Cooking Retreats

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

The beach and mountainous coastline, right outside the villa!

The Beach House Kitchen has been a little quiet of late, we’re in Spain and have just finished an amazing week of cooking, yoga, workshops, beach time and a lot more……

A Taste of Bliss was an idea we had with Will and Malene, we talked about it last year when we were in Goa and after a year of planning it was great to see it all happening, in our eco-villa, right on the beach in the beautiful little gem of a village, La Azhoia.  We envisaged a time in a beautiful location to re-energise and refresh, relax and recharge.  A time and space where we could come together and share contentment and freedom, a calm corner of the world where we could get away from it all and enjoy a healthy lifestyle.

The beautifully deisgned eco villa

Will, Jane and I shopped for days, scouring the local markets for the best produce and visiting Moroccan shops and an organic co-operative in the countryside. After picking everyone up at the airport, the bliss began! Days of restorative and relaxing yoga, healthy plant based meals on the terrace, BBQ’s, walks along the beach to little cafes, a lunch at a local taverna and not to forget a cruise on a vintage, wooden yacht. The cruise was a little choppy, we had strangely windy weather this May, but we managed to make it to a little cove where we swam and enjoyed our packed lunches.  There were also regular workshops to help us tune into peace and happiness offering tips and techniques to living a healthy and vibrant lifestyle.

The Beach House Kitchen excited to be on a boat!

The week went so quickly and we didn’t want it to end, we have decided that this will not be the last Taste of Bliss, watch this space or join our Vegan Cooking with Beach House Kitchen group on Facebook to hear about our future plans.

We’re spending the next month in Spain on the beach, perfecting our paella’s and working on a few projects.  After that we’ll drive, zig zag style, back to the UK via Portugal.

La Sirena – our beautiful yacht for a day

We’d like to thank all of the lovely group who attended A Taste of Bliss and our partners in bliss, Will and Malene from Complete Unity Yoga (who took many of these pictures).  We’d also like to thank my Mum and Dad for all the support and our friends in the bay who all lent a hand (plus pots and pans) and contributed to making the week extra special.

Lunch is served! Healthy, plant-based, using only local produce

Time for a dip!

All meals served outside on the terrace overlooking the beach

The chefs hard at work;)

Spectacular sunsets

On a ripe avocado hunt;)

View from the villa

Rainbow fridges:)

You will need a good appetite at A Taste of Bliss:)

Morning yoga on the terrace

Down at the local market

Some words from the group that summed up their experience – Peace, Nourishing, Educational, Relaxing, Unique, Healing, Community, Delicious, Transformational, Life-changing, with many people inspired to cook healthy plant-based food at home and continue a routine of positive yoga and meditation.

A Taste of Bliss ’18

Big thanks to our brilliant A Taste of Bliss group – out on a walk in the sun

If you like the look of these photos, we’re running another vegan cooking holiday in Cornwall this July, details here. We have a couple of spaces left.

Hope you all have a brilliant summer and we hope to see you again soon somewhere in the UK, Spain or beyond…..

Categories: Cooking Retreats, Cooking Workshops, Events, healthy, Healthy Eating, Healthy Living, photography, plant-based, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Zen Bowl – Teriyaki Sweet Potatoes with Wasabi Mayo

Zen Bowl – Teriyaki Sweet Potatoes with Wasabi Mayo

A super healthy bowl with many of my favourite things all given a Japanese twist.  I was thinking about winter warmers and just didn’t fancy another stew or soup.  I felt like bright colours, crunch, some big textures and flavours.  This is an exciting way to eat!

When it snows like this, these pictures were taken in the snow, my mind regularly thinks of Japan.  I love the images of rural Japan in winter, especially when it’s covered with snow.  It’s magical!  Snow seems to do that, brings a sprinkle of something special to landscapes, Snowdonia is stunning today, the mountains have a whole new feel, even more majestic.

Caramelised sweet potatoes, green leaves with a zesty dressing, fresh crunchy veg and a creamy wasabi mayo.  This is a warming bowl of goodness, bound to satisfy everyone.  This is a gathering of the things I think we need in the depths of winter.

NEW TWIST ON COMFORT FOOD

I do love all the classic comfort food thing, I’ve just posted three soup recipes in a row, but lets re-vamp the concept of comfort food a little.  Add some bright colours and new flavours.  Broccoli and pak choi, radish, turnip and carrots, may all be growing at this time of year.  Polytunnels are genius!!  They should be easy to get hold of anyway.  I am on a one man mission to get Britain eating turnips/ swedes again, but thats for another post.

Sweet potato is a treat (and maybe a little more glamorous to most) that I crack out when I feel like something a bit different, the way it takes on the flavours of the teriyaki sauce is something special.  A great pairing right there.  It is also packed with beta carotene which is very much welcomed at this time of year.

A winter sunshine bowl!  But good anytime of year too.  This is how we like to do things in the BHK for sure.  Delicious food that happens to be healthy, thats a serious sweet spot right there!!

Zen Bowl

GET CREATIVE!

Improvise with the veg, the main highlights for me are the sweet potatoes, along with the wasabi mayo and the zesty dressing.  Quinoa can be substituted for millet, cous cous, freekeh etc.  The broccoli here is a bit special, purple sprouting, any blanched greens would be awesome green beans, mangetout etc, pak choi is easily subbed with chard, bok choi, kale and spring greens.

I hope to visit Japan soon, I doubt I’ll eat anything like this, but the flavours of miso and wasabi are two of my all-time, hall of fame, foodie favourites.

Teriyaki sauce is something I’ve loved since I was a kid.  I spent some years in the Philippines as a child and had Japanese friends.  I remember going over to their houses for dinner and being blown away by how different things were.  It was crash course in chopsticks and new flavours.  I loved them from the start and could see the huge difference in the way that Japanese people approach, cooked and ate food.  One of my favoruites dishes was teriyaki kebabs cooked on mini BBQ’s.   Teriyaki is basically a sweet soya sauce, normally including mirin and Teriyaki dishes are normally grilled.

If you’d like to make your own Teriyaki Sauce, there is a recipe in Peace & Parsnips.

Teriyaki sweet potatoes – a twist on comfort food

WHY ZEN?

I normally steer clear-ish of calling dishes Buddha bowls etc, although I imagine he would not have minded.  Today is so peaceful though and the garden has taken on a zen quality, it seems deeply still, perfectly silent.  It was the perfect backdrop to this lunch, appreciating being out in the icy cold, with the mountains.  Feeling lucky to live in this beautiful area, but as we’re in Zen mode, there is no such thing as luck.

This Moment Is Full of Wonders: The Zen Calligraphy of Thich Nhat Hanh

Maybe you’d like to try this dish out and cook it in a more mindful way?  Take it easy and enjoy.  It worked for me!  As we know, food is much more than just the eating, we can get some joy, find some peace, in every part of the process.  Jane likes washing up because it keeps her hands warm (it gets a bit chilly in our house!)  There is a way to find enjoyment in any situation, or at the very least, to find a way to do things well, with awareness.  Making a dish called a ‘Zen Bowl’ must be a good place to practice this, with the added benefit of a delicious, nourishing meal at the end.

Zen Bowl – A bowl of winter goodness

Recipe Notes

To make this gluten-free, just check your Teriyaki Sauce or make your own.  Its really easy.

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Zen Bowl – Teriyaki Sweet Potato with Wasabi Mayo

The Bits – For 2

1 large sweet potatoes (peeled and chopped into wedges)

1-2 tbs teriyaki sauce

1 big handful radishes (cut in half)

1 big handful broccoli florets (blanched)

 

1 turnip (sliced finely)

1/2 medium carrot (finely sliced)

1/2 red pepper (finely sliced)

 

1 small bok choi (washed, leaves picked separately)

1/2 avocado (sliced)

2 tbs toasted sesame seeds

1 cup cooked quinoa

 

Miso & Lime Dressing

1 tbs lime juice

1 teas light brown miso

1 teas fresh ginger (finely diced)

 

Wasabi Mayo

3 tbs vegan mayo

1 teas wasabi

1 teas lime (juice)

 

Do It

Preheat a fan oven to 200oC, line a baking tray with parchment.  Toss the sweet potato and radish in a little oil and salt, cook in the oven for 20 minutes.  The radish should now be nicely cooked.  Turn the sweet potatoes, carefully, and drizzle over the teriyaki sauce, making sure the potatoes are well covered.  Bake for another 10 minutes.  If they are nicely caramelised, take them out.  If not, drizzle over more teryiyaki sauce and bake for 5 minutes more.  If you repeat this process, you are guarenteed very caramelised, delicious, Teriyaki potatoes.

While the potatoes are baking, cook your quinoa, follow the packet instructions.  Boil a kettle and place your brocolli in a bowl.  Pour over the boiling water and leave them for a minute, drain and refresh with cold water.  This makes them nice and green.  Mix your wasabi mayo ingredients together (see here for our homemade vegan mayo recipe).  Mix together the dressing bits and toss the pak choi leaves in it, until they are well coated.

Toast your sesame seeds in a small frying pan over medium heat or on a baking tray in the oven.  It will normally take between 5-10 minutes,  until the sesame seeds turn a darker brown and you get that lovely toasty smell.  Scatter them over your sweet potatoes.

While the ingredients are still warm, arrange everything in a shallow bowl, including the finely sliced vegetables and avocado.  Serve the wasabi mayo on the side, I firmly recommend, the first thing you do, is to dip a sweet potato in the mayo and enjoy!

Foodie Fact

Wasabi is a close relative of horseradish and cabbage, commonly known as ‘Japanese Horseradish’.  It’s loaded with anti-oxidants, helping the body detox and boosting the immune system.  It has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and is good for the heart.   If you’re looking for the true wasabi experience, you may need to spend a little more money, cheaper, imitation wasabi can be made using horseradish and mustard.  Wasabi is hard to grow, meaning that it is sought after.

This Moment Is Full of Wonders: The Zen Calligraphy of Thich Nhat Hanh

If you’re interested in vibrant vegan cooking and learning more about yoga, meditation and a healthy, more peaceful lifestyle, why not join us in two beautiful locations for one of our BHK retreats in ’18:

A Taste of Bliss – Yoga and Vegan Cooking Holiday, 5th-12th May ’18 – Murcia, Spain

Vibrant Vegan Cornwall! – Healthy Vegan Cooking and Yoga Holiday, 13th – 16th July ’18 – Lands End, Cornwall

 

Cook vegan, get healthy, be happy!

Categories: Cooking Retreats, gluten-free, healthy, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Salads, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

Vibrant Vegan! Healthy Cooking & Yoga Holiday, Cornwall

Friday 13th – Monday 16th July 2018

Boswedden House, St Just (near Lands End), Cape Cornwall

 

Nourish and rejuvenate mind, body and soul this summer in a stunning location.

Come and join us in a picturesque location on the beautiful coastline of Cornwall, where we will enjoy a peaceful weekend of delicious plant-based food, empowering yoga, cooking workshops, blissful meditation, walks in nature and much more.

The program for Vibrant Vegan! is specially designed for you!  In a relaxed atmosphere, you have the freedom to unwind and learn, take in the local nature, fresh sea air and dramatic scenery, go for long walks, practice yoga and enjoy a tantalising plant-based menu.

SPRING SPECIAL OFFER – 15% OFF FOR CAMPERS

Spring is here, the sun is shining, so we wanted to offer a 15% discount to campers –

£280 per person (normal price £329)

 

Lee Watson (author of ‘Peace and Parsnips’ vegan cookbook and presenter ‘Meat vs Veg’ TV program) will be cooking seasonal, vegan meals throughout the weekend.  The menu is designed to show the potential of vegan food; healthy, delicious and varied with loads of treats along the way.

Lee is experienced in running retreats and workshops throughout the UK and Europe and believes that healthy vegan food and living is for everyone!

His workshops aim to transform your home cooking, with a healthy and modern approach to exploring the world of plant-based food.  You’re sure to pick up new techniques and skills.

 

Purpose built yoga and meditation studio

 

Yoga and Meditation

We are very fortunate to have Will and Malene from Complete Unity Yoga joining us, teaching all of our yoga and meditation classes in a purpose built yoga studio.

Complete Unity Yoga run retreats globally and are experienced in teaching yoga of all levels and capabilities. Will and Malene studied yoga in India and are a wealth of knowledge, wisdom and inspiration, practicing yoga as a path to inner peace and radiating joy, bringing strength and confidence along with softness and flexibility.  Classes are calming, restorative and energising.

Lifestyle coaching sessions and private yoga classes are available, subject to pre-booking.

 

Boswedden House

 

Location

Our venue, Boswedden House is a warm, family run, retreat space, situated overlooking the wild coastline of the Land’s End peninsula, close to St Ives, an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’.

It is a tranquil area, with incredible vistas and the largest concentration of ancient sites in the UK.  It is also within walking distance of the ocean, cliffs, wildflower meadows and local beaches.

Leisure facilities include a swimming pool and sauna and all rooms are comfortable and en-suite, with views overlooking the surrounding countryside.  You will have access to the on site swimming pool in the mornings and evenings and Boswedden gardens are the perfect place to enjoy the summer sun with a book and cup of tea.

You may also like to book a soothing massage or reflexology, with local therapists.

 

Stunning coastline of Cape Cornwall

 

Designed for you!

This holiday is designed to get you away from your everyday life and de-stress, a chance to learn new, healthy life habits and skills as well as giving yourself the time to find peace and enjoy the company of like minded people.

 

Food

Lee and his team of cooks will create a summer menu to suit all tastes, whether you’re vegan or not, and he believes in colourful, nutritious and flavourful food.  Dishes will be light and energising, as well as super tasty.

The day will start with a healthy smoothie and breakfast, with a buffet lunch and dinner, not forgetting afternoon cake.  Lee focuses on seasonal, local produce and gives them a global twists, many recipes you will taste, will have been picked up by Lee on his regular travels around the world.

 

Women’s Workshop

Lee’s partner Jane is a menstruality educator at Woman’s Wheel and is offering an Introduction to Menstrual Cycle Awareness Workshop, with the possibility of one to one menstruality coaching, to work more sensitively, find greater harmony and gain a deeper understanding of your cycle.

 

Large Double Room – Boswedden House

 

This will be an unforgettable holiday, let us take good care of you.  All activities are optional, we leave you free to create your own space and harmony within the weekend.

Vibrant Vegan! will be a time to feel fresh and renewed, a chance to radiate and enjoy the heart of summer!

—–

Itinerary (Example) 

8:00 – 8:30 – Pool opens for early morning swim (or jump in the sea!)

8:30 – 10:00  Morning Yoga and Meditation

10:00 – 11:00  Breakfast 

11:00 – 13:30  Free time (massage, walks, one to one sessions, reading in the garden)

13:30 – 14:30  Lunch

14:30 – 16:00  Free time (cooking workshop, massage, walks, private yoga class, siesta)

16:00  Afternoon Tea and Cake

16:00 – 19:00 Free Time (swimming, sunbathing in the garden, lifestyle coaching)

19:00 – 20:00   Dinner

20:00 – 21:00  Evening Gathering, Storytelling and Fire

21:15 – 21:45  Candlelit Meditation 

—–

 

Prices include –

3 nights accommodation in a stunning location

All nutritious, healthy, plant-based meals

Morning yoga and meditation classes

Bespoke recipe booklet

Cooking demonstration – Healthy tricks and tips, a modern approach to plant-based cooking

Tea, coffee and refreshments with meals

Evening Candlelit Meditation

Vegan nutrition and diet workshop – Q+A with Lee

Leisure facilities – Use of the pool/ sauna in the mornings and evenings

Evening storytelling and fire (weather permitting!)

A guided walk to Land’s End

 

Extras –

Massage or Reflexology Sessions with experienced local therapists

 

Lifestyle Coaching Sessions and Private Yoga Classes with Complete Unity Yoga

 

Introduction to Menstrual Cycle Awareness workshop and

One to One Menstruality Consultations with Jane from Woman’s Wheel

 

These sessions require pre-booking, details available on request.  

 

Accommodation

Here is our range of comfortable and contemporary accommodation options, available to suit all budgets:

 

*Single £469

Large Double/ Twin £449

Small Double  £419

Triple Room £399

Family Room (4 beds) £389

 

All prices are per person

 

Camping (see our ‘Spring Offer’ above)

*Single occupancy rooms are limited 

 

All bookings and enquiries:

hellobeachhousekitchen@gmail.com

 

Spaces are limited, and are already being booked, we recommend reserving early!

Find the Vibrant Vegan! Cornwall Facebook Event page here.

Idyllic Cape Cornwall, within walking distance of our venue, with views over Land’s End

 

Beach House Kitchen Retreats – Testimonials

“The content exceeded my expectations!  Loved the ethnic feast concept behind the demos/ menus…..It was like having 4 days of birthdays! 

Special meals, special people.  I will recommend the vegan retreat to anyone.”  Sheila 

“Lee is a superb guy, truly inspirational and high energy. The delivery and interaction with both Lee and Jane throughout was great.

Learnt soooo much, thank you!”

“I enjoyed all of the food, the relaxed style of the cooking demonstrations, the genuine passion and knowledge of both Lee and Jane. Loved all the meal times; healthy delicious food with lovely people. There was so much tasting and sharing of new things which was wonderful. I’d highly recommend the retreat to anyone looking to embrace a vegan and plant-based lifestyle.”

 

Boswedden House – Testimonials

“An absolutely enthralling, invigorating, inspiring place. Thank you!” Ellie, Devon

“Thank you for the amazing care in your beautiful and tranquil place.  A true delight to stay here and join a retreat.  Wow!”  Amritam and Afke, Sussex

 

Categories: Cooking demos, Cooking Retreats, gluten-free, healthy, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Relax, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , | 10 Comments

Beach House Kitchen Event Update – What’s cookin’ in ’18?

Thanks to Jane at Formby Yoga for this cool collage of A Healthy New Year Day Retreat, Caernarfon

We had a great time at the weekend, hosting a A Healthy New Year‘ Yoga and Plant-based Cooking Day Retreat with Claire from Inspiratrix Yoga.  It’s wonderful to cook locally and see so many enthusiastic people in North Wales digging what we do.  I’m blown away by how many non-vegans are now cooking more vegan meals.  Pictures of the event are over on our BHK Facebook cooking group.

“The mini retreat day on Saturday was totally inspiring with easy and healthy vegan recipes. Food was truly outstanding and by Lee’s demonstration they certainly seemed achievable by even the most unskilled of cooks!”  Elaine

Cooking at one of our Vegan Retreats

I wanted to update you on what we’re up to in ’18 so far, I’ll always update our events page, and we’ll announce things via this blog or on our newsletters.  Sign up here.

Here’s 2018 so far…………….

3-4th February ’18 – Our weekend of Vibrant Vegan! Healthy Global Cooking Workshops in London is sold out.  Contact us on hellobeachhousekitchen@gmail.com to be added to the wait list.

 

High point for me, cooking at The Stadium of Light, Sunderland AFC;)

4th March ’18 – Due to cancellations, we have a few tickets for Vibrant Vegan! Cooking Workshop in Manchester.  Book directly here.

“Thank you Lee & Jane for a wonderful time…the demonstrations were really inspiring and of course the food was delicious!!  It was lovely to meet fellow vegans too, to swap ideas….you were amazing!!”  Irene

During our cooking demo at the Ludlow Food Festival (I’m holding an imaginary cauliflower, it’s a long story……;)

18th March ’18 – Our next event in North Wales is ‘Food for the Soul’ Day Retreat.  Book over the next week for our early bird offer!  The location is in the beautiful Snowdonia hills.

 

5-12th May ’18 – Good news!  We’re off to Spain, come and join us!  We still have a couple of rooms in our beach side villa available for our Taste of Bliss – Yoga and Plant-based Holiday in stunning Murcia.  We have limited spaces available for couples and individual bookings.   Book some Spanish sunshine, peace and bliss directly here.  

“The content exceeded my expectations!  Loved the ethnic feast concept behind the demos/ menus…..It was like having 4 days of birthdays!  Special meals, special people.  I will recommend Trigonos/ the vegan retreat to anyone.”  Sheila 

One of our recent cooking demonstraion at Trigonos ’17

I am currently working on new events for ’18 and even looking into ’19.  We love collaborating on events and getting out and about around the UK.

Our long awaited Cornwall Vegan Cooking Holiday is looking ever more likely.  We’ve found a stunning location down near Lands End and will hopefully have some news on that very soon.  There will be excellent yoga, healthy and vibrant vegan food cooked by us and a whole host of activities designed for relaxation and rejuvenation.  If you’re interested, contact us on the email above.  Places will be limited.

Later in the ’18 – when (or if;) we make it back from Spain, we’ve music festival cooking lined up and more food festivals, if you know of any local food festivals who are interested in vegan cooking, let us know.

I’ve added lots of new photos to our photo scrap book, check it out here.

Looking back at the photos of ’17, we’re surprised how far and wide we got, from cooking in front of a packed crowd at Vegfest London, to a retreats at our much loved Trigonos, North Wales and cooking to a tent full of hungry non-vegans in Ludlow Castle.  Although one of the highlights for me will always be cooking at the Stadium of Light!  Home of the finest football team in the land (who are just giving everyone else a chance at the minute;)

We also love getting out there and talking vegan, we had a great time chatting about all things vegan in ’17 at food festivals and in book shops.  

We hope to see you somewhere on the road in ’18 or in the future!

Cook vegan, get healthy, be happy!

Happy cooking, Lee & Jane:)

Cooking at a recent event at Trigonos, North Wales

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

Food for the Soul – Yoga & Plant-based Cookery Day Retreat, North Wales

 

Come and join us for a revitalising and relaxing day retreat amid the mountains in beautiful Mynydd Llandegai.  Learn to cook satisfying, healthy vegan food and relax deeply with yoga and meditation. We’ve planned a peaceful day to help you recharge, nourish yourself and get lots of healthy inspiration.

The day will start with nutritious herbal teas and then experienced local yoga teacher Claire will lead you through an extended yoga class designed to help you use breath and movement to feel more grounded and revitalised. Beginners and improvers are welcome.

Lee (vegan chef, food blogger at beachhousekitchen.com and author of Peace & Parsnips) will be cooking a soul food vegan lunch. We’ll be enjoying treats like:
Detox Miso and Greens Soup
‘Mac and Jac’ – Baked Sweet Potato Macaroni Cheeze with BBQ Pulled Jackfruit
Mexican Double Chocolate Brownies with Dulce de Leche (Coconut Caramel Sauce)
We’ll even learn how to make vegan cheese. Gluten-free options are available on request.
In the afternoon Lee will demonstrate how some of the dishes were made and share knowledge and tips about creating simple and healthy plant-based dishes at home. Questions are always encouraged.
After the cooking demonstration, it’s time for afternoon tea and cake. We’ll end the day with a meditation session with Claire to send you home full of good vibes.
You will receive a full recipe booklet from the event to take home so you can recreate magic in your own kitchen.
This day retreat will encourage wellbeing and happiness: pick up techniques and good habits to feed your soul and ease you towards a more balanced and healthy approach to life.
Some concessionary places may be available, please ask.
—-
Sunday March 18th 2018 10am – 5pmWith Lee Watson & Claire Mace

Mynydd Llandegai (Memorial Hall) in Mynydd Llandygai, LL57 4LQ

(near Bangor, about 10 mins drive from junction 11 of the A55)

North Wales

Bookings

*Early Bird Offer* until 2nd Feb – £69.00

(£85 after that) 

 

Categories: Cooking demos, Cooking Retreats, Events, gluten-free, healthy, Healthy Eating, plant-based, Relax, Vegan, veganism, Wales | Tags: , | 1 Comment

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

Cooking demos in the studio

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mushrooms grown and foraged in Snowdonia, Wales

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

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

Simple and delicious. Rose, Macadamia and Strawberry Cheesecake

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

Just checking out the afternoon tea:)

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

The buffet table is always packed with vegan treats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everyone say “Home Cooked Happiness!!!”

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

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

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

Diolch yn Fawr!!

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

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

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

Categories: Cooking demos, Cooking Retreats, Events, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Vegan, veganism, Wales | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

One World Vegan Cooking Retreat – Photos, Memories and Thanks

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

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

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

The lake at dawn behind Trigonos,

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

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

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

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

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

Dark Chocolate Brownies with Dulce de Leche 

Jane and I during one of the cooking demonstrations

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

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

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

Trigonos beautiful in the sunshine

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

Artichoke flower

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

Down by the lake

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

One World Vegan – Local produce given a global twist

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

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

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

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

The group getting involved during one of the cooking demonstrations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COME AND COOK WITH US!!

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

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

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

Cooking at Trigonos last year.

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

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

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

Happy Cooking and Hopefully See You Soon!

Lee & Jane

North Wales, we love you!!

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

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

 

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

 

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

5th May – 12th May 2018

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Included


Airport pick-up and drop-off

Transport during the stay

7 nights at our villa right by the beach

Daily guided morning meditations

Daily yoga and pranayama classes with Complete Unity Yoga

Two specialised yoga and meditation workshops

Nourishing and deeply satisfying meals, freshly prepared by Lee Watson

Workshop on healthy diet

Bespoke recipe booklet

Cooking demonstrations

Cooking techniquies to bring home to keep the bliss growing

Trips to local treasures and gems

A unique afternoon yacht cruise

Three-Course Meal in Local Taverna

 

Find full pricing, bookings and retreat description HERE

 

Trips

 

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

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

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

 

Workshops Included

 

Stress-Proof Your Life With Yoga, Meditation and Mindfulness 

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

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

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

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

 

The Yoga

 

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

 

Yours in Yoga,

Malene – Complete Unity Yoga

 

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

 

Food

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Accommodation

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Retreat Pricing

 

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

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Local Area

 

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

 

 

Diving / Snorkelling

 

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

 

 

Find full pricing, bookings and retreat description HERE

 

 

 

Categories: Cooking Retreats, Events, Travel, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hot off the press! Announcing our next two vegan cooking retreats

 

We’re very excited to announce our next two vegan cooking retreats at the wonderful Trigonos.

One World Vegan – 4 day healthy cooking retreat
29 August – 2 September 2017

Home Cooked Happiness – 4 day simple vegan cooking retreat
16 – 20 September 2017

Full details are below.

Both courses will be packed with creative plant-based cooking, with optional yoga and meditation as well as evening entertainment and a long walk in the beautiful Snowdonia valleys.

All bookings and enquiries are via Trigonos here or contact on info@trigonos.org for a booking form and more info.

We have limited places available, we like to keep the groups small, it’s more intimate that way.  Gluten-free options available for all recipes.

See you in beautiful North Wales soon.

Lee & Jane:)

———–

ONE WORLD VEGAN: 4 DAY HEALTHY COOKING RETREAT

29 August – 2 September 2017
Led by Lee Watson
Author of Peace and Parsnips – Vegan Cooking for Everyone (Penguin/Michael Joseph)
co-presenter ‘Meat vs Veg’ TV Programme (24Kitchen)

A Trigonos Course

Join us for a rejuvenating, informative and fun retreat in idyllic Snowdonia and learn to cook traditional and contemporary vegan dishes from around the globe. Inspired by Lee’s travel experiences and the recipes, knowledge and tales he’s picked up along the way, this four day retreat will give an introduction Mexican, Indian, African, South East Asian and more with plenty of surprise additions and creative twists that all home cooks can master and everyone enjoy.

The emphasis will be on seasonal and local UK produce, along with essential and readily available ingredients from around the world. Recipes will be healthy and fresh, simple and quick. From exotic desserts to the world’s simplest curry, street food delights and Buddha bowls, we’ll explore all the delicious potential plant-based food has to offer.

The retreat will be informative and relaxing at the same time. Coffee, tea, herbal infusions and treats are free flowing – very important!

We have optional beginners yoga and meditation to start the day in a peaceful way, followed by breakfast with fresh juices and smoothies. Then cooking demonstrations with Lee with opportunities to get hands-on and involved.

Time is set aside to explore the beautiful nature and landscapes around Trigonos with an afternoon set aside for walking in the mountains and valleys of Snowdonia. Each evening will bring local entertainment and drinks by the fire in the Trigonos library, with optional meditation to end the day.

This retreat will be ideal for anyone looking to try something new in the kitchen, spice up their cooking and get adventurous!

Prices from £380 to £550

We’ll be using lots of fresh produce grown on the Trigonos land (check out those tomatoes!!)

 

HOME COOKED HAPPINESS: 4 DAY SIMPLE VEGAN COOKING

16 – 20 September 2017
Led by Lee Watson
Author of Peace and Parsnips – Vegan Cooking for Everyone (Penguin/Michael Joseph)
Co-presenter ‘Meat vs Veg’ TV Programme (24Kitchen)

Are you looking for a healthy and creative kick-start in the kitchen? Seeking simple and inspiring dishes that you’ll want to cook all the time? Or maybe something more decadent for weekends full of treats? On the Home Cooked Happiness Retreat, held at the stunning Trigonos centre in the heart of Snowdonia National Park, we’ll learn a range of skills for transforming simple and accessible produce into nutritious and delicious meals. All dishes have been approved by non-vegans!
 
We know that eating more fruit and vegetables is important for good health, but how can we fit cooking with fresh ingredients into our daily lives? It’s possible and this retreat will give you the techniques needed.
 
A balanced, whole food plant-based diet is the healthiest way to eat and it can be sensational and doesn’t need to cost the earth. During the retreat we’ll be using fresh produce grown on the the Trigonos land.
 
The cooking demonstrations by Lee will be fun and informative and give even the beginner the confidence to explore the potential of vegan food with opportunities to get involved yourself.
 
We’ll be ‘veganising’ many classic, staple dishes and learning recipes covering breakfast ideas, breads, soups, starters, vegan cheese, imaginative salads, stews, burgers, curries, bakes, beautiful bowls, smoothies, cakes and many desserts.
 
The retreat is also designed as a relaxing break from the busy world, somewhere you can recharge. We’ll have optional meditation and yoga in mornings and evenings. Fresh juices and herbal infusions are always available, along with plenty of treats, fresh coffee, cakes and nice surprises along the way.
 
You’ll have ample time to explore the beautiful area, lakes and hills, around Trigonos and one afternoon, we’ll go on a long walk in the mountains and valleys of Snowdonia with a qualified local guide.
 
Every night, after dinner, we’ll relax around a log fire and enjoy drinks and local entertainment.
 
This will be a rejuvenating four days, filled with delicious food, where we’ll meet like-minded people and learn how to cook vegan food for everyone!

Prices from £320 to £490

To book your place contact Trigonos on 01286 882 388

 

 

Categories: Cooking Retreats, Healthy Eating, Vegan, veganism, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The big chocolate tasting and the thrills of real cacao

Mid chocolate scoff/ tasting

In the library at Trigonos – Mid chocolate tasting

Come join our chocolate feast!!!!  A group of dedicated chocolate enthusiasts (and keen amateurs) gathered together and tasted some of the best chocolate around.  We tried the finest single estate cacao, raw chocolate and some delicious milk chocolate and I’d like to share our findings and the thrills and joys of real cacao!  Definitely not your average chocolate.

There is a huge difference between a quality chocolate and what we normally find in the shops and we had the rare privilege of trying them all back-to-back and finding out what kind of chocoholic we were!  Some like chocolate with caramel notes, some prefer cacao with a hint of summer berries and we pretty much all loved the wild orange flavour.  Here are the results of an intensive tasting session involving some of Jane and I’s favourite chocolate producers.

One of the cooking demos at the vegan cooking retreat

One of the cooking demos at the vegan cooking retreat – Photo by Ashley Duckerin

We were lucky enough to host this chocolate tasting at our recent vegan cooking retreat.  Having assembled some of the most brilliant chocolate around we all tried to eat a small breakfast in preparation for the chocolate onslaught that lay ahead.  How could we fit it all in!?  There is no spitting chocolate out a la wine tasting (that would be way too gruesome and messy).  This was a stamina event for serious chocolate fanatics and aficionados only.

So much glorious chocolate on one table!!!

So much glorious chocolate on one table!!!

In reality, it wasn’t quite that dramatic.  There was a lot of nibbling going on and plenty of uuuuuuuuming and aaaaaaaaahhhing (in a good way).  A variety of ecstatic yelps and the occasional ooooooooh (thats normally a very good sign).  One thing is for sure, we had some clear winners that shone through and brought much smiles and happiness.

This choc-a-thon saw us taste a variety of chocolate from Willie’s Cacao, Ethicoco, Pana Chocolate and Choco Mama.  These guys are making some of the very best chocolate available in the UK.  I’d also like to mention Essy & Bella’s chocolate, who were definitely going to feature (we love em!) but time caught up on us.

Willie's Cacao specialise in sourcing amazing cacao beans and allowing their individual characters to shine through.

Willie’s Cacao specialise in sourcing amazing cacao beans and allowing their individual characters to shine through.

So let the tasting begin…..

DARK CHOCOLATE WINNER – WILLIE’S CACAO PERUVIAN GOLD ‘CHULUCANAS 70’

We started with unflavoured, unadulterated dark chocolate.  Pure, simple and potentially, absolutely sublime.  For me, as a slight chocolate snob (I am a cook after all) this is where chocolate begins and ends.  I love all chocolate, but this is its purest expression.  All the flavour of the cacao is there (hopefully) and we were lucky enough to be in contact with the wonderful Willie’s Cacao who supplied some sensational, single estate, chocolate bars especially for the purpose of sampling a range of cacao from different regions and countries.  We could really taste how the specific location of the cacao estate affected the flavour of the final bar.

It was clear that Willie’s had the dark chocolate comp covered with bars from Peru, Venezuela, Madagascar, Columbia and Indonesia.  Willie compares good cacao beans to fine wines, each estate capable of producing beans with unique, stunning and individual flavours.  Willie’s Cacao uses just raw sugar cane and natural cacao butter, no soya lecithin that can impair flavour.  Willie even owns a cacao estate in Venezuela and visits all the farms that supply his beans.  I love his approach and passion for chocolate.

It is a rare privilege to taste high quality products back to back, you can really appreciate the difference in flavours and textures.  Willie’s range of dark chocolate it stunning and it was difficult to pick a winner.  Eventually the Peruvian Gold ‘Chulucanas 70‘ came out on top with its distinct raisin-like flavour and deep, dark cacao taste.  A tiny piece is like a taste explosion in the mouth!

Really, all of Willie’s chocolate is a delight, with the pure taste of exceptional cacao in each bar.  He really does make chocolate from ‘bean to bar’ which many producers talk about, but few are scouring the jungles of Latin America and the world seeking new and interesting cacao beans.  Picking a favourite, well it really just depends of how you feel that day, there are flavours like caramel, nut, berries, fruits in each bar.  You’ll just have to have your own chocolate tasting to try the all!

(I have to say that my favourite Willie’s chocolate is the Indonesian Gold ‘Javan Dark Breaking 69’ which didn’t even make it to the tasting.  Very irresponsible of me, it just disappeared somewhere on route. In the car. YUM.)

The intrepid group of chocolate tasters and ace vegan cooks! Photo by Ashley Duckerin

The intrepid group of chocolate tasters and ace vegan cooks! Photo by Ashley Duckerin 

RAW AND FLAVOURED CHOCOLATES – WINNER PANA CHOCOLATE FIG AND WILD ORANGE

We then dove straight into the raw and flavoured chocolates and this was an equally difficult and exhaustive process, with repeat tastings needed to decided a winner (nobody seemed to mind this at all!)  Extra tea was drafted in….  We liked Choco Mama’s Mulberry Crunch flavour an interesting texture and dried mulberries are rarely seen in the UK.  Choco Mama is a small company based in glorious North Wales and we love trying their range of chocolate from our local health food store.  Their chocolate is hand made in small batches with fair trade cacao form co-ops in Bali and Peru.

choco mama

An interesting range of raw and fair trade chocolate made in Wales

However the clear winner in this section was Pana Chocolate’s Fig and Wild Orange.  They already produce a wonderful selection of chocolates with creative and surprising flavours and it seems that there are even more coming soon (I just checked out their website, Hemp and Nib is looking good).  The Fig and Wild Orange flavour received the the most votes by a long way and like all Pana Chocolate is so rich and silky.  We all loved the fragrant orange flavour coming from the orange essential oils.

Pana Chocolate make 'Chocolate that loves what’s within, as well as the earth it came from.'

Pana Chocolate make ‘Chocolate that loves what’s within, as well as the earth it came from.’

Ethicoco’s rich and creamy bar did gather quite a few votes but the majority of people were part of the dark chocolate persuasion and it was always up against it.  As a change, we will definitely be buying a few bars for a rainy day.  I also love the sound of their Chai Latte Flavour and at VegFest this year in London, I tried their range of dark chocolate which was also delicious.  We found that the oat milk makes this bar so creamy and it is not overly sweet, something I cannot forgive in a chocolate bar.  I like to taste the cacao not the sugar!  Ethicoco know their way around a top bar of chocolate for sure.

An aerial view of Trigonos taken from a drone (piloted by one of the course attendees), the retreat centre where the cooking workshop was held - North Wales

An aerial view of Trigonos taken from a drone (piloted by one of the course attendees), the retreat centre where the cooking workshop was held – North Wales – Photo by Ashley Duckerin

HOT CHOCOLATE HEAVEN

To top everything off with yet another dollop of chocolaty happiness, during our story telling evening with Claire, we made a massive bubbling pot of hot chocolate using a block of Willie’s 100% Venezuelan Black Cacao.  You basically grate the entire block (if you’re making for fifteen) over a pan of water and bring to a simmer.  The cacao does need cooking through for a while to allow it to melt and become silky smooth.  You can add some almond milk, but it’s creamy and rich as it is and is packed with pure cacao goodness.  As Willie says “Coffee is a poor mans hot chocolate” and when you try this hot chocolate, you can really see why.  The flavour is intense and the aroma, totally sensational.

I love using cacao in savoury cooking like stews and pies.  There is a ‘Smoked Chocolate and Beetroot Beans’ recipe in Peace & Parsnips which contains very dark chocolate.  You can try adding a few teaspoons of cocoa to a Mexican-style stew, it brings a new and interesting flavour to a bowlful of your favourite beans and goes especially well with smoked paprika or chipotle chillies.

cyl-venezuelan-carenero--e1427891943355

There is a rumour going round that bottles of rum where planted around the library at strategic points and this somehow made it into the hot chocolate.  I have no idea how that happened?!  So the scene is…..an open fire, a group of new friends, a wonderful story unfolding and a mug of rum laced hot chocolate from Venezuela…….it was a very special evening and the best possible way to spend the last night of our retreat.  We all had rosy cheeks and slept like babies.

So tasting chocolate is a hit (we thought it might be!) We couldn’t think of a better way to round off our vegan cooking retreat, with all those whoops and occasional sounds of sheer delight!  Great chocolate does that!!  Highlighting the power that brilliant, plant-based food can have on us.  It can bring so much joy and I’d like to thank all the chocolate suppliers for packing so much flavour, care, love and happiness into each little bar of chocolate.  It was all very much appreciated.

A cacao pod

A cacao pod – where every chocolate bar begins…

THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF REAL CACAO

Cacao has been known as the ‘Food of the Gods’ for centuries in the Americas and it’s easy to see why.  The cacao tree produces big pods, where the cacao beans hide and grow.  Inside each cacao bean there is a cacao nib (for chocolate) and cacao butter (for chocolate, cosmetics etc).  Most chocolates are made with extra cacao butter, or things like soya lecithin, added to make the bar smooth.

Cacao is very high in anti-oxidants and essential nutrients although many of these can be lost when processed into chocolate or cocoa.  Some of the apparent health benefits of eating cacao are lowering high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, asthma, diarrhea, preventing wrinkles, liver, bladder and kidney disorders and many more.

The cacao bean is packed full of antioxidants, good fats, carbohydrates, protein, minerals like calcium, magnesium, sulfur, copper, iron, zinc and potassium.  They also contain oleic acid which is a heart-healthy essential mono unsaturated fat, fiber and vitamins E, B2, B1, B5, B3 and B9 as well as small quantities of vitamin A and C.  We think it’s incredible that something as decadent as chocolate, especially raw chocolate, is so wonderfully healthy.

——————————————-

FULL CHOCOLATE TASTING RESULTS – TRIGONOS 4/3/16

Pana Chocolate – Fig and Wild Orange – 15 points

Willie’s – Peruvian Gold ‘Chulucanas 70’ – 5 points

Willie’s – Venezuelan Gold ‘Rio Carabe 72’ – 2 points

Choco Mama’s – Mulberry Crunch – 2 points

Ethicoco – Ugandan Oat Milk and Raisin – 2 points

Pana Chocolate – Nut – 2 points

Willie’s – Venezulean Gold ‘Las Trincheras 72’ – 2 points

Willie’s – Madagascan Gold ‘Sambirano 71’ – 1 point

Willie’s – Columbian Gold ‘Los Llanos 88’ – 1 point

——-

Willie’s – 100% Venezuelan Black Carenero Cacao (as hot chocolate) – Many, many points…….(plus extras with a glug of rum)

Thanks again to Willie’s Cacao, Ethicoco and Pana Chocolate for sending chocolate across to the BHK.  It is always wonderful to sample on the blog the products that we enjoy so much.

PS – Although Willie’s is not certified as vegan, I have spoken to them and they assure me that their dark chocolate it totally vegan.  

Categories: Cooking Retreats, healthy, Nutrition, Organic, photography, Raw Food, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

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