Autumn

Vegan Thai Yellow Curry with Squash & Fava Beans

2017-09-28 18.17.44

Thai Yellow Curry with Squash & Fava Beans

This is an ideal, quick and easy, curry at this time of year, using seasonal squash (one of my favs) plus British grown fava beans from Hodmedods and all the beautiful flavours of Thailand in a creamy and rich coconut sauce.  It’s one of those dishes that most vegetables will love and mingle into, add whatever combos you love, I kept it simple here.

SQUASH SEASON

There are so many squashes around at this time of year, the one I used here was a Hokkaido Squash which is a great all-rounder for roasting, stew/ curries and grating or slicing into a salad.  Hokkaido is lovely and sweet with a brilliant orange colour and is normally quite small, making it ideal stuffing size.  You’ll also find loads of Acorns, Kabocha, Crown Prince (I love that one) and if you’re lucky, a Spaghetti Squash, which is well worth seeking out.  When roasted and fluffed with a fork, it forms a spaghetti like texture.

A lot of people I meet don’t like squash, strange as that may sound to some of you.  It’s normally down to the fact that pumpkin is so popular, the variety we carve strange faces into at Halloween (although we always used a giant swede – the vegetable that is).  That type of pumpkin is a little watery and lacking in flavour, not great eatin’, I’d recommend any of the winter squashes way ahead of old scary pumpkin head.

RECIPE INSPIRATION VIA BANGKOK SUBURB

This recipe is based on one of our favourite places to eat in Bangkok, Lemon Farm Organic Restaurant near, well, it’s kind of popped in the middle of a mass of sprawling Bangkok-ness (Chatuchak).  It’s an out of the way place if you’re a tourist, a mainly residential area where we had the pleasure of staying with the awesome Kessi for a few weeks.  There was really very little to do, so Jane and I did a lot of cooking (using only a rice cooker and kettle) and made a little home on the 13th floor of a tower overlooking the sprawling, buzzing city of Bangkok.

Down the market – Bangkok ’16

This dish is modelled on something cooked for us by the amazing Buppha, head chef/ manager at Lemon Farm, which was a sweet, rich and coconut-y lentil dish from her hometown of Phuket in the South.  I had never tried Thai lentils before and it really inspired me.  She made it with red lentils and always shared her recipes generously, but I was normally trying to write them down in a little notebook whilst holding a plate of food and being jostled by crowd of hungry Lemon Tree punters.  It got packed at office lunch time you see.  So I free styled this recipe and used the best of what was to hand, but the taste is similar, reminders of good times for sure.

THAI-STYLE (EAT!)

Phuket is a foodie centre, which can be said for all parts of Thailand I’ve found, and the dishes there are distinctly chilli-fied!  Pow!!    Buppha used to wake up at 4am with her team of chefs to prepare the days array of dishes and was very passionate about all things cooking, many of the recipes had been handed down to her by her mother/ grandmother.  The food was served buffet style, with a little noodle soup spot in the corner of an organic food shop.  It was cheap, very varied, plentiful and many dishes were vegan friendly, using some tofu and lots of interesting veggies.  Buppha just loved cooking with vegetables and they even had their own little vegetarian festival.  A week of vegetarian cooking that falls between September and October most years, most Thai’s go veggie at that time.  This years festival ended yesterday!

This one’s full of the flavours of Thailand!

VEGAN THAI TRAVEL

Thailand is of course a Buddhist country, but meat is very common in dishes, to the point that eating without planning in Bangkok and all over Thailand can be a challenge.  This is just one of those things, the veg markets in Thailand are some of my favourite in the world.  In fact the veg market in a little fishing town called Prachuap Kiri Khan is probably my favourite in the world (not to mention they have a vegan restaurant and a couple of vegetarian restaurants, plus an outdoor food market every night).   These veggies just don’t seem to surface on restaurant menus though, but this is a gripe of mine all over the world (one you’ve probably heard before).  It seems that most veggies are used in the home and meat is a ‘treat’ when people go out to eat.  Having said that, Thai’s seem to eat out all the time, everyday, such is the abundance of street eats to be found.  No country is like it, most streets have carts, wagons and tables vending all kinds of local delicacies.  It’s almost impossible to keep up with what is going on and taste bud overload can occur.

Prachuap Kiri Khan is a small town, on the coast south of Bangkok, but we managed to stumble upon a vegan festival there!

Thailand is not the easiest country to travel around as a vegan, especially when you get off the tourist trail.  English is not spoken generally and like I said, vegan options need to be sniffed out and the outrageous abundance of Thai street food is pretty much off the menu.  Still, when you do find vegan hot spots, like the tourist friendly Chang Mai or one of the main tourist islands like Koh Samui, you’ve hit Thai food heaven.  Thai food is very diverse, much more interesting than I imagined on my first visit.  I was ignorant to the geographical differences in ingredients and flavours, styles and approaches.  I should have known better really, as this is nothing new in the world of food, most countries have a similarly rich tapestry of dishes and produce as you wander around.  Nowadays, when I return, that first Green Curry or Pad Thai Noodles is always a very special moment.

There is such a buzz to eating in Bangkok, eating out really means that, outside, huddled over a table near a main road, or near one of the hundreds of canals (think watery thoroughfare).  Theres a bustle and energy to it all, loads of skill and panache in preparing and serving food and you can spend all night walking around, eating tiny delicious portions of things and just keep going until the early hours.  It’s one of the highest forms of grazing, snacking at its best, Thai style!

Big Thanks to Hodmedods!

Just for being awesome really!!  They have such an amazing array of British grown pulses and seeds, so many interesting things (to me), like Blue Peas, Carelina Seeds, Black Badger Peas, Fava Umami Paste, loads of ingredients that get me excited about cooking, trying new things.   If you’re interested, they even do a Big Vegan Box!

Hodmedods were kind enough to send us some of their pulses and bits to cook with at our recent retreats and I think their fava beans are a cut above.  Filled with amazing flavour, I love making Fave E Cicoria, a really simple Puglian bean dip.  Making it with Hodmedods beans makes a huge difference to the flavour.  The dish is simply made with cooked fava beans, garlic and a little olive oil.  Doesn’t sound like much admittedly, but with those beans, it’s dynamite!!  PS – Well done on winning the 2017 Best Food Producer at the BBC Food Awards.  To celebrate they’re offering 15% discount on orders.

Recipe Notes
You can use any lentils you like, red lentils will take considerably less time to cook. Green/ brown lentils, dark green/ puy lentils will all work nicely.  Mung beans are also very ace.

Not all coconut milk is equal.  Check the cans, we’re looking for plenty of coconut content, if it’s around 50%, its going to be quite weak.  Still nice, but not as creamy.  We’ve been talking about the differences between Coconut Milk and Coconut Cream over on Facebook in the BHK Vegan Cooking Group.  I like this dish really rich and really creamy.

Check that your Yellow Thai Curry Paste is vegan.  It normally is.  The Green and Red Thai Curry pastes in most UK shops are not vegan.

Shop bought Thai curry paste can be high in salt, this effects our seasoning.

I didn’t have any coriander or fresh chilli, but that would have been the perfect addition to the topping of this dish.

2017-09-28 18.16.47

Thai Yellow Curry with Squash & Fava Beans

Quick Thai Yellow Curry with Squash & Fava Beans

The Bits – For 4

250g fava beans

900ml water

 

5-6 kaffir lime leaves

1.5 inches ginger (finely chopped)

4 cloves garlic (finely chopped)

1-2 teas chilli flakes

½ head small savoy cabbage (sliced)

1 small hokkaido squash – 300g (peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch chunks)

1 big handful desiccated coconut/ coconut flakes (toasted is nice)

1 can coconut milk

2 tbs coconut oil

4-5 tbs yellow curry paste (vegan)

1 tbs coconut/ brown sugar (optional sweetness)

Sea salt

 

Toppings (optional)

A little more desiccated coconut/ coconut flakes

1 red chilli (finely sliced)

1 handful coriander (fresh)

1/2 lime (cut into wedges/ slices)

The Bits

Do It
Wash and drain the fava beans. Cover with cold water in a large saucepan, bring to a boil, then simmer for 30-40 minutes, until soft. Add more hot water if needed.

While that’s going on, in a large frying pan, add the coconut oil, warm on medium high heat and add the onion and fry for 7 minutes until golden, then add the garlic and ginger, fry for 2 minutes. Add the coconut milk, chilli, desiccated coconut, lime leaves, squash and cabbage, bring to a boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the squash is soft. Stir in the yellow Thai paste, sugar and cooked fava beans (including cooking broth), warm through for a few minutes, adding a little hot water if needed.  Check seasoning.

Serve with warm rice, more toasted coconut, lime wedges and sliced red chillies if you like it hot.

*To add a Thai flavour to your rice, why not add a few lime leaves and a handful of coconut when you start cooking it.*

Foodie Fact

You all probably know that I love my beans!  But favas…..they’re almost a different league.  PACKED with flavour and so, so good for us.  Fava beans were dried and ground down to make bread traditionally in the UK, it was one of our major crops before we went wild for wheat and potatoes.  There is a rich history of fava/ broad bean growing in the UK, but growing up, they always seems a little exotic, something from the Middle East maybe, not the Midlands.

Fava/ Broad Beans are rich in shiny things like Vitamin K, Thaimin, zinc, potassium and loads of other minerals.  They are full of protein and have no saturated fat or cholesterol.  They also contain good amounts of iron and folate (one of the vitamin B bunch), plus loads of fibre.

Categories: Autumn, Curries, Dinner, gluten-free, healthy, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , | 9 Comments

Homemade Blackberry Vinegar – Free Food!

Blackberries.  You can't escape them in Autumn!

Blackberries. You can’t escape them in Autumn!

Its that time of year, when blackberries are everywhere and we need inspiration outside crumbles and cakes.  Jane and I try to pick as many as possible, although sometimes its a thankless task.  They are not the easiest fruits to harvest (especially wearing shorts!)  Braving all those thorns is well worth it though.  Blackberries are one of my favourite berries and so versatile.  Vinegar may not be the most obvious way to use them but turning fruit into vinegar is wonderfully simple and the best thing about it is, they last for an age. Perfect for preserving our seasonal berry gluts.  Fruit vinegar is also quite an expense in the shops so you’re saving a few pennies.

REASONS TO GO BLACKBERRY PICKING

  1. Once you’re out there, it’s actually loads of fun!
  2. Eating blackberries makes our brains work better and also make our skin look younger.
  3. They are FREE!
  4. You can use the leaves of the blackberry plant.  We dry them out and use them to make tea.  The most tender leaves work best.

FREE-STYLE FORAGER

Its a good idea to have some bags or punnets in your car, when you see a blackberry hot spot, you can leap out and share in the wealth.  You can also arrange a family/ group of friends collective forage.  This means you can prepare vinegar or blackberry jams or compotes together in big pans.  This works out more cost effective and there is something very rewarding about a jar of homemade, foraged jam in the heart of winter.  Full of good memories and nutritional vitality.

Blackberry vinegar can be used in salad dressing or drank with some hot water (think a hot cordial) for a vitamin boost on a cold autumn day. You may also like to try roasting beetroots with the vinegar, similar to when we use balsamic vinegar in roasting roots. The results are delicious and are all the more satisfying because you made it! For free! From the hedgerow!!

So get out there with your punnets (or buckets).  Free berries for all!  That’s (almost) free food!

Beach House Blackberries

Beach House Blackberries

The Bits – Makes roughly 300ml Vinegar

250g blackberries
125ml white wine vinegar
150g unrefined light brown sugar

Do It

Soak blackberries in vinegar for 5 day to 1 week. The longer you leave them, the more concentrated the flavour. We left ours for 10 days.

You can use a sieve to support the muslin if you choose to lightly press the blackberries.

You can use a sieve to support the muslin if you choose to lightly press the blackberries.

Strain using muslin. You can either leave hanging above a vessel for 12 hours or pass through the muslin. The blackberry pulp left over should be relatively dry.

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Add the vinegar and sugar to a saucepan and bring gently to a boil, simmer for 5 minutes stirring regularly. The sugar should be completely combined with the vinegar.

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Leave the vinegar to cool and the store in a clean bottle with a decent cork/lid.

Bottle it up and enjoy!

Bottle it up and enjoy!

Foodie Fact

Blackberries are high in vitamin C and the very dark colour of blackberries means lots of anti-oxidants.  One of the highest in fruit.  The high tannin content of blackberries helps with intestinal inflammation, it has a soothing effect.  The high vitamin K content in blackberries is said to regulate menstruation and aids in muscle relaxation.

Categories: Autumn, Foraging, Healthy Living, Nutrition, Recipes, Vegan, Wild food | Tags: , , , , | 9 Comments

Griddled Ruby Grapefruit and Beetroot Salad with Toasted Cobnuts and Aronia Berry Dressing

 

Chargrilled Ruby Grapefruit, Beetroot, and Cobnut Salad with Aronia Berry Dressing

Chargrilled Ruby Grapefruit, Beetroot, and Cobnut Salad with Aronia Berry Dressing

We’ve had a real foodie time of it recently and this salad reflects that.  Not only have I picked up some amazing produce at Ludlow and Beaumaris Food Festivals, but I have also been inspired by the chefs I’ve met.  This is a salad that is caught between summer and autumn, quite apt in September.  It’s also caught somewhere between a restaurant table and home kitchen.  Do not fear, all of the these ingredients are easily interchangeable and there is only a few, quick, prep steps.

This dish is a looker and is something you could serve at dinner party and it would go down a treat.  Its full of bold flavours and the Aronia berry vinegar really lights things up.  Like all salads, its a perfect way of expressing gorgeous produce.  We have made these portions main course size, but you could easily scale things down and serve as a starter.

Some of the special bits; cobnuts (from Ludlow), organic beetroots from Tyddyn Teg and Aronia Berry Vinegar

Some of the special bits; cobnuts (from Ludlow), organic beetroots from Tyddyn Teg Farm and Aronia Berry Vinegar

I think this is the best way to cook beetroots.  Although my mind does change often. I also love charring citrus.  Aine Carlin reminded me how cool charring citrus can be with this simple and delicious dessert recipe ‘Cashew Cream and Griddled Oranges’.  Check it out on youtube.  Aine’s new cookbook is out soon, which is very exciting news.

WHAT’S A COBNUT THEN?

Basically its a hazelnut.  This is the perfect time of year to pick them up and when they are fresh and young, they are plump and have a light, creamy taste and a texture similar to coconut.  They are lighter than a hazelnut when roasted and something that is well worth a try.  Cobnuts were only introduced to the UK in the 19 th century and they are famously from Kent.  In this salad they bring crunch and richness.   Use them as you would use a hazelnut.

Cobnuts -de-shelled and soaked

Cobnuts -de-shelled and soaked

ARONIA BERRIES

We met a lovely group of people at Beaumaris, Beri Da, who are growing Aronia berries in the next valley from us.  Incredible to think that these things are happening so close and you miss them!  We have tried a lot of food and nibbles over this weekend, but some really stand out.  Beri Da is certainly one of them.  Everything they produce is delicious and something a little different.

Beri Da is a small family ran business and you can read more about their story here.  Aronia berries are like blueberries but more intense and packed with even more antioxidants and good stuff.  They are native to North America but are increasingly being grown in the UK.  They are thriving near Mount Snowdon and the guys have just planted even more bushes at the base of the mountain.  A very scenic place for superfoods to grow!

The Aronia vinegar we bought is very intense, fruity and fragrant. A little goes a long way.  We also have some chutney made with beetroot which is just too good to eat right now.  We need to hide it away and dream about it for a while.  Its fair to say that Aronia berries are going down well in the BHK.  We are hoping to pop over and help with the next harvest, I’m not sure how many berries are going to make the basket!

These beetroots were so good looking, I love that crazy, deep purple.

These beetroots were so good looking, I love that crazy, deep purple.

I’m going to write more about the brilliant producers we met over the weekend in our next post.  I’ll also let you know how our first cooking demo’s and book signings went at food festivals.  We started at one of the biggest and surely one of the best, Ludlow.  It was a blast!

VEGFEST 2015

If you haven’t voted in Vegfest 2015’s massive vegan poll, tututututututututttttt!  There are loads of vegan products, authors, suppliers etc to be voted for.  You’ll find ‘Peace & Parsnips’ in the ‘Best Vegan Cookbook’ catergory along with a host of other excellent plant based cookbooks.  The Vegfest is like the vegan Oscar’s and we’ll be down there doing a cooking demo.  Is going to be HUGE!  Exciting stuff.

Lets get cooking……

Recipe Notes:

When frying the beetroots you can use any fruit vinegar, blueberry, raspberry, blackberry etc but all will be different.  Some sweeter, some more potent.  You just need to taste and adjust accordingly.  For frying the beetroots you can also use balsamic vinegar and save your precious fruit vinegar for the dressing.

If you chargrill the grapefruit for too long, they will begin to fall apart.  Keep it to roughly a minute each side, we’re just looking for a few nice griddle marks to add a smokiness to the citrus flavours.  Its well worth the little extra hassle.

I have added avocado for a little bit of richness, but you could easily use cashew cheese or even well drained and marinated tofu.

Our Aronia berry vinegar is very potent, you may need to add more fruit vinegar to balance the dressing nicely.  It should be quite tart with good acidity and a nice twist of sweetness.

The rapeseed oil we use here is good quality, single press, made like olive oil-type stuff.  The flavour is sensational and we are loving Blodyn Aur or Bennett and Dunn.  Both excellent and part of a new wave of quality rapeseed oil producers in the UK.

This recipe makes just enough dressing.  Double the quantity if you’d like extra to be served on the table.

Nicely caramelised beetroots in Aronia berry vinegar - the smell was sensational!

Nicely caramelised beetroots in Aronia berry vinegar – the smell was sensational!

The Bits – For 4
6 medium beetroots (scrubbed and trimmed)
1 small cucumber (peeled and cut in 1/2 moons)
1 ruby grapefruit (peeled and cut into 1cm slices across)
2 handfuls de-shelled cobnuts or hazelnuts (toasted)
8 big handfuls beetroot leaves or spinach/ chard leaves (finely sliced, chop the stems too and keep separate for garnish)
1 avocado (peeled and cut into small chunks)
2 radish (thinly sliced)
2 big handful basil leaves
1 tbs rapeseed oil
2 teas aronia berry vinegar or other fruit vinegar (balsamic will do)

Aronia Berry Dressing
2 teas aronia vinegar (or other fruit vinegar)
3 tbs rapeseed oil
1/2 lemon juice
Pinch salt

Do It
In a saucepan, cover the beetroots with water and add 1/2 teas salt, bring to a boil and lower to a simmer. Pop lid on and cook for 45 minutes. Remove the beetroots with a slotted spoon, keep the cooking broth to drink or use as a colourful stock. Pop the beets back in the pan and pop the lid back on.

Make the dressing by whisking everything together (with a fork if you like) in a small bowl.

Grab a griddle pan and very lightly oil, place on a high heat. When hot pop the grapefruit slices on. Leave to cook for a minute, they don’t take long. Flip them over using a thin spatula and cook for a minute on the other side. Now do the same with your cucumber slices. One minute each side. Set aside.

Peel the skin off the beetroots (you may like to wear clean marigolds or other plastic gloves for this job). Using a teaspoon helps to bring the skin away from the beet. Cut the beetroots in half lengthways and then each half into four even pieces. Warm the oil in a frying pan and fry the beetroots for 10 minutes, turning them regularly. You should get some nice colour on them. Add the vinegar and toss the beetroots to cover with vinegar, this will help them caramelise nicely.  Cook for 2 minutes and they’re ready to go.

On large plates, scatter the leaves and top with grapefruit, cucumber, cobnuts, beetroots, avocado, sprinkle over the sliced beetroot roots, radish and basil, drizzle liberally with dressing.

Chargrilled Ruby Grapefruit, Beetroot and Cobnut Salad with Aronia Berry Dressing

Chargrilled Ruby Grapefruit, Beetroot and Cobnut Salad with Aronia Berry Dressing

Serve
Best served when the beetroots are still warm. We had ours with some steamed whole grains (millet, green lentils and buckwheat) tossed in a little lemon juice and rapeseed oil.

Foodie Fact

Nuts are good for you.  Very good for you.  Little nutritional powerhouses they are.  Cobnut kernels contain 17% protein by dry weight, and about 15% fibre.  Cobnuts are rich in vitamin E and calcium. They also contain vitamin B1 and B6.  Not bad!

Our foodie weekend salad with all the trimmings

Our foodie weekend salad with all the trimmings

Categories: Autumn, Healthy Eating, Local food, Lunch, Recipes, Salads, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Autumn’s End at the Beach House Kitchen

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

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

The Beach House Garden bracing itself for the Welsh winter

The Beach House Garden bracing itself for the Welsh winter

Our Hawthorn tree all red and sparkly

Our Hawthorn tree all red and sparkly

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

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

Autumn sunset off the Llyn Peninsula

Autumn sunset off the Llyn Peninsula

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

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

Kindling ready for the fire

Kindling ready for the fire

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

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

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

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

Stash of funky rocks from the beach

Stash of funky rocks from the beach

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

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

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

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

 

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

Quick Tempeh Stir Fry with Buckwheat Noodles, Rainbow Chard and Goji Berries (Gluten Free)

Autumn in a bowl (if you live in the Beach House that is!)

Autumn in a bowl (if you live in the Beach House that is!)

IT’S TIME THE WORLD TRIED TEMPEH!

Here’s a mid-belter to get the taste buds zinging, full of the things we need with winter just around the bend.  When the nights draw in (our clocks have just gone back in the UK which means it gets dark at around 4-5pm already!) we naturally turn to comfort foods rich in carbs to put some padding on for winter.  Stir fries are the ideal way of avoiding really heavy, stodgy grub at this time of year and because the ingredients are cooked quickly, at high heat, they retain more of their health giving properties.  The winter wok is a star and our bodies need a decent kick start to get us through this physically arduous time of year.

Stir fries are always and intense affair, its at the exciting, adrenaline rich end of the cooking spectrum.  You need to be organised, with a very hot pan and trusty spatula at the ready.  If you turn around to grab something, things can go horribly wrong!  This one it ever-so easy to get together and wok, with the pleasing addition of a few superfood-stylee trimmings.  Trust me, the name of this dish sounds far more complex than the cooking.

WHAT’S TEMPEH AND WHY?

Tempeh is so easy to prepare, highly fuss-free and packed with all the protein a vegan needs to sparkle.  Soya is best kept wholebean and the thing I love about tempeh is you can actually see the beans (see below).  Tempeh originated from the Indonesia area and is eaten extensively as a meat substitute, although it is surely appreciated for just being highly tasty (I prefer this approach).  It is whole soya beans, packed together and partly fermented which leads to the health benfits of soya being accentuated.  Our body can utilise its goodness more directly.

Tempeh is now relatively easy to track down in the UK and you can of course find it on line.  I like to eat it regularly, normally as an alternative to tofu.  It always seems like a treat when the tempeh is cracked open. You can buy it frozen in long logs in some Oriental shops/ supermarkets.  The tempeh we use here was in ‘log’ form.  You can steam this tempeh for 10 minutes to revitalise it before cooking.  Frozen tempeh is alot drier than jarred tempeh (which is suspended in brine) so it will absorb much more marinade.   Like most of these vegan, pulse based curd-like creations, it does need a nice, slow marinade to impart wonderful flavours.  Tempeh and tofu are really just ridiculously nutritious launch pads for high charged flavour rockets!!!!  I’ve gone for a straightforward marinade here and 30 minutes should do the trick, marinade wise, on a busy week night, although a couple of hours would be quite awesome.

Tempeh chunks mid marinade

Tempeh chunks mid marinade

Soba noodles are well up there in my noodle league.  They have a firm texture and loads of nutritional perks.  Just check the quantity of buckwheat to wheat if you’re keeping things low gluten.  Pure buckwheat noodles are available, but ‘soba’ noodles are normally a mix.

AUTUMNAL ANTI-OXIDANT FIX

Are we all familiar with goji berries?  They seem to have been a superfood for at least 3000 years now, originating somewhere in ancient China and always very highly regarded for their potent nutritional properties.  Goji’s are the ideal autumn/ winter defence blanket for all kinds of cold/ flu invasions.  Highly charged with anti-oxidants and happy chemicals, a handful of goji’s a day, keeps the snotty, coughy zombie man at bay.  You can pick them up all over the place now and they are the perfect winter salad/ stew ‘sprinkle’ of choice.  If you’re in the UK, try a rosehip as a more local substitute.  They have very similar properties, but would have looked a little incongruous on a highly Oriental style stir fry!

We also have peppers in the mix, which are very (very), very high in vitamin C.  One of the best sources in the vegetal world in fact.  Then we have our friend rainbow chard which is a green and we all know what they do.  Anything green and leafy is our bodies best friend, packed with vitamins and minerals (for more chard -based info – See the ‘Foodie Fact’ below).

If you are looking from serious detox properties from this wok wonder, I’d recommend taking it easier on the shoyu and mirin due to sodium and sugar (respectively) contents.  Our kidneys and liver are never happy to see high levels of salt and sweetness.

 

A WORD ON COOKING CHARD 

Chard contains some funky acids (oxalic acids), whilst not harmful, it is best to avoid them.  Our bodies can absorb the goodness of chard easier when the acids are out of the way.  The best way to do this it to steam or boil them for a few minutes.  Do not use this cooking liquid for soups or stocks.

Last night, we fancied something like a chow mein style dish, low on sauce and high on noodles.  To make this more of a soup, just add some shoyu/ tamari or miso to the water when cooking your noodles (taste the broth to decide how strong you like it) and serve ladled over the final dish.

The Bits – For 2

200g tempeh (cut into chunks, we like big ones, most people go for small 1 cm by 3cm oblong shapes)

1 tbs sunflower oil

1/2 teas toasted sesame oil

 

Marinade

3 teas shoyu/ tamari or good soya sauce (ie not heavily processed)

2 teas mirin or sake/ cream sherry with a pinch of sugar

1 1/2 teas sesame oil

 

4 large stems rainbow chard (finely sliced) – spinach, kale, savoy cabbage etc..any green leaf is cool

1 bell pepper (diced)

1 medium carrot (cut into thin batons, or sliced)

1/2 inch ginger (finely diced)

1 red chilli (if you like it hot)

 

175-200g buckwheat/ soba noodles

1 handful goji berries (soaked for 30 minutes in water)

1 tbs toasted sesame seeds

1 teas lemon juice

Quick Tempeh Stir Fry with Buckwheat Noodles, Rainbow Chard and Goji Berries

Quick Tempeh Stir Fry with Buckwheat Noodles, Rainbow Chard and Goji Berries

Do It

Marinade the tempeh, pour over the ingredients, cover and leave in a fridge for 30 minutes or longer.

I like to start with the noodles, bring 1 ltr of water to a boil and submerge the noodles whole (try not to break them up).  Stir with a fork to keep the noodles seperated, adding a splash of oil if they start sticking (some brands of noodles will do this, its the high buckwheat content I think).  Cook them for a few minutes (follow what the packet says), drain them (or make a broth – see above) and pop them back into the warm pan.  Shake the noodles gently to make sure they’re all happy and seperated, pop a lid on and set aside.

If you are a highly accomplished wok master you can start stir frying whilst the noodles are on their way.

Warm up a wok/ large frying pan and add  1/2 of the sunflower/ sesame oils, on a medium high heat, add the drained tamari and stif fry for 5 minutes, trying to get your chunks coloured on all sides.  Gently play with them as not to break them up.   Set aside and keep warm.  I put a plate on to of the noodle pan and cover it with another plate, using the heat from the noodles to warm the tempeh!

Steamy wok action

Steamy wok action

During the entire stir frying process, the pan can get too hot and leading to burnt bits.  Sprinkle a little water  into the pan to avoid this, slightly lowering the temperature.  Just a s sprinkle is enough, overdoing it will lead to limp veg. 

Wipe the pan if it needs it and add the rest of the oil, on a high heat, add the carrots and ginger stir fry until softened, roughly a minute, then add the other veggies and keep stir frying until they are wilted, softened and delicious.  Remember we want crunch and vitality with a stir fry, so slightly undercook the veggies (they continue to cook when you are preparing to serve). Add a splash of your marinade ingredients to the pan towards the end of cooking to add a little pizzazz, followed by a little lemon juice to cut through all that salty tamari-style behaviour.

Pour the veggies into the noodle pan and combine them nicely together.

Serve

Pour into warm shallow bowls and top with the tempeh and sprinkles of gojis and sesame seeds.

As an option – mix a little more of the marinade ingredients together and people can season their noodles as they like.

Foodie Fact

Chard is a member of the chenopod family, with beetroot, spinach and surprisingly, quinoa!  It is native to the Mediterranean where it has been honoured for its medicinal properties since ancient times, Aristotle even wrote about it!

Chard is packed with phyto nutrients, in fact there are 13 different types of these beneficial chemicals in chard leaves.  Abnormally high!  They can help the heart and regulate blood sugar levels.  Chard is also high in the betalians, like beetroot, the yellow stems have many more than the red and these wonder nutrients help us with detox, inflammation and are a powerful anti-oxidant.  Chard boasts many health giving properties that aid the nervous system, especially the eyes (bags of vitamin A).  High levels of vitamin K and magnesium mean that chard is also aids strong bones.

Green leafy foliage should make regular appearances on our plates if we are looking for optimum health with minimum fuss/ expense.

Categories: Autumn, Detox, gluten-free, Healing foods, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gently loosen your sapling from the pot

Gently loosen your sapling from the pot

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

Loosen and untangle the majority of the roots

Loosen and untangle the majority of the roots

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

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

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

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

Water well, we used two watering cans worth

Water well, we used two watering cans worth

Always have a glamorous assistant nearby

Always have a glamorous assistant nearby

And a mascot

And a mascot

Marvel at one of summers last sunsets

Then feel free to marvel at one of summers last sunsets

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

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

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

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








 

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

Swede and Sorrel Autumn Soup

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

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

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

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

 

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Bigger than my head (that is quite huge!)

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

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

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

Fresh garden rosemary

Fresh garden rosemary

The Bits – Maks 6 decent bowls

1 tbs oil

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

3 potatoes

2 large celery sticks

1 onion

2 carrots

(All cut into rough chunks)

2 large sprigs rosemary

1 teas dried mint

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

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

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

 

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

Simmering Swedes

Simmering Swedes

Do It

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

Serve

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

Swede and Sorrel Soup

Swede and Sorrel Soup

Foodie Fact

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

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

Our neighbourky horses didn't think much of the swede

Our neighbourky horses didn’t think much of the swede

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

Giant Courgette Hats Stuffed with Walnuts, Sweetcorn & Red Rice (Vegan)

Ready for a final roast

Ready for a final roast

In the time of harvest bounty my mind naturally turns to stuffing things!  I have no idea why, there are so many massive vegetables everywhere that it seems like the logical thing to do, they look so cool served whole and are far, far more interesting when stuffed with something uber delicious like fresh sweetcorn, toasted walnuts and some nutty red rice.

Most cultures love a good stuffing, I read recently that in the Middle East they actually have machines to carve holes in carrots etc, you can buy pre-hollowed vegetables at the market in bags.  Now that’s spoiling all the fun (or is it?!)  I am not very good with DIY, the thought of getting the Black and Decker out to carve a carrot sets alarm bells ringing.   Do I love stuffed veg that much?

Everything is going a very courgette at the moment!  They are everywhere and this is a fine way to use up the wonder glut of this delicate fruit.  This particular beast is of the golden/ yellow variety and was over a foot long.  (This post was written a month ago when courgettes were really hanging out there, now they have finished their shenanigans for another year.  Mores the pity.  Bring on the roots!)  

In fact, the best thing that can happened to a courgette is a good stuffing. Its not every vegetable you can say that about, but a courgette is at it finest full of filling other than its own, it has to be said, watery, slightly mushy interior. Especially when they’re massive like this.  Resembling a marrow really.  Here we have upgraded the mush with red camarague rice, walnuts, sweetcorn and many other forms of ultra deliciousness.  A stuffing to be proud of!

Mighty Golden Courgette Towers

Mighty Golden Courgette Towers

I also like to cut courgettes thin length ways and salt them for a while, then use them as a base for an endless number of bakes and gratins.  You can pack alot of courgettes into one of these dishes and the dense nature of a well baked gratin is a wonderful way to serve this normally gentle and light veg.  Having said that, simply fried with garlic and olive oil, there’s another real winner.

Courgettes are allegedly easy to cultivate, but we don’t get the heat up here on the hill.  We also get wind, which tends to knock them down or drag our mini green house away.  We get extreme weather on tiger hill!  We get our courgettes from Trigonos, a small organic farm and retreat centre just over the hill in the next valley, Nantlle.  I am very lucky to work there at the moment and play with all the produce from the fertile land near the lake.  See here, its a magic place,

Jane is going away a lot recently (attending many interesting workshops) and we are making the very most of our short times together.  Today has been a rare early autumnal day, fresh this morning, warm in the day and a beautiful sunset, the perfect day for al fresco dining with some bubbles and twilight all around.

We sat on our bench near the stone circle and wolfed these delicious courgette treats with lashings of Russian chard and beetroot leaves.  It is that wonderful time of year when every veggie seems to be coming out to play (on the plate) and we are inundated with beautiful produce.  The only problem is, what to do with it all? Our veg basket is brimming over and the freezer is filling nicely, anybody fancy coming over for dinner?  We feel like gluttons, but are still smiling.

BERRY NICE

One of my favourite things to do at this time of year is berry picking.  How cool is that!  All these free berries sprouting from hedgerows and footpaths.  Leave the berries near railways alone, they use a weed killer-type train to kill all the plants around the railways meaning these berries will be contaminated.  Sorry to be the bearer of bad news (again!)

The elderberries on our hill are nearly ready and we fancy making some wine this time around, I have a recipe up my sleeve.  The thought of homemade elderberry wine makes us both whoop, and we haven’t even drank any yet!

Camarague Rice filling on the hob

Camarague Rice filling on the hob

If you can’t get your hands on giant courgettes, normal size ones are fine, but a little more fiddly.  They will also cook quicker, take 5-10 minutes off the final roasting time.

This recipe will make a little too much stuffing, but its great cold as a salad or maybe find another vegetable to stuff.  Tomato?  How about an apple?  Serve with a simple, creamy sauce.

 

Char those bad boys

Char those bad boys

The Bits – For 4

1 giant courgette (yellow, green…… or 3 smaller ones)

1 1/2 cup cooked camarague rice (or rice of your choice)

1 handful chopped and toasted  walnuts

1/2 handful of sunflower seeds (roasted is best)

1 small onion

1 small carrot

1 medium potato (all three finely diced)

1 corn on the cob (kernels off the cob)

4 cloves garlic (crushed)

8 cherry tomatoes (quatered, or one normal sized tomato)

3 tbs tomato puree

1 teas dried dill

1/2 teas dried mint

1/2 teas dried thyme

1 teas all spice

1/2 cup veg stock

1/2 cup raisins (chopped)

 

Do It

Cook your rice (as you like or follow packet instructions)

Preheat oven 200oC

Warm a griddle pan (not necessary, but looks pretty).

Start by chopping your courgette into interesting shapes with flat bottoms, so they sit up on the roasting tray, like hats.  We have gone for bishops, maybe you’d like a crown, or just a flat top?

Rub them with oil, use your hands and pop them on a griddle pan, presentation side first.  Leave to char up for around 5 minutes.  Be sure not to move them and you’ll get nicely defined scorch marks. Then into the oven for a 10 minute pre-roast.

Why this is going on, get your prep ready for the filling.

In a large frying pan, warm 1 tbs olive oil on med/ high heat and add the onion, saute for five  minutes until going golden, then add your corn and carrot, stir and heat for three minutes then add your potatoes and garlic, saute for a further three minutes then add your herbs and spices.  Stir well, so not allow any bottom sticking.  Add tomatoes and stock.  Add 1 tbs of water if  the heat is too high and things are getting stuck to the bottom.

Now add your seeds, nuts and cooked rice.  Bring to a boil, add a glug of good olive oil, give it a final stir and pop a lid on it.  Turn heat off and leave to settle for ten minutes.

Your courgettes should now be ready.  Grab them out of the oven and set aside for a moment to cool just a little.

Get a reasonable spoon (dessert) and begin to spoon your hot mixture into to courgettes, packing it down as you go, filling every possible space with tasty filling.

Now pop them back into the oven for a fifteen minute blast and after that the courgette should be softened and the filling piping hot and ready to devour.

Serve

We sprinkled ours with chopped toasted walnuts, a few twists of black pepper, some wilted chard, beetroot leaves and good olive oil.

We would also recommend a nice tangy tomato based sauce or chutney, a creamy sauce is also lovely.  These densely packed courgettes are meals in themselves and need little else on the plate to satisfy.

We Love It!

A real decadent dinner treat here, fit for special occasions and Tuesday nights after work.  It does take little preparation but the combinations of textures and flavours are worth the modest toil.  Get golden courgettes if you can, if they aren’t in the shops, hit your local veg farm and flutter your eyelids a little (always works for me).

Foodie Fact

Technically courgettes are an immature fruit (which sounds a lot like a good friend of ours) and can grow to over a metre long.

Golden/ Yellow courgettes are not only very cool to look at they are also have a higher carotene content than your average green courgettes, they are also good for vitamin C and A with plenty of potassium to boot.

Brit disclaimer – What we repeatedly refer to as a courgette in this post may be known to some of you as a zucchini.  We at the Beach House Kitchen mean no offense in the flagrant use of our British-ness and actually prefer the name Zucchini, it sounds like fun and has a ‘Z’ in it, which is always very cool in our world.  Maybe we can all just call them Zuch-ettes and bridge our islands vocab gap.  Just to add greater confusion to the mix in South Africa they call these beauts ‘baby marrow’.    

Categories: Autumn, Dinner, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Rainbow Chard & Red Lentil Harira

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Harira on the hob

We regularly have an identity crisis with dishes, turning traditional fare on its head, ‘Beach House-ing’ things you could say.  We don’t mean it, no offence to the original recipes and food heritage in question, its just we like to play in the kitchen.  Here’s another traditional recipe we have messed about with, thankfully the results were rather delicious.

The best harira I have ever had was for breakfast (regularly) in the village of Chefchaeoun, known to many a traveller for its exceptional soup, jalaba (hooded cloak garment worn by most Moroccans) production and wonderful mountain location.  Its small winding streets hide many a wonderful eating experience, rows of blue houses (yes blue!) make this one of the most distinctive and stunning villages in that vast old land.

I moved there for a while, took up residence in a room situated on the walls of the Hamam (the communal bath), the warmest room in town.  You see its high up there and you wake chilled to the bone and needing a serious bowl of spicy sustenance.  Abdullah provided.

He was a wonderful cook, in nothing more than a space between two buildings, a few squat tables and two gas burners with huge steel pots, Abdullah created the authentic Moroccan dining experience for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  It was like a French Bistro without the pretense and price tag.  My kind of joint for sure.

For a few pennies, Abdullah would dish you up an epic bowl of full-on morning ammunition, sometimes with a tooth-less smile that shifted the early morning fug.  This hearty soup fuelled me on many a hike around the Rif Mountains and also on days spent lounging around playing card games with other punks holed up there. It came with a wedge of steaming flat bread, fruity olive oil and a small bowl of freshly ground cumin to use liberally.  I sat wearing my Jalaba (the over enthusiastic tourist that I am) eating with the local men in silence, canteen style.  No women.  In Morocco cafes and restaurants seem to be a male only thing.

Chefchaouen

I like cooking soups, its a soulful pursuit.  You don’t have to be to precious, there are rules, but not many, a little like Morocco itself.  This is the situation where I feel nice and comfortable.

Recipe Notes

Add just  2 cups of water to make this a hearty stew.

As with all soups/ stews, depending on the quality of your veggies, you many need to add some vegetable stock if the flavour is thin on the ground.

Here’s to you Abdullah.  Peace be with you.  Hamdullah!

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Rainbow Chard and Red Lentil Harira

The Bits – For 4 bowls

1 1/2 cup dried chickpeas (soaked and cooked)

750ml fresh water (or vegetable stock)

1 tbs olive oil

1 1/2  inch fresh ginger (finely diced)

3 cloves garlic (minced)

1 large onion (finely diced)

1 yellow pepper (diced)

3 ripe tomatoes (with flavour)

3 cups chopped rainbow chard (stems separated from the leaves)

1 teas ground turmeric

1 1/2 teas smoked paprika

1/2 teas ground cinnamon

2 teas cumin seeds

3 tbs tomato paste

1 lemon (cut into wedges)

2 tbs gram flour (or flour of your choice)

1 handful fresh coriander leaves (leaves picked, stems chopped)

1 cup red lentils

3 dates (finely chopped)

1 teas fresh ground pepper

2 teas sea salt

 

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Harira bubblin’ away

Do It

Soak your chickpeas overnight in a saucepan.  Drain and refresh with new water, well covered.  Add 1/4 teas bicarb of soda (this makes them soft and cook quicker), bring to a boil and lower heat.  Vigorously simmer for 20 minutes or until chickpeas are tender.

Warm the oil in a thick bottomed sauce pan, add your onions and cumin seeds and saute the onions for a few minutes until glassy, add garlic, pepper and ginger, stir for a couple of minutes and then add all chard stems (add earlier if they are a little tough), flour and spices, stir and warm through for a minute and now add your tomatoes, dates, lentils, tomato paste, warm through for a minute then add your water/ chickpea juice. Bring to a rolling boil and turn down heat to the lowest setting, add your chickpeas and leave to simmer for 20 minutes.

When ready to serve, bring back to just about boiling, add your chard leaves and coriander stems.  Re-cover and allow to cook for a few minutes.  Check seasoning.

Serve

A lemon wedge, topped with coriander leaves and a good glug of good olive oil.  Add green olives and brown rice to the table if you’d like to make this dinner.

For a special touch, we have it sprinkled with roasted and chopped almonds.

We Love It!

With winter lurking up the hill, we are getting back to our hearty soups.  Harira is definately one of our fav’s and it is very cool when you have pleasant memories attached to a dish.  Food has amazing transporting properties, the sights and tastes so evocative and alive in memories.

Foodie Fact

Spices are much more than just incredible tasting, the vast majority boast some quite brilliant health properties (as long as we don’t burn them in the pan).

Turmeric is a root similar to ginger and in its raw state has very potent flavour, its wonderful stuff.  Dried is the best we can normally do on this island.  It is peppery and sweet, warm and bitter and has even been likened to orange peel (if very fresh indeed).

Now the nitty gritty and real magic.  Turmeric is anti-microbial, anti-flatulent and strongly anti-bacterial. POW!

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Heavy plate version with rice, olives, fresh coriander and lashings of olive oil

Categories: Autumn, Recipes, Soups, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Chestnut Mushroom and Sage Farrotto with Balsamic Figs and Tofu Feta (Vegan)

I'm too sexy for my figs

I’m too sexy for my figs

You cannot say that we aren’t good to you, here are two recipes on one plate!  It also has to be said that we are quite good to ourselves, this is our Thursday night treat dinner (or ‘tea’ as Jane calls it).   A farrotto with the lovely nuttiness of spelt and gorgeously sweet glazed figs topped off with some citrus tofu feta.

Every Thursday, I’m normally off work and Jane gets back early, we head off to the big smoke (Bangor – which is a small town with a big Cathedral) and we pick up our veg box from a wonderful little farm in Bethel and then head to a cafe and maybe pick up some fruit.  Today these beautifully plump figs caught my eye, I haven’t had the pleasure of figs for an age and love them with a little balsamic glaze.

FARROTTO?

Farrotto is an Italian dish made with ‘faro’ which can be translated as spelt.  Whenever I cook with spelt, it seems timeless.  An ancient grain that has been used for centuries in these parts.  We normally keep spelt for sprouting purposes and love the chew of the stuff in a salad, it’s always a hearty customer.

This farrotto is simply cooked like a risotto, only for longer.  We used some local chestnut mushrooms, fresh garden herbs and giant organic spinach for a classic Italian combo.  We also had a little secret ingredient in our umami powder, a mixture of fine sea salt, seaweed and powdered shiitake mushrooms.  Add to that bags of garlic and a small pile of onion and we are talking Italy on a plate using Welsh produce.  Definitely how we like to do it in the BHK, world food, local bits.

Tofu Feta

Tofu Feta – looks similar, tastes different

FETA TOFU, TOFU FETA, ARE YOU MAD?

As a a vegan, you must eat tofu.  It’s one of the vegan commandments.  If you don’t go tofu, you’re sent to work in Mcdonalds by the vegan police.  It’s not pretty.  Eat tofu!

Tofu feta is a vegan staple and nothing like proper feta but is damn fine and tasty non-the-less.  It is a little tiresome with so much vegan food sharing names with the original cheese/ meat produce.  Its something we’ll all have to live with, but when trying vegan sausages/ burgers/ cheese etc please do not expect something remotely similar.   Approach with an open mind and preferably an open mouth!

As you’d expect from a tofu dish, this is full of powerful plant protein and is superbly lean (no fat in fact).  Always opt for whole bean tofu and you cannot go wrong, tofu is amazingly versatile and we even use it in desserts, check it out – strawberry tofu ice cream cake).

Firm tofu will crumble like a nice feta and if you pop this recipe in a blender you have what could be called tofu ricotta.  We don’t make the names, just the tasty food.

AUTUMN HARVEST TIME

It is that time of the year when the slight chill of winter is in the morning air and the trees and bushes are ladened with fruits and berries.  We had a surprise apple tree spring up a few weeks ago.  We thought it was just a little bush and wham!  Big green apples all over the place.  Result!

We will soon be harvest our potatoes and beetroots, blackberries are everywhere (which is great for walks, no need for a packed lunch!), we will be making rowan syrup soon and bramble jelly. We are also trying to eat as much rainbow chard as possible, it’s irrepressible, which is wonderful news.  We are really thankful for a great summer weather wise and the bounty of autumn is a fine time of year to be a cook, I’ve never roasted so many tomatoes.  It’s the time of year when spare jam jars become a rare commodity.

We love the British seasons but will be cheating again this year and heading to Spain for a large part of it, we then have plans to go further afield.  Eastward.  Hoorah!  I plan on making a pit stop in the Southern Med for a couple of weeks of eating my way around various countries (Jane is heading to Delhi), then waddling around some fascinating historical sights.   I promise to come back inspired with notebooks full of new recipes to try out and a belly full of hummus.

Herb garden raided - My king of bouquet (edible)

Herb garden raided – My king of bouquet (edible)

The Bits

Serves 2 hungry sorts

Farrotto

2 cups spelt grain, 3 cloves garlic (minced), 1 small onion (chopped finely), 4 cups large spinach leaves and stems (sliced), 1 cup dried chestnut mushrooms (soaked) or 2 cups fresh, 1 teas umami powder or salt, 1 teas cracked black pepper, 5 large leaves fresh sage (chopped finely, 1 teas dried), 2 teas fresh rosemary (chopped, 1/2 teas dried), 1 teas fresh oregano (good pinch dried), 1 cup mushroom soaking liquor, 4 cups good veg stock (kept warm – jug with a plate on top will do, or a covered pan on low temp), 2 tbs good olive oil

Balsamic Figs

2 plump figs (halved from stem down), 1 tbs balsamic vinegar, 1 teas brown rice syrup (or other sweetener), scant pinch of salt and pepper

Tofu Feta

1/2 pack firm tofu (150g crumbled with fingers), juice of 1/2 lemon, 1 teas sea salt, 1-2 cloves garlic minced (depending on how much you love garlic), a few basil leaves (optional – left whole in the feta when marinading)

A couple of handfuls of sharp salad leaves, rocket is perfect.

Some of the bit and the not-so-secret ingredient

Some of the bit and the not-so-secret ingredient

Do It

In a medium sized saucepan, warm on medium heat 1 tbs olive oil, add your onions and saute for 4-5 minutes.  When softened, add garlic and faro to toast a little, saute for 3 minutes further, then add your umami (salt), pepper and mushrooms followed quickly by the liquor all this whilst stirring well!  Intense.  You’ll get a nice hiss now, add your herbs and continue to stir well.  It’s all in the stir this dish.

When the liquor has reduced down, ladle in some warm stock, one ladle at a time as the farrotto becomes thicker and reducing, intensifying the flavours.  Wow, what a thing!  Keep stirring gently.  Cook on a steady heat for around 40 minutes in total, the faro should still have a little bite to it and the consistency of a loose porridge.  Finish with 1 tbs olive oil stirred in just before serving.

The tofu is best made the night before serving to marinade nicely.  Crumble the tofu in a bowl, add the rest of the ingredients and mix well with a spoon.  Serve at room temperature, like most things, straight out of the fridge is just not cool.  It’s a flavour killer.

In a small frying pan, get it hot, add you balsamic and sweetener then your figs straight after, there will be smoke here.  Exciting.  Move the figs around the pan to get well coated in the glaze, cook for two minutes on high heat then remove from pan.  The figs should have a lovely shiny charred look to them.

Figs mid-glaze

Figs mid-glaze

Serve

On one half of a dinner plate, pop a handful of leaves sprinkled with some tofu feta (add walnuts or other nuts here for a super special twist) a couple of fig halves, few twists of black pepper.

On the other half (remember this is two meals in one here!) spoon your lovely thick and gooey farrotto, a sprinkle of herbs and drizzle the whole plate with some fine olive oil.

Chestnut Mushroom and Sage Farrotto with Balsamic Figs and Tofu Feta

Chestnut Mushroom and Sage Farrotto with Balsamic Figs and Tofu Feta (as you can see, we are not shy with portions in the BHK, no finger food in our kitchen!)

We Love It!

Like eating in our favourite Italian restaurant in the Beach House.  Who needs to go out for dinner when the food is this good in the casa and you get your starter and main course on the same plate.  Unconventional, but we like it.  Great for sharing.

The citrus tofu and sweet figs work well and the farrotto is our new favourite risotto (if you catch our drift),

Foodie Fact

Spelt is a cousin/ neighbour of wheat, but is lower in gluten making it acceptable to some folk who suffer from wheat allergies.  Generally its better for the belly than wheat and makes a wonderfully nutty loaf in flour state.

Spelt is said to originate from Iran and is 7000 years old (how do they know these things).  Spelt has always been highly regarded and was offered to pagan gods of agriculture to encourage a fine harvest and fertility.

Spelt has a better range of nutrients than the vast majority of wheats, its full of minerals which our body loves.  It is a whole grain meaning it has a good level of dietary fibre, remember that grains are not the only soure of fibre, many fruits are full of it.  Take raspberries for example which have a comparatively higher level of fibre than oats and brown rice put together!

Categories: Autumn, Dinner, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Golden Courgette, Cashew and Basil Bake (Vegan)

This is a blockbuster bake.  Layers of golden courgette, chard, green cabbage, onion, tofu and mushrooms, all smothered in a creamy garlic, cashew and basil sauce.  Hows that!

This was loosely based on the traditional French dish ‘au gratin potatoes’, but without the cheese, milk, butter, flour, breadcrumbs or potatoes!  So I guess it becomes a good, old fashioned bake!!  Its a healthier Beach House number after all.  I guarantee that no flavour is lost here, no enjoyment.  Just different flavours and ways of enjoying food.

We love a good bake, but generally they just turn into a cheese and fat fest.  All that oil and the incredible richness just makes us feel a little sleepy and bloated.  We fancied something baked and light and this dish hits that nail right on the head.

As usual, the local farm is producing some quite amazing veggies.  This dense courgette was over a foot long and weighed a couple of kilos, that’s a proper vegetable.  We thought about roasting it whole but then this little idea cropped up and we haven’t had baked anything for an age now.

Ready for a roasting

The tofu was added last minute, to give it a different texture and more luxurious feel.  Tofu has a certain cheesiness to it, like a vegetal haloumi. Viva tofu!   Our mate Pete gave us a fantastic Japanese tofu book from the 60’s, the entire history and different methods for producing the wonderful white stuff.  We shall be experimenting soon.  We forgot to add the sweet peppers here.  Red ones sliced thinly, that are unfortunately still in the fridge.  They would be a nice addition.  Next time.  This time, it still tastes quite amazing.

One of the best things about this dish is the leftover potential.  Tastes better the day after and is even delicious served cold.

This is an interesting little take on an old classic and with Autumn around the corner, its good to have some new ‘bakes’ up your sleeve.

Recipe Note

You can salt and pat dry your courgettes beforehand to get rid of some of their water.

The Bits – For 6 hungry sorts

Layers

1 giant golden courgette (or 2/3 normal sized courgettes/ zucchinis)

1 bunch of chard

1 bunch of spring greens (aka dark green long leafed cabbage)

1 onion

8 mushrooms

1 block tofu (250g-ish, enough for two layers)

1 sweet red pepper (sliced)

1 big handful of basil leaves

 

Sauce

1 small onion

3 cloves garlic (crushed)

1/2 cup cashews (soaked for 1 hour)

1 handful of chopped basil leaves

1 handful of fresh parsley

2/3 cup soya milk (or nut milk)

1/3 cup filtered water

1 big glug of olive oil,

Sea salt and cracked pepper

 

Topping

2 handfuls of roasted cashew nuts

 

Do It 

Sauce – In a decent blender, blitz up your cashews until a paste forms, then add the rest of the ingredients and blend until a smooth liquid forms.  You may need to scape down the sides of the blender to get it all mixed evenly.

Layer of mushrooms

Layers – Slice all veggies thinly, not quite wafer, but getting there.  Remove any thick, chewy stems.  Add a little sauce to cover the base of your dish (a good thick rectangular baking dish, glass would be nice to see all the layers), begin the layering.  Start with the cabbage, courgette, mushroom, onion, pepper, chard, tofu, courgette sauce (repeat once more).  That will be three layers of courgette, it should be the last layer on top and will go nice and brown when baked.

The dish should be piled high, don’t worry it will cook down quite alot.  Cover with foil and bake for 40 mins (180oC) then remove foil and bake for a further 15 mins or until the top is nice and golden brown.

Serve

Topped with roasted cashews, we ate ours with our leaf of the moment, a carrot top salad.  Rich bakes just crave for a nice crunchy salad.

We Love It!

Hearty winter fare, but light and healthy.  Like a normal bake but without the vast amounts of grease and fat.

Yellow Courgette and Basil Au Gratin

Foodie Fact

The gold in these courgettes makes it a great source of flavanoids, a wonderful thing.  They scavenge the body looking for baddies and make us look young and keep us disease free.  Courgettes are best stored in a plastic bag in the fridge, they dry out easily.

Categories: Autumn, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Nantmor Shiitake Risotto with Four Herbs

The ideal warming dish as the nights are drawing in and theres a winter chill starting in the air.  Autumn is here and that means it’s time for blockbuster risottos.

I love Italian food, but have never been to Italy.  I have been fortunate to have met and cooked with quite a few Italians in the past and can safely say that they are the most pedantic and fussy cooks/ eaters in the world.  Everything is how ‘mama made it’ or its no good at all.  They are critical of the slightest detail and in this way, great to cook for and with.  If you can get an Italian excited about your food, you are doing something very right!

A luxurious risotto for me is a taste of food perfection.  The balance of fresh produce, richness and a hint of wine represents all that is amazing in Italian food (not to mention the large hunk of pungent cheese).  They of course take it seriously, its seriously good food.  Our new chef at work lived and worked in Modena for years and to see him make risotto is to see a true craftsman at work, he gives it such care and dedication.  I hope this recipe reflects this passion.  I’ve gone for only the finest of local produce and a brilliant wine.  All the elements must be selected with equal care, otherwise the risotto will not be a true expression of food heaven.

These Nantmor Shiitakes (Shii – Tree, Take – Mushroom) from the Mushroom Garden are the real highlight in this dish.  They’re my kind of mushroom; pungent, meaty and damn pretty too, adding amazing flavour to anything they touch. They are grown on Welsh Oak in the small village of Nantmor, by a local chap named Cynan.  The Mushroom Garden now supplies many top restaurants around Britain as mushrooms actually thrive in the mist and damp of Wales.  Whenever I find a good mushroom, I always think ‘risotto’, so classic and so good.  Due to the Shiitakes being so precious and a little costly, we added some chestnut mushrooms to add a different texture and ensure that we had loads of lovely mushrooms in the risotto.

The Beach House additions is brown rice.  I know its not technically a risotto, but humour us!  The results are delicious.  Vegan parmesan is out there, Violife make an incredible version. Very much like the real thing, we’d recommend seeking some out.  Especially for risotto!

Nantlle Shiitake

The brown rice is not as starchy as the proper risotto rice, but we are willing to make that sacrifice.  We like the nutty flavour of brown rice. Try and get some really funky organic rice if you can, rough stuff with chaff, good for the belly and you’re guaranteed more flavour.

WELSH WINE!

We bought a wonderful bottle of southern French rose from the local family ran vineyard Pant Du, set in the beautiful Nantlle Valley.  Yes, you heard us right, they are growing wine in these parts. Brave souls indeed. The Pant Du Winery has now opened a small cafe and wine shop, Jane and I visit regularly for tea and to soak in the stunning views and happy family vibes.

The wine on sale are from small pockets of Europe, a really interesting selection. This rose was a deep pink beauty.  This year at Pant Du has unfortunately been a less than prosperous growing season, but they will still make a few bottles of their German varieties.  So a glass of our Costiere de Nimes was sacrificed to the risotto. Really, we should only cook risotto with wine that we would enjoy drinking, it makes a difference to the delicate balance of flavours.

I plundered the herb garden for our herbs; sage, rosemary, oregano and thyme. A brilliant combination, we are so lucky that they thrive in our hedges. Unlike our tomatoes, they seem to like the grey conditions.  The courgette came from the farm and they are abundant and delicious at the moment.  I couldn’t resist a little more greenery in there.

I think we’re ready for the fun bit now, let’s get cooking!

Beauty Herb

The Bits

Olive oil (for frying)

1 big white onion (finely sliced)

4 cloves garlic (crushed)

2 cups of organic brown rice (roughly 1 cup per person)

1 cup Shiitake mushrooms

1 cup other mushrooms (preferably something like a chestnut)

1 smallish courgette (chopped into small cubes)

2 big handfuls of Violife parmesan cheese (finely grated)

1 glass of decent wine

1 tbs of each fresh sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano (chopped)

1.5 ltr good veg stock

Glugs of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (optional, for added richness at the end)

 

Do It

You need to be a bit organised with a risotto, have hot stock ready and all your ingredients to hand, things can happen quickly here and timing is everything.

Boil the kettle and make some nice veg. stock, 1.5 ltr should be enough, if you are super cook, you’ll probably make your own stock from scratch.  Have a good bottle of wine open and preferably a glass poured for yourself, all that stirring is thirsty work.

Pre-soak your shiitake mushrooms for an hour or so prior to cooking and have all your bits chopped and ready.  The key to a good risotto is to never leave its side, keep stirring and giving it love.  You will see the difference in the end.

Getting things organised

Begin by gently frying off your onion in a thick bottomed large saucepan, keep them moving, you want them to go glassy but not browned.  Once they are getting there, add you garlic and in this case, your courgette and mushrooms (try not to break them up).

Cook for a couple of minutes on a medium heat, stirring all the time, then add your rice.  Keep stirring and giving the rice a thorough coating of oil.  The pan should be nice and hot, add your glass of vino, which should immediately sizzle and evaporate, being absorbed nicely by the hot rice and meaty mushrooms.

Sweet simmering

Now for some serious, steady stirring action.  With a good wooden spoon or a spatula, keep going at it, adding your hot stock one ladleful at a time (we put the mushroom soak juices into the stock), this will loosen any starch from the rice and create a lovely smooth texture.  Once the stock has evaporated and the rice is hissing slightly, its time for another ladleful.

The rice should take around 15-20 minutes to cook, you want it ‘al dente’.  Just before the rice is cooked (try some between your teeth, it should not be chalky, but still firm in the middle) take it off the heat and stir in your cheese and if you like, glug of nice olive oil and season with sea salt and fresh pepper.  This is where the real richness kicks in.  Put a lid on and leave for 5 minutes to come together.

Stirring in the Shiitakes

Add a little more stock to thin it out if needed.  Risotto must be served and eaten almost immediately.  It’s perfect, when its perfect, not afterwards.  Your risotto should be liquid, but not liquid enough so that it seeps out around the edges, all should be perfectly combined and blended together, with the rice cooked but not stuck together.  Its a fine art!  But one well worth mastering.

Serve

Pronto!  Hot flat bowls are best.  We topped ours with some runner beans from garden, a little more herb.

We Love It!

Risottos are one of my most satisfying dishes.  I love cooking them and eating them equally.  They are normally eaten in Italy as a first dish but I cannot imagine that, I like it centre stage.  Cooking rice is something that the Italians have perfected.  Grazie Mille!x

Foodie Fact

Shiitakes are re-knowned for their health giving properties, in Japan especially, they believe the Shiitake to help fight cancer.  These mushrooms also boast many medicinal and immune system boosting qualities.

Categories: Autumn, Recipes, Welsh produce | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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