Travel

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

What’s Sabji?  Thali?  Masala?


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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



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

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

 

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

 

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

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



Keep it spicy!!


Sending much health and happiness to you from the BHK


 

Recipe Notes

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

The Bits – For 4

1 tin chopped/ plum tomatoes or 400g tomato pasatta

3 heaped tbs tomato puree

2-3 heaped tbs peanut butter (unsweetened)

500ml hot water

 

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

1 large carrot (scrubbed and chopped)

1 small courgette (chopped)

 

Spices

1 1/2 teas ground turmeric

3 teas ground cumin

3 teas ground coriander

1/2 teas ground cinnamon

3 teas dried ginger

3 teas garlic powder

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

1 1/2 teas sea salt

 

Optional

Fresh coriander (chopped)

 

Do It

Set aside the courgette and peanut butter.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Foodie Fact

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

A fragrant, rich and flavoursome bake, loaded up with zesty spices and the creaminess of vegan Labneh 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Palestinian Za’atar, bought in Bethlehem

Za’atar

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

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

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

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

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

You can check out some of my Lebanese foodie travels here

Seeking falafel perfection!

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

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

Good food shared is soul food!

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

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

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

Happy cooking:)

Recipe Notes

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

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

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

Vegan

The Bits – For 8-10

2 tomatoes 

1 large aubergine

1 large courgette

1 tbs cooking oil 

6 cloves garlic (peeled and chopped)

1 large onion (diced)

1 pepper (diced)

1 large carrot (diced)

3 heaped tbs tomato puree

400g/1 tin tomato passata/ chopped tomatoes

240g/ 1 tin chickpeas (cooked)

225g red split lentils

1/2 tbs turmeric

2 tbs ground cumin

2 1/2 tbs za’atar

1 litre hot water

Sea salt and black pepper

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

Topping

Extra Za’atar

1 tbs pomegranate molasses 

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

Do It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!!  A vegan centrepiece fit for a sunny day 

Foodie Fact

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

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

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

Vegan on the Road – Walking the Portuguese Camino de Santiago, Spain (Pt. 1)

Just outside Porto Airport, the shells and yellow arrows began to appear. BHK on the Camino Portuguese ’19

“Camino!  Camino!!”  We made it!

Jane and I completed the Camino Portuguese this summer and would like to share with you our experience of being pilgrims; our pictures, the food we ate and the challenges we faced. There is way too much to say in one blog post, so there will be a few.  Looking back, they were precious times and well worth a few words.

Arriving in the main square of Santiago de Compostela is one hell of an experience!  The breath-taking cathedral complex, the general buzz and merriment of the joyful pilgrims, the sense of achievement and history that surrounds ‘El Camino’.  It’s intoxicating, even before the Estrella Galicia’s are cracked!  A fitting finale to the days, weeks, and sometimes, months of endurance and fortitude.  We’d all started at different points, for different reasons.  Pilgrims are attracted to these routes (or ‘caminos’) from all over the world; Japan, Peru, Slovenian, Cuba, USA, Korea, Mexico, are just a few of the nationalities we met.

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims complete the minimum four days walking per year and all routes finish at this point, outside the ornate facade of the cathedral, built over the tombs of the apostle St James.  Pilgrims have been gathering here, celebrating and venerating, since the early middle ages.  Back then, being a pilgrim was fraught with dangers and was undertaken as an act of penance and religious devotion.  It’s a little different now.

A waymarker in the middle of a forest. You see a lot of scallop shells on the Camino, traditionally used as a small bowl for offerings, eating or drinking.  It is mainly used now as an unorthodox wine glass!

Pilgrims pour through the narrow streets of the cities old town, past the ancient churches and inns, to see their first glimpse of the cathedral towers in the clear blue skies, it’s an emotionally charged experience.  It’s a carnival of battered walking boots, lycra shorts and limps.  There are bagpipes whining (a Galician staple), Ecuadorian missionaries singing songs with guitars, dreadlocked dudes meditating, Spanish kids tearing into the square barefooted (many pilgrims choose to walk the last day barefooted).  Most pilgrims are strooned out in the sun like lizards, propped up on colourful backpacks, staring off into space, halfway between exhaustion and elation.  No beatific, blister induced epiphanies going on here, just mild forms of sunstroke/ dehydration.

This is July and the shadeless square is like a pizza oven, +30oC and counting.  Those medieval architects were not into parasols and pina coladas, they had the divine on their mind.  Mingling in this multitude are streams of tourists snapping selfies, looking well showered and shaven.  To the pilgrims, they seem like people who’ve got a free ticket to the best gig in the world (and have never heard of the band).

We’ve all followed many little yellow arrows over mountains, along coastlines, through vast plains and cities, all imagining what the end would look like.  How we’d feel when the walking is over, like a stylus leaving a well loved record.  Pilgrims leap, pilgrims sing and for most, there is a sense somewhere within that we’re glad it’s all over, but we can’t wait to do it all again!  Or was that just me!!

Jane still had some energy!  Santiago de Compostela Cathedral

Being a pilgrim for a while is a way of life I’d recommend, if you’re looking for something, you might find it by walking the old pilgrim trails of Spain and France (some stretch all the way across Europe).  A good, old-fashioned long walk can make all the difference, a one-way ticket out of the daily grind.  There are sprinkles of magic out there, somewhere in-between the blisters, bunk beds and crescendos of snoring hikers, you’re sure to find some peace of mind and a good slice of soul.

Walking the Camino from Porto to Santiago de Compostela was a kaleidoscope of vivid and beautiful scenery, a glorious patchwork of people, from the quixotic to the capitalistic, the righteous to the rogue.  There were churches and challenges galore, not to mention many laughs, fragrant fields and feet.  We both had no expectations, we had just walked most of the demanding Rota Vicentina skirting the very South West of Portugal, with it’s precipitous coastlines, raging winds, mad surfers and quaint villages.  We felt fairly confident we could have a crack at the less arduous Camino and enjoy it.  We were in good fettle, could take it a little easier and just cruise.  We loved the pilgrim lifestyle, focused on walking and nature, exploring different terrains and trails.  There is a liberating rhythm to it.  It’s an empowering way to see the world, to arrive on your own steam, carrying all you need on your back.  It’s a little taste of freedom.

Pilgrim plate! We cooked most of our food on the Camino. We always carry herbs, spices, knives, a chopping board etc. It means the BHK is a mobile, moveable feast!!

I loved cooking in the hostels and the host of weird and wonderful kitchens we stumbled upon, generally basic, sometimes indoors, but with one constant, stunning local produce.  Vegan food is a little off-piste for most local restaurants, so we focused on hearty homemade dishes, heavy on the veg.  If you’re a vegan and you don’t want to eat bread and bananas 24/7, it’s worth planning a little before you set off.  Make sure you’re ready to do some cooking.  Pack a grater.  A peeler?

Portugal, and latterly Galicia, know how to garden and grow!  It’s a plant-based paradise down there.  The Camino is regularly flanked by family owned fields of various produce, poly-tunnels and little veg patches, most gardens in houses are filled with fruit and vegetables.  Large scale agriculture is rare.  Corn, grapes, nuts, berries, tomatoes, leeks, olives and lots of potatoes.  Official organic farms are rapidly growing in number.  In the South especially, we saw many idyllic, self-sustained places tucked away in the valleys.  It seems mainly elderly couples tend to the small plots, pulling old rickety carts filled with potatoes over cobbled streets, many driveways are covered with garlands of onions drying out in the sun.  I’ve rarely seen this before in my travels, a country so dedicated and skilled at growing their own.  It’s very exciting for a meandering vegan cook!  Whets the wandering appetite.

A rural garden beside the Camino Portuguese, filled with fruit and veg. Notice the ‘verde’ growing in the foreground. These are juvenile versions!

On your vegan ventures, you will find the ubiquitous Caldo Verde lifeline everywhere.  It’s more than a soup, it’s a national treasure in Portugal.  It’s a bowlful of vegan blessings (sometimes served with cornbread.)  A nourishing bowl of pureed potato and collards.  Light on the pocket and heavy in the belly, ideal pilgrim potage.  It’s easy to make at home, I’ll post a recipe soon.  Almost every garden is bordered by funny looking plant protrusions, like baldy broccoli on steroids.  This is the ‘verde’ in your ‘caldo’.  They are trained collard plants, leaves picked with precision, to grow tall, like kale palm trees swaying in the sunshine.  I still have no idea why they do this?  Any ideas?

VEGANS!  Always order your Caldo Verde without the sausage surprises.  You never know when they’ll rear their fatty heads.  The combination of potato (great fuel) and dark collards (loaded with vitamins and good stuff), a drizzle of olive oil and you’re looking at a decent lunch for a couple of euros.  It’s also served in Galicia.  We normally love a simple potato and leek soup in the Welsh wintertime, but this year, we’re adding some greenery.

A particularly good Caldo Verde, on the Camino Portuguese. CV, olives, bread, fruits and nuts. Perfect pilgrim fuel (tasty too;)

People walk the Camino for a variety of reasons, we had none.  Many of the best things I’ve done in my life have been without a reason.  It is a popular topic for conversation along the way, “Why are you walking?”  I just know that it felt right and Jane liked it too. With no reasons and few expectations, the door was open for us to just experience what was happening, step by step, until we got to shake hands with old St James.  He who brought Christianity to the Iberian Peninsula, a right hand man of Jesus.

We met many people going through big life changes and being on the camino, with a large group of generally disparate, yet supportive people, does seem to help and inspire.  Bringing objectivity and clarity.  Must be all that fresh air!  Even though sometimes you’re walking alone on the trail, it never really feels like you’re alone.  You’re part of something greater and there is a bubble of acceptance and kindness that is palpable.  You’re following in some pretty big and often saintly footsteps.  That alone is humbling and makes this no ordinary stroll in the countryside.  Walking everyday, with a shared purpose, means that your fellow pilgrims become a mobile community.  A gang of sweaty seekers.

The trail is flanked by historical niches, shrines and atmospheric churches, all immaculately maintained, with small candles flickering and a sense of piety in full flow.  Some roads are Roman by design, the worn rocks bearing the marks of millions of pilgrims through the ages.  Smiles are easily found and horns are peeped, “Buen Camino/ Bom Camino!!” is a phrase that echoes throughout the day as locals and passers by wish you the best.  Experiencing the reverence that many locals had for the whole pilgrim game changed something deep in my waters.  As it has no doubt changed many folks at levels unknowable, a shared spirit on the myriad routes that lead to Santiago.

Let the yellow arrows lead the way. The Portuguese Way is well ‘arrowed’ making it difficult to lose your way (unless you want to)

There are three main reasons for walking the camino, religious, spiritual or other.  At least they’re the options you have to tick on the check in cards at the government ran hostel (the cheap ones where you get the full Camino experience; a reasonable amount of snoring, sweaty boots, disposable bedding and an acceptable level of discomfort).  Pilgrimages are not meant to be 5 star!

Getting out of our comfort zones was something we were expecting and quite looking forward to. That comfort zone is a cold-blooded killer of zest, verve and vitality.  If life is one long camino, from ignorance to eventual enlightenment, surely, we’ve got to get off the couch!  Get out there into the world, start a journey, an adventure, embrace the unknowable outcome. These camino-style wanders seem like a ideal launch pad for such intentions.

Generally, when you travel like we have around the world, namely on a flimsy budget, off-piste and rough round the edges, most of the camino hostels were actually pretty comfy. Especially when you consider you’re paying 5-7 euros per night and are only there for a quick kip, shower and the joys of hand washing one’s smalls in outdoor sinks.  Al fresco, armed with underwear.  Actually, some hostels have washing machines.  Free of charge.  There are also more up-market options if sleep depravation and communal showers are not your bag.  But…

The coastal route of the Camino Portuguese begins with many small villages and then a long walk by the seaside!

The Camino Portuguese should be 260km, but we were wanton meanders, we took our time, we explored some nooks and crannies. Many pilgrims leave at 6am on the nose, we took it easier, it was a holiday after all!  Leisurely breakfast and we were happy to be out and on the trail by 9am.  Most days were flexible from a distance point of view, you could walk for a few hours or really push on for as long as you like.  The average day is probably about 20-25 kms.

We were lucky in the sense that we had no real time constraints, so we just wandered and picnic’d as we saw fit.  It was always nice to see fellow stragglers tucked away in the woods having a packed lunch, or having a dip in a stream, a beer at noon in a small cafe.  We gradually formed a group of strays with a shared pace on the camino, it might not have been with the traditional pilgrim zeal but it was about experiencing a distinct way of life and viewing the world at a relaxed rate of knots.  Going at our own pace, taking in a fuller experience of where we were, and why not!  Where we were was regularly beautiful.  I’m not one for routines as such, but the Camino did work it’s magic on me.  I got into a good groove.

Plant-based pilgrims!!  Jane and I taking a stroll in some old vineyards.

If you enjoyed this, there will be a Pt. 2 soon.  Probably less of a ramble, more details and how we nearly didn’t make it!!

It’s not all wide open spaces, there are lots of towns and cities to navigate along the way. Vigo, Portuguese Way (Caminho Portuguese)

 

More Vegan on the Road here, our travels around the beautiful regions of Andalucia

 

 

 

 

Categories: Healthy Living, photography, plant-based, Travel, Vegan, vegan travel, vegan traveller | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Baked Pea, Lemon & Mint Tortilla – Vegan and Gluten-free

Tortilla – One of my favourite tapas dishes can be vegan and delicious

I travel a lot in Spain, it’s one of my favourite places to get lost, eat well, experience sunshine and culture.  

As a vegan wanderer, the institution of the tapas bar can be a chastening experience.  Olives, bread, maybe the occasional mushroom is thrown your way.  Not much else.  While everyone feasts, I nibble.  I don’t mind really.  I never go hungry but I rarely get to sample the culinary adventure that’s happening all over Spain.  That is the way of things, but what it does stir up, is the desire to make tapas vegan.  In fact, make all of my favourite dishes purely plants!  I love the challenge.  At home, or at work, I get stuck into creating new recipes.

Many fail, some are decent, this one I like very much and make regularly.  I’ve been through hundreds of tortillas to make it here.  Trying out a variety of methods and ideas, making it with ingredients that are easy to source.   The tofu adds essential texture, both blended into the mix and roughly crumbled, the lemon elevates the flavours and the well cooked onion and garlic offer important depth.

Secret vegan weapon….

In fact, onions are an ingredient that is often overlooked in plant-based cooking.  They are the bedrock to so many dishes and how we cook them will make all the difference.  Vegan food can easily be bland, which is strange when you look at the list of ingredients in many dishes. Seasoning and well cooked onion will go a long way to making our plant-based dishes sing with flavour.

One thing I talk about loads is tasting food.  Taste, taste, taste.  Keep tasting, it’s the only way to develop a palate and with that palate, make your food taste awesome!  Just the way you like it, cook plenty and develop some skills that suit you.  Help you to prepare the food you want to eat.  It’s not important what the present Instagram craze is; blue smoothies, charcoal in stuff, at least it’s not to me.  It doesn’t have to be deep fried, covered in cheese, with a bucket of BBQ sauce to have flavour, to be exciting.  I aspire to live a simple foodie life, eating the food that is good for my soul.  It’s different for everyone, but surely, a tortilla is on the list right?!

Giant Tortillas  

When I was a vegetarian, a few moons ago, I used to visit a little tapas bar in the village where my parents own a property.  The woman in the kitchen was eccentric, around 80, with sparkling eyes and constant beaming smile.  Daily, a giant pea tortilla appeared from the kitchen.  A foot thick.  Only the eccentric can be this brilliant!  I’m exaggerating size wise but it wasn’t far off.

The pan she used was like something from an old-school foundry in Sheffield.  Some serious iron in that piece.  I was amazed she could lift the final pea studded behemoth which strained resplendent every mid-morning on the bar.  A slice would do four.  I was invited to the kitchen one day to witness the preparation, it was a exhibition of skill, grace and brute strength.  The son helped with the last bit.  Potato tortilla is good, but a pea tortilla just looks cooler, especially at that scale.  

Not many ‘Guiris’ ventured into that place, the decor was a little past it, the TV barked like a rabid megaphone, the furniture was uniformly battered plastic, but, the food was hot!  Hot in a good and simple and humble and just damn tasty way. Using local produce and time honoured recipes, the tapas was a treat.

Being a local ‘Guiri’

I did get ripped off for a simple salad one day, 10 euros for a plate of lettuce and tomatoes.  I seldom returned.  I am a Guiri after all.  We’re not used to paying 10 euros for a plate of slices tomatoes and iceberg!  I also wear shorts 12 months a year and sometimes I like to eat dinner before 10 pm.  But otherwise, I think I’m chilling out and getting into the Spanish vibe pretty well.  I’ve also perfected a few Spanish phrases, in the gruff local Murcian dialect.  This means a certain level of (very minor) acceptance.

So, a medium-length story, slightly shorter, that’s why I’m posting this recipe.  I hope you enjoy it and cook it lots.  Please post below and say hello and let’s talk vegan cooking and Spain.  Two of my favourite subjects.  I love coming up with recipes and your feedback is really important in so many ways.

I’ve also finally, after around 7 years, got a new phone!  Meaning, I’m on Instagram, follow me over right here.

Baked Pea, Lemon & Mint Tortilla – Vegan and Gluten-free

Little green shoots

There are green shoots of veganity all over Spain now.  There are even a few vegan restaurants in Murica, a local vegan festival in our port town, plus a growing awareness in the media and populace about this vegan thing.  It’s wonderful to see.  Down at the local supermarkets, and we live in the sticks, plenty of vegan options and plenty of organic options.

For me to sit in a vegan restaurant in Spain and order a nicely cooked meal is a privilege.  In fact, it’s a privilege anywhere in the world.  Having ate many lifetimes worth of side dishes; chips, bread, uninspiring salads, olives, to be catered for in restaurants is something I’ll never take for granted.   Having worked in restaurants my whole life, I always appreciate what’s going on, how hard it is, how it takes over your life, how it’s driven by passion and hard work and also how easy it is to be overly critical.  Something I see regularly on social media, trip advisor etc.  I always try to be supportive of restaurants, it’s tough to run a good place and I have huge respect for people who do it well.   Especially if they’re making efforts to get vegan. Anyway, tortilla, here it is……

Full of flavours and a light texture, vegan tortilla is on the menu!

Recipe Notes

I decided that baking a tortilla is best here, giving a nice crisp, crust and it keeps things soft in the middle.  Every oven is different, check the middle of your tortilla is cooked using a skewer, like a cake.  Too long, it will be dry, too short and it will be uncooked in the middle.  Press the tortilla, in the middle, it should be springy and also the edges will leave the side of the baking dish.  It’s a fine-ish line.  The tortilla will firm up once it leaves the oven and cools, it’s worth remembering that.

No mint and dill.  Try other herb combinations, like thyme and rosemary.

I’ve added some raising agents.  On occasion, some gram flour, vegan tortillas can be quite heavy.  This helps lighten things.

 

Baked Pea, Lemon & Mint Tortilla – Vegan and Gluten-free

The Bits – For One Large Tortilla, 8-10 large slices

Batter

100g gram flour

175ml soya milk

75g firm tofu

1 teas salt

½ teas turmeric

½ teas g.f. bicarb of soda

½ teas g.f. baking powder

 

Filling

1 large onion (sliced)

2 large cloves garlic (sliced)

½ teas salt

125g firm tofu (broken into pieces with fingers)

2 tbs lemon juice (1 small lemon)

½ tbs lemon zest (½ small lemon)

2 tbs olive oil

150g frozen peas

1 teas dried mint

1 teas dried dill

¼ teas black pepper

 

Do It

Oil a 22cm/ 8.5 inch cake tin (a big one).  Line with baking parchment if it is not non-stick.

Press tofu between kitchen paper, remove excess moisture.

Preheat a fan oven to 180oC.

Add 1 tbs oil to a large frying pan, on medium heat, cook the garlic and onions for 7-9 minutes, adding 1/2 teas salt, until soft and golden.  Set aside to cool.

In a blender, add the tortilla batter ingredients and blitz until smooth.  

Add you dried herbs, black pepper, peas, 1 tbs olive oil and lemon juice to the frying pan.  Break the tofu into the pan using your fingers, large pieces are fine, this is to give the look and texture of egg white. Mix together, then stir in the batter until all is nicely combined. Pour this batter into your oiled cake tin and sprinkle with a little more sea salt.

Place in the oven for 25 minutes, drizzle over a little more oil at 20 minutes.  When it’s ready, the top will be nicely golden, the centre piping hot and the top will be springy when pressed with your fingers.

Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes before slicing and serving with a crisp salad, olives and all your other favourite Spanish tapas.  It’s great with vegan aioli, also nice with a scattering of freshly chopped herbs, mint and parsley especially.

Flamenco in Sevilla

Our recent travel post, Vegan on the road – Andalucia, has been one of our most popular ever!  Check it out here for more vegan Spanish travelling and foodie things. 

Categories: gluten-free, healthy, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Vegan On The Road – Andalucia, Spain

Jane and the Happpy Restaurant:)  Cordoba

We’re on the road again!  Out and about around Spain, the fascinating region of Andalucia.  Fillled with history, diverse culture and loads of tasty treats.

We sampled a variety of vegan treats all over Andalucia. Here’s some delicious Smoked Lebanese Aubergines bound together with tahini.

We stayed in central Malaga and were really surprised by the place, loads to see, do and nibble.  We’d recommend a visit and you can even chill on the beach, it’s miles long!  The hill top fort was a real highlight, as well as the old town and Picasso Museum.

There are some great little vegan restaurants, we enjoyed delicious, innovative meals.  Plenty of chilled soups, gazpacho and salmorejo, were always an option for a quick and nourishing lunch or snack.  We tend to eat loads of fruit and fresh veg, or salads, on the road.

Overlooking Malaga, a vibrant place with plenty of historical sights, galleries and some awesome little vegan restaurants.

 

Loved this simple and tasty dish – Grilled Vegetables with Mojo Sauce, Sevilla

In Cordoba we stayed in a small village, 30 mins away from the centre, tucked away behind a hill overlooking the vast plains of Andalucia.  Our room was built into the thick walls of a medieval church/ fort.  The village was sleepy and the main form of transport seemed to be tractor, with the occasional donkey.  Cordoba is the hottest place in Europe and it averaged around 40oC for our stay.

Cordoba is heavily influenced by the Moors and has always been a centre of learning and culture, you can feel that.  It’s a beautiful, stylish place and the Mesquite is simply stunning.  A huge edifice, once a mosque (accomodating 20,000) now converted into a cathedral.  It’s mind boggling in an awe inspiring way.  We were blow away by the scale and complexity of the place.

There are not loads of vegan restaurants, but we found it easy to order a variety of tapas and plates in most joints.  We also bought local produce in the village in a large co-operative.  Mostly organic and our accomodation had a little kitchen.  It was a real pleasure to use the local olives, paprika, herbs, olive oil, wine and sherry in a variety of dishes.  The fruit and vegetables were all so fresh and flavourful.  Paella was definitely on the menu!  I found the food and produce in Andalucia to be some of the best in Spain.

We caught some fiestas (there are so many in Spain!!) Some women in traditional dress coming out of the Mesquite. A hot one for a stroll…40oC! Cordoba

 

Old time Spain. We love it!!

 

Us. Outside the spectacular Mesquite, one of the most amazing buildings we’ve ever seen.  Cordoba

 

Some awesome street art all over Spanish cities. The streets are galleries too.  Sevillla

In Sevillla we stayed in the outskirts, a friendly neighborhood with probably the best fruit seller we’ve ever encountered.  A real pleasure to sample a variety of local fruits that we knew would be fragrant and delicious.

Sevilla city is touristy, as are most of the cities in Andalucia, but it wears it well.  Again, it’s a stylish place with it’s own flavour.  We loved wandering the windy little streets of the old town and getting lost for a while.  The river has a wide promenade, a must for sunset when locals gather, some jogging, some with guitars, most just chilling and enjoying the cool air and ambience.

There are plenty of vegan options all over the city, with a few vegan restaurants.  Add to this loads of cool cafes/bars and the most amazing cathedral we’ve ever seen (and we’ve seen a few on our travels!!) and you’ve got a awesome place to visit.

Pumpkin, Walnut and Spinach Lasagna. Reminded us that we don’t eat anywhere near enough lasagna! Sevilla

 

IMG_20190618_101726

We’ve moved on to Portugal now and are walking the Rota Vincentina, mainly skirting the coastline of southern Portugal.  Our next post will be coming soon with pictures and plant-based pilgrim news……we’re heading all the way to Santiago Compostela in Spain.

 

Jane hanging out beside a Roman Amphitheatre. Malaga was a surprise, it has loads to offer a curious wanderer, plus beaches too.

 

 

Categories: healthy, Healthy Eating, photography, plant-based, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , | 25 Comments

Caramelised Banana and Oat Pancake Stack with Peanut Butter Sauce – American Diner Style, Gluten-free

Banana, Oat and Peanut Butter Pancake Stack – Gluten-free, Vegan

Light, fluffy and thick, just like the ones you get in a real diner.  U.S. style pancakes, made in Wales, with caramelised bananas, a peanut butter sauce, a touch of cinnamon and loads of maple syrup.  The batter is made in a blender, so these are super quick and fuss-free.

I’ve made these gluten-free, I cook for a lot of gluten-free people at the moment and I love making up recipes that everyone will enjoy.  Gluten-free, vegan, or whatever, you’ll enjoy these pancakes purely because they’re delicious!

I like a good stack of pancakes, layering the flavours and textures and they look great of course.  Piled high on a plate.  Pancakes are a weekend thing in the BHK, do you feel the same?  They always seem like a fun treat breakfast, especially on a chilly Saturday morning.  An ideal, hearty breakfast for autumn and winter.

Top it off!

I think the most important thing about a pancake is what’s on top.  The filling combos have got to be right and we all know how good peanut butter and banana can be.  You could also go for fresh berries and whipped coconut cream or toasted pecans, oranges and chocolate sauce (see our 2-Minute Chocolate Sauce recipe here) or mango, pomegranate and vegan creme fraiche/ thick yoghurt (with a little mint on top).  These are a few of our favourite pancake toppings.  What’s yours?

I’ve already tried out various banana pancake recipes on the blog, I think it’s easy to see what’s my fav.

Disney Pancakes

The last time I was in a diner was a good few years ago, in sunny Florida, heading to somewhere Disney-fied or other.  I must have been around 11 years old.  As a young British guy, America seemed so exciting.  I basically just wanted to eat fast food and watch satellite TV, go on rollercoasters, and skateboard.  Things were simple back then!

I remember loving the atmosphere in a diner, it was a real buzz.  I was soon to be confronted with a stack of pancakes, enough to feed a family of five or more.  All dripping with maple syrup, it was a big wake up call!  What had I been missing out on!!  It was like a doorway into a new world of breakfast.  We had them most weekends after that when we returned to Glasgow, a proper treat.

Until our American holiday, I always thought pancakes were something we ate once a year with sugar and lemon juice and they always looked really difficult to make.  The flipping seemed impossible, with pancakes landing in various places around the kitchen.  Rarely back in the pan.  It’s true, they take a bit of practice, a few flips to warm up, but once you’re away, pancakes are such an easy and delicious breakfast option.

Are oats gluten-free?

Most oats are produced in non-gluten-free environments. Gluten-free oats can be found in most supermarkets. Many gluten-free people I know eat oats, they are so nutritious, packed with fibre and offer a nice variety in a gluten-free diet. 

Give these pancakes a go, and let us know in the comments below.  They’re a treat, but filled with good nutrition too.  Best of both worlds!

 

Recipe Notes

Serve them straight from the pan, hot is best, although they’re still tasty when cooled.  The best way to keep them warm is to wrap them in a clean kitchen towel/ cloth on a plate.

If you like a cinnamon-y pancake, go for more cinnamon here, 1/2 teas to start.

Don’t worry about your first attempt with a pancake, they’re always weird.  You’ll get into your groove after a couple.

Try to keep the pan at a constant temperature, not too hot.  If the pan get’s too hot, simply set it aside to cool a little.

Normal oats and white flour will work well here if you are not gluten-free.

The more oil you add to the pan, the crispier the pancake.  I’ll leave that one with you…..

 

Banana and Peanut Butter Pancakes – simple breakfast treat

 

Banana, Oat and Peanut Butter Pancakes – American Diner Style

Gluten-free and Vegan

 

The Bits – For 8 medium pancake

100g gram/ chickpea flour

100g white flour mix (gluten-free)

50g oats (gluten-free)

1 teas bicarb of soda (g.f.)

Large pinch of salt

1 tbs sugar

1 tbs oil

1/3 teas cinnamon

250ml water

 

Cooking oil (I use cold pressed rapeseed oil or coconut oil)

 

To serve

 

Banana, 1 per person (cut in half lengthways)

Maple syrup

4 tbs peanut butter

 

Lime Wedges (Jane likes this)

 

Do It 

Place all the pancake ingredients into a blender or food processor and blitz until well combined.

Mix your peanut butter with a few tablespoons of water and stir until it thins out, it may take around 5 tbs water and quite a bit of stirring, but it will form a nice creamy sauce.  Add a little maple syrup if you prefer it sweet.

Warm a medium sized frying pan on medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon oil and fry your bananas for 2 minutes, then flip them and cook for another minute.  They should be nice and caramelised.  Be careful with them, they are fragile and soft when cooked.  Set them aside.

Clean out the pan, and put back onto the heat.  Get the pan nice and hot, add a drizzle of oil, making sure the base of the pan is covered with a thin film of oil.   Pour or ladle in your batter, I like medium sized pancakes, see the photos.  But you can vary the size as you like.  Lots of small ones is also a nice idea.  Fry the pancake for 1-2 minutes, the pancake will bubble, making them really light (you’ll see what I mean).

Flip them using all your ace flipping skills.  Cook for one more minute on this side and either serve or keep warm.

Enjoy your pancakes with the caramelised bananas, peanut butter sauce, a drizzle of maple syrup and even a squeeze of fresh lime (Jane likes it with a little lime).  I sprinkled with a few oats.  Chocolate sauce is also a brilliant addition.

If you’d like a stack of pancakes, just add these toppings, then place another pancake on top and add more toppings.

 

Foodie Fact

Bananas are a good source of potassium and also vitamin C, plus fibre.  They are high in sugar, but when we eat them, the high fibre content makes bananas a healthy snack.  No sugar spikes and all.

They seem to be getting a bad rap recently, but bananas are really good for us, light on the stomach and an ideal, natural snack.  There are so many varities of snacks out there, boasting all kinds of things, but it’s difficult to beat bananas and fruit for a nutritious boost.

 

Categories: Breakfast, gluten-free, healthy, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, plant-based, Recipes, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Smoky Beets, Red Pepper and Chipotle Soup

Just what we need in late Autumn! Soups with lots of colours and big flavours.

Get a little spicy, plus a little smoky this autumn!  This is a radiant soup filled with delicious flavours and fresh, seasonal produce.  Lots of beetroot and red peppers, this is exactly what I want to be eating right now.  It’s adding a vibrant slice of Mexico to your autumn and all you’ll need are staples most of us have in our cupboards and some chioptle chillies/ chilli paste.  More of that a little later…..

I wanted a soup that was hearty and sustaining, so we have lentils, colourful and healthy, so we have red peppers and beetroots, a little creamy, creme fraiche, a little crunchy, pepitas (or pumpkin seeds as we call them), finished with a sprinkle of fresh coriander and you’ve got a very tasty bowl indeed.  I’d happily eat soups like this all day, every day, until next May, when things thaw out.

Getting Frosty

We’ve been getting frosty over here in Snowdonia, the first glimpse of snow and ice on the mountain tops, washing freezing on the line, that beautiful early morning frost that makes all the plants look like their draped in jewels.  I love this time of year.  Lots of sunshine still, so soup in the garden is also doable.  I’m thinking winter BBQ’s are on this year!  Why not?  The first frosts always says to me, “Parsnips!”  They’re always bettter after the first frost, as well as sloes.

Smoky Beets, Red Pepper and Chipotle Soup (vegan, gluten-free)

Viva Mexico!

I’m lucky to have travelled Mexico extensively, I drove around it for a while with some friends, from the border with Texas right down to Guatemala.  It took about 6 months.  I was in my 20’s and, as you can probably imagine, I had a good time!  There is so much joy for living and eating in Mexico!!

I had no idea how good Mexican food was until my first few days wandering around Mexico City.  I’d been working in fine dining style restaurants and was really into that way of doing things, but my first few tacos in Mexico blew my mind.  I was hooked and a new way of approaching food dropped into my world.  Sensational food didn’t need white table clothes and weighty price tags, it could be fast and furious on a street corner, or served in the back of taxi mid-traffic jam.  Good food is everywhere in Mexico, it is hard to escape, and let’s face it, why would you want to escape it anyway!

I ate some INCREDIBLE soups in Mexico.  If a soup can be life changing (if your soup was changed by your life, or vica versa, please let us know, we’d like to hear that story!) I had many in Mexcio.  Things I’d never imangine, avocado is soups, soft cheeses in soups, garlic, nachos, smokiness, it really blew me away.  Mexcian food is so rich and diverse, lots and lots of new dishes to explore.

Having said all of that, this soup is not a traditional Mexican recipe at all, but Chipotle chillies make anything taste Mexican to me.  They were one of the many new flavours I discovered on my trip.  The cumin in many Mexican dishes originally came from Spanish immigrants, who picked it up from North Africa via the Moors.  I’m fascinated by the way that our food tells us a lot about our history, how our cultures developed over time.  It is Day of the Dead tomorrow, this soup would be a perfect addition to the feast!

Chipotle!

Chipotles are dried and smoked chillies, one of many varieities.  I remember buying smoked chillies in markets, so many types, big and small, different colours and shades, all with distinct flavours.  It was steep learning curve.

Chipotles start off as red jalapenos and are smoked and dried for days, coming out looking a little like the chilli version of a raisin.  You can buy them in many ways, powder, flakes, dried whole, in cans or in a potent paste, as we use here.  Chipotle’s are used in all kinds of marinades and stews, they give a subtle earthy, smokiness to dishes with a little kick of chilli.  Adding one chipotle to a stew or soup can really mix things up.  In the UK, they are normally found in paste-form, in little jars, that keep well in the fridge.  I like to mix it into mayonnaise, dressings and generally use it as often as possible.  I love the flavour.  It’s very unique.

I am off to Spain soon, where they do some nice things with smoked chillies, but honestly, no one smokes chillies like Mexicans.  Spanish chillies are very mild, they hardly tickle, Mexican chillies however, they can melt things, or just add a lovely spiciness to dishes.

We’re lucky to have loads of organic beetroot at the minute coming from the veg farm

Get Your Beet On!

So get your beet on, gather some lovely veggies and have fun with this soup.  Beetroots are the most outrageous roots and I think we underuse them in the UK.  The colours, flavours and awesome nutrition (see below) they bring to our table are always very welcome.

Please let us know if you like the recipe, enjoy Mexican food, or anything else really in the comments below.  If you try out the soup, why not share your kitchen creation with us all over on Facebook, our cooking group is here.  

Enjoy this beautiful time of year (in Australia it’s spring right!?!)

More soups and hearty, healthy, delicious vegan recipes for everyone coming soon…..

 

Here’s some Mexican inspired dishes we’ve cooked in the paste, from Loaded Nachos to a Cashew and Kale Mole, Pickle your own Jalapenos and Dark Chocolate and Chilli Bronwies.

 

—————–

Recipe Notes

If you love your smokiness, add a little more chipotle, or add smoked paprika (same time as the cinnamon) for a smoky, but less spicy soup.

No red peppers, any pepper will work fine.

Same goes for the pumpkin seeds, any toasted seed or nut would be nice here, but pumpkin seeds (pepitas) are used quite a lot in Mexican cooking.

If you’re getting beetroots with their leaves on (congratulations!), you can cut them off, wash them and stir them in at the end of cooking, just before serving.  You may also like to do this with spinach, kale or any other greens.  Adding greens to dishes can never be a bad thing.

Beetroot, Red Pepper and Chipotle Soup

The Bits – For 4-6 bowls

550g beets, roughly 3 medium beetroots (diced)

1 red pepper (diced)

1 medium onion (diced)

200g red lentils (rinsed and drained)

2 teas cumin seeds

1 1/2 teas oregano

1/2 teas cinnamon

3 tbs tomato puree

1 ltr light vegetable stock/ hot water

3-5 teas chipotle puree

 

Topping

Toasted pumpkin seeds

Vegan yoghurt/ creme fraiche (g.f.)

Freshly Chopped Coriander

Sliced chillies

 

Do It 

In a large saucepan, add 1/2 tbs cooking oil and warm on medium high heat.  Add the cumin seeds, stir and fry for a minute, then all the onions, peppers and 1 teas sea salt.  Fry until soft and slightly caramelised, 5 minutes will do.

Add the lentils, beetroots, oregano, ground cinnamon and tomato puree.   Then pour over the vegetable stock and bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and leave to cook for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Allow to cool slightly and blend using a stick blender or pour into a blender and blitz until smooth.  Taste and season with salt and pepper, adding more chipotle if you like.

Top with toasted pumpkin seeds, creme fraiche/ single vegan cream, chillies and coriander.

 

Foodie Fact 

Beetroot is a stunning root in more ways than one.  Besides the amazing flavours and colours, we’re talking about a contender for the healthiest veg ever!  It’s well up there.

Packed with anti-oxidants, plenty of fibre, it is very good for our digestion, and also contains plenty of minerals.  Beetroot juice is now drank by many atheletes to improve performance.  We love beetroots mixed into juices or smooties with things like apples and carrots.  What an amazing way to start the day!

Categories: Autumn, gluten-free, healthy, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Soups, Travel, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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 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.

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? Controversial.

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! 

Happy cooking!!

——————–

Recipe Notes

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 is a superhero of the veg world.   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. 

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’.

Papaya Farming

I’ve worked on a organic farm which grew papayas in India. I 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.  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 parts of 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. It’s a more dangerous undertaking.  Mango trees do not want you to pick their fragrant fruits.  Goggles and gloves 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 sterilised jar and use within three days. This chutney is ideal served with your favourite curries, salads, burgers or why not try a tropical cheeze platter.

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.

Categories: Chutney, Curries, gluten-free, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , | 24 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 here.

Egyptian Chickpeas with Tomato and Cumin – Sinai-style 

——————————-

Egyptian Mezze – Chickpeas with Tomato and Cumin 

The Bits – For 4-6 

500g cooked chickpeas (or 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: , , | 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 expertly 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 most 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 gluten-free flatbreads/ 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 gluten-free 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.

 

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.

 

———–

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: , | 4 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.

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

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.

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: , | 7 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.

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: , , , , | 11 Comments

Black Bean and Cacao 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, serve cold on a summers day, 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.

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!!!!

———————–

Black Bean and Cacao 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 a 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/ g.f. 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!

———————

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/ gluten-free. Thanks 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 week quite happily.  If it separates, simply stir it.   

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

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

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: