FORAGING

-  Never pick anything edible around train tracks, they regularly spray chemicals around the tracks to stop weeds growing.  Never pick berries that are cocked dog leg height, for obvious reasons.

-  Be careful not to squash berries when picking them, if you do, we suggest popping them into your mouth.  Try to keep your hands clean when picking fruit, the occasional scoff is very hard to resist (and all part of the fun).

-  Only pick berries that are plump and soft, the ones that fall off in your hand.  If you have to tug it, it ain’t ready for munching.  Leave if for a few days and then go back for it (blackberries grow and ripen quickly).

-  Use the berries straight away, that day.  If they look dirty, or you don’t fancy wild berry munching, submerge berries in cold water when you get home, give them a swish around and then leave them to drain, laying them out on kitchen paper when ready.  Handle them very gently, until they are dry-ish.  Then pop in the fridge covered loosely.  This works for us.  But as mentioned, the sooner they disappear into happy bellies, the better.

-  When picking blackberries, look at the white bit (where the stem should be), this is where maggots reside.  If there are maggots hanging out, ditch the berry on the ground and continue undeterred.

-  Don’t wear your new white shirt or trousers.

The Bits – Makes 2 regular jam jars 

800g freshly picked blackberries

2 big handfuls of chopped dates (to taste)

Do It

In a large, heavy bottomed pan, add the blackerries and dates, bring slowly to a boil and leave to simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the berries have broken down.  Stir regularly, do not allow the base or edges of the compote to catch and burn.

Very easy Blackberry Compote

Very easy Blackberry Compote with some Rye Bread

Serve

The resulting deep purple gorgeous-ness can be spread on warm toast with soya yoghurt or with chopped bananas and nut butter.  Very pleasant when spooned over your morning bowl of muesli or even frozen and made into a sorbet (we haven’t tried this yet).  You could also make a wonderful dressing with it, by adding balsamic vinegar and a touch of oil and seasoning.

Foodie Fact

Blackberries contain a low-calorie sugar substitute called Xylitol, which is low GI, meaning slow absorption into the blood stream.  Blackberries are high in fibre and are full, full, full of antioxidants like vitamin C and chemicals called phenolic flavanoids (good guys).

See below for the physical after effects of a days blackberry picking.

Jane on Aberdaron beach yesterday, full of blackberries!

Jane on Aberdaron beach yesterday, full of blackberries!

Categories: Foraging, Recipes, Wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Beetroot, Apple and Caraway Sauerkraut

Great jar, inaccurate label.  It should read 'Beetroot, Apple and Caraway' Sauerkraut

Great jar, inaccurate label. It should read ‘Beetroot, Apple and Caraway’ Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is a well disguised super hero. Cloaked in cabbage and a fermented glow, Sauerkraut is a dish that is not only delicious, but is very easy to make and gives us some very pleasant nutritional boosts.

China, with its amazingly rich and ancient food tradition seems the source of picklin’. It is said that traders brought many of their tasty pickles and fermented fare from the Far East to Europe. ‘Sauerkraut’ is the German name for fermented cabbage, the French call it ‘Choucroute’ and British people just call it “Fermented YUM”.

The fermentation of Sauerkraut involves a number microbial species; one creates an acid environment for another to thrive and the process continues until the ph is acid and we are left with the perfect conditions for pickling a cabbage. You just need to form a decent brine, cover the vegetable with it and leave it until you like the texture and flavour. Any kitchnen will have the equipment necessary to produce a decent ‘kraut and you can play around with the veggies, mixing and matching different combos.

This time of year, early Autumn in North Wales, is the perfect time for Sauerkraut making. All the ingredients we use here are bang on seasonal and we’re stocking up our larder for another long winter time, when vividly coloured sauerkraut is a pleasant surprise to unearth (not that we’ll be here, we’ll be in Turkey!!!!!!!). A ray of purple light in the chilly grey gloom. We like the addition of apples here, it gives a hint of sweetness. Beetroots are also doing well up here and a little caraway is always welcome to the party, giving things an unmistakeable, East Europe feel (where this kind of preserving behavior is very popular). Red cabbage makes an appearance to add even more colour and a backbone.  Proper cabbage-ness.

The process may seem a little long winded, but I’ve tried to simplify it down and make it accessible to the ‘kraut curious.

Buster (always interested in the smell of sauerkraut)

Buster (always interested in the smell of sauerkraut)

This recipe is lifted, with a few BHK modifications, from the brilliant book ‘Wild Fermentation‘ book by Sandor Ellix Katz. We are really getting our teeth into all things fermented at the minute, coming soon, the easiest Apple Juice Hooch imaginable (you almost have to do nothing to make home crafted booze!) and a really simple Kimchee recipe.

If you are avoiding salt, there are many salt-free sauerkraut recipes out there. We are yet to try them, but they will definitely be interesting!

You can add virtually anything to sauerkraut and it tastes good (this is not a challenge!); different herbs, spices etc.  We’re just sampling an Indian spice stylee version (you will not be surprised to hear!!!!) Can’t wait for the pokey results.

Fermenting and conserving vegetables using brine is something that once picked up, will be a constant source of inspiration in the kitchen. Making things like the glorious Kimchee or pickled onions/ gherkins is a not to dissimilar technique and of course, homemade stuff tastes leagues better than our shop bought friends. Once you start picklin’ and preservin’, its hard to stop (strange as that may sound).

Get your ‘kraut on!

The Bits – Makes roughly 1 kg of ‘kraut

1 medium-sized red cabbage
2 beetroots
1 red onion
(roughly grate these)
1 apple (cored and sliced)
2 teas caraway seeds
2 tbs sea salt

Grated and ready for action

Grated and ready for action

Do It

In a deep bowl or pan (preferably with straight sides), add the grated bits, caraway and sprinkle over the salt. Mix in well with your hands, pack down as well as you can.

Pick a lid/ plate that fits snugly over the sauerkraut and place a weight on top. Use kitchen weights, bottles of wine, whatever is handy and weighty. This weight will force the liquid from the veggies and fruit, the salt takes care of the rest via osmosis. The brine will begin to form. As the liquid gradually rises, keep pressing the lid down regularly until the brine covers the sauerkraut (this may take 24 hours). This is what we want. You can now cover this with a kitchen cloth and leave for 2-3 days and let the microbials do their work.

Some cabbages contain less water than others, if after 24 hours the brine is not covering the veggies, add salted water (1 tbs salt per 250ml water). Check the ‘kraut every day or two and skim off any ‘bloom’ that may form. This is technically mould, but is rare and does not affect your sauerkraut as it is protected by the brine.

The sauerkraut is normally ready after 3 days, depending on the heat of the room (the hotter the less time it takes to mature, the cooler the longer it can be left). It should be tangy and crisp.

You may like to scoop some out and keep it in the fridge when it is young and leave it for a few more days to mature, noting the flavour difference and what is your preference. We like ours funky and leave it for 5 days-ish. If the sauerkraut is getting soft, its probably passing its best and should be eaten pronto.

Serve

We’ve been having ours all over the place.  Great for picnics and packed lunches, on toast and a nice little surprise package on a plate of salad.

Foodie Fact

Fermented cabbage and other Brassicaceaes (Bok choi, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, mustard, kale, spring greens and many more) have been shown to help against cancer. When the cabbage breaks down, it goes through a chemical shift and the resulting isothiocyanates have been shown to fight the big C.

Sauerkraut juice is also a magical tonic, regarded as a digestive aid second to none.

Hell's Mouth Beach, Llyn Peninsula - Ideal picnic spot for sauerkraut scoffing

Hell’s Mouth Beach, Llyn Peninsula – Ideal picnic spot for sauerkraut scoffing

Categories: Healthy Eating, Raw Food, Recipes, Side Dish | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

What is a Flax Egg? and Other Vegan Egg Substitutes

This is!  (Flax Egg)

This is! (Flax Egg)

THE VEGAN EGG

A flax egg is basically 1 tbs of ground flax seeds mixed with 2-3 tbs of water. Left to sit for around 15 minutes, it becomes gloopy and a little egg-like. Ideal for binding vegan baked fare and highly excellent from a nutritional point of view.

The flax seeds should be as well ground as possible, depending on the equipment you have to hand.  It is best to use something like a high powered food processor or coffee grinder.  We use the later after a good rinse (old coffee grinders smell a little like ashtrays, have you noticed?)  We also try to use a pestle and mortar and after lots of elbow grease and caveman grunting; pounding and crushing, we were left with the consistency above. Namely, not very ground up at all. They are hardy little suckers, maybe it’s because they are so full of good things.  Even when only semi-bashed, they still work well.

OMEGA 3 POWER!

Flax seeds are full, full, full of healthy Omega 3 fatty acids, one of the highest sources in nature.  In fact, flax, chia and hemp seeds contain more Omega 3’s than any type of fish, which may also contain heavy metal contaminants.  Recent studies show that baking or cooking these fats is no problem, these amazing polyunsaturated fats will not wilt in the heat.

One of their main uses for the Omega fats in the body is to aid and stimulate metabolism.  Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown, in tests (by people wearing white coats clutching clipboards) to help with cumulative conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure and strokes and can also assist with inflammation and may potentially help with cancer and mental health.  None of these ‘white coat’ tests seem conclusive but we can be sure that Omega-3’s (and their sibling linolenic fat, Omega 6) help with the healthy development of brains, eyes and nerves.  Other fatty acids in flax seeds give us shiny hair, strong nails and keep our cells firing on all cylinders.  Do I need to go on……………….!!!!  They’re great!

Glorious flaxseed (or is it a linseed?)

Omega 3 fatty acids come in different lengths, and without getting too scientific (because I am a cook), the longer the chains (called EPA and DPA), the easier it is for the body to synthesize these glorious fats.  Plants provide our bodies with short chain fatty acids (ALA), which can be converted into longer chain fatty acids (with more bonds open for chemical reactions) but the conversion rate depends on whether you are male or female, your age and on your diet.  Flax seeds contain roughly 10 times more omega 3 fats per serving than fish, so there is a pretty good chance you will be getting a good dose of the finest EPA’a and DPA’s if you use things like flax eggs, to regularly add flax seeds to foods; cereals, stews, baking, vegan/ veggie burgers, breads and pizza dough etc.  Once you make the decision to give up animal products, you are definitely not saying goodbye to our Omega 3 friends.

LIGNANS AND FIBRE

Flax seeds are also by far the highest source of lignans in nature (some say 800 times the amount of their nearest rivals!!!!), which basically translates as a whole bunch of anti-oxidant benefits. In fact, most people think that anti-oxidants rich foods are normally berries and brightly coloured foods, but flax seeds are well up there in the anti-ox states. Not bad for a grass. Flax seeds are almost 70% fat, but will not make you pile on the pounds. These fats are all beneficial to the body and are essential to a healthy, well balanced diet.

Flax is packed with fibre, which helps, especially in baking, when you are adding sugar to the mix. Flax seeds will help to put the brakes on sugar leaping into our systems and creating metabolic havoc and subsequent weight gain. These little seeds actually help to kickstart the metabolism, perfect morning food.  Flax seeds are widely used to help the bowels, they are cleansing and maintain ‘regularity’.  Especially good for I.B.S., diarrhea and constipation.  Try taking a tablespoon of flax seeds before a meal and you may feel fuller, reduce hunger and stimulate your digestive system.  Healthy bowels also have the knock on effect of you losing a little weight.

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1 tbs of flax seeds contains a similar amount of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and lignans as 30 cups of Broccoli. 

Fibre wise, 1 tbs flax seeds = 30 slices of wholewheat bread 

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Wow!  What a thing.  See this great site, Healthelicious, for more in depth info.

FLAX OR LIN-SEED?  WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

There is no difference, its all in a name.  Just be aware that boiled linseed oil is best for your shed or garden furniture and not for eating.  Things bought in DIY shops are normally not great on the plate!  Linseed oil is actually a brilliant wood preservative and perfectly natural, unlike the horribly toxic alternatives (creosote et al).  Golden linseeds and flax seeds (a dark reddish brown colour) are very similar things and both can be utilised in the same way.

OTHER VEGAN EGGS (!?)

There are many options out there for vegan egg-subsitutes, most come in packets and plastic wrapping. There are powders you can buy, but I have always found ground flax eggs to do the trick, they are like ‘an egg with benefits’.  As I’ve already harped on about, they are proper nutritional powerhouses.  Baking recipes with lots of eggs in are normally out of bounds for vegans, but if its something like a quiche or dished with boiled eggs in, tofu or tempeh will make for a perfect substititute.  I have used plain silken or firm tofu, blended together with gluten free flours like tapioca, potato or gram, this also works well in cakes and vegan burgers/ sausages.  It is always best to blend tofu first, as it may leave chunks in your lovely cake.  I have also used mashed sweet potato as a very funky binder.

Vital wheat gluten (or ‘Seitan’ as its called when formed into chunks) is a great addition to breads and burgers.  It  is basically flour, washed until only the gluten remains.  It acts as a string binding agent when added to things like vegan burgers or sausages.  It is, of course, highly non-gluten free and I like to enjoy it in moderation.

Chia seeds, when ground and soaked in a similar way to flax seeds, offer a decent gloopy texture and as you may know, wondrous health benefits.  Bananas and stewed apples/ fruit can also be used to replace eggs in some recipes, but non of these option offer the ‘fluffiness’ that eggs, especially egg whites can give to baked goods.

Here are some top tips from PETA on egg replacement options:

• 1 egg = 2 Tbsp. potato starch

• 1 egg = 1/4 cup mashed potatoes

• 1 egg = 1/4 cup canned pumpkin or squash

• 1 egg = 1/4 cup puréed prunes

• 1 egg = 2 Tbsp. water + 1 Tbsp. oil + 2 tsp. baking powder

• 1 egg = 1 Tbsp. ground flax seed simmered in 3 Tbsp. water

• 1 egg white = 1 Tbsp. plain agar powder dissolved in 1 Tbsp. water, whipped, chilled, and whipped again

Read more: http://www.peta.org/living/food/egg-replacements/#ixzz3BmJLmnW5

The egg-options mentioned here are a reasonable solution to the vegan baking egg dilemma with the added bonus of being amazing for the heart (and all parts of the body for that matter). See our Juicer Pulp Muffins with Pecans, Fig and Turmeric for flax seed eggs in full effect.  It is fascinating what you can do when baking vegan, and although some recipes will be slightly denser than those with eggs, the obvious health and ethical advantages far out weigh the textural differences.

And flax eggs make these, Juice Pulp Muffins

And flax eggs make these, Juice Pulp Muffins with Pecan, Fig and Turmeric

Categories: Baking, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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