Home Cooked Happiness Vegan Cooking Retreat – Photos, Food and Thanks

Cooking demos in the studio

Here are a few photos of our recent Home Cooked Happiness retreat at the beautiful Trigonos in North Wales.  There were full days of vegan cooking demos, walks near Snowdon, yoga and lots and lots of good eating (and laughs)!

I cooked simple and creative dishes from all over the world; Mexico, Lebanon, Italy, Spain, Indonesia, Greece and China.  It was a pleasure to cook for such a wonderful group of people, I love these retreats, always leaving with a whole new gang of friends and inspiration to do more cooking retreats/ holidays.  I just have the best time!

First morning of HCH, I was up at dawn pressing tofu;)

Mexican Dark Chocolate & Pecan Blender Brownies (g/f) with Dulce de Leche – Dessert on Day 1

This time of year means an abundance of incredible organic, seasonal produce

I was so lucky to be able to cook with almost exclusively organic, local produce from the Trigonos farm and the brilliant Tyddyn Teg.  Thanks to Judy and Claire for providing produce that chef’s dream of;  Crown Prince Squash, Spaghetti Squash, beautiful greens, radiant tomatoes and even giant Welsh aubergines.

Mushrooms grown and foraged in Snowdonia, Wales

I even managed to get some local mushrooms, grown just the other side of Snowdon.  We had some foraged Chaterelles, loads of Shiitakes and even some Hedgehog mushrooms.  They made our paella extra special!  Thanks to The Mushroom Garden.

One of my favourite nights, Spanish feast with wild mushroom paella and a roast potato and thyme tortilla

Simple and delicious. Rose, Macadamia and Strawberry Cheesecake

View from the studio window. The weather was very un-Welsh throughout the retreat. The sun shone!

Just checking out the afternoon tea:)

Home Cooked Happiness starts in the kitchen, the heart of the home and ripples out into all aspects of our lives.  After all, eating a healthy and peaceful diet can only make our lives healthier and more peaceful!!  Cooking nourishing, fresh food at home is for me, one of the most important things we can do with our time.  It’s a gift for ourselves, body and mind, and those loved ones we share our lives with.  It doesn’t have to be fiddly or complicated, we learned loads of methods and techniques to make the most out of plants, the kind of dishes that anyone will enjoy, young or old, vegan or otherwise.

The buffet table is always packed with vegan treats

We went all Mexican on the first night.  Quesadillas, mole and all the bright and colourful trimmings.  I love it!

Every meal is accompanied by a varied cheese board, sometimes with homemade cheeses.

I’d like to thank Vegusto, V-Bites and Mozza Risella for providing some tasty cheeses for our cheese boards.

Willie’s Chocolate tasting on the last day. Everyone leaves buzzing on amazing chocolate!

Thanks to our lovely yoga teacher Claire for getting our mornings off to the best possible starts.

We start most mornings with yoga, meditation and a healthy breakfast, normally light, there is a lot of eating to do everyday!

We had three cooking demos every day, ranging from making plant milks and cheeses, to all kinds of global dishes, curries. soups, breads, cakes, desserts and lots of trying new ingredients from around the world.  Not to mention some pickling and fermenting.

I love cooking and preparing for these retreats, it pushes me to try out new things and develop new recipes.  Each attendee gets a big, fat recipe booklet to take home and play with in their kitchens.  The vast majority of the recipes are designed especially for the specific retreat.  Here’s one:

Rich chocolate mousse with drunken cherries and almond biscotti (g/f)

I’ll be sharing some of these new recipes on the blog soon.

The Italian Dinner rounded things off with seasonal feast of pasta, local vegetables and other Puglian delights!

Everyone say “Home Cooked Happiness!!!”

I can’t imagine a more beautiful location to host a retreat. I feel very lucky to have worked at Trigonos and be able to invite happy cooks into Snowdonia.

Thanks to all at Trigonos for the care, help and support in getting this retreat together and running it.  Most of all, thanks to all the Home Cooked Happiness group who made the retreat so special and memorable for me.  Your positive energy and passion made cooking for you a dream!  Now all you have to do is practice, practice, practice.  I can’t wait to see your kitchen inspiration over on our Facebook vegan cooking group.

So that’s it for our Trigonos retreats this year, both Home Cooked Happiness and One World Vegan have been an incredible experience for us both.  They have flown over and we’ll hopefully see some of you up here next year for more whole food, plant-based cooking and good times in North Wales.

Diolch yn Fawr!!

Our next event is soon in London – Global Vegan Cooking Demonstration and Lunch

Then we’re across to Vegfest London for a cooking demonstration. 

We also have our Taste of Bliss – Plant-based Yoga Holiday next May in Spain.  Just like Wales, but we substitute the mountains for beaches!

Categories: Cooking demos, Cooking Retreats, Events, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Vegan, veganism, Wales | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

One World Vegan Cooking Retreat – Photos, Memories and Thanks

I think pictures sometimes tell a better story than words.  We had an amazing time at our vegan cooking retreat last week at Trigonos.

Cooking Demo at One World Vegan, with the Snowdon Mountain Range in the background

Jane and I would like to thank all who attended and the Trigonos team for making it such a special and memorable time.

The lake at dawn behind Trigonos,

We were lucky with the weather as the sun shone for most of the retreat and we had a good walk around Snowdon.

Jane and the One Wold Vegan group, on a walk in Snowdonia.

We cooked food which we love and enjoyed on our travels around the Balkans, China, Indonesia, Italy, India, Mexico and more.

The buffet table was always packed with dishes;)  We brought the flavours  we savoured around the world back to North Wales.

I came up with a menu filled with original recipes, created especially for the retreat.  I love sharing the bounty and creativity of pure plant-based cooking.  With a few tricks and tips, it can be so easy to recreate wonderful, healthy, wholefood vegan food at home.

Dark Chocolate Brownies with Dulce de Leche 

Jane and I during one of the cooking demonstrations

Everyone who attended mentioned that it was a daily feast, but there is always room on the last day for the chocolate tasting.  Thanks to Willies Cacao, Essy & Bella and Vivani for supplying an interesting range of chocolates.  We traveled all around the world, just by sampling chocolates of differing origin.  A great way to travel!!  I think one of the most popular times is when we make hot chocolate with Willie’s 100% Single Estate Peruvian Black Cacao.  It tastes like no other hot chocolate!!  As we all know, chocolate is very, very important and should be taken seriously;)  Results of the chocolate tasting will be on a post soon.

The chocolate tasting on the final day is always a highlight.

We made a variety of vegan cheeses, from Smoky Cashew Cheese to Baked Almond Cheese, but I’d also like to thank Vegusto, V-Bites and Mozzarisella for contributing cheeses to our cheese boards at lunch and dinner.  I’d also like to mention the incredible Tomato Stall, based on the Isle of Wight, who produce some of the most delicious tomato based delights.  Their Oak Smoked Tomatoes are one of my favourite things.  I’m also loving their new Sun Dried Tomato Balsamic Vinegar.  Wow!!

Trigonos beautiful in the sunshine

We used a lot of Trigonos produce, grown to organic standards.  It’s such a privilege to cook with home grown produce.

Artichoke flower

Many of the group woke around dawn to pratice Tai Chi by the lake, even spotting otters most mornings.

Down by the lake

Judy and Owain picked fresh herbs and vegetables every morning from the Trigonos gardens and poly tunnels.

One World Vegan – Local produce given a global twist

Another table full vegan dishes, this was the Spanish dinner with paella

It’s a brilliant experience for me to meet so many people passionate about cooking and open to learning new techniques and recipes.

I’m just running through the menu for lunch here in the dining room

Great to see Janice from the ace blog Nourished by Nature again and thanks to Jan for taking some of these pictures.   I must mention Ninja Blenders for providing the BHK with a new, high quality blender and food processor, after ours finally gave up on a chocolate mousse one day.  It’s got so many features and we’re loving making ranges of smoothies, raw desserts and sauces with our new gadget.  It’s easy to clean and use, with loads of power to make things creamy and smooth.  We’ve never had a blender this good!

The group getting involved during one of the cooking demonstrations.

We’d also like to thank Laura from Yoga Wellbeing for coming up and teaching our yoga and meditation classes, plus John, Sarah and Gillian for the music and storytelling in the evenings.

Yoga classes in the mornings and meditation in the evenings help us all to relax and enjoy the beautiful location.  Classes taught by lovely Laura at Yoga Wellbeing (my sis;)

These cooking retreats go so quickly, sometimes I wish they could last for longer, we meet so many like-minded people and always make new friends.

Some of our group on the last day, hard to say goodbye.  We’ll have to do it again next year:)

We will be hosting other cooking retreats at Trigonos in the future.  Home Cooked Happiness – Creative Vegan Cooking Retreat starts this Saturday, 16th Septemeber.  We still have a few spaces available, more information on our Facebook page or call Trigonos directly 01286 882388.

Goodbye Trigonos and the Nantlle Valley, see you again soon:)

Categories: Cooking Retreats, Events, healthy, Healthy Eating, photography, plant-based, Vegan, veganism, Wales | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Dulce de Leche de Coco – Vegan Dulce de Leche

Vegan Dulce de Leche

This is a very simple recipe for vegan dulce de leche. I love the coconut flavour here, it adds something to the classic recipe. It’s a treat that keeps well in the fridge and is really versatile. I hear that in Puerto Rico they make DDL with coconut milk, so this might even be a traditional-ish recipe. Who knew!?  I think this is very coconuty, so I’ve swapped the name to reflect this.

Up here in the North lands (UK) we need a touch of sweetness. The skies are dark grey and its one long drizzle-fest. Some call it summertime in these parts. Jane and I are creatures of the sunshine, it’s a bit of shock to the system really, but we know how it goes. Moving on from weather, how about something sticky, sweet and gorgeous. This recipe only has a few of ingredients and requires a long, slow simmer which transforms it into something incredible.

SWEET TRAVELS

I always associate Dulce de Leche with my travels in Central America many years ago, it was a regular source of sweetness and when things were limited menu wise, you always knew dessert was looking good!

I remember going camping in the volcanoes of Guatemala (may sound a bit Joseph Conrad, but there are loads of people doing it). Our guides were lovely guys and we had an incredible time watching the sun rise over a strip of active volcanoes as they blew ash, boulders and toxic gas up into the ether. For dinner, we had beans. Then came dessert.  I peered into the pan bubbling over the fire to see a tin being boiled. I was intrigued and a bit uninspired by its potential tastiness. Turns out it was Dulce de Leche.  A tin of condensed milk boiled for a while produces old school Dulce de Leche.  But this recipe is easily as rich and moreish.

Like any much loved food, Dulce de Leche has quite a few variations and regional this and thats. In many parts of Latin America, its cooked right down, like a crumbly fudge. In Cuba they used curdled milk (which I’d like to veganize soon) and in Mexico they add vanilla to the mix. In Chile they make ‘manajar’ which has cannabis added, sure to liven up your morning toast. Variations are also traditionally made in France, Norway. Poland, Russia……it’s a worldwide craze!

Dulce de Leche is just milk slowly cooked with lots of sugar, the longer you cook it the more it caramelizes and gets more funky and deep in colour, sticky and lovely. It can do anything; on toast, as a filling or topping for cakes, stirred into smoothies, porridge or rice pudding. Really though, I’m a purist, straight out of the jar, onto a spoon.

There are a raft of recipes on line for vegan dulce de leche, I like the idea of using dates cooked with the coconut milk, but the results were not anywhere near as good as this recipe.  I’m going to keep looking into that one though.

Recipe Notes

A thick bottomed sauce pan here is ideal. Otherwise, keep stirring and ensuring your bottom doesn’t burn.

Remember, the longer you cook it. the deeper the colour. I like this lighter version, but cook it longer if you fancy something deep. dark and super rich.

I add much less sugar than your average dulce de leche, I find it easily sweet enough to satisfy my sweet tooth. Add more if you fancy.

If you feel like going a little Mexican, why not try adding 1/2 teas vanilla extract?

The Bits – One medium jarful

1 cans coconut milk

125g sugar

Large pinch sea salt

 

Leche Dulce de Coco

Do It

Place the bits in heavy bottomed sauce pan, heat on medium and whisk until the sugar is dissolved.  Allow the milk to boil and bubble gently until reduced to roughly 250ml stirring often and the colour has darken to a deeper brown.  This takes around 40-50 minutes.  Take this as far as you like.  The longer you cook, the sweeter and thicker it will become.  

Pour into sterilised jars and leave to cool.  Pop a lid on and keep in the fridge.  Will keep for a month quite happily.  If it separates, simply stir it.   

Still a chance to book onto one of our vegan cooking retreats:

One World Vegan 29th Aug -2nd Sep 17 or

Home Cooked Happiness 16th-20th Sep 17  

There are a few spaces left on each.  Bit last minute I know, but I find the best things are;)  

Hope to see you in North Wales soon!! 

Categories: Breakfast, Desserts, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Pappardelle with Artichoke & Almond Sauce plus Recipes for a Healthier & Happier Life

‘Pappardelle with Almond & Artichoke Sauce, Purple Kale & White Asaparagus’ – Original recipe from ‘Peace & Parsnips’

I’m cooking this tonight, a really attractive summery pasta dish.  I was reminded of it when it popped up on the Blue Zones website.  I cook dishes like this often, especially when I’m over in Spain, where the artichokes and almonds are just out of this world!!  Plus the lemons…..you cannot quite recreate the flavour of a lemon freshly picked from the tree which has enjoyed all that sparkling Med sunshine.  But let’s try!  If you cook this dish, wherever you are, half close you eyes and imagine that the bright sunshine is everywhere, the blue, blue ocean waves are crashing somewhere close by and there are trees filled with lemons just outside your window.  Ahhhhh.  That’s the right vibe for this one!

The Mediterranean diet is famous for being healthy, but its not just all the sea, sand and lemons.  A healthy lifestyle is a little more complex than that it seems.  I’m very interested in the idea that the way we live, not just the way we eat and drink, has a bearing on our health and wellbeing.  For me, diet is one of the foundations to a healthy and happy body and mind, but there is much more to consider and appreciate.

BLUE ZONES

Blue zones refer to the communities around the world who live for the longest.  There has been a lot of interest in the lifestyles of these people, why do they live so long?  It seems that being social, staying active and from what I can see, maintaining a connection with nature, leads to longevity.  There seems to be a strong sense of community in most of the ‘blue zones’ around the world, from Japan to Italy, and over to Costa Rica, people living more natural lives with good connections with each other, live longest.  Sounds like a recipe for a good life to me.

I’ve always like the Irish proverb, ‘a light heart lives long.’  I can’t see stress doing us any good in the long run.  When I see the people interviewed in these ‘Blue Zone’ cultures, they are generally chilled out.  Most of this is common sense to many of us, but its the putting it into practice that can be the hard part.  Takes a bit of discipline.

I’m always positive about change, our lifestyles will adapt depending on our priorities and convictions.  The option for a peaceful and content life is always there, it may be hard, may seem impossible, but with little shifts and changes to the way we approach life, the things we prioritise on a daily basis, big changes can come.  I know this, because it happened in my life.  I went from quite a stressed life managing restaurants in London to helping to build a little beach bar in Spain, then took the real plunge and went for a very long walk in the Himalayas.  My world view and perceptions changed considerably.

MINDFULNESS

A healthy approach is of course not just based around what we eat, but the way we think and feel.  I recently watched this little cartoon about mindfulness, which is an excellent technique for developing a more conscious and connected approach to life that has been effective for millions of people.  Mindfulness and meditation are two key practices that Jane and I use to maintain balance and harmony within ourselves and therefore within our relationship with each other and the world at large.

Mindfulness is like an anchor in a chaotic world, when our life seems to be out of control, it’s a safe place we can find empowerment and inspiration, peace and genuine relaxation.  After all, a short period of mindfulness and meditation can have the restorative and re-energising effects of many hours sleeping.  A relaxed mind is an effective mind and an effective mind allows us to navigate our way through life in an assured, calm and empowered manner.

I’d like to thank the Blue Zone site for sharing the recipe and reminding me about some of the aspects of my own lifestyle that were being neglected.  I’m off for a long walk and then, dinner!

Recipe Notes

Peace and Parsnips was released in the USA recently, so you’ll notice the US style weights and measures below.  The recipe contains a few ingredients, but is easy to put together and I like the artichoke and almond combo in the sauce, something a bit different.  I think this is perfect for a treat summer meal and the last recipe I posted, Simple Seared Mushrooms with Pea Puree & Crushed Minty Peas would make a very nice starter.  I love these kinds of dishes, simply prepared, just let the lovely produce at this time of year give their flavour and do the talking.

Have you tried salsify?  Its a delicious, if a little obscure, ingredient.  You can use salsify in this dish instead of the white asparagus, which is normally found jarred.  I first made this dish in Spain, where there is no shortage of white asparagus.  I like its subtle flavour and texture.

Pappardelle is one of my favourite pastas, great for a thick, creamy sauce that sticks to it nicely.  You can of course use tagliatelle or something similar.

 

The Bits

14 ounces (400g) purple kale, stalks removed, thickly chopped

8–10 white asparagus spears

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/3 cup (75ml) nice white wine (vegan)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

14 ounces (400g) pappardelle (or similar egg-free pasta)

a small handful of toasted almonds, finely chopped

a big handful of fresh parsley, chopped

a handful of watercress

 

Artichoke & Almond Sauce

5 tablespoons olive oil

a handful of almonds, soaked for 2 hours, skins removed if you have time

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

4 big handfuls of watercress leaves

14 ounces (390g) artichoke hearts

juice of ½ a lemon

 

Do It

For the Artichoke & Almond Sauce

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a frying pan and add the almonds.

Sauté for 1 minute, then add the garlic and continue cooking for 2 minutes more.

Add the watercress leaves, cover the pan, remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Place the contents of the frying pan in a food processor with the artichokes, lemon juice and 4 tablespoons of olive oil, and blend to a smooth purée. The sauce should be thick and shiny. Add water to thin it out if necessary.

 

Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed frying pan on medium and add the asparagus. Panfry for 6–8 minutes, until nicely caramelized. Add a glug of white wine, and when the liquid has evaporated, season and cover. Leave to sit.

Bring a big pan of salted water to a boil and cook your pasta for roughly 8 minutes, until al dente. Add the kale halfway through the cooking time. Drain well, keeping aside a little of the pasta water. Add the drained pasta and kale to the artichoke sauce and toss together, adding some of the pasta water if it is looking a bit dry.

Spoon into warm shallow bowls and top with crisscrossed asparagus and a sprinkling of toasted almonds and parsley. Garnish with the watercress and season with sea salt and black pepper.

 

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Categories: cookbook, Dinner, healthy, Peace and Parsnips, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Summer, Vegan | Tags: , , | 14 Comments

One World Vegan Cooking Retreat – 29/8-2/9/17, North Wales

The lake beside Trigonos the venue for the One World Vegan Cooking Retreat

COME AND COOK WITH US!!

I’ve just put the finishing touches to the new menus for the ‘One World Vegan’ Cooking Retreat at Trigonos, North Wales.  I’m really excited about them, the food is looking great and we have a diverse range of dishes to learn how to cook and most importantly, taste!  No one has seen these dishes before, expect Jane, we were up to 1 am last night trying new dishes out.  Yum!

There are a few places now available for this course, book by calling 01286 882388 or click for more info here

We’ll be working our way around the world, from Mexico to Lebanon, China to India, Indonesia to Italy with a little bit of the Balkans thrown in.  We’ll be cooking classics, that I’ve given my own twist and flavours to.  The vast majority of the dishes are gluten-free, as well as being healthy and decadent.  I’ve also just finished the recipe booklet, packed with recipes exclusively designed for this retreat.

Cooking at Trigonos last year.

I can’t wait to get cooking soon, Trigonos is one of my favourite places to cook and we’ll be using organic produce from a local farm and even Trigonos’s own fruit and veg, grown using organic practices.  I’m a very lucky chef indeed!!  All this plus spices and ingredients I brought back with me from the food markets of Delhi, Tripoli, Beijing and Jakarta.   It’s going to be a feast!

The coast. Irish Sea and beaches are just down the road.

Come and join us in a week or so for yoga, long walks in the hills and loads of laughs and windows of relaxation in picturesque surroundings.  I know it’s a bit last minute, but sometimes the best things are;)

Happy Cooking and Hopefully See You Soon!

Lee & Jane

North Wales, we love you!!

Categories: Cooking Retreats, Events, gluten-free, healthy, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, Organic, photography, plant-based, Travel, Vegan, veganism, Wales | Tags: | Leave a comment

Simple Seared Mushrooms with Pea Puree & Minty Crushed Peas

Seared Mushrooms with Pea Puree & Minty Crushed Peas

We had this for dinner tonight and thought it was definitely good enough to share.  So simple, light and flavourful.  This is the kind of dish that is perfect for a long summer lunch/ dinner.  Out in the garden, especially when you’ve a few courses planned.  Ideally, a low maintenance starter is a great way to kick things off in the kitchen.

It’s a attractive looking plate and the mushrooms can be done anyway you prefer.  Here I have put the easiest, but you could easily add a splash of sherry, like Pedro Ximenez, or balsamic vinegar, even a dash of good tamari, to the pan just before they’re done.  The mushrooms will absorb the liquid and caramelise even better.

We had this in the garden with Dad, we’ve loved visiting Durham of late, such a beautiful county and have recently been up to Banborough castle and beach for a look around.  It was a sunny day with stunning views, I love the castle, perched above the coastline.  We built a massive sand dragon with seaweed for flames and mussel shell claws.  I think we’re missing Wales!  We’ll be back there soon.  Dad lives in the countryside, not far from Yorkshire and we’ve loved walking around the local forests and fields.  One a good day, the countryside just comes alive.  I’m cooking quite a lot at the minute, so it’s great to get out in the fresh air and sunshine.

You can use those gorgeous King Oyster Mushrooms here, if you can find them.  I happily settled for portobellos.  I use frozen peas, but fresh peas would have been even more amazing.  Grab a podder and go for it!!

Banborough beach, Durham – it’s a bit freezing in the North East

The Bits – For 2 as starter

3-4 Large Portobello Mushrooms (cut into thick slices)
1 tbs olive oil

Mint puree
125g garden peas
2 small spring onions (finely sliced)
2 tbs olive oil
100ml boiling water

Crushed Peas
200g garden peas
8 mint leaves
200ml water

1 tbs olive oil
2 pinches sea salt

1 pinch black pepper

 

Garnish

Fresh mint, pea shoots or even edible flowers

Light and simple summer dish

Do It

Pea Puree
In a small sauce pan on medium heat, add the oil and sweat the onions with a pinch of salt and pepper for 5 minutes. When they are soft, add the peas and boiling water, turn the heat to high. Put a lid on and boil for 3 minutes. Transfer to a blender and blitz until smooth. Pour back into the saucepan and set aside.

Crushed Peas
In a small frying pan on high heat, add the peas, water and mint, boil for 2 of minutes. Drain and plunge into cold water.  Drain again and in a small bowl, crush the peas with a fork, mix in the oil, salt and pepper.

Mushrooms
Cut the mushroom into 1/2 inch slices.

Heat oil in a large frying pan on medium high heat, and sear the mushrooms for 1-2 minutes on each side. They should be golden brown and tender. Now pour in the pedro ximenez/ balsamic and cook until it has evaporated, another 30 seconds to minute, flipping the mushrooms to coat them.

Heat your pea puree back up.

On a warm plate, spoon on the pea puree, place the mushrooms nicely on the puree, scatter with the crushed peas and herbs. Garnish with herbs or pea shoots, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

A walk in the woods – Durham

A TASTE OF BLISS – OUR SPANISH HOLIDAY MAY ’18

Talking of summer, come and join Jane and I, with Complete Unity Yoga, at our Taste of Bliss Retreat (click here for details) in May ’18.  A relaxing and inspiring holiday with fully plant-based food cooked by me and a variety of activities and excursions, even a cruise on a vintage yacht.  Will and Malene will be teaching yoga each day and we’ll have a whole host of workshops relating to healthy being.  *Book here*

Our villa for A Taste of Bliss Retreat in May ’18 – Murcia, Spain

The coast of Murcia is a stunning and peaceful place.

 

Categories: gluten-free, healthy, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Summer, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Seeking falafel perfection in Lebanon and making the dream falafel wrap

Welcome, to the land of falafel!  This was my favourite wrap, but it’s hard to tell.

I had a falafel recently in Newcastle which was less than incredible.  The falafel was only discernible from the bread by a shift in colour, in fact, it was actually drier than the thick, stale bread.  Both were only slightly more appetising than the rough paper they were wrapped in.  It had no sauce whatsoever.   Bit of iceberg lettuce.  ‘What’s going on!!’

A Turkish man made it for me, which made it even more hard to deal with.  But then the dawning came, there are no falafels in Turkey.  Why should he have known his way around this potential exquisite combination of simple deliciousness.  (I might add, this place does the best veg kofta and mezze’s in the North East.)   It’s like asking a Geordie to make the perfect momo…….  Sometimes, to truly understand something, we’ve got to go back to the source(ish).

Having not long returned from Lebanon, this entire experience was a taste bud trauma.  I decided to go home and look at my travel pictures, remind myself about the real deal, sate my hunger by the sheer tastiness of my memories of wandering around Lebanon, from falafel shop to falafel kiosk.  I got so excited, and into it, I wrote this.

Never short of a pickle in Tripoli. The perfect, salty and crunchy accompaniment to any wrap. I liked the violently pink cauliflower ones.

I had just over a week in Lebanon, it’s not a massive country, but it is well stuffed with chickpeas.  People love them, as do I.  Hummus, Mshbaha (creamy – recipe here), Fattet (stew) or even just a straight up bowl of warm chickpeas in their broth with a pile of flatbread and liberal sprinklings of intense cumin.

What I saw from my little Lebanese window was that no country worships the chickpea like Lebanon.  So mashing it up and deep frying it sounded like a great idea I’m sure.  I stand close to my assertion that anything deep fried, crispy and light, will taste great.  There is something primal when we bite into it and get the CRUNCH.  Even though, most of us now feel it naughty to munch on these deep fried globes of happiness, we still get a kick out of them.  You can bake them for slightly healthier results, but when in Beirut…..

Monster falafels taking over the city (a poster)

Falafels, bar the frying bit, are actually highly nutritious.  Packed with fibre, complex carbs and protein, they even have loads of minerals, high in iron for example and don’t get me started on the manganese content.  Through the roof!!  When you lather them in tahini, veggies, fresh herbs and a wholesome wrap, we doing alright there.  In so many ways.

A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF FALAFEL

Are you new to falafels?  Have you been living in very big, deep, dark cave?  If so, welcome.  They’re deep fried dough balls really.  Less exotic and sounding less appetising, but essentially, honest.   It is normally made with chickpea or fava bean (see my recipe for Egyptian falafels here) or sometimes both.  Add to that some herbs and spices and a normally healthy fistful of breadcrumbs and we’re getting there.  The best dishes, the ones we eat and enjoy most often, are always simple.  No falafel is an island, it needs it’s gang of accompaniments to shine (see below for the perfect crew).

Falafel Sayhoun wrap (action shot) – famous throughout Lebanon and it was nice.  Not number 1 though.

Strangely, falafel actually means ‘pepper’ (plural of) which somehow means ‘little balls’.  In Egyptian Arabic it means, ‘a little bit of food’.  It is popular across the Middle East, and now the world.  Originally (possibly) it was the Coptic Christians in Egypt who came up with falafels to keep them sated during Lent.  But this is a highly charged and sometimes political debate.  I’d just like to say that I live in Wales, halfway up a mountain and feel ill-equipped to deal with a full-on falafel debate.  I just know that they’re not from Wales.

I like a bit of this on my wrap, sprinkle of Sumac. Contentious I know, but gives it a nice citrus twang.

It has been said that the Pharoahs enjoyed nibbling falafels, but this is hard to prove, but nice to imagine.  Pyramids, falafel wrap stands……  In fact, you’ll find McFalafels in McDonalds all over Egypt.  Make of that what you will.

Some of the guys working in the falafel wrap joints are like an F1 pit crew.  Your falafel is ordered, with special requirements taken note of (almost everyone has  their own little wrap quirk) and wrapped in such a rush of energy and precision, sprinkle and roll.  It’s exhilarating.  These folk know their moves!  It goes; whack, whack, sprinkle, scatter, squirt, another scatter, roll, wrap, wrap, twist, launch at customer.  A fine art I’d say.  Not just the flavour going on here, its the buzz of watching a master at work.

FALAFEL GEEK CORNER

The current world record falafel wrap was 74.75 kgs, made in Amman, Jordan.  How they fried it, is interesting to think about.  When I checked out ‘world largest falafel ball’, here is what I got (350 lites of vegetable oil and fed 600 people!!):

You can eat falafels for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I’m not recommending it as a balanced diet, but if you’re in Beirut, it seems like a great idea.   As we can see, not all falafels are created equal, there are a few rules that I gleaned from friendly Lebanese cooks and falafel aficionados, here are their teachings,

The decor in Falafel Sayhoun, a Beirut institution. The falafel were heavy on the black pepper I thought.

THE DREAM FALAFEL WRAP (LEBANESE EDITION)

Is light on bread, a pitta cut in half thickness wise.  Some pickles (pink turnip is nice), some tarator (basic tahini sauce), a few squashed falafels, tomato and lettuce, fresh mint, sometimes parsley, served with some long green pickled chillies.  That’s basically it!  Simple as and normally quite small.  Generally costing around £1.

One of my favourite falafel was eaten beside Baalbek (see this ‘I Ate Lebanon’ post) and served by Ali, the ‘King of Falafels’.  A well named man.  He was a super star.  Baalbek is close to the border with Syria and my journey took a few minibuses, the last one filled with Lebanese army, to get there.  Zero tourists, I had the place to myself, the carvings of Cleopatra and the well preserved temple to Dionysus were real treats.  After walking around in the baking sun, this falafel was well needed.

What makes the perfect falafel wrap?

So a recap, in Lebanon, this is the low down on the perfect falafel wrap:

  • Thin flat bread, most are cut in half.
  • Not massive, 3-4 falafels, 12 inches long.  A snack.
  • Light and crisp falafels
  • Pickles.  Check out those intense pink turnip pickles!!
  • A little tomato and lettuce.
  • A good spoonful of creamy tahini sauce
  • Mint leaves, always fresh mint leaves.
  • Served with pickled green chillies (just a little spicy)

That’s it!  Simply amazing!!

BEST FALAFEL WRAP IN LEBANON….

Ali was pipped by, I’m not sure I should even mention this out loud.  Can you keep a secret?  (Whisper)…..There is a place, just up the road from Falafel Sayhoun, near the souks of Beirut……sorry…I’ve said enough.  Friends in Beirut would never forgive me, if you’re planning a visit, get in touch and I’ll give you the directions.  There is no sign or door, it’s that good! (Whisper over).

Meet Ali, the self-styled ‘King of Falafels’. A fitting name. Balbeek high street.

There is something perfectly balanced about it, a falafel wrap or mezze plate gives a sweep of nutritional boosts and most of all, it’s delicious and ticks all the boxes in and around our palate.

Some things will never get old and maybe just keep getting better!  As the world seems to get increasingly complex, simple pleasures are all the more important.  I felt so lucky to be able to enjoy one of my favourite street feasts with some awesome people in a country that is head over heels for food.

Souks of Tripoli, packed with potential falafel wrap ingredients. Maybe some roasted cauliflower would be nice in there?

Falafel lovers footnote:

Of course, Lebanon is not the only country where you can feast of falalels!  What’s your favourite place for falafels?……

 

Kathmandu’s finest – this was our Christmas lunch last year.  Not traditional, but tasty.  Addition of chips was appreciated.  All wrapped in a fresh naan.

Christmas lunch 2016, Nepal – just out of a ten day silent Vipassana meditation retreat.  What better way to celebrate!  Giant falafels!!

Categories: photography, plant-based, Snacks and Inbetweens, Travel, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Ate Lebanon! – My experience of vegan Lebanese cuisine

Loved this lunch in an Armenian Restaurant plus live music/ bohemian-style hang out. Mahummara – think a dip, but much more, walnuts flavoured with pomegranate molasses (there’s a recipe in ‘Peace & Parsnips’) and fried courgettes with crisp onions and creamy tahini sauce.  Plus massive pot of rose and mint tea.  If you read a book here, they gave you a free drink!!  I was one of the only people not wearing a Trilby.

I am very lucky to travel so much in my life.  It’s basically called ‘not having kids’ according to many of my friends.  The freedom to jump around the world and feast like a happy herbivore.

I’d always wanted to eat my way around Lebanon and learn more about this incredible country.  I took the opportunity to stop in Beirut, as I headed back West from India earlier in the year.  I had a unique experience, flying to Ethiopia before heading up into the Middle East.  The views of Ethiopia from the plane window left me wanting to see more, and maybe a bit closer.

I was not disappointed by Lebanon in anyway, it’s a small country with a big heart and packs in some incredible sites and flavours for the curious and slightly intrepid traveller sort.  There are fascinating places here which see very little tourism.  But let’s start with the food….

Msabaha – I liked it so much, I did a recipe for it on the BHK.  See here.

MEZZA – LEBANON ON A (LITTLE) PLATE

Mezza (mezze/ tapas in the Middle East) was my main fuel for belly and tastebuds.  Wow!  Mezza in Lebanon made tables groan and filled me with a rainbow of colours and flavours.

Things like Baba Ganoush (Baba Ganouj sometimes), radiant salads, Ful (gorgeous, soft and rich fava beans), loads of pickled veggies, of course, gallons of creamy, sumptuous hummus (I’m not going over the top there), and falafels.  Falafels, then falafels and more falafels.  I ate piles of those delicious crispy lumps.  Mainly in a wrap.  I could have done a falafel recipe, but truth is, there no different to the gazillion that are out there now.  They are light and cripsy and in one of Lebanon’s most famous falafel places, Falafel Sayhoun, they are heavy on the black pepper.  A bit of a surprise.  I’ll write more about falafels soon.

I’m a vegan, falafels make up a large part of my dining out diet.  Therefore, I probably eat as many falafels per year as your average Lebanese person.  I was in good company.

Ful – Tasty breakfast, fava beans flavoured with a little spice and great olive oil. You are never more than a metre away from a pile of flatbread in Lebanon.

EATING LEBANON

My style is cheap.  What to do!  I love to travel which means that expensive restaurants are off the menu.  I’m fine with that.  I seek the best food in the street, down alleys, from little windows and stands, in peoples homes and local restaurants.  Basically, the food everyone is eating. the culinary pulse of a place.  Cutting edge is great, but I like to go straight to the heart first.  I’m very rarely disappointed.   I have no interest in decor if the food is bang on.

What we have here are a selection of vegan Lebanese staples.  There is one vegan/ vegetarian restaurant in Beirut, but really, the Lebanese cuisine is vegan friendly, there’s a falafel joint on every corner and thats just the beginning.  You’ll pick up a fresh juice without any problems, juice bars are all over the place.  Plus, there are loads of shops selling nuts, seeds and Turkish delight (normally vegan).  Ideal travel snacks when you’re wandering around in search of interesting nooks of cities and towns.  Maybe you’re a hiker?  Perfect.

One difficulty about ordering/ writing about Lebanese food is that it’s such a diverse place, with bags of culture/ influences, the names and spellings for many dishes seem quite fluid.  But here goes, many of which are lifted from scribbles in my notebook.

One of the main mosques, Mohammad Al-Amin, in central Beirut.

WHAT I ATE – VEGAN LEBANON

Where to begin?  Stuffed vine leaves.  Mujadara (rice and lentils – recipe in ‘Peace & Parsnips‘) normally with a tomato sauce, Manouche (see below – like a massive, thin pancake, stuffed with punchy za’atar and loads of olive oil, although fillings vary).  What else……sumac was there……..

This nice woman made me a Manouche many mornings. Interesting technique, rolled super thin, big flat glove type thing, slapped on a dome shaped hot plate. Leave to bubble and brown.  Enjoye with fresh juice and coffee.

The finished Manouche (Manakish)

I really enjoyed the veggie version of Fasoulya Hammanieh, a really rich bean stew which loved warm flat bread.  The chickpea is a hero in these parts.  I ordered an interesting sounding dish one night and what turned up was just a bowl of chickpeas in their cooking broth with a pinch of cumin on top.  Basic, but was really tasty.  The cumin, wow, potent stuff.

It goes without saying that the hummus is incredible, creamy and rich.  I wrote about hummus recently.  The tahini is also, as expected, next level plant-based creaminess.  You might know by now, and I not shy to say, tahini is probably my favourite thing in the world.  Taking a fried courgette/ aubergine and introducing it to a light tahini sauce is a beautiful act.

I did not manage to find any veggie Kibbeh, which was a shame, but there was enough to keep me occupied.  I enjoyed Makdous, bigger aubergine pickles stuffed with nuts.  Shades a pickled onion.   Batata Harra were a constant source of yum, baked or fried potatoes with a spicy, more-ish coating.  Spoon them in with hummus and pickle and again, we’re going somewhere nice for a while.

If you are Lebanese, or just know, what is the difference between Baba Ganouj and Mutabal?  Smoking?

Classic line up. This was actually my first meal, 1am after a long day and a bit travelling (from Delhi via Addis Ababa). You can eat awesome food late in Lebanon. Shakshuka (which was basically chips with tomato sauce and herbs, surprising), creamy rich hummus and a Lebanese beer.

LEBANON LOVES FOOD (AND DRINK)!

Lebanese people LOVE eating and many Lebanese dishes can be traced back thousands of years.  If it ain’t broke…..  Most restaurants and houses I visited had large groups of people sat around lots of dishes of food, drinking sometimes beer, wine or coffee and taking their time.  Maybe its the Mediterranean that does this to us.  Slows things down, makes us enjoy the good things in life a little more.  It certainly seems like the countries that circle this sparkling sea all know how to eat well and live easy.

Lebanese beer and wine is very good quality, I didn’t know much about it before, but some of the central valleys in Lebanon are making great wines and not too expensive.  Arak is popular, an aniseed alcohol which can also be good quality, but is normally proper rocket fuel.

When you drink, you eat.  I like that.  In the little, bespoke style bars of Beirut, I regularly got a little tray or bowl of something with my drink.  A nice touch, especially when you see the price of the drinks!!

Tabouleh, you probably know. Lots of herbs, chopped. Lebanon does amazing roast, spicy potatoes. Who knew?!  These sesame flatbreads were really quite special.  Fatoush is another delicious Lebanese salad, normally with a nice pomegranate molasses flavour dressing and crispy, flatbread croutons.

LEBANESE COFFEE

Tea and coffee are not such a big deal in Lebanon.  At least in public.  Unlike Egypt and Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries I’ve visited, there are not many tea shops or cafes.  I was told that people tend to drink tea in their homes and Lebanese coffee (Ahweh) is served in the Greek/ Balkan etc style of finely ground (Turkish grind), boiled in a little vessel and served in small, espresso size cups.  It’s robust.  The resulting coffee is strong, sometimes flavoured with things like cardamom, and leaves that tell-tale sludge at the bottom of your cup.  Lebanese people are very sociable and love entertaining guests.  Seems I missed most of the the tea parties!!

Sesame flatbread bakery – Tripoli.  That’s all they do, hundreds, thousands of steaming sesame flatbreads.  You know they’ll be good!!  Come out the oven puffed up like golden balloons.

I loved everything I ate in Tripoli, but this was challenging. Sharab Al-‘Eriq Sous is made by continuously pouring water through a bag filled with a licourice mix producing a potent licourice concoction. Wakes the taste buds up and makes you pull funny faces.

DESSERT

I didn’t actually sample many Lebanese desserts.  Most were dairy based and I was happy with the ubiquitous fruit, I was also normally stuffed from the meals and all that flatbread.  Halva, the nutty types, are normally vegan, but I find them overly sweet.  I like a little nibble though and it is delicious.  Of course, the tahini variety is a favourite.

Pastes, spices and herbs. I love these stalls.  Bought some Za’atar here and some nice dried apricots, to be made into a refreshing drinks.  Amar-el-Deen, sometimes with a little twist of rosewater.  Perfect in the summertime.  I’d never heard of it before and went to a world food store in Newcastle yesterday and found the exact same packet!!

BEIRUT

Is set on the Mediterranean coast and was not long ago,  a cosmopolitan city influenced by the French, attracting tourists from around the world with stunning architecture.  It is one of the oldest cities on earth.  Beirut has had it’s problems, you probably know all about them.  Basically destroyed by the recent civil war it is a city being rebuilt, pockets of nightlife, galleries, museums are springing up amidst the ongoing problems.  In parts of Beirut, you could be in places like soho, tiny bars and lots of well heeled trendy sorts hanging out drinking cocktails.  I stayed in a wonderful hostel in the centre of a well-to-do corner of the city, plush in parts, a place teeming with offices, restaurants and the occasional hummer.

The Saifi Urban Gardens band. Twice a week, everyone dances, but everynight there’s a party.

The hostel has a sprawling, open air restaurants downstairs, serving excellent, inexpensive food, with regular live Arabic bands.  It was a buzzing place, never dull and the staff were incredible.   Saifi Urban Gardens.

Beirut is good for a couple of days looking around and then serves best as a base for travelling around Lebanon, only a few hours on a bus will take you to any corner of the country.  Most people staying at the hostel, which is a real hub, were students of Arabic.  They did not seem to travel around much, citing tensions and security issues, but most local people just said “Go for it, all is cool.”  So I did and was rewarded with many memorable experiences.

One of the only French style buildings left in Beirut, certainly one of the most impressive. Sursock Museum

Of course, there are still challenges and problems in Lebanon. Protests happen often.

Street Art – Beirut

A RANDOM VEGAN POKE

Mar Mikael and Gemmayze are where the richer, trendy sorts hang out and there is a thriving bar and cafe culture in these areas, not to mention a diverse restaurant scene.  Over the road from my hostel, I bumped into a chef who showed me around his new restaurant, the theme is Poke (pronounced with an accent on the ‘e’, like ‘Ole!’).  Have you heard of it?  A concept he picked up in Hawaii, mainly seafood and veggies in a bowl.  Food that looks outrageously beautiful and he made me a special plant-based bowl.  It was dark, no pic.  It was interesting to be eating Hawaiian in Beirut.

Poke, Buddha bowls, whatever you want to call them, a very nice way of presenting a variety of foods and punchy flavours.  Don’t mix things up, keep them separate and appreciate each ingredients qualities.  I think it makes a nice change.   If you’re not familiar with these things, you’re probably not on Pinterest/ Instagram (like me).

One of the coolest people I met. Kid DJ in the old quarter of Byblos. Playing Arabic dance music turned up to 11 for no one in particular.  For the love of it!

Of course, being a vegan traveller you right off the majority of most menus when you move around.  But in Lebanon, what is left is so delicious and generally varied, that you would not dream of feeling left out of the moveable feast.  I lower my expectations and am normally just happy to get fed.  In Lebanon, I revised that, and realised that most Lebanese people love their veggies and pulses.

Lebanese cuisine is well up there with my favourites, being vegan, it’s even a little healthy, all that hummus, tahini, vivid pickles, fresh juices and normally wholemeal flatbread.

Beirut – no beaches, mainly little rock outcrops where people sun bath and chill. This is from the promenade known as ‘Corniche’. Here, you could be anywhere in the Med, as people come out to exercise and stroll with poodles around dawn and sunset.

Lebanon left a big impression more to come soon……The Perfect Falafel and more travel stories On The Road in Lebanon.

 

Join our newsletter here for updates on all our events, recipes, giveaways and more.  

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Plus we’ve a new vegan cooking group over on Facebook that you might like, join here.  

Share recipes, chat food and meet other good vibe vegans!!

 

Categories: Healthy Eating, photography, plant-based, Travel, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Our Discovering Vegan Cooking Event in Newcastle – Big thanks and some pics!!

Jane and I at the Discovering Vegan Cooking Demonstration

Saturday was a blast!!  We had a great day in Newcastle at our Discovering Vegan Cooking event, it was a little bit of hard work and loads of laughs.  The group was just amazing, such a nice gathering of people, vegans and non-vegans, people who just loved good food and good livin!

This was our first event in the North East and we decided to really go for it!  Offering a full and varied menu with a variety of different techniques to be demo’d.  We had a slight hitch when the power went off for our hobs and blender, these things happen, but the group were very understanding and it came back on, avoiding the potential raw food lunch that looked on the cards at one stage!

Whole Roast Cauliflower with Za’atar & Tahini Yoghurt

 

Here’s what you may have missed.  The menu in full:

 

Strawberry Power Smoothie

Homemade Oat Milk

 

BBQ Jackfruit & Cosmic Slaw Sliders

 

Corba – Turkish Lentil Soup with Flatbread

 

Whole Roasted Cauith Za’atar, Pomegranate & Tahini Yoghurt

Roasted Mediterranean Vegetable & Basil Tart

Goan Squash & Black Eyed Bean Curry

 

Sticky & Sweet Indonesian Tempeh/ Tofu with Sambal

Tofu Bacon Bites

Wholegrain Herb Pilaff with Buckwheat, Millet & Quinoa

Kale, Avocado & Gomasio Salad

Roasted Balsamic Beetroots

Chargrilled Pineapple Chunks

Sprouted Mung Beans & Green Lentils

Simple Kimchi

 

Coconut Banofee Pie

Decadent Double Chocolate Cake with Berries

 

Cashew Cream Cheese & Smoky Cashew Cheese

BBQ Jackfruit & Cosmic Slaw Sliders

 

It was a bit of a feast!!  We wanted to really showcase what vegan cooking is all about, vibrant, colourful food packed with flavours.  There were a few carnivores in attendance who loved the food and went as far as saying “you really don’t need meat”.  Which is music to my ears.

The recipes were all designed to be easy to prepare. The group contained new vegans, Deepa from the ace blog Veggie Mum Up North was on day four of her vegan adventure (read a review here).  Other people in attendance have been vegan for years and I learned lots from all, especially where to buy tempeh locally, which is essential information.

 

We love doing these events, primarily because we get the chance to meet so many amazing new people.  Thanks to everyone at Brunswick and to Dad, for helping with the washing up and making the tea.

Here’s a review of the day by Louise from Vegan Festival UK

 

We were a little busy to take pics, so a big thanks to Mick, Neil (NE Veggie Socials), Deepa (Veggie Mum Up North blog) and Louise (Vegan Festival UK) for the taking these snaps.

 

Our new recipe booklet packed with tasty and healthy dishes

This is the first of our events in 2017, see our full calendar here.  They will range from appearances at food festivals, to cooking demonstrations and meals, pop up kitchens, vegan and yoga retreats.  We’re on the move in 2017, come and join us!!

Categories: Cooking demos, Events, Healthy Eating, photography, plant-based, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Italian Vegan Summer Feast – A Celebration! (pt 2)

Italian Vegan Summer Feast!  

Here’s part two of our Italian vegan feast, a whole heaving table of vegan delights perfect for a summer celebration.  The idea is that they’re quick and easy to get together and show-off the incredible produce we get when the sun comes out to play.

These are the flavours of summer and I think Italy is one of my favourite countries to eat, wander and marvel.  I’ve never visited big cities I must add, but the chilled life in the Italian countryside is my kind of vibe.  Simplicity and balancing flavours are just second nature to the cooks and magnificence is never far from my taste buds.  Italy is a vegan travellers dream, in fact, any travellers dream.  I agree with the old school maxim, ‘don’t mess with the produce, just let them shine!’ (I might have just made that up).

EATING ITALIA (JUST THE PLANTS GRAZIE MILLE!)

I’ve done a load of travelling in the past year and was lucky to tour around the south of Italy again; Puglia, Campania, Basilicata, just the names alone have my mouth watering.  The south of Italy has so many vegan choices, traditionally, veggie food down there is very popular.  It was a poorer part of the country where people couldn’t always afford meat and dairy, so they got creative with the plants.  My kind of place!  I love the parmesan they make with basically just fried breadcrumbs.  Great texture and crunch.  I also love the ever present mushrooms.

Every restaurant has a range of vegetable dishes, generally simply prepared, sauteed quickly or char grilled.  There is of course, the classic Marinara pizza.  Just tomato sauce and maybe the occasional basil leaf, but the quality of the base is regularly sensational.  There is Arrabiata and its varietals, huge bowls of fresh pasta with a rich tomato sauce and knock out olive oil.  Occasionally a basil leaf.  The tomato foccacia is dreamy, melts in the mouth and I haven’t even mentioned the Antipasto.  Jeez.  Huge, elaborate displays of preserved flavour explosions.  All kinds and colours of olives, sun dried tomatoes, artichokes, aubergines, peppers, you know the score but really, if you haven’t nibbled one standing in a Puglian market post espresso, you haven’t really tasted the true antipasto.  The pizza/ pasta dishes mentioned normally weigh in at 5-6 euros in a nice restaurant.  Not bad eh!

I think the markets in the south of Italy are my favourite places for sniffing out fresh produce and generally, just to hang out.  I spend quality time admiring the creations on display.  Did I mention the sorbet, no need to miss out on the evening gelato ritual, the sorbet is normally incredible.  Really, incredible.

Have you ever eaten a peach in Italy!!?  That’s a whole other level and blog post I feel.  Even the plums are a wake up call generally to the potential of fruit and veg.  The sweetness.  In Britain, we’re doing out best really.  Great apples and potatoes.

One of our favourite little restaurants, in a cave overlooking the Amalfi Coast.

Italy has a reputation of being an expensive place to travel, not for me.  There is also a growing vegan movement and even in small towns, I found vegan restaurants, salad bars, kebab shops.  It’s become quite trendy, restaurants advertise vegan options via flashing lights or blackboards.

Basically, all lovers of food and the simpler, finer things in life cannot help but fall in love with rural Italy.  Is that right?  Have you been?  What can I look forward to in the North?  The tastebuds boggle.

Back to our humble little feast with an Italian flava.

See the first post here for the Pepper, Basil & Cashew Cream Cheese Tart, Rosemary Roast Potatoes, Tomato & Balsamic Salad and Italian Style Dressing recipes.

These recipes won a competition on our Facebook vegan cooking page, you’ll find it here, it’s a friendly group where you can share recipes, ask questions and hang out with other good vibe vegans and food lovers.   You’ll also hear first about any events/ retreats that we’re doing along with special offers.

The Bits – For 6-8 as part of the Italian Feast

Aubergine Antipasto

2 large aubergines (peeled)
1 large garlic clove (crushed)
4 tbs olive oil
Large pinch salt
Dried oregano

1 handful sun dried tomatoes (chopped)

——————–

Roast your aubergine in the oven, 200oc, 25 minutes, until cooked and a little caramelised. Toss gently with the other ingredients. Leave to cool and pop in the fridge. Can be done in advance.

Roast Squash & Wholegrain Pasta Salad

Roast Squash & Wholegrain Pasta Salad

8 handfuls wholegrain penne
5 tbs vegan mayo
3 handfuls squash (small cubes)
1 bulb of garlic
1 large handful sun dried tomatoes (chopped)
1 handful parsley (chopped)
1/2 lemon (juice)

Salt and pepper

——————

Cook your pasta. Drain and leave to cool a little.

Roast the squash and garlic for 30 minutes in 200oC fan oven with a little oil and salt and pepper, take the garlic out after 20 minutes. Peel the garlic cloves and mash with a fork, stir into the mayo.

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently together.  Season with salt and pepper.

This dish is nice served warm, but also good cold.

White Bean Puree (Vegan)

White Bean Puree

450g white beans
4 tbs olive oil
1/2 lemon juice
1/2 teas sea salt
Parsley

Garnish
Whole beans
Olive oil

————————-
Place all in a blender and blitz until smooth. Check seasoning.

Serve ideally with a drizzle of olive oil and a handful of whole beans on top and maybe chopped soft herbs (basil, parsley) or dried oregano.

 

Serve dishes with

 

Large bowl of mixed salad leaves

Bowl of Olives

Olive oil/ Balsamic

Vegan cheese, like cashew cream, vegan parmesan.

Fresh Foccacia/ Ciabatta/ Any nice bread really

Extra bowl of dried oregano and mild chilli flakes

A bottle of something nice

Sunshine + smiles

Rosemary Focaccia

That’s it!  Enjoy the feast.  If you get to try it all out, or even just a few of the dishes, let us know in the comments below.  We love to hear about your kitchen adventures.

 

Categories: healthy, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Salads, Side Dish, Summer, Travel, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Italian Vegan Summer Feast – A Celebration! (pt 1)

Italian Vegan Summer Feast – Get a load of that!!

We love sharing with you our favourite recipes!  Here’s a whole feasts worth!!  If I had time, I’d blog every night.  I think good recipes are best shared.   I never understand the whole secret recipe thing.  Let’s cook!

The post was originally so long, I’ve had to split it into two.  But don’t be overawed, the recipes are straightforward.  This celebration was a winner over on our Facebook cooking group, click here to join, where recipes are shared and there is much chat plus healthy vegan vibes and stunning food.  Pop over and take a look.

The simple and delicious flavours of Italy make the most out of our summer produce. When the sun comes out, we start getting tasty tomatoes, peppers, and the flavours of the Mediterranean can be found locally in the UK for a short window. I love it! This is a feast designed for a party or entertaining guests/ people you hopefully like, when you want a table filled with a wide range of dishes, not too complicated food that compliments each other.  For me, Italian food goes perfectly with a sunny afternoon and a bottle of something amazing.

THE ITALIAN CONNECTION

The reason for this meal was our relatives visiting from Italy, they live near Lake Como. Jane and I love Italy, one of our favourite places on this big rock, but we’ve never been North.  Can’t believe we’ve got family living in Italy and we haven’t been to see them.  Shame on us.   Since coming back to the UK we’ve been loving kitchen time and trying out ideas from our travels.  I guess the tart is like a pizza, but with a puff pastry base.  When I’m busy, I like working with puff pastry, it’s far too easy.  I’ve just discovered pre-rolled puff pastry.  Wow!  That is pure laziness and brilliance at the same time.   Whack it on a tray, bake, job done.

Here’s some of our Italian travel snaps.

When preparing a menu, we need to think about textures and flavours, how they mingle and benefit from each other. I find writing menu’s really enjoyable and a great challenge.

If you can, present the dishes on large plates or shallow bowls. Spread things out, make them look lovely.

 

Recipe Notes

This is going to take a few hours to get together.  Its a weekend special.

Gluten-free – Just use gluten-free pastry/ pasta for the tart and your favourite gluten free bread.

Additional deliciousness – this tart is awesome with some prated vegan parmesan sprinkle over at the end.  Violife do a parmesan which is scarily like the real thing Jane and I were amazed by it, you could smell the pong upstairs and in the garden.  Just like the other stuff.  Potent.  There must be some kind of genius going on there. Vegan parmesan!! Whatever next. Exciting times in the foody world powered by plants.

(You’ll notice a couple of dishes are missing from the picture above, you’ll find a Chocolate Cake recipe here the Peanut Butter Scones may appear soon.)

 

The Bits – For 6-8 Light Meal

Pepper, Basil and Cashew Cream Cheese Tart (Vegan)

Pepper, Basil & Cashew Cheese Tart

1 pack puff pastry

1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 garlic
salt and pepper

3 peppers – different colours looks nice (sliced)
2 onions (thickly sliced)
2 handfuls squash (chopped into cubes)

 

Cashew Cheese

1 cup cashews
1/2 lemon (juice)
3 tbs nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 garlic clove
Large pinch dried oregano

 

1 handful fresh basil leaves

Dried oregano

3 tbs plant milk (for brushing)

 

—————-

Preheat fan oven 200oc.

Place the peppers, onions and squash on a large baking tray, season with salt and pepper, use two if squashed, and roast for 25-30 minutes.

In a sauce pan, add tomatoes, garlic, season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes, until a thick sauce forms.

Roll out your puff pastry thin on a piece of lightly floured greaseproof paper. Brush with milk. Bake in oven for 12 minutes. Leave to cool slightly.

Spread a layer of tomato sauce over tart, scatter onions, peppers, squash, sprinkle with oregano, black pepper.

Brush the edges of the tart with plant milk, bake for 15 minutes. Can be served hot or cold.

Place all the cheese ingredients in a blender and blits until smooth.

To serve, blob on cashew cheese and tear over some basil leaves.

 

Tomato & Balsamic Salad

Tomato & Balsamic Salad

4-5 ripe tomatoes (chopped)
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tbs olive oil
Salt & pepper
1 handful basil leaves

——————–

Mix together in a bowl and tear your basil leaves over.

 

Roast Rosemary Potatoes

Roasted New Potatoes & Rosemary

New potatoes (par boiled)
Few sprigs of Rosemary
Salt
2 roasted garlic bulbs

 

——————-

Take your par boiled potatoes, toss them in the rosemary, salt and oil, roast in the oven for 30 minutes. (200oC) until crispy and golden, turning them once.

Serve warm.

 

Italian Style Dressing

8 tbs olive oil
3 tbs white wine vinegar
2 small garlic cloves (crushed)
3 tbs chopped parsley
1/2 teas dried oregano
1/2 small lemon (juice)
Large pinch dried red pepper

——————-

Whisk all together in a bowl or shake together in a jar.  Check seasoning.

 

Buon appetito!

 

This is only half of the recipes, check out the Italian Vegan Summer Feast (pt 2) post for more.

 

Categories: Dressings, healthy, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Salads, Side Dish, Special Occasion, Summer, Vegan | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Msabaha – Lebanese Chickpeas (A new twist on hummus)

Msabaha – Lebanese Chickpeas

The best creation since hummus!?  Or at least equal!  Regardless, an awesome, quick and easy summer dish to be eaten alone with warm bread, maybe a salad and then take it the whole way and make it part of a summer feast.  Tables filled with lovely dishes one of my favourite sights, especially in the garden with a shining topping of sunshine.  Come on sunshine!!

BEIRUT BITES

I ate this mainly for breakfast on a recent trip to Beirut.  Warm, with crisp tomatoes and pepper, plus fresh, thin pitta bread, it set me up for days traveling around the fascinating country of Lebanon.  It’s a simple dish and can be ready in minutes.

Msabaha (some spell it Mussabaha, Msabbacha, Mschabeca, Messabbeha but in Lebanon I saw Msabaha, I hope that makes some sense) is a great twist on hummus, containing most of the same ingredients.  This is a really creamy, more-ish way of serving chickpeas, perfect as a picnic mezza.

I was sharing a table with an American one morning and I recommended the Msabaha, he exclaimed “THIS IS THE NEW HUMMUS MAN!!”  I’m not sure about that.  I don’t think it really matters. It’s just Msabaha.  And it’s just amazing.

CHICKPEA LOVIN’

The Lebanese love, I mean love, their chickpeas.  I excitedly ordered a dish in a bar/ restaurants (there are loads of excellent bars and restaurants in Beirut, especially in and around Gemmayzeh.)  What showed up was basically a bowl of chickpeas, dusted with cumin and a splash of olive oil.  It was delicious, but still, just a bowl of chickpeas straight up.

The main challenge with travelling for me is re-creating the dishes that I loved once I arrive back home. It can be a thankless task, we cannot recreate the chickpeas here, for some reason, they taste so much better in the Med/ Middle East. Also the veg, the cucumbers and tomatoes in Lebanon were a constant sensation. We can’t replicate their fertile soil and sun. But we can try and we can get close.

THE BEST SOUVENIRS ARE RECIPES!

The funny-ish thing about travelling is we go away and sample all of these delicious delicacies and local people are unfazed by the adulation.  It’s like a tourist wandering into a Gregg’s and getting worked up about a pasty.  These kind of dishes are what everyone eats, they’re the working persons food, cheap, delicious,  plentiful and ever present.  In Britain, I think things like good chips and mushy peas, or a cheese and pickle sandwich (now back on the menu with vegan cheddar), or maybe even the perfect shepherd-less or apple pie are our equivalent of hummus, falafels, baklava and the like.  Simple food that everyone loves!  It’s just the culture and the local ingredients that change.  But still, my best souvenirs are always recipes and delicious memories.

Art in Beirut – Sursok Museum

THE GREAT HUMMUS DEBATE – WHICH IS BEST?

Basically, don’t go there!!  In Lebanon, hummus is something of an enigma it seems. I’ve encountered this in other countries, everyone has their own little variation, some say add ice and blend, others say only use a hand masher, some say painstakingly remove the jacket from each individual chickpea.

Most people I spoke to said keep it simple. No garlic, no spices. Just lemon, salt and a little olive oil. The hummus we eat in the UK, especially those pale imitations in the supermarkets, are nothing like those in Lebanon and Egypt. Their hummus is super creamy and perfectly balanced, also, the olive oil is normally very fruity. In my experience, never ask a person from the Middle East who makes the best hummus. It can lead to heated debates, people are proud of their hummus traditions and rightly so. It’s a legend!

In Lebanon, the folk I spoke to would never put cumin  in hummus and many would not dream of garlic.  No, no, no, nooooo!  “Garlic!!  Are you crazy Britishman!!”  Direct quotes from a falafel stand in Beirut.  Meant jovially.

Yotam Ottolenghi, our Middle Eastern guru in the UK, says to use creamy tahini and soak your chickpeas well over night, drizzle the olive oil in after blending for bread dipping etcetc.  It’s perfectly simple and brilliantly complex this hummus stuff.  The truth is, its about balance and knowing what your dream tahini tastes like and the texture you want.  Some like it a little rough, some smooth.   I like mine with a little more tahini.  I’m a proper rebel.  What am I talking about hummus for?  Back to Msabaha……

Remember this though, tahini alone, mixed with water, a little garlic and salt, makes for an incredible sauce for many, many dishes.  Can be called Tarator.  You all probably know how I feel about tahini, I won’t go on about it.  But tahini, well, we should all be eating it at least twice a day in my humble opinion.  More at weekends.  Have you ever mixed tahini with jam/ molasses/ something sweet and spread it on warm toast or drizzled it over things like porridge or muesli?  You’ve got to try it!!  It’s a early morning revelation.

I love the simplicity of legendary dishes like this, so easy to get very wrong and incredible when mastered. I’m no master, but this is a decent effort I reckon. If you’re from Lebanon, please try it and send me your kind and not-too-harsh feedback.  Chokran!!

Beirut has a few ‘beaches’. Thin strips of sand. This man was enjoying himself with his sound system and hookah (water pipe)

Recipe Notes

If you like a thicker sauce, stir in a few spoonfuls of hummus.  This is perfectly acceptable behaviour.

I ate this with hummus, so I didn’t make it really saucy.  Feel free to add more sauce and get those chickers floaty in creamy, decadent goodness.

Cook the chickpeas until they’re nice and soft, melt in the mouth!

I prefer soaked and cooked chickpeas, better flavour, but tinned will do.

I think this dish is best served warm.

I like cumin, so I put it in.

Don’t be shy on the olive oil.  The Lebanese certainly are not.

A nice twist on hummus!  Mussabaha, Msabbacha, Mschabeca, Messabbeha, whatever you call it, it tastes amazing!!

 

The Bits – Enough for 4-6 as a mezza

550g chickpeas (cooked) – 2 tins

1 teas ground cumin

6 tbs light tahini

1/2 lemon (juice)

5 tbs water (more if needed)

1 small clove garlic (crushed)

Salt

 

Toppings 

Sprinkle of paprika

2 cloves crushed garlic (optional but nice)

1/2 handful chopped parsley (use the soft stems also)

Big glug of extra virgin olive oil

 

Salad

1 green pepper

1/2 cucumber

2 tomatoes (all sliced)

Fresh mint leaves (I used basil)

 

Do It

Cook your chickpeas and drain.  When still warm.  Stir the tahini, water, garlic, lemon juice, cumin and salt together, adding the water gradually to make a thin sauce.  If you didn’t cook your chickpeas with bicarb of soda, use the chickpea cooking broth instead of water.  You can make the sauce in advance if you like.

Gently stir the sauce into the chickpeas.  Top with parsley, paprika and crushed garlic if you like.

 

The incredible Baalbek, Roman and Persian monument, on the border with Syria. One of the most incredible historical sites I’ve visited.  Well preserved and totally empty.

Foodie Fact

Tahini!  Why we love it so, other than it tastes awesome.

Tahini is one the best sources of calcium out there, it keeps your skin and muscles healthy, high in vitamin E and many of the B’s, helps with detoxing, full of minerals like magnesium, potassium, iron and more, a great source of protein (even better than nuts), it is highly alkaline, it is high in unsaturated fats and therefore can help with weightloss.  WOW!

Categories: Breakfast, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Side Dish, Summer, Vegan | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments

A Taste of Bliss – Yoga & Vegan Cooking Holiday, Spain 2018

 

We’re very excited to announce our Spanish holiday in May ’18 collaborating with the wonderful Complete Unity Yoga. 

 

Vegan Yoga and Cooking Retreat with Lee Watson and Complete Unity Yoga

5th May – 12th May 2018

 

Join us for an early summer treat in the small stunning region of Murcia, Spain.

Set in the jewel of the Spanish coast, Costa Calida,
we await to welcome you to an
unforgettable getaway.

We will be bringing you through a thoughtfully crafted program
bursting with inspirational workshops.
Wander along the beach, go swimming in the sea.
Enjoy space and time to
relax and restore healthy habits
to chase your bright future.

This is a holiday you will never forget.
A holiday that truly allows you
to zone out of your daily life and responsibilities,
to zoom straight into your inner peace, joy, and harmony,
to get a taste of bliss.

Our dedicated team of chefs, guides, yoga and meditation teachers
have ensured a program that will leave you
recharged, fresh and radiating.

Mediterranean feasting, fresh juices, and smoothies,
sunset drinks, Spanish traditional tapas, cakes, desserts
BBQ and a three-course meal in a local restaurant
You will be taken good care of.

 

Included


Airport pick-up and drop-off

Transport during the stay

7 nights at our villa right by the beach

Daily guided morning meditations

Daily yoga and pranayama classes with Complete Unity Yoga

Two specialised yoga and meditation workshops

Nourishing and deeply satisfying meals, freshly prepared by Lee Watson

Workshop on healthy diet

Bespoke recipe booklet

Cooking demonstrations

Cooking techniquies to bring home to keep the bliss growing

Trips to local treasures and gems

A unique afternoon yacht cruise

Three-Course Meal in Local Taverna

 

Find full pricing, bookings and retreat description HERE

 

Trips

 

Visit Stunning Peninsula: Rising high above the Costa Calida coast with 360 degree views of mountains and the sparkling ocean.

Visit to Moorish Tower via Antipodas: Stroll from our front door along the beautiful La Azhoia promenade up to the historic Moorish watchtower, followed by a cool drink and break on the beautiful terrace of the local taverna Antipodas.

A Unique Yacht Cruise: Sail on a classic yacht along the dramatic Costa Calida coastline of Cabo De Galos, one of the most picturesque parts of the Spain.

 

Workshops Included

 

Stress-Proof Your Life With Yoga, Meditation and Mindfulness 

Why Yoga and Meditation Works and What They Have to Offer You

A Modern Approach to Healthy Diet: An insight into Ayurveda, the world oldest science of medicine and healthy living with a modern approach.

Cooking Demonstrations: Lee shares tips and tricks to effortlessly add flavour and joy to your daily cooking, and will be preparing each meal in the open kitchen. He will be available throughout the week and would love to answer any questions you might have, and from his cookery demonstrations you will be taking home skills to transform your home cooking.

*Moon Club: We are extraordinarily happy to be able to share with you this optional workshop on women’s health…..This workshop will be led by Jane and assisted by Malene Vedel giving practical exercises and techniques for you to bring home to enhance your wellbeing during your moon cycle.

 

The Yoga

 

“Will and I practice and teach yoga as a tool and a path to inner peace and radiating joy. We are trained in Akhanda Yoga, a Hatha yoga practice, that brings in all aspects of yoga: contemplation, philosophy, anatomy, mindfulness, meditation, kriya, pranayama and asana, the physical postures. This practice is for everybody and suits all levels. Straight from the street? Or advanced practitioner? This is for you!. Furthermore we bring into the classes an abundance of joy, and draw experience from a wide range of skills and courses, as well as wisdom collected on our travels around the world. Our classes are designed to give you strength and confident as well as softness and flexibility. The classes are calming and challenging, restorative and energising. They are therapeutic by nature.”

 

Yours in Yoga,

Malene – Complete Unity Yoga

 

Spain Beach Retreat - Yoga and Meditation - Vegan Cooking with Lee Watson

 

Food

 

We are excited to have Lee Watson cooking exclusively for us and doing cooking demonstrations.  During the demonstrations, Lee will be showing us how to cook a range of healthy Mediterranean plant-based dishes with loads of treats along the way.

Meals will range from Moroccan to Middle Eastern, all the way through Turkey, Italy, Greece and of course, Spain.  Lee ensures that even if you don’t eat a plant-based diet, you will not be disappointed in the slightest.  This is diverse food for everyone to enjoy!

You’ll learn a range of creative kitchen skills for a healthier, delicious approach to cooking at home.  You will get a full recipe booklet to take home and Lee will ensure you have all the knowledge to give the recipes a try.  We’ll cover creative summer salads, BBQ, homemade plant-based cheese and milk, Buddha bowls, sushi, local tapas and paella, smoothies and breakfast ideas, plus preparing a fully raw food feast and lots of ideas for desserts.

On Friday we’ll enjoy a three-course meal in a local restaurant with a stunning location overlooking the bay.  The best location in Murcia for sunset.  This is a restaurant that Lee helped to build, who make great plant-based meals.  The menu will be designed especially for our group, by Lee and their chef.

The retreat is fully plant-based, and if this is something new, we believe it is a light, nutritious and compassionate way of eating. Find inspiration to bring home, get support to make changes or just enjoy and you are sure to feel the benefits.

 

Accommodation

 

The villa is intelligently designed and eco-friendly, keeping warm in the winter and cool in the summer, providing comfort year-round. Air conditioning is available throughout and there is a log burning stove.

The highlight of the villa for us is the large open plan living area, with kitchen and dining space. This is perfect for cooking demonstations and joyful moments. Enjoy the view of the beach while reading your books, writing or hanging out with good company and meaningful conversations.

The villa is located 10 metres from the beach in a quiet, residential village, close to restaurants, cafes and bars.  Other facilities include an outdoor solar heated shower and purified water on tap.

The rooms are comfortable with a homely vibe. There are a variety of different room types to suit all. Email us for more information.

This place is amazing with a essence of community and living to share.

Our daily yoga and meditation classes will take place outside on the terrace and in the garden. Wake up with soothing yoga poses under open sky in the gentle morning air providing us with a fresh boost of energy and a glow to our skin.

 

Retreat Pricing

 

Double En-Suite – 2 People £1899
Double En-Suite – 1 Person Private £1249
Double Room – 2 People £1839
Double Room – 1 Person Private £1149
Twin Room Shared – £919 per person
Triple Room Shared – £719 per person

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Local Area

 

Murcia is a small and stunning region, mainly agricultural, in the South of Spain.  Our villa is located on the Costa Calida, which is a jewel of the Spanish coast.  The scenery is beautiful, with mountains falling away into the deep blue Mediterranean Ocean.  The region is sparsely populated with lovely countryside and traditional villages.  This is the real taste of Spain and is known as the garden of Spain for good reason.  The local produce, ranging from almonds, to lemons, olives and excellent vegetables is delicious.  We offer a rare opportunity to practice yoga on a beachside location, exploring and enjoying this peaceful corner of Europe.

 

 

Diving / Snorkelling

 

Costa Calida is home to two marine reserves offering ideal conditions for divers of all levels. If you’re interested in going diving/snorkelling during your stay with us, we’d be happy to send you details of a highly recommended English-speaking dive school, so that you can book directly with them in advance. Please email us for more details.

 

 

Find full pricing, bookings and retreat description HERE

 

 

 

Categories: Cooking Retreats, Events, Travel, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Summer Rose Syrup

IMG_0501.JPGSummer roses…

This recipe captures the scent, fragrance and wild essence from your garden rose into a syrup so gorgeous and simple you’ll want to keep making it over and over.

In the UK we’re blessed with many herbs and flowers that give food such an extra special unique taste. Elderflower season has come and gone, and this year’s cordial is now frozen into ice cubes for coolers dressings and cakes to be enjoyed well into the summer.

Over the years I’ve been fascinated by cooking with wild-plants that I find in the hedgerows and gardens near wherever I’m living. For some people it is a way of life and the ultimate expression of seasonality.

In America last year I was fortunate enough to meet a herbalist who made her own herbal vinegars, flower coolers, infusions and tinctures. When I tasted for the first time in my life a vinegar made of yellow dock that was so punchy fragrant and utterly indescribably bittersweet, it added such an unique flavour to our roasted vegetable dish, and added so many health benefits I vowed I would make it some day… but right now the roses are in bloom.

IMG_0544

This recipe is so utterly simple and delicious it will put the magic of summer into whatever piece of toast, pancake, yoghurt or waffle you drizzle it over. It makes a lovely icing for a cake.  Full of sugar, just like jam, this doesn’t pretend to be healthy. But as a vegan sweetener or jam equivalent, rose petal syrup can be used in moderation, made in small quantities and appreciated for what it is. I feel it’s a valuable and gorgeous addition to your cupboard.

P1310655

CHINESE ROSE

Recently when we were in China, travelling in the South in Yunnan, we came across a rose delicacy that blew me away and got me very interested in learning more about cooking with roses. It was a Moon Cake, a ceremonial and local delicacy, made with a flaking light pastry filled with chunky rose jam. Served warm and fresh out of a linen-lined basket by a crinkly faced apple-cheeked local. We stood there blissfully at the stall (despite it being close to a main road for passing trade) immersed in rose-heaven…a taste so blissful I want to go all the way back to China just to taste it again, it blew my mind!

P1020903

Rose sweeties…

Ever since Lee and I volunteered on an organic lavender and rose farm in Turkey in 2014, I became fascinated with the colossal copper vats where literally tons of freshly harvested rose petals would be made into essential oil. All around Turkey, roses featured highly in every market place in the form of soaps, tea, jams, sweets, and as rose-water, traditionally used by woman and men as a hand spray to lightly scent the skin after a meal.

rose sultan

“What is the scent of the Rose? The breath of reason and intelligence, a sweet guide on the way to the eternal kingdom.” Rumi

The Damask rose is as revered in Turkish society today as it was in the Ottoman times for it’s edible petals and delicious scent. Imagine a scene at Topkapi Palace, Istanbul in the Ottoman times where sultans sip rose sherbet in their thrones, Ottoman woman laze around in rose-scented baths applying oils and creams to their skins. Roses, known as ‘The flower of Heaven’ were a symbol of divine beauty and were used extensively in spiritual ceremonies. Medicines, syrups and sweets made from roses were and still are used every day. It’s all very romantic.

If it’s good enough for a sultan it’s good enough for us too, right?

This recipe was requested by a friend of the BHK, super Simon over at the Heart Kitchen.

Here’s the recipe!

Enjoy, Jane:)

IMG_0524

The bits

1 cup of caster sugar

Half a cup of water

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

2 cups of freshly picked rose petals

IMG_0528

Do it

Shake the rose petals well outside after picking to free the tiny insects. Warm the sugar, water and lemon juice on a low heat until it’s dissolved into a thick syrup. Add the rose petals and stir them in the sugar solution for about 5 minutes or so, then take off the heat and keep stirring for another ten, until the rose petals have gone see-through and the syrup has changed colour.

Strain the syrup through muslin into a jar.

IMG_0542

Serve

This is one of the world’s most delicious drizzles to be enjoyed with pancakes, toast, waffles, ice creams, cocktails, in tea and even in salad dressings!

Articles referenced in this post are here and here

Photograph of Sultan was originally taken by Nurhan Atasoy.
Categories: Desserts, Foraging, Infusions, Local food, photography, Recipes, Sauces, Summer, Vegan | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Global Vegan – Cooking Demo and Buffet Lunch, London

Global Vegan

Cooking Demonstration and Buffet Lunch

with Chef and Cookbook Author Lee Watson

Saturday 21st October ’17 Brixton, London

———

Come and join in a celebration of whole food, vegan cooking with diverse recipes drawing on Lee’s recent travels around the world. Lee will be cooking a variety of nutritious and tasty dishes, believing that healthy eating can also be decadent.

Techniques will be explained clearly and you will receive a bespoke recipe booklet meaning that you’ll have the confidence and resources to try all the dishes at home. This demo will be a lot of fun, Lee will share loads of ideas and tips, and you’ll get to taste all dishes at the end when we’ll enjoy a buffet lunch.

This is a chance for you to relax and learn something new.  Tea and coffee will be available throughout the day.

You’ll be shown how to make:

Plant-based cheese

Raw desserts

Simple curry

The best out of tofu and tempeh

Ultimate breakfast smoothies

Buddha/ Poke bowls

Wholegrain dishes

and much more…

If you are interested in incorporating more vegan dishes into a diet, or are just looking for some kitchen-based inspiration, this is the ideal event for you. Lee is passionate about cooking vegan food everyone!

Price – £40 per person

Includes – Recipe booklet, Tea & Coffee, Buffet Lunch, Cooking Demonstrations

Click here to book

Lee will be signing copies of ‘Peace and Parsnips’ after the event. You can buy a copy on the day.  Click below to look inside.

Event time – 11:00 – 14:30

Sunshine International Arts Centre
C.A.F.E. Studio 5, 209A Coldharbour Lane, London, SW9 8RU
Full directions here

Contact email – hellobeachhousekitchen@gmail.com

Join Lee’s vegan cooking & retreat group

Categories: Cooking demos, Events, healthy, plant-based, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Elderflower & Pistachio Muffins with Lemon Curd

Elderflower & Pistachio Muffins with Lemon Curd and loads of Vegan Buttercream

It was Jane’s birthday recently and she loves elderflowers, lemon, mashed potato (that is not a typo) and CAKE, so I thought I’d combine them all. The cake was lovely but I liked the idea of making the recipe into muffins filled with the curd.  So you cut into them and get a nice surprise.  For me, elderflower is one of the tastes of summer in the UK and it’s been a bumper year. We’ve been making many vats of cordial and can’t wait for the elderberry bonza!

You know I rarely bake a ‘normal’ cake, I just can’t handle the sugar overload, but this was a birthday so I let rip.  You know the BHK, we live on the edge!!!  I tend to freestyle with baking which freaks many people out.  I see how it goes.  Sometimes it doesn’t work, but generally, sticking to some rules and with a little experience, things turn out well.  It also leads to new ideas/ creation.  Which is what fuels me in the kitchen.  After all, go back a few years and tell people you’re putting mashed potato in a cake and a few bushy eyebrows would have been raised I’m sure.  In fact, they probably still are.  I like to befriend these bushy eyebrows and I know that when they taste these muffins, they’ll be smiling

I used seived spelt flour here which worked well and had read about mashed potato as a binder years ago. Someone told me about a mashed potato cake and I thought, thats the kind of creative twist that gets me going.  I finally got to try it out and it worked a treat.  Jane’s parents really loved them, so baking with mashed potato will be played with even more in the BHK.  It is light and does help bind the cake together.

Us vegans use a lot of mashed things in our cakes, squash, pumpkin, apple, sweet potato, bananas, I think potato is as good as any and the flavour is suitably bland for a binding agent.  Some people have challenged me about using such binders and saying it will make the cake taste bizarre, I would think about it this way.  A non-vegan cake is normally filled with a load of scrambled egg!  That seems like it will mess with flavour more than a little mashed spud.  It’s just something new, thats all.

Can you guess what the secret filling is?

Vegan lemon curd is nice.  It’s not exactly, bang on, like the other stuff, but it’s getting there and benefits from being so easy to make.  Adding the elderflower cordial to it makes it better for me.  You can keep any leftovers in the fridge and it’s, of course, pretty dang good on toast.

The buttercream was a birthday pressie to Jane really (not the only one I might add!)  Icing sugar and me don’t see eye to eye.  It reminds me of church fares as a child and the cakes were always sickly sweet bits of icing with some sponge hanging off.  Or those flapjacks made with buckets of golden syrup and hard raisins.  I think my favourites were top hats made with marshmallows and chocolate with a smartie on top, but you didn’t need to bake them.  Or rice crispies, they were great.

Basically, this buttercream is old school and no one would be able to tell the difference.  There are some decent new margarine type things coming out, Pure is a good staple choice, plus Suma and Biona always deliver good products.  I just read that ‘I Can’t Belive It’s Not Butter’ have just released a ‘ICBINB It’s Vegan!’ brand, which is slightly confusing but raised a smile.  It is made with ‘real’ ingredients.  One thing that has shocked me in a nice way is the range of vegan ingredients and products in the supermarkets, what a difference a year makes (we’ve been travelling here, there and everywhere fyi).

This recipe over at Wall Flower Kitchen was a particular inspiration. Judging by this experiment, I would use seived spelt flour again, we know that its a good option from a health point of view but I love the flavour.

Our new newsletter comes out on Friday, the first one in nearly six years so don’t miss it!!  We’ll be celebrating summer with hand-picked recipes, light, simple and full of sun.  Sign up HERE.

Filled with lovely vegan lemon curd

Recipe Notes

I have toned down the sugar here, but I think it’s a perfect quantity. Not too sweet.  The icing makes up for that.  We tried the muffins without the icing and they’re ok with a cuppa, but you’re not going to fool any birthday person that they’re not lacking something.

All elderflower cordials are not made equal, especially if you are making your own.  The cordial we used was quite strong.  See recipe at the bottom.

You can use chopped almonds as a topping here, I just like the colour of the pistachios.

Best check that your lemon is unwaxed before using the zest.  If it’s waxed, and you’re just juicing, don’t worry, it will still be nice and lemony.

As you know, all ovens are different.  If your oven is fierce, check them after 16 minutes.

 

Elderflower & Pistachio Muffins

The Bits – For 12 muffins

Dry 

300g spelt flour (sieved)

100g ground almonds

2 teas baking powder

1 teas bicarb of soda

 

Wet

200g sugar

200ml almond milk

150g mashed potato

2 teas vanilla extract

3 tbs elderflower cordial

80ml sunflower oil

 

12 large muffin cases

 

Vanilla Buttercream

15g vegan margarine/ butter

150g icing sugar

1/2 teas vanilla extract

2 tbs plant based milk

2 tbs elderflower cordial

 

Vegan Lemon & Elderflower Curd

1 large lemon (zest and juice)

4 tbsp corn flour(starch)

40ml plant-based milk

3 tbsp brown rice syrup or sweetner of choice

1 teas turmeric powder

3 tbsp elderflower cordial

 

1 handful pistachios (finely chopped or pulsed in a blender a couple of times)

 

Fresh elderflowers (for nice decoration)

Eat in gardens, with sunshine and tea;)

Do It

Vegan Lemon Curd

Make the curd in advance, 1 hour before is ideal.  Place all ingredients into a blender and blitz until smooth.  In a small saucepan, bring the curd to a gentle boil, whisking as it warms.   When it reaches boiling, take off the heat and whisk well until smooth.  If you leave it, expect the curd to go clumpy.  Once it is nice and smooth, decant into a container and leave to cool.

Muffin Mix

Add the ground almonds to a large mixing bowl, sift in the flour, bicarb and baking powder.

In another bowl, combine the wet ingredients, including the sugar.

Stir the wet into the dry mix with a wooden spoon until just combined.

Line your muffin tray with muffin cases.

Using a dessert spoon, spoon enough mix into the muffin cases to fill around 2/3 of the case.  Using a teaspoon, spoon roughly 1 1/2 tbs of curd into the centre of the case.  Making the curd into a round shape before doing this helps.  Now top the muffins off with the rest of the muffin mix.  Don’t overfill the cases, they will rise when baked, fill them until a few millimetres from the top.

Bake 18-20 mins 180oC fan oven. Test with a skewer and look for any wet dough, the curd inside will make it slightly more difficult to tell.

Buttercream

Place the margarine/ butter in a bowl and whisk until creamy,  gradually add the icing sugar, whisking together until you have a thick consistency.  Add the elderflower and milk, whisk again, adding more icing sugar if needed, until fluffy.  It should be thick and spreadable and takes a little work.  If you’re not into whisking, you can use a food processor.  Place in the fridge to thicken up even more.

Allow the muffins to cool on a wire rack and then spoon on the buttecream, spread with the back of a spoon, sprinkle over pistachios, top with elderflowers.

Foodie Fact

Edible Flowers

We don’t eat enough flowers do we!?  Flowers make any bowl, plate and especially salads even more beautiful.

Summer flowers that we can eat include nasturtium, calendula, borage, broad bean flowers, chicory, chives, snap dragon, sunflower, tulip, viola, violets, wild primrose, wild garlic, coriander, cornflower, dahlia, gladioli, daisy, chives, honeysuckle, pansy, rose, sage, courgette flowers.  Quite a list and that’s nowhere near all of them.  Flowers are on the menu!

Flowers like this generally have a light flavour, it’s more about the vibrant look really.  Don’t just wander out and eat any flower though, many are not good for us, some poisonous.

Elderflower

Elderflower is said to have anti-septic, anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, it is also said to lower blood sugar and boosts the immune system.  You can also gargle (not coridal) with elderflower, which is quite nice.

Find out how to make our favourite Elderflower Cordial and Elderflower Champagne.  Elderflowers are so abundant at this time of year its a shame not to;)  One thing I haven’t tried is Elderflower Tempura which sounds delicious.  Anyone tasted it?

As ever, if you bake these muffins, we’d love to hear your comments and chat below.

PS – We very rarely get any freebies and have no sponsorship etc, we do this because we love it!  If we mention products, it’s only because we like them and want to share.  If we get free stuff etc, we would tell you.    

Categories: Baking, Cakes, healthy, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Summer, Vegan | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

Smoky Carrot & Red Pepper Pinchos with Avocado Aioli (Mini Spanish Not Dogs)

Smoky Carrot and Red Pepper Pinchos

Complete carrot transformation.  If you’re having a plant-based BBQ, slap these on.  It is impossible to not like them.  No one will believe what you’ve done to a humble carrot.  You made it into a delicious, smoky not dog!!  They will look upon you as some kind of food magician.  It’s a good look.  Go buy a cape.

A super tasty, healthy, plant-based option to that ‘classic’ hot dog thing, given a Spanish style twist here.  Pinchos (mini open sandwiches) are the perfect sandwich for this time of year, light and packed with flavours.  I also like the name.  The Spanish know their way around a sandwich thats for sure.  Pinchos just look amazing when placed together on a platter, especially when mixed up like a sandwich collage.  They are way too enticing to walk by.  If you’ve been to Spain, one of those big and buzzing tapas bars, you’ll know what I mean.  In old town San Sebastien especially, there are some beautiful arrays of pinchos covering every nook and cranny of the bars.

The Alma (Soul) Vegan Festival near Cartagena, Murcia

VIVA VEGANOS!!

You can probably tell by the radiant sunshine that this was not a UK post.  Although Durham is looking very summery from where I’m sat.  I cooked it on the Costa Calida in Spain.

Jane was there recently and attended a vegan festival, small but perfectly formed, this is something brilliant for Murcia.  There were a load of food stalls, live music and plenty of organic local products.  Even artisan beer (the most popular stand).  Apparently Jane and friends were the last to leave.  The artisan beer was just too good.

Murcia, like the rest of Spain, its a highly fishy/ meaty place and there is a growing vegan community and awareness.  Of course, in Barcelona and Madrid, you can find some vegan options, but I still think Spain is one of the toughest countries to be a vegan traveller.

Murcia has always been a little forgotten corner of Spain and poor, therefore, there are some interesting recipes with only veggies.  People couldn’t afford meat, so they made veggies delicious and you can occasionally find these dishes in restaurants, but generally, they are cooked in peoples homes.  I love one dish in particular, Morcilla de Verano – here’s our recipe.  Its a vegan take on the famous Spanish ‘Morcilla’ sausage and everyone loves it.  Even proper jamon heads.

Los Veganos!!

ME AND BEYONCE

I was orginally asked to write this recipe for Shape magazine in the US.  I know it seems strange that I’m doing things for massive lifestyle mags like that, it does to me anyway.  If you’ve followed the BHK for a while, you’ll know that we’ve gone from the growing cabbages and herbs in the middle of nowhere, half way up a hill in North Wales, to the pages of swanky magazines.  I even fed Beyonce once in an article!!  Hahahahaa!  Last year I was in Hello and other mags that I’d never have imagined in my weirdest dreams that I’d end up in.  When I was younger I probably imagined I’d be plastered all over The Rolling Stone, maybe Mojo or the NME (of the 90’s) in a rock star delusion.  Life is just one big strange surprise really!!  And yes, some of my friends think its cool, but most just laugh at me.  Often.  I used to be more Johnny Rotten than Beyonce, but maybe time mellows things out a bit.  I don’t care either way, getting tasty vegan food out there is amazing!  I’d love to cook for Beyonce, Morrissey, Philip Schofield, whoever.  In fact, if we invited Johnny Rotten that could make for an interesting dinner party.

Shape didn’t quite go for the ‘pincho’ thing and instead called them Carrot Not-Dogs, which is cool by me.  This kind of thing has been around for years in vegan-ville and it’s awesome to see dishes like this getting out there.  You cannot, not, ever, not like, not-dogs!  Kids go wild for them!!

Recipe Notes

Ideal for summer light lunches or even bbqs (instead of cooking in a pan, pop them on a BBQ and baste with the marinade).  I’ve popped two methods below, one for a quick roast, and the other, the works; marinaded overnight and pan fried.  Both are delicious, but the marinaded dogs are smokier and look more like the real thing!

I like the way they look when un-whittled down.  Just a straight up carrot.  You can’t pass them off as a hot dog, but who really cares about that?!

For the marinade.  If you can’t track down liquid smoke, don’t fret, we can use some smoked paprika.  A few large pinches will do.

Ripe avocados are best.  I couldn’t get any and was asked to do the recipe at short notice.  You can see that the aioli is not totally smooth.  It’s so much better when silky smooth.

You can quite happily serve these carrot not-dogs with just the avocado aioli or even just a bit of mustard.  A nice idea is wrapping them in a blanched collard/ spring cabbage, kale leaf or even raw lettuce. A great gluten-free, mega healthy option.

Spanish food’s all about bright and vibrant flavours and colours, perfect for summer

The Bits – For 4 as a snack/ tapas

8 small carrots – roughly 5 inches long (cut into hot dog shapes)

1 red bell pepper – nice and sweet if poss. (cut into 1 cm slices)

1 large onions (finely sliced)

2 handfuls spinach leaves (finely sliced)

Cooking oil

 

Marinade

4 tbs carrot cooking stock (or light vegetable stock)

3 tbs tamari or good soya sauce

1 clove garlic (sliced)

2 cm cube fresh ginger (sliced)

2 tbs red or white wine vinegar

2 teas liquid smoke

3 teas brown sugar

 

1 large avocado (de-stoned)

1/2 lemon (juice)

Large pinch salt

 

Dijon Mustard

4 small buns – your favourite type (cut in half)

Mini Spanish Notdogs plus trimmings

Do It

Half fill a small saucepan with water, bring to a rolling boil and add the carrots.  Simmer for 8 – 10 minutes, until a knife pierces them easily, but they are not too soft.  Place in chilled water to cool quickly.  Whisk together your marinade ingredients and pour over the cool carrots.  Cover and place in a fridge over night.

In a frying pan on a medium high, add 1 teas cooking oil and when warm, add your onions.  Fry for 7 minutes, add the peppers, fry for another 5 minutes, until the onions have turned golden brown and sweet and the peppers are soft.  Set aside.

Drain your carrots, keep the marinade.  Wash out the frying pan and add 1 teas cooking oil, place on a medium high heat and add your carrots.  Fry for around 10 minutes, drizzle over marinade regularly and keeping them turning in the pan.  This will give them a nice caramelised look all over.

Put your avocado, lemon juice and salt in a bowl and mash with a fork until smooth.  Alternatively, pop them in a blender and blitz.

Spread a thin layer of dijon mustard on your buns, sprinkle over some spinach, followed by some onions and peppers, a spoonful of avocado and top with a smoky carrot.

The full carrot style

Quick Roast Method

Preheat an oven to 220oC.  Make half of the marinade recipe.  Toss your carrots (whole, these look great just carrot shaped) in 2 teas cooking oil and a large pinch salt.

Place in the oven on a baking tray and roast for 45-55 minutes, until tender and nicely caramelised.  After 25 minutes in the oven, baste the carrots with marinade regularly.

Foodie Fact
Carrots are filled with beta-carotene or Vitamin A.  Which helps us see in the dark.  That’s what we’re told anyway.  This myth came from WWII when the Brits spread propoganda, apparently to confuse their adversaries.  The Ministry of Food (hello George Orwell) even created a cartoon called ‘Dr Carrot’, with sidekicks Caroty George and Clara Carrot (actually made by Disney), to get kids eating more carrots.  In WWII  sugar was rationed in Britain at that time and carrots were sometimes served on sticks to kids as a sweet substitute and used regularly to sweeten desserts.  So you won’t get night vision any time soon, but your eye sight will be helped if you eat plenty of Vitamin A.

Isla Plana – the view from our local cafe in Spain

One of my favourite places in the world, Mojon Beach

Sunset on the Costa Calida, always a pleasure

Music to cook pinchos by……….

Categories: healthy, Lunch, Music, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Side Dish, Summer, Travel, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , | 6 Comments

Summer Veg & Almond Cous Cous with Tahini Sauce

Summer Cous Cous with Tahini Sauce

Just landed back in the UK and am chuffed to be back in the kitchen playing with pots, pans and potatoes.  I love travelling but finding a good kitchen to cook in can be a challenge.  It’s probably the only thing I really miss.  I’ve been munching my way around the world for a while now and am ready to recreate a huge chunk of global tastiness this summer on the BHK.  I hadn’t had cous cous for an age and really enjoyed it recently in Beirut.  Although not exactly traditional Lebanese (more of that to come) I thought it would be a nice way to get the BHK recipes rolling again.

This is a quick, easy and delicious summer dish, I love these flavours; a little spice, apricots, crunchy almonds.  YUM!  Plus a creamy tahini sauce.  It takes no time at all to get together and when served with a salad or two, maybe even some warm flatbread, you’ve got a meal every one will enjoy.

So we’re just getting settled into the British vibe again, I must admit that it’s still quite a shock not waking up in India!  It was one of the hottest days of the year yesterday and I wore a big fleece and scarf.  I’ll get used to it!!  2017 has been an incredible year so far, Nepal, India, Lebanon and even a little taste of Ethiopia, but we can’t wait to tour around the UK for all the events, festivals and retreats we have planned.   Maybe see you there!!

We’ll be all over the place this year and have more plans in the oven.  As you know, the BHK has always been a nice little hobby for us, but in 2017 we plan on doing more than ever.  To keep up to date with stuff, check out our events page.  Jane is also working on our new newsletter and we are always posting things on the BHK FB page and I’m even tweeting.

If you get the chance to try this, or any of our recipes out, let us know in the comments.  We love to hear about your kitchen adventures.

 

Down on the beach, Dinas Dinlle, North Wales

Recipe Notes

All Spice is best used sparingly, if you don’t have any, go for a spice mix like garam masala or Ras El Hanout and use 1 teas more.

I really like millet and it makes a great sub for cous cous. It’s healthy and gluten free.

You might like to roast your almonds in an oven for 10 minutes to bring out the amazing flavours.

Summer Veg & Almond Cous Cous with Tahini Sauce

The Bits – Light lunch/ dinner for 4
1 large onion (sliced)
2 cloves garlic (crushed)
1 pepper (all cut into small cubes)
1 small aubergine
1 small courgette
1 large tomato

1 tbs cumin seeds

1 1/2 tbs sesame seeds
1 teas all spice (or other spice mix)
2 tbs cooking oil
Salt + pepper

1 handful dried apricots (chopped)

1 big handful almonds (roughly sliced)

1 handful parsley (chopped)

Cous cous (150g is good for 4)

Tahini Sauce
5 tbs light tahini
1/2 lemon (juice)
1 small clove garlic (crushed)
Salt (to taste)
Water

Do It
In a large frying pan on medium high heat, warm the oil and add the cumin and sesame seeds. Stir and fry for 1/2 minute and then add the onions and cook for a few minutes.  Now add salt, pepper, all spice, aubergine, courgette and peppers. Gently stir and fry for 5-7 minutes, until all is soft. Add the tomatoes and apricots, take off the heat and pop a lid on. Set aside. The tomatoes will be just soft and not overcooked.

Cook your cous cous, follow the pack instructions. Using veg stock adds more flavour and a few twists of black pepper is nice.

In a bowl, mix the tahini sauce bits together with a fork, adding water gradually until you have a thin sauce.

Serve warm or cold. Arrange the cous cous on a large plate, pile the veg in the middle and top with parsley and almonds. Drizzle with tahini sauce as you like.

We’re sharing our time between beautiful Wales and Durham this year.

Foodie Fact

Almonds are packed with healthy fats and minerals, it’s been shown that nuts can actually help you lose weight.  We eat the sweet almonds, but bitter almonds are used to flavour things like amaretto and almond extract.

Many people I speak to don’t realise what a good source of antioxidants nuts are and are put off because of high fat contents.  The fat’s in most nuts are healthy and they come with so many more benefits.  Plus, they taste incredible.

Lovely walk in Durham yesterday along the river Wear, seems a long way from the Ganges!!

 

 

Categories: Dinner, Healthy Eating, Lunch, Nutrition, Recipes, Salads, Summer, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Everyone’s Lovin’ Jack! Ten interesting facts about jackfruit

A giant jackfruit, found dangling by a restaurant in Goa which cooked up an amazing jack and coco curry

Everyone is loving Jackfruit at the minute, all those pulled jack fruit sandwiches and have you tried jackfruit ice cream? It’s incredible! But how much do we know about this strange fruit? Don’t let the spikes put you off, this is a super fruit in every way!!  I’m lucky on my global wanders to have tried many varieties of jackfruit and different dishes. I’ve never met a jackfruit dish I didn’t like!

Here are 10 facts about this strange, spiky and wonderful fruit:

1) Jackfruit, the yellow bit we eat, is actually called an ‘aril’. It’s a flower and we eat the edible petals. One jackfruit contains hundreds of flowers and one tree can grow 250 fruits per year.

2) Jackfruit seeds are edible and healthy most people roast them. You can also boil them up and make a lovely attempt at hummus. Comes highly recommended.

3) It is said to smell and taste like a cross between very ripe bananas and pineapple, with a twist of apple and mango. It’s a confused fruit! I think that’s quite accurate but there is definitely a custardy, juicy fruit gum-ness there too.

4) There are many varities of jackfruit, some are pithy inside and some are very sweet and tender.

5) In Indonesia, they make chips out of jackfruit, called Kripik.  You can buy them and eat them like crisps.

6) Jackfruit seeds, when roasted, taste like brazil nut crossed with a chestnut. You can boil, bake and roast them.  They can also be ground into a flour.

7) Using jackfruit as a meat substitute is nothing new. In Thailand it’s sought after by vegetarians and historically called ‘gacch patha’ (tree mutton!)

8) In Indonesia, the wood of the jackfruit tree is used to maked the famous ‘gamelan’ drums.  Popular in Bali (see video below).  The leaves are also fed to cattle, but also make a nice alternative to other greens.

9) Every part of the jackfruit tree is medicinally beneficial, the bark, leaves, pulp, skin and roots.  It is also antibacterial and anitviral.

10) Jackfruit is the heavyweight of all fruits, growing to four feet long and weighing in at over 35kgs.  That’s a lot of burger right there!

Cooking wise, the main attraction to Jackfruit for me is the interesting texture, when unripe, nothing else gives that stringy, chewiness when cooked. It is meat-like and an ideal plant-based dish to serve meat eaters.  Also the flavour is totally unique, in fact, Jackfruit is a very strange fruit indeed, like nothing else.  As the world goes meat free (it’s happening!) we’ll be increasingly familiar with Jack.  It’s going mainstream!  Great news as the production of meat is THE number one cause of global warming.

Delicious Indonesian jackfruit dish ‘Gudeg’ – actually being served at breakfast

I’ve been in Goa for a while and jackfruit grows everywhere.  Jackfruit has been hailed as a ‘future food’, due to the fact that it grows so easy and is high in nutrition. It requires minimal fuss and pruning. One jackfruit can feed many and some say it will help to ease the issue of global hunger/ food security. Jackfruit is now being grown in parts Africa for example. But we all know really that there is more than enough food produced in the world, its more a question of distribution and ecomonics. I don’t think jackfruit alone is going to save the day.

For me, the country who does jackfruit the best is Indonesia. I’ve never been to a country where it is used so frequently. Almost every meal I had in a proper place had at least one dish using jackfruit. The dish ‘Gudeg’ is a stand out staple. Of course, it makes for a great dessert. It’s a very useful plant, although I have been warned that in places like Brazil, it can be invasive. This is probably not such a problem in rural Wales as it will only grow in warm places.

Fairly standard Indonesian lunch! You have jackfruit and it’s leaves here, plus tofu and tempeh.  Woah!

I also tried a ‘Pulled Jackfruit Burger’ in quite a cool little place in Yogayakarta, Indonesia. This is a contemporary twist on things and its great. You’ve probably tried one yourself?  I’ll be cooking it when I get back to the UK for sure. Unfortunately, up here in the Himalayas, it’s not a Jackfruit zone. Great organic veggies though.

You can eat Jackfruit raw, I love it like that, but they have to be ripe. It’s also interesting when it pops up in a salad. Jackfruit originated in India and in the South you can find people selling it as a street snack and, of course, in parts of India it’s made into a curry. I know they sometimes make candies/ sweets out of the juice.

Jackfruit is easily confused with the pungent freak that is Durian (see below). Popular in South East Asia and banned from public transport there (it reeks like something gone way rotten and wrong). Durian is an acquired taste and once (or if) you can get over the stink, has an incredible flavour.  When I did the TV show ‘Meat vs Veg’ I was tasked with wandering around the streets of London, trying to get people to try it.  Some did and liked it, but most just looked sickened!  Again, something totally unique. Go to Thailand, try it out. The Thai’s adore the stuff. Durian looks different, bigger spikes and doesn’t grow as large.

Pulled BBQ Jackfruit Burger, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Nutrition wise, for something quite starchy, its got lots to offer. It’s low in calories with good levels of Vitamin C and Vitamin B6 (which is quite rare). Its also a reasonable source of minerals and a good source of carbohydrates, fats, protein and has plenty of fibre.  The seeds have plenty of vitamin A.  Jackfruit has zero cholesterol.

Although it’s not exactly local (and you know we love our local produce) I guess there is little difference tucking into a pineapple or mango. Jackfruit is a treat and when you look at the prices, this makes it even more so. I think for a every now and again, taste of something different, you can’t beat Jack!

Cambodian Jack Vendour
https://goo.gl/echunh

You can buy jackfruit canned in most countries and if you buy a whole jackfruit, be warned, they can be a trick customer.  They ooze a white sticky liquid when cut into and it takes ages to pick out the little fruits, seperate the seeds etc.  It is well worth it, the texture of a fresh jackfruit is different from the tinned.

Have you tried Jackfruit? How did you cook it? It seems like a fresh and new ingredient in the UK and beyond that everyone is falling for.  We love it!

To avoid confusion, this is Durian. Bigger spikes. You normally smell it before you see it.

Evidence of its putrid odour. Banned on public transport in Thailand and other countries. Phew!

We’d love to share with you what we’re up to!

Join our newsletter for upcoming events, cooking retreats, giveways, recipes and ebooks 

Or join our new vegan cooking group on facebook, share your recipes and thoughts with a nice bunch of people.

Finally, some fascinating and hypnotic ‘Gamelan‘ music from Indonesia:

Categories: healthy, Music, Nutrition, photography, Superfoods, Travel, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

Mango & Ginger Lassi – Goodbye to Goa

Mangoes, mangoes, everywhere and I can eat them all! I have tried this though and can’t recommend it! Mangoes are literally falling from the trees across the state which is actually hazardous. Some are quite hefty and unripe. Every time I step outside my little place there’s a new pile greeting me which is the perfect morning pick me up. Many however are split and covered in ants or other bizarre insects. I really want to catch each mango as it falls and give it a good home. How about a lassi? I’m in India, as you may know, and this is one of the best ways to enjoy the local glut of mg’s. Creamy, smooth and packed with fragrant fruitiness and that little twist of slightly sour yoghurt. Let’s lassi!!

Now that is what I’m talking about. Look at the colour. It screams “MANGO!”

I am living under several huge mango trees, in between we have coconut and banana trees. Tropical fruit salads rain on our doorstep. It’s a lovely patch of countryside with wild buffalo roaming around and a great view, the cicadas (those buzzing little insect critters) are on the go all the time, like some exotic, pulsating soundtrack.

I was wandering around the other day and was a bit startled to see a basket being lowered down from a tree, laden with mangoes. I looked up to see one of the mango men (a group of local superheroes) about 30 ft up wearing only a big smile and pair of Liverpool AFC shorts. He was nimble and fearless. I was filled with admiration, he climbed way up, maybe 50 ft, just to bring me and the family I live with our daily mango fix. How many people have you met who risk their life for fruit?!! A rare breed.

Mango Man

Breakfast! Mankurad mangoes

So, mangoes everywhere. What to do with them all. Helen, the Mum of the family I’m staying with, pops them all in a massive cauldron-like pan and simmers until jammy. Jam! Mango jam, thick and naturally sweet. If your mangoes are super sweet, this is a great idea. There are many varieties of mango and in India, people are mango mad! In the cities they sell for big bucks, there are many sought after varieties but ‘Alphonso’ is top of the, ahem, tree.

Goan’s are ever laid back about things. When I ask around excitedly, “what variety of mango is this?”, they look at me curiously, shake there head slowly and shrug, “it’s a mango Lee.” Basically, just chill out and eat it. I think they have pity for the way I complicated things. It’s a mango. Enjoy. Ok. (Actually, I managed to find out that one of the trees is the highly prized Mankurad variety, which explains why the family are so popular with the neighbours.)

Patrick, Helen’s husband, just knocked on the door asking if I liked brinjal (aubergine). We’re having a leaving dinner tonight. The family have a very Portugese surname, most Goan’s I meet have an affinity with their Portuguese past. They only left in the 60’s and the Euro/ Christian feel lingers. Goan’s can even get a passport for Portugal if they like and many do. Goa is like the rest of India in some ways but generally it has the feel of a different country. That’s one of the things I most love about India, the diversity on every level.

Goan mango eating technique. Just tear it apart with your hands.

The brothers who I’m staying with (Andrew’s one of them) actually make their living from selling massive ex-petrol tanks filled with cashew feni (think moonshine but nicer) to local bars, some like little pirate speakeasy’s right on the coast. I love them. Not much bigger than a cupboard and many actually looking like driftwood cupboards.  They’re packed full of rough fishermen and cheery characters and well proportioned police men (off duty I think). I like the Antique Bar (I can’t tell you where it is, it’s like buried treasure) where you expect Long John Silver to walk in at any minute with a parrot on his shoulder. They also play great blues and flamenco.

GOAN CUISINE

I’ve been regularly inspired and occasionally blown off my stool by the intensity of Goan cuisine and tonight will be my last taste of the real deal for a while. I love the coconut and the unique spice mixes, the dish Xacuti stands out, many locals I’ve spoken to make their own spice mixes and even use garam masala style blends more common up north. Vinegar (toddy, made from coconut trees) is used in a lot of cooking, gives a twang, mirroring many Portugese dishes.  That’s what I love about Goa its a mixed up place in a good way, it’s a cocktail of cultures and influences. Of course, the hippies had a big say and many locals who live near the beaches see the inner hippy still in the Westerners they meet. Like we’re all open hearted, free seekers of something else. The reality is of course now a bit different.

It’s hard to imagine, but the Portugese were the first to introduce potatoes, tomatoes, chillies, guavas and cashews to Goa and India.  This trend can be seen all over the world, the early Spanish and Portugese explorers/ conquistadors were responsible for introducing us to many of our staples that may now seem indigenous to our countries.  Vindaloo is also a Portugese dish, a name derived from the Portugese for garlic and wine.  Although Goan food is heavy on the seafood and now meat, I found loads of plant-based options and the delicious masalas and sauces can easily be used in vegan cooking.

Jane taking a closer look

One of my favourite things about riding around Goa is the generally fading Portugese architecture, so many beautiful houses, many like mini-castles.  Even the towns, with their central squares and large ex-government buildings still have a whiff of the wealthy imperial gang.  They were here for nearly 500 years after all and the coast line is dotted with their crumbling hill top forts.  Each village has at least one imposing, brilliantly white Catholic church. Most are locked but I like wandering around the graveyards.

Elsewhere in Goa there are still big dance parties a plenty but things have quitened down quite a bit and become commercialised.  You’ll find the occasional hippy playing didgeridoos and sitars, plenty of packaged tourists (mainly Russian) and people from all over India settled and taking it easy here. At weekend, Goa fills with tourists from the big cities of India looking for a little Kingfisher soaked debauchery. They find it then set fireworks off.

Patrick just said to not worry, ‘we’re all coming and going’, meaning to wait for a few minutes. I feel like that, it’s been a very Goan day. Everything has been coming and going very nicely. The sunset perfectly and the ocean was calm. Patrick also says ‘take it easy, you never know when time comes.’ as a goodbye. I think we know what that means and its true. Wherever coconut trees sway I’ve found this attitude. Take it easy before it’s too late and let things flow. So I am. You see, that’s it for me, I’m off to the Himalayas tomorrow so it’s goodbye to these…..

Goodbye Goa!

But back to the sweet onslaught of mangos that I’ve enjoyed over the past few months. I heard that in India it is said that someone with a mango tree on their land is wealthy indeed. I agree. I had three 60 footers keeping me company. I’ve felt rich beyond imagination. But things move on, I think apples are coming into season in the Himalayas……

This lassi uses a creamy coconut base and a kick of ginger to keep things lively, but also to balance a little of the overpowering sweetness from friend mango. In the UK and other non-mango growing countries, getting a supply of ripe, non-fibrous mangoes can be tough.  Try and wait until they’re nicely soft for best results.  Lassi is full of tang, some lovely sourness normally coming from the yoghurt. Try to use unsweetened yoghurt if you can get your mitts on it, then you’re in charge of the sweetness.

I’ve found you can eat mango three times a day quite happily. Here’s breakfast, proper Goan porridge (with tahini, coconut oil, cashews and pineapple)

Mango & Ginger Lassi

For 2 glasses

The Bits

250ml Coconut Yoghurt or Soya Yoghurt (unsweetened is best)

1 large, ripe mango (peel, cut all the fruit off the pip and chop up roughly)

75ml coconut milk or soya milk

1 big handful ice cubes or a splash of cold water

1/2 lime (juice)

1/2 inch fresh ginger (crushed)

Sweetener – as you like (depending on the sweetness of the mango)

Optional – large pinch ground cardamom

(I know all about the pink straw, but Helen insisted that we must have a straw.)

Mango and Ginger Lassi

Do It

Place all ingredients in a blender and blitz.  Add lime juice, blitz again, taste for sweetness and adjust how you fancy.  Served chilled in your nicest glasses.

Foodie Fact

Mangoes, super sweet and a little tart are really a ‘super fruit!’  They are very high in vitamin A and C and are also a good source of fibre.  They contain minerals like potassium and copper.

Anyoone tried a Chiku? One of the most amazing fruits, like a date meets a custard apple disguised as a small potato.

The jack fruits weren’t quite ready. Look at the size of them!! Next time;)

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Categories: Healthy Eating, Healthy Living, Recipes, Smoothies, Summer, Superfoods, Travel, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

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