gluten-free

The Ultimate Umami Vegan Burger

Ultimate Umami Vegan Burger with Basil Yoghurt & Roasted Vegetables

The ‘Ultimate Umami’ is a special occasion in a bun!  it’s the main event (with a side order of wedges.)  I think this burger will be enjoyed by absolutely everyone!  

I think most of us now know that veggie burgers can have way much more flavour and texture than a traditional meat burger, we just need to make them right and flavour them up with bold and delicious flavours.  This is where all that ‘umami’ comes into play.  We’ve all had a sub-standard, borderline nightmare, veggie burger experience.  This ain’t it!!  

These are perfect for a late autumn BBQ.  The sun is still hanging on up here in North Wales and there’s that lovely nip in the air.  September and October are two of my favourite months in Snowdonia, winter is well on the way, but we can still squeeze in some BBQ’s and picnics.  The sea is still warm-ish, the moutains take on amazing colours and shades and there is so much local produce to play with. 

Winter is coming in Snowdonia, but we still have a few BBQ’s left in us yet!

I’ve packed these patties with big flavours and the texture is solid (good ‘solid’, not brick like). It’s not going to flake or crumble out on you at the decisive BBQ moment or grill flip.  We enjoyed them down in Ludlow, the night before our cooking demonstration and talk, on a little BBQ sat outside the coolest caravan ever, a ’59 Vintage Airstream in mint condition with a bath outside under the stars.  Lucky, lucky us!! The burger was a highlight, but a bath at dawn, with the mist rising off the meadows probably just pipped it in the amazing-ness stakes.

Us – Outside the Streamline ’59 Caravan , before the Ludlow Food Festival

INTRODUCING UU!

The ‘Ultimate Umami’ (UU for short) will blow your taste buds away (to somewhere nice, like the coast of Southern Italy, or the Himalayas on a clear and sunny day.  Burgers have that power!) I don’t think I’m exaggerating here!  Name me one person who does not truly get a burger tickle on occasion? (Comments below).

There’s some kind of magic there, but the accompaniments need to be bang on too, it’s a team effort, so we’ve gone to the Med to pick our favourite flavours; basil yoghurt, sweet roasted peppers…..  This burger will also be ideal with any of your favourite sides and sauce; it’s got that deep, savoury, deliciousness that accompanies most things brilliantly.  It’s a launchpad for a burger feast to remember.  

UNIVERSAL VEGAN BURGER LAWS

You need a tasty burger if you want to be a vegan cooking wizard or wizard-ess. It’s one of the universal vegan cooking laws. Those timeless guidelines, set in a block of ancient fossilized tempeh, somewhere high in the hills of Eastern California, by a veg patch and smoothie bar. ‘Thou shall munch on tasty burgers! Then thou shall use a napkin afterwards (it can get a little messy)!’ Other vegans laws include ‘Open mindedness towards tofu’ and ‘When in doubt, blend it!’

Perfect autumn lunch out in the sunshine

UMAMI?

Umami overload! Not a bad thing. Mushrooms, red rice, balsamic vinegar, yeast extract, caramelised onions, toasted walnuts, miso, smoked paprika……it’s all there. Intense. It’s a bells and whistles burger for sure.

Umami is the fifth flavour and is present naturally in many foods, normally the very tasty ones. Of course, a Japanese scientist isolated it and turned it into MSG. Not good stuff. But umami itself is basically the thing that makes you go MMMMM in savoury dishes.

Perfect with all the trimmings, pick your favourites, I went a bit Mediterranean.

We hope you get the chance to sit in a garden soon with one of these whoppers and enjoy the late Autumn sun.

Recipe Notes

Don’t mess with veg burger too much. Handle them minimally and gently. Once in/on the pan/grill, just flip them once. Once they are cooked and left to rest, they will firm up some more.

You can make the burger mix beforehand. This works nicely, a night in the fridges and the flavours can really get to know each other better.

This mix will also freeze nicely. Keep for three months max.

We made these into little burger bites at our Home Cooked Happiness Vegan Cooking Retreat, think falafel sized bites.   They can be deep fried if you like, makes them very crispy.

Red rice is a super nutritious and tasty ingredient (see ‘Foodie Fact’ below), but you can substitute it for a wholesome brown rice instead.  In fact, at the cooking retreat, I tried the recipe with red quinoa, which was delicious.

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The ‘Ultimate Umami’ Vegan Burger (Gluten-free)

The Bits – For 4 

Burger

100g red rice

50g green/ brown lentils 

240g red kidney beans (cooked)

 

400g mushrooms (diced)

1 large onion (diced)

3 garlic cloves (crushed)

2 tbs balsamic vinegar

 

80g toasted walnuts (ground to a rough crumb in blender)

3 teas brown miso 

2 tbs onion marmalade

1 tbs yeast extract 

60g bread crumbs (gluten-free is fine)

 

Roast Potato & Carrot Wedges

300g carrots (cut into thick batons)

500g potatoes (cut into wedges)

1 teas smoked paprika

1 teas thyme

1 teas cumin seeds

Salt

 

Basil Yoghurt

350ml unsweetened soya yoghurt

10g basil leaves (one big handful)

¼ lemon (juice)

1 garlic clove

Pinch salt

 

4 tbs white flour

 

Serve

Roasted Med Veg (your favourite selection, I used onions, peppers and aubergine)

Salad leaves/ Rocket

Onion Marmalade (see our recipe for Onion & Chilli Marmalade here.)

 

Do It

Burgers

In a small sauce pan, wash and drain the rice and lentils, then cover with 1.5 cm water, bring to boil, pop lid on, cook for 30 minutes on low heat.  Leave to cool. 

In a frying pan, add 1 tbs cooking oil and add the mushroom, fry for around 12 minutes, until they are caramelised and all their liquid is cooked off. Set aside. Add more oil and fry the onion until golden, add the garlic and balsamic, stir and cook until the balsamic vinegar has evaporated, five minute-ish.  Leave to cool. 

In a large bowl, mix and mash together all the other ingredients. Combine well.  You’re looking for most of the beans to be mashed but a few whole, for texture. Refrigerate. The mix is best used straight from the fridge, but it’s not essential.

The Burger Mix – Chunks are welcome! Gives the burger nice texture.

Form the mix into burger patties, roughly 10cm wide, 1.5cm deep. This is easiest done with slightly wet hands.  Scatter the flour onto a plate. Place the patties in the flour and give a light coating all over.

Warm 1 tbs oil in a large frying pan on medium high heat. When warm, fry off two burgers at a time. Cook for 4-5 minutes each side, until a little charred. Place them on a lined baking tray and repeat.

When ready to serve, place the burgers in an oven, 200oC for 10-12 minutes, making sure they are warmed through.  

 

Wedges

On a baking tray lined with parchment (stops the wedges sticking to the tray), toss the potatoes and carrots in the oil, paprika, thyme, salt and cumin seeds.

Preheat a fan oven to 200oc and bake the wedges for 30 minutes, turning them gently at least once to ensure even cooking.

 

Yoghurt

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

 

Serve

In your favourite buns/ rolls with a little side salad, relish and loads of Autumn sunshine.

The bounty of autumn. A cooks paradise:)

Foodie Fact

Red rice is normally unhulled and has a lovely nutty flavour as well as loads of healthy properties.  Red rice is normally a little more expensive than other white or brown rices, it is more scarce and also has a much lower yield.

Red rice has a stronger flavour and when cooked, will share its bright red colour with other ingredients.  In these burgers, the rice adds a full flavour, loads of fibre and is the perfect ‘binder’ to help keep the burger together when being cooked and nibbled.

There is a good amount of protein in red rice and plenty of minerals like zinc and especially iron and magnesium.  You’ll also find Vitamin B1, B6 and B2, calcium, plus plenty of anti-oxidants.

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

If you try the ‘Ultimate Umami’ Burgers, let us know below in the comments.  We love to hear from you!!

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Come and say hello in London soon!  We’ll be at Vegfest 2017 and cooking at our Global Vegan event in Brixton.  

Can’t wait!

 

 

Categories: gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Vegan, veganism, Wales | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

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: , , | 1 Comment

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

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

COME AND COOK WITH US!!

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

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

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

Cooking at Trigonos last year.

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

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

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

Happy Cooking and Hopefully See You Soon!

Lee & Jane

North Wales, we love you!!

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

Simple Seared Mushrooms with Pea Puree & Minty Crushed Peas

Seared Mushrooms with Pea Puree & Minty Crushed Peas

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

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

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

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

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

The Bits – For 2 as starter

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

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

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

1 tbs olive oil
2 pinches sea salt

1 pinch black pepper

 

Garnish

Fresh mint, pea shoots or even edible flowers

Light and simple summer dish

Do It

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

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

Mushrooms
Cut the mushroom into 1/2 inch slices.

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

Heat your pea puree back up.

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

A walk in the woods – Durham

A TASTE OF BLISS – OUR SPANISH HOLIDAY MAY ’18

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

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

The coast of Murcia is a stunning and peaceful place.

 

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

Msabaha – Lebanese Chickpeas (A new twist on hummus)

Msabaha – Lebanese Chickpeas

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

BEIRUT BITES

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

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

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

CHICKPEA LOVIN’

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

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

THE BEST SOUVENIRS ARE RECIPES!

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

Art in Beirut – Sursok Museum

THE GREAT HUMMUS DEBATE – WHICH IS BEST?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recipe Notes

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

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

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

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

I think this dish is best served warm.

I like cumin, so I put it in.

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

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

 

The Bits – Enough for 4-6 as a mezza

550g chickpeas (cooked) – 2 tins

1 teas ground cumin

6 tbs light tahini

1/2 lemon (juice)

5 tbs water (more if needed)

1 small clove garlic (crushed)

Salt

 

Toppings 

Sprinkle of paprika

2 cloves crushed garlic (optional but nice)

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

Big glug of extra virgin olive oil

 

Salad

1 green pepper

1/2 cucumber

2 tomatoes (all sliced)

Fresh mint leaves (I used basil)

 

Do It

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

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

 

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

Foodie Fact

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

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

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

Cooling Watermelon, Tofu & Mint Salad

Cooling Watermelon, Tofu and Mint Salad

It’s getting HOT over here!

I realise that most of you don’t need cooling down, but we do. Its baking in our little place in the coconut grove, Goa. This is the most cooling and simple salad I could think of with the added benefits of tasting very awesome and also bags of sparkling nutrition.

We don’t have a kitchen so we’re loving playing with salads, of the fruity sweet variety and killer savoury ones normally with tahini dressing. We’ve a great supply of locally made tahini and tofu, it’s making us very happy. It’s been about a year since I’ve enjoyed one of my favourite things, tahini I could eat on anything and everything.  I love the creamy flavour and it’s of course, one of the best sources of calcium around.

Whilst taking these pictures we had to fend of Indra the local alpha bull geezer, a speckled massive creature with impressive horns. He’s a bit of a punk and loves nibbling things when we sit near the edge of our terrace. His tongue is outrageously long, something like a mighty iguana. Especially good at hoovering up stray bananas.  Cheeky chap, but we’ve a soft spot from his brusque greediness. He eats all of our peelings and I think looks a little happier afterwards. Other animals hanging around the coconut grove today are large woodpeckers, egrets, a family of buffalos, stripy chipmunks, a pack of semi-feral yet friendly mongrels, wild peacocks at dawn, fish eagles, many funky lizards, a praying mantis and probably loads of other amazing little things. Mosquitos, some. Families of geckos, yes. Anyway, we’re a food blog right!…….

If you’re in northern Europe, maybe save this one until summer hits (or turn the heating right up!) If you’re in more southern climes, this one is a light and cooling lunch for two that also looks a bit sexy.


Recipe Notes

The chillies are a great little kick, but optional.

The tofu quality is important when being eaten cool like this. See if you can get some good stuff, the tofu here is rich and creamy, slightly crumbly like feta. Perfect for salads. Add a squeeze of lemon, a little salt and come nooch (nutritional yeast flakes) if you have them for extra feta like cheesiness.

Watermelons are always huge. We’ll only use a little here so why not try cutting it into cubes, freezing it and using it as exotic ice cubes in your favourite juice/ cocktail. Of course, blended up with cucumber, lemon and mint (maybe a touch of sweetness), your looking at a wonderful smoothie.

I’ve seen some people taking the pips/ seeds out of their watermelon.  It’s a total waste of time!  Just crunch them down, they are not bitter at all.


The Bits – For 2 lunch

250g firm tofu (cubed)
1 cucumber (peeled and cubed)
2 cups watermelon (cubed)
2 tbs fresh mint (finely sliced – do this last)
Pinch salt
Squeeze lemon juice

1 green chilli (finely sliced) – optional

Dressing
2 heaped tbs tahini
½ lemon (juice)
Water
Pinch salt

Do It
Cut the melon, cucumber and tofu into similar sized cubes.

Squeeze a little lemon and a pinch of salt over the tofu and toss lightly.

Mix your dressing together with a fork adding drizzles of water and stirring in until a single cream texture is formed.

Mix your mint in with the tofu and place in the centre of a large plate. Surround in layers with your melon and cucumber. Sprinkle over leftover mint and chilli (if using)

Best served with a sunset;) From Zoori’s Place – Anjuna, Goa

Foodie Fact
We’re going to let Macka B take over the foodie fact, so many incredible health giving properties to the humble cucumba!!!!

Check out our latest Vegan Cooking Retreats HERE or join our Vegan Cooking Group on Facebook for more info, recipes and chat

Happy cooking!

Categories: gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Music, Nutrition, photography, Recipes, Salads, Summer, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

Roasted Cauliflower Hearts with Hazelnuts and Creamy Asparagus Sauce

Roasted Cauliflower Hearts with Hazelnuts and Creamy Asparagus Sauce

Roasted Cauliflower Hearts with Hazelnuts and Creamy Asparagus Sauce

I know this may sound complicated, but it ain’t!  A light and simple summer time lunch which is a bit of a looker and won’t have you hanging out in the kitchen or shops for too long. The method is so easy and there are only a handful of ingredients. You want to be outside right, dancing in the sunshine, listening to reggae!!!

This is what you could call a restaurant style dish, I served it recently to some friends and it’s that kind of Saturday night dinner party plate. Dishes like this look much more complicated than they actually are, I think that makes for a good restaurant dish. Making our lives easier in the kitchen doesn’t mean the quality and presentation of food has to suffer. The contrary is generally true. The more chilled and effortless we are in the kitchen, the better the end product. Thats how it works in the BHK anyway!

KING CAULI
Cauliflower is so versatile and its finely getting some real kudos in the ‘foodie’ world. Long overdue! I actually endured the glorious cauliflowers former incarnation recently, that drab and vacuous, steamed way beyond death thing, that graces serving dishes in function rooms across Britain. It was at a wedding. Any flavour that the poor florets had were mercilessly boiled out. What a shame, I only hope they used the stock.

Cauli makes our sauce here super creamy, it actually contains pectin, like apples, which helps to thicken things up nicely. I use cauliflower in soups and stews when looking for a touch of silky creaminess. I’ve even used cauliflower in a chocolate torte which was actually really nice. It was for my Mum’s 60th birthday cake, which was admittedly, a bit of a risk. But no one could have guessed, primarily because I didn’t tell them about the secret ingredient until after they’d eaten at least two slices and showered compliments on the richness of the torte etc. Then I went in, a bit smug. No one was that surprised. They know what I’m like.

Of course, we’re all crazy for roasted cauliflower at the minute and bar maybe potatoes, few veggies can match cauli when it is nicely caramelised and a bit charred around the edges. Yumah!

A plate fit to grace a party

A plate fit to grace a party

Recipe Notes
You’ll probably have a little too much sauce from this recipe. You can thin it down with vegetable stock to make a lovely soup.

If your hazelnuts are not toasted, just pop them on a baking tray and into the oven for 10 minutes. Keep your eye on them.

You can easily cook the cauliflower on a bbq if you prefer. Cauliflower is perfect for all kinds of bbq style behaviour.

Asparagus can be substituted for a number of veggies in this dish. What ever is looking good and seasonal, I’m thinking peas, broad beans, kale, even peppers or squash. Cauliflower is fairly neutral and takes well to many other veggie flavours.

I served this with pan fried mushrooms and spinach with roasted potatoes. Unless you are looking for a light meal, I’d advised some of your favourite, complementarty sides.

The BitsFor 4
1.25 kg cauliflower (a big one)
600g asparagus spears
3 cloves garlic
500ml soya milk (unsweetened)
1 big handful toasted hazelnuts (finely chopped)
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Do It
Preheat an oven to 225oC.

Cut off the asparagus tips (first three-five inches), then chop the stems until you get to the woody bit. Try some, if it’s fibrous, you’ve gone too far.

Trim the leaves off the cauliflower by slicing off the majority of the base stem. Then cut into 3/4 inch slices straight across, use a long knife. Now cut off the ‘hearts’ of cauliflower, basically nicely shaped florets. The more broken, smaller pieces of cauliflower, add to a saucepan for the sauce. This should be roughly 1/2 the cauliflower. Use any leftover pieces of stem for the sauce.

Drizzle some oil onto a large oven tray, add the cauliflower hearts and season with salt and pepper. Toss a little so they are covered with oil and place in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Until they are well caramelised, I’m talking dark brown colours and charred bits here.

Add the soya milk and garlic to the cauliflower in the saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 15 minutes, until the cauliflower is just breaking down. Add the asaparagus and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes more then leave to cool. You can do this in advance, preferably before the cauliflower is roasting in the oven. Using a stick blender or food processor, blitz the sauce until nice and smooth.

Just before serving, grab a frying pan, add a dash of oil and on a high heat, cook the asparagus tips. Fry for 5 minutes, until they caramelise and then season with a touch of salt and pepper.

Serve on big warm plates, add a few spoons of sauce to the centre, use a spoon to form a circle/ square (depending on the shape of your plate), form a row of asparagus tips along the centre, with four large cauliflower florets either side. Finish with a good scattering of hazelnuts. Or anyway you fancy.

This kind of dish demands a nice glass of chilled white wine (with or without bubbles).

Enjoy!!!!!

Enjoy!!!!!

Categories: Dinner, gluten-free, healthy, photography, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Butter Bean, Lemon and Black Olive Salad – A Real Taste of Murcia!

Butter Bean, Lemon and Black Olive Salad

Butter Bean, Lemon and Black Olive Salad

A simple sunshine salad which makes a great quick summertime lunch.  Ideal served as a side or starter, add some chunky croutons or toasted nuts for a more substantial dish.

The sun is coming and with it comes sprouting a host of beautiful fruits and vegetables. Summer is an exciting time of year, we can finally don shorts again and be collectively surprised at how white our feet are! The flip flops are out in force, maybe a vest and we’re into the garden with salads and fizzy glasses. Certainly in Spain, salads are an every day delight.

There is a global constant that baffles me. You visit local markets and shops (this does not apply to the sub-Saharan region) and there are a wonderful selection of fruits and veggies displayed. You then go to the restaurant next door to find that none of the lovely local fruits and veggies are present on the menu. It’s a strange old situation. The world is addicted to potatoes and tomatoes it seems. Murcia is similar. Although this is the ‘garden’ of Spain, and possibly Europe, a Murcian salad consists of onion, tomato and some black olives (plus tinned tuna if you’re particularly unlucky). This is my version of the local salad using things we can all get our hands on.

You can’t just throw things into your finest salad bowl and expect magical results, salads need a little thought. There’s a balance there. I’d say always gently handle and chop your ingredients and toss them together with care. You want a nice combo of flavours and textures, without over doing it. Salads are our chance to showcase amazing produce and whenever possible, lets buy good stuff for our salads. You might be able to hide vacuous tomatoes in a stew, but in a salad, they just look so lame.

Puerto Mazarron market in full swing

Puerto Mazarron market in full swing

DOWN AT ‘EL MERCADO ESTUPENDO’

I’ve just been down to the local Sunday market here in Mazarron and beeeee jeehzus there is a startling array of amazing produce at the minute. Piled up like technicolour forts; melons like beachballs, bewildering varieities of tomato action, gangs of crimson peppers so deep and vivid, every conceivable shade of olive and crispy, fresh donuts (churros). Well, they seem to balance up all the healthy veggie behaviour. Spain is hot in weather and generally, super chilled in attitude. My kind of combo. ‘Manana!’ (tomorrow) is the Murcian moto. Their crest is probably a tranquil terrace scene, but I can’t verify that. Today is for enjoying…..

I rock up mid-morning just after the donut breakfast feast that’s washed down with goblets of brandy or thick coffee (maybe beer) sometimes a combination of them all will lashing of condensed milk and randomly, nutmeg. It’s a coffee called an Asiatico and is more like several desserts in a small glass swimming in a few shots of black espresso. If you’re lucky, you can score a fresh orange juice, but expect at least two funny looks as you make your way back to a wobbly plastic chair in the sun. Sunday is a good day here.

There is a whole host of other items sold at the market; counterfeit cd’s, plants, leggings, trees and the occasional pot or pan or pot plant. There is also a very cool pan pipe band from Peru who belt out all the classics. I must say, I just focus on edibles. I have a routine, I sweep past with an empty backpack, the first pass. I am above temptation. I don’t buy anything. This is a strict regime, fact finding, and essential for quality control and price comparison. There is no Asda price in Murcia, you’ve got to do the leg work and have hawk like instincts. Bargains are fleeting and sometimes well disguised.

I asses the form and then stop for a well earned cafe americano (sometimes plus a few crispy donuts). If I don’t have donuts, the lady will feel sorry for me and give me some anyway. Older ones from the bottom of the pile. A donut constant that I go with. Then the fun begins. I have pockets of small change and throw myself into the crowds of haggling Spanish and Moroccan housewives, all at least half my size and double my strength, who posses pin sharp elbows. Dead legs and worse have been known around the olive stand and especially at the bargain tomato family and always at the toothless apple dude.

Tomatoes - so many new types to try in Murcia

Tomatoes – so many new types to try in Murcia

The olive stand is a piece of work, ran by three generations of a family. It seems they’ll pickle or preserve anything going. Capers, caperberries, garlic, cucumbers, pink pickled onions the size of a cricket ball, the olives are pretty hot too. You’ll always get a few freebie tasters if you offer equally confused and intrigued expressions. Have you tried a purple olive? I went for some bitter bright green local olives today, they love their bitter olives in these parts, stuffed with lemon rind, minced onion and rosemary. Quite a thing I can assure you.

I know each stand intimately by now, after ten years, I’m one of the villages most well schooled veg selector. They all have their stregths and weaknesses and I try to spread the wealth (amounting to a few euros) around. I’d say on average, the fruit and veg here is at least 1/3 price in a UK supermarket. The Spanish supermarkets also charge more than Mazarron market. The market shifts from town to town, four days a week, I’ve been to each location but the Sunday one is the best. People are letting there hair down and there is a sense of celebration, most of the stall owners clutch a cold can of beer, churches occasionally ring bells and you’re never far from a chuckle or guffaw.

It’s a tough old life in Spain guys!! I’ll keep the sunny plant-based correspondence flowing. Here’s what I did with todays haul.

Mazarron sunsets are regularly a bit special

Mazarron sunsets are regularly a bit special

Recipe Notes
For a more filling salad, drizzle some bread with olive oil and toast under a grill. Roughly chop up and toss in a little more oil, a pinch of salt and a few pinches of dried herbs like oregano and thyme. Scatter over the salad before serving.

Pickled garlic is not that easy to find but it is a superstar ingredient. Use a couple of cloves of fresh garlic instead, it’s worth noting that the flavour is different, pickled garlic is sweet and mild tasting pretty well pickled! I find it quite addictive and sometimes just eat it straight up, I find its quite nice served with nibbles.

I find the lemon and a good extra virgin olive oil is more than enough dressing wise.

Spain boasts very fat and creamy butter beans. Seek out some beauties for this salad, they are one of the highlights.

Using pitted olives is a good idea.  An unexpected olive stone is always an unwanted crunch.

Great with some toasted croutons or a handful or toasted almonds

Great with some toasted croutons or a handful or toasted almonds

The BitsFor 4 as main course, 6-8 as side salad/ starter

500g cooked or 2 tins butterbeans (the fatter, the better)
1 small sweet onion or 3 spring onions (finely sliced)
6 medium sized tomatoes (ripe and sweet)
1 handful pickled garlic cloves (roughly chopped)
1/2 courgette (diced)
1/2 cucumber (diced)
1 head baby gem lettuce or similar (sliced)
2 big handfuls black olives

1 handful parsley (finely sliced)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon (juice and zest)
Salt and pepper

Do It
Place all ingredients in a large salad bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil and the juice and zest of one lemon. Toss gently together with your hands.

Scatter over the parsley, some salt and pepper and croutons if your using them. Serve with more wedges of lemon if you fancy a little more zing and extra virgin olive oil for drizzling.

2016-05-08 17.05.07

Categories: gluten-free, healthy, Healthy Eating, Lunch, photography, Recipes, Salads, Side Dish, Summer, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Chickpea, Date and Potato Tagine

Chickpea, Date and Potato Tagine

Chickpea, Date and Potato Tagine

Tagine is a great summer time staple, a light stew with lovely spice and hints of sweetness from the dates. The perfect place for brilliant seasonal vegetables, a straightforward and ideal addition to your mid week special board!

In Morocco, tagines are a showcase for the amazing local produce. The stock base is just the cooking juices of the vegetables and a little salt, no added stock needed. You know how good your veggies are, its a good test actually. If this tagine is tasteless, its all down to the produce (add a little veg stock).

I went to Morocco straight from Mexico and I remember being hungry quite a lot. I was travelling on hope and pennies and there was certainly not the range of cheap street eats that you find everywhere in Mexico. It was a bit of a shock to the system. When I found a place that did cook veggie food, normally cous cous or tagine, it was a real find. There was normally then a wait while the cook/ owner went out to but the vegetables and cook the tagine. I travelled in mostly rural areas and this could mean a long wait for dinner/ lunch. Still mint tea always flowed easy and the pace of life in Morocco suits me down to the ground. Life ebbs by nice and easy.

Happy hobs:)

Happy hobs:)

Let’s face it, most of us don’t have a proper tagine (the cooking vessel). That’s fine, we can still call it a tagine (just don’t tell your Moroccan mates!) As you’d imagine, we do have a tagine dish. It is normally used as a fruit bowl and I’m always looking for an excuse to use it. A tagine is actually a brilliant shape and design to cook vegetables and cous cous to perfection. You need very little water as the heavy lid keeps in most of the water, it acts as something like a pressure cooker. I find this especially helpful when cooking cous cous.

I like a good mix of veggies in my tagines and potatoes are very important base to other more glamorous (you know what I mean) veg like aubergine, peppers etc. The potatoes have the added benefit of making the tagine sauce thick when they begin to break down.

The flavour or Morocco (in a little jar), just add amazing veggies

The flavour or Morocco (in a little jar), just add amazing veggies

I always bang on about fresh spice, but it makes a huge difference. Many spices have been lurking around our cupboards for a while and may be past their sensational best. Ras El Hanout is the traditional spice mix used, but you know what, other spice mixes can be added to make a tasty stew. Think garam masala, curry mixes, berbere, jerk style mixes. The basic technique will be the same, just experiment with the spice quantity.

I’ve been cooking all over the UK in the past month, it seems like a different kitchen every night! I love it!! I’ve found most people have really good kitchens and its interesting to try out different ovens and cook with a range of pots, pans and utensils. Most people have some amazing kit, much better than the stuff I’ve got!!!  This tagine was made in Durham a few days ago, my Dad who you probably know by now was like me, a real, full power, carnivore and is now going through a real shift. He’s making his own twelve veggie stew at home. I knew Dad would dig this and he says he’ll be trying it out again soon. It’s always wicked when your loved ones enjoy what you make.

Not Durham!  Sunset from the terrace last night in Spain

Not Durham! Sunset from the terrace last night in Spain

Recipe Notes

Tagines are normally chunky. Cut all the veggies into roughly 1 1/2 inch chunks.

As a variation, you can substitute the dates with dried apricots and use whatever vegetables are good and seasonal, easy to get hold of.

My friend Abdul, who lives in a cave near the Sahara, swears by a nice glug of olive oil when serving a tagine. It adds extra richness and gives the sauce a shimmer.

To make things extra special, adding a few handfuls of greens just before you serve the tagine would be nice. Something like spinach, kale or chard. Spring greens are awesome, just add then about five minutes before serving, they take a bit more cooking.

Do not use a metal spoon or spatula to stir stews, unless you want the vegetables to break down. A trusty wooden spoon is perfect.

We cooked quinoa to serve the tagine with, instead of the traditional cous cous. Gluten free and delicious, its also packed with massive amounts of goodness/ nutrition.

2016-04-28 19.00.21

Simple summer special!

The Bits – For 6-8

2 tbs cooking oil
1 onion (peeled and sliced)
2 inches fresh ginger (peeled and finely sliced)
½ medium butternut squash (peeled and chopped)

4 small potatoes (chopped)

2 bell peppers (deseeded and chopped)

1 aubergine (chopped)

4 large tomatoes (chopped)

250g/1 tin chickpeas
16 dates (de-stoned and cut in half)
4 tbs tomato paste
3 tbs ras el hanout spice mix
1 3 inch cinnamon stick
400ml hot water
Salt (to taste)

Serving
A little good olive oil, fresh coriander and extra spice

Do It

This is an easy one…….

In a large frying pan or saucepan on medium heat, add the oil and fry the onions and ginger for five minutes until soft, then add the other vegetables, cinnamon, spices and some salt. Stir and fry for two minutes then add the tomatoes, dates, tomato puree and water.

Stir gently and pop on a loose fitting lid and cook on a steady simmer for 35-40 minutes, until the potatoes are just breaking down. Season with a little more salt to taste.

Serve with cous cous, topped with a drizzled of olive oil, fresh coriander and a sprinkle of extra spices.

Nice with some greens!  (Isn't everything;)

Nice with some greens! (Isn’t everything;)

Categories: Dinner, gluten-free, healthy, photography, Recipes, Stew, Summer, Vegan | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Roast Potato and Cumin Frittata with a Farro and Cannellini Bean Salad

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Roast Potato and Cumin Frittata with Farro and Cannellini Bean Salad (Vegan)

I had a great time on BBC Radio Wales recently, a little thing they do called ‘Foodie Friday’.  It was the wonderful Eleri Sion show (although Tom was standing in) and we mainly talked about how accessible and incredible a vegan lifestyle is and coconut scones, but I did mention one of my very favourite dishes at the moment, a simple and really nutritious vegan frittata.  Plant power for all!!  I just had to share the recipe.

Tom mentioned that vegan food can be more time consuming to cook than a lump of meat with vegetables, which may well be true for some dishes, but this frittata is so easy and straightforward and as with all vegan cooking, substitutions can be made, things can be swapped, veggies played with, happiness unearthed, taste buds dance a merry jig.  It’s always easier when you’re done it, so lets do it!

This is a lovely light Italian lunch with a twist.  I just can’t help myself!  Cumin seeds are one of my favourite ingredients (along with gram flour) and they bring a subtle and deep spice to this dish.  I know that cumin is not exactly traditionally Italian, but I’m sure they’ll forgive me!  Especially if they get to try this frittata.  Molto delizioso! (Which means pretty dang nice in Italian)

Spring is taking its gentle hold on North Wales and the nights are lighter and the sun is making reappearance after a long winter.  Its such a beautiful time of year and we are naturally turning to lighter foods.

This frittata is a brilliant way to use up gorgeous roasted vegetables, either freshly roasted or leftovers.  The other night, after some very posh curry and chips (see below), I pondered how to use the leftover potatoes.  It’s been a while since our last Spain time and I know Jane loved Potato Tortillas so this was a no brainer.  I know the art of romance, surprise frittata!

Posh chips and curry sauce - a Beach House classic made with local organic roasted potatoes and a spicy masala sauce (recipe from Peace & Parsnips)  Yumah!

Posh chips and curry sauce – a Beach House classic made with local organic roasted potatoes and a spicy masala sauce (recipe from Peace & Parsnips) Yumah!

Roasties!!!!!!!!

Roasties!!!!!!!!

A tortilla is basically a Spanish name for an unfolded omelette.  Most people will cook this in a pan and then grill it (this is also called a ‘Frittata’ in Italy or even a ‘Kuku’ in Iran – confused yet?!) but I’ve made it easier, pop it in the oven and all is well.  In fact, omellete’s seem to be a staple in most countries I visit, from North Africa to India, the world loves an omellete.  Making it a vegan delight is quick and easy.  I’ve cooked this for many non-vegans and they love it, a few glugs of olive oil for richness and no one misses those strange oval chicken things.

Looking good with a plenty of fresh coriander (although parsley is probably slightly more Italian)

Looking good with a plenty of fresh coriander (although parsley is probably slightly more Italian)

THATS LUNCH!

Frittata is very happy when paired with a grain salad and some green leaves.  That’s lunch!  I’ve made a little Farro and Canellini Bean Salad, packed with crunch and the wholesome feel of the farro, served with some top salad leaves from our local organic farm.  When the leaves are this good, with amazing vitality, fresh flavour and texture, I just give them a quick rinse and tear them up with my hands.  Finely slicing amazing salad leaves just seems like a waste.  I love to see their shapes.

FUTURE SALADS

I am constantly blown away by the diversity of flavours in the plant word and salad leaves, sprouts and cresses are a real joy for me.  At the recent Discovering Vegan Cooking Retreat that we ran at Trigonos, we were privileged to try a load of different cress and leaves.  The flavours were all over the shop, many shocking and delightful in equal measure; some subtle, some full-on.  All suggested that in the near future, salads will be getting much, much more interesting.  Trust me, you ain’t tried nothing like this!

Crazy Cress!  Such a diverse range of flavours and colours all wrapped up in tiny, tiny leaves.  Very interesting.

Crazy Cress! Such a diverse range of flavours and colours all wrapped up in tiny, tiny little leaves. Very interesting.  Boom!!    

Recipe Notes

You can also use this gram flour mix for omelette’s cooked in a pan or as a filling for a vegan quiche or tart.  A baked gram flour pancake in Italy is known as a Farinata and its one of the best things ever.

For a lighter frittata, why not add 1/3 teas baking powder to the gram flour and then stir in the water.

Farro is basically Italian Spelt, meaning that some people who are gluten intolerant can handle it.  If you are off gluten, try using buckwheat or even quinoa.

Due to my intense love of veggies, this salad is light on grains.  I like a high veg ratio in any dish.

Farro and Cannellini Salad

Farro and Cannellini Salad – packed with crunch and vitality

The Bits – For 4-6

Frittata

250g roasted potatoes (or similar quantity of any roasted vegetables)

2 small onions

2 tbsp olive oil

¾ teas cumin seeds

½ teas turmeric

150g gram flour

225ml water

1/3 teas salt

Large pinch pepper
Garnish 

½ handful Fresh Coriander or Parsley (finely chopped)

½ handful Crushed Walnuts (optional)

 

Farro and Cannellini Bean Salad

100g faro (I use quick cook type)

1 small kohlrabi (finely diced)

3 handfuls leek (finely sliced)

½ yellow pepper (finely diced)

1 handful toasted pumpkin seeds

1 handful pitted green olives (sliced)

½ lemon (juice)

200g cannellini beans

4 radishes (sliced into thin batons)

1 handful parsley chopped

Couple of pinches of salt and pepper

Very simple salad, torn leaves.  No need to mess.  Delicious!

Very simple salad, torn leaves. No need to mess. Delicious!

Do It

Frittata

Preheat an oven to 200oc.

Grab a 10 inch non-stick baking dish, round looks good but you could always use a square one.  If you are not sure about the non-stickiness of the dish, line it with baking parchment.

Drizzle in a little oil, add the cumin seeds, onions and a couple of pinches of salt.  Toss together and place in the oven.  Roast for 15 minutes, stir, roast again for 10 minutes, stir, roast again for 10 minutes, by this time the onions should be nicely caramelised and golden.  Set aside.

While the onions are in the oven, in a large bowl, add the gram flour along with the turmeric, olive oil and a couple pinches of salt.  Stir together and then gradually pour in the water whilst stirring, until a thick and smooth batter forms.

Add your potatoes to the oven dish, mixing them in with the onions.  Pour over the batter and sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the frittata.

Pop in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, until the frittata is firm and getting nice and golden on top.  Cut into slices and drizzle over a little more olive oil and a sprinkle of coriander/ parsley.  A few toasted walnuts are also delicious.

Can be served warm or cold.

Salad

In a saucepan, bring roughly 1 litre water to a rolling boil, add the farro and simmer for 10-12 minutes.  Until the grains are soft.  Drain and refresh with cold water.  Set aside.

Once the grains have cooled, toss everything together in a big bowl.  Serve with your favourite dressing and ideally, a nice big slab of frittata.

Vegan frittata - ideal and super nutritious Spring lunch

Vegan frittata – ideal and super nutritious Spring lunch

My dressing for this was using pomegranate molasses, english mustard and sherry vinegar, with a light olive oil and a touch of salt and maple syrup.

My dressing for this was using pomegranate molasses, english mustard and sherry vinegar, with a light olive oil and a touch of salt and maple syrup.  Worked nicely!  

Foodie Fact

Did you know that potatoes are a good source of protein, iron, fibre and vitamin C?  I sometimes overlook how nutritious potatoes are.

Gram or Chickpea flour is another ingredient to get excited about (of you’re that way inclined).  I love using the stuff!  It makes for a brilliant egg replacer, when stirred with a little water, in baking and is sooooooooo versatile.  Helpfully, its also gluten-free and packed with nutrition.  High in

When buying gram flour, it may be called Besan (unroasted) or Chana (roasted) flour.  They both have slightly different flavours.  Chickpea flour has twice the amount of protein that wholewheat flour has and six times the amount of protein compared to white flour.  It is also very high in folates and healthy unsaturated fats and is a good source of vitamin B6, iron and magnesium.

Wales is so beautiful in early spring - taken at Trigonos, Nantlle Valley, North Wales

Wales is so beautiful in early spring – taken at Trigonos, Nantlle Valley, North Wales

Categories: gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Lunch, Nutrition, Organic, photography, Recipes, Salads, Spring, Vegan | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Quick Carrot and Ginger Pickle plus Five Health Benefits of Ginger

Quick and easy - Carrot and Ginger Pickle

Quick and easy – Carrot and Ginger Pickle

This is the perfect accompaniment to your Saturday night curry feast!  Curry makes any weekend extra special.

I like shop bought pickles, it’s generally what you eat in restaurants in India. Although the very best pickles I’ve ever eaten have been home made (no surprises there then!) Mango, lime and mixed pickles are my favs but I had a few nice carrots in the kitchen, so I thought I’d give this a go. The spice combination and method can be used for most firm, sweet veggies, pumpkin or squash for example also work very well. This is very much a milder pickle don’t expect that eye-popping and taste bud tickling saltiness.  Its mellow like a mango pickle with spicy bells on with a nice sweet and sour chilli-ness.

The drawback of most shop bought pickles is the salt. In India I have noticed pickles are used sparingly, a couple of teaspoons per meal. In Britain, I think we can overdo it sometimes and all that salt is just not cool. The lovely thing about taking a wholefood approach, making an effort to cook much of your food at home, is that you know whats going into your dishes. We can moderate the sugar and salt levels here accordingly.

FIVE HEALTH BENEFITS OF GINGER
Really ginger is more like a medicine than a food!  It is just so good for us.  Some people get a little freaked out when I start talking about the health properties of food, but I can’t help myself!!  I love to know that the food I enjoy is actually doing me some good, not just tasting amazing, but filling me with nutrition and vitality.  Healthy food is not the worthy, boring grey slop of old, its the bright and very tasty future for us all!

  1. Anti-oxidant – Ginger contains a powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory called gingerol.  It is one of the natural oils in ginger which gives it such a powerful aroma.  Ginger may also help to prevent cancer and helps to fight infections.
  2. Helps Nausea – Many people use ginger to treat nausea like morning sickness and sea sickness.
  3. Lowers Cholesterol – Ginger has been shown in many studies to reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol and has even been shown to lower blood sugar levels.
  4. Helps the brain – Studies show that ginger can help to prevent age-related damage to the brain and improve brain function in elderly people.
  5.  Can help to treat chronic indigestion and pre-menstrual aches – Food containing ginger leave the stomach quicker, beneficial for people who suffer from indigestion.  It may also help reduce pre-menstrual pains if taken at the start of the menstrual cycle.  It has shown to be as effective as taking drugs like Ibuprofen.

Ginger is most certainly one of those foods worthy of the ‘superfood’ name!

Back to pickle.  Enjoy this tangy, spicy pickle with flat breads and of course, a curry or two for company. It also goes down well in sandwiches and I even like it on toast in the morning. Remember, I also eat chillies for breakfast on occasion. I understand that it’s a slightly more intense affair than strawberry jam.

 

The Bits – Makes 1 jar or serves 4-6

450g carrot (peeled and cut thin half moons – slice anyway you like really as long as its thin)

1 onion (finely sliced)

3 tbs ginger (finely sliced or grated)

3 tbsp oil

½ tsp fenugreek seeds

1 1/2 teas cumin seeds

1 teas coriander seeds (the smaller ones are best)

5 whole dried red chillies (cut in half length ways – more if you love chilli)

1 ½ tsp turmeric

2 tsp salt

5 tbsp unrefined sugar

1/2 lemon (juice)

Very simple recipe:)

Very simple recipe with brilliant results:)

Do It

If you are jarring the pickle and looking to preserve it for a while, sterilise the jars by either boil the jar and lid in a pan of water or bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

Add the oil to a large saucepan on medium heat and when hot pop in the fenugreek, cumin seeds and dried chillies. Fry until they pop, a minute or less, then add the carrot, onion and ginger, fry for five minutes.

Add the salt and turmeric, stir and lower heat, cover the pan and leave to cook until the carrot is soft, 20 minutes. Add the sugar and lemon juice stir, warm through for a minute and then leave to cool.

This pickle can be enjoyed once cooled or preserved for later tasty times. It will keep nicely in a sealed container for a week.

Quick Carrot and Ginger Pickle

Quick Carrot and Ginger Pickle

Serve

With your favourite curry or like I said, good on toast!

Foodie Fact 

See above – we’ve got ginger covered.

We've been loving the winter sunshine down on the beach.

We’ve been loving the winter sunshine down on the beach.

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Rock hoppin

Dinas Dinlle beach on a sunny day - fresh, fresh air

Dinas Dinlle beach on a sunny day – fresh, fresh air

Categories: Chutney, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, photography, Recipes, Side Dish, Superfoods, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Blender Banana and Pecan Pancakes with Chocolate Sauce (Gluten-free)

Blender Banana and Pecan Pancakes (Gluten-free)

Blender Banana and Pecan Pancakes (Gluten-free)

There is only one pancake night so lets do it in style!!!!  Why is there only one pancake night actually?  I feel like we need at least a weekly or bi-weekly pancake night.  Pancakes are better than that.

So I felt like joining in on the pancake party but with a busy week ahead, I wasn’t going to have much time to play with pancakes.  I needed something super quick and tasty.  I know that a lot of you are avoiding or taking it easy on gluten and I wanted to give you a brilliant option.  I love making food accessible to all and no one will feel like they’re missing out with these pancakes.  Impossible!

They’ll make for a great breakfast or dessert any time of year, maybe add some berries or chopped fruit, a little dusting of cocoa…..

I like pecans any way they come......

What is it about pecans, maple syrup and pancakes?!

I’m going to have to write this quickly before I eat all of these!  I am actually multi-tasking here, typing with a mouthful of pancake.  It is possible after all!!  This recipes is hot out of the pan.  I always said that the precious time that I get out of the kitchen I would not spend in the kitchen (does that make sense!!) taking 56 pictures of a pile of pancakes.  Tonight…..I have. There is surely no better way to spend an evening.

This is easy.  Pop all the ingredients in a blender, blitz, fry and enjoy!  I love the way some talk about pancakes ‘behaving well’ in the pan!?  A well behaved pancake sounds so bland.  Make these small and you’ll have no problems at all flipping them and kids absolutely love a mini pancake (mini most things really).

THE GHOSTS OF PANCAKE DAY PAST

Pancakes have come a long way since my family launching them at the ceiling and redecorating the walls with flour and eggs.  It always seems a very messy night with loads of fuss for a little, thin thing that normally had the consistency of a supple frisbee.   It was always fun though and we laughed at our attempts and devastation.  Everyone had a go at flipping and it was always very exciting and quite nerve wracking as an 8 year old.  You always remembered your technique from last year, after four failed and mangled attempts!

One of my heroes...as an 8 year old. Banana Man!

Do you remember this man? One of my heroes…as an 8 year old. Banana Man!!!!

I still love the classic lemon and sugar crepe, but lets face it, we’ve all become a bit more Americanized with our pancake habits.  Hotcakes are big, light and fluffy (like some Americans I know) you eat two and feel like you’re about to explode.  Quite filling they are.  Sets you up for the day or an early return to bed!!!  Sleep off breakfast.

This is the later, light and fluffy, but without that heavy feeling.  We use gluten-free flour and the delights of banana paired with pecans.

SAUCY IDEAS

There are so many!  I had mine with a simple chocolate sauce (melted chocolate with a little coconut oil mixed in) or try warming peanut butter in a pan and stirring in some maple syrup, or tahini in the same way, in fact any nut butter is sensational warmed with some sweetness stirred in. Another option is warming the peanut butter, sweetening it and then stirring in a little coconut cream (the thick stuff in a tin of coconut milk).  Wow!  That is a sensation.

Something fruity, how about marmalade or cherry jam, warmed in a pan with a dash of whiskey or dark rum stirred in.  Why not toss some apples, dates and orange zest in a pan and warm them through.  Once the apple has broken down you have a lovely apple compote to use liberally on pancakes and more.

Although, having said all of that and being a purist in the department, just maple syrup is enough for me.

Recipe Note

Not everyone likes the full taste of buckwheat, I do.  These pancakes are awesome with just buckwheat flour.

I like these pancakes small, you can eat more of them and they are fresher when you do.  In a large frying pan you should be able to fry three at a time.  Use a spatula to flip them.  If you can flip three pancakes by tossing them in the air…..well done.

If you’ve no pecans, walnuts will be fine.  If you have no walnuts…cashews will do.

You can experiment with your favourite mix of gluten-free flour.  If you’re using normal flour, I’d mash up the banana, chop up the pecans and stir it all togther.  The blender may get the gluten going in the flour and you’ll be left with weird pancakes.

These pancakes are easy flippers, no messing about for you this pancake night.

These pancakes are easy flippers, no messing about for you this pancake night.

The Bits – 12 mini pancakes (serves 2)
2 ripe bananas
1/2 teas bicarb of soda
1 handful pecans
4 tbs white gluten-free flour mix
3 tbs buckwheat flour
150ml soya milk (or plant milk of choice)
1/2 teas vanilla extract
Pinch salt

Dark chocolate

Coconut oil

Do It

Make your sauce first.  Place a glass bowl over a pan of gently simmering water.  Add your chocolate and melt.  Stir in a little oil, the sauce will be shiny and super rich.  Its best serve warm.

In a blender, add all the pancake ingredients and blitz until all is combined.  There will be chunks of nuts left, that is cool.  You may need to get a spoon in there and mix things up, making sure all in smooth and batter-like.

Lightly oil a frying pan and warm on medium heat.  Add 2-3 tbs of mix per pancake.  Fry 2-3 minutes one side, flip and fry for 1-2 minutes on the other.  I normally reduce the heat of my pan as I go through the batches of pancakes.  It can get carried away.  Keep your eye on it.

Keep the pancakes warm in an oven, or wrap them in a clean kitchen cloth until you’re ready to serve.

Serve

Enjoy with your favourite sauce or topping.  You know the one……

Get them while they're hot!

Get them while they’re hot!

Foodie Fact

Pecans are so intensely brilliant in many ways.  They are packed with good fats and fatty acids, keeping your heart healthy.  They are full of fibre which helps our digestion out, anti-oxidants and they are powerhouses of minerals, helping things like our bones, skin and immune systems.  A handful of nuts a day, keeps the grim reaper at bay!

Categories: Breakfast, Desserts, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Baked Mushrooms with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto and Walnuts

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Baked Mushrooms with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto and Walnuts

Just such and easy and flavoursome number!  The kind of dish you could serve as a main course or starter  at a dinner party (aka when you’re trying to look a bit flash in the kitchen) and really not go to any great trouble.

One of the main reasons for me popping this recipe on the BHK is the wonderful Vegan Recipe Hour, happening soon over on Twitter.  A great place for vegan cooking inspiration and tonight the theme is……well……MUSHROOMS!

They look lovely and pack some intense flavours; mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted nuts, pesto, these are some of the bedrocks of richness and savoury flavours in a vegan cooks locker.  Combined……POW!  I’d also like to mention that this is most definitely healthy.

UMAMI!

One of the five basic tastes and a word that sounds like something Vic and Bob would exclaim (with loads of reverb) mid ‘Shooting Stars’.  If you are not British, this may take some explaining…..this clip might help.

Umami is a savoury taste in things like mushrooms, nuts, fermented foods like miso and tamari, yeast extract, seaweed and sun dried tomatoes, they’re packed with that mysterious and delicious flavour that acts like catnip to our tastebuds.  We know we love it!

The history of umami can be found here and it is of course the source of MSG.  Its natures MSG, which means all the crazy good flavour without the unpleasant side effects.  Many rich and flavourful plant based meals use something umami as a base.

BEST JOB IN THE WORLD!

Some of you may know that I cook at a glorious retreat centre in Snowdonia, Trigonos.  (Queue a quick plug for the retreat and workshop I’m running soon –  ‘Discovering Vegan Cooking’).  I have started to make these mushrooms for lunch there and they always go down a treat.  Greater than the sum of their preparation skills and time.  The sign of a winning restaurant dish, especially when you’re working in the kitchen!  This is a dish I choose when I’m giving myself a bit of a break.  Normally, if you eat at Trigonos, you’ll be joining me on a voyage into vegan cooking.  I have a rough idea what I’ll be cooking but I generally see what is good from the land that day (we have our own organic farm) and what’s looking great from out veg supplier.  Then I play with food and enjoy myself.  One of the most wonderful occupations imaginable.

Now.  Lets make something delicious.

Recipe Notes

The mushrooms will shrink quite a bit during cooking.  Make sure you get big ones, or double up per person.  I have found that most folk like a second mushroom after they’ve tasted the first.

Portobellos are full of flavour and texture but field mushrooms are also fine (and a little cheaper).

I always try to make my own pesto, but at this time of year, fresh leafy herbs are not exactly sprouting from the earth.  You could use a good jar of vegan pesto, you’ll find this in most supermarkets and especially health food shops or similar.

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A typical Trigonos lunch plate, plenty of colours!

The Bits – For 4

4 large mushrooms (peeled and the end of stalks trimmed off)

Pesto

2 big handfuls sun dried tomatoes (roughly chopped)

2 big handfuls basil leaves

1/2 lemon (zest)

3 large cloves garlic (peeled and crushed)

1 handful cashews (best when soaked in warm water for an hour before)

50ml+ olive oil

2 tbs nutritional yeast flakes

Sea Salt (to taste)

OR

10-12 tbs green pesto (of your choice)

Mixing in the sun dried tomatoes and lemon (zest) – same quantities as above

 

2 handfuls walnuts (roughly chopped)

 

Topping

Fresh green herbs – parsley, thyme, basil

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Fresh out of the oven

Do It

Preheat an oven 180oc.

Peel the mushrooms, lightly oil a baking tray, sprinkle the mushrooms with salt and pepper.  Bake the mushrooms for 15-20 minutes.  They should be soft but still nice and succulent.

Place all of the pesto ingredients into a food processor (except the olive oil) and pulse until a chunky pesto is formed whilst drizzling in the oil.  Or, just mix the tomatoes and lemon zest into your shop bought pesto.  Taste and season with salt if needed.  Adding more nooch (nutritional yeast flakes) will up the cheesiness. A good thing.

Spoon roughly 2-3 tbs of the pesto over each mushroom and sprinkle with walnuts.  Pop back into the oven for 10 minutes to warm them through.  Thats it!

Sprinkle over some herbs and serve soon after.

Here are some dishes I’ve served recently to accompany these mushrooms:

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Categories: Dinner, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Fancy a healthy start to 2016? Peace & Parsnips Recipes featured by Veganuary

Big thanks to the wonderful folk at Veganuary for featuring recipes from Peace & Parsnips.  Are you taking part in Veganuary?  How’s it all going?  I’m sure you’re shining away and if you need a little tasty inspiration, check out the feast below!

You’ll find these recipes and many, many more in the ‘recipes’ section of the awesome Veganuary website.

timthumb (3)Chocolate & Maple Ice Cream

timthumb (2)

Lazy Lahmacun

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Charred Fig and Rocket Salad with Lemon Tofu Feta

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Raw Apple and Date Pie

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Charred Fig and Rocket Salad with Lemon Tofu Feta

I’m busy in the kitchen at the minute and finding little time to blog.  Soz about that.  I also just completed my taxes for the year which was a very painful experience.  Why so many numbers and brackets?  I needed some light relief, I needed some bloggin time with you lovely lot!!!

Check out our facebook and twitter pages for more BHK shenanigans.

I’m off to check on my onions……….X

Categories: Cakes, Desserts, Dinner, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Peace and Parsnips, Recipes, Salads, Vegan | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

Pumpkin, Ginger and Kaffir Lime Soup

Pumpkin, Ginger and Kaffir Lime Soup

Pumpkin, Ginger and Kaffir Lime Soup

At this time of year, I’d quite happily live on soup.

I just have time to squeeze this post in before driving to Durham and the sparkling NEVFest (North East Vegan Fest).  The first time that Jane and I have not been to a food festival this year together.

Durham is where all of my family are from and I’m very much looking forward to cooking and doing a talk in the Stadium of Light, the home of Sunderland AFC.  For my sins, I support the red and whites.  It will be quite surreal.  I never imagined talking and cooking vegan in a football stadium but learnt recently that at least one professional football team in the UK has gone totally vegan, so maybe its not so strange.  Lentil pies at half time with some miso broth.  Yum!  The future…..

You may think that the life of a food blogger is all hanging out by the fire, sipping a cheeky Oolong whilst leafing through a mountain of cookbooks, but it ain’t.  We all have busy lives these days and posts are normally squeezed in somewhere or other.  Janice (over at the sparkling Nourished by Nature blog) and I were just chatting about this the other day.  Blogging is a labour of love for many of us and we are just crazy about food and sharing our foodie inspiration.

This is not helped by the fact that I am a complete luddite.  I still do not have a phone (hence the lack of Instagram action) and only have a bulky laptop.  I’m trying.  But in reality, I am a techno caveman at heart.  I like paper and pens, books and postcards.  The occasional stapler.  I do love sharing things online though and hope you enjoy these little recipes.  I’ve met such a wonderful global community via the BHK.  The internet is an AMAZING place!

I’ve been cooking with loads of squashes and pumpkins (actually pumpkins are members of the squash family) at Trigonos and at home.  Our local organic veg farm Tyddyn Teg has been growing a wonderful variety of squashes; spaghetti, the mighty crown prince and even little acorns.  Some are even larger than my head.

Squashes are perfect winter fuel, high in energy with loads (I mean loads!) of antioxidants and beta carotene.  Just what our bodies crave and thrive on come the wintery months.  In darker times, eat brighter foods!  Squashes also store well, but I doubt they’ll be lasting very long around these parts.

COCO!

When I say coconut cream I mean the cream in a tin of coconut milk.  If  your coconut milk contains emulsifiers and the like, it will not separate and therefore you cannot extract the cream.

To extract coconut cream from a tin of coco milk, simply place it in a fridge for a couple of hours, turn it over, open the tin and pour out the coco water.  You are left with at least half a tin of very creamy coconut cream to play with.  Try whipping it up with some lime zest and juice or just add a little sweetener to make delicious, vegan whipped cream.   Use the leftover coco water in smoothies, on your morning cereal, add it to stews or even cook rice with it (one of our personal favs).

You may also like to use the hard, block variety of coconut cream.  Just follow the pack instructions.  Don’t worry about adding too much coconut cream to this soup, it will only make it even richer and more delicious.

Pumpkin Seeds before roasting in the oven....

Pumpkin Seeds before roasting in the oven….

ROAST YOUR OWN PUMPKIN SEEDS

I never waste my squash/ pumpkin seeds.  I always pick them out and quickly roast them in the oven with a drop of oil and salt.  Delicious!  Just place them on a baking tray and bake them for 8 minutes on 180oC.  Stir them and keep baking them for 5 minute intervals until they are dark golden and crisp.  Its so easy and each type of squash seed will taste slightly different and have their own texture.  Pumpkin seeds are nice and light, very crispy when roasted.  Perfect as a soup-topper.

...and after. YUM!

…and after. YUM!

I love adding ginger to soups and a little kaffir gives a vibrant fragrance to the rich, sweetness of the pumpkin.  You can use any type of squash here and you may like to half the recipe or freeze the leftovers.  I think cooking in big batches makes loads of sense.  We’ve also been experimenting with pumpkin smoothies and they are a real treat.  A pumpkin chai latte smoothie is a thing of beauty and I’ll hopefully get around to sharing it soon.

Enjoy and stay cosy,

LeeX

Recipe Notes

As I mentioned, experiment with different squashes, they are all wonderful and have properties of their own.  Some sweet and firm, some lighter and slightly blander, others intense and wonderful roasted.  There are so many varieties and this is still (just about) the time to enjoy them in season here in the UK.

You’ll need an extra big pan for this one.  As I said, half the recipe for something a little more manageable.

Pumpkins are ace!

Pumpkins are ace!

The Bits – Makes 10 large bowls
1 medium pumpkin – 1.75kg (peeled and cut into rough 1 inch chunks)
1.5 litres water/ light vegetable stock
7 kaffir lime leaves
50-60g fresh ginger (peeled and finely diced)
2 onions (finely diced)
200g coconut cream

2 teas salt

Do It

In a very large pan, add 2 teas cooking oil, warm and then add your onions and salt.  Fry on medium heat for five minutes until softened and then add your pumpkin, ginger and lime leaves.  Stir well and cook for another two minutes, then add the water/ stock.  Bring to a boil and pop a lid on, lowering the heat.  Simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the coconut cream, stirring well and simmer for another 10 minutes, adding more hot water if needed.  The pumpkin should now be nice and soft.

Pick out as many lime leaves as you can.  Taste the soup, checking for seasoning.  Now give the soup a blend until creamy and smooth with a stick blender or in a food processor.

Serve

In warm bowls, scattered with freshly chopped chillies and some roasted pumpkin seeds.  A little fresh coriander would also be a delight!

The flavours here do lend themselves to sesame and I have been serving this at Trigonos with sesame bread rolls.

Foodie Fact

Pumpkins are a member of the gourd family, which means they are cousins to melons, watermelons, cucumbers, squashes.

Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of anti-oxidants and minerals, they even contain a good amount of iron and of course, plenty of protein.  Surprisingly China is now the worlds largest pumpkin seed producer.  Who knew!

Categories: gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Recipes, Soups, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Mexican Toasted Corn & Mushroom Omelette with Avocado & Tomato Salsa (Vegan)

Mexican Toasted Corn & Mushroom Omelette with Avocado & Tomato Salsa

Mexican Toasted Corn & Mushroom Omelette with Avocado & Tomato Salsa

 

Vegan omelettes are delicious and simple to prepare. A very tasty day-starter especially when boasting smoky chipotle, mushroom, toasted sweetcorn and a lively salsa.

The flavours of Mexico mirror Mexican culture; diverse and vibrant, fresh and intense.  There are many ways to make a plant-based omelette but I like this combination of gram flour, caramelised veggies and silken tofu.  Loads of flavours and textures going on.

I’m not so keen on creating dishes that exactly mimic meat/ cheese/ eggs etc, just something that everyone will be able to enjoy and appreciate the similarities in texture and flavour.  This is one of those dishes that is carnivore approved!

Eating vegan food doesn’t mean giving things up, it normally means adapting dishes and is always full of creative surprises.  Just like these omelettes.  They are rich and delicious and of course, are packed with wonderful nutrition.

I normally like juices, fruit, porridge, muesli etc for breakfast, I don’t have a sweet tooth, but it seems to be what my body is craving first thing.  There are however those exceptional days when only savoury will do.  This normally follows a few glasses of moonshine down at the local tavern I find!

Pan fried mushrooms are just packed with umami-style flavour, along with the sweetcorn and the toasty, nutty flavour of the gram flour making for a flavour packed breakfast.

VIVA MEXICO!

Mexicans are brilliant at breakfast and many of the classic breakfast dishes are egg-based.  Huevos Rancheros, Huevos a la Mexicana, Breakfast tacos or burritos, Gorditas (think a pasty meets a tortilla, stuffed with beans and griddled, utterly delicious)……. All easily veganized, especially as avocado is such a staple in Mexico.  They are normally served with loads of chilli in some form or another, either chopped raw or a potent sauce.  There is also the beauty of the ubiquitous and always freshly homemade green and red sauces (salsa verde y rojo) that can be spooned over anything to add sensational flavour.  Breakfast is no exception.

Chilli is sure to get the body and mind warmed up for the day!  Once a week, I like to have a spicy brekkie and in Mexico became accustomed to chewing on a whole chilli in the morning.  Beats an espresso I can tell you!

Chipotle Chilli - A real taste of Mexico!

Chipotle Chilli – A real taste of Mexico!

WHAT IS CHIPOTLE?

Chipotle is basically a smoked red jalapeno chilli that is now readily available around the UK and Europe.  If you’re reading in the States, I’m sure you know your way around a chipotle already!  Chipotle chillies can be bought in many forms either dried, in adobo (canned), as a paste (popular in the UK) or ground.  You can sometimes replace chipotle with smoked paprika in recipes.

I spent six months backpacking around Mexico, many years ago now, but I can still perfectly recall many of the meals I ate there.  The diversity and flavours of Mexico blew me away.  Thank goodness there are a few decent Mexican restaurants in the UK nowadays, there is much more to Mexican cuisine than a Texmex Burrito (although they can be awesome too!)

One of the delights of Mexican cooking is the chipotle and other smoky, sweet chillies.  They are unique and a real delicacy.  Many markets have a huge variety of smoky chillies piled up, all used in different dishes, from the salsa rojo to the feast  that is a mole pobaldo.  Chipotles are quite fiery, but I’d say are medium on the blow your head off scale.  Less hot than a raw jalapeno that is for sure.

Chipotles are normally smoked for several days and in that time shrivel up.  The flavours really intensify, so this is worth bearing in mind when cooking.  A little chipotle can flavour a large pot of stew.  Chipotles are quite tough and are therefore best used in slow cook dishes like soups, stews and are especially good as a surprise ingredient in chutney/ marmalades.  I love a cheeky Chipotle Marmalade and will attempt to get a recipe on here one day.

Viva Mexico!

Gram flour is a wonderful ingredient.  So full of flavour and totally gluten free, made from ground chickpeas.  Gram flour can also be made form roasted pulses and comes in raw and roasted varieties.  Roasted gram has a fuller flavour.

It is a healthy alternative to wheat flour and I’m using it to help bind together vegan baking at the moment. A couple of tbs mixed with an equal quantity of water can make a huge difference to the texture of a cake.

Gram flour has been used in Europe for many years, its maybe not so exotic as we think.  Examples of this would be the pancake style dishes Socca (France) or Farinata (Italy).  Both traditional and totally gram.  When gram flour is cooked its strong flavour mellows, I do quite like my vegan omelettes a little soft, but some are not keen on the flavour of raw-ish gram flour.   Gram flour is a top larder item for every cook.

My other favourite chilli at the moment, the mighty British Komodo Dragon Chilli. POW!

FUTURE FOODS

We can’t eat meat and dairy at current levels.  The world will not sustain us.  There are very clever people out there who are creating fake meat and cheese in laboratories and just recently I saw a youtube clip of a scrambled vegan egg.  It certainly looked like the real deal, all soft and shiny when cooked.  What it tastes like remains to be seen so I’ll stick with this omelette for now.

Most of us are waking up to the fact that our eating habits must change, for so many positive reasons; we love animals, for our own health and the health of the planet.  The future of food for me is lots of fruits, legumes, veggies and nuts. However, some folk will still want a bloody hamburger or a runny egg yolk, this is now becoming a very real, plant-based alternative.

Cosmos seems to be loving the chipotle!

Cosmos seems to be interested in chipotle!

This is a lively breakfast/ brunch (in fact lunch too) sure to get your taste buds firing first thing, certainly adding a little spice and big flavours to an autumn morning.  A wake up call! A fiesta in your mouth!!

*****For more regular BHK action we are now posting loads of news, recipes etc over on facebook and twitter.*****

Recipe Notes:

Corn season in the UK is coming to an end, but what better way to use  your gorgeous fresh corn on the cobs.  You can use tinned sweetcorn, but it just ain’t the same.

Some vegan omelettes call for the tofu to be mixed in with the flour, but I like the texture contrast of keeping it separate.

I like these just cooked, over cooking an vegan omelette will only make it dry.  Which is never a good thing.  A couple of minutes in a warm pan is enough and then straight under the grill and then eaten just after.  Just like an egg omelette, the warmer and fresher the omelette the more delicious.

I love chilli so 1 1/2 tbs is a good amount.  Use a little less if you’re not quite ready for a full chilli hit at the breakfast table.

Adding fresh coriander to the salsa and omelette is lovely.   Unfortunately, we didn’t have any.

The Bits – For 2 large omelettes

Omelettes

150g gram flour (besan)
250ml water
½ teas salt
½ teas baking powder

1 teas cumin seeds

250g firm silken tofu (sliced)

200g sweetcorn (2 corn on the cobs)
2 large mushrooms (like field or portobello)

1-1 1/2 tbs chipotle paste

Oil for cooking (I used rapeseed/ canola oil)

Avocado and Tomato Salsa

2 tomatoes
2 spring onions
1 avocado

2 large leaves kale (curly, black kale etc – stems removed and finely sliced)
1 lime juice
½ lime zest
½ teas salt

Unfolded you can see the lovely corn, shrooms and those tasting pieces of soft tofu.

Unfolded you can see the lovely corn, shrooms and those tasty pieces of soft tofu.

Do It

In a bowl, mix together the gran flour, water, salt and baking powder.   Set aside.

Make your salsa, this can be done in advance. Combine all the ingredients, lightly toss together and check seasoning.

Grab a large, heavy bottomed frying pan.  Add 1/2 tbs oil and warm on a high heat.  Once hot add the cumin seeds and corn. Stir and saute for 5 minutes, until the corn has a nice, dark golden colour.  Set corn aside.  Wipe pan clean.

Pop pan back on the stove.  Warm another 1/2 tbs oil and add your mushrooms, saute for 2 minutes, stirring regularly, add the chipotle paste and cook through for another minute.  Set aside and wipe clean pan.

Warm a grill on medium heat.  You can flip the pancake in the pan, but it is quite thick and can break easily.  Better to go for the grilling option.

Warm 1/3 tbs oil in your frying pan, make sure the pan base has a nice thin covering of oil.  Scatter half your corn and mushrooms into the pan and spoon over half your gram flour mix.  Ensure the pan base has an even covering of mix and place half your tofu evenly across the omelette.  Cook for 2-3 minutes and then loosen the edges with a flat spatula.  This is a good sign that the base is cooked (you can even have a quick peek!)

Place the pan under the grill (drizzle a little more oil over the omelette for added richness at this stage) and cook until the omelette is a nice golden colour, a couple of minutes is more than enough.

Mexican Toasted Corn & Mushroom Omelette with Avocado & Tomato Salsa

Mexican Chipotle Toasted Corn & Mushroom Omelette with Avocado & Tomato Salsa

Serve

As soon as possible along with the salsa.  You can either fold the omelette or leave it flat and sprinkle over the salsa, like a pizza. Mexican omelette pizza!?  Quite a thing!!

A nice sweet and sour sauce, something like a smoky Mexican Salsa Rojo would be perfect, but not necessary.

The pizza style omelette

The pizza style omelette

 

Down on Dinas Dinlle.  Autumn has been beautiful in North Wales.

Down on Dinas Dinlle. Autumn has been beautiful so far in North Wales.

Foodie Fact

Gram flour is higher in protein than wheat flour and is packed with healthy unsaturated fats, iron and fibre.  More reasons to go gram.

See you soon!

See you soon!

Categories: Breakfast, gluten-free, Nutrition, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Windfall Apple and Oat Crumble – Simple Autumn Classic

Windfall Apple and Oat Crumble

Windfall Apple and Oat Crumble

So the leaves are all turning burnt gold, auburn, crimson and the morning are crisp with deep powder blue skies.  I love this time of year, wandering through dried leaves, staring into fires, wrapping up, rediscovering the delights of sloe gin and big, bombastic bakes!

Desserts or otherwise, its time to wake the oven up,  it tends to be underused in the summer months and dust off our oven dishes.  Autumn and winter mean we need warm hugs and serious sustenance in our bowls/ plates.  It’s something of a survival mechanism and certainly leads to oodles of well-being.  Cosy soul food!

Nothing says autumn more than the first crumble of the year.  Your body knows what’s coming, the dark and windy time when we crave large plates of stodgy happiness to warm our wintery bones.  We are enjoying a beautiful September up here on Tiger Mountain, but the  nights are getting a bit chilly and crumble is the perfect antidote.  Easing us into this time of year in the tastiest of ways.

Crumble’s beauty lie in their simplicity and the way they gobble up our autumn fruity abundance.  This recipe is beautifully basic and can be taken in so many directions with addition of other fruits (think blackberries, damsons, mulberries, dried fruits etc) or flavourings (like elderflower, orange blossom, I’ve even tried a tahini and apple crumble which was a treat).  Adding chocolate to a crumble has been tried and works like a dream.  This recipe is a lovely foundation to add to as you see fit.

ORCHARD DREAMS

We are setting out a little orchard in the garden.  The trees are young (bar our ancient looking plum tree and windswept crab apple) and normally offer scant fruit.  My Snowdonia Pear Tree, a juvenile, was unceremoniously beheaded by a storm recently.  Its tough going for saplings in these parts!  Our little Bardsey Apple tree however is a rugged super star, branches laden every year with tart and juicy, vivid green apples.  Not such great eaters (too much of a twang) but perfect when cooked.  These apples were actually all windfall, saved from the fate of an army of slugs that camp out and descend like slimy vultures on any fruit that hits the deck.

Windfall Bardsey apples in the garden

Windfall Bardsey Apples in the garden

APPLE ABUNDANCE

What to do with all those apples?  If your, family members, neighbours, avid scrumpers know of an apple tree, I’m sure you’re asking yourself the same thing.  Here are few little ideas for all those surplus apples:

  • Make a Tart Tatin (see below)
  • Cook into apple sauce and use on desserts and breakfast bowls.  Apple sauce is also wonderful in baking, it helps to bind cakes etc together.
  • Make your own Apple Cider Vinegar or Apple and Mint Vinegar
  • Make Apple Vodka, Whiskey or Gin by steeping the apples in alcohol.
  • Try a Apple and Ginger Smoothie or Apple and Kale Juice
  • Add slices to pancakes and bread (works brilliantly with rye or spelt flours)
  • They make a great Raita
  • Chop them up and mix them into your muesli/ granola/ sprouted grains etc for breakfast.
  • Make Apple and Plum Chutney
  • Make Beetroot and Apple Sauerkraut or add to your favourite Kimchi recipe (there’s a nice one in Peace and Parsnips
  • Add them to stews, salads or soups
  • Spread them out somewhere, preferably on cardboard and keep them for as long as possible.  Crunch and yum!
  • Make cider.
Discovery Apple and Apricot Tart Tatin

Discovery Apple and Apricot Tart Tatin

ALL APPLES ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL

When cooking with apples its worth tasting one first.  They can be so varied and this is what I love about them.  They are surely one of the finest things we grow in the UK and our traditional varieties offer up a fascinating and varied palate of flavours and textures to play with in the kitchen; some are flowery in texture and sweet, some crisp and tangy, we just need to find them the right home.  I have to say that the best way to eat a good apple is to give it a little polish on our trousers or jumper (why do we do that?) and crunch into it.  I like to eat the core and seeds as well.

Making this pud into a pure plant-based pleasure is a cinch, you’re really just substituting the butter in the traditional crumble with oil and some flax seeds, which offer a lovely nutty flavour and help to give the crumble a little bite and oodles of nutrition.  I am also not great at using large scoops of sugar, I need gentle persuasion.  You can probably make this with other sweeteners, but for once in the BHK, we’re going (almost) traditional.

Crumble is oh so simple but surprisingly many are still not great.  Being too sweet or having a dry, floury crumble are two cardinal sins of crumble-hood.  I like a nutty, crisp crumble.  This is why crumble is always enjoyed best straight out of the oven.  The longer its left, the more time for the crumble to loose its magic crunch.  I like to add nuts and flax seeds to add even more flavour and bite.  To avoid just a mouthful of floury sweetness, I like oats bound with a little flour.  Simple pleasures are always the best!

So grab a fireplace, a large spoon and a nice crisp autumn night and enjoy this true British classic.

Recipe Notes

You can use buckwheat flour and gluten free oats to side step gluten here.  I love the flavour of buckwheat; its fuller and deeper than wholemeal.

The amount of sugar you will need depends on your apples.  Ours are very sharp, so we went for 90g.  Jane has a sweet tooth (see above) and was very pleased with the sweetness level with that amount.

Crumble is amazingly adaptable, make it well in advance or make a large batch of apple sauce and use for other purposes (see above).  Crumbles also freeze brilliantly.

I don’t like going ott with cinnamon, I just like it somewhere in the background.  Not a main player in a crumble.  Add more if your a spicy crumbler.

Enough frivolity, lets crumble!!!!!!

The Bits

Apples

950g apples

60-100g light brown sugar (unrefined)

3 tbs water

1/2 – 1 teas cinnamon

 

Crumble

100g oats

20g flax seeds (ground)

75g mixed nuts (roughly chopped)

30g light brown sugar (unrefined)

70ml rapeseed/ olive oil

1 teas cinnamon

20g buckwheat/ wholemeal flour

 

Do It

In a saucepan, add all of the ingredients for the apples.  Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 20 mins with a lid on or until the apples are tender and just falling apart.

Mix all of the crumble ingredients together in a bowl.  Preheat oven to 200oC.

In a baking dish (approx 10″ by 8″), spoon in the apple sauce and sprinkle over the crumble mix until there is a nice thick layer.

Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, until the crumble is a dark golden colour and the apple sauce is bubbling away.

Before.....

Beginning…..

Middle......

Middle……

End!

End!

The Prequel (?)  - Windfall Apple and Oat Crumble with lashings of custard

The Prequel (?) – Windfall Apple and Oat Crumble with lashings of custard

Serve

We had ours with custard.  Mainly because we don’t have any ice cream in the freezer.  If we had ice cream, I am sure there would have been a long debate about which way to go.  Which way do you go?  The timeless question.  I think it depends on how the stars are aligned (or something).  PS – It must be vanilla ice cream.  Of course.  Anything else would be utterly ridiculous.

Beach walking off all that crumble - Dinas Dinlle, near Anglesey

Beach walking off all that crumble – Dinas Dinlle, near Anglesey

Foodie Fact

Crumble is food of the Gods and makes you happy:)

Dinas Dinlle Beach

Dinas Dinlle Beach

rsz_p1240351

Happy Autumn to you all!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Categories: Desserts, Foraging, gluten-free, Recipes, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Fragrant Wild Rice, Curly Kale and Pistachio Salad – Original Recipe from Peace & Parsnips

Fragrant Wild Rice, Curly Kale and Pistachio Salad - Recipe from Peace & Parsnips

Fragrant Wild Rice, Curly Kale and Pistachio Salad – Recipe from Peace & Parsnips

A rich, zesty and highly nutritious salad that is ideal for an early Autumn lunch.  This is packed with ‘superfoods’ although I think most plant-based foods are superfoods (bar maybe the Jerusalem artichoke, which I love, but lacks much nutritional oomph).  So plants are all superfoods and it seems that being a vegan, no matter what you choose for dinner, your body and mind is going to thrive on it!  That is of course if you keep things natural and whole food.  We are what we eat and I don’t want to feel like a processed vegan hotdog.  Ever.  Just doesn’t appeal!  Radiant health is just one of the coolest things about being a plant muncher.  The other benefits are well documented, many times on this blog.  But I’m a cook, so lets talk food…..

This salad is a filling centre piece dish and can be made even more so by the addition of tofu/ tempeh or even a scattering of pulses/legumes.  To be honest, that’s a little OTT.  This fragrant number is already loaded with nutrition; protein, calcium, iron, vitamins, healthy fats….  For this reason, it is very satisfying and filling.  I love dill, its such a distinct herb that is seldom used.  In this salad it is not overpowering, but mingles in with the other strong flavours.

I love to create salads and toy with texture, colours and flavours.  Salads are the perfect medium to express the freshness and vitality of seasonal produce and tomatoes, carrots, kale are bang on season up here in the wild Welsh hills.  We’ve had a poor year weather wise (you may have heard me mention many times over!) but we’re hanging in there are getting some beautiful cavolo nero and curly kale and down on the Trigonos farm, we have a massive poly tunnel laden with a variety of sensational tomatoes.  Some of which weigh over 1 kg!  All are bursting with sweetness and fragrance.  Experimentation on ways of preserving tomatoes is under way, our own sun dried tomatoes lack one very important element.  So we are going to slowly dry them overnight in the oven, it will take several nights.  Needless to say, this time of year is filled with jar hunting, lots of roasting and creative twists and freezers fit to burst.  I’m a lucky fella to be cooking with such produce on a daily basis.  Thanks to Judy and team for producing the most amazing vegetables and fruits.  A cooks dream!

That's what I call a tom!

That’s what I call a tom!

KALE! WHATS ALL THE FUSS ABOUT?

As mentioned above, we’re in a ‘sea of green’ kale at the minute and not dreaming of complaining.  As we all know, many times over, eating greens is the quickest and most effective way of becoming a super happy wonder being.  It is (sort of) that easy!  Kale is a star for so many incredible reasons:

  • Kale is high in good fats.  Omega 3’s that is.  Good for the heart, brain and can reduce Type 2 diabetes.
  • Kale contains a huge amount of vitamin A.  The highest of any green leaf.
  • Gram for gram, kale has more calcium than milk.
  • By weight, kale has twice the amount of vitamin C as an orange.

Eat your greens, live the dream……………

Sea of green. Kale harvest is going very well at Trigonos.org

Sea of green. Kale harvest is going very well at Trigonos

“HEY, WHAT’S HAPPENIN’?!”

(Any Marvin Gaye fans out there?)  The BHK is, of course, not just solely about food.  We do other things and like to keep you abreast of what’s happening in our lives up here on Bryn Teg (Fair Hill), North Wales.   We are going through renovations of the cottage and have recently built a deluxe wood shed, which could comfortably sleep a young family.  We need a lot of wood over the winter!  We have also been building a slate path out the front, all from local slate that we have scavenged and traded for.  Its looking like something out of the Hobbit at the minute.  Quite rustic, but very cool.  Add to that, loads of painting, gardening, oh working for a living and wandering around the hills, our summer has been packed.

We are now starting food festival season and this weekend we have two, Ludlow (Saturday 12th) and Beaumaris (Sunday 13th).  We will be doing cooking demonstrations, all recipes from Peace & Parsnips, and then book signings.  We are really looking forward to kicking things off this year and will be attending a load of food festivals around Britain.  Maybe see you there! (See ‘Contact and Press’, top right of the screen, for more details).

The Nantlle Valley, where we wander and work (looking great with the new heather growth, everything is going purple!)

The Nantlle Valley, where we wander and work (looking great with the new heather growth, everything is going purple!)

We have been sharing a much more on Twitter and Facebook these days and this has meant a few less BHK posts.  Its nice to mix things up a little!  Although Instagram is a step too far at the moment (I don’t have a mobile phone!)

This recipe has also recently featured in Your Healthy Living Magazine and posting it was inspired by Janice over at the wonderful Nourished by Nature blog, celebrating plant based food and natural health magic!  Thanks Janice.

This salad is great warm, just don’t let the rice cool fully and watch all those flavours come to life!  You can play around with the veggie components of this salad and keep it seasonal.  We are using sorrel loads at the moment, it growing in patches all over the garden and even likes to grow in the cracks in or front garden slates.  I can think of worst ‘weeds’.  Sorrel is delicious.  ‘With your long blonde hair and your eyes of blue, the only thing I ever got from you, was …….’

Sorrel. Our favourite weed.

Sorrel. Our favourite weed.

The Bits – For 4-6

•250g wild rice
•1 carrot, grated (if you have any carrot tops, finely chop them and add)
•5 leaves of curly kale, cut from the stems and very finely sliced
•3 tbsp raisins, soaked for two hours and roughly chopped
•½ a handful of roasted pistachios, roughly chopped
•6 radishes, trimmed and finely diced
•6 sun-blush or sun-dried tomatoes, including any oil, finely chopped
•4 spring onions, finely sliced
•½ a handful of fresh dill, chopped
•½ a handful of chives, finely sliced
•A handful of sprouted mung beans or green lentils

For the dressing

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
•3 tbsp olive oil
•Juice of 1½ limes
•Zest of ½ lime
•½ tsp sea salt
•½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
For the garnish: •A handful of roasted pistachios
•3 tbsp chopped fresh dill

Do It

Rinse the wild rice in cold water a number of times until the water runs clean. Place in a pan, pour in water to cover by 3cm, then bring to the boil and put a lid on the pan.

Reduce the heat to its lowest possible and cook for 45-50 minutes, until the rice is soft and all the water has evaporated. Fluff up gently with a fork and allow to cool fully. Spreading the rice out on a plate will help here.

To make the dressing, whisk the ingredients together in a small bowl.

Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and toss well to mix evenly. Add the dressing, spoon in the rice and combine well.

Serve

In shallow bowls, garnished with the extra nuts and herbs.

Foodie Fact

The fats in this salad (oil) and the citrus (lime) will help the body to absorb the nutrients available.  They work in harmon together and carotenoids (part of the Vitamin A family) are fat-soluble and the high levels of iron in the kale are made more available by the acid in the lime.  Not only are they tasty, but all these ingredients are working together to keep our bodies shiny and happy.

Categories: gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Local food, Nutrition, photography, Recipes, Salads, Superfoods | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Nutty Apricot and Sesame Energy Balls plus the benefits of soaking nuts and seeds

Nutty Apricot and Sesame Energy Balls

Nutty Apricot and Sesame Energy Balls

I love these little energetic things. The perfect way of cramming loads of nutrition and energy into the smallest possible area. These little balls are packed with protein power and full-on flavour and are highly portable! They went down a treat yesterday, I had to share them with you.

Nuts and dried fruits are nutritional power houses and contain vast amounts of good stuff; sugars and fats. The last two should of course be enjoyed in moderation and these little balls are perfectly portion controlled. Unless you make them the size of a cricket ball ( I prefer more of a squash ball size and smaller) then you’ll be getting the optimum levels of everything you need from a revitalising, healthy between meal booster.

PLAY BALL!
I have kept these very simple and natural. No added flavours, just the nuts, seeds and fruit. I like to use seeds primarily because they taste amazing, but they are also less expensive and work just as well as nuts. I used a good mixture of nuts, but you can mix and match with whatever you have handy. Nuts like walnuts, cashews and almonds blend smooth, it is more tough to get a Brazil nut to play ball! This is great when mixed with other nuts, adds a crunchy texture. The same can be said for sunflower seeds, once soaked they blend up nicely, unlike pumpkin seeds which take a little more blitzing action. If you have a high powered blender, non of this really applies, as they will take care of anything you put into them. They’d quite happily blend a bean tin I’m sure (this is an untested theory).

BENEFITS OF SOAKING YOUR NUTS
I mention nut soaking quite a lot in Peace & Parsnips, I think its important to know about and can really accentuate the flavour, texture and nutritional properties of nuts and seeds. It takes a little forward planning but is very much worth it. Nutrients are tucked away in our food and in some occasions, are missed by our bodies. They are not available to the body, so we miss out on all the goodness. This is known as the ‘bio-availability’ of nutrients and soaking nuts in water before using them opens up the nutrients to be absorbed by the body. They have known this for thousands of years in India and soaked almonds are promoted within the Ayurvedic diet for a number of health boosting reasons.

Soaking nuts in water, preferably overnight, inhibits the potentially harmful effects of enzymes inhibitors, tannins and toxins in nuts.  Nature doesn’t want seeds and nuts to germinate until the right conditions are present, by soaking nuts and seeds we are creating these conditions.  They literally come to life!  Enzymes are essential to good health, just as important as minerals and vitamins.  Soaking releases more beneficial enzymes that our bodies love.  Most nuts also taste better after they have been soaked, they plump up nicely and become crisp.  We normally soak to order, but you can soak in bulk.  This just means that your nuts need to be dried out a little.  You can do this in a dehydrator or in a low oven.  The nuts can then be stored in a air tight container and used on cereals and salads.

TOP FIVE REASONS TO SOAK NUTS, SEEDS (AND LEGUMES)

1 – Increase the amount of vitamins, especially B vitamins

2 – Produce greater levels of beneficial enzymes

3 – To make digestion easier

4 – Allows easier absorption of protein

5 – To limit enzyme inhibitors, tannins and potentially harmful toxins

We soak nuts in warm water and some people add a little salt.  Cover the nuts and leave them overnight, between 7 – 24 hours is best.  That’s it!

REASONS TO LOVE TAHINI (AND SESAME SEEDS)

Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds and is one of our favourite ingredients.  A wonderful source of vegan creaminess that creeps into dressings, sauces, stews/ curry’s or mixed with jam/ molasses/ maple syrup and lathered on toast and crackers.  Tahini normally comes in light and dark varieties, dark has a much more toasted, full flavour.  Its not only the delicious aspects of tahini that are attractive, nutritionally its a proper superstar, its is actually one of the best sources of calcium found in nature and also keeps your skin vibrant and muscles toned.  It contains 20% protein which is higher than most nuts and is high in very good fats of the unsaturated variety.   See our Foodie Fact below for more nutritional bits and pieces.

Feel free to sweeten them as you see fit (taste the mix before rolling up) but I think they are mighty fine with just the apricots.  Good dried apricots will not be bright orange.  Try and get some un-sulphured apricots, they are out there and well worth the effort and slightly higher expense.  Hunza apricots especially (from Afghanistan) are really interesting.  If you are living in an area where loads of apricots grow, you could dry your own and even use the kernels instead of nuts or seeds.  Apricot kernels are delicious and becoming quite popular in the UK.

We love to play around with combinations of nuts, seeds and flavourings. The possibilities are huge and its much more satisfying and cheaper to make these at home. The main thing is having a dried fruit to bind everything together, normally soaked so that they break down nicely into a sticky paste. Then add nuts and seeds to the equation, any type that takes your fancy and flavour with things like citrus zest, cocoa/ cacao, rose water, orange blossom water, vanilla extract, pomegranate molasses, spices……etc.  Energy balls are a medium for a healthy snack charged with all the nutrition we need when leading an active and healthy life.

Nice sticky mix

Nice sticky mix

The Bits – For 12-15 energy balls

300g mixed nuts and seeds (soaked in water for at least 7 hours beforehand.  I used cashew, walnuts, brazils and sunflower seeds)

150g dried apricots (soaked in water for at least 1 hour before hand)

4 tbs toasted sesame seeds

2-3 tbs light tahini

2-4 tbs sweetener (maple syrup, brown rice syrup etc)

Do It

Drain your nuts and place in your blender/ food processor.  Blend them for a minute of so, scraping down the sides of the blender a few times.  Add the drained apricots and continue to blend until a chunky paste is formed.  You can keep the apricot soaking water, its lovely and sweet.  The mix should be sticky, you will be able to form small balls with  it between our fingers.  Stir in the tahini and sweetener (if using).

Pour the sesame seeds onto a plate and spread out.  With damp hands (stops the balls sticking to your fingers) take a roughly squash ball sized amount of mix (3-4 tbsp) and roll in your palms into a ball.  Pop it onto the plate and roll in the sesame seeds.  Apply a little pressure when doing this to make them stick.  Place the finished ball onto a serving plate.  Repeat until all the mix is used up.

These energy balls will firm up in the fridge and keep well in a plastic container out of the fridge.   Of course, they will not be lasting that long…..!

Serve

These type of energy balls are designed to be portable and travel perfectly.  They are especially good sustenance when exercising, down the gym or hiking.  They are a boost anytime and sometimes I like to nibble one before a busy day in the kitchen.  Intensely nutritious and easy to roll.

Chocolate and Coconut Energy Balls

Chocolate and Coconut Energy Balls – a simple variation with walnuts, sunflower seeds, cacao, coconut and vanilla extract

Foodie Fact

Tahini is a great friend of the BHK.  Very high in many vitamin B’s and vitamin E.  It also contains lot of minerals like iron and potassium and contains chemicals that help our liver detox.  Tahini is alkaline which makes it easy to digest and helps with weight loss.  As mentioned above it is very high in protein and even higher in calcium.  Try a scoop of tahini in the morning instead of dairy products and you are covering yourself for calcium and a healthy raft of other things.

—————–

Have you met Cosmos yet? He’s our new garden cat.  You may remember our dear Buster who has moved on…….where to we are not sure>  Cosmos is a character and it’s good to have him hanging out, lying down and occasionally purring.  Cats are great teachers in so many ways.

Cosmos - The new cat on the scene

Cosmos – The new cat on the scene

Categories: Desserts, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Charred Cauliflower Steaks with Coconut & Kale Puree

Charred Cauliflower Steaks with Coconut and Kale Puree

Charred Cauliflower Steaks with Coconut and Kale Puree

This really is vegan food for everyone!  Charred cauliflower is something that appeals to all and not something you’d expect from the humble cauli.  It’s actually a superstar veg and has been hopelessly cooked over the years, giving it a bad rep.  Don’t boil it to death, breath life into it by bringing out its intense flavours and creaminess.  Of course, this being the BHK, we have to talk a little about its shining health properties.  Its REALLY good for you (see ‘Foodie Fact’ below).

Here’s a dish that looks great, tastes mighty fine and takes very little preparation. This is the easy kind of recipe that anyone can whip up at home and make it look like a restaurant style dish. I love it when that happens! This is also a very BBQ friendly way of cooking cauliflower.  These steaks will grace any BBQ and make a tasty burger filling (or two).  Charring the cauliflower ‘steaks’ (what else could we call them?!) and poaching the rest of the cauli in coconut milk highlights two of the amazing flavours hidden in a humble cauliflower.  In this dish, you get the best of both worlds.  Great texture and superbly creamy when poached and blended (something to do with the natural pectins).

Vegans can easily cook this for self-confessed carnivores (aka people who cannot live without meat….until they try these!!!) and want to make their way into the world of plant-based food.  There is a huge shift towards plant-based foods happening and there are an infinite number of ways of making plants incredible; vegans are now making meringues and macaroons out of chickpea/ bean juice, the other night I made something like a parmesan cheese out of gram flour (its a long story……more to come in that department).  Endless is the plant kingdoms culinary surprises and I feel we are only beginning to harness the tastiness of plants.  Watch this space.  Vegans are pulling out all the creative stops!

BLEEDING BURGERS!?

Somebody has recently made a vegan burger than bleeds.  I have very contrasting feelings about that.  One, a little unsettled.  Two, amazing for our health, animals and the planet.  Looking at it like that, the little weirdness is something I can get over.  The more plants we pack into our diets, the better for all!

Its a stormy day up here on the hill, but we’ve had a few nice days of sunshine which always makes me very happy for our little veg patches.  I also get to dig my shorts out.  Our cauliflowers are nothing to write home about this year, slugs seem to find them irresistible and our slug issues are many and overwhelming sometimes.  You know we’ve only watered the garden once this year.  Once!  This is surely some kind of record.  Wales will not be running low on water anytime soon.  Its a blessing (in a way).  But maybe it could bless us more in autumn, than in the heart of summer.  We’ve been harvesting blackberries (strangely early), raspberries, rocket and kale.  We’ve also got a good looking crop of potatoes, beetroots, parsnips and we may even get a few peas if the wind stays down.

BEACH LOVIN’

When the sun comes out, we’re on the beach.  Our local beach Dinas Dinlle (where a lot of the pictures in Peace & Parsnips were taken) is one of my all-time favourites.  Backed by the Snowdonia hills and mountain rangers, it stretches for many miles, all the way from Caernarfon down to Trefor near the Llyn Peninsula.  There is a large Bronze age fort halfway along the beach and at one end you have a bird anctuary and the other, a dramatic mountain range, the Rivals.  I run along the beach quite often and when the tide is out, feel like the only person alive. No footprints to be seen, just me and the smooth sand stretching off into the distance, the sea birds, the occasional wave.  Even though the weather is….changeable, the sea is still warm and the water seriously rejuvenating.  A swim in the Irish Sea is not easily forgotten!  There is something very special about our local beach, overlooking Lovers Peninsula on Anglesey and the Menai Straits.  (Maybe I should start working for the Welsh Tourist Board?)  Anyway…..back to the kitchen….

No complaints here - North Wales is beautiful! Dinas Dinlle Beach

No complaints here – North Wales is beautiful! Dinas Dinlle Beach

The Bits – For 2
1 large cauliflower (750g)
1 white onion (finely diced)
3 teas ground cumin
2 teas turmeric
2 pinches chilli flakes
3 large stems kale (roughly 80g leaves only)
3 tbs light olive/ coconut oil
500ml coconut milk

Black pepper and sea salt

Do It

Trim your kale leaves off the woody stems.  Finely slice.  Cut cauliflower (as below) down the centre into two cross sections/ steaks, roughly 1 1/2 inches think.  Nice and chunky.  Trim the end of the stems off.  Roughly chop the rest of the cauliflower.  Sprinkle the steaks with salt and pepper.

Cut your 'steaks' from the centre of the cauliflower. Nice, neat, cross sections if poss. (they cook nicer that way)

Cut your ‘steaks’ from the centre of the cauliflower. Nice, neat, cross sections if poss. (they cook nicer that way)

Preheat oven to 180oC.

For the puree – In a large saucepan, add 1 tbs oil and warm on a medium heat, saute your onions for 2 minutes, until softened.  Now add the cauliflower and 2 teas turmeric and 2 teas cumin.  Stir well and cook for 2 minutes.  Pour in the coconut milk, bring to a boil and lower heat to a simmer.  Pop a lid on and leave to cook for 15 minutes.  Stirring occasionally.

For the steaks – While the puree is simmering.  Grab a large, heavy frying pan.  On a high heat, warm 1 tbs oil.  When hot, place your cauliflower steak (one at a time), face down, into the pan.  There should be a good sizzle now.  Press down with a spatula to get it nicely charred.  Check after 1-2 minutes of frying.  Once you get a nice char, flip over and do the same on the other side.  You may need a drizzle more oil here. don’t be shy with it, this dish needs a bit of oil to get that nice colour.

Straight out of the pan, sprinkled with spices, ready for the oven

Straight out of the pan, sprinkled with spices, ready for the oven

Now place the cauliflower steak onto a baking tray, lightly sprinkle with ground cumin, chilli flakes and a few more twists of fresh black pepper.   Repeat the process with the other piece of cauliflower.  Once both are cooked, place the tray in the oven and finish off cooking the cauliflower for 15-20 minutes.  Check that the base of the stem is softened.  You can do this by trimming off a slice of the stem and trying it.

Finish the puree, by adding the finely sliced kale leaves and stirring them in.  Pop a lid back on and simmer for a few minutes.  Then blend the puree well with a stick blender or add to a food processor and blitz, thin with a little water if needed.  Check seasoning and keep warming.

Charred Caulifower Steak - Ready for your resident/ local carnivores approval!

Charred Caulifower Steak – Ready for your resident/ local carnivores approval!

Serve

On a warm plate, ladle out some sauce into the centre, spread out evenly in a circular motion with the base of the spatula and gently place a cauliflower steak in the middle.

Foodie Fact

Cauliflowers are actually really high in Vitamin C, in fact, this dish will easily supply your daily RDA for Vitamin C in one tasty plate.  Cauli also contain a good amount of protein and high levels of fibre.  It also offers a load of the vitamin B’s and a healthy helping of omega 3 fats.    So if you’d like to keep a healthy heart, brain, give yourself a bit of a detox, cauliflower is perfect.

Catching a few rare sun rays in the herb garden aka the sun trap

Catching a few precious sun rays in the herb garden aka the sun trap

Categories: gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, photography, Recipes, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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