Summer

Summer Squash and Peanut Butter Sabji – Spicy, Rich and Healthy Vegan Curry

We love this kind of curry bowl! So many colours and textures, served with chilli pickle and warm flatbreads, it’s an Indian Thali feast and easy to prepare.

 

Are you missing your Indian takeaways?  Visiting your favourite local Indian restaurant?  Here’s a simple recipe to make your own homemade Indian feast.

 

A really simple, one pot curry (sabji) with a creamy, rich and spicy sauce

 

This is a quick vegan curry for beginners, but it has the flavours anyone will love.  Rich and creamy, without oil, this is a great way of making a delicious, healthy curry and bringing India spice and fragrance to your kitchen.  

If you’re not a fan of peanut butter, this may change your mind.  Once we’ve cooked it through, the peanut butter begins to melt into the sauce and mingle with the spices and tangy tomato, leaving a rich sauce.  It’s not overpoweringly peanut!

The masala sauce is always the key to any delicious curry treat and this one is as simple as popping it all in a pan and cooking. Super quick and easy, no oil and frying, just delicious, big flavours and colours.

In lockdown, I’m trying to make things as accessible as possible. I’ve posted a Wild Mushroom Lasagna and another Quarantine Curry recipe recently, but this one is a new favourite.  I was skeptical to try new ways of cooking curry sauces, I wasn’t sure if they’d lose something essential.  But this is the kind of recipe that may quickly become a weekly staple and when you add some deeply flavoured daal and fragrant rice, plus a little raita, pickle and some crunchy fresh vegetables, you have yourself a top Thali!

 

What’s Sabji?  Thali?  Masala?


Thali is not so well known in the UK, we don’t see it on many Indian restaurant menus for example. But in India, Thali is a daily staple, a rounded, set meal, served daily with a wide range of flavours, textures and nutrients.  Thali is basically the name of a metal plate with many shallow compartments which hold the delicious array of spicy and colourful daals, sabji (curries), flatbreads, pickles and more….. 

It’s my favourite staple meal from any country. Just the sheer diversity of flavours, seasonal vegetables and textures.  Sometimes, you’ll even get a little dessert on the plate. Thali’s are served in many restaurants and hole in the wall type places, some more lavish, some more basic. I find the basic Thali’s are normally my favourites, lighter and healthier.  

A good masala (spice mix) is key and spices are normally ground or bought freshly.  You just can’t substitute the flavour and intense fragrance of freshly ground spices.  You can do this easily at home, especially if you have a pestle and mortar.  There is something important about grinding spices by hand and not relying on technology.  It’s very grounding!  There’s something human about the whole process.  A pestle and mortar seems like we’re inviting the stone age into our modern kitchens.  And as a piece of equipment, it can never be bettered.  

This is not just about the food on the plate, but the techniques that are involved in producing it, techniques handed down from generation to generation.  Techniques that millions have used and honed to create delicious food.  In many ways, the act of cooking ties us all together.  Our shared quest for delicious, nourishing food.  

You might be wondering why we post so many curry recipes!  We love India dearly.  I’ve spent a lot of time travelling all over India and I can’t imagine a more fascinating place to be.  I’d love to go back someday, India filled me with so much inspiration, not just in the kitchen, but in life generally.  India changed my life!  If you’ve visited, you probably know what I’m feeling.  

Use any vegetables you like here, whatever is seasonal and looking top banana. I really enjoyed the squash, we have hardly been going out shopping, so this squash was really appreciated. I prefer it to carrot in a curry. Jane prefers carrot. We’ll agree to disagree there. I love the way squash just breaks down. I left the skin on here, I wanted to cook it well, but not for it to break down into the sauce too much. This whole meal was prepared with no oil, the good fats coming mainly from the peanut butter in the masala.

 

Better than takeaway!  Squash and Peanut Butter Masala – Simple, Healthy, Hearty Vegan Curry



I can’t think of many easier ways of making an Indian feast. Let me know if you’d like the rice and daal recipes. I can post them next, but here’s the curry recipe to get started.

Thanks to everyone who have requested recipes recently. It’s great to see all your cooking adventures over on Facebook (our group is here) and Instagram. It makes my day when I see people cooking recipes from our cooking classes and vegan holidays and there are still a steady stream of posts of recipes from Peace and Parsnips, which is amazing, it’s been over 5 years since our cookbook came out. I should celebrate that soon!!

 

      We loved this curry and will be making it again and again.  We hope you enjoy!!  

 

Let us know if you try this one out, follow our blog, there are more recipes coming soon. You may like our seasonal newsletter, here’s the link to sign up. Secret recipes and pictures of the BHK in full swing.

Mr Will, our fellow collaborator, yogi and cooking amigo from the sparkling Complete Unity Yoga, this one’s for you bro.



Keep it spicy!!


Sending much health and happiness to you from the BHK


 

Recipe Notes

I’ve made this lockdown friendly.  I hope you can all still get some fresh vegetable and have a decent stock of spices in the cupboard.  I’ve omitted fresh ginger, onion. chilli and garlic in favour of dried/ powdered.  It works!!  I’ve never been in a situation to try this out and I can see why my friend says that most Indian restaurants in the UK use dried ginger and garlic in recipes.  The flavours are intense!  A great lockdown sub.  

Use any seasonal vegetables you like here.  Bear in mind that different vegetables take different times to cook.  Hence, we add the courgettes in later.  We wanted them well cooked, soft, but not mushy. 

If you are short of spices, substitute the quantities with any spice mixes you have.  Curry Powder (good all rounder) is very handy, or Garam Masala (warming and fragrant).  

Smooth or chunky peanut butter is fine here.  If you are not a fan of peanuts, try cashew butter or any nut/ seed butter you enjoy.  The nut butter flavours calm when they are cooked.

Coriander would be nice to top this one off.  We didn’t have any, so we tried it with Lemon Balm instead.  Delicious!  Necessity regularly brings much inspiration. 

 

Healthy vegan curry can be rich and delicious!! The peanut butter masala sauce is the star here. No oil and still awsome!

 

Squash and Peanut Butter Sabji – Spicy, Rich and Healthy Vegan Curry

 

The Bits – For 4

1 tin chopped/ plum tomatoes or 400g tomato pasatta

3 heaped tbs tomato puree

2-3 heaped tbs peanut butter (unsweetened)

500ml hot water

 

1 small butternut squash (scrubbed and chopped, skin on)

1 large carrot (scrubbed and chopped)

1 small courgette (chopped)

 

Spices

1 1/2 teas ground turmeric

3 teas ground cumin

3 teas ground coriander

1/2 teas ground cinnamon

3 teas dried ginger

3 teas garlic powder

1/2 – 2 teas chilli powder (you know how hot you like it!)

1 1/2 teas sea salt

 

Optional

Fresh coriander (chopped)

 

Do It

Set aside the courgette and peanut butter.

Place a large sauce pan on medium heat and simply add all the other ingredients.  Starting with the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, vegetables and then spices.  Stir them until combined, pop a lid on and simmer for 15 minutes.

Now add the peanut butter and courgette.  Stir well and pop the lid back on.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Your sauce should be thick and shiny, with the peanut butter cooked through.  

Taste and add more sea salt and chilli as you like.  Find your ideal flavour!  

You may also like to add some hot water to thin the sauce, a little at a time.  Also, stirring a few handfuls of greens into the sabji is a nice idea now, sliced spinach, chard, kale, whatever you have.   

Serve topped with fresh coriander and all your favourite curry trimmings.   

 

Foodie Fact

We love peanut butter. We even make our own here sometimes.  It’s simple, just roast some peanuts and blend, maybe add a little salt, a touch of cold pressed oil to help it blend. 

But is peanut butter healthy?  I know some people avoid it, even when they enjoy the flavour.  Peanut butter is high in fat, but is a great source of good fats, fibre too.  It’s an excellent source of protein, anti-oxidants and vitamins like E, B3 and B6.  It’s also has a good amount of omega 6 and you’ll also find many minerals like magnesium, iron, selenium, zinc and potassium.

The peanut butter market is varied, some are more pure than others.  Give your jar a read, as usual, the less ingredients the better.  We want to avoid palm oil, refined oils and sugar.  Good peanut butter can cost a little more, but it’s well worth it.  So, peanut butter is healthy, as long as you’re not eating it 24/7.    

 

 

Categories: Curries, gluten-free, healthy, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Summer, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , | 15 Comments

BHK Lockdown Diary – Sunshine, Cakes and Frogs

Welcome! Getting some salad seeds planted in the front garden. We’ve started the veg patch in the back garden this year, trying out a new no-dig method (which is kind-of working out) and we’ve also planted some new trees (which we’re really excited about.  The Elder is the star) 

 

Welcome to lockdown BHK style.  I’ve lost count how long we’ve been hanging out around the garden and house, but we’re the very lucky ones, with a garden and loads of Snowdonian sunshine!  It’s been like Bermuda up here for the past couple of months which has made this whole time feel much brighter for us.  

We’ve been getting on with cooking new recipes, playing with new ideas in the kitchen and in the garden too.  The veg patch is up and running, we have modest ambitions and if we get a few Broccoli floret and a cabbage out of it, we’ll be very happy.  The slugs round here resemble ugly anacondas (I like snakes).  We’ve been really fortunate with all the foragables in the area, loads of sorrell, nettles, hawthorn and crab apple flowers, fresh hawthorn leaves, mints, dandelions, wild garlic, all the joys of spring and early summer.  All that makes for some pretty awesome salads!  

 

Slice of our White Pizza, Vegan Style! Middle-Eastern Flavours – Roasted Cauliflower and Red Onions, Za’atar and Roasted Garlic Puree, Sun-dried Tomatoes, Sumac

 

In these uncertain times (how many times are we reading those words of late!!) we feel blessed to have a local supply of organic veggies.  Our veg box is one of the highlights of the week and Tyddyn Teg are producing an amazing array of fresh local veg for us to base our vegan dreamin’ on.

People keep talking of a new world sprouting out of this, we’re ever hopeful that things will get better and we’ll start taking better care of each other, animals and the world.  One of the key factors for us is a vegan lifestyle, but also keeping food local.  Focusing more on local, sustainable, organic farming.  I don’t like the idea of massive corporations feeding us. I can’t trust those who put profit before health and wellbeing.  I can see from our groups and your emails that many of you are growing your own and from a produce point of view, it doesn’t get any better than that!  I don’t really have very green fingers, but I’m good at getting my hands muddy.  Does that count?        

 

Jane out by the pond, there are loads of frogs, newts and toads this year. We’re keeping it topped up and making shelters for them around the ponds.

 

Vegan Shish Kebab – Marinated Tempeh, Tofu and Oyster Mushrooms with Apricots, Tahini Sauce and Pilaff. Oh, there’s a Beetroot and Ajwain Flatbread too:)  Got to have big colours!!

 

We think we’ve noticed more birds and insects in the garden.  There’s definitely more newts and frogs this year, we’re being invaded!  They try and get into the house, which is very cute.  I was hanging the washing out the other day and a Peregrine Falcon leapt out of a bush.  What sight!  It was amazing to see such a bird of prey up close.  We get the buzzards overhead, but they rarely land near the garden.  We’ve also made friends with the local horses, see below.  Bob, Tanny and Hera are our names for them and they seem to be warming to us.  They’ve started to hang our beside our wall and even lie in the sun just outside our bathroom window.  It’s lovely to wake up to see horses chilling and rolling around.  Every sunset we get a crescendo of grunting horses, blackbirds twittering and the occasional croak from the pond.  

 

Meet Bob – One of the neighbourhood horses who keeps us company in the garden.  We raided there fields the other day and now have a mighty pyramid of horse poo.  For the garden next year. 

 

Pineapple and Pistachio Up-side Down Loaf with a Rose and Cacao Sauce.  Gluten-free.  I’ve had some extra time to experiment with new recipe ideas.  I cook something everyday and have realised I’ll never get through the backlog of recipes I’d like to share here.  Maybe you could give me an idea of what you’d like to see?  I’m sure I’ll have a recipe tucked away somewhere for yah!!  

 

Plenty of brews in the garden to wash down all the cake;) Apparently we’ve both got sun tans from being out in the garden, hanging out with frogs and cabbages.  

 

This is hill at the back of the house, sunset over Anglesey and the Llyn Peninsula, Snowdonia  

 

We’ve got Sorrel coming out of our ears. I love the zesty flavour in salads, stews/ soups

 

Summers really kicking in over here. We’re enjoying loads of salads, this one includes Korean Mint, an interesting member of the mint crew. It looks like marijuana, but tastes like mint crossed with liquorice. Apparently bees, butterflies and hummingbirds like it. So it must be cool.

 

We share pictures regularly and if you’re on Instagram or Facebook pop over and say hello. 

We try to keep the BHK blog up-to-date, but there’s plenty more vegan cooking action and chat over on our Facebook cooking group

 

We’re loving our afternoon walks up the hills. Appreciating more than ever right now!  Overlooking Nantlle Valley, Snowdonia 

 

This is part one, more BHK lockdown pics coming soon.  

 

We’re ever sending positive vibes and best wishes your way. 

 

Happy cooking, L+Jx

 

Categories: healthy, Healthy Eating, Healthy Living, Peace and Parsnips, photography, plant-based, Summer, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Mediterranean Vegetable and Chickpea Bake with Za’atar and Vegan Labneh

Baste with pomegranate molasses, you get a nice crispy layer of melt in the mouth Med Veg, topped with a little Za’atar

 

A fragrant, rich and flavoursome bake, loaded up with zesty spices and the creaminess of vegan labneh (so easy to make at home!)  

 

We baste the top layer of veggies with pomegranate molasses and olive oil, it makes them extra crispy!

This is the kind of centre piece that gets our appetites raving and the best thing, it’s easy to make and you might even have all these ingredients tucked away in your cupboards.

 

Vegan food for everyone, that’s what we’re talking about!!   

 

We wanted the flavours of the Med for dinner tonight!  It’s been ridiculously sunny up here in Snowdonia, perfect weather for a Med Veg bake in the garden.  I was fortunate to visit Palestine recently and brought back some extra special Za’atar from Bethlehem.  Palestine was an incredible place to visit, one of the most hospitable places I’ve been, and the food was outstanding.  I will do a post about it soon.  I must. 

 

Mediterranean Vegetable and Chickpea Bake with Za’atar and Vegan Labneh – Vegan, Gluten-free

 

You might also like our ‘Wild Mushroom Lockdown Lasagna’ recipe right here

 

Top Palestinian Za’atar, bought in Bethlehem

Za’atar

Beautifully aromatic herb mix!!  But not all Za’atar is created equal.  I realised this in Palestine.  There are some captivating spice shops and markets in Bethlehem and I was able to try different grades and types of Za’atar. The one we used here was my favourite, lots of toasted sesame, fragrant mountain thyme and a little twist of zesty sumac there too.

I think many Za’atars contain different quantities of herbs, dried sumac, salt and sometimes other spices.  Traditionally the mix revolves around lots of green herbs, like oregano, basil thyme, thyme, marjoram and savory.  Of course, the best herbs, are harvested wild!  Then dried in the sun.  You’ll find Za’atar used throughout the Middle Eastern part of the Mediterranean, Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula and some North African countries.  The herbs will probably shift slightly as you move around and many of these mixtures are kept as family secrets.  Some Za’atar mixes even contain caraway, cumin or coriander. 

Za’atar is normally served as a condiment, if you haven’t had it sprinkled over warm flatbread with a drizzle of olive oil, QUICK, you must.  I’ve enjoyed this mainly in Lebanon, Man’ouche (Man’oushe…I think it’s spelled a few different ways) for breakfast.

I added it into the lentil and chickpea stew here, it worked really well.  Za’atar can also be used sprinkled over hummus, a seasoning on vegetables and salads.  

I like Za’atar because it has a distinct flavour and I enjoy the subtle changes in the mix, from Turkey to Palestine, you can taste the different herbs used and when homemade, it’s a reflection of the local environment and conditions.    

 

You can check out some of my Lebanese foodie travels here

Seeking falafel perfection!

 

Layers of flavour to enjoy in this bake, the spicy stew, topped with crispy pomegranate veggies, sprinkled with za’atar

 

Tasty bakes like this are ideal for sharing with loved ones and neighbours love leftovers too! Your whole house will be filled with delicious fragrance after cooking this. 

 

Good food shared is soul food!

 

This is a really comforting dish and loads of fun to prepare.

 

If you like the look of this, or even better, get to try the recipe out, please let us know below. You can also join us over on Instagram for more Beach House Kitchen news and photos. 

Also, don’t forget to follow us and subscribe here for our seasonal newsletters.

 

Happy cooking:)

 

Recipe Notes

I will post a vegan labneh recipe.  Basically, strain some unsweetened vegan yoghurt (with cultures) through muslin, leave for a day or two to ferment and develop extra cheesy tanginess.  So easy!  Flavour with herbs, a twist of lemon juice, spices.  We make it all the time here, and it’s better than any shop bought vegan cream cheese we’ve tried. 

Toasting some cumin seeds in a pan and then grinding them in a pestle and mortar or small blender, will really add another dimension to the flavours here.  Well worth the extra little bit of effort.   

No Za’atar? You can use dried thyme. marjoram or oregano, or a mix of the two.   If you don’t have Pomegranate Molasses, try a Balsamic Reduction instead, or something else that’s sweet and sticky.  It will help with the caramelisation. 

 

 

Mediterranean Vegetable and Chickpea Bake with Za’atar and Vegan Labneh

Vegan, Gluten-free

 

The Bits – For 8-10

2 tomatoes 

1 large aubergine

1 large courgette

 

1 tbs cooking oil 

6 cloves garlic (peeled and chopped)

1 large onion (diced)

1 pepper (diced)

1 large carrot (diced)

 

3 heaped tbs tomato puree

400g/1 tin tomato passata/ chopped tomatoes

240g/ 1 tin chickpeas (cooked)

225g red split lentils

1/2 tbs turmeric

2 tbs ground cumin

2 1/2 tbs za’atar

1 litre hot water

 

Sea salt and black pepper

 

Vegan labneh, thick yoghurt or cream cheese (something nice and creamy)

 

Topping

Extra Za’atar

1 tbs pomegranate molasses 

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

 

Do It

Thinly slice your fresh tomatoes and 2/3 of your courgette and aubergine.  Get them nice and thin, especially the aubergine, it takes a little longer to cook.  Dice the rest of your courgette and aubergine.  

I organise the sliced veggies now, it makes it easier later.  Stack a slice of aubergine, tomato and courgette together, keep repeating until you’ve used all of your slices.  Set aside.   

In a large saucepan, add your oil and fry the garlic on a medium high heat for 1 minute.  Add the onion and 1 teas of sea salt.  Stir, cooking for 5 minutes.  Then add your courgette, aubergine, carrot, pepper and tomato puree.  Stir and cook for 3 minutes.  

Preheat a fan oven, 180oC.  Pop a large baking/ casserole dish into the oven to warm.  

Now for all your spices and a good few twists of freshly ground black pepper.  Add your red lentils, chickpeas, passata/ chopped tomatoes and water to the pan.  Stir, bring to a boil and cook for 12 minutes.  

Taste your stew and add more salt and pepper to your taste.  The flavours should be jumping, if not, time for a pinch more salt!   

 

Top your spicy chickpea stew with generous dollops of creamy vegan labneh or cheese

 

Remove your warm baking dish and pour in the spicy stew.  Top with generous dollops of labneh/ yoghurt.   Arrange your sliced vegetables on top of your stew, see the pictures.  A nice thin layer which snugly meets the edges of your dish.  

Mix together your pomegranate molasses and olive oil in a small bowl and brush on top of your bake.  Giving it all a full coating of the tangy mix.

Pop in the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes, until all is bubbling and your vegetables are looking golden and crispy.  

Serve sprinkled with more Za’atar and a crisp seasonal salad, warm flatbreads and your favourite glass of something special.  I also like a few chilli flakes sprinkled over mine.  

 

Enjoy!!  A vegan centrepiece fit for a sunny day 

 

Foodie Fact

Herbs are of course delicious!  But they also have a huge range of healthy giving properties. Thyme is a superstar ‘erb.  Very high in vitamin C, with loads of vitamin A, K, E and B6, plus LOTS of minerals, like iron, calcium, magnesium AND high in fibre.  Even a little protein in the mix too.  

 

“Give me just a little more thyme……!!”

 

 

 

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

Strawberry, Spinach and Walnut Salad – Simple Summer Special

View up the Nantlle Valley towards mighty Snowdon.

Is it summer or autumn?  I’m not sure anyone knows over here.  The weather is unsure, sleet one day, sizzling summer rays the next.  We’re back in the beautiful Beach House, after a summer walking around Spain and Portugal.  More of that to come soon, travel pictures and some tall tales.  Click here for a sneak preview.  We’re full of energy and new ideas.  It’s great to be back in Snowdonia, just look at these pictures……

Random flower pics. We love em!

We’re busy planning new events for later in the year, news of one coming later this week hopefully.  It involves wine, that’s all I’m saying.  It may be in the North West of England.  I can say no more.  But, it is very exciting.  Trust me.  Also, our Vibrant Vegan! – Cooking and Yoga Holiday is fast approaching.  Click here for more information.  We can’t wait to see some of you back up here by the mountains and sea for a vegan cooking extravaganza!!

It’s always salad season in my book and here’s a simple one which has nice textures and colours.  Salads are only boring if there is no inspiration involved.  Do people still feel salads are boring?  I think the UK might have evolved in that area.  Let me know…..  If you have someone in your life who is a salad naysayer, make them this.  They’ll soon change their salad spots.

This is on my summer menu and it’s a hit!  The flavour combos really work and I love adding basil to the leaf mix.  The recipe takes a short time to get together and is ideal as a colourful side salad or add some roasted squash or new potatoes to take it towards main course-ville.

We quickly press the red cabbage here, you can also use beetroot if you like, releasing more nutrients and flavours. This technique works with most vegetables and I Iove it.  Pressing elevates humble veggies to new levels and also lessens the funky ‘cabbaginess’ of the cabbage. Mellows it out nicely.

Welcome to Snowdonia! Home of the Beach House Kitchen

Do let us know if you try out this recipe.  How does it look to you?  Fancy trying it out?  Leave us a comment below.

Happy cooking:)

Strawberry, Spinach and Walnut Salad – A vegan late summer treat

Strawberry, Spinach and Walnut Salad – Simple Summer Special

 

The Bits – For 4 as a side salad

8 strawberries, cut into quarters lengthways

6 handfuls spinach leaves, washed and dried

1 small handful basil leaves

1/4 small red cabbage, finely sliced

Balsamic reduction

Sea salt

1 big handful toasted walnuts, roughly chopped

 

Do It

In a bowl, not a metal one please, rub 1-2 teas salt into your red cabbage, massage it lovingly, it will release some water. That’s good! Leave for 1-2 hours to soften. Now taste it, if it’s salty, rinse in cold water until you like the saltiness of it.

In a large bowl, gently toss together the strawberries, basil and spinach, drizzling in a dash of balsamic reduction and toss more.  Then serve straight away on a large plate, scattering the red cabbage and toasted walnuts on top.

Now for the final drizzle of balsamic reduction and you’re good to go.

Fresh basil from the polytunnels at Trigonos. Where I regularly cook, using a lot of produce from the land. It’s the best, cooking with freshly picked produce.

Foodie Fact
Strawberries are very, very, very high in vitamin C.  Strawberries are one of those things I eat and think, “I’m so happy this is good for me.”  Eat strawberries and be merry!

They’re also pretty good for fibre and our old friend, Manganese.

 

 

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

Watermelon Granizado – Quick and Refreshing Cooler

Simple, quick and full of chill!

I think we all need one of these fruity, icy drinks at the minute. Seems like this heatwave is enjoying itself!  How are you staying chilled?  It was 32oC in North Wales yesterday, which is just outrageous.  Seems like we’ll miss all the sun, but we can’t complain in the slightest, the Spanish coast has been very good to us.

Granizado is something I enjoy in Spain and also Latin American, a traditional cooler, the varieties change constantly, but the constant is that it’s super refreshing when the heat is on.

I wanted to share this now as it’s super quick and easy to make and only takes a few ingredients.  I have heard of people making these into cocktails!  This is really a slush puppy gone to heaven and you can swap and play with which frozen fruit you use.  Berries for example are also incredible, as is pineapple, cucumber or mango.  Just make sure you add a nice twist of citrus to keep things lively and if you have a sweet tooth, pop a little sweetener into the mix.

Recipe Notes

Most watermelons I buy have very few pips/ seeds.  When chopping the melon, take out as many as possible.  A few in the granizado are fine.  The main thing is they just don’t look very nice.

A nice idea is adding a little fresh mint to this granizado, around 8-10 mint leaves will make things interesting.

Watermelon Granizado

The Bits – For 2 Glasses

2 1/2 cups frozen watermelon

1 small lemon (juice)

Optional – 1-2 teas sweetener – sugar, agave, bronw rice syrup….

 

Do It
Peel and cut up your water melon into small chunks, place in the freezer for a few hours. The smaller the chunks, the easier it is to blend later.

Place the watermelon into a blender, add the lemon and sweetener and blitz until broken down.  If it is not blending well, just leave it for 10 minutes to defrost a little.

Serve in your fanciest glasses, with a slice of watermelon on the rim, to keep things 80’s/ Miami Vice style.

 

Foodie Fact
Watermelon is very hydrating, they’re around 92% water! Perfect for summer. They also have good levels of vitamin C and A.

 

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Categories: gluten-free, healthy, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, plant-based, Recipes, Smoothies, Summer, Vegan | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Top 10 Cooling Summer Recipes – Healthy, Plant-based, Delicious!

Here’s some of our favourite recipes to go with this heatwave.  We spend plenty of time in tropical and steamy places, so we know how to keep things cool when the thermometer starts to rocket.  There are even rumours right now of people in North Wales wearing shorts!

Chill Out!

Focusing on cooling ingredients, especially things like cucumber and watermelon for example, will help keep you chilled.  Also, hot drinks.  Sip some tea like the desert bedouins do, they know it works!  Although a nice long drink, with ice and all the trimmings is the perfect treat.

Try freezing fruits like watermelon, any melon actually, berries, mango, pineapple etc and simply blend them.  Very refreshing, the healthiest slush puppy you’ll ever try!

Also, you can freeze fruit like gooseberries and pop them in a drink, fruit ice cubes.  We also love juicing vegetables and fruits and pouring it into an ice cube tray, or even better, lollipop moulds.  Just add sticks (cocktail sticks are fine for the ice cube tray) and you’ve got gorgeous, healthy coolers waiting for you in the freezer.  Try freezing one layer of juice first, then adding another, and another, until you get a very cool rainbow effect.  Looks amazing!

Here’s our top 10 summer cooler recipes:

Cooling Watermelon, Tofu & Mint Salad

This is the perfect salad for a sweltering day.

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

Use whatever mix of veggies you like here, its the dressing that’s the superstar!

Moxarella – Homemade Vegan Mozzarella

The perfect centre piece for a summer ploughmans or salad platter, of course, goes amazingly well with basil and ripe tomatoes.

Watermelon Gazpacho – Cooling, Raw

Very chilled, very simple.  Plus, lots of vibrant colours and flavours.

Charred Fig & Rocket Salad with Lemon Tofu Feta

I love chargrilling or barbecuing figs at this time of year.  Perfect!

Coconut Pad Thai Salad with Almond Dressing

A taste of Thailand.  Light, but packed with nutrition, ideal at this time of year.

Summer Berry & Chocolate Cheesecake – Vegan, Gluten and Sugar-free

When eaten not long out of the freezer, these mini cheesecakes are cooling and so delicious.

Lebanese Halva Choc Ices – Tahini, Rose, Almonds & Figs (Sugar-free)

Our favourite choc ices, a must try and sugar free!

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Ice Cream (Sugar free)

This recipe comes all the way from India, Tamil Nadu, where it reaches nearly 50oC in the summer.

Mango & Coconut Lassi

Coconut + Mango can only = one thing.  YUM!

 

If you like these recipes, please feel free to comment below and share with friends and curious cooks!

Join our private plant-based cooking group here, for exclusive recipes, updates and meet like minded people, share pictures and generally celebrate and get inspired by awesome vegan food and a healthy lifestyle.

Stay cool!

Categories: Desserts, Detox, gluten-free, healthy, Healthy Eating, Lunch, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Salads, Summer, Superfoods, Vegan | Tags: | Leave a comment

Summer Berry & Chocolate Cheesecake – Vegan, Gluten and Sugar-free

Crack it! Grab a spoon;) Frozen chocolate layer then intense berries followed by creamy cashews and wait for it……secret chocolate base! Yow:)

This is the dessert for chilling and enjoying on sunny days.  Once we tasted it, we knew we’d be making these little cheesecakes all summer!  It’s a dessert that looks like a million euros and tastes much better!!

A tantaslising, layered cheesecake, rich, light and fruity all at the same time with a (quite) secret chocolate base and chocolate sauce that freezes and then cracks when cut into!  Plus, it’s simple to make.  They’re vegan, gluten and sugar-free.  It’s an all-round keeper, we had to share it with you all.

We’re still pretty blissed and floating around Spain, what stunning place!  Everytime we visit we love it more.  Finding new places to adore and a pace of life that tickles us.  Manana!  Hoooray!!  We’re heading off next week to some national parks down near Granada, lots of camping and snorkelling.

It’s birthday season here, it was mine (40 years and feelin’ gooood), Mum’s (age unprintable) and Jane’s (40 too in a few days!!)  We celebrated our 80th (40+40) birthday with a few friends down at a perfect spot, under some palm trees facing the beach.  There were top tunes and a full power vegan bbq, which Dad and I cooked.  We sat under a full-ish moon and watched the sparkling waves until sun was about to poke it’s head up.  What a day!

Barbecue is something very special for me and if you’re coming to any of our holidays or events this year, there will no doubt be some bbq action.  Cooking outside is such a treat, with all those smoky aromas.  Love it!!

Summer Berry & Chocolate Cheesecake – Vegan, Gluten and Sugar-free

Birthdays, of course, mean desserts.  With a big ‘D’.  Lots of them.  Constantly.  So, I’ve been making a load recently and have really enjoyed all that sweetness, I’ll post as many as possible.

The fruit layer is flexible, you can try out other fruits.  We’ve made it with just strawberries and the results were delicious. The great thing about these little cheesecakes is they just sit in the freezer until you desire them.  Make a good amount and you’ll have cheesecakes on demand 24/7!  What a thing!!

Birthday BBQ duty in full flow…(with Dad)

You might be thinking that soaking nuts is to make them soft, which it is, easier to blend to a lovely smooth filling.  But, there are also some real health benefits to soaking nuts, read more below in the ‘Foodie Fact’.

Put these cheesecakes in front of your favourite people this summer and I promise you’ll get only full smiles and load yums.  Cheesecake makes the world happy!

Feel free to share this recipe far and wide, the more the merrier!  For other recipes and BHK news and updates, why not like our Facebook page or our private Vegan Cooking group.  You’re defintely invited!

Happy cooking and please let us know if you make these cheesecakes below, hearing from you brings a load of sunshine to our days.

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Recipe Notes

If your dates are not soft to the touch, soak in warm water for 1 hour and drain well.

If you’re in a hurry, pour hot water (from a just boiled kettle) over your cashews, this softens them quicker.  If you have a powerful blender, you don’t need to soak them at all.

I have tried these cheesecakes with other neutrally flavoured oils and it does work, but coconut oil is best, when the cheescake it cool, it helps to give a good and creamy texture.

Use any frozen berries, but I prefer a mix.  Things like strawberries, raspberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, blackberries etc.  Bags of frozen berries can be bought, normally well priced, in most supermarkets.

This recipe will make 7 reasonably sized cheesecakes, or 6 big ones.  See how you get on.

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Summer Berry & Chocolate Cheesecake

The Bits – For 6-7 mini cheesecakes 

Crust

125g walnuts/ hazelnuts 

45g soft dates (pitted, roughly 14 dates) 

3 tbs cacao/ cocoa powder

 

Filling

175 g frozen berries (2 big handsful)

125g cashews (soaked for 5 hours in cold water)

50ml lemon juice (1 large lemon)

40ml brown rice syrup or other sweetener of your choice

70ml coconut oil (melted)

Pinch of sea salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

75ml water 

 

Topping

Crushed pistachios

Rose petals

Or more berries

 

Chocolate Sauce or see our 2-Minute Chocolate Sauce Recipe

2 tbs coconut oil (melted)

2 tbs cocoa/ cacao powder

1 tbs maple syrup/ liquid sweetener

Little pinch of salt

 

Do It

You’ll need a standard, 12 cup muffin tray (or maybe you call them Yorkshire Pudding trays?).  The deeper sort, ideally the non-stick, silicone type which is flexible.  This gives a much better finish to the cheesecake as we don’t need to line the individual cups.

Crust – place the walnuts into a food processor and pulse until a rough crumb forms.  Add the other ingredients and pulse until a dough forms, which should stick together when pressed between finger and thumb. 

If you do not have a silicone, non-stick muffin tray, line 6-7 cups with cling film. Now, spoon roughly two heaped tablespoons of the base mix into each cup.  Press the dough down with the back of the spoon or your fingers to make a neat layer that snugly meets the edges.

Filling – blitz all the ingredients, except the berries, in the now magically clean food processor (bless those kitchen elves) until you have a smooth cream-like texture. You may need a few goes to get it all incorporated, scraping the sides down with a spatula.  Keep going, get it really nice and smooth, it makes all the difference.  Taste the mix, adding more sweetener or lemon juice if needed.  I like mine with a good zing of lemon.  You should be left with 500ml of filling.

Scoop out half the filling mix and set aside, add the berries to the food processor and blend again until smooth. 

Pour or spoon an even quantity of the white filling onto the bases, followed by an even quantity of the berry filling.  Tap the tray on kitchen surface a few times to get rid of any air bubbles and place carefully in the freezer, making sure the cheesecakes are level. 

It will take a few hours for them to freeze, you can, of course, make these cheesecakes well in advance.  Just cover them with cling film, or pop each cheesecake out and gather the excess cling film around them. The last way is nice and easy.  

Sauce – Combine the ingredients in a bowl and stir together until well combined. Taste and adjust as you like it, more sweetener or a little more bitterness from the cacao/ cocoa.

Depending on the ambient temperature, leave the cheesecakes on your dessert plates for 20 minutes out of the fridge.  We left these for around 10 minutes, but we’re in Spain and its a wee bit hotter than Wales and maybe where you are.  We quite like them when they’re still a bit frozen, especially on a hot day.  You may also find placing the cheesecakes in a fridge and leaving them for a couple of hours to help control the defrosting.

While the cheescakes are defrosting, drizzle over the chocolate sauce and, just before serving, top them with crushed pistachios and rose petals, also grated white chocolate or extra berries is equally as delicious.

Some of you will recognise this beach and Moorish Watchtower;)  Our venue for A Taste of Bliss – Vegan Cooking and Yoga Holiday ’19

Foodie Fact

Soaking nuts?  What’s that all about?  Nuts are packed with nutrition and things that do us good, but they also contain things called phytates and enzyme inhibitors, which decrease the nutritional value of nuts, grains and seeds, plus they make them harder on the digestion.

Soaking nuts activates helpful enzymes, mimicking nature really, the nut transforms, thinks it’s time to sprout.  Many nutrients will also become more bio-available (easier to use by the body).

Another way to aid digestions of nuts with skins, ie almonds, is to remove the skins.  By soaking your nuts, it makes this job super easy. Also, soaking the nuts, and rinsing, gives them a good wash, which is never a bad thing.

The best way to soak nuts is by covering them in fresh water, add a little salt (until it tastes as salty as sea water), then leave overnight or for 8 hours-ish (almonds more like 12, macadamisa 4).  The salt is optional, but is said to improve results.  Be sure to throw away the soaking water and rinse them well.  You could then dry and roast gently in a low oven to make them extra delicious or dehydrate them, if you have a dehydrator handy.

Categories: Cakes, Desserts, gluten-free, healthy, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Summer, Vegan | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

Watermelon Gazpacho – Cooling, Raw, Vegan, Delicious!

Cooling Watermelon Gazpacho – Vegan

Chill out!  It’s getting to that time of year when we need something cooling and delicious.  We’re in Spain right now and this is exactly what we feel like, everyday, all day.

This is something like the classic zingy gazpacho given a twist of fruity sweetness with the watermelon and a tickle of chilli and not to mention avocado.  This soup cries out to be enjoyed on a beach, or at least in a sunny spot/ garden.

This is the kind of light, tasty, no-fuss food that I love come summertime, making the most of the awesome summer fruits and veggies on offer.  The thermostat is being cranked up all over and we need something that’s going to tantalise our tastebuds, hydrate our bodies and not overload our stomaches.

Some people are still a little off with chilled soups, this may be the one that turns them!  Because it’s high in nutrion and things that make us shine, we only need a small bowl and our body gets all we need, we’ll be sated and energised.

You probably know that Jane and I are nomadic sorts.  We like to wander, and nibble while we go.  We were passing through the local port, over here in Spain, and decided on lunch in one of our favourite little spots, a place called Bar Fizz, where they cater nicely for vegans and the cooking is really good.  Jane had this soup for starter and we all loved it, everyone wanted a spoonful, I think its just the little twist of watermelon that makes things interesting here.

I’ve re-created it in the BHK, with a little help from some of my favourites; ginger, garlic, avocado and red pepper.  Not to mention the radiant, fruity, local tomatoes (the BHK has nipped over to Spain for a while, like Dr Who’s tardis but laden with blenders, pots and many kilos of random spices/ seeds).  We figure, whereever we are, wherever we lay our chopping boards, that’s our BHK!  Could be the Himalayas or a Thai beach, streetside Mexico City, in fact, wherever we’re invited/ allowed, we cook and bring the BHK love!

Perfect bowl of summertime chill! Watermelon Gazpacho with a tickle of chilli, peppers, cucumber and avocado

We hope you love this colourful soup, let us know below in the comments, and keep in touch by signing up to our newsletter here (only takes a couple of clicks).

Stay cool and enjoy the summer sun!

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Recipe Notes

Instead of bread or croutons, why not try serving this with fresh, crisp salad leaves to dip in.

Add as many chillies as you like, we made it very mild.  Jane’s tongue is anti-chilli.

Add a little sweetener maybe if your tomatoes are not gorgeous and ripe.

You”ll need a decent blender to get this nicely smooth.  It’s ok a little chunky, but silky smooth is best.

If  there are lots of black seeds in your watermelon, takes as many out as you can.  You don’t need to be mega picky here.

This is a flavourful soup, if it tastes bland, just keep adding pinches of salt until the flavours erupt.

The toppings can vary here, avocado is nice, but use what you have.

 

Watermelon Gazpacho – Vegan, Low-fat, Sugar-free
For 6 large bowls

1.5 kg ripe tomatoes
1 large red pepper (deseeded and sliced)
½ cucumber (peeled)
350g watermelon
1 inch fresh ginger (finely chopped)
1 small onion (peeled and sliced)
½-1 red chilli (deseeded and chopped)
4 garlic cloves (peeled and crushed)
3 tbs red or white wine vinegar
1-2 teas salt
Several twists of black pepper

 

Topping

Broccoli sprinkles (aka finely chopped broccoli florets)

Chia/ pumpkin seeds

Herbs – Basil or Coriander

Chill, fennel, pepper, cherry toms, sliced radish, cucumber shavings, sprouts, edible flowers

Tofu feta or avocado

 

Do It

Place all the soup ingredients into a blender and blitz until the soup is smooth.  This may take a couple of batches which is fine.  Pour into a large bowl and taste, adjusting the seasoning as you like, a sprinkle more salt, a tickle more chilli.

Chill in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving topped with colourful, delightful things.

 

Foodie Fact

Watermelon is hydrating, low in calories, plus high in Vitamin C and A.  It helps to keep our skin and hair healthy.  Some nutrients in watermelon even help to protect us from sunburn, it’s the ideal summer snack!

This soup goes very well with beaches…………..

Categories: Detox, gluten-free, healthy, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Raw Food, Recipes, Soups, Summer, Superfoods, Vegan | 14 Comments

Lebanese Halva Choc Ices – Tahini, Rose, Almonds & Figs (Vegan and Sugar-free)

Lebanese Choc Ices with tahini, rose, almond and fig, plus lots of chocolate!

Summer’s here, the sun is out and we all need more choc ices in our lives.  These are a delicious version with a Middle Eastern twist.  Something a little different and a little familiar.  Kids love them and they are actually very healthy.  Hah!  I know that might put some of you off but please come back, give them a go, I promise you’ll be hmmmmming soon.

I love Lebanon!  I also love choc ices!!  And here we are.  This is a recipe I make regularly and most people seem to love.  Rich, creamy (from the tahini and coconut oil), sweet with a little crunch (maple syrup and toasted almonds) and coated in dark and crunchy chocolate.  Who’s into that then!!?

Plus, so easy to make and just sits in the freezer demanding to be munched with smiles.  It’s a sugar free dessert recipe, plus vegan and gluten-free so the vast majority of people are invited to this chocolate coated party.

I’ve had a few requests recently for this recipe, especially from the Taste of Bliss group.  The recipe can and does change regularly, the fillings can be anything you like.  It is delicious without the almonds and figs for example, or you can add more chocolate (never a bad idea), pistachios, top with rose petals…..

Recipe Notes

It may sound strange, but salt is important in desserts, especially here.  Please don’t skip it, a little pinch of salt transforms the flavours in these choc ices.

Not keen on rose?  Many people aren’t.  I’d recommend omitting it or adding a little orange blossom water instead.

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Lebanese Halva Choc Ices – 12-14 slices

3 tbs coconut oil

60ml maple syrup or other liquid sweetener

1 teas vanilla extract

2 large pinches sea salt

340g light tahini (normally 1 jar)

1 handful roasted almonds

2 dried figs (chopped into small chunks)

1 teas rose extract

 

Chocolate

2 tbs cacao / cocoa powder

2 coconut oil (melted)

1 tbs sweetener (maple syrup, brown rice syrup etc)

Pinch sea salt

 

Do It

Halva – Melt the coconut oil, you can warm it gently in a saucepan or place the jar in boiling water, then allow to cool to room temperature. 

Mix the coconut oil with all the other ingredients together in a bowl.  Told you it was easy!!  Taste the mix now, make sure it is sweet enough for you, or has enough rose. 

Line a 9 inch-ish by 6 inch-ish rectangular container with cling film. Pour in the halva mix, smoothing over the top with the back of a spoon. Freeze for 1-2 hours or more.

Chocolate – Stir together the chocolate ingredients in a bowl until well combined.

Now, cut the halva into 12-14 small bars, and place on baking parchment in a large tuppperware style container, suitable for the freezer. Using a fork or toothpick, dip each halva into the chocolate, coat well, and place back in the container.

Cover the container and freeze.  Leave to sit outside of the freezer 10 minutes before serving.

Or, like the photo here, cut the choc ices and then simply drizzle over the chocolate sauce which will set very soon after.   This technique looks nicer.

 

Foodie Fact

Hard to know where to start with these desserts.  Tahini, cacao, coconut oil, almonds, figs….they definitely sit in a very sweet spot between decadent and healthy eats.

Tahini is very high in calcium, almost three times more than milk for example.  Cacao is very high in anti-oxidants and almonds are tops for protein, magnesium and potassium.  Figs are full of beneficial minerals and vitamins and a healthy dose of fibre.

Overall, this is probably the healthiest dessert I’ve ever made this side of a fruit salad!

Categories: Desserts, gluten-free, healthy, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Summer, Vegan | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

Pappardelle with Artichoke & Almond Sauce plus Recipes for a Healthier & Happier Life

‘Pappardelle with Almond & Artichoke Sauce, Purple Kale & White Asaparagus’ – Original recipe from ‘Peace & Parsnips’

I’m cooking this tonight, a really attractive summery pasta dish.  I was reminded of it when it popped up on the Blue Zones website.  I cook dishes like this often, especially when I’m over in Spain, where the artichokes and almonds are just out of this world!!  Plus the lemons…..you cannot quite recreate the flavour of a lemon freshly picked from the tree which has enjoyed all that sparkling Med sunshine.  But let’s try!  If you cook this dish, wherever you are, half close you eyes and imagine that the bright sunshine is everywhere, the blue, blue ocean waves are crashing somewhere close by and there are trees filled with lemons just outside your window.  Ahhhhh.  That’s the right vibe for this one!

The Mediterranean diet is famous for being healthy, but its not just all the sea, sand and lemons.  A healthy lifestyle is a little more complex than that it seems.  I’m very interested in the idea that the way we live, not just the way we eat and drink, has a bearing on our health and wellbeing.  For me, diet is one of the foundations to a healthy and happy body and mind, but there is much more to consider and appreciate.

BLUE ZONES

Blue zones refer to the communities around the world who live for the longest.  There has been a lot of interest in the lifestyles of these people, why do they live so long?  It seems that being social, staying active and from what I can see, maintaining a connection with nature, leads to longevity.  There seems to be a strong sense of community in most of the ‘blue zones’ around the world, from Japan to Italy, and over to Costa Rica, people living more natural lives with good connections with each other, live longest.  Sounds like a recipe for a good life to me.

I’ve always like the Irish proverb, ‘a light heart lives long.’  I can’t see stress doing us any good in the long run.  When I see the people interviewed in these ‘Blue Zone’ cultures, they are generally chilled out.  Most of this is common sense to many of us, but its the putting it into practice that can be the hard part.  Takes a bit of discipline.

I’m always positive about change, our lifestyles will adapt depending on our priorities and convictions.  The option for a peaceful and content life is always there, it may be hard, may seem impossible, but with little shifts and changes to the way we approach life, the things we prioritise on a daily basis, big changes can come.  I know this, because it happened in my life.  I went from quite a stressed life managing restaurants in London to helping to build a little beach bar in Spain, then took the real plunge and went for a very long walk in the Himalayas.  My world view and perceptions changed considerably.

MINDFULNESS

A healthy approach is of course not just based around what we eat, but the way we think and feel.  I recently watched this little cartoon about mindfulness, which is an excellent technique for developing a more conscious and connected approach to life that has been effective for millions of people.  Mindfulness and meditation are two key practices that Jane and I use to maintain balance and harmony within ourselves and therefore within our relationship with each other and the world at large.

Mindfulness is like an anchor in a chaotic world, when our life seems to be out of control, it’s a safe place we can find empowerment and inspiration, peace and genuine relaxation.  After all, a short period of mindfulness and meditation can have the restorative and re-energising effects of many hours sleeping.  A relaxed mind is an effective mind and an effective mind allows us to navigate our way through life in an assured, calm and empowered manner.

I’d like to thank the Blue Zone site for sharing the recipe and reminding me about some of the aspects of my own lifestyle that were being neglected.  I’m off for a long walk and then, dinner!

Recipe Notes

Peace and Parsnips was released in the USA recently, so you’ll notice the US style weights and measures below.  The recipe contains a few ingredients, but is easy to put together and I like the artichoke and almond combo in the sauce, something a bit different.  I think this is perfect for a treat summer meal and the last recipe I posted, Simple Seared Mushrooms with Pea Puree & Crushed Minty Peas would make a very nice starter.  I love these kinds of dishes, simply prepared, just let the lovely produce at this time of year give their flavour and do the talking.

Have you tried salsify?  Its a delicious, if a little obscure, ingredient.  You can use salsify in this dish instead of the white asparagus, which is normally found jarred.  I first made this dish in Spain, where there is no shortage of white asparagus.  I like its subtle flavour and texture.

Pappardelle is one of my favourite pastas, great for a thick, creamy sauce that sticks to it nicely.  You can of course use tagliatelle or something similar.

 

The Bits

14 ounces (400g) purple kale, stalks removed, thickly chopped

8–10 white asparagus spears

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/3 cup (75ml) nice white wine (vegan)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

14 ounces (400g) pappardelle (or similar egg-free pasta)

a small handful of toasted almonds, finely chopped

a big handful of fresh parsley, chopped

a handful of watercress

 

Artichoke & Almond Sauce

5 tablespoons olive oil

a handful of almonds, soaked for 2 hours, skins removed if you have time

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

4 big handfuls of watercress leaves

14 ounces (390g) artichoke hearts

juice of ½ a lemon

 

Do It

For the Artichoke & Almond Sauce

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a frying pan and add the almonds.

Sauté for 1 minute, then add the garlic and continue cooking for 2 minutes more.

Add the watercress leaves, cover the pan, remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Place the contents of the frying pan in a food processor with the artichokes, lemon juice and 4 tablespoons of olive oil, and blend to a smooth purée. The sauce should be thick and shiny. Add water to thin it out if necessary.

 

Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed frying pan on medium and add the asparagus. Panfry for 6–8 minutes, until nicely caramelized. Add a glug of white wine, and when the liquid has evaporated, season and cover. Leave to sit.

Bring a big pan of salted water to a boil and cook your pasta for roughly 8 minutes, until al dente. Add the kale halfway through the cooking time. Drain well, keeping aside a little of the pasta water. Add the drained pasta and kale to the artichoke sauce and toss together, adding some of the pasta water if it is looking a bit dry.

Spoon into warm shallow bowls and top with crisscrossed asparagus and a sprinkling of toasted almonds and parsley. Garnish with the watercress and season with sea salt and black pepper.

 

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Categories: cookbook, Dinner, healthy, Peace and Parsnips, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Summer, Vegan | Tags: , , | 17 Comments

Simple Seared Mushrooms with Pea Puree & Minty Crushed Peas

Seared Mushrooms with Pea Puree & Minty Crushed Peas

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

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

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

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

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

The Bits – For 2 as starter

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

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

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

1 tbs olive oil
2 pinches sea salt

1 pinch black pepper

 

Garnish

Fresh mint, pea shoots or even edible flowers

Light and simple summer dish

Do It

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

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

Mushrooms
Cut the mushroom into 1/2 inch slices.

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

Heat your pea puree back up.

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

A walk in the woods – Durham

A TASTE OF BLISS – OUR SPANISH HOLIDAY MAY ’18

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

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

The coast of Murcia is a stunning and peaceful place.

 

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

Italian Vegan Summer Feast – A Celebration! (pt 2)

Italian Vegan Summer Feast!  

Here’s part two of our Italian vegan feast, a whole heaving table of vegan delights perfect for a summer celebration.  The idea is that they’re quick and easy to get together and show-off the incredible produce we get when the sun comes out to play.

These are the flavours of summer and I think Italy is one of my favourite countries to eat, wander and marvel.  I’ve never visited big cities I must add, but the chilled life in the Italian countryside is my kind of vibe.  Simplicity and balancing flavours are just second nature to the cooks and magnificence is never far from my taste buds.  Italy is a vegan travellers dream, in fact, any travellers dream.  I agree with the old school maxim, ‘don’t mess with the produce, just let them shine!’ (I might have just made that up).

EATING ITALIA (JUST THE PLANTS GRAZIE MILLE!)

I’ve done a load of travelling in the past year and was lucky to tour around the south of Italy again; Puglia, Campania, Basilicata, just the names alone have my mouth watering.  The south of Italy has so many vegan choices, traditionally, veggie food down there is very popular.  It was a poorer part of the country where people couldn’t always afford meat and dairy, so they got creative with the plants.  My kind of place!  I love the parmesan they make with basically just fried breadcrumbs.  Great texture and crunch.  I also love the ever present mushrooms.

Every restaurant has a range of vegetable dishes, generally simply prepared, sauteed quickly or char grilled.  There is of course, the classic Marinara pizza.  Just tomato sauce and maybe the occasional basil leaf, but the quality of the base is regularly sensational.  There is Arrabiata and its varietals, huge bowls of fresh pasta with a rich tomato sauce and knock out olive oil.  Occasionally a basil leaf.  The tomato foccacia is dreamy, melts in the mouth and I haven’t even mentioned the Antipasto.  Jeez.  Huge, elaborate displays of preserved flavour explosions.  All kinds and colours of olives, sun dried tomatoes, artichokes, aubergines, peppers, you know the score but really, if you haven’t nibbled one standing in a Puglian market post espresso, you haven’t really tasted the true antipasto.  The pizza/ pasta dishes mentioned normally weigh in at 5-6 euros in a nice restaurant.  Not bad eh!

I think the markets in the south of Italy are my favourite places for sniffing out fresh produce and generally, just to hang out.  I spend quality time admiring the creations on display.  Did I mention the sorbet, no need to miss out on the evening gelato ritual, the sorbet is normally incredible.  Really, incredible.

Have you ever eaten a peach in Italy!!?  That’s a whole other level and blog post I feel.  Even the plums are a wake up call generally to the potential of fruit and veg.  The sweetness.  In Britain, we’re doing out best really.  Great apples and potatoes.

One of our favourite little restaurants, in a cave overlooking the Amalfi Coast.

Italy has a reputation of being an expensive place to travel, not for me.  There is also a growing vegan movement and even in small towns, I found vegan restaurants, salad bars, kebab shops.  It’s become quite trendy, restaurants advertise vegan options via flashing lights or blackboards.

Basically, all lovers of food and the simpler, finer things in life cannot help but fall in love with rural Italy.  Is that right?  Have you been?  What can I look forward to in the North?  The tastebuds boggle.

Back to our humble little feast with an Italian flava.

See the first post here for the Pepper, Basil & Cashew Cream Cheese Tart, Rosemary Roast Potatoes, Tomato & Balsamic Salad and Italian Style Dressing recipes.

These recipes won a competition on our Facebook vegan cooking page, you’ll find it here, it’s a friendly group where you can share recipes, ask questions and hang out with other good vibe vegans and food lovers.   You’ll also hear first about any events/ retreats that we’re doing along with special offers.

The Bits – For 6-8 as part of the Italian Feast

Aubergine Antipasto

2 large aubergines (peeled)
1 large garlic clove (crushed)
4 tbs olive oil
Large pinch salt
Dried oregano

1 handful sun dried tomatoes (chopped)

——————–

Roast your aubergine in the oven, 200oc, 25 minutes, until cooked and a little caramelised. Toss gently with the other ingredients. Leave to cool and pop in the fridge. Can be done in advance.

Roast Squash & Wholegrain Pasta Salad

Roast Squash & Wholegrain Pasta Salad

8 handfuls wholegrain penne
5 tbs vegan mayo
3 handfuls squash (small cubes)
1 bulb of garlic
1 large handful sun dried tomatoes (chopped)
1 handful parsley (chopped)
1/2 lemon (juice)

Salt and pepper

——————

Cook your pasta. Drain and leave to cool a little.

Roast the squash and garlic for 30 minutes in 200oC fan oven with a little oil and salt and pepper, take the garlic out after 20 minutes. Peel the garlic cloves and mash with a fork, stir into the mayo.

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently together.  Season with salt and pepper.

This dish is nice served warm, but also good cold.

White Bean Puree (Vegan)

White Bean Puree

450g white beans
4 tbs olive oil
1/2 lemon juice
1/2 teas sea salt
Parsley

Garnish
Whole beans
Olive oil

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

Serve ideally with a drizzle of olive oil and a handful of whole beans on top and maybe chopped soft herbs (basil, parsley) or dried oregano.

 

Serve dishes with

 

Large bowl of mixed salad leaves

Bowl of Olives

Olive oil/ Balsamic

Vegan cheese, like cashew cream, vegan parmesan.

Fresh Foccacia/ Ciabatta/ Any nice bread really

Extra bowl of dried oregano and mild chilli flakes

A bottle of something nice

Sunshine + smiles

Rosemary Focaccia

That’s it!  Enjoy the feast.  If you get to try it all out, or even just a few of the dishes, let us know in the comments below.  We love to hear about your kitchen adventures.

 

Categories: healthy, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Salads, Side Dish, Summer, Travel, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Italian Vegan Summer Feast – A Celebration! (pt 1)

Italian Vegan Summer Feast – Get a load of that!!

We love sharing with you our favourite recipes!  Here’s a whole feasts worth!!  If I had time, I’d blog every night.  I think good recipes are best shared.   I never understand the whole secret recipe thing.  Let’s cook!

The post was originally so long, I’ve had to split it into two.  But don’t be overawed, the recipes are straightforward.  This celebration was a winner over on our Facebook cooking group, click here to join, where recipes are shared and there is much chat plus healthy vegan vibes and stunning food.  Pop over and take a look.

The simple and delicious flavours of Italy make the most out of our summer produce. When the sun comes out, we start getting tasty tomatoes, peppers, and the flavours of the Mediterranean can be found locally in the UK for a short window. I love it! This is a feast designed for a party or entertaining guests/ people you hopefully like, when you want a table filled with a wide range of dishes, not too complicated food that compliments each other.  For me, Italian food goes perfectly with a sunny afternoon and a bottle of something amazing.

THE ITALIAN CONNECTION

The reason for this meal was our relatives visiting from Italy, they live near Lake Como. Jane and I love Italy, one of our favourite places on this big rock, but we’ve never been North.  Can’t believe we’ve got family living in Italy and we haven’t been to see them.  Shame on us.   Since coming back to the UK we’ve been loving kitchen time and trying out ideas from our travels.  I guess the tart is like a pizza, but with a puff pastry base.  When I’m busy, I like working with puff pastry, it’s far too easy.  I’ve just discovered pre-rolled puff pastry.  Wow!  That is pure laziness and brilliance at the same time.   Whack it on a tray, bake, job done.

Here’s some of our Italian travel snaps.

When preparing a menu, we need to think about textures and flavours, how they mingle and benefit from each other. I find writing menu’s really enjoyable and a great challenge.

If you can, present the dishes on large plates or shallow bowls. Spread things out, make them look lovely.

 

Recipe Notes

This is going to take a few hours to get together.  Its a weekend special.

Gluten-free – Just use gluten-free pastry/ pasta for the tart and your favourite gluten free bread.

Additional deliciousness – this tart is awesome with some prated vegan parmesan sprinkle over at the end.  Violife do a parmesan which is scarily like the real thing Jane and I were amazed by it, you could smell the pong upstairs and in the garden.  Just like the other stuff.  Potent.  There must be some kind of genius going on there. Vegan parmesan!! Whatever next. Exciting times in the foody world powered by plants.

(You’ll notice a couple of dishes are missing from the picture above, you’ll find a Chocolate Cake recipe here the Peanut Butter Scones may appear soon.)

 

The Bits – For 6-8 Light Meal

Pepper, Basil and Cashew Cream Cheese Tart (Vegan)

Pepper, Basil & Cashew Cheese Tart

1 pack puff pastry

1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 garlic
salt and pepper

3 peppers – different colours looks nice (sliced)
2 onions (thickly sliced)
2 handfuls squash (chopped into cubes)

 

Cashew Cheese

1 cup cashews
1/2 lemon (juice)
3 tbs nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 garlic clove
Large pinch dried oregano

 

1 handful fresh basil leaves

Dried oregano

3 tbs plant milk (for brushing)

 

—————-

Preheat fan oven 200oc.

Place the peppers, onions and squash on a large baking tray, season with salt and pepper, use two if squashed, and roast for 25-30 minutes.

In a sauce pan, add tomatoes, garlic, season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes, until a thick sauce forms.

Roll out your puff pastry thin on a piece of lightly floured greaseproof paper. Brush with milk. Bake in oven for 12 minutes. Leave to cool slightly.

Spread a layer of tomato sauce over tart, scatter onions, peppers, squash, sprinkle with oregano, black pepper.

Brush the edges of the tart with plant milk, bake for 15 minutes. Can be served hot or cold.

Place all the cheese ingredients in a blender and blits until smooth.

To serve, blob on cashew cheese and tear over some basil leaves.

 

Tomato & Balsamic Salad

Tomato & Balsamic Salad

4-5 ripe tomatoes (chopped)
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tbs olive oil
Salt & pepper
1 handful basil leaves

——————–

Mix together in a bowl and tear your basil leaves over.

 

Roast Rosemary Potatoes

Roasted New Potatoes & Rosemary

New potatoes (par boiled)
Few sprigs of Rosemary
Salt
2 roasted garlic bulbs

 

——————-

Take your par boiled potatoes, toss them in the rosemary, salt and oil, roast in the oven for 30 minutes. (200oC) until crispy and golden, turning them once.

Serve warm.

 

Italian Style Dressing

8 tbs olive oil
3 tbs white wine vinegar
2 small garlic cloves (crushed)
3 tbs chopped parsley
1/2 teas dried oregano
1/2 small lemon (juice)
Large pinch dried red pepper

——————-

Whisk all together in a bowl or shake together in a jar.  Check seasoning.

 

Buon appetito!

 

This is only half of the recipes, check out the Italian Vegan Summer Feast (pt 2) post for more.

 

Categories: Dressings, healthy, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Salads, Side Dish, Special Occasion, Summer, Vegan | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

Msabaha – Lebanese Chickpeas (A new twist on hummus)

Msabaha – Lebanese Chickpeas

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

BEIRUT BITES

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

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

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

CHICKPEA LOVIN’

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

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

THE BEST SOUVENIRS ARE RECIPES!

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

Art in Beirut – Sursok Museum

THE GREAT HUMMUS DEBATE – WHICH IS BEST?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recipe Notes

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

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

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

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

I think this dish is best served warm.

I like cumin, so I put it in.

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

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

 

The Bits – Enough for 4-6 as a mezza

550g chickpeas (cooked) – 2 tins

1 teas ground cumin

6 tbs light tahini

1/2 lemon (juice)

5 tbs water (more if needed)

1 small clove garlic (crushed)

Salt

 

Toppings 

Sprinkle of paprika

2 cloves crushed garlic (optional but nice)

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

Big glug of extra virgin olive oil

 

Salad

1 green pepper

1/2 cucumber

2 tomatoes (all sliced)

Fresh mint leaves (I used basil)

 

Do It

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

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

 

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

Foodie Fact

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

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

Categories: Breakfast, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Side Dish, Summer, Vegan | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments

Summer Rose Syrup

IMG_0501.JPGSummer roses…

This recipe captures the scent, fragrance and wild essence from your garden rose into a syrup so gorgeous and simple you’ll want to keep making it over and over.

In the UK we’re blessed with many herbs and flowers that give food such an extra special unique taste. Elderflower season has come and gone, and this year’s cordial is now frozen into ice cubes for coolers dressings and cakes to be enjoyed well into the summer.

Over the years I’ve been fascinated by cooking with wild-plants that I find in the hedgerows and gardens near wherever I’m living. For some people it is a way of life and the ultimate expression of seasonality.

In America last year I was fortunate enough to meet a herbalist who made her own herbal vinegars, flower coolers, infusions and tinctures. When I tasted for the first time in my life a vinegar made of yellow dock that was so punchy fragrant and utterly indescribably bittersweet, it added such an unique flavour to our roasted vegetable dish, and added so many health benefits I vowed I would make it some day… but right now the roses are in bloom.

IMG_0544

This recipe is so utterly simple and delicious it will put the magic of summer into whatever piece of toast, pancake, yoghurt or waffle you drizzle it over. It makes a lovely icing for a cake.  Full of sugar, just like jam, this doesn’t pretend to be healthy. But as a vegan sweetener or jam equivalent, rose petal syrup can be used in moderation, made in small quantities and appreciated for what it is. I feel it’s a valuable and gorgeous addition to your cupboard.

P1310655

CHINESE ROSE

Recently when we were in China, travelling in the South in Yunnan, we came across a rose delicacy that blew me away and got me very interested in learning more about cooking with roses. It was a Moon Cake, a ceremonial and local delicacy, made with a flaking light pastry filled with chunky rose jam. Served warm and fresh out of a linen-lined basket by a crinkly faced apple-cheeked local. We stood there blissfully at the stall (despite it being close to a main road for passing trade) immersed in rose-heaven…a taste so blissful I want to go all the way back to China just to taste it again, it blew my mind!

P1020903

Rose sweeties…

Ever since Lee and I volunteered on an organic lavender and rose farm in Turkey in 2014, I became fascinated with the colossal copper vats where literally tons of freshly harvested rose petals would be made into essential oil. All around Turkey, roses featured highly in every market place in the form of soaps, tea, jams, sweets, and as rose-water, traditionally used by woman and men as a hand spray to lightly scent the skin after a meal.

rose sultan

“What is the scent of the Rose? The breath of reason and intelligence, a sweet guide on the way to the eternal kingdom.” Rumi

The Damask rose is as revered in Turkish society today as it was in the Ottoman times for it’s edible petals and delicious scent. Imagine a scene at Topkapi Palace, Istanbul in the Ottoman times where sultans sip rose sherbet in their thrones, Ottoman woman laze around in rose-scented baths applying oils and creams to their skins. Roses, known as ‘The flower of Heaven’ were a symbol of divine beauty and were used extensively in spiritual ceremonies. Medicines, syrups and sweets made from roses were and still are used every day. It’s all very romantic.

If it’s good enough for a sultan it’s good enough for us too, right?

This recipe was requested by a friend of the BHK, super Simon over at the Heart Kitchen.

Here’s the recipe!

Enjoy, Jane:)

IMG_0524

The bits

1 cup of caster sugar

Half a cup of water

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

2 cups of freshly picked rose petals

IMG_0528

Do it

Shake the rose petals well outside after picking to free the tiny insects. Warm the sugar, water and lemon juice on a low heat until it’s dissolved into a thick syrup. Add the rose petals and stir them in the sugar solution for about 5 minutes or so, then take off the heat and keep stirring for another ten, until the rose petals have gone see-through and the syrup has changed colour.

Strain the syrup through muslin into a jar.

IMG_0542

Serve

This is one of the world’s most delicious drizzles to be enjoyed with pancakes, toast, waffles, ice creams, cocktails, in tea and even in salad dressings!

Articles referenced in this post are here and here

Photograph of Sultan was originally taken by Nurhan Atasoy.
Categories: Desserts, Foraging, Infusions, Local food, photography, Recipes, Sauces, Summer, Vegan | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Elderflower & Pistachio Muffins with Lemon Curd

Elderflower & Pistachio Muffins with Lemon Curd and loads of Vegan Buttercream

It was Jane’s birthday recently and she loves elderflowers, lemon, mashed potato (that is not a typo) and CAKE, so I thought I’d combine them all. The cake was lovely but I liked the idea of making the recipe into muffins filled with the curd.  So you cut into them and get a nice surprise.  For me, elderflower is one of the tastes of summer in the UK and it’s been a bumper year. We’ve been making many vats of cordial and can’t wait for the elderberry bonza!

You know I rarely bake a ‘normal’ cake, I just can’t handle the sugar overload, but this was a birthday so I let rip.  You know the BHK, we live on the edge!!!  I tend to freestyle with baking which freaks many people out.  I see how it goes.  Sometimes it doesn’t work, but generally, sticking to some rules and with a little experience, things turn out well.  It also leads to new ideas/ creation.  Which is what fuels me in the kitchen.  After all, go back a few years and tell people you’re putting mashed potato in a cake and a few bushy eyebrows would have been raised I’m sure.  In fact, they probably still are.  I like to befriend these bushy eyebrows and I know that when they taste these muffins, they’ll be smiling

I used seived spelt flour here which worked well and had read about mashed potato as a binder years ago. Someone told me about a mashed potato cake and I thought, thats the kind of creative twist that gets me going.  I finally got to try it out and it worked a treat.  Jane’s parents really loved them, so baking with mashed potato will be played with even more in the BHK.  It is light and does help bind the cake together.

Us vegans use a lot of mashed things in our cakes, squash, pumpkin, apple, sweet potato, bananas, I think potato is as good as any and the flavour is suitably bland for a binding agent.  Some people have challenged me about using such binders and saying it will make the cake taste bizarre, I would think about it this way.  A non-vegan cake is normally filled with a load of scrambled egg!  That seems like it will mess with flavour more than a little mashed spud.  It’s just something new, thats all.

Can you guess what the secret filling is?

Vegan lemon curd is nice.  It’s not exactly, bang on, like the other stuff, but it’s getting there and benefits from being so easy to make.  Adding the elderflower cordial to it makes it better for me.  You can keep any leftovers in the fridge and it’s, of course, pretty dang good on toast.

The buttercream was a birthday pressie to Jane really (not the only one I might add!)  Icing sugar and me don’t see eye to eye.  It reminds me of church fares as a child and the cakes were always sickly sweet bits of icing with some sponge hanging off.  Or those flapjacks made with buckets of golden syrup and hard raisins.  I think my favourites were top hats made with marshmallows and chocolate with a smartie on top, but you didn’t need to bake them.  Or rice crispies, they were great.

Basically, this buttercream is old school and no one would be able to tell the difference.  There are some decent new margarine type things coming out, Pure is a good staple choice, plus Suma and Biona always deliver good products.  I just read that ‘I Can’t Belive It’s Not Butter’ have just released a ‘ICBINB It’s Vegan!’ brand, which is slightly confusing but raised a smile.  It is made with ‘real’ ingredients.  One thing that has shocked me in a nice way is the range of vegan ingredients and products in the supermarkets, what a difference a year makes (we’ve been travelling here, there and everywhere fyi).

This recipe over at Wall Flower Kitchen was a particular inspiration. Judging by this experiment, I would use seived spelt flour again, we know that its a good option from a health point of view but I love the flavour.

Our new newsletter comes out on Friday, the first one in nearly six years so don’t miss it!!  We’ll be celebrating summer with hand-picked recipes, light, simple and full of sun.  Sign up HERE.

Filled with lovely vegan lemon curd

Recipe Notes

I have toned down the sugar here, but I think it’s a perfect quantity. Not too sweet.  The icing makes up for that.  We tried the muffins without the icing and they’re ok with a cuppa, but you’re not going to fool any birthday person that they’re not lacking something.

All elderflower cordials are not made equal, especially if you are making your own.  The cordial we used was quite strong.  See recipe at the bottom.

You can use chopped almonds as a topping here, I just like the colour of the pistachios.

Best check that your lemon is unwaxed before using the zest.  If it’s waxed, and you’re just juicing, don’t worry, it will still be nice and lemony.

As you know, all ovens are different.  If your oven is fierce, check them after 16 minutes.

 

Elderflower & Pistachio Muffins

The Bits – For 12 muffins

Dry 

300g spelt flour (sieved)

100g ground almonds

2 teas baking powder

1 teas bicarb of soda

 

Wet

200g sugar

200ml almond milk

150g mashed potato

2 teas vanilla extract

3 tbs elderflower cordial

80ml sunflower oil

 

12 large muffin cases

 

Vanilla Buttercream

15g vegan margarine/ butter

150g icing sugar

1/2 teas vanilla extract

2 tbs plant based milk

2 tbs elderflower cordial

 

Vegan Lemon & Elderflower Curd

1 large lemon (zest and juice)

4 tbsp corn flour(starch)

40ml plant-based milk

3 tbsp brown rice syrup or sweetner of choice

1 teas turmeric powder

3 tbsp elderflower cordial

 

1 handful pistachios (finely chopped or pulsed in a blender a couple of times)

 

Fresh elderflowers (for nice decoration)

Eat in gardens, with sunshine and tea;)

Do It

Vegan Lemon Curd

Make the curd in advance, 1 hour before is ideal.  Place all ingredients into a blender and blitz until smooth.  In a small saucepan, bring the curd to a gentle boil, whisking as it warms.   When it reaches boiling, take off the heat and whisk well until smooth.  If you leave it, expect the curd to go clumpy.  Once it is nice and smooth, decant into a container and leave to cool.

Muffin Mix

Add the ground almonds to a large mixing bowl, sift in the flour, bicarb and baking powder.

In another bowl, combine the wet ingredients, including the sugar.

Stir the wet into the dry mix with a wooden spoon until just combined.

Line your muffin tray with muffin cases.

Using a dessert spoon, spoon enough mix into the muffin cases to fill around 2/3 of the case.  Using a teaspoon, spoon roughly 1 1/2 tbs of curd into the centre of the case.  Making the curd into a round shape before doing this helps.  Now top the muffins off with the rest of the muffin mix.  Don’t overfill the cases, they will rise when baked, fill them until a few millimetres from the top.

Bake 18-20 mins 180oC fan oven. Test with a skewer and look for any wet dough, the curd inside will make it slightly more difficult to tell.

Buttercream

Place the margarine/ butter in a bowl and whisk until creamy,  gradually add the icing sugar, whisking together until you have a thick consistency.  Add the elderflower and milk, whisk again, adding more icing sugar if needed, until fluffy.  It should be thick and spreadable and takes a little work.  If you’re not into whisking, you can use a food processor.  Place in the fridge to thicken up even more.

Allow the muffins to cool on a wire rack and then spoon on the buttecream, spread with the back of a spoon, sprinkle over pistachios, top with elderflowers.

Foodie Fact

Edible Flowers

We don’t eat enough flowers do we!?  Flowers make any bowl, plate and especially salads even more beautiful.

Summer flowers that we can eat include nasturtium, calendula, borage, broad bean flowers, chicory, chives, snap dragon, sunflower, tulip, viola, violets, wild primrose, wild garlic, coriander, cornflower, dahlia, gladioli, daisy, chives, honeysuckle, pansy, rose, sage, courgette flowers.  Quite a list and that’s nowhere near all of them.  Flowers are on the menu!

Flowers like this generally have a light flavour, it’s more about the vibrant look really.  Don’t just wander out and eat any flower though, many are not good for us, some poisonous.

Elderflower

Elderflower is said to have anti-septic, anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, it is also said to lower blood sugar and boosts the immune system.  You can also gargle (not coridal) with elderflower, which is quite nice.

Find out how to make our favourite Elderflower Cordial and Elderflower Champagne.  Elderflowers are so abundant at this time of year its a shame not to;)  One thing I haven’t tried is Elderflower Tempura which sounds delicious.  Anyone tasted it?

As ever, if you bake these muffins, we’d love to hear your comments and chat below.

PS – We very rarely get any freebies and have no sponsorship etc, we do this because we love it!  If we mention products, it’s only because we like them and want to share.  If we get free stuff etc, we would tell you.    

Categories: Baking, Cakes, healthy, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Summer, Vegan | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

Smoky Carrot & Red Pepper Pinchos with Avocado Aioli (Mini Spanish Not Dogs)

Smoky Carrot and Red Pepper Pinchos

Complete carrot transformation.  If you’re having a plant-based BBQ, slap these on.  It is impossible to not like them.  No one will believe what you’ve done to a humble carrot.  You made it into a delicious, smoky not dog!!  They will look upon you as some kind of food magician.  It’s a good look.  Go buy a cape.

A super tasty, healthy, plant-based option to that ‘classic’ hot dog thing, given a Spanish style twist here.  Pinchos (mini open sandwiches) are the perfect sandwich for this time of year, light and packed with flavours.  I also like the name.  The Spanish know their way around a sandwich thats for sure.  Pinchos just look amazing when placed together on a platter, especially when mixed up like a sandwich collage.  They are way too enticing to walk by.  If you’ve been to Spain, one of those big and buzzing tapas bars, you’ll know what I mean.  In old town San Sebastien especially, there are some beautiful arrays of pinchos covering every nook and cranny of the bars.

The Alma (Soul) Vegan Festival near Cartagena, Murcia

VIVA VEGANOS!!

You can probably tell by the radiant sunshine that this was not a UK post.  Although Durham is looking very summery from where I’m sat.  I cooked it on the Costa Calida in Spain.

Jane was there recently and attended a vegan festival, small but perfectly formed, this is something brilliant for Murcia.  There were a load of food stalls, live music and plenty of organic local products.  Even artisan beer (the most popular stand).  Apparently Jane and friends were the last to leave.  The artisan beer was just too good.

Murcia, like the rest of Spain, its a highly fishy/ meaty place and there is a growing vegan community and awareness.  Of course, in Barcelona and Madrid, you can find some vegan options, but I still think Spain is one of the toughest countries to be a vegan traveller.

Murcia has always been a little forgotten corner of Spain and poor, therefore, there are some interesting recipes with only veggies.  People couldn’t afford meat, so they made veggies delicious and you can occasionally find these dishes in restaurants, but generally, they are cooked in peoples homes.  I love one dish in particular, Morcilla de Verano – here’s our recipe.  Its a vegan take on the famous Spanish ‘Morcilla’ sausage and everyone loves it.  Even proper jamon heads.

Los Veganos!!

ME AND BEYONCE

I was orginally asked to write this recipe for Shape magazine in the US.  I know it seems strange that I’m doing things for massive lifestyle mags like that, it does to me anyway.  If you’ve followed the BHK for a while, you’ll know that we’ve gone from the growing cabbages and herbs in the middle of nowhere, half way up a hill in North Wales, to the pages of swanky magazines.  I even fed Beyonce once in an article!!  Hahahahaa!  Last year I was in Hello and other mags that I’d never have imagined in my weirdest dreams that I’d end up in.  When I was younger I probably imagined I’d be plastered all over The Rolling Stone, maybe Mojo or the NME (of the 90’s) in a rock star delusion.  Life is just one big strange surprise really!!  And yes, some of my friends think its cool, but most just laugh at me.  Often.  I used to be more Johnny Rotten than Beyonce, but maybe time mellows things out a bit.  I don’t care either way, getting tasty vegan food out there is amazing!  I’d love to cook for Beyonce, Morrissey, Philip Schofield, whoever.  In fact, if we invited Johnny Rotten that could make for an interesting dinner party.

Shape didn’t quite go for the ‘pincho’ thing and instead called them Carrot Not-Dogs, which is cool by me.  This kind of thing has been around for years in vegan-ville and it’s awesome to see dishes like this getting out there.  You cannot, not, ever, not like, not-dogs!  Kids go wild for them!!

Recipe Notes

Ideal for summer light lunches or even bbqs (instead of cooking in a pan, pop them on a BBQ and baste with the marinade).  I’ve popped two methods below, one for a quick roast, and the other, the works; marinaded overnight and pan fried.  Both are delicious, but the marinaded dogs are smokier and look more like the real thing!

I like the way they look when un-whittled down.  Just a straight up carrot.  You can’t pass them off as a hot dog, but who really cares about that?!

For the marinade.  If you can’t track down liquid smoke, don’t fret, we can use some smoked paprika.  A few large pinches will do.

Ripe avocados are best.  I couldn’t get any and was asked to do the recipe at short notice.  You can see that the aioli is not totally smooth.  It’s so much better when silky smooth.

You can quite happily serve these carrot not-dogs with just the avocado aioli or even just a bit of mustard.  A nice idea is wrapping them in a blanched collard/ spring cabbage, kale leaf or even raw lettuce. A great gluten-free, mega healthy option.

Spanish food’s all about bright and vibrant flavours and colours, perfect for summer

The Bits – For 4 as a snack/ tapas

8 small carrots – roughly 5 inches long (cut into hot dog shapes)

1 red bell pepper – nice and sweet if poss. (cut into 1 cm slices)

1 large onions (finely sliced)

2 handfuls spinach leaves (finely sliced)

Cooking oil

 

Marinade

4 tbs carrot cooking stock (or light vegetable stock)

3 tbs tamari or good soya sauce

1 clove garlic (sliced)

2 cm cube fresh ginger (sliced)

2 tbs red or white wine vinegar

2 teas liquid smoke

3 teas brown sugar

 

1 large avocado (de-stoned)

1/2 lemon (juice)

Large pinch salt

 

Dijon Mustard

4 small buns – your favourite type (cut in half)

Mini Spanish Notdogs plus trimmings

Do It

Half fill a small saucepan with water, bring to a rolling boil and add the carrots.  Simmer for 8 – 10 minutes, until a knife pierces them easily, but they are not too soft.  Place in chilled water to cool quickly.  Whisk together your marinade ingredients and pour over the cool carrots.  Cover and place in a fridge over night.

In a frying pan on a medium high, add 1 teas cooking oil and when warm, add your onions.  Fry for 7 minutes, add the peppers, fry for another 5 minutes, until the onions have turned golden brown and sweet and the peppers are soft.  Set aside.

Drain your carrots, keep the marinade.  Wash out the frying pan and add 1 teas cooking oil, place on a medium high heat and add your carrots.  Fry for around 10 minutes, drizzle over marinade regularly and keeping them turning in the pan.  This will give them a nice caramelised look all over.

Put your avocado, lemon juice and salt in a bowl and mash with a fork until smooth.  Alternatively, pop them in a blender and blitz.

Spread a thin layer of dijon mustard on your buns, sprinkle over some spinach, followed by some onions and peppers, a spoonful of avocado and top with a smoky carrot.

The full carrot style

Quick Roast Method

Preheat an oven to 220oC.  Make half of the marinade recipe.  Toss your carrots (whole, these look great just carrot shaped) in 2 teas cooking oil and a large pinch salt.

Place in the oven on a baking tray and roast for 45-55 minutes, until tender and nicely caramelised.  After 25 minutes in the oven, baste the carrots with marinade regularly.

Foodie Fact
Carrots are filled with beta-carotene or Vitamin A.  Which helps us see in the dark.  That’s what we’re told anyway.  This myth came from WWII when the Brits spread propoganda, apparently to confuse their adversaries.  The Ministry of Food (hello George Orwell) even created a cartoon called ‘Dr Carrot’, with sidekicks Caroty George and Clara Carrot (actually made by Disney), to get kids eating more carrots.  In WWII  sugar was rationed in Britain at that time and carrots were sometimes served on sticks to kids as a sweet substitute and used regularly to sweeten desserts.  So you won’t get night vision any time soon, but your eye sight will be helped if you eat plenty of Vitamin A.

Isla Plana – the view from our local cafe in Spain

One of my favourite places in the world, Mojon Beach

Sunset on the Costa Calida, always a pleasure

Music to cook pinchos by……….

Categories: healthy, Lunch, Music, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Side Dish, Summer, Travel, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , | 6 Comments

Summer Veg & Almond Cous Cous with Tahini Sauce

Summer Cous Cous with Tahini Sauce

Just landed back in the UK and am chuffed to be back in the kitchen playing with pots, pans and potatoes.  I love travelling but finding a good kitchen to cook in can be a challenge.  It’s probably the only thing I really miss.  I’ve been munching my way around the world for a while now and am ready to recreate a huge chunk of global tastiness this summer on the BHK.  I hadn’t had cous cous for an age and really enjoyed it recently in Beirut.  Although not exactly traditional Lebanese (more of that to come) I thought it would be a nice way to get the BHK recipes rolling again.

This is a quick, easy and delicious summer dish, I love these flavours; a little spice, apricots, crunchy almonds.  YUM!  Plus a creamy tahini sauce.  It takes no time at all to get together and when served with a salad or two, maybe even some warm flatbread, you’ve got a meal every one will enjoy.

So we’re just getting settled into the British vibe again, I must admit that it’s still quite a shock not waking up in India!  It was one of the hottest days of the year yesterday and I wore a big fleece and scarf.  I’ll get used to it!!  2017 has been an incredible year so far, Nepal, India, Lebanon and even a little taste of Ethiopia, but we can’t wait to tour around the UK for all the events, festivals and retreats we have planned.   Maybe see you there!!

We’ll be all over the place this year and have more plans in the oven.  As you know, the BHK has always been a nice little hobby for us, but in 2017 we plan on doing more than ever.  To keep up to date with stuff, check out our events page.  Jane is also working on our new newsletter and we are always posting things on the BHK FB page and I’m even tweeting.

If you get the chance to try this, or any of our recipes out, let us know in the comments.  We love to hear about your kitchen adventures.

 

Down on the beach, Dinas Dinlle, North Wales

Recipe Notes

All Spice is best used sparingly, if you don’t have any, go for a spice mix like garam masala or Ras El Hanout and use 1 teas more.

I really like millet and it makes a great sub for cous cous. It’s healthy and gluten free.

You might like to roast your almonds in an oven for 10 minutes to bring out the amazing flavours.

Summer Veg & Almond Cous Cous with Tahini Sauce

The Bits – Light lunch/ dinner for 4
1 large onion (sliced)
2 cloves garlic (crushed)
1 pepper (all cut into small cubes)
1 small aubergine
1 small courgette
1 large tomato

1 tbs cumin seeds

1 1/2 tbs sesame seeds
1 teas all spice (or other spice mix)
2 tbs cooking oil
Salt + pepper

1 handful dried apricots (chopped)

1 big handful almonds (roughly sliced)

1 handful parsley (chopped)

Cous cous (150g is good for 4)

Tahini Sauce
5 tbs light tahini
1/2 lemon (juice)
1 small clove garlic (crushed)
Salt (to taste)
Water

Do It
In a large frying pan on medium high heat, warm the oil and add the cumin and sesame seeds. Stir and fry for 1/2 minute and then add the onions and cook for a few minutes.  Now add salt, pepper, all spice, aubergine, courgette and peppers. Gently stir and fry for 5-7 minutes, until all is soft. Add the tomatoes and apricots, take off the heat and pop a lid on. Set aside. The tomatoes will be just soft and not overcooked.

Cook your cous cous, follow the pack instructions. Using veg stock adds more flavour and a few twists of black pepper is nice.

In a bowl, mix the tahini sauce bits together with a fork, adding water gradually until you have a thin sauce.

Serve warm or cold. Arrange the cous cous on a large plate, pile the veg in the middle and top with parsley and almonds. Drizzle with tahini sauce as you like.

We’re sharing our time between beautiful Wales and Durham this year.

Foodie Fact

Almonds are packed with healthy fats and minerals, it’s been shown that nuts can actually help you lose weight.  We eat the sweet almonds, but bitter almonds are used to flavour things like amaretto and almond extract.

Many people I speak to don’t realise what a good source of antioxidants nuts are and are put off because of high fat contents.  The fat’s in most nuts are healthy and they come with so many more benefits.  Plus, they taste incredible.

Lovely walk in Durham yesterday along the river Wear, seems a long way from the Ganges!!

 

 

Categories: Dinner, Healthy Eating, Lunch, Nutrition, Recipes, Salads, Summer, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Mango & Ginger Lassi – Goodbye to Goa

Mangoes, mangoes, everywhere and I can eat them all! I have tried this though and can’t recommend it! Mangoes are literally falling from the trees across the state which is actually hazardous. Some are quite hefty and unripe. Every time I step outside my little place there’s a new pile greeting me which is the perfect morning pick me up. Many however are split and covered in ants or other bizarre insects. I really want to catch each mango as it falls and give it a good home. How about a lassi? I’m in India, as you may know, and this is one of the best ways to enjoy the local glut of mg’s. Creamy, smooth and packed with fragrant fruitiness and that little twist of slightly sour yoghurt. Let’s lassi!!

Now that is what I’m talking about. Look at the colour. It screams “MANGO!”

I am living under several huge mango trees, in between we have coconut and banana trees. Tropical fruit salads rain on our doorstep. It’s a lovely patch of countryside with wild buffalo roaming around and a great view, the cicadas (those buzzing little insect critters) are on the go all the time, like some exotic, pulsating soundtrack.

I was wandering around the other day and was a bit startled to see a basket being lowered down from a tree, laden with mangoes. I looked up to see one of the mango men (a group of local superheroes) about 30 ft up wearing only a big smile and pair of Liverpool AFC shorts. He was nimble and fearless. I was filled with admiration, he climbed way up, maybe 50 ft, just to bring me and the family I live with our daily mango fix. How many people have you met who risk their life for fruit?!! A rare breed.

Mango Man

Breakfast! Mankurad mangoes

So, mangoes everywhere. What to do with them all. Helen, the Mum of the family I’m staying with, pops them all in a massive cauldron-like pan and simmers until jammy. Jam! Mango jam, thick and naturally sweet. If your mangoes are super sweet, this is a great idea. There are many varieties of mango and in India, people are mango mad! In the cities they sell for big bucks, there are many sought after varieties but ‘Alphonso’ is top of the, ahem, tree.

Goan’s are ever laid back about things. When I ask around excitedly, “what variety of mango is this?”, they look at me curiously, shake there head slowly and shrug, “it’s a mango Lee.” Basically, just chill out and eat it. I think they have pity for the way I complicated things. It’s a mango. Enjoy. Ok. (Actually, I managed to find out that one of the trees is the highly prized Mankurad variety, which explains why the family are so popular with the neighbours.)

Patrick, Helen’s husband, just knocked on the door asking if I liked brinjal (aubergine). We’re having a leaving dinner tonight. The family have a very Portugese surname, most Goan’s I meet have an affinity with their Portuguese past. They only left in the 60’s and the Euro/ Christian feel lingers. Goan’s can even get a passport for Portugal if they like and many do. Goa is like the rest of India in some ways but generally it has the feel of a different country. That’s one of the things I most love about India, the diversity on every level.

Goan mango eating technique. Just tear it apart with your hands.

The brothers who I’m staying with (Andrew’s one of them) actually make their living from selling massive ex-petrol tanks filled with cashew feni (think moonshine but nicer) to local bars, some like little pirate speakeasy’s right on the coast. I love them. Not much bigger than a cupboard and many actually looking like driftwood cupboards.  They’re packed full of rough fishermen and cheery characters and well proportioned police men (off duty I think). I like the Antique Bar (I can’t tell you where it is, it’s like buried treasure) where you expect Long John Silver to walk in at any minute with a parrot on his shoulder. They also play great blues and flamenco.

GOAN CUISINE

I’ve been regularly inspired and occasionally blown off my stool by the intensity of Goan cuisine and tonight will be my last taste of the real deal for a while. I love the coconut and the unique spice mixes, the dish Xacuti stands out, many locals I’ve spoken to make their own spice mixes and even use garam masala style blends more common up north. Vinegar (toddy, made from coconut trees) is used in a lot of cooking, gives a twang, mirroring many Portugese dishes.  That’s what I love about Goa its a mixed up place in a good way, it’s a cocktail of cultures and influences. Of course, the hippies had a big say and many locals who live near the beaches see the inner hippy still in the Westerners they meet. Like we’re all open hearted, free seekers of something else. The reality is of course now a bit different.

It’s hard to imagine, but the Portugese were the first to introduce potatoes, tomatoes, chillies, guavas and cashews to Goa and India.  This trend can be seen all over the world, the early Spanish and Portugese explorers/ conquistadors were responsible for introducing us to many of our staples that may now seem indigenous to our countries.  Vindaloo is also a Portugese dish, a name derived from the Portugese for garlic and wine.  Although Goan food is heavy on the seafood and now meat, I found loads of plant-based options and the delicious masalas and sauces can easily be used in vegan cooking.

Jane taking a closer look

One of my favourite things about riding around Goa is the generally fading Portugese architecture, so many beautiful houses, many like mini-castles.  Even the towns, with their central squares and large ex-government buildings still have a whiff of the wealthy imperial gang.  They were here for nearly 500 years after all and the coast line is dotted with their crumbling hill top forts.  Each village has at least one imposing, brilliantly white Catholic church. Most are locked but I like wandering around the graveyards.

Elsewhere in Goa there are still big dance parties a plenty but things have quitened down quite a bit and become commercialised.  You’ll find the occasional hippy playing didgeridoos and sitars, plenty of packaged tourists (mainly Russian) and people from all over India settled and taking it easy here. At weekend, Goa fills with tourists from the big cities of India looking for a little Kingfisher soaked debauchery. They find it then set fireworks off.

Patrick just said to not worry, ‘we’re all coming and going’, meaning to wait for a few minutes. I feel like that, it’s been a very Goan day. Everything has been coming and going very nicely. The sunset perfectly and the ocean was calm. Patrick also says ‘take it easy, you never know when time comes.’ as a goodbye. I think we know what that means and its true. Wherever coconut trees sway I’ve found this attitude. Take it easy before it’s too late and let things flow. So I am. You see, that’s it for me, I’m off to the Himalayas tomorrow so it’s goodbye to these…..

Goodbye Goa!

But back to the sweet onslaught of mangos that I’ve enjoyed over the past few months. I heard that in India it is said that someone with a mango tree on their land is wealthy indeed. I agree. I had three 60 footers keeping me company. I’ve felt rich beyond imagination. But things move on, I think apples are coming into season in the Himalayas……

This lassi uses a creamy coconut base and a kick of ginger to keep things lively, but also to balance a little of the overpowering sweetness from friend mango. In the UK and other non-mango growing countries, getting a supply of ripe, non-fibrous mangoes can be tough.  Try and wait until they’re nicely soft for best results.  Lassi is full of tang, some lovely sourness normally coming from the yoghurt. Try to use unsweetened yoghurt if you can get your mitts on it, then you’re in charge of the sweetness.

I’ve found you can eat mango three times a day quite happily. Here’s breakfast, proper Goan porridge (with tahini, coconut oil, cashews and pineapple)

Mango & Ginger Lassi

For 2 glasses

The Bits

250ml Coconut Yoghurt or Soya Yoghurt (unsweetened is best)

1 large, ripe mango (peel, cut all the fruit off the pip and chop up roughly)

75ml coconut milk or soya milk

1 big handful ice cubes or a splash of cold water

1/2 lime (juice)

1/2 inch fresh ginger (crushed)

Sweetener – as you like (depending on the sweetness of the mango)

Optional – large pinch ground cardamom

(I know all about the pink straw, but Helen insisted that we must have a straw.)

Mango and Ginger Lassi

Do It

Place all ingredients in a blender and blitz.  Add lime juice, blitz again, taste for sweetness and adjust how you fancy.  Served chilled in your nicest glasses.

Foodie Fact

Mangoes, super sweet and a little tart are really a ‘super fruit!’  They are very high in vitamin A and C and are also a good source of fibre.  They contain minerals like potassium and copper.

Anyoone tried a Chiku? One of the most amazing fruits, like a date meets a custard apple disguised as a small potato.

The jack fruits weren’t quite ready. Look at the size of them!! Next time;)

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Categories: Healthy Eating, Healthy Living, Recipes, Smoothies, Summer, Superfoods, Travel, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Cooling Watermelon, Tofu & Mint Salad

Cooling Watermelon, Tofu and Mint Salad

It’s getting HOT over here!

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

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

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

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


Recipe Notes

The chillies are a great little kick, but optional.

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

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

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


The Bits – For 2 lunch

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

1 green chilli (finely sliced) – optional

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy cooking!

Categories: gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Music, Nutrition, photography, Recipes, Salads, Summer, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments

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