Organic

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

The big chocolate tasting and the thrills of real cacao

Mid chocolate scoff/ tasting

In the library at Trigonos – Mid chocolate tasting

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

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

One of the cooking demos at the vegan cooking retreat

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

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

So much glorious chocolate on one table!!!

So much glorious chocolate on one table!!!

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

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

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

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

So let the tasting begin…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

choco mama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOT CHOCOLATE HEAVEN

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

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

cyl-venezuelan-carenero--e1427891943355

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

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

A cacao pod

A cacao pod – where every chocolate bar begins…

THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF REAL CACAO

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

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

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

——————————————-

FULL CHOCOLATE TASTING RESULTS – TRIGONOS 4/3/16

Pana Chocolate – Fig and Wild Orange – 15 points

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

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

Choco Mama’s – Mulberry Crunch – 2 points

Ethicoco – Ugandan Oat Milk and Raisin – 2 points

Pana Chocolate – Nut – 2 points

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

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

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

——-

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

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

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

Categories: Cooking Retreats, Dairy/ Lactose Free, healthy, Nutrition, Organic, photography, Raw Food, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

People Food Music – Permaculture in rural India using community, food and music

LEARN AND CONTRIBUTE HERE

I spent time at Solitude Farm in Auroville, Tamil Nadu (India) a couple of years ago.  I was writing Peace & Parsnips at the time, something I did in six different countries whilst travelling around the world.  In a strange way, the more I travelled and spent time with local, proactive farmers, the more I realised my passion for ‘local’, ethically produced food.

Wherever you are in the world, local food plays a critical role in so many ways; it connects us with our local environment, it maintains our health and provides our bodies with all they need to thrive and it can help us build stronger communities, sharing knowledge and working together in positive projects based around an ethical approach to life and society.

Solitude Farm Thalis - All organic and from the land (even the rice and wheat)

Solitude Farm Thalis – All organic and from the land (even the rice and grains)

Krishna was always very kind, Solitude Farm is a place of action and energy, but I occasionally spent late afternoons in my little hut keeping up with the book submission deadlines.  Outside of my typing, I spent plenty of time harvesting papayas, watering and tilling the parched Tamil earth, learning from Krishna about the incredible flora and fauna and cooking.  I did loads of lovely cooking.

I cooked in the Solitude kitchen with local women, who after weeks still referred to me in Tamil as ‘the tall beardy man’.  We prepared the dishes over wood fired stoves with a whole host of exotic ingredients; radhas consciousness (a flower), varagu (like millet), green papaya, plantains, banana flowers, red amaranth leaves……so many wonderful ingredients that we picked freshly every morning.  The food was naturally and effortlessly vegan.  It was an awesome experience!

I have never seen such fecundity, in one small field we had a diverse range of fruits, leaves, nuts and roots to eat.  One small field could provide many, many people with a diverse and nutritious plant-based diet.  At Solitude Farm I saw a vibrant window of what farming could be, when we turn our attention away from the industrial and towards more sustainable, sensitive and enriching practices, namely permaculture and the teachings of Masanobu Fukuoka.  The earth provides us with all that we need and nature is perfect!

Soltitude Farm was such a fertile place to write and be, a place of inspiration in so many ways, much of which hit the pages of Peace & Parsnips.  The sense that when we pull together, anything is achievable and that the future is bright when we turn to the earth and watch, learn and most importantly, act.  The answers to all of our problems are here; in people, food and music.

I hope you get the chance to read more about Krishna’s wonderful project and help to support it, allowing the people of Tamil Nadu access to invaluable training and knowledge that can transform lives and communities.

There are only 12 more days to go to contribute towards this important project and there are some inspiring ideas for last minute Christmas presents.  Really unique and precious.  Embracing and learning about local food is at the heart of a better tomorrow and I thank Krishna for his constant dedication to spreading the seeds of positive change, from the heart to the plate.

Learn more and contribute by clicking below:

PEOPLEFOODMUSIC

  

Categories: Environmentalism, Healthy Eating, Healthy Living, Inspiration, Local food, Music, Organic, Sustainability, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Come join us for a cooking retreat in beautiful Snowdonia!

 

5146.Main

I’ll be demonstrating the joys of vegan cooking. Delicious, creative and healthy (with loads of treats along the way).

COME JOIN US!

Jane and I are excited to announce our first full retreat this December at Trigonos, located in beautiful Snowdonia, the retreat centre where I cook.  We’d love to welcome you there for a revitalising weekend with great food and much, much more!  Find details of the retreat below:

Discovering Vegan Cooking – Workshop and Retreat

with Lee Watson, Trigonos Chef

11th – 14th December 2015

The pleasures and benefits of a vegan diet are open to all. This workshop and retreat shows you how.

Join Lee Watson, Trigonos Chef (author of the vegan cookbook ‘Peace and Parsnips’ and presenter of ‘Meat vs Veg’ TV Programme) for a rejuvenating and instructive healthy vegan cooking adventure. The ideal mid-winter, pre-Christmas pick me up!

For further details and a booking form see here.

To reserve your place phone Trigonos 01286 882388 or email info@trigonos.org

Jane getting to grips with an onion - Udaipur, 2/14

Jane will assisting all weekend and showing us the wonders of juicing and smoothie making.

We'll be cooking some recipes from Peace & Parsnips (our new vegan cookbook)

We’ll be cooking some recipes from Peace & Parsnips (our new vegan cookbook)

You'll be sampling a whole host of vegan treats, from divine Indian curries.....

You’ll be sampling a whole host of vegan treats, from divine Indian curries…..

....to tasty burgers.....

….tasty burgers…..

....to desserts for all!

….to desserts for all and everything in between!

Trigonos is set in stunning lakeside grounds in the heart of Snowdonia

Trigonos is set in stunning lakeside grounds in the heart of Snowdonia

We will be using many vegetables from our farm, all grown using organic principles

We will be using many vegetables from our farm, all grown using organic principles

There will be plenty f time to relax and take in the stunning scenery.....

You are free, with plenty of time to relax, read in the library or take in the stunning scenery

The Nantlle Valley awaits!

There will also be daily gentle yoga and meditation and much more…….. The Nantlle Valley awaits! 

 

 

Categories: Detox, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, Organic, photography, Vegan, Vegetarian, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bok Choi, Orange and Sesame Salad

Bok Choi, Orange and Sesame Salad

Bok Choi, Orange and Sesame Salad

When the Welsh sun is out and proud, salads suddenly become highly relevant, essential and a playground for all things fresh and seasonal.  They become a palate for vibrant colours and fresh textures.  This recipe has a real taste of South Asia about it, with the chillies, sesame, ginger, orange and tamari.  Certainly a wake up call for the taste buds!  I love to take gorgeous British produce and jazz them up with some global flavours.

We are getting the first stages of our glorious organic veg bounty from the hardworking local growers and its truly a beautiful time of the year!  Spring has bowed out to full on early summer (with the occasional patch of dramatic storms) and things are starting to leap from the ground in the most wonderful ways.  Even our garden is waking up and every fertile day sees growth.

ORGANIC VEG FARMERS ARE REAL HEROS

Tyddyn Teg is back up and running with a new gang of lovely folk at the helm, they even have a facebook page this year! The farm is looking incredible which means we are going to be a busy one in the BHK, in the best possible way.  Loads of fresh and lovely local produce (you can probably tell we’re a bit excited about this!!!)  The farm is 10 acres and a huge under taking.  These guys are real hero’s, nothing to do with money and profit and all to do with integrity, promoting organic farming practices and ensuring folk around here have healthy affordable food.

John and Pippa have been growing organic veggies near Bethel for many years and have taken a well earned step back, it has taken six young people to replace them!  We’ll be showcasing their beautiful produce throughout the year.

BOK CHOI LOVES WALES!

Succulent Bok Choi is something that thrives in poly tunnels up here and we use a lot of it at Trigonos and in the BHK.  Trigonos have many different varities growing at the minute.  My favourite is the crunchy, peppery, purple Mizuna Leaf (surely a close relative?!) a real surprise package in salads and stir fries.  Does anyone really, truthfully, know the real difference between bok and pak?  It’s a size thing no?  I feel that flavour and texture wise, there is very little between the two.  They sound so exotic and yet thrive here in North Wales, as does our brassica buddy Mr Kohlrabi with his alien tendrils.  Its basically a turnip/ cabbage crossed with an extra terrestrial space craft.  Sometimes called a German Turnip.  We love them grated in slaws, roasted whole or just chopped simply into a salad.

THE WANDERERS RETURN

Jane and I’s wandering summer got off to a flying start in Durham and Newcastle this weekend.  We both made talks at the brilliant Vegan Festival Newcastle which took  place in the lovely, historical Assembly Rooms.  We met loads of inspiring people, vegans and non-vegans alike, and really enjoyed our first speaking engagements.  Afterwards we enjoyed a cool drink high above the River Tyne, perched in the Baltic Art Gallery Restaurant.  Newcastle looked glorious with the setting sun and glittering river, even the roaring gangs of stag-do’s seemed to mellow out as the light became richer.

Delicious vegan salad with avocado on toast - Flat White, Durham

Delicious vegan salad with avocado on toast – Flat White, Durham

On Sunday we whizzed over to beautiful Durham (where my family are all from) and spent a morning at Flat White Cafe with the ace Patrick and his gang of merry baristas.  Its such a buzzy little place, tucked in a nook, packed with style and surely the coolest place to enjoy a coffee in the North East of England.  You get a proper mug of intense Americano!

So its been a weekend of meeting kindred spirits and plenty of celebrating so returning to the little Beach House on the hill seemed like a very peaceful, healthy proposition indeed.  This salad certainly brightened things up, its insanely nutritious and fresh.  We are looking forward to more food and chat-based adventures this summer mixed in with our usual raw food month (probably in September this year).  This salad gave us a flavour of what is to come……(minus the toasty sesames!)

Jane and I in Durham at the weekend.  We had a book signing at Flat White Cafe.

Jane and I in Durham at Flat White is Durham, signing books and sipping sensational coffee.

The Bits – For 2

1 large head of Bok Choi (leaves trimmed from the heart)
1 handful red cabbage (finely diced)
1 courgette (cut into long thin slices or thin ribbons using with a French peeler)
1 orange (cut into segments, without pith preferable)
1/2 small red chilli (thinly sliced)
1 tbs fine capers
1 tbs toasted sesame seeds
2 tbs fresh coriander (finely chopped)

Ginger and Orange Dressing
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs orange juice
2 teas cider vinegar
1/2 teas tamari
1/4 teas finely grated ginger
1/2 teas agave syrup
1/4 teas orange zest

Do It

Peel the pith off your orange with a sharp knife, following the shape of the fruit, to leave very little pith.  Then, holding the orange in one hand, gently cutting each segment out, using a sawing motion, just inside the pith of each segment.  When you are finished, squeeze out the juice from the left over orange piece to make your dressing.

In a nice shallow bowl or large plate, scatter your bok choi and then courgette ribbons/ slices and orange.  Sprinkle over the red cabbage, chillies, capers and finally the coriander and sesame seeds.

Whisk up the dressing in a small bowl and drizzle over the salad.

Bok Choi, Orange and Sesame Salad - A proper summer zinger! #vegan

Bok Choi, Orange and Sesame Salad – A proper summer zinger!

Serve

This crunchy number makes for a very colourful side dish and just by adding a little chopped firm tofu or a handful of nuts and serving with some bread, a brilliant summery main course.  Adding the tofu and nuts are an obvious protein addition to most plant-based dishes, but there are so many ways of getting good, healthy, plant protein onto our plates:

We have oodles of fresh basil at the minute and feel that a couple of handfuls of basil leaves would be quite sensational (and probably highly excessive in a good way!)

Foodie Fact

Sesame seeds have a higher calcium content than milk!  In fact, they are a great source of so much!  Read more nutritional info here.

Random little fact, Myanmar is the top producer of sesame seeds in the world.

Categories: Dairy/ Lactose Free, Healthy Eating, Organic, photography, Raw Food, Recipes, Salads, Summer, Vegan, Wales, Welsh produce | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Lime, Coriander and Yellow Pepper Juice

Off to a flyer - Lime, Yellow Pepper and Coriander Juie

Off to a flyer – Lime, Yellow Pepper and Coriander Juie

The ultimate Sunday morning reviver (or at least one of many potential juice combinations that will make you sparkle and sing in the morning.  There are a vast and glorious number).  Joyful and juicy.

Its a glorious morning in North Wales, the wind is blowing and the small birds are singing.  Rocky Robin especially seems to be filled with the joys of spring.  Perfect shining juice conditions we feel.

This may sound like quite an unusual, savoury, mix of ingredients for a juice, but they all work brilliantly together.  Carrots and apples are the base for most of our juices, they are relatively inexpensive and highly nutritious.  This juice boasts outrageous levels of vitamin C (pepper, lime), K (coriander) and of course A (carrots).  Basically, this is a juice that leapt out of our veg basket.  The glory of juicing is that, you can dream up any combination of fruit and vegetable and whack them together in a juicer to sensational results.  Celery however, should always be enjoyed in moderation.  Its very potent.

Juicing is the perfect way to offer your body a serious hit of sparkling vibrancy in the morning.  Juicing does take away most of the fibre from your fruits and veggies, so we like a balance between smoothies and juices.  Or just eating loads of fruits and veggies in their raw state.  You then get to enjoy all the textures of gorgeous plants.

THE IMPORTANCE OF ORGANIC JUICING

If pesticides are used during growing fruits and vegetables, they will normally be more concentrated in the skins.  We never peel our fruit and veg when we juice, so this means that we must try to seek our organic produce when we can.  Otherwise, we’re taking in all of those chemical pesticides/ fertilisers that are inevitably used in shop bought produce.  Its a bit of a downer, but the benefits of drinking vibrant juices are tempered when pesticides are involved, they are very hard for our bodies to deal with.

We normally juice citrus fruit with the skin on, but I must say that oranges can be a challenge.  Try them out, but if I’m using more than one in a juice, I normally peel them.  One pithy orange is enough per juicing session.

Jane and I took our Canadian pal, Shira, up Mount Snowdon the other day. It was truly astonishing.  Wales was sparkling, crystal clear and radiant.  All cloaked with the most beautiful, shimmering light.  We walk up the back route, the Rhydd Dhu way, and it is one of my favourite hikes.  So varied, it goes from a ambling Welsh countryside feel, to rock hopping, then almost a scramble up loose scree paths until you hit the top with is like a castle of jagged rocks and tiny winding trails.  You cannot help feel a little like Frodo on some kind of quest.  Anyway, I’m telling you all of this because we had a juice that morn and all felt supercharged.  I’ve even climbed Snowdon powered on just a Beetroot and Apple Juice (see Primitive Juice Man Scales Mighty Mountain!).  I am yet to discover why exactly, but it felt good at the time.   If I was running the London Marathon today, I’d love to down this beforehand.

Jane and I on top of Snowdon

We made it!!!!  The top of Snowdon

The Bits – 4 Small Glasses, 2 Big ‘Uns

4 apples, 4 carrots, 1 yellow pepper, 1/3 cucumber, 1 handful fresh coriander, 1 lime

Do It

Place the coriander and lime in the juice first, on high speed and follow with the rest. We like to put the carrot in last as it seems to flush any lingering leftover goodness.

Serve

In a Guinness glass and a leftover gherkin jar.  Or glassware of your choice.

Lime. Yellow Pepper and Coriander Juice

Lime. Yellow Pepper and Coriander Juice

Foodie Fact – Coriander (or Cilantro)

Coriander does not grow so well up here, too windy and a little cold.  We have had success with coriander in our little grower or indoors.  Once it goes, it goes wild.  A good one for the indoor window box.  Is that normal?  We have them.  Mainly to try and keep our precious, fragile plants out of the whipping Irish Sea winds.  Growing your own coriander means that you can use loads of it in sauces like Salsa Verde or in juices like this.  Those little packets you can buy, for a pretty price, just don’t quite give you enough to play with.

Once picked, use your coriander quickly.  The leaves are very gentle and discolour easily.  If you need to store coriander, we find the best way is wrapped gently in a damp cloth or kitchen towel.

Use the stems, coriander stems are soft and packed with flavour.  They can be used just like the leaves, I normally stir them into a soup/ stew and use the leaves as garnish.  Double coriander can never be a bad thing.

Coriander is a super star.  You may call it Cilantro and are also right.  Originally from the Mediterranean.  It contains outlandish amounts of Vitamin A and K with high levels of vitamin C.   It is also a good source of iron.

VITAMIN K?

Vitamin K is something a little obscure, but its essential for healthy bones and keeps the brain healthy.  Two parts of the body I’d like to keep ticking over.  Vitamin K is even used in treating Alzheimers disease.  Coriander is one of natures best sources of ‘K’

Our local phone box, looking good in the April sun

Our local phone box, looking good in the April sun

Categories: Detox, Healing foods, Healthy Living, Juices, Nutrition, Organic, photography, Raw Food, Recipes, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Soapnuts – Detergent that grows on trees!

Save the planet one wash at a time!!!!!

We’d like to share with you all the wonders of these miraculous little nobly shells, Soap Nuts.  They are completely biodegradable, hypoallergenic, vegan, organic, chemical and cruelty free.  We love them and you can’t even eat them!  I realise that we normally write about the food that gets our bellies singing, but forgive us a slight deviation from filling our faces with happiness and shift focus to what are, for us at least, the future of household cleaning!!!!!  I know, cleaning is normally not that fascinating, but soap nuts at least make it an environmentally friendly pursuit.

Unfortunately most of the household cleaning products on sale are full of bad things; phosphates, chlorine, petro-chemicals, formaldehyde, parabens and loads of other toxins.  These will all end up in the earth; in our rivers and lakes, negatively affecting animals and nature generally.  This may sound simple, but when it goes down the drain, loo or plughole that is not the end of the story.  Mainly due to the media and the control of large corporations we are constantly sold ‘lifestyles’ that would seem bizarre without things like shampoo, deodorant, washing up powder, anti-bacteria spray, washing up detergent, toothpaste, etc etc (basically whatever they want us to buy).  These products are made by the same companies who have built up this ‘utopian’ way of convenience living and its bogus.  Totally bogus.  You don’t need all this stuff, nature meets all of our needs to live in a healthy and balanced way.  What we found was, a little bit of knowledge goes a long way and when we looked into natural, biological and ecological detergents and cleaners there were long lists of easy to gather bits that we could use effectively in and around the house.  There were so many benefits to switching to eco and soapnuts are certainly one of the stars!

ECO/BIO SOLUTION TO REPLACING CLEANING CHEMICALS

Soapnuts are natures answer to all of our household cleaning jobs.  They are cheap to buy, easy to use and totally non-toxic.  Soapnuts are very versatile and when you use them, there is no need to buy lots of different household cleaning products…… admittedly this is starting to sound like a corny advert, but its true!  When we started using soapnuts, we became quite excited, it seem like we had found a natural way of keeping our house clean and tidy and the fact that it was nasty chemical free meant that the waste water from washing dishes or clothes could be used on the garden, cutting down dramatically on waste water (a standard washing machine uses 50 litres of water per wash!!!!!!!)  I am sensitive to most chemicals and when I touch pretty much any household cleaner I get a reaction, of course with soapnuts, no probs.  They are brilliant for folk with allergies.

Soapnuts

Soapnuts in their raw state

WHAT ARE SOAP NUTS?

They’re the dried shells of the Soap Berry tree.  The Saponin (natural soap element) is contained in the shells and these are harvested after they fall naturally from the trees.  Linen cloths are spread under the trees and farmers wait for big gust of wind I’d imagine.  The shells are dried in the sun after being removed from the berry, this berry can be replanted, aiding reforestation.  Most soapnuts are freighted by ship to the UK making it better for the environment (although still not ideal of course).  Soap nuts are processed without the use of chemicals of any kind.

SCIENCE BIT

When soap nuts are agitated (boiled or scrubbed) they release saponin which is the detergent part, breaking down the surface tension between water and oil, making things clean.  This is the same process that most detergents create, but soapnuts does it all without bubbles (which is a shame because we quite like bubbles), synthetic chemicals and weird/ alien fragrances.  The bubbles and fragrances that we associate with detergent products do not make things cleaner, they are just  the frilly bits that we have become accustomed to.

Soap nuts are completely cool with our environment, no phosphates here, so lakes, river, frogs, fish and algae are all unaffected by our washing up and clothes washing.

P1060361

Soap Nuts – pre-boil

NATURAL STAIN REMOVER

If you’re looking for a potent household stain remover look no further than white wine vinegar and bicarb of soda.  Together they form a natural, affordable and generally available answer to tough stain removal, without using poisons like bleach et al.  If you soak clothes in 2 cups of bicarb of soda and 2 cups of white wine vinegar with some tepid water your clothes will be shining after a good wash.  You can also add this concoction to your washing machine to add extra poke to your soapnuts, put 1 tbs of white wine vinegar and 1 tbs of bicarb of soda in the drawer of your washing machine and BHAM!  Spotless results everytime, say goodbye to those pasta sauce splatters.

USING SOAP NUTS

There are a variety of ways that soapnuts can be used in the hoose.  We buy ours from Living Naturally and they send you a small muslin bag with the soapnuts inside.  This bag can be used in the washing machine, you simply pop a few soapnuts in the bag and let the washing machine do its thing.  You can do this in any type of washing machine and they work on any fabric.  Another great advantage is that they work at low temperatures, around 30oC will do nicely.  You may need to use more soapnuts if you live in a hardwater area.  As mentioned above, you can collect the ‘grey’ (waste) water at the end and use it on your garden.  You can also hand-wash clothes using the soapnut liquid (see below) instead of detergent, 1-2 cups is enough for one bucket of washing.

Soap nuts are also great when you’re travelling, pop a few in your bag and use in warm water.  Add your clothes and leaves them to soak for a while.  Then give them a good wash and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the earth-friendly results.

Soap nuts need no additonal softener, they actually act as a natural softener.

P1060397

Soap Nut Liquid – Ready for action!

OTHER AMAZING WAYS OF SOAP NUTTING

Multi-Purpose Spray Cleaner – Fill a standard sized spray bottle with 400ml soap nut liquid, 100ml white wine vinegar, 20 drops lavender essential oil, 20 drops tea tree essential oil, 20 drops of eucalyptus essential oil, 10 drops of peppermint oil.  Make your house shine and smells ace.  Essential oils are optional and of course, can be a little costly.  We dribble in the oils we have handy.

Pet Wash – Pour 100ml of soap nut liquid into a blend and blend until frothy.  Use on your cheeky pooch or friendly goat or animal of your choice.  Soap nuts act as a natural pest inhibitor; fleas, lice etc don’t like it so stay away!  No scratchy pets, hoorrayyyy!!!!

Organic Pesticide – The same applies to plants, pests don’t like it so fill a spray bottle with soap nut liquid and add 10 drops of neem, eucalytus, peppermint, geranium and lavender oils and you have a perfectly natural pesticide that does the job.

Watering the Garden – Use leftover water from washing up or from your washing machine on the garden.  It will have bits of food (mini compost hit) and bits of soap nut (mini pesticide hit).  Its just all good!!!

Soap Nut Liquid Recipe

Boil 50g of soapnuts in pan with 1 litre of water for 25 minutes.  Leave to cool and strain into a suitable bottle.  This makes roughly 500ml of soapnut liquid.

Add the leftover soapnuts back to the pan with another litre of water and boil again, you can repeat this process 3 times at least making 2 litres of chemical free detergent.  Nice one!!!!  Store the soapnut liquid in a fridge.

If you would like a fragrant detergent, simply add essential oils to the liquid or to the bag before you pop into the washing machine.   The essential oils mentioned above are helpful, especially as they have anti-bacterial properties.

If you’d like to buy some soap nuts, we find these guys helpful and they can deliver all over the UK.  Not sure about the rest of the world guys, but I’m sure you’ll find some locally on the web.  If you are lucky enough to live in India, just go out and pick some!  When we are travelling around India we always have a healthy stash of fresh picked S.N’s in our backpacks, keeping us quite clean and tidy.

At present, we are only using 1% of the total worldwide soapnut crop.  There is huge potential there to utilised this brilliant resource and save vast amounts of potentially harmful household waste affecting the environment.  In one swift shift towards the wonderful soap nut, we are cleaner and greener!

The only downside of Soap Nuts is they do travel a long way to get to rural Wales.  Does anybody know of an natural detergent alternative that can be sourced closer to home?

Jane has a new blog and has just been writing about a similar subject that most of don’t even think about.  It relates to needless household waste which could have a drastic impact on our environment in the near future.  Find out more The Moon and The Womb.

Our friend Yolanda over at the Byzantine Flowers blog writes extensively about ecological replacements for household cleaners etc, here’s a great article about natural, organic pest control remedies, one of many.

All info taken from the great guys at Living Naturally, they have a large range of soap nut variations from shampoos to fancy bath stuff.

PS – We support folk like ‘Living Naturally’ because they supply brilliant products, not because we get sent freebies.  Just thought we’d clear that up.    

 

Categories: Healthy Living, Organic | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Trio of Simple Organic Summer Salads

Aloe Vera Plant

Only naked and fresh veggies here!  Food for the sun.  When the produce is this good, you don’t want to mess with it too much.  The flavours of these veggies are amazing, we are so privileged to live in an area with some serious vegetable growing heroes living close by.

We are getting veg from two local farms over the hill and have recently been picking up a veg box from another farm.  We are suddenly inundated with incredible produce and can think of no better way of eating it than raw.  Bring on the salads!

Local food is fresher and contains more nutrients due to this, we also like to support these amazing folk who are dedicated to the land.  These salads are simple and contain only a few ingredients.  Its what you’ll find us eating most days.  Adding less ingredients to food makes the nutrients in food easier for the body to digest and use.

Our garden has taken a beating recently with the ‘summer’ storms, the wind is raging out there as I type these words.  Leaves whizz by at right angles and the rocket is blown flat to the ground.  The slugs have also had a field day out there, I can only hope they enjoyed what they ate.  We have been harvesting some lovely red potatoes and a little rainbow chard, but really, the garden had been a steep learning curve this year.  Next year, we are full of hope and fresh ideas to fortify our garden from these vicious Welsh elements.  Having spoken to local farmers, it has been the worst growing season for 20 years, so a meagre crop is understandable.  So we need some help!

Doing my best for the leeks

I’ve been working like a trooper of late, no time to cook food at the BHK.  I needed plenty of shiny food and nutrition to keep me going and Jane has stepped in and has been making the most fantastic raw food delights.  These salads, that we ate last night for dinner, were for me the pick of the bunch.  Simple and tasty with a wonderful dressing.

I have a habit of throwing things together and letting a little bit of experience and my taste buds sort out the rest, Jane is brilliant at following recipes and measurements.  This is important with some parts of cookery, namely baking and it would appear dressings.  This dressing was perfectly balanced, with the warm edge of mustard and a good amount of honeyed sweetness.

Thinly sliced veggies

Thinly Sliced Veggies

Some may call this a ‘carpaccio’, but really it’s just a stunning way to serve veggies as a salad.  Get your nicest plate out of the cupboard, some amazing veggies and slice thinly and arrange.  Viola!

The Bits

We used our one each of our local organic farms courgette, beetroot, broccoli and a organic yellow pepper.  Any combination of hard vegetables will do, if you are conscious of presentation, maybe mix up the colours a little.

Tomato and Basil Heaven

Tomato and Basil Heaven

For this you must have the finest tomatoes available.  These red/green tomatoes came with our veggie box and completely blew us away.  They grow in poly tunnels and god knows what else!  They are insanely tasty and needed just a few torn basil leaves which are blooming on the windowsill and a splash of olive oil.

The Bits

2 handfuls of amazing tomatoes, meagre handful of torn basil leaves, a splash  of great olive oil and sea salt and pepper if you must.

Carrots and Almonds

Carrots and Almonds

The sweetness of these carrots and almonds goes perfectly with the sweet mustard dressing.

The Bits

3 wonderful large carrots (scrubbed, not peeled), 1/3 head of broccoli (broken into little pieces, use the stalk and leaves), 1 handful of raw almonds, thinly sliced red onion and yellow pepper.

Sweet Mustard Dressing

Shake all ingredients together in an old jam jar, they are also handy to keep your dressing in afterwards.

The Bits

1 teas English Mustard, 2 teaspoons clear honey, 1 tbs lemon juice, 4 tablespoons rapeseed oil, a sprinkle of sea salt and pepper.

There is so little work in getting these together, we hardly need a ‘Do It’ section.  More time to soak up some rays with your loved ones.

Serve

All veggies are best served at just under room temp, we used the dressing on the Carrot and Almonds and Thinly Sliced Veggies, the tomatoes needed no additions nonsense.

We Love It!

Magic veggies deserve to be eaten in all their glory i.e. naked and fresh!

Foodie Fact

Why buy organic/ local?  Food loses nutrition when shipped and kept, so the more local fresh food you consume the better for you and your community in general.  Organic veggies actually contain no more nutrients that conventionally grown, but they are clean and contain no pesticides (or poisons).  Organic practices enrich the earth and by not using chemicals and GM techniques, ensure the fertility of the earth for future generations.  Also, people who grow organically are normally lovely people to visit for tea!

Categories: Organic, Recipes, Salads, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Beach House Garden – Summer Update

The Beach House Garden

Well there has been little summer to speak of really. The clouds parted today, so I went outside and took a few pictures, but really this summer has been very strange.  Even the old timers down the farm say they cannot fathom what is going on.  The soil should be warm and it is cold and damp, meaning the plants don’t know what to do.

White Rose

Our lonesome Kori Squash and Rainbow Kale

We have had a few minor successes, mainly down to raiding our neighbours horse field for massive piles of poo.  It’s like magic dust. One sprinkle and the plants shoot up. The potatoes love this environment and sprang up, they are just starting to flower and we may have a look soon to see if we have any tasty little tubers.

The Potato Patch

Rampant Foxglove

 

 

After an epic battle with slugs and snails, we have managed to get one squash plant through the madness. We have been trying all sorts, beer traps, gravel and jagged rocks, I have been on many stealth nighttime missions to snatch them off our precious green friends. Sometimes it felt like a losing battle, but now things are established and semi-blooming, all these efforts seem worthwile. The squash is growing nicely and we hope to have our first Welsh kori squash soon. Beetroots, rainbow kale, runner beans and hannibal leeks are all holding in there.

The Beetroot Jungle

Flowering Succulents

We have also diversified in the herb garden, with some different types of thyme and our new favourite, ginger mint. A wonderful thing that has its own bed to go wild in. We have been loving wandering out to the herb garden and cutting our own fresh herbs. A real cooks treat (even in the howling gales).
We think it will be a late summer (we hope!) and in late September, we will be cooking with our first batch of Beach House Veg. We will keep you posted.

Beauty Beets

Kori Squash and Runner Beans

Tomato plants (hiding in the green cupboard)

 

Categories: Garden, Healthy Living, Organic | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Sweet Pepper and Pomegranate Antipasto (Raw)

Raw Sweet Pepper and Pomegranate Antipasto

We felt like a little starter, something to nibble on.  Nibbles seem to be the new thing, judging by the snack section in our local supermarket.  We seem to becoming a nation of rampant nibblers (dipped in hummus of course).

Italians are the kings of the nibble, tied with the Spanish, but they tend to make it more of main meal, a la tapas.  Antipasto (translated as ‘before the meal’) is always the perfect accompaniment to nice glass of chilled something and good conversation as the sun is beginning to settle down.

This raw June (just passed) we have been mainly having large salads for dinner.  We didn’t manage to arrange a dehydrator for the month, which would have meant many dried, crisp goodies.  Instead we have normally opted for large bowls of salad, normally a green leaf based salad, a dip/ hummus/ raw cheese (something with a creamy texture), olives/nuts/pomegranate etc and one salad that is made of primarily harder fruit and veg (like this antipasto).  All this served with a lovely dressing.  The combination of these salads is tantalising!  We cannot get enough of them and have decided to extend raw June in the future……………our rawness may never cease!?

This is a clean and citrus antipasto dish that boasts fresh, fresh flavours.  The ideal pre-dinner plate to get the palate zinging.  The combination of sweet pepper, tomato and pomegranate is a taste explosion that is difficult to match.  If this little plate doesn’t liven up a dinner party, your friends may be comatosed!

The asparagus here was the last of the season from our local farm shop and very much relished.  It is not essential to the dish, but a real treat non-the-less.  The subtle flavour and crunch of raw asparagus will be missed until it re-emerges next year.

You can serve this with other antipasto favourites to make a platter, olives, artichoke hearts, chunks of cheese, marinated mushrooms etcetc.

Organic peppers and tomatoes will make all of the difference to this dish and your salads in general.  The organic veg flavour is infinitely better.

Thanks to Mimi Kirk and the brilliant ‘Live Raw‘ book for inspiration here.  If you live on a drab island like ours (where June resembles November) it is wonderful to leaf through the pages of this book and see the Holywood lifestyle and sunshine!  How I miss the sun.

Sweet, sweet tomatoes

The Bits

Antipasto 1 red pepper (sliced thinly), 1 yellow pepper (sliced thinly), 1 bunch of asparagus (cut into batons), 1 small pomegranate (seeds (or arils as they are called) only, no pith), 1 big handful of the sweetest plum tomatoes (we used red and yellow ones here)

Marinade – 4 tbs good olive oil, handful of fresh basil leaves, 1-2 cloves of garlic (crushed), a pinch of marjoram, oregano, thyme, basil, juice of 1 small lemon, 2 teas capers, pinch of sea salt and cracked pepper.

Do It

Whisk your marinade then combine all ingredients in a tupperware and mix together gently, don’t break up the asparagus and tomatoes.  Make sure all is coated with the marinade.  Leave in a fridge overnight or for at least a couple of hours to infuse.

Sweet Pepper and Asparagus Antipasto – So colourful, its worth a second look

Serve

On a nice big serving platter with whatever accompaniments you prefer.  You may like to add a little torn basil leaf as a topping and of course, some nice toasted ciabatta drizzled with olive oil if it takes your fancy.

We Love It!

It is so full of crunchy flavour and pomegranate in a salad is a revelation.  I’m not sure if my Italian friend would agree with such an addition, not proper antipasto they would say, but they only know what mama taught them!!!!  (Sorry guys)

Foodie fact

Most of us are aware that pomegranate is good for us.  You can buy it in juice form all over Britain, it is most definitely a super fruit of note, packed full of the antioxidant punicalagin which scavenges free radicals from our bodies.  Hooray!  One of my favourite pomegranate products is the pomegranate concentrate, it adds an incredibly intense flavour to anything it touches.

The worlds finest pomegranates are grown in southern Afghanistan, although I heard that Iraq had some tasty arils also!

Categories: Dairy/ Lactose Free, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Local food, Lunch, Organic, Raw Food, Recipes, Salads, Side Dish, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

‘The Dirty Dozen’ – The 12 worst foods to buy non-organic

Organic produce

I find it quite alarming that most fruits and vegetables grown that are not classed organic are covered with all sorts of chemicals which are of detriment to our health.  With long term exposure to such chemicals, namely pesticides, we can develop serious illness.  They cannot be washed off or peeled away, they absorb into the fruits and veg and then into our bodies.  The elderly and young are most effected by this.

I realise we cannot all be super healthy, uber organic munching beings.  We normally lead hard lives in a difficult situations and mostly live in very polluted cultures/societies, this relates to physical pollution (the air we breath, what we choose to eat and drink….) and also the mental pollution that we tolerate and consume via the media and skewed social norms that do not promote health, love and vitality.  Many of these social norms seem to be leading us away from happiness and our connection with nature and each other.

A few people have mentioned to me that man only developed into a sophisticated being (that’s what we are!?!) when he began cooking and eating meat in prehistory.  So why revert to a plant based diet?  I believe we have come a long way since then!!!!  We certainly have more choices than a caveman would, more science at our disposal and a better understanding of nutrition.  What we eat affects our entire being, it is not just fuel for the body to feed of, it can be an inspiration experience, a opportunity to be creative.  Food, and the enjoyment of it, is a life long passion that can brighten every day.  Eating food that is made with love is a huge step towards a healthy existence, this food must also be grown with care and love.

We will all get ill at some stage of life, this is for certain.  The choices that Jane and I are making now are not only based on a more vibrant lifestyle and a greater sense of vitality, but on putting a few extra miles on the clock.  Giving ourselves a better chance of enjoying our later years and experimenting with our bodies whilst we are young and in our prime(ish).

I may sound like a broken record here, but it is VERY important.  We are what we eat…….   Industrialised farming techniques and major pesticide corporations are definitely not your friend.  Moving to a vegetarian diet is a step in the right direction for the environment (plant based foods, on average, us five times less land and generate ten times less CO2 emissions than animal based foods).  It can also be a great choice healthwise.

The next major step that we face is trying to control our own food supply.  If we can take control of the food we buy and educate ourselves about how it is produced, we begin to change the way that we eat and view food in general.  We make a statement to the food producers that we will not tolerate substandard food that harms us and has little or no nutritional value or flavour.

Seasonal, organic produce has a greater concentration of nutrients, meaning less is more!  You only need a smaller portion and your body is satisfied.  Non-organically produce foods can have as much as 50% less vitamins and minerals present as organically grown ones.

If we accept rubbish produce, they will keep feeding us rubbish produce.  If we demand better, we will inevitably get better.  This is the wonderful power that us modern day consumers have.  Demand the best for yourself and the planet.  Most people take better care of their cars than their bodies!  Give yourself the best fuel possible and you will run on and on and……………

The way that we spend and direct out pounds/dollars/yen/rupees makes all the difference.  It is one of our greatest methods of influencing our societies which are increasingly controlled by large, profit hungry corporations/governments (the difference has become negligible).

This post is not designed to put anyone off eating vegetables and fruit!  It is a platform for information, produced by an independent research body, that will assist you in making an informed choice the next time you hit the market or shop.

I found the below information useful when trying to balance the cost of shopping organic with the potential moral and health factors of not buying certain organic produce.  The truth is, in our location, we cannot always buy organic, it is too costly and sometimes unavailable.  We don’t worry about some non-organic produce slipping onto our plate, life’s to short!  But we much prefer the ‘good stuff’, mainly due to the ethics of the people who decide to produce organically.  They are our kind of folk.

Below is a list of produce that you should try to buy organically, due to the high levels of pesticides used to grow them by non-organic means:

Fruits

Apples, cherries, grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, strawberries

Vegetables

Bell peppers, carrots, celery, lettuce, all root vegetables.

And here are some foods with lower amounts of pesticides:

Fruits

Avocado, kiwi, mango, tomato, papaya, pineapple, watermelon

Vegetables

Asparagus, broccoli, corn, cabbage, aubergine, onion, sweet peas.

(Taken from the raw food book ‘Live Raw’ by Mimi Kirk)

I genuinely believe a good diet is one of the primary steps to making the world a better place to be and buying organic (or demanding organic!) is a choice well worth making.

Wishing long and healthy lives for you allXXXXX

Categories: 'The Good Life', G.M. Food, Healthy Eating, Local food, Nutrition, Organic | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Why are we raw this June!

Raw June is here for the Beach House.  Jane and I are going cold veggie (and fruit) for the entire month and we both cannot wait to get going.

It really has come around quickly this 100% raw/vegan June adventure.  We have both been working quite a bit lately and have had less time to plan for the big plunge than we would have liked, hence the lack of any ‘build-up’ posts.  As with most things, we’re going straight in there!

I have a strange excitement in the pit of my stomach and I don’t know why.  I know that I will feel alot better and have bags more energy, focus and vitality, but there is the feeling that this could be something very big in my life.  It could be a huge lifestyle change for the better, no matter how unconventional it is and no matter how many people call me a ‘weirdo’  (there have been quite a few already) I going for this new diet and looking forward to experimenting with my body and mind in a good way.  We are what we eat, well, we shall see.

The main reason for eating raw is that cooking kills nutrients in food.  Vitamin C and B are heat sensitive, enzymes are also destroyed when food is cooked, which are essential to the function of the body.  If enzymes are not replenished in the body, we can age quickly and loss health.  Raw foods have been used for years to treat ailments and illness, most famously by Dr Ann Wigmore,who set up the Hippocrates Health Institute.  The truth is that we are exposed to more pollutants than previous generations and our food has less nutrients, even organic food is grown on soil that is less rich than is was in previous times (normally due to bad farming techniques).

Ecologically, if we all ate more raw foods there would be a relief on the planets resources.  No cooking conserves energy, there is less packaging (hopefully non) with raw foods, there are no emissions created no processing, the waste is compostable and biodegradable, meaning no rubbish.

Below is the Raw Food Pyramid (thanks to the Almost Raw Vegan for this), this replaces the average diet with meat, dairy etc and will give you an idea of what we will be munching on in June.  We are eating no dairy, refined foods, wheat etc and no alcohol or caffeine.   Our diet will consist of many different types of salads, smoothies and juices and another host of interesting raw foods that you will seldom find, especially in the UK where raw food is still a relatively new thing.  In the States and Australia for example, raw food seems to be very popular.  Many people say that raw food will become the new vegetarianism for this generation, I have already seen restaurants with raw options on the menu.

We have always eaten alot of raw food, we just didn’t necessarily call it ‘raw’, just a salad or a smoothie. We will try and be as close to 100% raw as possible, but aren’t really too fussy about things.  We’ll still be drinking herbal teas and if our new lovely looking olive oil is not certified raw, we’ll still use it.  The same goes for nuts, seeds, dried fruits, pastes etc which are all borderline raw foods.  We love these items too much and deem their nutritional values to be too important to eliminate from our diet.

We hope to open a few people’s eyes, minds and palates to the joys of raw food.  Raw food is nutrient rich, meaning you don’t need to eat or digest as much.  When you are eating a bag of crisps, or packet of biscuits, the reason you are not getting full is because they are devoid of nutrients.  Your body needs the right fuel!  A raw diet puts that fuel in and makes it readily available.  We have had a few days almost raw already and the we have been buzzing!  I went for my normal jog and needed to extend it a little, up the mountain.  I couldn’t stop!  With raw food, your body needs less energy for digestion, which can be utilised in other beneficial ways.

The body has clearly define cycles or natural rhythms:

12pm-8pm  Digestion cycle

8pm-4am  Absorption cycle

4am – 12pm  Elimination cycle

The raw diet will help to cleanse our system of toxins and bring us into balance.  After gradually eating healthier for a number of years (we are not just diving in here, we have been eating well for a while now)  my body is quite sensitive to toxins and rich foods.  I sometimes get what is called a food ‘hangover’ after a cheese or chocolate binge, I will be glad to be free of them.  Raw food is devoid of toxins and packed with nutrients.  There is a popular raw slogan, ‘stop counting calories and start counting nutrients’.  It makes perfect sense to me that what we eat has a profound effect on our bodies and minds.  What we consume affects us on ways that we cannot see or know.  Raw food seems like a stepping stone for me to a greater understanding of my body and what makes me tick, what makes me truly happy.

Raw food will also free up so much time, as I mentioned we are both busy this summer with work, so not cooking will allow us to do other things.  The garden is definitely looking like it needs some TLC.

We will be taking alot of inspiration from our fellow bloggers of the cyber world and also have some good books.  ‘Eat Smart, Eat Raw’ by Kate Wood being one of the main ones.  Written by a Brit for British folk, mainly important because we don’t have the plethora of fruits and veggies that many countries enjoy.  We also have the long cold, dark winters, where soup is our best friend and a chilled smoothie seems like a difficult proposition.

We will be supplementing our diets with a few superfood-type bits.   Jane picked up some Barley Grass at the health food shop and that is supposed to be super charged stuff.  We will also be drinking propolis daily, which is a bee resin with amazing properties.  We’ll be writing about it soon.  We will also be sure to drink plenty of water, as this seems to be important no matter what foods you are eating.  Become more fluid!  It is worth noting that many mineral waters are not organic and the best water you can drink is water that has been treated by reverse osmosis, this is pure H2O.  You should also not drink water, or any liquid with meals, as it affects digestion and absorption (diluting stomach acids).

So we are going out in a blaze of intoxication tonight.  We said we wouldn’t, but we are.  It is a relatively decadent evening with some smoked stilton with sparkling wine planned, followed by some of the finest chocolate I have ever tasted (post coming soon..).

Raw June, a time when we in the Beach House gain a greater awareness and respect for the foods we eat and the bodies we inhabit;  a time when we gain a new insight into the world of nutrition and the impact it has on us.

Jane and I are both very positive about all of this, which we feel is crucial, as our mental state has a more profound effect on our health than anything else.

Happy Days!

Categories: Blogs, Healthy Eating, Healthy Living, Organic, Raw Food, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Pineapple and Blueberry Juice

Pineapple and Blueberries make happy

This mornings juice worked out a treat.  The sun is out again, which is a rarity and always cherished.  All the windows and doors are open as the Beach House breathes in the warm air.  It has been a long cold winter, we need all the sun we can get!

There has been a pineapple ripening on the window ledge for weeks now, getting nice and sweet, waiting for just such a day; when we can close our eyes and outside, drift off with the birdsong.  Maybe imagine that there are palm trees swaying above us and pineapples grow freely in the next field.  Instead its a fuchsia bush and potatoes that grow, but I wouldn’t change it.

I had the good fortune to stumbled across some luscious looking  organic blueberries (unfortunately not from this island) which will complement our lovely tropical friend, adding their vivid dark colour and nutrients to proceedings.

I  started the Magimix up and here the rest is here:

The Bits

Half a pineapple chopped into chunks, two good handfuls of blueberries.

Do It

Stick it in the Magimix, blueberries first, followed by the pineapple.  We always juice like this, always dense and concentrated first, followed by something juicy/ watery.   You will get better extraction of juices.

Pineapple and Blueberry Juice

Serve

Your favourite wine glasses!

Foodie Fact 

To grow pineapples all you need to do is chop off the top and plant it!  It does take years to grow (which heightens my respect for the fruit) and very tropical conditions.  Our pineapple tops add a tropical flavour to our compost bin!

Buster takes in some sun

 

Categories: Breakfast, Dairy/ Lactose Free, Garden, Healthy Eating, Juices, Organic, Raw Food, Recipes, Relax, Vegan, Vegetarian, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Beach House Egg Benedict with Asparagus

Morning bluebell

This is our version of the famous Waldorf Hotel breakfast dish.  It was originally created by a man named Benedict (surprisingly!) who wanted something to cure his hangover.  I have almost completely changed the dish, made it a healthier delight, and served it for supper.

That seems to be the BHK style, take a classic and meddle with it until it is almost unrecognisable!

Asparagus is a very beautiful thing, so fleeting, which makes you appreciate it more. I have recently looked into growing them and it really is a labour of love. They are quite tricky and only give you good spears after a few years. Hootons Homegrown have been selling some delicious packs of asparagus, so we’ve been using it in many recipes. Simply pan-fried is my favourite and topped with a local egg makes it something rather special.

This is a gorgeous light dinner or lunch and quick to prepare. The layered effect and combination of creamy dressing, runny egg and crispy vegetables give it a ‘complete’ restaurant dish feel. We added a little toasted oat bread for some ‘packing’. We’ve been in the garden for most of the day, doing loads of seeding and planting; transplanting and spreading of horse manure. We needed a good feed.

We loved to use the last of our wild garlic here, picked from the roadsides of Anglesey. The extent of our foraging consisted of opening the car door and leaning out. Not exactly Ray Mears, but just as satisfying. Who doesn’t appreciate a little free food?

Broccoli Florets

The Bits
Glug of olive oil, half a handful of pumpkin seeds, 1 big handful chopped wild garlic, 1 big handful chopped mint, half a large head of broccoli, 5 handfuls of spinach leaves, 1 large handful cherry tomatoes, splash of water.
Bunch of whole asparagus spears (take of the tough tails, normally one inch from base)
Mixed salad leaves
2 free range, organic eggs (with vivid yolks)
For the Dressing
(these measurements are slightly larger than a teaspoon)
1 teas honey, 1 teas dijon mustard, 4 teas olive oil, 1 teas white wine vinegar, salt + pepper (s+p), 4 teas creamy natural yoghurt.

Do It
Make dressing, add all ingredients to a small bowl and mix together thoroughly. Taste and adjust to how you like it (sweeter, saltier, not quite mustardy enough, more bite, smoother etc).
In a large saucepan, on a medium heat warm the olive oil then add your pumpkin seeds, roast for a few minutes until slightly golden, then add the cherry tomatoes and scorch a little, then add the wild garlic then broccoli.  Add a splash of water (roughly 2 tbs). Season with s+p. Cook for a couple of minutes then add spinach and mint.  Put to the side with the lid on, keeping warm.  This will steam the broccoli.
In a separate small saucepan, bring some salted water to the boil with a splash of white wine vinegar and poach your eggs (crack them into a tea cup and pour low and gentle into boiling water for a neater shape).
As that is happening, heat a glug of olive oil in a small frying pan and flash fry the asparagus spears for three minutes. Do not overcook, they should be nice and crunchy. You may add a splash of truffle oil here, if you are feeding people you love very dearly. It’s a decadent touch.
Give your salad leaves a quick wash and drain.

Beach House Benedict

Serve
Place a flat pile of green salad on your serving plate, add the broccoli and wild garlic fricassee (posh word for something fried), then spoon over the dressing, top with a neat pile of asparagus spears and place the egg on top and season with a little s+p. We had it with a piece of toasted oat bread.

We Love It!
Jane loved it so much she actually licked the plate clean! It wasn’t pretty!

Foodie Fact

Asparagus has been enjoyed by folk for thousands of years and has also been used for its medicinal properties.

Asaparagus is brilliant for digestion and helps to regulate our blood sugar levels.  It also contains very high levels of Vitamin K.

Categories: Dinner, Dressings, Garden, Healthy Eating, Local food, Lunch, Organic, Recipes, Vegetarian, Welsh produce, Wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sunbeam Fruit Salad

Blooming great rhododendrons. It’s finally May!

The perfect fruit salad!?

Impossible to tell really, but it certainly hit our spots.

This is not what you would call a seasonal wonder, more a bargain basement bonanza!!!  This is a salad for when you have a glut of fruit that needs eating soon.  Its totally OTT and befitting of my birthday weekend, when excess is embraced.

This fruity number is very delicious and perfect for this morning in wonderful Wales.  It’s a glorious day, full of sunbeams, the birds are singing and Buster (a cat) is lounging in the herb garden.  Everybody is out in their gardens, wondering what on earth to do.  You realise the importance of our sun when it is hidden behind grey clouds for many months.  When it returns, it has an incredible effect on people; they go outside, they begin to re-connect with the light (sun).  We all start shining!

We have this type of salad most mornings, a mixture of fruit and vegetables topped by a thick smoothie.  It keeps us going for most of the day, brimmed full of goodness.   Jane and Mum went shopping this weekend (Mum was visiting for my birthday, which was an amazing time, the best birthday I’ve had since I was 9 years old and organised a mass football match on the local park and had a cake shaped like the FA cup) and chanced upon some amazing bargains in the fruit section.  Organic blueberries, apricots etc for 20p a pack!  Its capitalism gone mad!    We have not seen fruit like this for many, many months and their return has a similar effect to the return of our beautiful sunshine.

Top tip – I have been making these beauty salads for a while now and if there is one tip that I would offer to you lovely people it is this, use a clean board.  Sounds obvious, but the slightest hint of garlic or onion on a board can spell disaster for the subtle flavours of your fruits.  We have a separate board for all things fruit.

If you think that mixing fruit and vegetables in salad is a little weird, perhaps it is, but it is delicious.  Carrots are very sweet and celery has a lovely mild flavour.  They both add real bite to proceedings.

The Pear and Peanut smoothie topping recipe will follow on the next post.  This makes enough for two massive bowls.

Bumble bees get busy with bluebells

The Bits

We used our selection of fruit and veg here, but you can of course have a play and use what is in season or any good stuff that you can get your hands onto.  Mix in seeds/ nuts for added crunch and texture, a citrus fruit to add a little tang, the addition of flax seeds really helps your digestion:

2 apricots (de-pipped and diced), 1 big handful of blueberries, 1 apple (diced), 1 pear (diced), 1 orange (peeled and diced), 2 kiwis (peeled and diced), 3 carrots (chopped), 2 sticks of celery (chopped), 1/2 handful of roasted sunflower seeds, 2 tbs flax seeds, 1/2 handful of roasted hazelnuts, 1 handful of chopped mint (chopped)

Do It

Grab your favourite salad bowl, chop all bits up into your favourite shapes, mix then all in gently and top with your smoothie (see next post).  Serve liberally with smiles.

Serve

In bowls of the size that befit the mouths to feed.  In the Beach House, this means big bowls!

The Sunbeam Fruit Salad

We Love It!

Really, what’s not to like here!  The perfect way to start the day.

Foodie Fact 

Blueberries are a sign from nature that snacking has always been OK.  They are one of the original grab and go foods!!!!  Served straight from the bush.  I am so glad to have these back in my life, they are real burst of incredible nutrition.  I love their dark colour, it adds brilliant contrast to any dish it touches.

They contribute amazingly to our health, that dark purple colour is thanks to some wonder pigments that are full of antioxidants.   They contain some of the highest levels of antioxidants in the plant world.  They limit free radical activity and actually regulate our blood sugar levels.

Categories: 'The Good Life', Breakfast, Dairy/ Lactose Free, Garden, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, Organic, photography, Raw Food, Recipes, Salads, Snacks and Inbetweens, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Homemade Ricotta with Wild Garlic and Mint

Wild garlic and mint

I realise that I write regularly about making my own cheese.  It is something that I am quite fascinated by.  I have tried yoghurt and using live cultures etc, but it is difficult, especially due to the fluctuating temperature of our cottage (we only have a wood burning stove for heat) and the temperamental weather (British weather is utterly mental).  Live cultures etc don’t seem to like this, they are sensitive sorts.

Making ricotta requires non of this effort.  It is a fail safe method of making your own gorgeous cheese.  Not complex or pungent, but super smooth and creamy.  Every time.

This is a simple technique.  I would advise you seek out good quality, organic milk for best results.  Once you try it, you will not want to go back to the shop bought variety.  This is a real homemade treat that takes no time at all and actually saves you money.

I have mixed a few fresh herbs in here.  We had just picked some wild garlic, we took a wrong turn on Anglesey and ended up driving through a field of the stuff! The mint is beautiful looking, grown by the good people at Hooton’s Homegrown.  I walked into the kitchen this morning and was greeted by the wonderful aroma of these two and could not resist combining them with the cheese.

Ricotta means ‘recooked’ in Italian and is a so versatile.  It goes well in savoury and sweet dishes.  I love it with some warm oat bread and honey and it makes a delicious base for pasta sauces, we have also used it with dark chocolate for dessert (see here).   This ricotta recipe is excellent as it can be stirred directly into warm pasta.  It is basically a great thing to have in the fridge.

I am sure that this is one of those cooking techniques that you will use again and again. You can even make paneer, just use the same method but use a semi skimmed milk (the ricotta uses whole milk).  See a recipe here on the brilliant Kolpona cuisine blog.

There is no waste here.  After the curds have formed, drink the whey.  This is packed full of good protein.  It’s the same stuff those muscle bound freaks buy for inflated prices (and biceps!).  The whey can also be used in cooking, its great in stews, soups and even breads.

Cheesecloth had always eluded me.  I had heard of this mythical fabric but never owned any.  I have resorted to all sorts of strange methods to compensate for it.  I mentioned this to Jane and in her ever thoughtful fashion, she bought some in a little shop somewhere in Yorkshire.  I am now the proud owner of a metre square.  Thank you honey!

The Bits

1 litre of good whole fat milk (makes enough for a decent sized ball), juice of 1 lemon or 2 tbs cider vinegar (or any distilled vinegar), 1 teas sea salt, 1 handful of wild garlic, 1 handful of fresh mint, 1 piece of muslin/ cheese cloth.

Homemade ricotta with wild garlic and mint

Do It

Heat the milk in a pan gently until it is steaming and small bubbles are forming around the edges, do not boil.  Add the lemon juice of vinegar, then stir a couple of times to mix.  Take off the heat and leave for 5 minutes, allowing the curds to form.  Line a medium sieve with your cheese cloth and place over a bowl.  Gently pour the milk/ cheese through the sieve and allow to drain.

Making the cheese

The longer you leave it to drain, the drier the cheese.  Think about what you would like to us it for.   I recommend leaving it for around 10 minutes.  Cool and cover, place in the fridge, it be good for around a week.

When the cheese is fully dried, chop your herbs finely and mix in with the cheese.  If it is proving to be too dry, mix in a little olive oil to get things lubricated.  Taste the cheese, add more salt if you like.

Using vinegar will give a cleaner flavour, lemon will make it slightly lemony.  Again, it depends on how you would like to use the cheese.

Serve

We had ours mixed into roasted root veggies, with our Sprouting Spring Salad.

Roasted root vegetable

Foodie Fact

You can use goats milk for the ricotta, it will be more tangy.  In Italy they use alot of sheeps milk, which is very smooth and creamy and of course the famous buffalo milk, which is equally as good.  It is fun to experiment with different milks.  I have to say, I like the ricotta we get from local Welsh milk.

Calon Wen Milk

Pickled Part

You can’t beat a crisp dry white wine with a fresh cheese like ricotta, something to cut through that awesome creaminess and get your palate sparkling.  We had a lovely Chilean Sauvignon Blanc which worked a treat.

Categories: Local food, Organic, Recipes, Snacks and Inbetweens, Vegetarian, Wales, Welsh produce, Wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Vegetarian Shepherds Pie

Joyce and Keith and some dodgy looking waiter.

This was a staple in my family when I was a young ‘un, the mince and spud variety anyway. I was inspired by many a food blogger to have a play with this classic dish, I have forgotten where exactly, but I hope you know who you are!

I can eat alot of mash, it’s so more-ish, so I have included sweet potato to mix with the normal spuds.  This makes for a slightly healthier mash and has vibrant colours with the rich, smooth texture of the sweet orange ones.

I’ve named this a shepherds pie, but it only resembles it in the technique of cooking.  The colours and flavours are more vibrant in the veggie variety (I think!).

The occasion was a gardening visit by Jane’s Mum and Dad, Joyce and Keith.  We had a full day of house sorting, managing to fix the fire and the strimmer and much more.  We needed some rich and hearty grub and this hit the spot.  I know that Jane’s Mum and Dad have slightly sweeter tooth, which meant the sweet pots and sweetcorn in this recipe were ideal.  I would normally tone down the cheese, it is great without dairy, but I find a good lump of cheese sates those who normally have meat as a rule.

I would always used fresh tomatoes if available, but a good tin of organic toms will suit this dish fine.  They are normally sweeter and give a nice red colour to the sauce.  Just replace the toms here with one tin.

Most of these ingredients came from our local farm shop Hooton’s Homegrown.  Until our garden starts producing some vegetables, we are lucky to have them so close.  There carrots are amazing and really made this dish.

Save all stock here and cooking juice for soup making and the stew, you can mix them together to make a great base stock for later.  Vegans, you know the drill, replace the butter and cheese with something like olive oil etc, maybe some tofu cream would be nice as a topping.

The Bits

2 sweet potatoes, 3 white potatoes (scrubbed and cut into chunks, gauge quantity of pots by the number of mouths to feed), 2 cups of dried butter beans, 3 cloves garlic (chopped), zest of 1 lemon (finely chopped), 1 teas paprika, 1 big onion (chopped), 4 fat carrots (scrubbed and roughly chopped), 150g (several large handfuls) spinach, 1 can sweetcorn (fresh if you can), several good knobs of butter, glug of cooking oil (you choose which), 3 handfuls of cherry tomatoes and 250g tomato passata (one good tin toms is acceptable), 4 teaspoons of fresh thyme (or dried mixed herb), 3 nice knobs of butter,  3 decent handfuls of mature cheddar cheese, 2 cups of good veg stock, 2 bay leaves.

The sauce in motion.

Do It

Soak butter beans overnight, covered with 1 inch of water.  Bring to boil, skim of the white scum and simmer gently with lid on for 45 minutes, or until tender to the bite.  Drain and set aside (keeping cooking water).

Get your chopped potatoes in a pan with some cold, slightly salted water and bring to the boil.  Lower heat to a gentle boil and cook for 20 mins, or until tender.  Drain (saving stock) and put back into warm pan, season and mix in a handful of the cheddar cheese and a knob of butter.  Mash it up in the pan (saves on washing up) until creamy and smooth.  Set aside.

Whilst all that is going on, you probably have time to start the stew base of the pie.  Fry off the onions until soft on medium heat with a knob of butter and a glug of oil, then add the garlic and carrots,  thyme/mixed herbs and bay leaves, stir well and cook for 5 minutes.  Add paprika, lemon zest, corn and beans, stir in for a few minutes, then add the toms and passata, bring to the boil and add the stock.  Stir in and leave on a steady simmer for 30 mins, until cooked down and approaching stickiness.  I like to stir in a tablespoon of the mash to make the sauce nice and thick.  Don’t overcook the carrots, remember they’ll be cooked further in the oven.

Pre-heat an oven to 200oC.

In a large baking dish, pour out your sauce into the base, sprinkle over a good thick covering of spinach leaves to form a thick layer (remember it’s a serious wilter) then scoop the mash into the centre and using a spatula or big spoon, gently smooth out to the corners, making sure that it meets all edges.  Sprinkle on top as much cheddar as you deem necessary and a dusting of mixed herbs/ thyme.

Place on a tray and into the oven on a middle shelf.  Cook until a gentle bubbling appears at the edges and cheese is golden brown, should take around 20-30 minutes.

Our Veggie Shepherd’s Pie (Fortunately, our cooking is better than our photography!)

Serve

Place in the middle of your table and spoon out carefully onto plates (unlike we did!  See photo).  Great served with a crunchy salad, we made a simple salad of sprouting mung beans (we just has a bumper crop, see more of our sprouting antics here) with a lemon vinegar dressing.

Our sprouts

We Love It!

This is a real cheesy filler.  We love the contrast of vibrant colours, the layers of red sauce, green spinach and orange mash.

Foodie Fact

Sprouts are the freshest vegetable available, we eat them as they are sprouting!           Find our more on this great healthy eating website.

Categories: Organic, Recipes, Vegetarian, Welsh produce | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Wonder Pulp – Aloe Vera Juice

I’ve heard loads of people talking about the benefits of Aloe Vera Juice, in fact, I nearly had a job selling the stuff!  The only problem is that I knew very little about it.  This was until we were given a bottle of the wonder pulp.  It is made by Pukka; organic, ethically sourced, comes in a nice glass bottle, we thought we’d give it a go.

Pukka Aloe Vera Juice

The Aloe plant originates from Northern Africa and it has been used in herbal medicine since the 16th century BC.  The flavour is what you’d call an acquired taste (you can flavour it with juices etc) but you’re not drinking this for a Dom Perignon moment.  This is all about getting you feeling good from the inside out.  Having said that, Aloe Vera is also amazing when rubbed on the skin and has incredible healing effects for burns, scars and many skin conditions like eczema.  You get used to the flavour and it does have a very soothing texture and quality.

The Aloe Plant looks alot like the Agave plant, the famous succulent (that’s a type of plant) that is used to make tequila.  So technically you are drinking a distant cousin of raw tequila.  That’s about as ‘rock and roll’ as the health food industry gets really!  You ain’t going to look like Keith Richards drinking this stuff (which is surely a good thing).

Some technical info:

Pure Aloe Vera juice can be extracted by cutting the leaf, collecting the juice and then evaporating it. When used for drinking, the juice provides many benefits.  This is due to the fact that it contains 12 vitamins (including A, B1, B6, B12, C and E), 19 amino acids and over 20 minerals, with most of these being essential to the body.

Aloe Vera Plant

In Ayurveda, the Indian health system, Aloe Vera is known as Kumari (‘The Princess’) because of its positive effect on the menstrual cycle and female reproductive system. It is also known for its ability to cleanse the liver and protect the digestive system by reducing intestinal inflammation.

With ‘Raw June’ coming to the BHK, we are stocking up on all things healthy, revitalising and nutritious, it seems like Aloe Vera juice ticks all of these boxes and then some.    This bottle of Pukka Aloe Vera Juice now graces our fridge door shelf and we will soon be taking a few teaspoons a day to give us a boost, especially in the first week of the Raw diet, which we hear can be tough.

Just to clarify that we are in no way health experts and all of the medical claims above are exactly that, claims.  It is difficult to prove these things conclusively.  

Categories: Ayurveda, B.H.K Reviews, Detox, Healthy Living, Juices, Nutrition, Organic, Raw Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beach House Kitchen voted for a ‘Kreativ Blogger Award’

This is a beautiful thing, fellow bloggers VegHotPot and Lucy’s Friendly Foods have nominated us for a Kreativ Blogger Award.

We are understandably chuffed to receive such a kind nomination from two top bloggers.  I love their blogs, so it’s extra special that they like what is going on in the Beach House Kitchen.

The Kreativ Blogger Award is designed to get good bloggers together and spreading the word about each other.  I think it’s a top idea.

Here are the rules:

  • Thank the nominating blogger and provide a link to that blog.
  • Spread the love by nominating seven other bloggers, including their links here.
  • Tell your readers seven things they may not already know about you.
Here goes……………

Seven Blogs we like (alot and in no particular order):

We have only chosen food blogs (for obvious reasons) and only ones that are relatively new.  There are some amazing, established food blogs, but they seem to be doing just fine…..

I think some of these blogs may have been nominated before, but you can never get too many nominations for being Kreativ (can you?!)

1)  Byzantine Flowers  –  Brilliant for all-rounder for all things wholesome and organic.  Interesting articles all the way here, one of the sites I visit regularly.

2)  Vegetarian Ventures  –  The photos here are nearly as beautiful as the veggie recipes.  Lovely looking blog and well written articles.

3)  Moel Faban Supper Club – Denise’s blog is always an interesting read, a real foodie’s blog.  Our local Welsh supper club and a champion of local and seasonal produce.

4)  Tofu and Flowers –  Abigail gives us a real flavour of Thailand here.  Great stories and pics.

5)  Peas and Love –  Gwen’s blog ever fails with gorgeous looking veggie and vegan bites.  You will also find things ‘freegan’ bits here.

6)  AlmostRawVegan  – Great inspiration here for our coming Raw food month in June.  A lovely looking site with brilliant smoothie recipes.

7) Emmycooks –  I just love the way Emmy cooks!

Seven interesting things about Jane and I (again in no particular order):

1)  We met on a small island beach in the Philippines, I was accidentally evicting Jane from her room at the time.  Jane was suffering from horrific facial sun burning (known as panda bear eyes).

2)  Our first meal together was a tiny plate of cold veg fried rice, cooked by a disgruntled Belgian fella wearing tight trunks with Kraftwerk blaring from a stereo.

3)  Jane was initially attracted to me because I had several pots of yoghurt stashed  in my rucksack (a very impressive feat in Asia)…..

4)  ….I used these yoghurts to woo Jane at breakfast, atop coconut and mango porridge, cooked in a bamboo hut.  The rest is culinary history………..

5)  I flew all the way from Mumbai to be with Jane in the Beach House and set up the Beach House Kitchen (giving up a lucrative career in dodgy English teaching in Hanoi!!!).

6)  Jane is addicted to potatoes Lee is partial to a bean.  You will always find hummus in our fridge and oatcakes in our pockets.  Jane also likes hunks (of mouldy cheese).

7)  The population of Carmel, our village, is around 90 and has approximately three sheep to one person.  These sheep terrorize us with their munching and are an enemy to all raspberry patches.

Thanks to Becky and Lisa for the nominations and happy blogging to one and all.

Lee and JaneX

Categories: Blogs, Healthy Eating, Organic, Raw Food, Vegan, Vegetarian, Wales, Welsh produce | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The B.H.K Garden Photos – Spring and Seeds

We hit the patch. 4 types of potato in furrows, blue, white, red and knobbly.

April in the B.H.K. garden has seen much activity.  Mainly we have chopped wood for next year, but we managed to squeeze some gardening in also.  

We are following organic practices , with a little biodyamic thrown in (new moon and all).  The veg patch has been turned several times, with piles of local horse manure from the adjacent field and four different types of potato have been planted.  Pete at Trigonos Farm, Nantlle, kindly donated the seeding potatoes (some just sprung to life in our veg basket!).  We have blue, red, white and knobbly.  One day I will learn the names of them.

The front garden is full of herbs and four different types of latin american bean.  We hope for great things from the latin bean patch this year.

We also expect lots of flowers, some wild strawberries and the regular marjoram infestation.  The slugs are happy, but we plan on trapping them in underground cups with beer in.  Slugs like beer!  Get them tipsy and they seem to lose interest in plants.  Probably opting for a kebab instead.  

The newts have returned to the pond and the frog spawn seems to be wriggling even more.  Bring on the frogs!

We have a dodgy looking gang of sheep hanging around our back wall, but we have reinforced the defenses and hope to keep them out this year.  Apparently they like to walk along the walls and eat all things green.  The are also very dim and noisy.  

Breaking news – beetroots, green beans and leeks are rumoured to be on the way.

We are keen amateurs at best in the garden, any tips would be greatly appreciated.

Here’s hoping for zero food miles soon! 

Happy plantingX

Beach House herb garden circa April '12

Our seed trays (formerly traffic cones)

Jane puts her back into the spuds

The local beige tree frog

Happy cook with the sun on my face.

Categories: 'The Good Life', Garden, Healthy Living, Local food, Organic, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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