Travel

Roasted Mediterranean Vegetable Rice – Lebanese Style

A simple, stand out dish to spice up your autumn

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

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

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

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

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

Big on flavours and colours.

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

CRUSTS

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

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

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

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

Shall we call this a Lebanese Paella?

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

Seeking Falafel Perfection in Lebanon

I Ate Lebanon!

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

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

Happy cooking!!

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Recipe Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can use any type of shallow oven dish.

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

Roasted Mediterranean Vegetable Rice – Lebanese Style

Roasted Mediterranean Vegetable Rice – Lebanese Style

 

The Bits – For 6

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

50g green/ brown lentils

1 tbs cooking oil

1 tbs cumin seeds

2 medium onions (sliced)

4 large cloves garlic (sliced)

2 tbs bharat – spice mix

2 tbs za’atar

2 teas salt

650 ml light vegetable stock or hot water

400 ml tomato passatta

1 big red pepper (sliced)

1 small aubergine (sliced)

1-2 tbs olive oil

 

Toppings

Toasted walnuts/ almonds

Za’atar and sumac

Chopped fresh parsley

 

Serve

Lemon wedges

Hummus or vegan labneh

 

Do It

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Foodie Fact

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

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

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

Mango and Papaya Chutney

Mango and Papaya Chutney (vegan, gluten-free)

A tangy summertime tropical treat that goes well with most things; curries, burgers, salads, vegan cheese.  I used our Moxarella – Vegan Mozzarella recipe here on quite a tropical ploughman’s style platter.

Mango and papaya are two of my favourite fruits, although getting good ones can be tough in Wales.  I’ve noticed more papayas becoming available and the key to a papaya is to get them nice and ripe.  The skin should be almost completely yellow and orange and it should feel a little soft.  When I’ve eaten papayas in more tropical places, they go from just ripe to woah, take it easy, way too ripe in around 10 minutes.  It seems that in cooler climates, papayas are more relaxed.  Ours took around 4 days to ripen in a fruit bowl with bananas, if you want to keep it from ripening, pop it in the fridge.  I think a ripe papaya is a match for a ripe mango and, in India especially, is probably a 1/5 of the price.  No wonder Christopher Columbus called it ‘The Fruit of the Angels’.

I made this at the weekend for our Food for the Soul event in Snowdonia and promised to post the recipe. It has a good balance of sweetness and tang, with some spices to add extra dimensions of flavour.

Papaya Farming

I’ve worked on a papaya farm.  Honest!  Became pretty good at harvesting them.  This entails using a long piece of bamboo, standing under the tree and jabbing (gently) a ripe papaya with your bamboo appendage, they’re the yellow/ orange ones, and in approximately less than a second, catching the falling papaya with your free hand.  This is a tricky business and takes practice and the reactions of a mongoose, of which there was family of living just beside my hut.  This was in Tamil Nadu, India.  Most mornings we harvested the crops for the local market, a fascinating array of produce created in a relatively small area, using mainly permaculture farming practices.

I was writing Peace & Parsnips at  the time, in the sweltering heat of summertime, the farming was a day job of sorts.  It was a organic farm in a community called Auroville.  A fascinating place.  The farm was called Solitude Farm and I also cooked lunch there with the women in the kitchen.  I learned much, mainly about using tropical ingredients like yams, banana flowers, plantains, various flowers, purple amaranth, snake gourds, plenty of coconut, and all kinds of other things.  Surprisingly for me, basil and little sweet cherry tomatoes grew like weeds all over the place.  We cooked on wood fires, crouching on the floor.  I loved it.  The restaurant used only organic produce grown on the farm, even the rice and peanuts.

Lunch is legendary at Solitude – celebrating the produce from the farm

I’ve also harvested mango’s, but I’ll save that story for another day.  Hehehe.  It’s a dangerous undertaking.  Mango trees do not want you to nab their fragrant fruits.  Goggles can be useful.

This chutney is quick n’ easy, give it a whirl and be sure to let us know how it goes in the comments below.

Recipe Notes

This is a lower sugar chutney, I prefer it that way.  This has a good balance I feel, but if you like a very stick and sweet chutney, you may prefer a few more tablespoons of sugar.

We enjoyed this chutney with a mixed bag of a platter.  Nachos, salsa, smoky vegan mozzarella and pickled jalapenos.

Papayas are easy to skin, you can use a potato peeler or a sharp knife.  Then just scoop out all the big black shiny seeds.  The seeds are edible, quite peppery and bitter.  Your papaya flesh should be soft and deep orange/ pink in colour.

When you cut into a mango, be sure to trim away as much fruits as possible from the seed.  There can be quite a bit of fruit hidden around the seed.

Papayas can be huge, but in Britain, they are sold quite small, lets say around 8-10 inches in length.  That’s the size we use here.  Avoid papayas which are bruised or have lots of black spots.

 

Mango and Papaya Chutney (Vegan. Gluten-free)

 

The Bits – Make two large jars or 1 litre kilner jar

1 onion (finely diced)

2 heaped tbs fresh ginger (finely chopped)

1 small cinnamon stick

1 teas cumin seeds

1 teas coriander seeds

 

4 green cardamom pods (cracked)

1/3 – 1/2 teas chilli flakes or 1 red chilli (deseeded finely diced)

1/2 teas ground turmeric

3/4 teas nigella seeds

2 mangoes (peeled, deseeded and diced)

1 papaya (peeled, deseeded and diced)

100-125 g light brown sugar

125 ml red wine vinegar

1 tbs cooking oil

 

Do It 

In a sauce pan, add the oil and warm on medium high heat.  Add the cumin, cinnamon and coriander seeds, stir a few times, for around 30 seconds.  Then add the onions and ginger.  Fry for 6 minutes, until soft, then add the rest of the spices followed by the fruit and then finally, the sugar and vinegar.  Stir well and bring to a simmer.  Leave to cook for 35 minutes, until the chutney thickens.

Allow to cool, then spoon into a container.  This chutney is ideal served with your favourite curries, salads, burgers or why not try a tropical cheeze platter.

Store in a sterilised jar.  Will keep for a few months, but when opened, pop in the fridge.

Foodie Fact

Papaya is very high in vitamin C and is also a good source of folates, vitamin A and fibre.  Papayas help to support our immune system, are anti-inflammatory and may well keep our hearts healthy.

 

Would you like to learn how to cook awesome vegan dishes and completely relax for a weekend on a beautiful beach?

Join cookbook author Áine Carlin and I for our Viva Vegan! Plant-based Cooking Holiday in Spain.  Early bird offer now on! 

 

Categories: Chutney, Curries, gluten-free, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , | 23 Comments

Viva Vegan! Spain: Plant-based Cooking Holiday with Áine Carlin and Lee Watson

 

Viva Vegan! Spain

Thursday 8th – Monday 12th November 2018

 

Get away from it all and learn how to cook awesome healthy food that everyone will love.

 

Join best-selling cookbook authors Áine Carlin (Cook Share Eat Vegan, Keep it Vegan & The New Vegan) and Lee Watson (Peace and Parsnips) for a peaceful and inspiring slice of winter sunshine, delicious plant-based treats and beautiful beaches.

 

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Our Viva Vegan! Spain villa awaits

 

We’ll be staying in a stunning, modern eco villa located in a quiet, picturesque bay, right on the beach.

 


Awesome Autumn Offer**

now on £70 OFF per person!!


 

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Our bright open plan kitchen

“Our passion for a cooking and enjoying creative vegan food and a healthy lifestyle brought us to work together. We’d been looking for the perfect location for a while, and wow, have we found it!”  Lee

 

Áine and Lee are thrilled to be able to collaborate, showcasing the diversity and vibrant potential of plant-based dishes.

 

They’ll be cooking creative cuisine, inspired by the sensational flavours of the Med, using local produce.

 

All meals will be prepared in the modern, open plan kitchen and served on the lovely terrace overlooking the beach, with nourishing smoothies in the morning and sunset mocktails, or a glass of local wine, each evening.

 

Murcia is called the ‘garden of Spain’ for a good reason, the fruit and vegetables are a plant-based cooks dream.

 

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Cooking demonstrations, workshops and masterclasses….

 

There will be daily cooking demonstrations and workshops, which will be themed and designed to give you all the skills, secrets and support you need to start cooking fresh, wholesome food at home.  Any level of cook will find interesting new tips and techniques.

 

Get ready to transform the way you cook!

 

Áine and Lee will share their knowledge freely and you’ll leave with a recipe booklet and newfound confidence.

 

Reserve your spot now for £49

 

“It was definitely the best vegan food (actually any food) that I’d ever eaten; beautifully presented and made with so much love by Lee and the team. Lee is passionate about plant-based food and was incredibly generous in sharing his wisdom and knowledge with us.”  Sandy

 

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We have so many treats coming your way

 

‘Finding the balance between health and indulgence…Discover the beauty of plant-based food…leave your preconceived notions at the door – it’s time to cook, eat, smile (repeat)’ Áine

 

Our Viva Vegan! holiday takes place in a small, traditional village, aptly named the ‘jewel’ of the Spanish coastline.  An area that Lee loves dearly, where he has cooked and ran healthy plant-based events for many years.

 

This holiday offers not only a rare chance to truly unwind, recharge and enjoy some winter sunshine before the Christmas period, but also meet like-minded people.

 

We’ll be going on scenic walks along the stunning coastline and beaches, to small villages and cafes, with magnificent views of mountains and the ocean.

 

This is ‘real’ Spain and the Costa Calida is famous for its unspoilt scenery, an environmentally protected area with friendly locals.

 

November in Murcia is many people’s favourite month, lots of sunshine in the day and cool at night, it is also very peaceful and we’ll no doubt have the beaches to ourselves.

 

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

Coastal views, just outside our villa

 

Explore and Relax in rural Spain

 

There will be plenty of time within the program to explore the area and chill on the beach, only a few metres from the villa, or stroll along the promenade.

 

For the more adventurous, there are mountain trails and bikes, scuba diving or kayaks and paddle boards to rent.

 

The villa has several terraces, a garden, hammocks and spacious living area and lounge, perfect places to find a quiet space to meditate or practice yoga, or just curl up with a good book.

 

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Áine Carlin – Vegan cook, blogger and author of Cook Share Eat Vegan, Keep it Vegan & The New Vegan

 

The local village has all the amenities you’ll need and the pretty, historic city of Cartagena is only 40 minutes drive away, with excellent shopping, bars and museums.

 

Additional massages, private yoga classes, golf, bicycles, kayaks and snorkelling/ scuba trips can also be arranged locally with our support.

 

“I am just embracing a vegetarian lifestyle and was amazed by the gorgeous food Lee of ‘Beach House Kitchen’ demonstrated and created lovingly for us 3 x daily … plus snacks! Lee is a lovely upbeat guy and such a creative and enthusiastic chef.”  Barb

 

Lee Watson – Vegan Entrepreneur, TV chef, Author ‘Peace and Parsnips’

 

Included on the weekend:

 

– Four nights accommodation in our comfortable beach side eco villa

with log burner, dvd library and wifi

 

– Delicious, nourishing meals cooked by Áine and Lee …

mostly gluten and processed sugar free

 

– A variety of inspiring cooking demonstrations and workshops with Áine and Lee

 

– Sunset mocktails on the terrace

 

– Locally selected wines with meals

 

– Relaxing and energising yoga classes on the terrace, for all levels

 

– Guided walks along the coast

 

– Nourishing morning smoothies

 

– Afternoon cakes and sweet treats

 

– Barbecue Night

 

– A bespoke recipe booklet

 

– Movie night with popcorn

 

– Tea, coffee and filtered water

 

– Airport pickups*

 

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

 

Additional Extras:

 

Air fare

 

Car Hire

 

Hire of kayaks, mountain bikes, paddle boards, local walking guides, scuba diving or snorkelling

 

Yoga, private one to one sessions or classes (all levels and many styles available)

 

Massages

 

Coffees or drinks taken in local cafes and bars

 

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Learn how to cook delightful plant-based food with local Mediterranean produce

 

Sample Day Program:

 

9:00 – 10:00 Morning yoga on the terrace

 

10:00-11:00 Nourishing Breakfast and Morning smoothies

 

11:45 – 13:00 Workshop with Aine

 

13:30 Lunch cooked by Lee

 

15:15 – 16:30 Cooking Demonstration with Lee 

 

16:30 Afternoon Cake and Treats

 

Free Time – Rest, swim in the sea, book a massage, yoga, paddle board, chill on the beach, explore local hills, village and coastline, find a hammock with a good book

 

20:00 Mocktails and Dinner cooked by Aine

 

21:30 Movie Night with Popcorn

 

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Recharge and Rejuvenate

 

Viva Vegan! offers you a rare chance to recharge and rejuvenate at a time of year when you need it most.

 

You’ll be pampered with fine vegan food in a unique, delightful location.

 

This is so much more than just a relaxing weekend away,

it is an opportunity to learn new, inspired life skills and enhance the way we eat, cook and live.

 

Áine and Lee look forward to welcoming you to plant-based paradise!

 

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Upstairs in our beach side villa

 

Prices
(per person)

 

£669 double room with en suite bathroom (2 person)

£629 double/ twin room with shared bathroom** (2 person)

£599 triple/ family room with en suite bathroom (3 person)

£529 shared triple room with shared bathroom** (3 person)

 

Awesome Autumn Offer

now on £70 OFF per person*** 

 

 

Reserve your place now for £49 

(Non-refundable deposit)

 

 

All enquiries email – hellobeachhousekitchen@gmail.com

 

Single occupancy rooms may be available on request

 

Facebook event page here for updates 

 

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Can’t wait to see you in Spain!

 

*Airport pickups are from Murcia and are limited depending on flight times and availability.

Nearest airports are Murcia (50 mins drive) and Alicante (1 ½ hours drive).

 

Hiring your own car is an easy and inexpensive way to reach the villa and to explore the local area.

** The villa has ample modern bathrooms and even an outdoor, solar heated shower.  Shared rooms are always same sex.

 

***Awesome Autumn offer ends 8th October ’18

 

Categories: Cooking Holidays, Events, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, plant-based, Travel, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Egyptian Summer Mezze – Tomato & Cumin Chickpeas

Egyptian Lunch on the terrace with Hulba (Fenugreek Dip), Roasted Cauliflower Wedges and Spicy Aubergines

Have you tried Egyptian food?  This is the ideal recipe to start.  Many people ask for quick and easy recipes that are tasty, nutritious and something that can be rustled up without fuss.  Here we are!

This an ideal summer dish, light and good to go for a picnic twist, it can be eaten hot or cold.  It seems with all the sunshine we’ve been getting in the UK, the tomatoes are here!  Great news indeed.  Using nice ripe tomatoes in this dish with make all the difference.

These chickpeas are perfect with the Hazlenut Dukkha recipe that I just posted, a nice fresh salad, chargrilled/ roasted vegetables and some flatbread.  Summer lunchtime sorted!

I also roasted some cauliflower in the oven, really simply with some oil and spices, you can use the Dukkha, or something like Bharat.  Or even Garam Masala will be fine.  Just add a little spice.  Roasted cauliflower is a staple in the BHK in the summertime, great on the BBQ too.

I added a couple more Egyptian Mezze’s, with a classic Warm Aubergine Salad and a Fenugreek ‘Hulba’ Dip, which does have a very strong flavour, the fenugreek is full power.  The consensus from those present was leave the recipe for now.  I like it, it’s a bit like mustard, a little goes a long way.  Next time, I may reduce the fenugreek a little, it can be powerful stuff!

Other Egyptian Mezze ideas would be fava bean falafels, hummus, baba ganoush (ghanouj), fuul medames, tabouleh.  I love these rich, hearty, flavourful dishes.  All traditional.  All vegan!

Travelling Egypt

I love Egypt and the delicious buzz of eating out in Cairo, sipping some tea, taking a wander around Old Town, the little windy, ancient lanes and souks, more tea, then a nibble (repeat).  I may have been lost most of the time, but I never went hungry!

My last visit to Egypt was a good few years ago, but it left a big impression.  So much history (a massive understatement really) and people could not have been friendlier.  I just wandered around each day and invariably got myself invited to cafes or restaurants or weddings for sweet tea and meals and many happy memories.  I experienced incredible hospitality where ever I went.

One of my favourite foodie times was when I was walking up the coast from Dhaba, I met a bedouin family who invited me to stay with them and have some dinner, over near the border with Jordan.  They were camped on an isolated beach facing the Red Sea and twinkling lights of Saudi Arabia.  They made veggie food especially for me, cooked out under the stars and eaten on a huge colourful rug.  These spiced chickpeas are similar to one of the dishes we had.  This is my version.  I love recreating global dishes back in Wales.  When I travel, I write all my favourite food moments and ideas down in notebooks.  The one I brought back from Egypt is packed full with many happy memories of tasty times.

Egyptian Food

For those who haven’t tried traditional Egyptian food, I’d say it has many similarities with much of the food in the Eastern Mediterranean, lots of delicious rice, bean and vegetable dishes, maybe the best hummus I’ve ever tried (at least well up there with Lebanese Hummus).  In Egypt, you never seem far from an awesome flat bread or bowl of ful medames or Kushari, a dish I had never tried before and found it loads of fun.  Rice, lentils, pasta, tomato sauce, garlic vinegar, fried onions, a good hit of cumin, it’s seems all over the place, but really works.  Especially after a long day getting lost in old town Cairo, I needed plenty of feeding up!

Cumin is one of my favourite spices, ubiquitous in so many cuisines around the world, from Mexico to the Mediterranean and India.  Cumin is warming and highly aromatic, that’s why toasting and grinding your own spices at home is such a joy.  Cumin has a sweet smell but can be bitter to taste, so it does need cooking through.  I normally add ground cumin to dishes at earlier stages of cooking.  It acts as a great base for other spices I find, but in this dish, it takes centre stage.  We normally get white cumin seeds in the UK, but in India especially, the smaller black cumin seeds are popular, along with Amber cumin seeds.

Recipe Notes

The best way to go, cumin-wise, is to toast and grind your own.  If you have a pestle and mortar handy, or a blender/ food processor, we’re good.  Toast 2 tbs cumin seeds in a preferably heavy-bottomed pan, for a minute, until the colour slightly changes to a darker shade of brown and you can smell the lovely toasty cumin aromas.   I know in some Indian dishes, cooks prefer to really toast the cumin until they’re almost black.  But generally, the oils (plentiful in cumin) which contain the lovely aromatic qualities are quite sensitive to heat, I prefer, in this dish especially, just a light toasting in the pan.

You can use tinned chickpeas, but soaking and cooking dried chickpeas is more economical and you get the benefit of a nice stock to use afterwards in soups, curries or stews.  This stock can also be used as aquafaba, genius bean broth, which can be used to make all kinds of things; vegan mayonnaise, macaroons. meringues or to replace eggs when baking cakes.

The Egyptian olive oil I’ve tried has been excellent.  Drizzling it over and stirring it in at the end can add richness and great flavour to these chickpeas.

You may like to blanch your tomatoes and removed the skins, but my tomatoes were so sweet and thin skinned , I didn’t bother here.

Egyptian Chickpeas with Tomato and Cumin – Sinai-style 

I hope you enjoy this recipe, do let me know if you try it out.  People have asked me recently what I get paid for doing the BHK blog.  Hahahahahaaaaaa!  I love food and cooking.  That’s it!  There’s no better reason to do this, sharing the recipes that we enjoy at home.

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Egyptian Mezze – Chickpeas with Tomato and Cumin 

The Bits – For 4-6 

500g cooked chickpeas (roughly 2 tins, drained and rinsed)

1 large onion (finely diced)

2 large cloves garlic (finely sliced)

1 tbs cumin seeds

2 teas ground cumin

100ml hot water

4 medium ripe tomatoes (chopped into small pieces)

1 tbs cooking oil – I use cold pressed rapeseed oil

Sea salt

 

1 handful fresh coriander (finely chopped)

4 lemon wedges

A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (1-2 tbs)

 

Do It

In a large frying pan, warm on a medium high heat.  Then add 1 tbs cooking oil and the cumin seeds.  Let the sizzle for 30 seconds before adding the chopped onion and garlic, with 1 teas sea salt.  Fry for 6 minutes, until the onions are slightly caramelised, then add the ground cumin, hot water and tomatoes.  Pop a lid on and lower the heat a little, cook until tomatoes are soft, around 5 minutes.

Now add the chickpeas, pop the lid back on and warm through, cooking for a couple of minutes.

Stir in coriander and olive oil, check seasoning.

Serve with warm flatbreads, lemon wedges and hazelnut dukkha.

 

Foodie Fact – Cumin

Cumin seeds come from a plant in the same family as fennel and parsley, it’s been around for a while, mentioned in the bible on a number of occasions and the ancient Greeks loved it.  They kept it on the table as an everyday spice, like we use black pepper nowadays.  It was also a staple in Roman kitchens, but became less used in Europe in the Middle ages.

Cumin is rich in copper and iron, zinc, calcium and potassium.  One teaspoon of cumin contains around 1/4-1/3 of our daily iron needs.  Pretty good!

Cumin has also long been regarded as anti-inflammatory, has anti-oxidant properties, is anti-bacterial, helps with digestion (in India it’s used frequently in daals for example, to minimise windiness).  Cumin may also help with diabetes and boosts the immune system.  Cumin is not alone in this respect, most spices have beneficial health properties and its an awesome idea to add spices to dishes and your diet in general.

Cumin seeds can be kept in a sealed container in a cool and dark place, they will keep for around a year.  Ground cumin, well, freshly ground is best, but it will last for a few months, but loses it’s flavour gradually.

Categories: gluten-free, healthy, Healthy Eating, Lunch, Nutrition, plant-based, Recipes, Side Dish, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Hazelnut Dukkha – Versatile, Nutty Spice Mix

 

Hazelnut Dukkha – Egyptian Condiment

Only a small thing, a condiment, but it really packs in some intense, earthy flavours and livens up almost anything.

I’ve finally got round to posting (and finding) some of the Egyptian recipes I cooked in the Spanish sunshine.  Having been on the road for a while, recipes can wander off for a while.  They normally come back in one piece though.

Spain was so hot, we wanted things simple, quick and of course, super tasty.

Dukkha is ideal in this respect, perfect sprinkled on your favourite salad, mixed into youghurt to make a delicious dip, or even just served with warm flatbreads and olive oil.  I also use dukkha on top of roasted or barbecued vegetables and even Middle Eastern stews.

Dukkha is basically a condiment that livens up most things, bringing lovely, deep, toasted flavours, nuttiness and spices.  Dukkha keeps well in a sealed container and is a versatile flavour boost to have around the kitchen.  You can also play around with the recipe, this is classic old school style, by adding your favourite spices to it.

There are many ways of making dukkha, but I’ve gone for the easiest here.  We simply roast all the ingredients in an oven and bash them together in a pestle and mortar.  It’s a highly fragrant task.  Prepare for your kitchen to be filled with the aromas of toasty nuts n’ spices.  It’s delicious.

Go Spicy

I’ve been roasting many of my spice mixes at the minute and feel that if you have the time, this is the way to go.  Fresh roasted spices, ground in a pestle and mortar, or even a blender, are so much better than shop bought.  You can’t even compare really.  If you love spices and spicy foods, making your own makes sense.  I’ll post my Garam Masala recipe soon.

Egyptian Fava Bean Falafels

Egypt travel 

But this is Egypt.  A country I love, whose food blew me away.  I really wasn’t expecting it at all, I had no preconceived this and that, I just landed and ate.  The hummus is well up there with the best in the world, of course we all know about the falalfels, here’s my version – Egyptian Fava Bean Falafels.

You won’t be too surprised that I traveled all over Egypt and even did some touristy things like try to climb one of the great pyramids, I had no idea this was illegal until a man with a big gun chased me a fair way up the pyramid of Cheops (the big one).  It was very early in the morning, I was half asleep (missed the sign) and obviously most of the guards were.  To be fair, it was a long climb anyway.

I chilled on Mount Sinai with a load of very happy Christians, clapping with hymns at dawn, staying in monastery.  I dove in the Red Sea, a technicolour world bursting with marine life, at night, sat around fires, we looked right into Saudi Arabia, just across the sea.  I’m not a big city person, but one of the highlights was Cairo, the old town especially, the call to prayer each morning at 5am was a wake up call in more ways than one.  Egypt was the first Muslim country I had traveled around and everything all seemed very exotic and fresh, charged with new flavours, sights and sounds.

I’d love to go back, I didn’t quite make it down to Luxor.  Food wise, no problem, I was a vegetarian/ vegan hybrid at the time and always found lots of options, as you do in other Middle Eastern countries.  I specifically remember one bowl of perfect hummus, in a restaurant on a busy road, it was packed with families and the mezze style dishes just piled up on my table and I was in some form of food-induced bliss.  I’d been walking lots around Cairo (aka getting lost), it’s an ideal walking city with loads of windy lanes and interesting architecture.  I needed to keep my energy up you see!  Bring on the falafels…..

Egyptian style Aubergines, simply pan fried with onion, a little spice and lemon juice.

Buddhist tangent – Dukkha is also the word for “suffering” or more accurately ‘unsatisfactoriness” in Pali, the ancient language of many early Buddhist texts.  It’s what we feel about life much of the time said Buddha.  When I first came across the Egyptian condiment, I couldn’t separate the two really.  Spicy suffering crumbs, toasty torment, I’ve been through them all.  The opposite of Dukkha is Sukha in Pali, meaning something like “happiness”.  I was thinking about coming up with a recipe for Sukha, the topping to sprinkle all over your Nirvana, but I’ve never could see past Dukkha.  Here in lies my inherent problem.  I just can’t get enough of that Dukkha!!

I hope you get to try this recipe out, please let us know in the comments below.  Have you been to Egypt how did you find the food?  Are you a fellow vegan traveler, seeking out the tastiest plates in the coolest places?

——————–

Hazelnut Dukkha

The Bits – Makes one small bowlful

50g sesame seeds
25g hazelnuts (very roughly chopped)
10g cumin seeds
8g coriander seeds
1g dried thyme
3/4 teas sea salt

 

Do It

Preheat a fan oven to 180oC.

Toss everything on a baking tray and place in the oven for 10-15 minutes, checking after 8 minutes.  Mix the dukkha up a little to ensure that everything is getting an equal amount of heat.

Once the sesame seeds and hazelnut have gone a darker shade, place the dukkha into a pestle and mortar.  You can do this in batches unless you have a giant pestle and mortar.  Grind it all down, I like a few who spices left in there for extra flavour explosions.

 

Foodie Fact

Nuts are just packed with nutrition.  Hazelnuts are good for the heart, containing good fats and plenty of fibre, magnesium, protein and Vitamin E.  You can read our previous Foodie Fact  about our tips for soaking nuts to maximise and transform the nutritional properties of nuts here.  It’s a little tip that can have a big effect on a healthier diet.

Categories: gluten-free, healthy, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Side Dish, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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

The beach and mountainous coastline, right outside the villa!

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

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

The beautifully deisgned eco villa

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

The Beach House Kitchen excited to be on a boat!

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

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

La Sirena – our beautiful yacht for a day

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

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

Time for a dip!

All meals served outside on the terrace overlooking the beach

The chefs hard at work;)

Spectacular sunsets

On a ripe avocado hunt;)

View from the villa

Rainbow fridges:)

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

Morning yoga on the terrace

Down at the local market

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

A Taste of Bliss ’18

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

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

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

Categories: Cooking Retreats, Cooking Workshops, Events, healthy, Healthy Eating, Healthy Living, photography, plant-based, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Goan Jackfruit Curry – Totally Tropical!

Goan Jackfruit Curry – Vegan

This curry is totally over the top in all the right ways!!  Flavours, intensity, creaminess, coconut!  India cooking rocks my world, how about you?

Making things like this masala paste at home brings any kitchen to life with incredible colour’s and fragrance.  Apparently it’s spring, but looking out the window here in Wales, we’re in serious need of some rainbow food!  Some zest and zing, brightness on our plates.  This Goan curry is perfect for that!

This type of curry takes me right back to Goa, sitting in my favourite little place, right under many jackfruit trees, and eating homemade curries with fresh mango juices.  Not a bad life!!  It wasn’t jackfruit season, but they were hanging off the trees like strange bright green, spiky alien space craft.  If you’ve seen one, you’ll now what I mean.

This recipe is based on a selection of curries I ate almost every day for lunch.  They were always homemade and you can really taste the difference, the ingredients taste real!!  The cooks loved to use coriander seeds, giving their slightly citrus flavour to the curry. I’m not sure if this is classically Goan, but it is how the lovely families cooked.  The cuisine of Goa is so diverse, see my post here, ‘A Taste of Goan Cuisine’ for more Goan food tales.

All the flavours of one of my favourite South Indian curries

JACKFRUIT?

Is still a new ingredient for most of us.  It doesn’t get much more exotic, it’s a very strange fruit.  I love it!

Here we use the unripe jackfruit, which many say is a good meat sub, you can also eat the ripe jackfruit which is more like a yellow flower.  Both are available in the UK in tins.  The ripe jackfruit is better suited to desserts, makes an incredible ice cream and is delicious eaten raw.

You will find many street vendours around the world, in Thailand, India etc experty dissecting the giant fruits (the can get massive) and serving the yellow, slightly rubbery flowers on small trays.  For a few pennies you can enjoy the totally unique flavour of jackfruits, some say it has a hint of juicy fruit bubblegum in there.  I get that.

But we’re all about the unripe version here, the one many people are using to replicate pulled pork.  It works a treat and meat eaters are easily fooled by it.  They certainly enjoy it!

Some people have said that we should not eat such an exotic ingredient regularly in the UK.  I understand that, but we all love bananas and pineapples and jackfruit I think will always be a treat ingredient for me.  Something we use seldomly, a very tasty kitchen curve ball.

There is a slight sourness to some Goan curries, it seems to be a legacy of the Portugese, who like adding vinegar to dishes.  The sourness here comes in the form of the tamarind, but you can also add a little lemon juice to the curry at the end to give it that extra little twang!

 

Recipe Notes
Tamarind can be found in world or Indian food stores in its dried state, with the seeds still present.  I like it like that.  You can also buy the paste in supermarkets.

Chillies are up to you.  Jane is not a huge fan of chilli, so I really tone things down. I would go for the green chillies and around 4 red dried chillies in this curry. Remember, that many dried red chillies are milder.  If you use the equivalent in chilli flakes for example, you may have an incendiary curry on your hands.

If you don’t have jackfruit, you can substitute it with any vegetable you like or even a tin of black eyed beans.  I really loved the Goan curries made with black eyed beans.  Tofu or tempeh would of course be sensational here.

I left the jackfruit pieces whole here, but you can chop off the stem if you like and break the jackfruit up into smaller chunks.  Like the BBQ Pulled Jackfruit recipe we did a while ago, see here. 

Who loves jackfruit?

Goan Jackfruit Curry 

The Bits – For 4

350g squash – 1/2 medium-sized butternut squash, or carrots/ sweet potatoes
280g jackfruit (1 tin, well drained)
1/2 small onion (finely chopped)
2 tbs curry leaves
2 large pieces of cinnamon bark or 2 inch cinnamon stick
1 tbs coconut oil
2 teas sea salt

Masala Paste
70g grated/ dessicated coconut
5 cloves garlic (roughly chopped)
1/2 small onion (finely chopped)
3 teas tamarind paste or 1/2 small lemon (juice)
2 heaped tbs fresh ginger (chopped)
2 1/2 teas coriander seeds
1 1/2 teas cumin seeds
12 peppercorns
2-6 dried red chillies (mild)
1 teas turmeric

1 tin coconut milk
100ml water

2 green chillies (optional)

1 tbs coconut sugar, brown rice syrup, sweetener of your choice.

Garnish
Toasted coconut
Coriander leaves

Goan cuisine is so interesting, filled with unique flavours and tropical twists!

Do It

Press the jackfruit between kitchen paper to draw out some of the water.  This leaves more room for flavours to infuse and get in.

Put all masala ingredients into a blender, I use a small blender (I have one that attaches to a stick blender), I find it easier to do this in a smaller blender.

Blitz up and gradually add roughly 125 ml coconut milk to the masala as you blitz and scrape down the sides of the blender until all is combined. You should have a smooth sauce, the better and more powerful your blender, the smoother the paste.  Don’t worry about a few chunks, in Goa, the chunks of coconut are a nice surprise!

In a large saucepan, heat the oil and add the onions, cinnamon, salt and curry leaves, saute for 4 minutes.  Then add the squash, jackfruit and masala paste, plus the leftover coconut milk from the tin and 150ml water.  The green chillies can go in now if you’re using them.

Stir and bring to a simmer, cover and cook gently for 40 minutes.  Until the squash and jackfruit are nice and tender, adding more hot water to thin out the sauce as needed.

Stir in your sweetener and check that you’re happy with the seasoning.

Serve topped with coriander and toasted coconut, with your favourite Indian rice and salad combo.  Here’s some ideas that we’ve cooked in the past:

Cooling Watermelon, Tofu & Mint Salad

Toasted Cashew & Green Pepper Pulao

Quick Carrot & Ginger Pickle

Goodbye Goa! Anjuna Beach

Foodie Fact

Jackfruit is high in fibre, helping us to detox which in turn makes us glow!  It also contains a good amount of carbohydrates, keeping us fully charged with energy and is loaded up with vitamin C and some potassium.  Jackfruit seeds are a good source of protein and vitamin A.

Categories: Curries, gluten-free, healthy, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Aubergine & Fava Bean Fatteh, Tahini Yoghurt & Pine Nuts – Lebanese Party Food!

Fatteh (Fette) – Lebanese Aubergine & Fava Beans, Tahini Yoghurt and Pine Nuts   

I love this dish!  This is party food really, or the best snack you’ve ever encountered.  I can see this on a big platter being tucked in by curious guests soon to be tongue tied in a good way.  There are so many flavours and textures layered up here and they all work perfectly together.  I was lucky to eat Fatteh loads on my recent Lebanon trip.

We could easily call this ‘Fatteh Al-Betenjane’ – Aubergine Fatteh.  Fatteh (or fette) is named after the bread really, crushed or crumbled underneath or on top, but the highlight is the flavourful beans and all the accompaniments.

It has been said that this dish is like a Levantine Nachos, it’s not far off really, but with the sheer combination of delightful flavours and pine nuts, one of my favourites, Fatteh is way ahead of nachos in the BHK.  Apologies Mexico.

Pine nuts, a real treat

I ate this dish quite a bit last year in my Lebanon trip.  More of that (with pics):

Seeking falafel perfection in Lebanon and making the dream falafel wrap

I Ate Lebanon! – My experience of vegan Lebanese cuisine

Msabaha – Lebanese Chickpeas (A new twist on hummus)

Fatteh is a classic dish in Lebanon and is especially popular in the Northern City of Tripoli, which was probably the best place I ate in Lebanon (but it was very close in many respects).  Lebanon is one of the best countries for plant-based wandering.  Have you been?

Tripoli Old Town Souks, some amazing produce, wonderful fruit and veg plus little eateries

Tripoli is a city little visited by tourists, but if you’re ever in the area, try the Fatteh.  It is a dish that changes from region to region, country to country, so you’ll never grow tired of your Fatteh, although most variations contain meat unfortunately.

In Egypt it is eaten as a feast during Ramadan or to celebrate a woman’s first pregnancy.  Like I said, its party food, a celebration on plate.  Sometimes fatteh is even eaten as a breakfast, lucky people.  Wow!

Party food just got better:)

Fava beans you’ll find mainly dried, especially in World/ Asian food shops.  If you’re lucky to live near a Middle Eastern shop, you’re sorted.  You should be able to track things like Za’atar, Sumac, Tahini and Pomegranate Molasses down in supermarkets etc.

Fava beans are very popular in Middle Eastern cooking and you may have tried Ful or Ful Medames, which is a real staple.  I love the flavour of fava beans cooked like this, rich, deep and full flavoured.  We love cooking with Fava Beans, we’ve used Hodemdod’s Split Fava Beans to make this Yellow Thai Curry with Squash and also used Hodmedod’s dried fava beans here.  This what they look like.  Hodmedods are all organic and grown in the UK so we love ’em!

 

Recipe Notes

If you can’t track down fava beans, you could use chickpeas or red kidney beans.  Black beans may also be nice.

No za’atar in the house?  Go for dried mint or thyme, of both mixed together.

Short of sumac?  A drizzle of pomegranate molasses or lemon zest would be nice.

You can serve this dish cold, but I much prefer the beans and pitta warm.

I used carrots here, but for an extra special touch, sprinkle over some pomegranate arils.

Gluten-free option, just go for gf pittas.

 

Vegan Fatteh – One of my favourite dishes from my travels around Lebanon

Aubergine & Fava Bean Fatteh, Tahini Yoghurt & Pine Nuts – Lebanese Party Food!

The Bits – For 2 main course/ 4 starters

1 small onion (finely diced)

4 cloves garlic (peeled and finely sliced)

1 medium aubergine (cut into small cubes)

1 1/2 tbs cooking oil

500g fava beans (cooked)

1 teas salt

Black pepper

2 1/2 teas ground cumin

2 teas paprika

1/2 teas cinnamon

300ml bean cooking juices/ light vegetable stock

2 tbs pomegranate molasses

 

Tahini yoghurt

150g soya yoghurt (unsweetened)

4 tbs tahini

1-2 tbs pomegranate molasses

Large pinch salt (to taste)

 

Topping

2-3 pittas (cut into thin strips)

1/2 handful fresh mint (finely chopped)

1/2 handful grated carrot or pomegranate arils

 

3 tbs pine nuts (toasted)

Sprinkles of Sumac/ Za’atar

Do It 

Preheat an oven to 200oC, toss the pitta in a little oil, spread out onto a baking tray and pop in the oven for 10 minutes until they are crisp.  Set aside.  The pine nuts can also be cooked on the baking tray, in the oven, check them every 5 minutes, they will burn easily.

In a large frying pan, heat of medium high heat and add the oil.  Fry the onion for 1o minutes, until golden brown, add the aubergine and salt, cook for a further 8-10 minutes until the aubergine is slightly caramelised.

Add the garlic, fry for a minute before adding the spices, adding a good amount of black pepper, stir them in and let them cook for just 30 seconds.  Enjoy the spicy aroma!!  Now for the beans and bean cooking stock and pomegranate molasses, stir, cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes.  Check the seasoning.

For the yoghurt, mix all the bits together in a bowl.

Serve the beans on a small plate/ shallow bowl, top with tahini yoghurt, scatter with pine nuts and pitta slices, then fresh mint, grated carrot, topped with sprinkles of sumac and za’atar.

 

Foodie Fact

Fava beans are broad beans, normally bought dried.   They are low in fat and full of protein and fibre, with good levels of folate, thaimin and minerals like manganese, copper, phosphorous, iron and magnesium.

 

A Taste of Bliss – Vegan Cooking and Yoga Retreat, Spain ’18

We’ll be cooking all sorts of Mediterranean delights like this dish at our

Taste of Bliss Vegan Cooking and Yoga Holiday in Spain, 5-12th May ’18. 

Come and join us right by the beach, we’ll be doing cooking demonstrations and

using loads of local, Murcian produce. 

A slice of sunshine and pure relaxation!  

Categories: gluten-free, healthy, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Side Dish, Snacks and Inbetweens, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , | 12 Comments

Moroccan Bessara with Harissa Oil – Nourishing Fava Bean Soup/Dip

 

Bessara – Nourishing Moroccan Soup

We’re getting 2018 started with a simple and nourishing dish from Morocco, a country I love and where I first tried this delicious soup.  We’re not long back from Spain, where we sit on beaches looking towards North Africa.  A tenuous link, but its awesome to be back here and blogging!!  After our little break in the sun, we’re topped up with fresh ideas for 2018.

This comforting bowl is ideal for new year, so easy and light, nutritious and flavourful.  It’s also inexpensive and the basic soup only has a handful of ingredients.  It also happens uses fava beans, which as you might know, were one of my favourite things about 2017.  Couldn’t get enough of them.  You can thin this out, or serve it as a dip.  Either way, it’s a dish I cook all the time, a great staple and something I’ve been meaning to put on here for years.  Finally, Bessara!

MOROCCAN MEALS

My favourite memories of Bessara was around 15 years ago (food lives long in my memory) when I was travelling all over Morocco and eventually found a little home in the Rif Mountains.  It was chilly, icy winds whistling through all the buildings, my favourite cafe’s door kept blowing off and was missing a window (but the mint and gunpowder tea and tunes were bang on).  I was lucky to be staying right beside the Hamam (steam baths), which was hewn from a hillside, so the whole area was warmed by the huge wood fires which heated the water.  The same wood fires where people would bring their clay pots of food to be cooked.  Great system there, plus the Hamas are the perfect place to meet people, like a pub really, without the booze and with the heating turned up to Gas Mark 2.  Oh, and the clientele are mostly naked.

Every morning I met some friends and went for Bessara, it makes for a lovely breakfast, and we sat on little rickety benches with all the djellaba wearing locals and morose Mohammed (cook and propietor) sat before two giant vats of bubbling Bessara.  His joint was basically a corrugated steel roof between two wonky buildings, but it was always buzzing and cosy.  It’s a warming soup in more ways than one.  Mohammed’s Bessara was very cheap and served without glee but with fragrant local olive oil and small bowl of fresh cumin and salt on the tables.

The bread man would occasionally whistle past on his push bike and we’d score some fresh bread straight from the bakery, that flat Moroccan bread that you may have tried.  If you’re from the North East, it’s basically stottie cake (more stottie here).  I’ve never been able to find out if there is any relation between the two, my romantic side which easily eclipses any of my other sides, says that yes.  There is.  In the middle ages some sailors from Seaham were blown of course and found themselves sahara bound.  Or maybe it was the crusades?  Either way, great bread and highly recommended with this soup.

PUNCHY DRIZZLE

I love harissa, especially with traditional Moroccan food, so I’ve come up with a zesty and punchy little oil to drizzle over the soup.  You’ll have a little bit leftover no doubt, but I love dipping bread into it to finish it off.  Just keep leftovers sealed in a fridge for a few days.  It’s perfect I think after one day in the fridge, all the spices and flavours settle and mingle.

LOVE THY FAVA

I have some organic Hodmedod split fava beans, they actually have a Bessara recipe on their site!  Great minds!!  Hodmedods were kind enough to send me some of their range, which is awesome, so you’ll be hearing from them more this year.  We love to give shouts out to producers who are doing brilliant things in enlightened ways.  Hodmedods are all about incredible pulses basically and are bringing back many traditional British varieties.  Fava beans are actually traditional in the UK, but I think more of them as a Middle Eastern/ North African ingredient.  We have used them to make traditional Egyptian Falafels (Ta’amia) in the past and they make a delicious hummus.

So a big shukran to Mohamed the mirthless in the Rif Mountains for warming my belly each morning with this classic soup, I wrote his recipe down one day, but it got lost along the way, I’m sure this is a reasonable attempt.  Proper mountain Bessara.  Travelling around Morocco changed my life, my world view and my feelings about stottie cake.  Bismillah!

 

Recipe Notes

By adding 750ml of hot water to the finished Bessara, you’ll have a soup.  As the soup cools, it thickens.

My favourite garnish for this soup is the harissa oil and black olives, maybe a sprinke of dried mint.  Toasted almonds are tasty too, as is fresh mint and you might like a lemon wedge on the scene…..the soup is really like a blank canvas for flavours, simply delicious but easily embellished.

If you are using split fava beans, there is no need to soak them beforehand.

Stirring a few handfuls of greens into this soup just before serving will be delicious and add a health twist and different texture, try spinach, chopped kale or spring greens.

 

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One of my favourite simple Moroccan dishes

Moroccan Bessara Soup with Harissa Oil 

The Bits – For 4 bowls

400g dried fava beans (split broad beans)

6 garlic cloves (peeled and finely sliced)

1.5 ltrs water

2 tbs cumin seeds

1 tbs paprika

2 tbsp olive oil

1 lemon (juice)

Sea salt (to taste)

 

Garnish (optional)

2 handfuls nice black olives (destoned) or toasted almonds (roughly chopped)

Sprinkles dried mint or chilli powder

Extra virgin olive oil (if not using the Harissa oil)

Fresh coriander (chopped)

 

Harissa Oil

The Bits – For one small bowlful

1-2 tbs harissa paste (how hot do you like it?!)

1/2 teas cumin seeds

1 teas coriander seeds

1/2 teas dried mint

1 garlic clove (peeled and crushed)

100ml olive oil

1 lemon (juice)

½ teas sea salt

 

Do It

Rinse the beans well in a colander with cold water.  Place in a large saucepan and cover with 1.5 ltrs of cold water, bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and place a lid on.  Leave to cook for around 45 minutes, until soft, stirring occasionally.

Place all the ingredients for the Harissa Oil in a blender and blitz until smooth.  Check the seasoning.

When the beans are about cooked, grab a small frying pan and warm on a medium heat, add your cumin seeds and toast them for a minute, tossing them gently in the pan.  They should begins to release their aroma and change colour slighty.  Place in a pestle and mortar and leave to cool a little, them grind them.  Enjoy the smell!  Taste a smidgen, if they are very bitter, they’re burnt, give them another try.  It’s easily done!

In the same frying pan, add the oil and then the garlic, fry until golden, should take a couple of minutes.  Add the cumin, garlic and paprika to the pan, stir in and simmer for a few minutes, then add the lemon juice and salt.  Check the seasoning, this soup will need a good amount of salt to bring the flavours out.  You might prefer it chunky, but when blended, this soup is velvety smooth.  I prefer it that way.  Use a stick blender.  It’s easiest.

Ladle the Bessara into bowls and top with olives, dried mint and harissa oil, or any of the other options above.  Best with flatbread.

 

Foodie Fact

Fava (very similar to Broad) beans are like all beans, they’re brilliant and protein powerhouses!  Nutritionally, they’ve no cholesterol or saturated fats, have plenty of fibre, vitamin K, B1 and B6, loads of minerals like iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, selenium, potassium and zinc, they even have some calcium.

Some tests have even claimed that fava beans can help with depression, they contain dopamine.

 

 

Categories: Budget, gluten-free, healthy, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Side Dish, Soups, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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

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

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

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

Gado Gado vendour, Sulawesi, Indonesia

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

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

SULAWESI STYLE

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

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

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

Recipe Notes

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

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

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

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

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

The Bits – For 4

Salad 

450g new potatoes (cooked and chopped)

300g mung or other beans (cooked)

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

1/2 green pepper (sliced)

1/2 yellow pepper (sliced)

2 big handfuls red cabbage (finely sliced)

2 ripe tomatoes (diced)

1/2 cucumber (diced)

4 Brussels Sprouts (finely sliced)

 

Topping

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

1 hot red chilli (finely sliced)

4 tbs toasted pumpkin seeds

 

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

 

Peanut Sauce

130g peanut butter (crunchy or smooth is fine)

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

30-40g palm sugar or brown sugar

1 large clove garlic (crushed)

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

1-2 red chillies

2 limes (juice)

2 tbs tamari or good soya sauce

1 tablespoon tamarind paste

Salt (to taste)

2 tbsp water (more if needed to thin)

 

Do It

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

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

Foodie Fact 

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

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

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

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

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

Street Eats and Delicious Days – Our Indonesian holiday snaps

Jungle Kopi Culture – Sampling Indonesia’s coffee revolution

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

Top 10 tips for new vegans

Travelling around, meeting and cooking for new vegans and the vegan-curious, reminds me how tough it can be at first.  Many people ask me for some tips to get started, so here’s my top ten.

Changing the way we live and have eaten is not something that happens overnight for most of us.  There are may ways of approaching this transition, but here are a few tips from my experience that can make things easier and result in a new healthy and positive lifestyle.

What vegans eat!  Huge burgers packed with flavour – recipe here.

VEGAN FOR ALL

Eating a vegan diet has never been so accessible and popular. Many of us now realise that it can be such a healthy and vibrant way to feed ourselves and our loved ones. Eating vegan minimises the suffering of animals, drastically cuts pollution and can open up a lifestyle that is based on compassion and greater awareness.  Yes, we do have to read the ingredients on packets and meal planning will take a little more thought at first, but these things seem minor when we take into account how much benefit we can do for animals, the planet and, with a balanced vegan diet, ourselves.  Vegans generally have lower cholesterol, body fat, risks of type-2 diabetes, cancer and blood pressure.  It’s a no lose situation and it doesn’t have to be difficult.

MY STORY

I was a vegetarian for years before becoming vegan and the transition was an instant thing.  I watched a documentary and that was it.  I was down to only occasionally eating cheese, but when I realised that there is no major difference between the meat and dairy industry as far as the cruelty to animals, I dropped the Christmas day Stilton for good.  It just didn’t seem worth it.  As things go, looking back, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and I hope these tips help in your transition to a more peaceful and totally delicious way of living.

Going vegan seems to be infectious, I look around me, years later, and see many people I know and family members giving the lifestyle a go or at least cutting back on meat and dairy.  I didn’t have to say anything, I just cooked!

So here’s my Top 10 tips:

1 – Easy does it… – I think it’s unreasonable to suggest that we all go vegan overnight.  For most people, a transition period is needed.  Start to incorporate vegan staples into your life and try out your new batch of vegan staple recipes, things that are quick, healthy, easy and filling that can replace all your favourites; things like lentil spag bol, shepherd-less pie, macaroni cheeze, bakes/ casseroles, stews, salads, soups, curries, omelettes, pizza, cakes and cookies.  These are the old school favourites that are easy to prepare and we know, most people love.  They are also awesome when made vegan, everyone loves them!

Also, try out some vegan staple ingredients like nutritional yeast flakes, tofu, tempeh, nut butters, sweet potato, hummus, seitan, jackfruit; these are all interesting new additions to anyones diet and with the correct cooking, are delicious and nutritious.  Of course, who doesn’t love a bit of avocado on toast.  Avocado is an ingredient I find most vegans love to use.

You’ll find over 200 of our vegan recipes here.  

If you are struggling at first, maybe start with one day at a time and expand on that.  Say, Tuesday I’m all vegan, see how it goes and if you run into issues, see how you could avoid them.  Most people find it easy at home, but at work or when travelling/ eating out, slip up.  Slipping up is cool, don’t beat yourself up about anything, but there are lessons to be learned there and it normally involves planning a little better.  Calling restaurants in advance to check about vegan options, travelling with vegan snacks, taking out packed lunches/ dinners.  It’s also sometimes a case of just being happy with whats on offer, if its only chips and a salad, no problems.  By mentioning that you are vegan, the staff/ management will become aware of their growing need to adapt.  Sometimes I may write an email if there are no vegan options and it’s a restaurant that I like.

2- Try a plan – I’m no great planner, but I know they can help and will certainly assist with your weekly shopping, as you begin to seek out and buy new ingredients.  A vegan diet is in no way more expensive than any other, but you may need to gradually re-stock your cupboards with some new and exciting ingredients, keeping a good stock of fresh fruit and veg, dried fruit, nuts/ seeds, wholegrains and beans.  Plan a little extra time for cooking vegan dishes, it will take time to learn new techniques and there can be a few more ingredients to play with in the kitchen.

You could think about trying out Veganuary, I know many people who have used it as a base to go vegan long term.  There is loads of support and inspiration there.  Also, the Vegan Society have a 30 day vegan pledge that is well thought out and has all the nutritional information you could need.  For the record, a balanced vegan diet, based around fresh fruit and vegetables, pulses, nuts, dried fruits and whole grains is going to give your body and mind amazing nutrition, but I’d recommend your read more about vegan nutrition on the Vegan Society website.   The information there is easy to follow and practical.

I don’t know about you, but I love to learn more about the foods that I eat, the fuel for my body, and how it affects my health.   Nutritional deficiencies are an issue across the board, not just solely for vegans, there is a lot of misleading studies and articles out there; calcium, iron, omega fats and protein can all be readily found in a vegan diet.  Read up on Vitamin D, Iodine and B12 would be my advice.

All the nutrients without the animals

3- Fill up – When you’re getting used to a vegan diet, many people say that they feel hungry.  This is where I’d say fill up on high protein and carb foods.  Things like pulse/ legumes, nuts and seeds, tofu, tempeh, seitan, quinoa etc are all high in protein.  I guess the idea is to not just drop the meat or dairy from meals, but replace it with something nutritious and plant-based.

If you feel fatigued and weak at first, this will pass, remember that many athletes are now vegan and praise the diet for enhancing their recovery times and overall performance.

If you eat a lot of dairy, meat, drink alcohol and coffee etc, then just drop it all, your body will go through a detox period that can lead to fatigue, nausea and generally feeling rough.   Again this will pass, but unless you’re on a planned and even supervised detox, I wouldn’t recommend just dropping everything at once.  Meat and dairy also contain lots of fat, your body may crave it, maybe up the plant fats in your diet for a while.

You will most probably get cravings, stay strong and satisfy them in plant based ways.  After all, things like vegan chocolate, pizza, burgers and crisps are just as amazing as the other stuff.  The cravings go, hang in there!!

Key facts about a veganism

4- Find alternatives – This is becoming ever easier.  Cheeze, sausages, burgers, pizzas, yoghurt, milks, mayo, single cream, even creme fraiche are all available in most supermarkets.  You can also make your own if you have time, that is of course, our way, but the vegan diet is now convenience friendly for sure.  We all need a little convenience sometimes and this can help make things more sustainable in the long run.  Once you’ve found where everything is in your local shops, there will be vegan options in most places now, you can get into a new routine and whizz around in no time.

You’ll find that substituting the vegan options into your favourite recipes works.  There is cheese now that melts, cream that is creamy and mayo that hardly anyone can tell the difference between.  With the increased vegan market, there has been a general increase in vegan food quality.

Check out cereals and milks fortified with vitamins and minerals, these can be a great source of what we need.  Most new vegans I speak to mention how much more they think about their diet and the choices they make revolving around food, for me, this is one of the added bonuses of going vegan.  Educating ourselves and eating in new ways, it’s all fresh and creative.

It doesn’t all have to be pizzas, falafels and burgers, vegan cooking can be more refined. Pappardelle with Artichoke & Almond Sauce.

5 – If at first…. – You think tempeh and seitan are uurgh and tofu is not your thing, all is well.  These things need to be cooked right, and when they are, I find that most people love em!  However, a vegan cooks options are huge and they don’t need to be based around the classic vegan staples.  There are so many ways of making plant-based ingredients shine and you will get the hang of it.  Tastes change with time and who knows, maybe soon you’ll be digging seitan?!

6- Hit the umami – The big, savoury flavours, that we are used to in a meat/ dairy diet may not always be there for you when you are learning your new vegan recipe repertoire.  I say, go umami!  Giving  up our favourite foods is not easy, we’ve enjoyed them all our lives.  Things like mushrooms, yeast extract, olives, balsamic vinegar, fermented foods (kimchi!), sun dried tomatoes, tamari/ soya sauce, miso are high in umami and vegan cheeses are packed with it, like cheddar/ blue-style and Parmesan.

We can’t just rely on one big piece of roasted meat for flavour, we need to be creative, layer our flavours, tantalise our palate in new ways and be more conscious of pairing textures and colours.  Roast things, fry them up, get out a griddling pan or even better, a barbecue, use big and bold sauces and dressings.  The options for amazing vegan food are endless.  All of this is can be a challenge, but a great one, we’ll become better cooks and no doubt, more connected with the food we eat.

I travel a lot and know that it can be easy to be vegan on the road.

7- Vegan on the road, no probs! –  Check out local vegan restaurants, Happy Cow is a great source of info, and keep your eyes out for Lebanese (see above). Indonesian and Indian restaurants especially, there will be many vegan options there.   I find that most countries I travel to have a wide range of traditional dishes that are already vegan.  Of course, some countries are easier than others.  Also, always keep plenty of snacks on you, just in case.

8- Be gentle and kind with yourself – If you slip up, that’s normal.  If you are persistent, you will get there.  If you miss your daily kale smoothie hit, no problems.  Our diets have to be flexible and fun.  Having positive intentions is the key thing and not being disheartened when you first start out.  Your body, and digestion especially, may take a little time to get used to the shift, but after a few weeks, you’ll be flying!!

I believe that anyone can be vegan and very healthy, regardless of body type.  Many of the difficulties that arise in the transition period are in the mind, stay positive, join friendly and supportive local or on-line vegan groups and remember that you are joining a family of people, millions strong, who live well all over the world.  You’re not alone, but some people around you may be critical, which is their stuff entirely.  Stay true to the ethical reasons you chose to go vegan and spread your new lifestyle by communicating positively, not being drawn into arguments (which can be tough) and living the vibrant potential that a vegan diet offers.

9- Supplements are fine – I was a little put off at first about taking supplements, but they can really help us get what we need.  Many vegans take iron, omega fat, iodine and B12 supplements.  Also, maybe some vitamin D unless you live in a sunny place.  These are all good ideas and something that many people need a boost in, not just vegans.  There are fortified foods out there which will help with keeping us shining and well.

10- Stay positive and open – If you want to do it, you will.  If you stay positive, the whole process will be much more enjoyable.  This is not a punishment in anyway.  Going vegan should be a enjoyable thing, where you can learn and grow, meet new liked-minded people and gain new insight.  There will be times when people question your choices, you don’t have to go into detail or in at the deep end all the time, you can say you like the food or just change the subject.  Sometimes we don’t have the energy or resolve for a full-on debate and that is fine, many people hold strong views about a vegan lifestyle, but in my experience, most people are curious and open minded about it all, asking questions in good faith.

Just simple answers can work; good for animals, good for the planet, good for us.  Keeping our positive energy topped up is so important, conflict is draining, we need to take good care of ourselves physically and emotionally if we’re going to be at our best.  If we want to be shining lights for a brighter future for us all, we need to charge up!  If we are empathetic, and let’s face it most of us were not born vegan, we will have a much better platform for talking about veganism and a better chance that our message will be understood and considered.

How your diet can change the world

We should never feel bad or shy about speaking about veganism, but should be sensitive and constructive at the same time.  Again, these sometimes challenging conversations are an aspect of being a vegan that we can get used to with a little experience and support.  Ask fellow vegans for advice and don’t judge others.  If I communicate clearly and with sincerity, I find most people are open and receptive.  My approach is, preach from the plate, cook amazing food and enjoy it!  Good vegan food is a powerful message in itself.

If after, say a few months, you are no closer to being fully vegan, maybe revisit your original reasons for choosing this path.  Remind yourself of the motivation, ethical or otherwise, that stirred you into wishing to make a change.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about your vegan adventures and any challenges you faced.  What were the best bits?  I think one thing is clear, there is no one way, but there is always your way!  I feel that going vegan is not giving up anything, we’re actually gaining so much.  Peace and Good luck!

Here’s our vegan cooking group on facebook if you’re looking for inspiration and support.

I also like the group Vegan Food UK, lots of like minded, friendly vegans over there.

My favourite book relating to veganism is The World Peace Diet by Will Tuttle.  Here’s one of my favourite vegan interviews with Will.

Carnage by Simon Amstell is brilliant and the Okja movie on Netflix I enjoyed.

Some popular vegan documentaries are What the HealthForks Over Knives (Health), Cowspiracy (Environment), Earthlings (Animal Agriculture/ Meat and Dairy Industry), Vegucated (New Vegans)

 

Categories: Healthy Eating, Healthy Living, Inspiration, Nutrition, plant-based, Travel, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , , | 9 Comments

Cashew & Kale Black Bean Mole with Smoky Bacon (Vegan)

 

Smoky Cashew & Black Bean Mole with Tofu Bacon (Vegan)

Mole sauce is such a Mexican classic!  A full-on fiesta of flavours; spices, chilli, smoky chipotle, creamy black beans, chocolate and here I’ve added some cashew butter instead of the traditional peanuts.

These beans are quite a mouthful!  Spicy, chilli, creamy with a tickle of lime at the end and when served with smoky tofu bacon and all your favourite Mexican condiments; salsa, avocado/ guac etc you’ve got a Mexican feast.  There is a black bean & cacao recipe in Peace & Parsnips, this is a new twist on that really.

I was lucky to travel from the North to the South of Mexico by car a good few years ago.  Zig zagging down Mexico I did munch the odd taco and was blown away by Mole!  I’d never heard of it before and was mesmerised by the complexity of it, the stories of how it takes days to make (something to do with grinding and roasting all the ingredients).  It seemed like such a legend!  It is.  Normally served as a treat during a massive, joyful party, which are common in Mexico, so much so that ‘Ir a un mole’ (Go to a mole) is used to say ‘Go to a wedding’.

Mole comes in all shades in Mexico, of which Mole Poblano is probably the most famous, the flavours of which, if not the techniques of cooking, my mole beans take after.

How many savoury dishes are enhanced and inspired by chocolate so effortlessly and deliciously?  I have used Willie’s 100% Chulucanas Peruvian Cacao, bought by the block, you will find it in supermarkets and of course, on line.  This is the best cacao I’ve ever tasted in the UK.  Grated into this dish, it will be sublime!  Adding richness and depth to the dish.  However, other cacao and cocoas will be more than fine also.  I’m thinking about experimenting with a cacao gravy for Christmas dinner.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

I’ve streamlined the traditional recipe here big time, it’s normally quite involved and uses a whole cupboard of ingredients, spices and a whole gaggle of Mexican style chillies, which are totally awesome, but not always that easy to get hold of.  Chipotle paste is a decent go to, I made my own Chipotle en Adobo recently, which is well worth it if you’re a Mexican food fan or just mad about things chilli and smoky.

The best black beans yet! Straight from Mexico City.

The real inspiration for this dish was Helga, a good friend of my sis’s, Laura.  Helga is Mexican and sent these beans from Mexico City to be used especially for just such a dish.  I’d also like to thank the cooks of the B.H.K Vegan Cooking Group on Facebook, who voted for a savoury dish this week.  The delicious thing about this type of dark mole is that it skirts between sweet and savoury, with the addition of raisins here and a good amount of cocoa/ cacao.  I must admit, I was a bit surprised when the savoury vote came in, I was sure it would be sweet all the way!  I’d even got a recipe lined up and everything!!

Mole!!  Vegan!!!  Por favor

Recipe Notes

I’ve added grated golden beetroot, red cabbage and red pepper to the plate, for crunch and colour.  These kind of ingredients, along with carrots, cauliflower, savoy cabbage etc can all add the same crunch and colour to any dish.  Brightens things up no end!

I’ve added some simple tomato salsa to the dish and sliced avocado.  Lime, essential on, or in, most things Mexican and of course a god tickle of chilli!  I also like serving this dish with some warm tacos/ tortillas.

These beans and bacon make the most perfect leftovers, especially when wrapped up in a warm tortilla (I like the corn ones).  When I say tortilla, I mean the soft ones, not the big nacho style ones that look like napkin holders.

The black kale/ cavolo nero, adds great texture to the beans.  Savoy Cabbage or Spring Greens will also be delicious.

Chipotle paste?!  No probs.  Head down a supermarket and ask someone.  It’s there.

I used the crumble method of cooking the tofu bacon in the pics.  Both methods are really nice.

If you plan on keeping the mole, don’t stir in the lime juice until you are about to serve it.  Tastes amazing that way.

Lets MOLE!!!

(By the way, for those who are not too familiar with Mole, the e has a little dash over it, making it Mole as in Olé!  Not the same as the small, lovely creature that terrorises lawns.)

So…..lets MOLE!!!!

———————–

Cashew & Kale Black Bean Mole with Smoky Bacon (Vegan)

The Bits – For 4

550g black beans (cooked)

2 big handfuls black kale/ cavolo nero (chopped into strips)

1 large onion (sliced)

4 cloves garlic (crushed)

3 medium tomatoes (chopped)

2 tbs tomato puree

1 stick cinnamon

2 teas all spice

2 teas ground coriander

4 tbs raisins

2 tbs chipotles en adobo/ chipotle paste (how hot do you like it?!)

 

250ml water/ or bean cooking broth

2 tbs cocoa/ cacao

3-4 tbs cashew butter/ peanut butter

1-2 teas sea salt

1 lime (juice)

2 tbs cooking oil

Salt and pepper (for seasoning)

 

Garnish

2 handfuls coriander

1-2 chilli (finely sliced)

Vegan yoghurt/ sour cream/ creme fraiche

Lime wedges

 

Do It

In a large saucepan, warm the oil on medium heat, fry the onion for 12 minutes until caramelised and golden, add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the cinnamon stick, all spice, chipotle sauce, coriander, raisins, tomatoes and tomato puree and stir. Cook for 5 minutes until the tomatoes are soft, add the beans and water. Put a lid on it and cook on a low heat for 20 minutes.

Stir in the cashew butter, kale and cacao, cook for a further 10 minutes. The beans should be breaking down and going a little creamy. Now stir in the lime juice, season with salt and a good amount of pepper and serve straight away.

Serving ideas – Ideal with a crumble of tofu bacon, sour cream/ yoghurt and coriander.  It makes a nice dip too. Take the cinnamon sticks out and pulse it s few times in a blender. Serve with nachos and guacamole.

 

Smoky Tofu Bacon

The Bits – Serves 6-8 as nibbles
450g firm tofu (cut into bite size pieces, cut thinly for sandwiches)

Marinade
3-4 teas smoked paprika (more if you like it really smokey!)
1/2 teas turmeric
1 1/2 teas maple syrup
1 teas nutritional yeast flakes
2 teas tamari/ soya sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbs veg oil

 

Do It

Mix marinade ingredients together in a bowl. Marinate in a fridge for a couple of hours or overnight is good.

Preheat a fan oven to 200oC and place tofu onto a lightly oiled baking tray. Cook in the oven for 25 minutes. Until nice and crisp.

Serve straight away but is also very nice served cold.

Use the leftover marinade to dip the tofu in or as a base for a dressing or even add to a stew/ soup to add a little flavour kick.

For the tofu bacon crumble – I mashed up the tofu, then marinated. Drained excess marinade and fried in a large frying pan on medium/ high heat with 2 tbs cooking oil until caramelised and crispy, roughly 8-10 minutes.

Vegan Black Bean Mole with all the gorgeous flavours of chocolate, chilli, spices and even cashew butter for extra richness.

Foodie Fact 

Black beans are one of the best sources of protein out there.  They are also one of the best sources of things called phytonutrients (basically, compounds in plants that do us loads of good).  They’re a good source of iron, copper and plenty of fibre.  They will help us to take care of our bones and heart, they even contain selenium, which is not found in many places in a plant-based diet.  Overall, they are a very healthy and super tasty star!

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I couldn’t write about Mexico without sending my love and best wishes to all effected by the recent earthquake in and around Mexico City.  If you’d like to help, here are details of an amazing charity, A Hand for Mexico, based in Mexico City and helping the people affected, as well as helping to re-build the city, focusing on shelters, schools and hospitals.

Categories: Dinner, gluten-free, healthy, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Stew, Travel, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Vegan Thai Yellow Curry with Squash & Fava Beans

2017-09-28 18.17.44

Thai Yellow Curry with Squash & Fava Beans

This is an ideal, quick and easy, curry at this time of year, using seasonal squash (one of my favs) plus British grown fava beans from Hodmedods and all the beautiful flavours of Thailand in a creamy and rich coconut sauce.  It’s one of those dishes that most vegetables will love and mingle into, add whatever combos you love, I kept it simple here.

SQUASH SEASON

There are so many squashes around at this time of year, the one I used here was a Hokkaido Squash which is a great all-rounder for roasting, stew/ curries and grating or slicing into a salad.  Hokkaido is lovely and sweet with a brilliant orange colour and is normally quite small, making it ideal stuffing size.  You’ll also find loads of Acorns, Kabocha, Crown Prince (I love that one) and if you’re lucky, a Spaghetti Squash, which is well worth seeking out.  When roasted and fluffed with a fork, it forms a spaghetti like texture.

A lot of people I meet don’t like squash, strange as that may sound to some of you.  It’s normally down to the fact that pumpkin is so popular, the variety we carve strange faces into at Halloween (although we always used a giant swede – the vegetable that is).  That type of pumpkin is a little watery and lacking in flavour, not great eatin’, I’d recommend any of the winter squashes way ahead of old scary pumpkin head.

RECIPE INSPIRATION VIA BANGKOK SUBURB

This recipe is based on one of our favourite places to eat in Bangkok, Lemon Farm Organic Restaurant near, well, it’s kind of popped in the middle of a mass of sprawling Bangkok-ness (Chatuchak).  It’s an out of the way place if you’re a tourist, a mainly residential area where we had the pleasure of staying with the awesome Kessi for a few weeks.  There was really very little to do, so Jane and I did a lot of cooking (using only a rice cooker and kettle) and made a little home on the 13th floor of a tower overlooking the sprawling, buzzing city of Bangkok.

Down the market – Bangkok ’16

This dish is modelled on something cooked for us by the amazing Buppha, head chef/ manager at Lemon Farm, which was a sweet, rich and coconut-y lentil dish from her hometown of Phuket in the South.  I had never tried Thai lentils before and it really inspired me.  She made it with red lentils and always shared her recipes generously, but I was normally trying to write them down in a little notebook whilst holding a plate of food and being jostled by crowd of hungry Lemon Tree punters.  It got packed at office lunch time you see.  So I free styled this recipe and used the best of what was to hand, but the taste is similar, reminders of good times for sure.

THAI-STYLE (EAT!)

Phuket is a foodie centre, which can be said for all parts of Thailand I’ve found, and the dishes there are distinctly chilli-fied!  Pow!!    Buppha used to wake up at 4am with her team of chefs to prepare the days array of dishes and was very passionate about all things cooking, many of the recipes had been handed down to her by her mother/ grandmother.  The food was served buffet style, with a little noodle soup spot in the corner of an organic food shop.  It was cheap, very varied, plentiful and many dishes were vegan friendly, using some tofu and lots of interesting veggies.  Buppha just loved cooking with vegetables and they even had their own little vegetarian festival.  A week of vegetarian cooking that falls between September and October most years, most Thai’s go veggie at that time.  This years festival ended yesterday!

This one’s full of the flavours of Thailand!

VEGAN THAI TRAVEL

Thailand is of course a Buddhist country, but meat is very common in dishes, to the point that eating without planning in Bangkok and all over Thailand can be a challenge.  This is just one of those things, the veg markets in Thailand are some of my favourite in the world.  In fact the veg market in a little fishing town called Prachuap Kiri Khan is probably my favourite in the world (not to mention they have a vegan restaurant and a couple of vegetarian restaurants, plus an outdoor food market every night).   These veggies just don’t seem to surface on restaurant menus though, but this is a gripe of mine all over the world (one you’ve probably heard before).  It seems that most veggies are used in the home and meat is a ‘treat’ when people go out to eat.  Having said that, Thai’s seem to eat out all the time, everyday, such is the abundance of street eats to be found.  No country is like it, most streets have carts, wagons and tables vending all kinds of local delicacies.  It’s almost impossible to keep up with what is going on and taste bud overload can occur.

Prachuap Kiri Khan is a small town, on the coast south of Bangkok, but we managed to stumble upon a vegan festival there!

Thailand is not the easiest country to travel around as a vegan, especially when you get off the tourist trail.  English is not spoken generally and like I said, vegan options need to be sniffed out and the outrageous abundance of Thai street food is pretty much off the menu.  Still, when you do find vegan hot spots, like the tourist friendly Chang Mai or one of the main tourist islands like Koh Samui, you’ve hit Thai food heaven.  Thai food is very diverse, much more interesting than I imagined on my first visit.  I was ignorant to the geographical differences in ingredients and flavours, styles and approaches.  I should have known better really, as this is nothing new in the world of food, most countries have a similarly rich tapestry of dishes and produce as you wander around.  Nowadays, when I return, that first Green Curry or Pad Thai Noodles is always a very special moment.

There is such a buzz to eating in Bangkok, eating out really means that, outside, huddled over a table near a main road, or near one of the hundreds of canals (think watery thoroughfare).  Theres a bustle and energy to it all, loads of skill and panache in preparing and serving food and you can spend all night walking around, eating tiny delicious portions of things and just keep going until the early hours.  It’s one of the highest forms of grazing, snacking at its best, Thai style!

Big Thanks to Hodmedods!

Just for being awesome really!!  They have such an amazing array of British grown pulses and seeds, so many interesting things (to me), like Blue Peas, Carelina Seeds, Black Badger Peas, Fava Umami Paste, loads of ingredients that get me excited about cooking, trying new things.   If you’re interested, they even do a Big Vegan Box!

Hodmedods were kind enough to send us some of their pulses and bits to cook with at our recent retreats and I think their fava beans are a cut above.  Filled with amazing flavour, I love making Fave E Cicoria, a really simple Puglian bean dip.  Making it with Hodmedods beans makes a huge difference to the flavour.  The dish is simply made with cooked fava beans, garlic and a little olive oil.  Doesn’t sound like much admittedly, but with those beans, it’s dynamite!!  PS – Well done on winning the 2017 Best Food Producer at the BBC Food Awards.  To celebrate they’re offering 15% discount on orders.

Recipe Notes
You can use any lentils you like, red lentils will take considerably less time to cook. Green/ brown lentils, dark green/ puy lentils will all work nicely.  Mung beans are also very ace.

Not all coconut milk is equal.  Check the cans, we’re looking for plenty of coconut content, if it’s around 50%, its going to be quite weak.  Still nice, but not as creamy.  We’ve been talking about the differences between Coconut Milk and Coconut Cream over on Facebook in the BHK Vegan Cooking Group.  I like this dish really rich and really creamy.

Check that your Yellow Thai Curry Paste is vegan.  It normally is.  The Green and Red Thai Curry pastes in most UK shops are not vegan.

Shop bought Thai curry paste can be high in salt, this effects our seasoning.

I didn’t have any coriander or fresh chilli, but that would have been the perfect addition to the topping of this dish.

2017-09-28 18.16.47

Thai Yellow Curry with Squash & Fava Beans

Quick Thai Yellow Curry with Squash & Fava Beans

The Bits – For 4

250g fava beans

900ml water

 

5-6 kaffir lime leaves

1.5 inches ginger (finely chopped)

4 cloves garlic (finely chopped)

1-2 teas chilli flakes

½ head small savoy cabbage (sliced)

1 small hokkaido squash – 300g (peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch chunks)

1 big handful desiccated coconut/ coconut flakes (toasted is nice)

1 can coconut milk

2 tbs coconut oil

4-5 tbs yellow curry paste (vegan)

1 tbs coconut/ brown sugar (optional sweetness)

Sea salt

 

Toppings (optional)

A little more desiccated coconut/ coconut flakes

1 red chilli (finely sliced)

1 handful coriander (fresh)

1/2 lime (cut into wedges/ slices)

The Bits

Do It
Wash and drain the fava beans. Cover with cold water in a large saucepan, bring to a boil, then simmer for 30-40 minutes, until soft. Add more hot water if needed.

While that’s going on, in a large frying pan, add the coconut oil, warm on medium high heat and add the onion and fry for 7 minutes until golden, then add the garlic and ginger, fry for 2 minutes. Add the coconut milk, chilli, desiccated coconut, lime leaves, squash and cabbage, bring to a boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the squash is soft. Stir in the yellow Thai paste, sugar and cooked fava beans (including cooking broth), warm through for a few minutes, adding a little hot water if needed.  Check seasoning.

Serve with warm rice, more toasted coconut, lime wedges and sliced red chillies if you like it hot.

*To add a Thai flavour to your rice, why not add a few lime leaves and a handful of coconut when you start cooking it.*

Foodie Fact

You all probably know that I love my beans!  But favas…..they’re almost a different league.  PACKED with flavour and so, so good for us.  Fava beans were dried and ground down to make bread traditionally in the UK, it was one of our major crops before we went wild for wheat and potatoes.  There is a rich history of fava/ broad bean growing in the UK, but growing up, they always seems a little exotic, something from the Middle East maybe, not the Midlands.

Fava/ Broad Beans are rich in shiny things like Vitamin K, Thaimin, zinc, potassium and loads of other minerals.  They are full of protein and have no saturated fat or cholesterol.  They also contain good amounts of iron and folate (one of the vitamin B bunch), plus loads of fibre.

Categories: Autumn, Curries, Dinner, gluten-free, healthy, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , | 10 Comments

Dulce de Leche de Coco – Vegan Dulce de Leche

Vegan Dulce de Leche

This is a very simple recipe for vegan dulce de leche. I love the coconut flavour here, it adds something to the classic recipe. It’s a treat that keeps well in the fridge and is really versatile. I hear that in Puerto Rico they make DDL with coconut milk, so this might even be a traditional-ish recipe. Who knew!?  I think this is very coconuty, so I’ve swapped the name to reflect this.

Up here in the North lands (UK) we need a touch of sweetness. The skies are dark grey and its one long drizzle-fest. Some call it summertime in these parts. Jane and I are creatures of the sunshine, it’s a bit of shock to the system really, but we know how it goes. Moving on from weather, how about something sticky, sweet and gorgeous. This recipe only has a few of ingredients and requires a long, slow simmer which transforms it into something incredible.

SWEET TRAVELS

I always associate Dulce de Leche with my travels in Central America many years ago, it was a regular source of sweetness and when things were limited menu wise, you always knew dessert was looking good!

I remember going camping in the volcanoes of Guatemala (may sound a bit Joseph Conrad, but there are loads of people doing it). Our guides were lovely guys and we had an incredible time watching the sun rise over a strip of active volcanoes as they blew ash, boulders and toxic gas up into the ether. For dinner, we had beans. Then came dessert.  I peered into the pan bubbling over the fire to see a tin being boiled. I was intrigued and a bit uninspired by its potential tastiness. Turns out it was Dulce de Leche.  A tin of condensed milk boiled for a while produces old school Dulce de Leche.  But this recipe is easily as rich and moreish.

Like any much loved food, Dulce de Leche has quite a few variations and regional this and thats. In many parts of Latin America, its cooked right down, like a crumbly fudge. In Cuba they used curdled milk (which I’d like to veganize soon) and in Mexico they add vanilla to the mix. In Chile they make ‘manajar’ which has cannabis added, sure to liven up your morning toast. Variations are also traditionally made in France, Norway. Poland, Russia……it’s a worldwide craze!

Dulce de Leche is just milk slowly cooked with lots of sugar, the longer you cook it the more it caramelizes and gets more funky and deep in colour, sticky and lovely. It can do anything; on toast, as a filling or topping for cakes, stirred into smoothies, porridge or rice pudding. Really though, I’m a purist, straight out of the jar, onto a spoon.

There are a raft of recipes on line for vegan dulce de leche, I like the idea of using dates cooked with the coconut milk, but the results were not anywhere near as good as this recipe.  I’m going to keep looking into that one though.

Recipe Notes

A thick bottomed sauce pan here is ideal. Otherwise, keep stirring and ensuring your bottom doesn’t burn.

Remember, the longer you cook it. the deeper the colour. I like this lighter version, but cook it longer if you fancy something deep. dark and super rich.

I add much less sugar than your average dulce de leche, I find it easily sweet enough to satisfy my sweet tooth. Add more if you fancy.

If you feel like going a little Mexican, why not try adding 1/2 teas vanilla extract?

The Bits – One medium jarful

1 cans coconut milk

125g sugar

Large pinch sea salt

 

Leche Dulce de Coco

Do It

Place the bits in heavy bottomed sauce pan, heat on medium and whisk until the sugar is dissolved.  Allow the milk to boil and bubble gently until reduced to roughly 250ml stirring often and the colour has darken to a deeper brown.  This takes around 40-50 minutes.  Take this as far as you like.  The longer you cook, the sweeter and thicker it will become.  

Pour into sterilised jars and leave to cool.  Pop a lid on and keep in the fridge.  Will keep for a month quite happily.  If it separates, simply stir it.   

Still a chance to book onto one of our vegan cooking retreats:

One World Vegan 29th Aug -2nd Sep 17 or

Home Cooked Happiness 16th-20th Sep 17  

There are a few spaces left on each.  Bit last minute I know, but I find the best things are;)  

Hope to see you in North Wales soon!! 

Categories: Breakfast, Desserts, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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

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

COME AND COOK WITH US!!

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

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

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

Cooking at Trigonos last year.

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

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

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

Happy Cooking and Hopefully See You Soon!

Lee & Jane

North Wales, we love you!!

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

Seeking falafel perfection in Lebanon and making the dream falafel wrap

Welcome, to the land of falafel!  This was my favourite wrap, but it’s hard to tell.

I had a falafel recently in Newcastle which was less than incredible.  The falafel was only discernible from the bread by a shift in colour, in fact, it was actually drier than the thick, stale bread.  Both were only slightly more appetising than the rough paper they were wrapped in.  It had no sauce whatsoever.   Bit of iceberg lettuce.  ‘What’s going on!!’

A Turkish man made it for me, which made it even more hard to deal with.  But then the dawning came, there are no falafels in Turkey.  Why should he have known his way around this potential exquisite combination of simple deliciousness.  (I might add, this place does the best veg kofta and mezze’s in the North East.)   It’s like asking a Geordie to make the perfect momo…….  Sometimes, to truly understand something, we’ve got to go back to the source(ish).

Having not long returned from Lebanon, this entire experience was a taste bud trauma.  I decided to go home and look at my travel pictures, remind myself about the real deal, sate my hunger by the sheer tastiness of my memories of wandering around Lebanon, from falafel shop to falafel kiosk.  I got so excited, and into it, I wrote this.

Never short of a pickle in Tripoli. The perfect, salty and crunchy accompaniment to any wrap. I liked the violently pink cauliflower ones.

I had just over a week in Lebanon, it’s not a massive country, but it is well stuffed with chickpeas.  People love them, as do I.  Hummus, Mshbaha (creamy – recipe here), Fattet (stew) or even just a straight up bowl of warm chickpeas in their broth with a pile of flatbread and liberal sprinklings of intense cumin.

What I saw from my little Lebanese window was that no country worships the chickpea like Lebanon.  So mashing it up and deep frying it sounded like a great idea I’m sure.  I stand close to my assertion that anything deep fried, crispy and light, will taste great.  There is something primal when we bite into it and get the CRUNCH.  Even though, most of us now feel it naughty to munch on these deep fried globes of happiness, we still get a kick out of them.  You can bake them for slightly healthier results, but when in Beirut…..

Monster falafels taking over the city (a poster)

Falafels, bar the frying bit, are actually highly nutritious.  Packed with fibre, complex carbs and protein, they even have loads of minerals, high in iron for example and don’t get me started on the manganese content.  Through the roof!!  When you lather them in tahini, veggies, fresh herbs and a wholesome wrap, we doing alright there.  In so many ways.

A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF FALAFEL

Are you new to falafels?  Have you been living in very big, deep, dark cave?  If so, welcome.  They’re deep fried dough balls really.  Less exotic and sounding less appetising, but essentially, honest.   It is normally made with chickpea or fava bean (see my recipe for Egyptian falafels here) or sometimes both.  Add to that some herbs and spices and a normally healthy fistful of breadcrumbs and we’re getting there.  The best dishes, the ones we eat and enjoy most often, are always simple.  No falafel is an island, it needs it’s gang of accompaniments to shine (see below for the perfect crew).

Falafel Sayhoun wrap (action shot) – famous throughout Lebanon and it was nice.  Not number 1 though.

Strangely, falafel actually means ‘pepper’ (plural of) which somehow means ‘little balls’.  In Egyptian Arabic it means, ‘a little bit of food’.  It is popular across the Middle East, and now the world.  Originally (possibly) it was the Coptic Christians in Egypt who came up with falafels to keep them sated during Lent.  But this is a highly charged and sometimes political debate.  I’d just like to say that I live in Wales, halfway up a mountain and feel ill-equipped to deal with a full-on falafel debate.  I just know that they’re not from Wales.

I like a bit of this on my wrap, sprinkle of Sumac. Contentious I know, but gives it a nice citrus twang.

It has been said that the Pharoahs enjoyed nibbling falafels, but this is hard to prove, but nice to imagine.  Pyramids, falafel wrap stands……  In fact, you’ll find McFalafels in McDonalds all over Egypt.  Make of that what you will.

Some of the guys working in the falafel wrap joints are like an F1 pit crew.  Your falafel is ordered, with special requirements taken note of (almost everyone has  their own little wrap quirk) and wrapped in such a rush of energy and precision, sprinkle and roll.  It’s exhilarating.  These folk know their moves!  It goes; whack, whack, sprinkle, scatter, squirt, another scatter, roll, wrap, wrap, twist, launch at customer.  A fine art I’d say.  Not just the flavour going on here, its the buzz of watching a master at work.

FALAFEL GEEK CORNER

The current world record falafel wrap was 74.75 kgs, made in Amman, Jordan.  How they fried it, is interesting to think about.  When I checked out ‘world largest falafel ball’, here is what I got (350 lites of vegetable oil and fed 600 people!!):

You can eat falafels for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I’m not recommending it as a balanced diet, but if you’re in Beirut, it seems like a great idea.   As we can see, not all falafels are created equal, there are a few rules that I gleaned from friendly Lebanese cooks and falafel aficionados, here are their teachings,

The decor in Falafel Sayhoun, a Beirut institution. The falafel were heavy on the black pepper I thought.

THE DREAM FALAFEL WRAP (LEBANESE EDITION)

Is light on bread, a pitta cut in half thickness wise.  Some pickles (pink turnip is nice), some tarator (basic tahini sauce), a few squashed falafels, tomato and lettuce, fresh mint, sometimes parsley, served with some long green pickled chillies.  That’s basically it!  Simple as and normally quite small.  Generally costing around £1.

One of my favourite falafel was eaten beside Baalbek (see this ‘I Ate Lebanon’ post) and served by Ali, the ‘King of Falafels’.  A well named man.  He was a super star.  Baalbek is close to the border with Syria and my journey took a few minibuses, the last one filled with Lebanese army, to get there.  Zero tourists, I had the place to myself, the carvings of Cleopatra and the well preserved temple to Dionysus were real treats.  After walking around in the baking sun, this falafel was well needed.

What makes the perfect falafel wrap?

So a recap, in Lebanon, this is the low down on the perfect falafel wrap:

  • Thin flat bread, most are cut in half.
  • Not massive, 3-4 falafels, 12 inches long.  A snack.
  • Light and crisp falafels
  • Pickles.  Check out those intense pink turnip pickles!!
  • A little tomato and lettuce.
  • A good spoonful of creamy tahini sauce
  • Mint leaves, always fresh mint leaves.
  • Served with pickled green chillies (just a little spicy)

That’s it!  Simply amazing!!

BEST FALAFEL WRAP IN LEBANON….

Ali was pipped by, I’m not sure I should even mention this out loud.  Can you keep a secret?  (Whisper)…..There is a place, just up the road from Falafel Sayhoun, near the souks of Beirut……sorry…I’ve said enough.  Friends in Beirut would never forgive me, if you’re planning a visit, get in touch and I’ll give you the directions.  There is no sign or door, it’s that good! (Whisper over).

Meet Ali, the self-styled ‘King of Falafels’. A fitting name. Balbeek high street.

There is something perfectly balanced about it, a falafel wrap or mezze plate gives a sweep of nutritional boosts and most of all, it’s delicious and ticks all the boxes in and around our palate.

Some things will never get old and maybe just keep getting better!  As the world seems to get increasingly complex, simple pleasures are all the more important.  I felt so lucky to be able to enjoy one of my favourite street feasts with some awesome people in a country that is head over heels for food.

Souks of Tripoli, packed with potential falafel wrap ingredients. Maybe some roasted cauliflower would be nice in there?

Falafel lovers footnote:

Of course, Lebanon is not the only country where you can feast of falalels!  What’s your favourite place for falafels?……

 

Kathmandu’s finest – this was our Christmas lunch last year.  Not traditional, but tasty.  Addition of chips was appreciated.  All wrapped in a fresh naan.

Christmas lunch 2016, Nepal – just out of a ten day silent Vipassana meditation retreat.  What better way to celebrate!  Giant falafels!!

Categories: photography, plant-based, Snacks and Inbetweens, Travel, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I Ate Lebanon! – My experience of vegan Lebanese cuisine

Loved this lunch in an Armenian Restaurant plus live music/ bohemian-style hang out. Mahummara – think a dip, but much more, walnuts flavoured with pomegranate molasses (there’s a recipe in ‘Peace & Parsnips’) and fried courgettes with crisp onions and creamy tahini sauce.  Plus massive pot of rose and mint tea.  If you read a book here, they gave you a free drink!!  I was one of the only people not wearing a Trilby.

I am very lucky to travel so much in my life.  It’s basically called ‘not having kids’ according to many of my friends.  The freedom to jump around the world and feast like a happy herbivore.

I’d always wanted to eat my way around Lebanon and learn more about this incredible country.  I took the opportunity to stop in Beirut, as I headed back West from India earlier in the year.  I had a unique experience, flying to Ethiopia before heading up into the Middle East.  The views of Ethiopia from the plane window left me wanting to see more, and maybe a bit closer.

I was not disappointed by Lebanon in anyway, it’s a small country with a big heart and packs in some incredible sites and flavours for the curious and slightly intrepid traveller sort.  There are fascinating places here which see very little tourism.  But let’s start with the food….

Msabaha – I liked it so much, I did a recipe for it on the BHK.  See here.

MEZZA – LEBANON ON A (LITTLE) PLATE

Mezza (mezze/ tapas in the Middle East) was my main fuel for belly and tastebuds.  Wow!  Mezza in Lebanon made tables groan and filled me with a rainbow of colours and flavours.

Things like Baba Ganoush (Baba Ganouj sometimes), radiant salads, Ful (gorgeous, soft and rich fava beans), loads of pickled veggies, of course, gallons of creamy, sumptuous hummus (I’m not going over the top there), and falafels.  Falafels, then falafels and more falafels.  I ate piles of those delicious crispy lumps.  Mainly in a wrap.  I could have done a falafel recipe, but truth is, there no different to the gazillion that are out there now.  They are light and cripsy and in one of Lebanon’s most famous falafel places, Falafel Sayhoun, they are heavy on the black pepper.  A bit of a surprise.  I’ll write more about falafels soon.

I’m a vegan, falafels make up a large part of my dining out diet.  Therefore, I probably eat as many falafels per year as your average Lebanese person.  I was in good company.

Ful – Tasty breakfast, fava beans flavoured with a little spice and great olive oil. You are never more than a metre away from a pile of flatbread in Lebanon.

EATING LEBANON

My style is cheap.  What to do!  I love to travel which means that expensive restaurants are off the menu.  I’m fine with that.  I seek the best food in the street, down alleys, from little windows and stands, in peoples homes and local restaurants.  Basically, the food everyone is eating. the culinary pulse of a place.  Cutting edge is great, but I like to go straight to the heart first.  I’m very rarely disappointed.   I have no interest in decor if the food is bang on.

What we have here are a selection of vegan Lebanese staples.  There is one vegan/ vegetarian restaurant in Beirut, but really, the Lebanese cuisine is vegan friendly, there’s a falafel joint on every corner and thats just the beginning.  You’ll pick up a fresh juice without any problems, juice bars are all over the place.  Plus, there are loads of shops selling nuts, seeds and Turkish delight (normally vegan).  Ideal travel snacks when you’re wandering around in search of interesting nooks of cities and towns.  Maybe you’re a hiker?  Perfect.

One difficulty about ordering/ writing about Lebanese food is that it’s such a diverse place, with bags of culture/ influences, the names and spellings for many dishes seem quite fluid.  But here goes, many of which are lifted from scribbles in my notebook.

One of the main mosques, Mohammad Al-Amin, in central Beirut.

WHAT I ATE – VEGAN LEBANON

Where to begin?  Stuffed vine leaves.  Mujadara (rice and lentils – recipe in ‘Peace & Parsnips‘) normally with a tomato sauce, Manouche (see below – like a massive, thin pancake, stuffed with punchy za’atar and loads of olive oil, although fillings vary).  What else……sumac was there……..

This nice woman made me a Manouche many mornings. Interesting technique, rolled super thin, big flat glove type thing, slapped on a dome shaped hot plate. Leave to bubble and brown.  Enjoye with fresh juice and coffee.

The finished Manouche (Manakish)

I really enjoyed the veggie version of Fasoulya Hammanieh, a really rich bean stew which loved warm flat bread.  The chickpea is a hero in these parts.  I ordered an interesting sounding dish one night and what turned up was just a bowl of chickpeas in their cooking broth with a pinch of cumin on top.  Basic, but was really tasty.  The cumin, wow, potent stuff.

It goes without saying that the hummus is incredible, creamy and rich.  I wrote about hummus recently.  The tahini is also, as expected, next level plant-based creaminess.  You might know by now, and I not shy to say, tahini is probably my favourite thing in the world.  Taking a fried courgette/ aubergine and introducing it to a light tahini sauce is a beautiful act.

I did not manage to find any veggie Kibbeh, which was a shame, but there was enough to keep me occupied.  I enjoyed Makdous, bigger aubergine pickles stuffed with nuts.  Shades a pickled onion.   Batata Harra were a constant source of yum, baked or fried potatoes with a spicy, more-ish coating.  Spoon them in with hummus and pickle and again, we’re going somewhere nice for a while.

If you are Lebanese, or just know, what is the difference between Baba Ganouj and Mutabal?  Smoking?

Classic line up. This was actually my first meal, 1am after a long day and a bit travelling (from Delhi via Addis Ababa). You can eat awesome food late in Lebanon. Shakshuka (which was basically chips with tomato sauce and herbs, surprising), creamy rich hummus and a Lebanese beer.

LEBANON LOVES FOOD (AND DRINK)!

Lebanese people LOVE eating and many Lebanese dishes can be traced back thousands of years.  If it ain’t broke…..  Most restaurants and houses I visited had large groups of people sat around lots of dishes of food, drinking sometimes beer, wine or coffee and taking their time.  Maybe its the Mediterranean that does this to us.  Slows things down, makes us enjoy the good things in life a little more.  It certainly seems like the countries that circle this sparkling sea all know how to eat well and live easy.

Lebanese beer and wine is very good quality, I didn’t know much about it before, but some of the central valleys in Lebanon are making great wines and not too expensive.  Arak is popular, an aniseed alcohol which can also be good quality, but is normally proper rocket fuel.

When you drink, you eat.  I like that.  In the little, bespoke style bars of Beirut, I regularly got a little tray or bowl of something with my drink.  A nice touch, especially when you see the price of the drinks!!

Tabouleh, you probably know. Lots of herbs, chopped. Lebanon does amazing roast, spicy potatoes. Who knew?!  These sesame flatbreads were really quite special.  Fatoush is another delicious Lebanese salad, normally with a nice pomegranate molasses flavour dressing and crispy, flatbread croutons.

LEBANESE COFFEE

Tea and coffee are not such a big deal in Lebanon.  At least in public.  Unlike Egypt and Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries I’ve visited, there are not many tea shops or cafes.  I was told that people tend to drink tea in their homes and Lebanese coffee (Ahweh) is served in the Greek/ Balkan etc style of finely ground (Turkish grind), boiled in a little vessel and served in small, espresso size cups.  It’s robust.  The resulting coffee is strong, sometimes flavoured with things like cardamom, and leaves that tell-tale sludge at the bottom of your cup.  Lebanese people are very sociable and love entertaining guests.  Seems I missed most of the the tea parties!!

Sesame flatbread bakery – Tripoli.  That’s all they do, hundreds, thousands of steaming sesame flatbreads.  You know they’ll be good!!  Come out the oven puffed up like golden balloons.

I loved everything I ate in Tripoli, but this was challenging. Sharab Al-‘Eriq Sous is made by continuously pouring water through a bag filled with a licourice mix producing a potent licourice concoction. Wakes the taste buds up and makes you pull funny faces.

DESSERT

I didn’t actually sample many Lebanese desserts.  Most were dairy based and I was happy with the ubiquitous fruit, I was also normally stuffed from the meals and all that flatbread.  Halva, the nutty types, are normally vegan, but I find them overly sweet.  I like a little nibble though and it is delicious.  Of course, the tahini variety is a favourite.

Pastes, spices and herbs. I love these stalls.  Bought some Za’atar here and some nice dried apricots, to be made into a refreshing drinks.  Amar-el-Deen, sometimes with a little twist of rosewater.  Perfect in the summertime.  I’d never heard of it before and went to a world food store in Newcastle yesterday and found the exact same packet!!

BEIRUT

Is set on the Mediterranean coast and was not long ago,  a cosmopolitan city influenced by the French, attracting tourists from around the world with stunning architecture.  It is one of the oldest cities on earth.  Beirut has had it’s problems, you probably know all about them.  Basically destroyed by the recent civil war it is a city being rebuilt, pockets of nightlife, galleries, museums are springing up amidst the ongoing problems.  In parts of Beirut, you could be in places like soho, tiny bars and lots of well heeled trendy sorts hanging out drinking cocktails.  I stayed in a wonderful hostel in the centre of a well-to-do corner of the city, plush in parts, a place teeming with offices, restaurants and the occasional hummer.

The Saifi Urban Gardens band. Twice a week, everyone dances, but everynight there’s a party.

The hostel has a sprawling, open air restaurants downstairs, serving excellent, inexpensive food, with regular live Arabic bands.  It was a buzzing place, never dull and the staff were incredible.   Saifi Urban Gardens.

Beirut is good for a couple of days looking around and then serves best as a base for travelling around Lebanon, only a few hours on a bus will take you to any corner of the country.  Most people staying at the hostel, which is a real hub, were students of Arabic.  They did not seem to travel around much, citing tensions and security issues, but most local people just said “Go for it, all is cool.”  So I did and was rewarded with many memorable experiences.

One of the only French style buildings left in Beirut, certainly one of the most impressive. Sursock Museum

Of course, there are still challenges and problems in Lebanon. Protests happen often.

Street Art – Beirut

A RANDOM VEGAN POKE

Mar Mikael and Gemmayze are where the richer, trendy sorts hang out and there is a thriving bar and cafe culture in these areas, not to mention a diverse restaurant scene.  Over the road from my hostel, I bumped into a chef who showed me around his new restaurant, the theme is Poke (pronounced with an accent on the ‘e’, like ‘Ole!’).  Have you heard of it?  A concept he picked up in Hawaii, mainly seafood and veggies in a bowl.  Food that looks outrageously beautiful and he made me a special plant-based bowl.  It was dark, no pic.  It was interesting to be eating Hawaiian in Beirut.

Poke, Buddha bowls, whatever you want to call them, a very nice way of presenting a variety of foods and punchy flavours.  Don’t mix things up, keep them separate and appreciate each ingredients qualities.  I think it makes a nice change.   If you’re not familiar with these things, you’re probably not on Pinterest/ Instagram (like me).

One of the coolest people I met. Kid DJ in the old quarter of Byblos. Playing Arabic dance music turned up to 11 for no one in particular.  For the love of it!

Of course, being a vegan traveller you right off the majority of most menus when you move around.  But in Lebanon, what is left is so delicious and generally varied, that you would not dream of feeling left out of the moveable feast.  I lower my expectations and am normally just happy to get fed.  In Lebanon, I revised that, and realised that most Lebanese people love their veggies and pulses.

Lebanese cuisine is well up there with my favourites, being vegan, it’s even a little healthy, all that hummus, tahini, vivid pickles, fresh juices and normally wholemeal flatbread.

Beirut – no beaches, mainly little rock outcrops where people sun bath and chill. This is from the promenade known as ‘Corniche’. Here, you could be anywhere in the Med, as people come out to exercise and stroll with poodles around dawn and sunset.

Lebanon left a big impression more to come soon……The Perfect Falafel and more travel stories On The Road in Lebanon.

 

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Categories: Healthy Eating, photography, plant-based, Travel, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , , , , | 13 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

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

 

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

 

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

5th May – 12th May 2018

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Included


Airport pick-up and drop-off

Transport during the stay

7 nights at our villa right by the beach

Daily guided morning meditations

Daily yoga and pranayama classes with Complete Unity Yoga

Two specialised yoga and meditation workshops

Nourishing and deeply satisfying meals, freshly prepared by Lee Watson

Workshop on healthy diet

Bespoke recipe booklet

Cooking demonstrations

Cooking techniquies to bring home to keep the bliss growing

Trips to local treasures and gems

A unique afternoon yacht cruise

Three-Course Meal in Local Taverna

 

Find full pricing, bookings and retreat description HERE

 

Trips

 

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

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

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

 

Workshops Included

 

Stress-Proof Your Life With Yoga, Meditation and Mindfulness 

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

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

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

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

 

The Yoga

 

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

 

Yours in Yoga,

Malene – Complete Unity Yoga

 

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

 

Food

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Accommodation

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Retreat Pricing

 

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

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Local Area

 

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

 

 

Diving / Snorkelling

 

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

 

 

Find full pricing, bookings and retreat description HERE

 

 

 

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

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

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