Autumn

Viva Vegan! Lee’s interview with Veganuary

I really enjoyed chatting with Veganuary at the weekend!  It was all about our Viva Vegan! Spain: Plant-based Cooking Holiday with Áine Carlin coming up soon!  I thought I’d post a little of the interview here.

Why did we pick Spain?  Why are Áine and I collaborating?  What will the Viva Vegan! experience be like?

We still have a couple of rooms left in you’d like to book up for our delicious weekend in the sun.  You’ll find all the information here.

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A vegan cooking retreat in Spain? Yes, that’s right! Lee Watson, author of Peace and Parsnips, and Áine Carlin, author of Keep it Vegan & The New Vegan, have partnered up to teach people how to master the art of vegan cuisine, in beautiful Spanish surroundings

 

Veganuary caught up with Lee Watson to find out more!

Main terrace, where all our meals are served and morning yoga practiced

Hi Lee! What’s the inspiration behind this exciting plant-based cooking holiday?

We just love cooking and sharing delicious vegan food.  We’re excited to be getting together and showcasing the diversity and potential of a plant-based diet and healthy lifestyle.  We also wanted to do it in a villa near the beach!  Why not!!  Viva Vegan offers up a weekend of relaxation, sensational food and a chance to learn new kitchen skills.  We want to share our passion for good living!

How did the idea come about?

Áine and I have been chatting for a while about collaborating on a cooking holiday.  I love Áine’s style of cooking and recipes.  I’ve organised holidays like this in the past and they’re just such fun and are an opportunity for everyone to learn and meet new, like-minded people.  Having Áine and I contributing to the weekend, also makes the food and workshops even better, a greater variety of styles and influences for everyone to enjoy.

Why did you pick Spain?

I’ve been going to this little village in Spain for over 12 years and it’s one of my favourite places in the world.  I guess I just wanted let people into the secret!  For me, its the most beautiful stretch of coastline in Spain, where the mountains meet the sea and there’s still that feel of ‘real’ Spain.  Murcia is also known as the ‘garden’ of Spain, the local produce is sensational, tomatoes, olives, lemons, peppers, aubergines, fruits and we even have some local vegan wines to sample.

What can people expect to experience on the holiday?

The Viva Vegan weekend is designed to let people experience they’re perfect weekend.  We have a beautiful location, our modern eco villa is right on a quiet stretch of beach, we have winter sun and amazing local produce.  Áine and I will be doing all of the cooking and hosting workshops, which range from a cheese making masterclass to top vegan kitchen hacks and tips.

There is even the option for us to go for a mini cruise on a vintage yacht down the stunning coast.  Maybe a picnic in a little cove?  The idea is we take care of everything, from soothing yoga classes and nourishing smoothies in the mornings, right through to mocktails at sunset.  We’re even having a vegan BBQ night.  It’s a time to enjoy peace, walks in nature, a swim in the Med, a visit to local cafes and villages.  The idea is you can transform the way you cook or just curl up in a hammock with a good book.  It’s all just a recipe for an inspiring and blissful weekend.

One of Aine’s amazing recipes

 

 

Read the full interview over on the Veganuary blog click here.

Reserve your place for Viva Vegan! Spain right now. 

Just click here

 

 

Categories: Autumn, Cooking Holidays, Events, healthy, Healthy Eating, plant-based, Travel, Vegan, veganism, Winter | Tags: | Leave a comment

Apple Crumble Cookies – Gluten-free, Vegan

Apple Crumble Cookies – Gluten-free, Vegan.  Yes please!

If you’re a fan of apple crumble, you’ll love these!  The cookie version.

I wanted to combine the best things about an apple crumble into a cookie, just to change things up a bit.  That lovely crunchy crumble and the sweet tartness of the apple sauce.

These cookies are crisp on the outside and very apple-y inside, with that lovely warming cinnamon and plenty of oats.  They’re even gluten-free, but you can make them with wholemeal flour and normal oats.  I’d just like to invite as many people as possible to the good food party!

These cookies are sweet!  But balanced with the tartness of a green apple, I’ve used russet style apples from our neighbours garden, donated, not scrumped (see all our scrumping talk on our last post).  I think an apple with good acidity and a bit of bite is what we’re looking for here.

The best things about a crumble, wrapped up in a cookie!

Please don’t worry about us, we’re still eating plenty of Apple Crumbles this autumn.  Jane loves ’em too much!  But these cookies were a big hit with everyone who’s tried one, even our neighbour Meirion, a man who dearly loves a good crumble, is a fan of the cookie variety.  That’s when I knew this was a winner, they got the nod from our Meirion.

We’re just fixing our fire at  the minute, autumn is giving us those signals, nice and crisp at mornings and at night.  The occasional dramatic storm.  I do love sunshine, but I admit that a roaring fire on a cold night is very tempting.  Just need to get a big pipe and stick it onto the back of the fire.  Some of you know all about my DIY skills, so I’ll probably get the fire man in.  I’m better off with the pots and pans!

The North Wales coastline is stunning in Autumn, awesome sunsets

Another bonus of autumn is all the produce, I’m just blown away at the minute.  I just got the list through from our local organic farm and it knocked my socks off.  As a cook, I almost don’t know where to begin with it all.  I feel very lucky to have such problems!!  We’ve got a couple of events coming up this month, check them out here, so we’ll be taking our amazing Snowdonia produce for a ride down to London and over to Anglesey.

I’m back cooking at Trigonos this week and I love to create new recipes like this.  There are many gluten-free visitors who need catering for, the Trigonos cooks come up with all kinds of gluten, sugar, oil, nightshade, salt etcetc free dishes.  I’ve always found it a great challenge, but having dishes which are gluten-free and vegan is a sound start to planning a menu.  These cookies can be enjoyed by loads of people!  Maybe you’re gluten-free, but I bet you know someone who is.  The mystery of gluten-free baking is disappearing as more and more people experiment with new ways of making cookies, cakes, scones and tray bakes.

Chop those apples nice and small

Chopping your apples up nice and small is one of the keys to success with these cookies.  Of course, take all the pips and core out, but I leave the skin on.  These apples had nice, thin skins and I reckon there’s some nice flavour there when baked.  You can see the apples turn a lovely golden brown in the oven, something like apple crisps.  They’re good these cookies!

These kind of cookies are going to make this autumn very sweet!  Hope you get to try one soon.

 

Recipe Notes

You can use flax seeds instead of chia seeds.  Pop the seeds into a blender and blitz until a fine powder is formed.  Then mix that with water until a gelatinous mix forms.  It only takes 5 minutes or so to get nice and thick, ready to bind our cookies together.  Ground flax and chia are ideal egg replacers in vegan baking.

You can also use light brown sugar in these cookies, although I prefer the texture using the golden caster sugar.

I used a Dove Farm white gluten-free flour mix here.  It works really nicely.  Gluten-free oats are available in most supermarkets.

I use cold pressed rapeseed oil here, but you can use most, neutral flavoured oils.  I prefer cold pressed oils.

Missing cookies? Has anyone seen these cookies. 15 minutes after leaving the oven, they were never seen again. Another batch coming soon:)

 

Apple Crumble Cookies – Gluten-free, Vegan

 

The Bits – For 10-11 small cookies

Dry

125g oats (or gluten-free oats)

100g whole wheat (or gluten-free flour mix)

1 ½ tsp baking powder

1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon

⅛ teas salt

 

Wet

100ml cold pressed rapeseed oil

3 teas ground chia seeds (mixed with 7 teas cold water)

1 teas vanilla extract

125g golden caster sugar

 

175g or 2 small green apples (cored and finely diced)

 

Do It

Preheat a fan oven to 180oC.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.  In another mixing bowl, mix together the sugar and the wet ingredients.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.  Don’t over do the stirring.  Fold in the apples.

Line a baking tray with baking parchment, form roughly two heaped tablespoons worth of cookie dough and apple in your hands, roll into balls.  Press the pieces of apple into the cookie ball as you go. The apple keeps the cookies nice and moist.  Press this ball down gently onto the baking tray, forming a rotund disc shape.  Continue until the mix is used up.

Bake for 17 – 20 mins on a middle shelf, until the apples are golden brown and the cookies form a nice crust.  Leave to cool for 20 minutes on the tray before enjoying.  Remember that the cookies will firm up as they cool, don’t worry if they are a little soft to the touch.

We had ours warm, dipped into vegan creme fraiche.  Yes!  It was very good.

These cookies will keep nicely in sealed container for a few days, they do get slightly softer.

Just before they hit the oven – Apple Crumble Cookies  This was an early attempt, these apple chunks are a wee bit too big.  Go for very small pieces. 

Foodie Fact

An apple a day keeps the doctor away.  Why?  Because my Nana told me that, what more proof do we need?!

Apples are a good source of fibre and vitamin C, plus potassium, which is good for the heart.

 

 

This recipe was voted for over on our Vegan Cooking Facebook group, you can join here.

I like to see what you think about recipes before I post them.

Plus there’s loads of vegan cooking chat and pictures over there.  Pop over, sign up and show us what you’re cooking?

 

 

Categories: Autumn, Baking, gluten-free, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

The art of scrumping and the great British apple

Scrumping – a great way to make the most of our autumn abundance

Yes!  It’s that time of year.  Apples are falling from trees and we’re loving them.  But I find something very sad about piles of crushed and fermenting apples scattered around pavements and fields, left in piles to rot around trees.  What a waste.  I’ve been travelling quite a bit around the UK recently and seen many great apple trees, laden with fruits, fit and ready for a good scrumping!

There are over 2500 varities of apples growing in the UK, so I’m not talking about the handful of varieties we can pick up in the supermarkets, I’m talking about the real deal, heritage, local apples.  The ones which flourish in certain areas because of the specific climate, regional apples, that’s what gets me excited.  Most of these are growing wild and many may be falling right now, grab a bucket and get out there!

A neighbour kindly donated this bucket load to the BHK

When I travel, I love nibbling global dishes, exotic fruits and the like.  But there is one thing I miss, sensational UK apples!!  Best in the world.  No question.  (Although, they’re pretty good in France too.)

 

Wild Fruits, Great Names 

Most of the apples you’ll pick up in the supermarkets are pale imitations of a proper apple.  Something local, and in my opinion, the more bumps, the uglier the apple is, the better it tastes!  We have such a rich history of apple cultivation, which is still there, if we shop local and take advantage of the natural abundance at  this time of year.  Many of the best apples I find come from neighbours gardens (please don’t tell them;)

Jane’s Mum sent across a fascinating little article that prompted this post, I find the names of heritage apples so inspiring. They just sound fun! Here’s a selection, just a wee taster (by region).  Do you know some of these?:

 

Scotland – Coul Blush, Bloody Ploughman, Scotch Dumpling, Tower of Glanis, Dog’s Snout 

 

North England – Golden Spice, Cockpit, Carlise Codlin, Rilston Pippin, Lord Hindlip

 

South England – Newton Wonder, D’Arcy Spice, Crawley Beauty, Fearn’s Pippin, Pitmaston Pineapple, Oaken Pin, Tom Pitt, Cornish Gilliflower

 

Wales – Bardsey Island, Pig’s Snout, Cissy, Ten Commandments, Saint Cecilia, Croen Mochya

 

Ireland also has some great varities and names going on:

 

Ireland – Greasy Pippin, Lady’s Finger of Offaly, Kilkenny Pearmain, Irish Peach, Ross Nonpareil, Scarlet Crofton, Ecklinville Seedling   

 

Maybe you have some of these growing in your garden?  Or a local park?  I love these names, many are poetic, rustic, some amusing, but they all speak to me of a different time of food production.  When it wasn’t just about business and high yields.  I think it’s paramount to protect the heritage and diversity of locally grown food, in the UK and around the world.  Most of the varities are just about hanging in there (no pun intended), mainly growing wild or in gardens, but we can always ask for them in our local shops and supermarkets.  If we can get together, in enough numbers, and demand real, local, British apples, maybe we can see apples like the ‘Dog’s Snout’ back on the shop shelves where they belong.  These names really brighten up my day.

 

The Legend of the Bardsey Apple

There is a great story here in North Wales about a local fellow, Ian Sturrock, who discovered a single apple tree on a remote island off the Llyn Peninsula.  Bardsey Island.  When it was tested, it was the last of it’s kind in the world.  This variety has now been saved and it’s grown around the world, from Japan to the USA.  We have one in our garden.  Lovely golden, sweet apples.  There is also a variety of Snowdon Pear which is very rare, tastes like sweet fennel and has a light pink colour inside.  You just don’t get such variety and range of flavours in the most shops.  We are missing out big time!  This is one of our greatest British foodies assets.  Our amazing fruits.

 

Here’s our article from a few years ago all about our love for the Bardsey Apple.

 

The Art of Scrumping 

Scrumping!  It’s a doorway to the best of British apples and fruits.  Go find some nice looking trees, grab a bucket and go and fill your boots/ bucket.  I know people who only scrump at night, but we’re day light scrumpers.  Unabashed.  It’s loads of fun and leads to a bounty of fresh and delicious local apples.   A few basic guidelines for new scrumpers:

 

Just make sure that you’re picking edible apples.

Don’t climb and fall out of trees.

Don’t blatantly nick your neighbours apples, this can lead to bad vibes and unneighbourly jams.

If councils or land owners have put up signs saying ‘DO NOT PICK THESE APPLES’, best to leave them dangling.

 

Local apples, ready for cookies/ crumble

Scrump Away!

Picking fruit gets me in touch with nature again, you plug straight back into the natural world, it’s relaxing and a great excuse to get out in the fresh air.  One friend told me that the art of scrumping is to not get caught.  I think there has to be a slightly more moral approach than that.  Plus, scrumping is not illegal anyway, there’s nothing to feel guilty about if we’re following a few, common sense guide lines.

You don’t need to live halfway up a mountain like us to scrump well, urban scrumping is on the rise.  Inner city fruit foraging.  It may take a little research at first, trying to understand what apples are best for eating, which are best for cooking etc.  But once you’ve identified a local tree, that’s it.  Every year you can pick a crop of delicious local apples.

The benefits of scrumping are free food!  Plus, no packaging or plastic and the only food miles are the steps you take.  I just don’t understand why we don’t plant more fruit trees.  Local councils, lets get more orchards going, even if they’re beside motorways or near pavements etc.  We can organise groups of fruit pickers and jam makers, free neighborhood jams and chutneys all year!  Some local councils have done this in the past, after complaints from residents about being hit by falling fruit and apples impeding their driving.  They provided fruit pickers and yes, gave the chutney away for free!  This seems like a wonderful idea.  We know people who pick your apples for you if you’re too busy/ can’t be bothered and make them into a cider and sell it.  Their business is based on free or donated apples.

 

Apple Recipes

What to do with your new found apple bounty?  Chutneys, apple sauce, soups, add to stews and casseroles, make into jam….the list is almost endless.  Here are a few of our recipes to get your going :

 

Simple Apple and Oat Crumble

Jane’s Apple and Plum Chutney 

Apple and Beetroot Sauerkraut

Apple Mint Herbal Vinegar

 

We’ve even written a step by step post about How to plant your perfect apple tree.  We’ve got all the apple bases covered.

One of the best ways of using up LOTS of apples is to make your own cider.  You do need loads.  You will also need a cider press for this, but again, there will no doubt be someone in your local community who has one you can borrow or use.  Especially if you offer them a small cut of your cider.

Of course, we’re not just looking for apples when we’re in scrumping mode; sloe berries, rosehips, blackberries, damsons, mushrooms, bilberries (see our Bilberry and Spelt Scone recipe), pears, there is a bounty of fresh fruit growing on trees and bushes all around the UK.  We just need to get out there and have a look.

If you are really not fancying scrumping, you can still access local fruits.  Check out freecycle, there may well be someone in your area looking to offload some apples or other fruits.

 

If you do scrump, remember that it is illegal to profit from the fruit you harvest from common or council land.  On private land, you’ll need a ‘scrump pass’.   If you are not a comfortable single scrumper, it can make for a great family activity or form a small local group.  Scrumpers unite!  Some people feel scrumping is a bit cheeky, but that’s the fun bit!

If you’re a serial scrumper of have some scrumping tales or advice, please let us know in the comments below. 

National apple day in the UK is 21st October ’18.  Let’s celebrate local apples, fruits and produce!  Autumn is the perfect time of year to cook and shop local.

 

Look out from my next post if you’re an apple lover, we’ve got an Apple Crumble Cookies (Gluten-free) recipe coming your way very soon.

 


 

Come and join us in North Wales this month for our:

 

Abundant Autumn: Yoga and Vegan Cookery Day Retreat, 20th October ’18 

We’re teaming up with the wonderful Claire Mace from Inspiratrix Yoga for a relaxing and rejuventing day of yoga, a cooking workshop, nourishing smoothies, cakes, plus I’ll be preparing a plant-based Autumn feast using local organic ingredients.

 

You can book now right HERE.  We have a few places still available.    

 

Categories: Autumn, Foraging, Healthy Eating, Healthy Living, Local food, Organic, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Sustainability, Wales | Tags: , | 7 Comments

Mushroom and Squash Rogan Josh – Traditional Kashmiri Curry

Mushroom and Squash Rogan Josh – How to make a proper vegan curry, from scratch (even the spices!)

Make a decadent, aromatic, rich curry from scratch and even make your own spice mix.  I’ve cooked this curry, and variations of it, loads recently, but think this version is the best.  It does take a little longer, but you just can’t compare the flavours.  I’ve given you options to make this a quick curry too, but I’d urge you to give the full version a try.  You’re gonna love it!!

The Real Deal 

Rogan Josh is a rich, classical style curry made with yoghurt as a sauce base, not onions.  It was brought to Kashmir by the Mughal’s as they swept across North India.  I’m captivated by Indian history and if you’re not a regular BHK reader, by way of background, I’m in love with India and have been there many times, travelling from the tip down south to the top, the Himalayas!  I am yet to visit anywhere that is as enchanting and mesmering and the FOOD, lets just say it will take me this lifetime at least to explore such a vast and tantalising cuisine.  This curry is a good start, a staple and as ever, this is vegan food everyone one will love!  How could you not?  We get all the full flavours of roasted veg and mushrooms and treat it to a very special sauce.

If you make this curry, please let me know, I’d be excited to hear about your spice adventures and how you found the flavour.  Once you try this, you’ll never go back to shop bought or jars (unless you were in a real rush!)  I love curries, but at this time of year, with it getting colder and darker, I think this style of warming, rich curry really comes into it’s own.  A radiant, colourful bowl of big flavours that’s perfectly suited as a winter/ autumn warmer.   I get quite passionate when talking about Indian cooking.  Does it show?!

Make your own spice mix. It’s quick, easy and totally, very much, better than shop bought spices

 

Roast your own!  Spices

Spices!  They bring everything to life.  I’ve written so much about spices over the years, not to mention a hefty spice intro (with nutritional benefits) in Peace and Parsnips, our very own cookbook:)  I talked a lot about spices in there, they’re so important to my cooking and dare I say, Indian is my favourite way of cooking.  No, I don’t!  It does depend on how the stars are aligned and what I fancy and all of that, but, we all know Indian food is utterly brilliant and this recipe does it justice I feel.

I give you full instructions below about how to toast and grind your own spice mixes, this one is similar to a Garam Masala, a North India spice mix filled with warming spices like cinnamon and cloves, you can see the picture above and you can probably imagine the aroma when all that hits a warm pan.  Out of this world!!

 

Garam Masala – Hot Spice!

Dry toasting spices like this in a pan adds complexity and brings out all the incredible aromas.  There are many versions of Garam Masala (‘Garam’ – Hot, ‘Masala’ – Spice Mix).  You could add Mace or nutmeg for example.  But I think this is a good all rounder.  If you don’t please let me know below.  If you do, again, let’s talk in the comments.  I love chatting about spices and learning new things.

I’ve added smoked paprika and turmeric to this spice mix, they’re not classically ‘Garam Masala’, but I like them in this Rojan Gosh.

You can also use shop bought spices here.  See in the recipe below.  Keep your spices in a sealed container and use well within the use by date on the packet.  Smell them, if they don’t smell of much, they won’t add much to the curry.

 

Rojan Gosh – filled with influence from the Mughals andPersia, this dish has a fascinating history

 

UK Curries

Most UK curries are different from those in India.  Generally that is.  In most of the Indian Restaurants in the UK, there is very tasty food, but it’s been modified to meet our Western palates.  There are of course some incredible, authentic Indian restaurants in the UK, but the curries I find that most people enjoy and associate with Indian cooking, are not what I eat in India.  We seem to prefer the big, rich flavours of Northern Indian cooking, much of which was influenced by the great Mughal Empire, who brought a lot of influences from Persia and surrounding areas.  For me, that’s what curries represent, a melting pot in so many ways.

I’m just not sure if there is the same approach with spices.  Many curries I eat in the UK seem to lack the vibrancy and fragrance of an curry in India.  I must investigate this further.  Where’s the magic gone?  I was born in Leicester, a town with a rich Indian restaurant heritage, so I know where to get a mighty fine curry.  But it’s not a standard.  So we’ve three choices, go to Leicester, jump on a plane to Delhi, or make your own?

 

We’re going to Kashmir……

Kashmir is a stunning region in the very North West of India, and a very good song of course (click here for Led Zep’s version of Kashmir).  Apparently Robert Plant had never even been to Kashmir when he wrote it, just liked the sound of it.  Maybe he just loved a good Rojan Gosh?

Kashmir borders Pakistan and historically has seen many foreign invaders cross through it, down into the Gangetic Plain, from Alexander the Great to the Persians, although I don’t want this to sound like a history lesson, I’m just fascinated with a dish like Rogan Gosh (loosley translates as ‘Rojan’ – to stew, ‘Gosh’ – red).  A delicious plateful of history.

The well used BHK Dhaba

 

Recipe Notes

I’ve gone for mushrooms and squash here because they’re seasonal and I love them.  But you can use similar vegetables, carrots, potatoes, peppers, whatever takes your fancy.  The key here is the sauce.  That’s where the magic is!

I mentioned that this was traditional, that was a small, white lie.  It is pretty traditional, but in Kashmir they may use something called Cockscomb Flower to give the curry a more reddish hue.  But I’m happy with this colour.

Kashmiri chillies are quite important here.  You’ll find them in most supermarkets and especially Indian/ Asian food shops.  They are milder than many chillies.  We want lots of chillies in the Rojan Gosh masala, but not loads of heat.

If you don’t have dried Kashmiri chillies, that’s cool, go for chilli powder or cayenne pepper, anything to add a little heat to the curry.

Saffron can also be added here, but I think it just gets lost with the other spices and is basically a waste of our precious, and not inexpensive, saffron.

When I mention coconut cream, I mean the cream off a tin of coconut milk.  That means, the thick bit.  Adds lovely creaminess.  Yoghurt is best, unsweetened soya yoghurt, now available in most supermarkets (wahoo!)

Spices, you will have too much here for just one curry, but if you’re going to make your own spice, you may as well make a decent batch I say.  Keep them in a sealed container or jar.  Label them up, with a date, or give them away as a gift.  In my experience, people love the gift of spice!

 

 

Mushroom and Squash Rogan Josh

 

The Bits – For 4-6

1 roasted medium squash, 650g (skin on, chop into chunks, seeds removed)

1 tin chickpeas (drained)

200g or 3 big handfuls mushrooms (chopped)

3 big handfuls or 75g greens (kale, spinach, chard)

5 tbs plain soya yoghurt/ coconut cream

 

Garam Masala – Spice Mix

½ teas green cardamom seeds (seeds from 10 cardamom pods)

½ stick cinnamon

2/3 teas cloves

1 teas black peppercorns

2 tbs cumin seeds

2 tbs coriander seeds

1 teas fennel seeds

3 bay leaves

1-2 dried red Kashmiri chilli

1 teas turmeric

1 ½ teas smoked paprika

 

Or use shop bought spice mix like garam masala plus 1 teas smoked paprika

 

Curry Paste

1 roasted red pepper (seeded, chopped into chunks)

3 garlic cloves

2-4 dried kashmiri chilli

1 inch fresh ginger (chopped)

3 tbs tomato puree

1 teas salt

3 tbs cold pressed rapeseed oil (or whatever oil you use)

 

3-4 tbs Spice Mix

 

Garnish
Fresh coriander and sliced chillies

 

Do It

Preheat a fan oven to 200oC.

On a baking tray lined with parchment, place the red pepper and squash.  Toss in a little salt and cooking oil.  Roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until soft and slightly blackened in places.

For the spices – Place a pan on a medium heat, add all the whole spices and toast for 4-8 minutes or more, tossing them and making sure they’re all toasted and smelling fragrant.  They will take on a slightly darker colour and smell ‘toasty’.

Be sure not to burn them, the best way to check this is the smell and the look.  You don’t want any black bits at all.  Some people prefer darker spices, some prefer lightly toasted.  I’d start with lightly toasted.  Add the ground turmeric and paprika a minute before you finish toasting the spices.

Place all the spices in a small blender or spice grinder (coffee grinders are also good), and blitz until a powder forms.   Use some in the curry and store the rest in an airtight container.  Garam Masala is a versatile spice mix.

For the curry paste – Place the roasted red pepper in a blender with the other curry paste ingredients and blend to a smooth paste.

For the curry – In a large frying pan, warm 1 tbs cooking oil and fry your mushrooms for 5 minutes, until they’re soft.  Add the curry paste, thinning out with water or soya milk (creamier) as needed. Once the curry paste is bubbling away, spoon in the yoghurt and check seasoning.

Now add the roasted squash, chickpeas and greens. Warm through from 5-7 minutes, then serve scattered with freshly chopped coriander with naan, chutneys and rice.

This would be delicious with our Mango and Papaya Chutney or Cashew and Green Pepper Pulao or even Quick Carrot and Ginger Pickle.

 

Look at where we live! Nice innit. Snowdonia looking stunning in the autumn sunshine.  Sometimes the mountains around here remind me of the Himalayas.

 

Foodie Fact

Squash is bang in season at  the minute, there are so many varities.  If you’re reading from the US, were of course talking Winter Squashes here.  They are a rich source of vitamin C, A and plenty of fibre and minerals.  Also remember the seeds, you can clean and dry them and they are amazing roasted in the oven for 10-12 minutes.

 

 

Come and join us for cooking workshops and holidays soon, check out our EVENTS page HERE.

 

Our new NEWSLETTER is out very soon, sign up HERE (it takes a few seconds).  Lots more recipes, news and interviews from Jane and I.

 

 

Categories: Autumn, Curries, Dinner, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Vegan, veganism, Wales | Tags: , | 7 Comments

Bilberry and Spelt Scones

Bilberry and Spelt Scones – Vegan

Autumn is settling in nicely and it’s definitely time for a scone.  Fresh out of the oven.  You know what I’m talking about there.  Plenty of jam and whipped cream.  Yum!!

We went for a long walk yesterday and it really felt like a touch of winter was in the air, the trees are changing; all those bronze, crimson and golden colours are coming.  It’s such a beautiful time of year up here in Snowdonia.

I made these scones using local bilberries, you can use blueberries, mulberries or blackberries here, if you’re not close to bilberry bushes.  These berries were picked somewhere up a mountain, near a beautiful lake, in the Welsh mist.  My kind of ingredient!

I’ve made the recipes as easy as possible, these scones are served in slices which means very straightforward preparation.  They’re a wholesome style, not your light and fluffy sort, but delicious and satisfying.  They’re also low in sugar, are packed with berries and contain local cold pressed rape seed oil, basically, I challenge anyone to make a tastier and healthier scone!  PS – I know cakes aren’t supposed to be healthy, but I still like to try!

 

Autumn = Scone time

Every autumn I like at least one new scone recipe.  Last year we made Coconut Scones, which are a real treat.  I even got invited onto BBC Radio Wales to talk about them.  That’s how good they are!!  Totally different scone style to these.

Really, this is our Beach House version of a Mabon cake, aka the autumn equinox, we’ll talk more about that on our upcoming newsletter coming out this week.  Sign up here (takes a few seconds).  Loads of news, events, promotions and a very special interview over there this time.

 

Spelt – A Love Affair

Readers of the blog will know my love for spelt flour, we’ve had a long romance through the years.  If I can, I’ll find a way to add spelt or other flours like rye, to my baking adventures.  I just love the flavour and texture.  I like that some of my friends who struggle with gluten can enjoy spelt.

I have a similar love affair with cold pressed rapeseed oil.  One of my favourite things about the last few years of living and cooking in Wales and the UK.  Just a brilliant ingredient on every level, local, healthy, tasty and inexpensive.  I buy rapeseed oil from small producers whenever I can.  Because small producers are ace!  I also wanted to avoid vegan butter/ margarine type things in this recipe.  Not a huge fan of it.

Bilberry and Spelt Scones – so simple to make

Bilberries – A taste explosion!

Are a real taste explosions!  Much more intense and flavourful than their bigger and more watery relatives the blueberry.  Have a look around for a local bilberry bush, they grow all over the UK and are ripe for the picking.  You’ll probably find them in wilder places like moors though.  Keep your eyes peeled.  They tend to grow together in big clumps.  They’re not normally city dwellers.

Other berries will be great in these scones too.  Maybe blackberries are more local for you?  Either way, foraging for these berries is loads of fun and free.  Or you can do what we did, get a friend to pick them for you!!

 

What to serve vegan scones with?

So whipped cream and butter are long gone.  Great!!  You’ll find some excellent vegan creme fraiche in the shops nowadays, this is awesome with scones.  Blended up cashew nuts is also a great idea.  Just soak some cashews until soft, then blend, adding a little water to get your desired consistency and sweeten with whatever you like.  Just a touch of sweetness will do.  Whipped coconut cream is another great, treat option.  These all add delicious, and much welcomed, creaminess when tackling a scone.  Jam?  Grab your finest jar.  Jane’s Mum’s Strawberry 2017 is a fine vintage indeed.

Bilberry and Spelt Scones – Full of flavours and ingredients from Wales, with local berries and rapeseed oil

Let us know if you makes these scones in the comments below.  If you like the look of this recipe, you’ll find hundreds more here and you may like to join us for an event this year, from Spain to Manchester, London to Snowdonia, we’re travelling and cooking all over the UK.  All our BHK cooking events are here.

 

Recipe Notes

When making scones, try not to over mix.  Just enough until things are combined.

Do your best to not pop the berries when you’re combining with the mix.  A few popped ones are fine, you can see I popped a few and they give the scones a cool purple look!

You can buy white spelt flour, but I’ve used the organic brown version here.

All flours are different when you’re baking, the amount of liquid can vary depending on many factors.  4 tbs plant milk is a guide here, we’re looking for quite a dry scone mix.  Just enough liquid to keep it all together.

No spelt flour, no probs.  Use a good quality wholemeal flour instead.

The same goes for rapeseed oil, you can use any cold pressed oil (sooooo much better than refined oils).  I’ve been loving cold pressed sunflower oil of late. But, let’s face it, if you don’t use spelt and rapeseed oil, we’re only talking a very distant cousin of these scones.  I think they’ll still be nice, but I can’t offer any formal BHK approval.  Let us know!

Perfect autumn tea time treat!  Served with Jane’s Mum’s Strawberry Jam

Bilberry and Spelt Scones

The Bits – For 8 slices of scones

Dry 

250g spelt flour

2 teas baking powder

60g light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

 

Wet

80g rapeseed oil (cold pressed)

60ml (4 tbs) plant milk

 

1 big handful (75g) bilberries or blueberries

 

For brushing

A dash of plant milk and rapeseed oil

 

Do It

Preheat a fan oven to 180oC.

 

Place all the dry bits into a mixing bowl, and mix together.  Add the wet and stir to combine.  Mix into the bilberries, being as careful as you can not to pop them.

 

Line a baking tray with parchment.  Form the mix into a disc shape, roughly 3/4 inch thick.  Mix together a dash of plant milk and rapeseed oil in a small bowl, brush your scone with this mix.

 

Bake on a middle shelf of the oven for 20 minutes, the scone will have a nice golden crust around the edges.  Ideally, leave to cool on the tray for 20 minutes before enjoying!

 

Serve topped with whipped coconut cream and your favourite jam or more berries

 

Foodie Fact

Spelt is said to have been cultivated since 5000 BC!  It is a member of the wheat family and is a great source of energy, the Romans called it ‘marching grass’.  It is high in minerals like magnesium, copper and iron and also boasts a load of thiamin, protein and fibre.

 

Categories: Autumn, Baking, Cakes, healthy, Nutrition, plant-based, Recipes, Vegan, veganism, Wales | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Roasted Mediterranean Vegetable Rice – Lebanese Style

A simple, stand out dish to spice up your autumn

This is a real centre piece dish which is simple to make and packed with big flavours and colours.  This recipe will add a little warming spice and vibrancy to your autumn cooking.

You may not have roasted, or baked, rice before, but it’s an easy way of getting really intense flavours into a rice dish.  This is a great base for all kinds of variations, I made it Lebanese, down to the fresh spices I had; bharat, za’atar and sumac, but you could easily make it Moroccan, Italian, Indian, even Spanish, whatever spices and herbs you prefer.  The technique is the same, highly untraditional, but tasty non-the-less.

You could say that this is a Lebanese Paella, but maybe that’s pushing things.  I have a feeling I’d upset many of my Spanish friends and readers.  Paella is a passionate subject!

I’ve never had a dish like this in Lebanon, I know there are a load of rice dishes, but I’ve not tried a baked rice one.  I do love a Maqluba though, here’s my recipe from a few years ago Maqluba with Roasted Pepper, Aubergine and Almond.

This was cooked when we were in Spain, so I was making Paellas regularly, mainly because I love them dearly.  They are great cooked on a hob in a traditional Paella dish and in the oven, a little variation cannot be bad.  I think nailing a paella is important, get one paella that you know and love and your quality of life increases dramatically.  Paella is such a satisfying dish, a dazzling centre piece and like I said, is pretty easy when you know how.  Practice + a little know how = yums!

Big on flavours and colours.

A baked rice dish (some may call paella!) goes well on a sunny day, but I think they’re even better in autumn and winter time, when the toasted, roasted, aromatic flavours of this dish really come into their own.  There are many layers of flavours and textures, to me, this is what makes vegan cooking awesome.  I was talking at the weekend at Ludlow Food Festival, to a tent full of meat eaters, about the very same thing.  Most agreed that they’d eat vegan/ plant-based food if it was tasty without any qualms.  It’s all about unlocking the deep and stunning flavours in plant-based food.  This dish is like a key.  Meat eaters will love it, something you can cook for your family or a group of friends, and all will leave satisfied.

CRUSTS

Crusts.  They taste good.  They’re like a concentrated version of the rest of the dish.  The crispy, dark best bit. Many cultures agree with me, those who know a thing or two about cooking rice, I’m thinking Iran and Spain in particular.  The crust has a special name and is the prized part of the dish, handed to the most deserving person and polished off with relish.  Don’t fear a crust on this dish.  It’s a good thing.  Scrape it off and serve it as a crispy topping.  Of course the art is to discern between a crust and a layer of burnt food.  It’s a skill best learned through practice and a keen sense of smell.  You can also peek a little when the rice is cooking.

Let us join together and educate the word that crusts are our friends, especially children.  Why are many children adverse to crusts?  Cutting crusts off bread seems like madness to me.  Unless we’re saving the crusts for later to make some epic, crust based dish for a special occasion.  What would that dish be?  Answers below in the comments please.

Rice is a source of carbs, which is a good thing.  They keep us ticking over.  Nothing wrong with a nice plate of carb rich bits like rice mixed with plenty of fresh veggies and legumes in our opinion. They give us the energy to swim and run around.  Using brown rice here would make the dish even healthier, slow release carbs, long lasting energy.

I love this dish served with hummus or tangy labeh (yoghurt or sour cream would also be ace), a crisp green leaf salad and some lemon wedges.   Maybe even a sprinkle more za’atar and bharat.  Now that’s getting my taste buds excited.  In fact anything which combines the Lebanese flavour trinity of bharat, za’atar and sumac is exhilarating food.  If you haven’t tried these together in a dish, I highly recommend you pop down to the shops and get some.  They are widely available.  A nice idea is to toast some flatbread/ pitta, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle over these spices/ herbs.  Instant Lebanese toast!  Serve with chopped tomatoes and cucumber, a nice breakfast there.

Shall we call this a Lebanese Paella?

If you’re interested in my travels around Lebanon last year, here are a couple of blog posts:

Seeking Falafel Perfection in Lebanon

I Ate Lebanon!

Or just click on the recipes header (above) for a selection of Lebanese recipes.  Surely one of my favourite cuisines with so many vegan options.

If you like this recipe, please let us know.  If you make this recipe, maybe you’d like to share a picture over on our Facebook cooking group, click here.  Lots of vegan cooks with positive outlooks over there doing amazing things with vegetables.  Feel free to share this recipe far and wide!  It makes our day when we see our recipes on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Happy cooking!!

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Recipe Notes

Adding chickpeas is a nice idea instead of lentils, stir a tin’s worth of cooked chickpeas into the rice before topping with veg.

Top this dish with any veg that is looking good.  Autumn is here in the UK, we are spoilt for choice.  I used Med Veg because I was in Spain.  If I cooked it here I may top this with ingredients like red cabbage, more onions, wild mushrooms, carrots or squash.  My point is, feel free to play.  Let us know about your amazing creations in the comments below.

Don’t have bharat, use another spice mix like garam masala or ras el hanout.

Don’t have za’atar, use dried thyme with a few sesame seeds mixed in.

Don’t have sumac, leave it out.  When you serve this dish with lemon wedges, it adds the citrus kick we need.

Lemon wedges.  Yes, I do serve everything with lemon wedges!  It adds a lovely citrus lift to this dish.

You can use any type of shallow oven dish.

This dish will vary, mainly depending on the type of rice and dish used.  Check after 25 minutes, most of the liquid should have evaporated, remember, the rice will soak up a little liquid when you leave it to rest.

Roasted Mediterranean Vegetable Rice – Lebanese Style

Roasted Mediterranean Vegetable Rice – Lebanese Style

 

The Bits – For 6

400g short grain rice (risotto or paella rice works well)

50g green/ brown lentils

1 tbs cooking oil

1 tbs cumin seeds

2 medium onions (sliced)

4 large cloves garlic (sliced)

2 tbs bharat – spice mix

2 tbs za’atar

2 teas salt

650 ml light vegetable stock or hot water

400 ml tomato passatta

1 big red pepper (sliced)

1 small aubergine (sliced)

1-2 tbs olive oil

 

Toppings

Toasted walnuts/ almonds

Za’atar and sumac

Chopped fresh parsley

 

Serve

Lemon wedges

Hummus or vegan labneh

 

Do It

Wash and rinse your rice and lentils with plenty of cold water.  Drain well.

Preheat oven to 225oC.  Place in your shallow oven dish to warm.

In a large frying pan on medium high heat, add the oil and when warm the cumin seeds.  Fry them for 30 seconds and then add the onions and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Cook for 12-15 minutes, until nicely golden and caramelised.  Add the bharat spices, garlic and za’atar, stir and fry for a minute then pour in the passatta and 1 teas more of salt.  Simmer and stir for a couple of minutes.  Now mix in the rice and lentils and then vegetable stock, stir well to combine.

Pour the rice mix into your warm, not hot, oven dish.  Level it out with a spoon and scatter over the aubergine and peppers and gently press them down with your hand, until they’re roughly half submerged in the stock.

Place your dish in the oven for 30-35 minutes. Check after 25 minutes and drizzle over a little more olive oil to help the vegetables caramelise and add richness.

Once cooked, cover and set aside for 5-10 minutes to cool a little.  Then sprinkle over parsley, more spices and toasted nuts.  Best served as suggested, with hummus/ labneh and a crisp salad.

 

Foodie Fact

Aubergine (bizarrely known as eggplant to some!;) is a superhero of the veg world.  Us vegans use it all the time for its brilliant texture.  Have you tried cooking an aubergine on an open flame until charred.  When peeled, the aubergine is smoky and delicious, ready for traditional dishes like Babaganoush, but also makes an amazing burger filling or pizza topping.

Nutrition wise, aubergines are not exactly outstanding.  They do contain some fibre, vitamin B1 and minerals like copper and manganese, there are some cool chemicals in the black skin that are really good for us.  Like many veggies, eating aubergines with the skin on is best from a health point of view.

Categories: Autumn, gluten-free, healthy, Healthy Eating, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Abundant Autumn: Yoga and Vegan Cookery Day Retreat, North Wales

New BHK event! Abundant Autumn: Yoga and Plant Based Cooking Dat Retreat, North Wales

Saturday 20th October 2018 10-5pm

Location – Prichard Jones Institute, Newborough, LL61 6SY

Join us for a rejuvenating, empowering and nourishing day retreat on the stunning coastline of Anglesey. Local yoga teacher Claire Mace is teaming up with vegan chef and cookbook author Lee Watson to bring you a special programme based on grounding yourself in a healthy way of being, learning new and transformative habits for body, mind and soul. This approach is rooted in the seasons and the cycles of existence.

 

**Book two places, get £10 off per person**

 

Autumn is a time of abundance in so many ways, especially in the kitchen. Lee will be cooking a delicious plant-based seasonal feast for lunch using produce sourced locally in North Wales, with a smoothie in the morning and more sweet treats in the afternoon. There will also be a cooking demonstration and a Q&A session. Pick up new kitchen skills and simple techniques that will make satisfying plant-based meals accessible to you and your family.

Lee’s creative recipes explore the sweet spot between healthy and hearty, decadent and good for you. He believes that this is entirely possible only using plants, and that autumn is the perfect time of year to showcase all the incredible local ingredients on offer in Gwynedd and Anglesey. He has also designed a bespoke recipe booklet and nutrition sheet for the event, covering many of the recipes you will taste, making it easy to re-create them at home.

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Lovely, light Italian Dumplings (gluten-free and vegan)

Menu

Smoothie

Turmeric and Apple Lassi

 

Main Course

Beetroot Bourguignon with Herbs from Claire’s Garden

Italian Herb and Sun Dried Tomato Dumplings
With Black Kale and Red Cabbage

Vegan Mushroom Sausages
With Roasted Carrots with Fresh Herbs

Mashed Potatoes with Leek and Cheddar

Creamy Courgette Ribbons with Roasted Garlic

 

Dessert

Apple Crumble Cookies with Chai and Chilli Poached Pears with Creme Fraiche

 

Almost all of these fruit and vegetables will be coming from our local Tyddyn Teg Organic Farm.

The menu is gluten-free.

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Learn how to cook a delicious Beetroot Bourguignon and many more delicious, satisfying and healthy dishes.

Claire will teach an all-levels yoga session where you will connect to your body’s cycles, and explore how listening to your body’s needs – and your soul’s needs – is crucial to living a grounded and happy life.
Claire and Lee have come together to share their knowledge and skills with you and believe that a healthy mind and body can vastly improve our abilities to be centred within our constantly changing lives. We’d like to celebrate with you the transition from summer to autumn. Come join us for a feast this October.

£79 regular

 

**Book two tickets and get £10 off per person, £69**

Use coupon code HARVEST

 

Places are limited – Bookings here

 

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Price includes:

 

· Nourishing morning smoothie

· Yoga session – with options for beginners and more advanced yogis – learn empowering, energising postures and techniques to help ground yourself and connect to the cycles of nature

· Cooking demonstration and Q&A – based around healthy, hearty, home cooked kitchen tips

· Lunch – locally sourced, seasonally influenced plant-based FEAST

· Afternoon cake

· Herbal teas and coffees

· Bespoke recipe booklet – detailing the day’s recipes

 

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Part of our dessert will be these Apple Crumble Cookies

 

Categories: Autumn, Cooking demos, Cooking Retreats, Cooking Workshops, Events, Healthy Eating, Healthy Living, Nutrition, plant-based, Vegan, veganism, Wales, Welsh produce | Tags: | 1 Comment

Gado Gado – Indonesian Seasonal Salad with Kickin’ Zesty Peanut Sauce

I’m trying to prove that you can eat salads in winter!!  The sun is still shining!  What a beautiful autumn we’ve had here in Wales.  Here’s a seasonal salad with a seriously zesty and creamy sauce, a taste of autumn and early winter given a very Indonesian twist.

Some of the vegetables in Gado Gado can be served warm, which makes it idea for autumn, it is also so colourful and takes advantage of all those incredible veggies that are about at the minute.

Gado gado (or Lotek) is something you find all over Indonesia and basically means ‘mix-mix’, we travelled all over Indonesia last year and found that it changed most times we ate it.  We’ve added roasted veggies instead of steamed/ boiled and some of our favourite, colourful local organic veg.

Gado Gado vendour, Sulawesi, Indonesia

We use what is to hand for this salad, what is seasonal and looking great, with new potatoes and the thick peanut dressing, this seems to be the way things are done in Indonesia too.  The veggies may change but the POW of the amazing sauce is a constant.

You can use any mix of veggies really, in Indonesia, potatoes always figure, with things like cabbage, jackfruit, bitter melon, corn, beansprouts, spinach, the list is long and tasty.  It’s normally topped with something crispy, like fried rice crackers or deep fried shallots.  We’ve kept it super healthy and gone for some toasted pumpkin seeds instead.  Not traditional, but packed with nutrition and gorgeous flavour.

SULAWESI STYLE

I think our favourite Gado Gado was in a small town in the North of Sulawesi.  One man was making it with such care at a warung (street food stand) and we ate it on the street on a little table with a group of lovely people, all giving us their top Gado Gado tips.  It’s one of those dishes that is a real institution and everyone has their favourite quirk and twist with it.  I love the way it’s so flexible and easy to make.

Gado Gado is a great option for a vegan traveller around Indonesia, its filling nutritious and will sometimes come with two of my Indonesia favourites; tempeh and tahu (tofu).  They are everywhere, on each street corner, you’ll bump into a lump of tofu!  We even visited a remote village that was all about tofu, check it out – Visiting Tofu Village – Yogyakarta, Indonesia

It’s fair to say that Indonesia captured our hearts, we loved travelling around and the people were amazingly friendly and hospitable.  The food is also sensational and is one of those cuisines that hasn’t really taken off here in the UK, at least not like Thai or Vietnamese food.  I would say that it’s a fascinating cuisine to explore and Gado Gado is at the very tip of an intensely tasty tree, and if you’re vegan, Indonesia will teach you all you need to know about making tofu and tempeh taste amazing (little tip, great sauces and marinades).

Recipe Notes

Gado Gado normally comes with the thick sauce poured over the dish, a very generous quantity normally.  I like to see the lovely veggies and therefore drizzle the sauce on the base of the plate/ shallow bowl and then have some more around for people to drizzle on top.

We use cooked beans and roasted veggies here, you can serve them warm of cold.  The contrast of raw veg and warm is nice and the sauce comes alive even more with a little heat.

If you can’t track down tamarind, just add a little more citrus.

Aduki beans are also really nice with this salad.  We use beans to substitute tofu or tempeh when we don’t have any.  Nice bit of protein!

Gado Gado – Indonesian Seasonal Salad with Kickin’ Zesty Peanut Sauce

The Bits – For 4

Salad 

450g new potatoes (cooked and chopped)

300g mung or other beans (cooked)

4 big handfuls roasted veggies (we used golden and purple beetroot, squash and onion)

1/2 green pepper (sliced)

1/2 yellow pepper (sliced)

2 big handfuls red cabbage (finely sliced)

2 ripe tomatoes (diced)

1/2 cucumber (diced)

4 Brussels Sprouts (finely sliced)

 

Topping

½ bunch fresh coriander (leaves picked off) or mint leaves (sliced)

1 hot red chilli (finely sliced)

4 tbs toasted pumpkin seeds

 

Extra something crispy – fried wonton wrappers, cassava crisps. Traditionally prawn crackers (krukuk) are used.

 

Peanut Sauce

130g peanut butter (crunchy or smooth is fine)

3 tbs coconut cream (that’s the cream from a tin of coconut milk)

30-40g palm sugar or brown sugar

1 large clove garlic (crushed)

1 tbsp / 1 inch ginger or galangal (peeled and chopped)

1-2 red chillies

2 limes (juice)

2 tbs tamari or good soya sauce

1 tablespoon tamarind paste

Salt (to taste)

2 tbsp water (more if needed to thin)

 

Do It

In a bowl or food processor (easier), mix/blitz the peanut sauce ingredients (except the lime) until a thick sauce forms, adding water if needed to thin it out.
Place sauce in a small saucepan and warm gently. Taste and season with salt if needed then stir the lime juice in. The sauce should be nice and smooth creamy and with a real lime zing.

Spoon the sauce around the outside of the base of a shallow bowl. Arrange all the other vegetables over the sauce however you like it, then sprinkle with all the other toppings, coriander, chillies and seeds and serve.

Foodie Fact 

You may know that peanuts are really high in protein, but did you know they are very high in copper?!  We need copper in our diet to to help us absorb iron and it also helps with red blood cells, nerves, bones and the immune system.  Aren’t we amazing!!  They are also a great source of healthy fats and even anti-oxidants.

Sulawesi is one of the most beautiful places we’ve been in the world.

Want to learn how to cook vegan?  Looking for more plant-based inspiration? 

Check out our events page for workshops and retreats or our recipe page for…..recipes🙂

If you’d like to read more about our Indonesian travels here’s a couple of posts:

Street Eats and Delicious Days – Our Indonesian holiday snaps

Jungle Kopi Culture – Sampling Indonesia’s coffee revolution

Categories: Autumn, Dressings, gluten-free, healthy, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Salads, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , | 5 Comments

Simple Black Bean & Pumpkin Curry

 

 

We had this for breakfast! Might not be everyones bowl of morning happiness but Jane and I love curry for brekkie, a pleasant habit we picked up at train stations and little bus stops in India. We wanted the all-time classic ‘Chana Masala’, but we didn’t have chickpeas!? What’s going on there?!! I feel like I have failed our household. Still, it lead to this creation which I was so pleased with, I felt the urge to share and write and celebrate the beauty of a simple curry.

SPICY WAKE UP CALL

We were getting tired of the smoothies and bowls of nuts and fruits and things routine, we wanted some SPICE in our early, sleepy eyed life!  When the grey tickles us, as it can at this time of year, we need to put some rainbow flavours and magic into our food.  Spices are magic dust right?!  Does any food have as much pizazz and down right tastiness as a deep and potent curry?  It can enliven the senses.  The sheer complexity of flavours mingling and merging, having a massive party all over your taste buds?  This curry doesn’t have to be eaten for brekkie, but do let us know if you try.  Ditch the fry up this Sunday AM and get spicy!!

I’ve been to India many times, it has become my second home.  I love living a life of contrasts, living on a hill in middle of nowhere, slightly mossy, Wales, straight to the honking depths of down town Delhi, thats my kind of contrast.  Mix things up.  Keep things vibrant and interesting.   For me, India is the country with everything going on within its borders, travel there is rich.  I know I go on about the food all the time, but, it is incredible.  Consistently.  Mind boggling in variety.  Like I’ve died and gone to a Dhaba.

Intensely orange – Pumpkin this time of year they be.

HIDDEN TREASURES (AND PICKLES)

If you’re looking for the best spices and Indian/ Pakistani/ Bangladeshi/ Nepalese etc ingredients, I recommend a regular visit to your local Asian shop/ supermarket.  It’s where all the best ingredients will be hiding and normally for very reasonable prices.  I find them a perfect location for spice worship.  Eastern cooking treasure troves, designed for real food lovers to disappear into for days, reappearing with carfull’s of fantastic ingredients, pickles and inspiration.

I say, take the afternoon off and have a good luck around, ask for help and guidance.  For me they’re like a flavour library for a cook, sifting through the ingredients and always finding something new and interesting to take home and play with in the kitchen.

The curry powder we used here was recommended to us by an Indian man in one of my favourite Asian supermarkets in Newcastle.  He wasn’t wrong, its brilliant, fiery and fragrant.  Curry powder has a bit of a bad name, but its just the same as any spice mix like bharat, ras el hanout etc.  If you buy a decent one, it works well.  Of course, making your own is the holy grail of any spice enthusiast.  But having the time and means to do that can be a challenge.  This is a quick dish, so lets keep it simple.

This is no traditional curry, but its not far off.  I’ve made this curry super easy for you, I’d love you to cook and enjoy it!  With only two spice mixes, garam masala and curry powder, which most of you will have knocking about in your cupboards and a quick cooking time.

If you don’t have the spice mixes, just try making your own up using things like turmeric, cumin and coriander for the curry mix, adding a little cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom for the garam masala.  Could be a very nice experiment!  I add red lentils to thicken the sauce up and make things hearty and substantial.  I used pumpkin, because its their ultra orange time of year, but use any vegetables you like here and a nice idea is stirring some greens in just before serving, a couple of handfuls of spinach leaves is cool.

In Nirvana, this is breakfast!

India, we miss you!x

Recipe Notes

I like the curry quite thin, more a thick daal than a chunky curry. Better for dipping warm chappatis into!  The lentils will just keep sucking up the water, so just keep some warm water handy when cooking, preferably a recently boiled kettle (easier) and top up the water as you fancy.

Mash it up!! Your garlic and ginger and chilli as best you can, blending them or whacking them in a pestle and mortar is best.  Releasing all their vibrant potential.

Leaving the curry to cool slighty, let it sit for 10 minutes with a lid on, will help the flavours to mix and mingle, get deep and meaningful.

I’ve gone easy on the chillies because Jane is anti-chilli, but you go wild if you like!

The lemon and coriander to finish are extras, but the lemon especially, will add a lovely citrus twist to the generally sweet curry, it also seems to re-vitalise the spices a little, bring the flavours to some kind of glorious crescendo!!!!  Swadishtx

The chickpea chapatis in the photos are made by whisking some gram flour, water and salt together, until a double cream texture forms, and frying in a little oil.  Simple, gluten-free, healthy, tasty…….

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Simple Black Bean & Pumpkin Curry  Serving suggestion – eat outside, in a garden.

Simple Black Bean & Pumpkin Curry
The Bits – For 2

1 small onion (sliced)
1/2 tbs cooking oil

3 garlic cloves (peeled and crushed)
1 inch ginger – roughly 1 heaped tbs (finely grated)
1/2-1 green chilli (finely diced)

250g black beans
75g red lentil – 1 big handful (washed)

200g squash/ pumpkin – 2 handfuls (diced)
300ml hot water
2 tomatoes (chopped and mashed)
1 heaped tbs tomato puree
1 teas salt
1 1/2 tbs curry powder

1 heaped tbs garam masala

Roughly 2 teas lemon juice

Handful chopped coriander (optional one for the coriander lovers out there)

 

Do It

In a large sauce pan, fry the onions until they are texture like sun (golden brown), then stir in your garlic, ginger and chilli, stir and fry for a minute and then add the lentils, beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, curry powder, squash, water and stir together.  Bring to a boil.

Cook on a fast simmer for 10 minutes with a lid on, stirring occasionally to stop the lentils sticking to the bottom. Add your garam masala and cook for 5 minutes more.  Stir in a little more water if its getting too thick.

Once the squash is nice and soft, stir in the lemon juice, check seasoning and serve. If you like coriander, sprinkle some chopped coriander over the dish. I like it with warm chapatis or chickpea chapatis, dip them in and enjoy!  I also served it with some green mango pickle.  One of my favs.

 

Foodie Fact

Pumpkin is full, full of good things.  Especially this time of year when they’re bang on seasonal and hopefully quite local.  Very orange, means goodness.  Lots of vitamin A, one cup contains 200% of your daily need.  You’ll be seeing in the dark in no time.  It’s got loads of fibre and pumpkin is also said to keep our skin shining.  Bananas are famous potassium sources, but pumpkin actually has considerably higher levels of potassium than bananas.  Vitamin C, also in the mix somewhere, they’re just one of the best things we can eat at this time of year and throughout winter.   Superstars!!

PS – Please don’t throw away the seeds, clean them off and roast them for a while in an oven.  You will not regret the slightly time consuming picking orange gloop off them.

 

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Categories: Autumn, Curries, Dinner, gluten-free, healthy, Nutrition, Organic, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Drunken Cherries – Autumnal Livener!

Drunken Cherries

Surely one of the most delicious ways to warm up!  A fruity little livener!!  This is a simple method to preserve berries and produce some wonderful flavoured spirits to make winter cocktails.

It’s Halloween and we’re having a big fire and welcoming in the darker, wintery times with some luxury hot chocolate spiked with cherry brandy and some rich chocolate mousse (see recipe here) and drunken cherries.  There’s a theme there!!  Cherries and chocolate are a match made somewhere very, very nice.

I love an open fire at Halloween, staring into the flames I feel inspired and a real connection to the festival; from light to dark.  It’s also just great to be outside at night in the winter, especially with a clear sky overhead and maybe a glass of cherry brandy warming your cockles!!  Lighting fires at Halloween (or Samhain in Celtic Traditions) especially on higher ground is said to aid a souls way to heaven.

Samhain was a day set aside for fasting and reflection, but things have changed a little.  Halloween is now a big party of course, all about feasting and treats.  We’re well stocked for trick or treaters and I’m enjoying Rye flour at the minute, so loaves and cakes are on the way for tonight as well as plenty of squash/ pumpkin in a variety of forms.   I might go for a good old school Soul Cake (like a spiced scone really)?  We’ll see….

Beautiful Snowdonia – October is a spectacular month over here

North Wales has been sparkling of late in Autumn sunshine and crystal clear skies.  I love this time of year up here, probably my favourite time in these hills.  We’ve been out walking, exploring new corners of Snowdonia, there seems to be endless trails and paths that lead to new vistas, lakes and terrain.  Soon it will be a bog-fest, many paths transformed into marshes.  The walking is still incredible, but you need to get a little more semi-aquatic, and definitely, a whole lot muddier and chilled.

I’m not a huge fan of the dark, long nights, so tonight is a chance for me to celebrate the brighter times of year.  October has been so beautiful and November is the turning point where the wet and grey rise up and take control.  I’m always reminded of the villages I’ve visited in the high Himalayas, where they are snowed in for many months a year and spend the days with friends and family, drinking local chang (like a watered down moonshine), singing, dancing and telling stories.  That’s their approach to living through a really arduous winter.  I think we all need more singing, dancing and story telling in winter and lets face it, homemade cherry brandy is way better than chang (trust me)!!

You can use this method (technically it’s called ‘macerating’) to preserve and transform any berries really into something warming and delicious in the winter months.  We love to make things like Sloe Gin, Blackberry Whiskey and whatever soft fruits we can get our hands on.  I managed to get some tasty cherries a couple of months ago and now we are reaping the rewards!  I love preserving the bounty of summer/ autumn and enjoying it in the depths of winter, it seems like such a gift to pop open a jar of jam or pickle and share in the joys of the brighter months.  It makes winter slip by a little easier, some summertime sweetness.

Macerating cherries brings out some surprising flavours

Recipe Notes

Berries/ fruits like blackberries, strawberries, loganberries, sloe, plums, damsons, mulberries, blueberries will all be very nice in this recipe.

The longer you leave the fruit to macerate, the more the flavours will develop and change.  Taste it regularly and drink it when you like it!  It’s a fascinating process!!

———————————

Drunken Cherries

 

The Bits – Makes enough for one medium kilner jar

700g cherries (pitted and cut in half)

½ bottle brandy

2 handfuls sugar (to taste)

 

Do It

Place the cherries in medium sized kilner jar, if you’re keeping for awhile, or any large sealable container if otherwise.  Pour over the brandy and sprinkle the sugar over.  Place a lid on and gently shake to combine the sugar.  Now taste.  If you like it sweeter, add more sugar.  Seal and store in a cupboard.

These can be enjoyed after a few days but are better when left for a few weeks or longer.  If there are any cherries sticking above the brandy, either add more brandy or a splash of water.  

Use the cherries in desserts and drink the brandy as you like it.  It’s nice when served warm, especially in hot chocolate.  

Hiking in Snowdonia near Moel Siabod

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Categories: Autumn, Desserts, gluten-free, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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: , , | 10 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: , , , , | 11 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: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Swede and Sorrel Autumn Soup

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

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

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

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

 

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Bigger than my head (that is quite huge!)

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

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

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

Fresh garden rosemary

Fresh garden rosemary

The Bits – Maks 6 decent bowls

1 tbs oil

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

3 potatoes

2 large celery sticks

1 onion

2 carrots

(All cut into rough chunks)

2 large sprigs rosemary

1 teas dried mint

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

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

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

 

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

Simmering Swedes

Simmering Swedes

Do It

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

Serve

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

Swede and Sorrel Soup

Swede and Sorrel Soup

Foodie Fact

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

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

Our neighbourky horses didn't think much of the swede

Our neighbourky horses didn’t think much of the swede

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

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

 

P1220292

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!

P1220327

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

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