Travel

Cooling Watermelon, Tofu & Mint Salad

Cooling Watermelon, Tofu and Mint Salad

It’s getting HOT over here!

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

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

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

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


Recipe Notes

The chillies are a great little kick, but optional.

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

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

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


The Bits – For 2 lunch

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

1 green chilli (finely sliced) – optional

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy cooking!

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

Jungle Kopi Culture – Sampling Indonesia’s coffee revolution

Traditional village - Tana Toraja, Sulawesi

Traditional village – Tana Toraja, Sulawesi

There are so many striking things about Indonesia; the people are so friendly, warm and welcoming, the incredibly diverse cultures are ancient and fascinating, the landscape varied, and jaw dropping and somewhere steaming away in this heady mix is the coffee, something of a superstar in the waiting.

Of all the coffee giants in the world; Latin America, Africa, India etc, I feel Indonesia is slightly overlooked. Especially Sulawesi. You may see some packs of Java beans out there, but nothing much else. The variety of Indonesia’s coffee cornucopia is poorly represented and we’re missing out big time.

Indonesia has the perfect conditions for coffee (and cacao) growing.  Coffee and chocolate, what a combo!  There is a youthful espresso fuelled movement swinging into existence bringing quality coffee back to it’s roots and cherries, so to speak. Led by the sprawling megalopolis that is Jakarta, there is a growing trendy cafe culture over here, hip and buzzing, Indonesians are getting to enjoy their coffee and not just export it away.  We have been lucky to sample a bewildering array of brews and take in some plantations, each island produces very different styles of beans, within those islands are various regions, each with their own character and the tumbling coffee kaleidescope continues.

Perfect cremas are not always the case though. Many Indonesians don’t drink coffee as we Euro coffee snobs like it. The local brew is something like a long Greek/ Turkish coffee. Needing a few minutes to settle into a dark cuppa with some funky sludge greeting you towards the latter stages. It is normally pretty decent, better than packet instant, but this new roasted and toasted trend is very exciting.  Young guys with hipster quiffs and girls wearing brightly coloured hijabs let loose on Italian-made coffee machines to extract the maximum wow and yum. Jakarta is filling up with bespoke cafes and the big chains are lumbering in; Starclucks are making their insidious presence felt and bizarrely use beans from Guatemala!! Speaks volumes.

Jack fruit burger with sweet potato fries- It's not just the coffee that awesome in Indonesia

Jack fruit burger with sweet potato fries- It’s not just the coffee that awesome in Indonesia

TANA TORAJA – A COFFEE AFICIONADO”S PARADISE

So Toraja is a remote region in Central Sulawesi, one of the largest islands in Indonesia, roughly the same size as France and basically, one big jungle. Toraja is reached by spectacularly rutted and windy roads, a mountainous region famous over here for producing some of the best Arabica in the country and is also home to an incredible tribal culture (see here).

Coffee is not a big deal in Toraja, they may drink it occasionally and most of the traditional houses in villages (see the top photo) had a little ornate wooden pot full of ground coffee. The beans are normally roasted in a steel pan over an open fire, which leads to inconsistent heat and inevitably a mixture of burnt and raw beans. I have tried roasting beans using this method in Luzon, Philippines and is seems that no matter how much care you take, there is little chance of avoiding charred bits with pale interiors. This could be why the Torajan’s didn’t generally cherish their beans.  The same could be said of cacao (chocolate beans) which also grows everywhere, their brilliantly red and yellow pods poking out of the canopy.

A friend told me about a Belgian couple who brought some local people a selection of fine European chocolates. The village Torajan’s were amazed that these bitter little beans had been fashioned into something so delicious. A chocolate revolution is surely the next step for Indonesia’s foodie folk, probably with some cacao smoothies along the way.

Some many Indonesia varieties to choose from, freshly ground to order

Some many Indonesia varieties to choose from, freshly ground to order

One of the largest towns in Toraja is Rantepao and this is were we met two of our coffee superheroes, Mika and Eli. Eli runs a tiny coffee roasting business and cafe with his wife, Kaana Toraya Coffee, using a perfectly eclectic range of machinery that he built himself and techniques he learnt from a Hawaiian tourist in the early 90’s. Eli has made two roasters, the largest one powered by a large water wheel. A stroke of engineering genius. It is very peaceful to sit and watch it in action. The sound of flowing water and the tantalising aromas of coffee beans roasting. The equipment may look a little basic and battered in places, but the outcome is sensational and very high quality. We tried the traditional style of beans, dried leaving the husks on and also the standard washed style bean that we are familiar with, but then the bombshell came calling, Hani! Hani is a technique that I feel would be huge in the coffee shops and nooks of Europe and beyond.

Elli's water wheel powered coffee roaster. Ingenius!

Elli’s water wheel powered coffee roaster. Ingenius!

HANI – A NEW STYLE OF COFFEE

The word sounds like honey and the flavour is like honey, much sweeter and fragrant than a washed bean. It is achieved by leaving the natural juices, released by the coffee berries when being picked and processed, on the coffee bean when drying (over here this is generally done on huge racks under the sun or in small quantities by the side of the road). This means that the berry is darker in colour. Dried pre-roast coffee beans are actually a yellowy green colour. These hani beans smell strongly of honey! It’s magic!! Especially for a vegan!!!

Eli and his wife kindly sold us a small bag of Hani for our backpacks, we are travelling with a little cafetiere contraption that means when we get a bit remote mountain cave or deserted island hammock we can still enjoy a top cup of joe. Eli loves exporting his families organic, hand picked coffee all around the world, if you’re in the business, you’ve got to try some Hani beans! Something truly unique. Also, you will never find a man who smiles more than Eli. Its highly infectious:)

Eli's extra special 'hani' coffee - tastes like honey

Eli’s extra special ‘hani’ coffee – tastes like honey

After being immersed in the full coffee story, from bush to mug, we felt like a little sunset stroll around town. Rantepao is a dusty little place, clustered around a busy main thoroughfare. Tourism has made it’s presence felt and there are a couple of biggish hotels, normally catering for large tour groups. There is an impressive protestant church beside a slightly larger bright green mosque, there is a bustling bazaar selling everything from knocked off Rip Curl t-shirts to locally grown spices and finely carved machetes. On each street corner you’ll find the ubiquitous fried snack vendour, giant pans of oil bubbling away inches from frantic swathes of traffic. Pisang Goreng (Fried Bananas wrapped in a light pastry) are famous here and served in a number of ways, all sweet and tantalising. You’ve also got the usual piles of battered tempeh, tofu, corn fritters and sometimes chicken.

We were enjoying the energy and smiles encountered, many children and teenagers were practicing for their Independence day parades, something like a mass cheerleader-athon mixed with an army cadet march. All mini well pressed uniforms, papier machete tanks and tiara clad back flips. Many proud parents watching on beside Denis’s Massage Parlour, Jane and I causing minor waves of excitement, everyone shouting “Mr, Mr, hey Mr”.  This is a normal reaction to tourists in Indonesia.  Jane is also a Mr it seems! We have now posed for hundreds of selfies which, most of the time, is a real laugh.

From bush to cup, you get the whole coffee experience in Indonesia

From bush to cup, you get the whole coffee experience in Indonesia

JAK KOFFIE – JIMI HENDRIX & AMERICANO

It was by pure chance that we found Jak coffee, not much more than a doorway on a side street. The brilliant graffiti caught our attention. We instantly realised that it was a special little place, the decor was really cool and Mika (the main man) had the biggest, warmest smile on his face. It is not uncommon in Indonesia to find cafes with rows of jars, filled with freshly roasted beans to choose. A rare treat for sure! Mika was playing some great tunes and had painted a large picture of Jimi Hendrix on the wall. Never a bad interior design idea!  The walls are lined with Mika’s work, he’s really a photographer moonlighting as a barista, plus the occasional antique lampshade or red phone.

Mika is very knowledgeable about most things it seems and spoke passionately about local history and culture, bringing life to it all, we learnt more in 1 hour than we did in 1 month of travel. This was the real story of Indonesia, right now, from the people creating the new waves and shapes.  My Americano was mindblowing; rich and deep, made with organic beans from the East of Toraja. Maybe you think a cup of coffee cannot border on or even tickle the mindblowing.  This was a coffee bomb!!  The flavours and aromas were intense.  Having said that, it was my fourth coffee of the afternoon and most things were a little intense.  Mika picks and chooses who he buys from, keeping things fresh, organic and interesting.  I have never seen someone take so much care over making a coffee.  The process elevated to an art form.

Jimi

Jimi

‘NO COFFEE MAFIA PLEASE!’

You have probably not heard about Torajan coffee, primarily because large corporations from Japan and China buy it all up and make it into generic rubbish. This obviously means that prices are low and farmers suffer. There is no fair trade in these parts. Mika is fighting the good fight himself and attempting to showcase what Toraja can really do, saying “NO coffee mafia please!”  We loved his passion which sparked off in all kinds of directions.  He even had signs (see below).

Mika and his friends also bake some amazing cakes; stout brownies, chocolate croissants. The local crowd are loving to experiment with new styles of cooking. Anyone fancy a croissant sandwich?  This is anti-Starclucks world, local people taking control of their produce and making something bespoke and high quality (and a few bucks) with bags of good ethics and integrity.

No mafia coffee please

No mafia coffee please

Jak Koffie is a slightly surreal experience really (in a good way), it’s like steeping through a hip portal, you feel like you’ve been transported to Soho, London or Gothica, Barcelona.   That is until you step outside and are nearly taken out by a twelve year old on a motorbike eating a fried banana. Mika is like Indonesia’s answer to a fully caffeinated, cheery Che Guevara and I wish him my wholehearted best and hope we’ll soon see the amazing coffee’s of Toraja in more Western shops and cafes.

If you’re in Toraja, Jak cafe is a must. An a urban chic oasis in the endless steaming jungles of Sulawesi. You’ve also got to try Hani coffee, a totally new coffee drinking experience.  Rantepao is a great place to sample the old and new faces of Indonesia as they mingle and take flight.  The only negative that we’ve encountered in Indonesia is a short visa and it’s now leave.  Selamat Tinggal!

Jak coffee - one of the best cafes we visited in Indonesia

Jak Koffie – one of the best cafes we visited in Indonesia

 

Jak has no website yet but you can find more info and contact details here.

Categories: photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cake Bully Anyone?! China – Weird and Wonderful Menu Options

Walking the Great Wall of China

Walking the Great Wall of China

After reading an option for Sick Kebabs on a menu today in Kathmandu I remembered that we haven’t shared our official Beach House Kitchen Chinese Menu with you. We popped it on our FB pages and our friends chuckled, we think you might too.  This menu has been veganized btw as there were some pretty disgusting things being sold in China.

These are actual English tranlasted menu options that we encountered whilst travelling around China. Some are gristly, some are just plain hilarious. It’s not easy to be vegan in China that’s for sure!

It's a long walk!  The Great Wall;)

It’s a long walk! The Great Wall;)

If you’ve seen it before, there are some new entries on this menu. Please let us know your favourites in the comment section.  Your top three!

Bon Appetit;)

With the Terracotta Army, Xi'an

With the Terracotta Army, Xi’an

THE FALLOW AMUSEMENT RESTAURANT
MENU

Starters

Acid beans

Coke slipped balls

Beijing heaving

Fried ring wish

Sweet man balls out

A fire of coals

Brother yipin elbow

Available Bullfrog brother

Brother signature hairtail

Chairman mao blood flourishing

I miss you tea

Main Course

Flying elephant pizza

Doush drop

Hot szhichuan mother in law pot

Ass vegetables

Brine platter

Mild vinegar sting

Head brine

Rice rope

Exploding cheese

Douzi mashroom

Rape wish rice

Whelk like green tea

Secretary general of crisp

The guanzhong impression

Burning naked oats with ear wire

Jump to the melody of the tongue

Fubage hospitality food

Jing yang let one

Sides

Take the cucumber

Snow covered the volcano

Hand grasp bread

Being soft noodles

Farm style group

Prickly white ash salad

Burn three fresh

Stone bowl of bean jelly

Mung plum porridge

Tonight’s the night lion head casserole

Tomato suck

Cake bully

River crusie on a cement boat (long story), Xingping

River crusie on a cement boat (long story), Xingping

PS – We didn’t actually try any of these (well maybe a couple) and think it’s pretty amazing that many restaurants had English menu’s in the first place.  We were embarassingly bad at Cantonese/ Mandarin.  Thank you China!

 

Categories: photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

Street Eats and Delicious Days – Our Indonesian holiday snaps

I loved this woman and mama! Could she cook;) Tempeh and tofu that melted in the mouth and some excellent peanut relish. Sulawesi

I loved this woman and mama! Could she cook;) Tempeh and tofu that melted in the mouth and some excellent peanut relish. Sulawesi

I’d go as far as to say this.  Indonesia is the best country in Asia for a vegan traveller, probably the world.  There we go, I’ve said it.  In black and white.  Can’t take it back……Thailand is also pretty damn good too…….but Indonesia!!!!  See evidence below (quick before I change me mind!)  Its been a while since we were there, we left in September, but these are highly enjoyable edible memories and I just had to share them around.

We had a fairly stunning 2016, packed it full of things that sparkle and shine.  We’ve been so busy that the Beach House Kitchen has taken a bit of a back seat.  Battling with pants internet is a thankless task, but here we are.  Finally, a sound and reasonable wifi zone.   I have a long, long list of things that’d I’d love to post, so no more waffle……..first up, the wonders of Indonesia!

Typical Indonesian kitchen. Outside cities, everyone is cooking over wood and doing everything brilliantly old school, see pestle and mortar.

Typical Indonesian kitchen. Outside cities, everyone is cooking over wood and doing everything brilliantly old school, see pestle and mortar.

Travelling is a way of life that suits us very nicely.  Indonesia is a land (many peices of land in fact) that we’ve always wanted to visit.  We were highly undisappointed by the month we spent there.  Indonesia is vast archipelago filled with some of the friendliest people and tastiest food on this beautiful planet.  I was blown away by the sheer volume of vegan friendly fare.  I loved the constant stream of tempeh and tofu, the buzzing and diverse street food scenes that varied from town to town.  The scenery was breathtaking, we took up residence in a hut on an deserted island (with the perfect hammock), we swam with dolphins, we wandered up active volcanoes (smelling of off eggs, sulphur clouds), we threw ourselves into the mayhem of Jakarta, nearly got stuck in the jungle, stayed in traditional villages with fascinating ancient traditions, beliefs and rituals.  It was a feast in more ways than one.

So here we are, some Indonesia sunshine and vibrancy that can’t help brighten any January morning.  You’ve all probably heard of staples like Nasi Goreng (basically fried rice) or Mie Goreng (fried noodles) but there is so much more to Indonesian veg based (sayura) cuisine.  Of course, the best food, the food that represents a country, is always found on the streets and in little, potentially shabby looking places.  Fancy restaurants are all well and good, but we believe the food that matters is enjoyed by all, that’s where you’ll find us.

Salamat Maka! (Bon Appetit!)

Traditional village - Tana Toraja, Sulawesi

Traditional village – Tana Toraja, Sulawesi

The kind of sensational meal available from a village house doubling as a restaurant. Eaten on a bench beside the road, coconut tempeh, spicy chutney, all kinds of fascinating veggies that grow near or in rivers. Oh, and jackfruit (everyone loves it now!) Little village, somewhere in Sulawesi

Gudeg.  A kind of sensational meal available from a village house doubling as a restaurant. Eaten on a bench beside the road, coconut tempeh, tofu, mashed casava leaves, spicy chutney (the ever present sambal), all kinds of fascinating veggies that grow near or in rivers. Oh, and jackfruit (everyone loves it now!) Little village, somewhere in Sulawesi

Inspecting a local salad outfit. These guys used interesting irrigation and tables. Clever. Salad leaves are very fashionable in rural Sulawesi. Tomahon, Sulawesi

Inspecting a local salad outfit. These guys used interesting irrigation and tables. Clever. Salad leaves are very fashionable in rural Sulawesi. Tomahon, Sulawesi

View from our trusty hammock. Floating in the ocean on an island in the middle of the Togean Sea. Some of the best snorkelling. Togean Islands, Sulawesi

View from our trusty hammock. Floating in the ocean on an island in the middle of the Togean Sea. Some of the best snorkelling imageable. I swam with some friendly black porpoises. Togean Islands, Sulawesi

Fried tempeh, jack fruit stews and piles of moring glory, plus the most digusting sulphurous bean I've ever encountered. Rank! You even get serenaded here by local guitarists singing Indonesian folk or The Beatles. Street eats in Yogyakarta, Java

Fried tempeh, jack fruit stews and piles of moring glory, plus the most digusting sulphurous bean I’ve ever encountered. Rank! You even get serenaded here by local guitarists singing Indonesian folk or The Beatles. Street eats in Yogyakarta, Java

Gado gado. Just the best. These carts, hundreds of thousands of them, are doing amazing things with peanuts and veggies all over Indonesia. Cost, about 50p for dinner. This guy is one of the best if you bump into him. Sulawesi PS - Another popular dish is Ketropak, which is like Gado Gado without the amazing peanut sauce

Gado gado. Just the best. These carts, hundreds of thousands of them, are doing amazing things with peanuts and veggies all over Indonesia. Cost, about 50p for dinner. This guy is one of the best if you bump into him. Sulawesi PS – Another popular dish is Ketropak, which is like Gado Gado without the amazing peanut sauce

Now this is what I'm talking about! Gado Gado.

Now this is what I’m talking about! Gado Gado served with the classic Kerupuk (cassava crackers)

Visiting tofu village (see our post here) and learning to make tofu Indonesian style. Hot and hard work. Java

Visiting tofu village (see our post here) and learning to make tofu Indonesian style. Hot and hard work. Java

One of the finest things we ate. Sticky coconut rice, made into buns, and marinaded tempeh (in cane sugar and kecap manis) for the burger. A local street food speciality in a village above Yogyakarta, Java. PS - Thats a massive hunk of marinade tofu. Delicious.

One of the finest things we ate. Sticky coconut rice, made into buns, and marinaded tempeh (in cane sugar and kecap manis) for the burger. A local street food speciality in a village above Yogyakarta, Java. PS – Thats a massive hunk of marinaded smoky tofu. Delicious.

A feast at the Loving Hut in Yogyakarta. A purely vegan restaurant chain (see here) with a huge menu of fascinating items. Vegan egg yolk made of mung beans and loads of bizarre and generally a bit rubbery fake meats. Still, we went there everyday and samapled everything. Java

A feast at the Loving Hut in Yogyakarta. A purely vegan restaurant chain (see here) with a huge menu of fascinating items. Vegan egg yolk made of mung beans and loads of bizarre and generally a bit weird and rubbery fake meats like Seitan Satay. Still, they had lots of local delights like Kering Tempeh (dried and crunchy tempeh) and we went there everyday and sampled everything. The Thai style coconut iced tea was a highlight.  Java

Breakfast. Fruit salad with things like cactus fruit and a sauce made from cane sugar and chilli. Yogyakarta, Java

Breakfast. Fruit salad with things like cactus fruit and a sauce made from cane sugar and chilli. Yogyakarta, Java

So much history and culture spread over the vast islands of Indonesia. They spread over distances greater than the width of Europe. 250 million people! This is Prambanan, a massive Hindu temple complex. Indonesia is of course a Muslim country now, but has flirted with Hinduism and Buddhism in history, not to mention a myriad other more tribal belief systems (many still around). Java

So much history and culture shared over the vast islands of Indonesia. They spread over distances greater than the width of Europe. 250 million people! This is Prambanan, a massive Hindu temple complex. Indonesia is of course a Muslim country now, but has flirted with Hinduism and Buddhism in history, not to mention a myriad other more tribal belief systems (many still around). Java

Jane at the 'cat food' stand. Like a cafe on wheels selling hot drinks and piles of delicious deep fried nibbles and bags of sticky rice plus sambal (spicy relish). Street corner, Yogyakarta

Jane at a ‘cat food’ stand. Like a cafe on wheels selling hot drinks and piles of delicious deep fried nibbles and bags of sticky rice plus sambal (spicy relish). Street corner, Yogyakarta PS – No one could fully explain the ‘cat food’ thing.

Indonesians are amazing artists, musicians and pretty handy with a spray can

Indonesians are amazing artists, musicians and pretty handy with a spray can

This was an amazing dish eaten on a Sunday morning. Mounds of greens with jackfruit, pepper, flowers, bean sprouts and delciious sauce and something like tempeh tempura. Known as Naspecel. Java

This was an amazing dish eaten on a Sunday morning. Mounds of greens with jackfruit, pepper, flowers, bean sprouts and delciious sauce and something like tempeh tempura. Known as Naspecel. Java

Another feast at the Loving Hut, Yogyakarta (a very cultural city with a great old town and loads of galleries and musicians. They also still have a Hindu sultan).

Another feast at the Loving Hut, coconut curry and some kind of heavenly ramen concoction.  Yogyakarta (a very cultural city with a great old town and loads of galleries and musicians. They also still have a Hindu sultan).

The coffee in Indonesia will blow you away in more ways than one. Stunning brews. More of that to come...

The coffee in Indonesia will blow you away in more ways than one. Stunning brews. More of that to come…

Downtown Jakarta eatery. Huge range on the buffet and some very friendly taxi drivers.....

Downtown Jakarta eatery (warung). You find places like this all over Indonesia.  Huge range on the buffet and some very friendly taxi drivers…..

....this is whay a Warung does best. Plates of cheap and delciious food. About 50ps worth here. Jakarta

….this is what a Warung does best. Plates of cheap, fresh and delciious food. About 50ps worth here. Served with Nasi Uduk, Jakarta’s favourite coconut rice.

Helping Maria (a Christian town) with her chillies in a porridge joint. No ordinary porridge though.....

Helping the radiant Maria (twas a Christian town) with her chillies in a porridge joint. No ordinary porridge though…..

One of the best things we ate. Called Manado Porridge, made with pumpkin, rice, spices and greens. Bubbled in a massive steel cauldron. Served with teas and fried bananas. Tentena, Sulawesi

One of the best things we ate. Called Manado Porridge, made with pumpkin, rice, spices and greens. Bubbled in a massive steel cauldron. Served with tea (teh manis) and fried bananas. Lezat! (Delicious!) Tentena, Sulawesi

Sometimes you get desperate! Late night, nowhere open, just the random Hello Kitty cafe serving packet noodle soup. Lost in Sulawesi.

Sometimes things go wrong! Late night, nowhere open, just the random hellish Hello Kitty cafe serving packet noodle soup. Lost in Sulawesi.

Markets are always bizzing and filled with vegan delights. We carry a chopping board and bowl so salads are always on the menu.

Markets are always a buzzing hub and filled with vegan delights. We carry a chopping board and bowl so salads are always on the menu.

Jane and I's preferred mode of transport. Back of rickety bus.

Jane and I’s preferred mode of transport. Back of rickety bus.

Thank you IndonesiaX

Thank you IndonesiaX

PS – We nearly forgot the Gorengan stalls at every corner.  Fried sweet potato, banana, tempeh, cassava, breadfruit and loads of chilli sauce.  Vegans will never go hungry in Indonesia!!  Also if you want to get Indonesian at home, you must seek out a bottle of Kecap Manis.  A sweet and sticky sauced used on everything.

Categories: Healthy Eating, Travel, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Dal Bhat Power! What’s cookin’ in Nepal

May I introduce Dal Bhat. If you've been to Nepal, you are already friends.

May I introduce Dal Bhat. If you’ve been to Nepal, you are already friends.

After enjoying the most amazing traditional Nepali lunch earlier I had the urge to share with you all the delights of Nepali cooking.  My tastebuds were dancing and I felt inspired.  We’ve been here for two months now, travelling around, walking in the Himalayas, meeting the most amazing open hearted and kind folk. As usual, we’ve done a fair amount of hanging out in kitchens and nibbling things. We’ve been very pleasantly surprised by what Nepal has to offer and this is all made even more amazing by the fact that so many dishes are plant-based wonders.  Compared to China, life’s a breeze for a vegan exploring these stunning landscapes.

Nepal has a fascinatingly diverse and ancient culture, very distinct from Northern India and surrounding countries.  Nepal is technically a Hindu state, but many people we speak to are Hindu/ Buddhist.  They respect and adhere to some of the beliefs, festivals and rituals of both.  There is a great open mindedness about spirituality and it shows in the culture.  Nepalis are very tolerant, peace loving people and they know how to cook!

Nepal is basically the Himalayas in the top half and some flat lands in the south, there are countless valleys and micro-climates which means a huge diversity of crops; mangoes thrive in the south, millet and potatoes in the north.  There are many ethnic groups, the main ones being the Thakali and Gurung (north) and the Newari (Kathmandu valley) and Terai, further south, Lohorung in the east.  It’s a melting pot of cultures which can only add to the brilliance of the cuisine.

Jane is a big fan

Jane is a big fan

DAL BHAT POWER!
Dal (lentils) Bhat (grains, normally rice) is what fuels this lovely country. Twice a day, every Nepali eats a big plate of Dal Bhat. I’ve never been to a country that adores a single dish so consistently.

Nepalis normally have a nice cup of strong tea for breakfast, maybe a baked good of some description, but the tastiness really kicks off around 11 am with an early lunch of dal bhat with some chutney or pickle (achar) and a tarkari (veg side dish). We love the fact that you normally get some fried greens, mustard leaves are very popular, and also the fact that in most restaurants seconds and thirds are politely enforced. If you turn your head for a second, your pile of rice magically grows.  It’s very rare that you leave a premise without being totally stuffed full of spicy veggies. You will sometimes also get a nice little salad going on and one single, solitary, tooth meltingly spicy chilli. To be eaten raw by the afeciandos and fool hardy. I love em!  Certainly wakes you up.

Dal Bhat is also served for dinner, again an early sitting, 6pm-ish. I like the simplicity of it all. All over Nepal, you hear the pressure cookers hissing in the early morning. The pungent aroma of frying onions and spices are to me something synonomous with the haze of Nepali mornings.  Everyone one knows where they stand food wise, no over complictions, and it must be so easy for the home cook. No one needs to ask whats for dinner! Of course, the veggies vary and the dal morphs from legume to legume, but the combo remains undiminished. Dal bhat rules.

The dal component can mean anything, but mung beans (halved) are very popular. You may also see some rajma (kidney beans – Jane’s recent favourite, see our recipe here) and chana (brown or normal chickpeas).  When I make dal, it’s thick and hearty, but you’ll find in Nepal and India, dal is more like a soup.  If you’re very luck indeed, the restaurant may have a tandoor oven which opens the door to all kinds of stunning breads. Warm and crisp naan being the royality of any tandoor behaviour.

Fortunately for the nomadic vegan in these parts the veggies are very, very tasty. Up in the mountains and in the countryside most people have their own veg gardens that really thrive. The produce is delicious; potatoes, carrots (quite expensive for some reason), spinach, chard, cauliflower, broccoli, turnips, long white radishes (like daikon), mustard leaves, bitter gourd, green beans, cabbage, tomatoes, cucumber.  We’ve even seen some pumpkin, but it’s a rare and very special event.  A beetroot curry has been savoured on one very special evening.  Even the stuff you buy from bigger Kathmandu markets is packed with flavour. We’ve enjoyed using this abundance in recipes in our little flat in Kathmandu, up in the north, a local neighborhood with dusty roads and a gently chaotic and superbly friendly nature.  We have a little kitchen and a sun trap terrace.

Monkey Temple Stupa - Kathmandu

Monkey Temple Stupa – Kathmandu

WHAT ELSE?

But dal bhat is not the end of the line.  There are also such delights as momos (technically they’re from Tibet, but they are loved all over Nepal and there are many Tibetans living here), things like Chow Mein and Thukpa (Tibetan noodle soup) have also made the hop over the Himalayas/ border.  Barley, millet and buckwheat grow well in the cold areas and you’ll find these regularly made into  a range of noodles or tsampa, a flour which is made into a hearty porridge.  This is perfect early morning fuel for a day hiking.  You’ll also find these grains being made into Raksi or Chang, potent distilled moon shine or quite a mellow wine like booze that is mixed with fruit juice sometimes.  It’s perfect chilled with apple juice!  On average, 15p per cupful.

These cooks are superheroes. Nepali cooks are very talented and capable of creating complex menus/ meals with very basic equipment. Plus, this guy was cooking at about 4000m up a big snowy hill.

These cooks are superheroes. Nepali cooks are very talented and capable of creating complex menus/ meals with very basic equipment. Plus, this guy was cooking at about 4000m up a big snowy hill.

THE REAL DEAL

So what was so special about todays lunch?  Thamel is the main tourist area in Kathmandu.  A jumble of lanes loaded with tourist traps of all forms and agendas.  You can get food from all over the world, but pizza doesn’t interest me in the slightest in Asia.  I could eat rice 24/7 anyway, so I’m never in the market for a seeded loaf or crepe when I’m wandering in Eastern parts.

We stumbled across a little old doorway, we ducked in and it opened out into a courtyard with beautifully carved wooden window ledges and perfectly wonky old walls.  Our host was toothless and beaming wearing a traditional Nepali hat.  We knew it was a proper joint, the kitchen was a hive of good natured activity.  I was excited as my expectations soared.

Most Nepali’s eat squating or sat cross legged on the floor, but in more urban restaurants, you’ll get a chair and tourists are always supplied a trusty spoon, although sometimes I like eating with my hands.  Really getting to grips with your food!  Just always remember, right hand only.  Left hand is a no go area for reasons I won’t go into on a food blog.

Safely perched on our chairs, we both went for the Nepali Veg Set or Khana, which is something we love.  It’s like Dal Bhat with a few more trimmings.  I went for dhendho with mine instead of rice, like a thick buckwheat porridge.  An earthy, wholegrain polenta.  The smells escaping the kitchen, a tiny room with very low ceiling, were tantalising.  No less than four pressure cookers were violently hissing, like some kind of out of sync steam train.  The waiters all fussed around us because there was only another couple of people in there and they were big fans of Gareth Bale (he’s a Welsh football player for non-sporties and officially the most famous Welsh person ever).  It’s always very strange to visit some very remote mountain village, lost to the vastness of the mystical Himalayas, and find a picture of Wayne Rooney pinned up beside Krishna in your family hostel reception.  I wonder what Wayne thinks about this kind of hero worship?  I wonder if he even knows!?

Mountain of dhendo! With all the Thakali trimmings

I know what you’re thinking, ‘that’s a big pile of dhendo!’ With all the Thakali style trimmings flavoured with the mighty ‘jimbu’.

Anyway, lunch was ace.  Very traditional and a real taste of the Thakali style of cooking.  An ethnic group from mainly Mustang in northern Nepal (a fascinating region if you’re a culture/ history buff btw) which stretches down to Pokhara.  The Thakali’s love nothing more than flavouring their dishes with the brilliantly named ‘jimbu’.  It’s a member of the allium family, think potent onions crossed with chives, normally used to flavour dal but it was also evident today in the tarkari dishes. A delicious herby twist to the normally spice laden sauces.  The mustard leaves were radiantly green and fresh, there was even some gundruk, something you don’t always get.  Dried and fermented saag, which is a loose term for green leaves but something normally like spinach.  This was all finished off by some pickled white radish and a punchy chutney of tomato and coriander; plus crisp popadoms, some chopped up salad bits, a slice of lime and one of those highly explosive green firecrackers (chillies).  What a feast!  How many textures and flavours can you cram onto a large tin plate?!  All for the modest sum of £1.  You heard me right, £1!  And we still get people writing in asking why we choose to travel all the time.  £1 goes a long way in certain parts of the world and it can certainly buy you some delicious lunch options.

A random, yet delicious falafel wrap in Kathmandu. I may not seek out crepes when travelling, but falafels are always welcome.

A random, yet delicious falafel wrap in Kathmandu. I may not seek out crepes when travelling, but falafels are always welcome.

Other Nepali specialities we’ve encountered include bread made from grains like millet or buckwheat (gluten free options abound), fermented soya beans (kinema).  We stay with an amazing family in Kathmandu, papa is called Raju and he takes wonderful care of us.  He was the first face we saw off the plane from Beijing, escorting us through the tangled Kathmandu streets on his motorbike (a Honda ‘Enticer’).  We love visiting Rajus family home and checking out what his sisters (he has seven!) and Mum are up to in the kitchen.  We’ve had some of our favourite food there, especially the popped, squashed and dried rice (baji) staple.  A dish normally served with roasted peanuts and different tarkaris (curries).  Something very uniquely Nepali and, I must admit, a little strange at first.  More like a pile of crunchy breakfast cereal has invaded your plate.

One of the most interesting dishes that Raju has introduced us to is Yomari (or ‘tasty bread’ – see below).  It looked like a hand crafted parsnip.  It’s actually made out of rice flour dough and stuffed with cane sugar, giving a gooey sweet middle.  It looks really tough to prepare and is loved by Nepalis.  Traditionally made for the Yomaru Puri festival, these funny things are something to do with an offering to the God of Wealth (Kubera).  There are so many festivals and religious rituals going on in Nepal, it’s almost impossible to keep pace.  I’ve never had anything like it, but I always appreciate a parsnip and the exploding soft sweet centre was a treat.

Yomari - a very interesting and unique Nepali sweet

Yomari – a very interesting and unique Nepali sweet

Snack wise, our favourites are the peanuts sold off the back of carts.  Simple but effective.  They are roasted in sand and kept warm in big piles with traditional wood burning clay braziers.  Expertly moved around by the vendour.  A great smell on a brisk January morning.  A big bag is around 50p or less.  We’ve had some tasty samosas and also doughnuts, which the Nepalis call ‘sel roti’.  You’ll also get some dried fruit and roasted soya beans.  There are of course the massive corporations here dishing out crisps and poor quality chocolate.  In bus stations you’ll find men wandering around with big baskets on their heads filled with a selection of warm breads and pastries, all wrapped up snugly in colourful cloths.

Dessert wise, Nepal is probably not going to blow you away.  There are not the volume of sweet shops that you find in India.  Kheer is a constant, sweet rice pudding with dried fruits and coconut, but as a vegan, you’re really looking at fruits.  The papaya is sensational.  I have no complaints.  After three plates of dal bhat, I’m nowhere near the market for dessert anyway!  Randomly, some of the best sweet things can be found half way up mountains.  Little homestays do a roaring trade in fresh apple pie for weary hikers.

Of course, we’re only writing about the vegan highlights here.  There are vastly more dishes that contain meat and dairy.  A vegan must always be aware that many dishes are fried in ghee (clarified butter).  Many Nepalis speak very good English so explaining your needs is reasonably straight forward.  Even though Nepal is Buddhist (Gautama was born in Lumbini in the south) and Hindu, most people are meat eaters, especially in the mountains.  Veggies are harder to grow up there where arable flat land is scarce.  There are some signs in more touristy areas offering vegan options.  I feel that Nepalis are open minded, there has even been discussions about making Nepal an organic only country!  Big ambitions.  But what a great idea.  With an ethical, peaceful Buddhist and Hindu approach to things, I can also see veganism really connecting here.  After all, the veggies are amazing!

We made it up some mountains. Dal Bhat Power 24 hours!! (as they say here)

We made it up some mountains. Dal Bhat Power 24 hours!! (as they say here)

We’re off for dinner in one of our favourite local Newari restaurants where the chef is a genius (he actually wears one of those proper chef white jackets with proud and shiny buttons) with all things spice and they have a tandoor oven that looks like an antiquated space rocket.  When it’s cranked up it actually sounds a bit like one.  The naans melt in the mouth, especially when dipped into a feisty bowl of beans or used to mop up the last drops of tarkari.  I’m getting hungry now……..

See here for more of our Indian/ Nepali inspired recipes.

You can also peep up with our antics on Facebook and Twitter.

Dinner way up in the Himalayas (we slept in a draughty cupboard that night, but dinner was fine.)

Dinner way up in the Himalayas (we slept in a cupboard that night, but dinner was fine.)

 

Categories: Curries, Healthy Eating, photography, Travel, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Visiting Tofu Village – Yogyakarta, Indonesia

The load, hot and crispy end of the kitchen

The load, hot and crispy end of the kitchen – Tofu Village

Jane and I are not fans of tour groups so we jumped on a motorbike and headed out into the countryside around Yogyakarta.  We’d been reliably informed that there would be huge ancient religious monuments, something like the grandeur of Angkhor Wat, and no shortage of tofu (tahu) making villages.  We were ready for some great times, lumps of tofu and stunning temples sounded like a decent way to pass a day.

This southern area is known as the garden of Java. Incredibly fertile and beautiful, lush countryside

This southern area is known as the garden of Java. Incredibly fertile and beautiful, lush countryside

We zig zagged and bounced our way out of Yogkakarta in the early morning, traffic flowing like a crazy vein of buzzing scooters making erratic patterns on rutted tarmac tracks.  We made it to the greener surrounds and went off piste down little tracks lined with rice paddies and folk thrashing their harvest by hand.  The countryside was breathtaking and so very fertile.  After the polluted city, the fresh air and open skies were a delight.

We began to follow our noses, asking the wonderful people of Java for tips and signals.  Many people understand English in Indonesia and they are so very kind hearted.  One chap hopped on his bike and led us over awesome off road terrain to a little village where an old lady was sat on a terrace.  ‘Tahu!’ he excitedly exclaimed and we knew we’d hit our plant-based jackpot.

Firstly - Cook the ground beans and add coagulant

Firstly – Cook the ground beans and add coagulant (great word!)

Tahu (tofu) is a staple in Indonesia, as well as Tempeh (more to come of that in following posts).  Many people in the countryside cannot afford to eat meat regularly and it seems that tofu and tempeh fills the gap.  Indonesians love it and it is available everywhere, mostly in little stalls selling it as a deep fried snack with a cup of Jasmine green tea.  We’ve so far eaten it many ways and have gobbled them all with glee.  The tofu is generally given a quick fry in coconut oil before being re-cooked and the tempeh is regularly served after being simmered with cane sugar.  Sticky and sweet.  In many ways, eating tempeh and tofu in Indonesia is a little like eating Focaccia and Pasta in Italy, this is it’s land.  Where it is from.  There is something intangible there that cannot be recreated.

Put into moulds, then leave to dry on racks

Put into moulds, then leave to dry on racks

The tofu kitchen was actually a mini countryside production plant.  Generations of the family were lending a hand as Grandmother supervised.  For those who know the process of tofu making, it is the same as you’d do at home, just a larger scale.  They made what we’d call ‘firm’ tofu in the UK and sold it straight up cubed or gave big chunks a couple of minutes in very hot coconut oil to crisp up and then stored the finished tofu in water.  All of the heat used was via wooden braziers, the frying pan was heated using a large pile of wood chips.  Very, very hot work but the aromas were a delight.

Chop it up (Jane slightly assisting)

Chop it up (Jane slightly assisting)

The family didn’t speak English and were a little shy.  Our two scrumbled pages of Indonesian and a few sentences got us somewhere, but two big gangly exciteable tourists poking about your work place is generally a little unsettling.  They were absolutely lovely and we got to taste the tofu at each process and it was excellent, as you’d expect.  One thing that I did find surprising is that the soya beans used were from the USA.   I know that the US grows vast quantities of soya beans to feed their insatiable appetite for beef, but I did not imagine that some of it would be feeding the people of Java!  I can only imagine that its cheaper than local soya beans which just seems bizarre, but understandable with our current methods of food production and distribution.  Organic tofu this was not!  Otherwise, this method of making curd from warmed bean milk is completely genius and has long been established (Han Dynasty, China, over 2000 years ago) as a vital way to get nutritious, protein-rich food into diets.  It’s also utterly lovely stuff.

Bubble, bubble......man, this pan was smokin'

Bubble, bubble……man, this pan was smokin’

This was our first time seeing tofu being made in a traditional way and the family had been making the local villages tofu for generations.  It is such a privelege to be able to travel and investigate the food that we love.  Our connection with and understanding of what we are eating grows and we can find new found enjoyment in the wonders of global cuisine.  We’ll never look at a lump of tofu the same again!

PS – We’d love to tell you the name of the tofu village, but we were scooting all over the place and had no idea where we really were.  It’s our little secret, somewhere near Karang.  We’d also just had a jug of thick black coffee from Papua New Guinea which gave us some kind of joy jitters; laughing, jabbering, sweating, dazed, frantic, dry mouth……you know how that goes.

All wood fired in these parts

All wood fired in these parts

Categories: healthy, photography, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Lazy Lizard Lunch – Bangkok

In the lazy lizard hut

In the lazy lizard hut

We are up to our necks in research (aka eating) at the minute in sunny, steamy Bangkok. It’s rainy season which means terrific storms and lightning, thunder, the Gods doing battle (I have just been to Greece you understand). The roads become rivers and there is not much more to do than sit and watch as the storms sparkle and rage.

Jane and I are doing our best to eat everything, cook everything and generally have the finest of foodie times. Bangkok is a city, Thailand is a country, where people with curious taste buds can eat like ravenous royalty on a daily basis (and the people adore their royal family over here). Inspiration flows freely and notebooks are choc full of new ideas and recipes. Travelling does that.

In Bangkok, Jane and I feel at home after many visits in the past. We have done zero touristy things and have just lived in local areas, catching up. We haven’t seen each other for more than three months!! Lots of photos to look at and experiences to share.

The first place was a typical Thai wooden house above a vibrant tropical inner city swamp (massive mosquitos, geckos and some curious street dogs and fan-tailed birds). The second, Pimm’s place, a lovely flat above a quiet residential street with a beautiful open plan kitchen. Noodles ahoy! The third is here, 18 floors above North East Bangkok. We’ve panoramic views of the buzzing city-scape and many times are blessed with eye level lightning shows.

Peaceful sunset from out 18th floor nest above the buzz of Bangkok

Peaceful sunset from out 18th floor nest above the buzz of Bangkok

We’ve lucked out here, with access to a salt water swimming pool, jacuzzi and all the other fine and dandy trimmings. We normally travel gritty and grimy, so this is a vip style surprise. How the other half move and shake. We have both been buzzing around travelling; sleeping on couches or floors, in hammocks and beside drunken Japanese nihilists. Which is a story for another blog altogether. (For more on Jane’s recent USA adventures, see the epic Magical Menstrual Tour here) Our little nest in the sky has been the perfect place to chill for a time in one space. Resting up for what is to come.  We have some awesome travel plans on the horizon.

Markets - one of my favourite places to wander

Markets – one of my favourite places to wander

Every place has had a little kitchen of some description and its been incredible to play with the local ingredients, relishing so many new influences.  I love the challenges of only having a wonky hob, or a sparking, intermittent heat source, or in some cases, just a microwave (admittedly my least favourite way to bring the heat). It’s amazing what you can do with a spoon and a bowl when you put your mind to it!? These restrictions push me into a different corner of cooking, a new approach where things can be learned and simplified.

Some of the finest food in the world is served in huts and stalls. Fact.

Some of the finest food in the world is served in huts and stalls. Fact.

THE GIANT LIZARD LUNCH
What about the lizards!? They were huge beasts. Beautiful in their way and menacing in many others. Giant monitor lizards that inhabited a little lake beneath a restaurant (battered hut on stilts) that we ate in the other day. It was adjacent to a main Bangkok highway but seemed like the jungle was fighting back, so much rampant nature in one urban locale.

There were many generations of the lizard family cruising around the pond, popping up from the depths like scaly submarines. We traced their bubbles, between mouthfuls of delicious Thai curry, as they patrolled and no doubt nibbled on the plentiful fish that leapt up on occasion. At first, when I saw one cruising our way, I thought “croc!” The locals looked less than impressed at my enthusiasm, from this I sensed little danger and calmed down a bit.

This must have been Daddy. Around two metres long with an unnerving twinkle in his eye.

This must have been Daddy. Around two metres long with an unnerving twinkle in his eye.

The restaurant owner feed them tit bits off a large forked stick. Feeding time with the dinosaurs! Local people find them to be bad luck and if they enter a home, it is seen to be a slight on the family name. That would be the least of my worries if one of these scaly behemoths wandered into my kitchen! Apparently, if you are attacked (which is very, very unlikely) by a giant monitor lizard the best advice is to RUN! Which is refreshingly honest. It’s normally something like ‘play dead’ or become submissive which always seems impractical.

We ate well, very fresh veggies. Morning glory (potentially snatched from the pond earlier) is a real treat, something that I rarely see on menu’s outside of SE Asia. Green tender stems given some serious hot pan treatment and then some tangy sauce other. We call it River Spinach on our island land (UK).  The main dishes are all not much more than £1 each.

Mama takes a closer look

Mama takes a closer look

Thai food does not hang around, you order, a minute later dishes appear.  This is preceded by some furious sounding gas hob (think jet engine sparking into action) and plenty of samurai chopping and wok clanging. Bosh! All beautifully presented and perfectly cooked. Crisp veggies always, none of that horrific floppy, overcooked-ness.  Loads of lime leaves, fiery chillies, creamy coconut, lemongrass, galangal, green peppercorns, so many interesting vegetables…….the fragrant beauty of Thai food in full effect!  We are here to explore!!

More Thai vegan adventures to follow….

We are sharing loads more on Facebook and Twitter if you’d like to join us;)

Categories: Healthy Eating, Travel, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Peace & Parsnips coming to the USA soon!!! Adventurous Vegan Cooking For Everyone – Reviews + release date

Peace and Parsnips comes out soon in the USA:)

Peace & Parsnips to be published soon in the USA:)

Not long now!!:)

It’s been over a year since Peace & Parsnips was released in the UK and now its off for an adventure over in the USA!  How cool!!

It will be published on 31st May and I’ve just had a peek at an advanced copy of the U.S. edition and its looking totally awesome!  I had to share.  It’s still bursting with over 200 plant based recipes packed with vitality and flavours.  More about the US version here.

Loads of super tasty, healthy, wholefood, vegan recipes for everyone!!

Loads of super tasty, healthy, wholefood, vegan recipes for everyone!!

So far the cookbook has been really well recieved, with a load of great reviews and comments:

“Plant-based recipes from a fun-loving, world-wandering chef you’ll want to follow everywhere!”

“Now, Peace & Parsnips captures 200 of Lee’s extraordinarily creative recipes, all “rooted” in his love of life and his many travels—from the streets of Mexico and the food bazaars of Turkey to the French countryside, the shores of Spain, the spice markets of India and beyond! Twelve chapters burst with gorgeous photos (200 in all!), tempting us with Lee’s mouthwatering recipes—all meat-free, dairy-free and egg-free, and many gluten-free—that are brimming with goodness. Get set to savor:

Breakfast: Plantain Breakfast Burrito with Pico de Gallo
Smoothies, Juices & Hot Drinks: Healthy Hot Chocolate
Soups: Zen Noodle Broth
Salads: Fennel, Walnut & Celeriac Salad with Caesar-ish Dressing
Sides: Turkish-Style Spinach with Creamy Tofu Ricotta
Nibbles, Dips & Small Plates: Shiitake Tempura with Wasabi Mayo
Big Plates: Parsnip & Walnut Rumbledethumps with Baked Beans
Curries: Roasted Almond & Kohlrabi Koftas with Tomato & Ginger Masala
Burgers & More: Portobello Pecan Burgers with Roasted Pumpkin Wedges
Baked & Stuffed: Mexican “Pastor” Pie
Sweet Treats: Raw Blueberry & Macadamia Cheesecake; Dark Chocolate & Beet Brownies

“[Watson] sets out to prove that tasty vegan food isn’t an oxymoron.”—Publishers Weekly

“Filled with 200 vibrant, appealing plant-based recipes.”—VegNews magazine

“As a long-time collector of vegan cookbooks, I’m always looking for the next great vegan chef: one who thinks outside the box and uses ingredients in new and interesting ways. Chef Lee Watson is the next great vegan chef for me, and Peace & Parsnips is a sensational addition to my collection.”
—Del Sroufe, author of the New York Times-bestselling Forks Over Knives—The Cookbook

“With vibrant imagery and abundant creativity, Lee takes us on a rich adventure that proves that clean, vegan eating is anything but boring. Peace & Parsnips is a true celebration of plant-based possibilities, and the ‘life’ these foods bring to our lives.”
—Heather Crosby, author of YumUniverse: Infinite Possibilities for a Gluten-Free, Plant-Powerful Lifestyle and founder of YumUniverse.com

“Bravo to Chef Lee Watson who has us covered in this mouthwatering cookbook! Everything you need to satisfy your cravings is right here starting with breakfast and smoothies, to dips, soups, curries, burgers, and desserts. An excellent vegan pantry section is included to help guide beginners who are just starting to cook vegan.”
—Chloe Coscarelli, author of Chloe’s Kitchen, Chloe’s Vegan Desserts, and Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen

Passionate about vegan food without being preachy, Lee Watson brings a singular sensibility to the vegan cookbook shelf. He has worked in restaurants for more than 20 years, has cooked on TV as one half of the presenting team on Fox’s Meat v Veg and helped open a restaurant on the beach in Murcia, Spain. Besides growing his own organic fruit and vegetables, Lee writes poetry and plays guitar, practices yoga, hikes and runs in the mountains, swims in the sea, surfs and enjoys nature. He lives “the good life” with his partner, Jane, in western Wales, where he works as a vegan chef at an idyllic retreat center in Snowdonia.

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Loving the US edition;)

It’s now ‘Adventurous Vegan Cooking……Inspired by Love and Travel’ which is brilliant and I think sums things up perfectly.

As an appetizer, I’ll be sharing recipes from the book here in the lead up to publication, so stay tuned.

The last year has been so amazing and I can’t wait to see the reaction of the U.S. to ‘Peace & Parsnips’!!

Categories: cookbook, healthy, Healthy Eating, Peace and Parsnips, Travel, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pea and Mint Hummus

Pea and Mint Hummus

Pea and Mint Hummus

Now that one half (me) of the BHK is rocking Spain, things are going totally Med for a while.  Fresh, vital, packed with sun, light and easy. Tapas basically. Little plates of flavour explosions that tantalise and don’t make you feel like a stuffed courgette. Perfect summer fare.

This is a nice twist on your standard hummus, plenty of lemon to lift it and enliven and a good hit of mint. It looks so vibrant, everyone will want a dip!  The great thing about peas is they freeze brilliantly and a I used frozen peas here.  When frozen, they don’t lose much of their nutritional value or texture, so its all good.

A hummus twist

A hummus twist

In Spain, the hummus wave is really hitting.  We went out with out mate in Madrid, a cool area and all the bars were serving hummus.  It seems like all the cool kids were at the crudites.  I think hummus is such a staple now in the UK, its nice to give it a twist now and again, although there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a well made ‘normal’ hummus.  I like mine nice and thick and creamy, with plenty of tahini.  I don’t think I’ll ever tire of it.

*Warning* – my posts from Spain may get a little erratic at times.  I’m normally tucked away in one of the the few local bars that have wifi.  There is a heady atmosphere of shouting and laughter and I’m no doubt sipping a ferocious black coffee.

Give peas a chance;)

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The Bits – Makes one big bowlful

480g chickpeas

275g peas

1 tbs dried mint

1 big handful fresh mint (finely sliced)

150ml olive oil

4 tbs tahini

1 1/2 medium lemons (juice)

2 big cloves garlic (crushed)

1 teas salt

50ml chickpea cooking broth

 

Do It

Place all ingredients into a blender and blitz until nicely smooth, drizzle in the chickpea broth (or water) until you get the consistency you like.  Remember that the hummus will thicken up in the fridge.  Check seasoning and served with a crazy array of chopped vegetables, flatbread slices, oat cakes, whatever tickles your fancy really.

View from one of the local interent hubs/ bars

View from one of the local interent hubs/ bars.  Life’s a long beach!

Categories: Dairy/ Lactose Free, healthy, photography, Recipes, Snacks and Inbetweens, Summer, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

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

Butter Bean, Lemon and Black Olive Salad

Butter Bean, Lemon and Black Olive Salad

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

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

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

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

Puerto Mazarron market in full swing

Puerto Mazarron market in full swing

DOWN AT ‘EL MERCADO ESTUPENDO’

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

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

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

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

Tomatoes - so many new types to try in Murcia

Tomatoes – so many new types to try in Murcia

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

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

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

Mazarron sunsets are regularly a bit special

Mazarron sunsets are regularly a bit special

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

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

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

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

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

Great with some toasted croutons or a handful or toasted almonds

Great with some toasted croutons or a handful or toasted almonds

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

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

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

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

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

2016-05-08 17.05.07

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

Pablo’s Perfect Pancakes plus my Top 5 Pancake Tips

Jane and our amiga Rach in the backstreets of sunny Granada. Yesterday.

Jane and our amiga Rach in the backstreets of sunny Granada. Yesterday. I think they went to the Alhambra later…..Que vida!

It may have been around a year since you last made pancakes, don’t fret a jot, we are here to ease you into an evening of perfect flippin’ and crispy edged perfection.  Jane has popped over to Spain and was last night giving this pancake recipe a dry run in the back streets of Granada (very nice indeed) whilst I kept my head down in the Beach House avoiding storm Imogen (nicely named).  So, we’d like to share one of the easiest ways to make the perfect pancake and a few key tips to ensure pancake paradise is yours……

Pablo (or Paul to some) is my sisters newly crowned husband.  I’m still getting used to the new title.  Pablo is a passionate cook and regularly comes up with sensational dishes, over Christmas, one that stood out for the whole family was Pablo’s perfect pancakes.  You could really wish for no more in a pancake recipe.  This is as easy as it gets, but the outcome is light, fluffy and hopefully, crispy around the edge.  Perfect for pancake day, or any day for that matter.

Pablo at the wedding party with our mate Nick

Pablo (right) at the wedding party with our mate Nick

I wish we ate more pancakes in Britain and didn’t reserve them for one night of frantic flipping.  I think our nations happiness index would leap with an increase in pancake munching, they are so fun and versatile; sweet or savoury, thick or thin, wholegrain and nutritious or light and white…….we all know how we like them.  I like mine with a fruity sauce or something rich like this wonderful coco and peanut sauce I just came up with.  Jane is a purist and opts for a squeeze of lemon and a scattering of sugar.  Each to their own!

If you'd like pancakes like this, check out these tips...

If you’d like pancakes like this, check out these tips…

TOP 5 TIPS FOR PERFECT PANCAKES

1. Don’t over oil – lightly grease your pan and remove any excess oil with a paper towel.

2. Practice makes perfect – The first couple of pancakes may be a little strange, but you’ll get the hang of it!

3. Regular heat – Consistent pancakes need a consistent temperature. Warm up your pan on medium heat and turn down the heat slightly if needed.

4. Flippin’ Marvellous – Make pancakes small to ensure an easy flip.  Always loosen run a spatula under the pancake before trying to flip, otherwise you may pull a muscle and generally look a bit daft as the pancake clings to the pan.

5. Portion control – use the same amount of mix per pancake.  Sounds obvious, but for best results, keep a measuring cup handy and add the same amount of batter to the pan.  They’ll take the same length of time to cook, look great and there will be no arguments over who got the runt of the litter!

And voilà! Perfect pancakes every time! 

Right………..lets rock a perfect Pablo pancake!

I use cups here because I love America and it cuts out unnecessary scale faff.  These are not supposed to be huge, pan filling pancakes.  They are harder to handle.  These are roughly 6 inches in diameter, light and fluffy.  More like an American style pancake than a French style crepe.  Thats how Pablo likes ’em……

The Bits  

Dry

1 1/4 cup strong white flour/ all purpose flour

2 teas baking powder

1/2 teas salt

2 tbs light brown sugar

Wet

1 cup (250ml) non-dairy milk (we use soya)

1 tbs oil

2 tbs water

(should equal 1 1/4 cups in total, if not, add a splash more water)

Jane flippin' in Spain

Jane flippin’ in Spain

Do It

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until all is combined.

(Check the top 5 tips above to make sure you are fully prepared for pancake paradise……)

Grab a medium sized frying pan (preferably with a nice thick bottom on it) and warm on medium heat.  Add a couple of drops of oil, coat the pan, then add roughly 1/3 cup pancake batter.  Let it naturally form a nice circular shape, leave to cook for 3 minutes, then flip over using a spatula to loosen it from the pan.  Cook for another 2 minutes.  If the colour is too dark or too light, check the heat and/ or cook for longer/ shorter with the next one.

Like I said, the first pancake at least, is a loosener, a warm-up.

Serve straight from the pan with accompaniments of your choice.  There are some ideas on our last post Blender Banana and Pecan Pancakes with Chocolate Sauce for sauces etc.

Rach presenting one of Pablo's finest - Happy Pancake Day!!!!

The delightful Rach presenting one of Pablo’s finest – Happy Pancake Day!!!!

 

Categories: Breakfast, Healthy Eating, Recipes, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lazy Lahmacun (Turkish Flatbread Wrap)

Lazy Lahmacun - One of our Turkish favourites.

Lazy Lahmacun – One of our Turkish favourites.

We absolutely love Turkey and it’s diverse, veggie-friendly food.  We have so many happy and tasty memories about our trip there a couple of years ago.  We will be sharing more Turkish dishes soon as they are firmly on the menu at home and at work; Pide, Imam Bayildi, Shakshouka, Corba, outstanding salads, wicked coffee…….the highly delicious list goes on and on.  If you are vegan/veggie/ or just love amazing food, Turkey is calling to you!

Three of my favourite things are travelling, eating and history (the order changes daily).  Turkish is a feast on all these fronts.  We did not eat Lahmacun in Turkey, its always non-veg friendly, but I vowed to experiment with it when I returned home.  Travelling inspires so many of the dishes I cook, influencing recipes, my constantly evolving style of cooking and the way I prepare food.  I love wandering the world, soaking up all the flavours and techniques and then giving them a blast next time I’m in the BHK (or just any random kitchen for that matter).  It is what inspires and challenges me to be a better cook and take on different influences.

Sunset in the intriguing landscape of Cappadocia

Sunset in the intriguing landscape of Cappadocia

We travelled around the south of Turkey in a clapped out car, mainly camping, taking in some of the outstanding ancient sites and spending as much time bobbing around in the azure Med as possible.  We then spent a couple of weeks working on an organic farm where we cooked with the local veggies, normally without electricity, power or water.  It was a great challenge!  We bought produce from the local market in Burdur (Central Turkey, proper middle of nowhere.  Beautiful people and landscape).  The farm made its own rosewater and even cared for rare eagles, wild boar and wolves (yes, grey wolves! Normally injured by hunters).  We especially loved the weekly trip to the markets and have never seen such a fine display of olives.  Many stalls were like works of art, colourful patchwork quilts of olive perfection.  Have you tried a pink olive?!  One of our most random memories of Turkey was hitching a rid in a ramshackled sewerage wagon.  We were stuck in the middle of the mountains and it was a lifesaver.  Very fragrant.

The markets of Turkey were always overflowing with beautiful produce.  When we travel we generally prepare many of our meals, saves money and ensures we’re keeping this gloriously vegan and tasty.  Everything seems to grow well in Turkey and Turkish people have a real passion for produce, they absolutely love their veggies, especially local favourites like aubergines and pomegranates.  Here’s what The Guardian wrote about Istanbul’s markets, I always feel very at home in a food market, you generally see people enthused and passionate about food, it’s a revealing window into local culture.  I also find many of the very freshest and most authentic restaurants and food vendors around markets.  They’re the real deal, where the locals flock for delicacies.

Lahmacun is normally made with minced beef and is served all over Turkey but we’ve packed loads of plant-based gorgeous-ness into our version and the flavour is epic.  This is another recipe plucked from our recent cookbook ‘Peace & Parsnips’.  You can eat it like a pizza or wrap it around some salad leaves, pickles, onions etc….either way, you’re in for a totally Turkish treat.  I use shop bought ‘lazy’ flatbreads here, it would be awesome on your favourite home made flatbread of course.  In Turkey, they may even be made in a blistering wood fired oven.

One of our favourite 'Lokantasi's' In Istanbul. Cheap and filling with loads of veggie options.

One of our favourite ‘lokantasis’ (restaurants) in Istanbul, in a winding little alley close to Spice Market. Cheap and filling with loads of veggie options.

Turkey really captured our hearts, from the vast expanses of emptiness in the heart of Turkey, the mountains of the East and of course, the glittering Mediterranean coastline.  It is a truly fascinating place expressed perfectly by the diverse and rich cuisine.

Afiyet olsun! (Enjoy!)

Lazy Lahmacun (Turkish Flatbread Wrap)

The Bits – Makes 4

  • 1 large aubergine
  • 1 red pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion
  • 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 150g mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • a large pinch of ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¹⁄³ teaspoon chilli powder
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 2 tomatoes, grated
  • ½ a handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 4 wholewheat flatbreads
  • juice of ½ a lemon For the topping
  • 1 x lemon tofu feta (optional)
  • 5 tablespoons cashews, roughly chopped
Do It

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6

Pierce the aubergine many times with a fork, then put it on a baking tray with the red pepper and rub them both with olive oil. Bake in the oven – check the pepper after 15 minutes, then turn them both over with a spatula and bake for 15 minutes more. Take out the pepper and leave the aubergine in for another 10 minutes. They should both be soft and well coloured. Deseed the pepper, trim the aubergine, and roughly chop them both.

While that is going on, on a medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoon of oil in a frying pan. Add the onions and fry for 6–8 minutes, then add the garlic, mushrooms, spices, salt and pepper, and continue cooking for 3–4 minutes. Add a splash more oil if needed. Now add the red pepper and aubergine, with the basil and tomatoes, and warm through on a low simmer for 6–7 minutes more. Stir in the parsley, cover and keep warm.

Your oven should still be rocking. Bring it back to 200°C/gas mark 6, lay out your flatbreads on baking trays and brush them with olive oil (especially the edges). Spread the vegetable mixture thinly over the bread – 4 tablespoons per lachmacun is normally cool. Top with cashews and tofu feta (if you’re using it) and pop into the oven for 12–15 minutes.

Serve

Drizzled with a little more olive oil and even a little squeeze of lemon juice. Depending on the size of the flatbread, this dish makes a great little or big plate and can be cut into wedges to be served as an appetizer or rolled around some salad. Raw cashew hummus (see page 160) is a perfect accompaniment.

Heading for the Med, near Antalya

Heading for the Med, near Antalya

Foodie Fact

Aubergine (or eggplant, brinjal….) is a nightshade, along with tomatoes, potatoes and peppers.  It has not always been appreciated as a delicious vegetable, for centuries in Europe it was a purely ornamental plant and was even said to cause insanity and leprosy if eaten!  Aubergine is a good source of fibre and minerals, the skin is high in anti-oxidants and it is low in calories.

The enchanting Blue Mosque, Istanbul

The enchanting Blue Mosque, Istanbul

Categories: Healthy Eating, Lunch, Nutrition, Peace and Parsnips, photography, Recipes, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Krishna’s Christmas Ice Cream (Vegan & Sugar free) – A gift from Solitude Farm & Organic Kitchen, India

Peanut & Chocolate Ice Cream (Vegan & Sugar-free)

Peanut & Chocolate Ice Cream (Vegan & Sugar-free)

100% sugar free ice cream!  Yowzah!

I love Christmas for many reasons, it gets me thinking about all the shining, beautiful people I’ve met all around the world.  I sometimes wonder how they will be spending Christmas or are they celebrating at all.  In many cultures its just another day.  I have spent Christmas in Cambodia and that was blast!  I hung out with some tuk tuk drivers and we sang and played guitar until the sun made us have breakfast.  There is no such thing as a normal Christmas in my eyes and I like ice cream.  So I’m having ice cream this Christmas day.  What about you?

Here’s a purely vegan, super creamy and rich chocolate ice cream recipe all the way from Krishna and the gang at Solitude Farm & Organic Kitchen, Tamil Nadu, India.  I know if Krishna recommends it, it will be a tasty treat!  I have made ice creams in his kitchen; always vegan, always sugar free, always amazing!  Its a magical thing to be re-creating it back in the BHK, Wales.  A real Christmas treat!

I have played with the recipe just a tad, added some festive flava with the cinnamon, generally making it more Western friendly.  We are not so used to grinding our own peanuts or cacao beans and probably don’t have access to the delights of Basil Seeds!

If you like this recipe, there is a similar Chocolate & Maple Ice Cream recipe in Peace & Parsnips.  Its the type of thing you try and get the technique under your belt and then BOOM!  You’re off on a massive ice cream making odyssey and the random, bizarre and truly awe-inspiring thing is…….its healthy!  Good healthy.  Happy healthy.  Vibrant healthy.

Check out more from Krishna here, they have an amazing project going on PEOPLEFOODMUSIC at the minute to raise awareness about local food and sustainable farming practices, in fact its a multi-faceted thing of wonder and positivity, best checking it out below.

CONTRIBUTE, LEARN AND BE HAPPY:)

We’re going to be making gallons of this ice cream over the festive window.  I’ll be adding raisins and maybe dried cherries instead of dates (soaking them in a little brandy no doubt!) and some ground ginger.  Taking in the direction of a Christmas Pudding Ice Cream.  Finished with some ginger biscuits……YUM!  I’ll let you know how it goes.

The Bits – Makes 1 big tubful

90g cacao powder (or cocoa powder)

10 frozen bananas

3 tbs chunky peanut butter (or other nut butter)

1 tin coconut milk

1 tbs ground cinnamon

3 big handfuls dates (soaked in water for 2 hours to soften, add more if you have a sweet tooth)

1 tbs Basil seeds (Sabja) – optional

Brown Rice Syrup (sweetener of choice) – optional

Do It

Soak basil seeds in water (if ya got ’em!)

In a food processor, add the bananas, 1/2 the coco milk, peanut butter…..in fact, pop it all in there.  Press the blitz button, scrape the fp down and start again, repeat until its nice and smooooooooth.  Drizzle in the coco milk whilst blending until you get a good, thick texture.

Taste the ice cream and get the flavour just how you love it.  We are not that sweet of the tooth (well Jane is a little).  Sweeten as desired.

Freeze for around 2-3 hours, until its just frozen and then blend it again.  This may take slightly defrosting it first, and blitzing in the trusty fp or blender.  Put back into the freezer and it’s now ready and waiting to be enjoyed!

Foodie Fact

Cacao is one of the healthiest things that will touch your lips.  It is different from cocoa in the fact that it has not been processed, maintaining its amazing nutritional properties.

Cooking at Solitude Farm, India

Cooking at Solitude Farm, India — Old school style, wood fires in a hut

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

Lunch is legendary at Solitude – celebrating the fresh and organic produce from the farm

 

Categories: Dairy/ Lactose Free, Desserts, Healthy Eating, Recipes, Superfoods, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

LEARN AND CONTRIBUTE HERE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn more and contribute by clicking below:

PEOPLEFOODMUSIC

  

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

Chai! Spiced and Warming Indian Tea (plus some travel snaps of India)

One of my favourite spots for a chai.  Baba Cake, up in Kasar Devi, Himalayas, India

One of my favourite spots for a stonking chai!  Baba Cake, up in Kasar Devi, Himalayas, India

“Chaichaichaichaichaichai!”  A cry you will hear quite often when wandering around India.  In the streets, in the middle of the night on a train, it’s a bit of a theme tune to your day.  Jane has several versions recorded which we like to play and bring a little bit of India into the Beach House (along with some recordings of birds singing in the Himalayas).

This is a steaming beverage that will see you cruise through winter (or if you are heading into summer, makes a great iced tea!) The spices here add magical flavours, highly fragrant and invigorating, along with a whole load of vitamins and minerals that benefit our wintery parts.  Of course, if you are vegan, most street-side chai is off the menu.  We must settle for a black tea, which can be delicious, but all too often turns out to be a Lipton tea bag in some warm-ish water.  This means our homemade chai’s are even more special.

Jane enjoying a chai outside out little cottage up near Nanda Devi, Himalayas, India

Jane enjoying a chai outside out little cottage up near Nanda Devi, Himalayas, India

Chai is something that we dearly love over here in the BHK. We make it when we need a little pick me up and a spicy memory of our beloved sub-continent. Chai fuels India. Along with the occasional chapatti/ idli. Chai is normally drank at chai stalls, where chai wallahs work sometimes 24 hours, supplying tiny cups of very sweet, dark tea (‘chai’ is basically Hindi for ‘tea’). You average chai in India does vary, depending on the quality of the chai wallah. Generally the back bone is cardamom and ginger, but there are many additions like clove, black peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon……the list goes on. It really is more of an elixir of life than a simple beverage. I find this in so much of Indian cuisine, a holistic approach that takes into account many things, not just sensational flavours.

Jane and I at the Taj Mahal earlier in '15

Jane and I at the Taj Mahal earlier in ’15

Here we have a simple chai recipe that we can all make at home. There is also a rich and delicious Almond Rooibos Chai recipe in ‘Peace & Parsnips’. Something we make when we’re taking it easy on caffeine.

Stay warm and cosy this winter.  Drink more chai!

Recipe Note
For a more intense chai, crush the ginger and spices in a pestle and mortar or food processor before hand.

Experiment with the quantity of spices, everyone has their favourite chai and no two chai’s are ever equal!

You don’t need to measure the milk/ water exactly, just use the cups that you will be serving the chai in.

Loose leaf black tea can vary greatly in strength.  The best and most authentic tea to use for chai is from Assam in North East India.  The leaves are normally rolled, meaning they look like tiny black balls and have a rich, malty flavour.  If you are using a lighter tea like Darjeeling or Nilgiri, you may like to add another teaspoon or two for a decent brew.

Chai on the hob.  House filled with those gorgeous aromas.

Chai on the hob. House filled with those gorgeous aromas.

The Bits – For 2 mugs
2 mugs non-dairy milk

1 mug water

8 green cardamom pods (lightly crushed)

4 slices fresh ginger

8 black peppercorns

8 cloves

2 inch cinnamon stick (or 1 teas ground cinnamon)

1 star anise (optional)

1 teas fennel seeds (optional)

3-4 teas black loose-leaf tea (or 3 black tea bags, ripped and contents poured into pan)

 

Do It

In a large saucepan add the water along with the ginger and spices, bring gently to a boil and lower heat, simmer for 5 minutes.

Add your tea, simmer for 2 minutes.   Now for the milk and sweetener of choice, bring back to a gentle boil and serve when the tea has a nice deep colour, pouring through a small sieve.

Chai is a saviour in wintery Wales.

Chai is a one cup saviour in wintery Wales.

Serve

We tend to warm our cups with hot water before pouring in the chai.  Nice to it properly, it is chai after all!

Dad and I in the Imperial Hotel Delhi enjoying very posh chai and those very small sandwiches you tend to get with posh tea.

Dad and I in the Imperial Hotel, Delhi enjoying very posh chai and those very small crust-less sandwiches you tend to get with posh tea.

Foodie Fact

Some of you may have Peace & Parsnips and will be well aware of my love of spices.  A large chunk of the beginning of the book relates to spices and their healing properties.   Some of you may have also been reading this here blog for five years or so and be equally as familiar with my spice box and its contents.  I love ’em!

Cinnamon is anti-microbial (kills bad bacteria), lowers GI, excellent source of calcium and fibre plus even the aroma is said to enliven the brain.  Cinnamon is especially warming and when mixed with ginger in a chai becomes a remedy for the onset of colds and flu.

Seeking refreshment in Paharganj, Delhi with the big man (aka Dad)

When you stop for chai, you'll meet some interesting folk.  Bikaner, Rajhastan, India

When you stop for chai, you’ll meet some interesting folk. Bikaner, Rajhastan, India

Categories: Infusions, Recipes, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Aviyal – Keralan Coconut and Vegetable Curry with Watermelon and Pineapple Salad

Aviyal - Keralan Coconut and Vegetable Curry with Pineapple and Watermelon Salad

Aviyal – Keralan Coconut and Vegetable Curry with Pineapple and Watermelon Salad

A simple, light summer curry with all the joys and sparkling nutrition of coconut and seasonal vegetables.  This is a recipe straight outta Peace & Parsnips and was recently featured online here in Reveal Magazine.  Recipes like this are a wonderful reminder for me of special times spent travelling and cooking in India.  Kerala is surely one of the most beautiful corners of the planet and its food is surprisingly vegan friendly, diverse and really healthy.

This is a recipe I learnt from my friend Narendra on the patio of a wooden hut in a yoga retreat, rural Tamil Nadu.  Although this is (probably) a traditional Keralan style curry, they love it in neighbouring Tamil Nadu also.  I had been eating it regularly in India and was so pleased when Narendra took the time to sit down with me and finally get a recipe on paper.  He taught me his families traditional recipe, from the ancient temple town of Madurai, and it was pleasing simple.  Like many Indian family staples, the difference is in the freshness of the ingredients; the vegetables and the spices.  Most Indian households will have what I call a ‘Sabji’ (Vegetable) man.  Just like a milk man in the UK, he wanders the streets in the mornings selling his wares from a cart, shouting up to the windows of house wives what’s good , freshest and of course, on special offer!  Fresh vegetables are everywhere in India and veg markets are frequent and always interesting to wander around and pick up some funky looking spice or odd looking root (maybe a mooli or two?).

The beaches of North Kerala are stunning!

The beaches of North Kerala are stunning! Kannur

Although this is a simple recipe, cooked most days in Keralan homes, it adapts well to the changing seasons in most countries.  Any variety of vegetables can be used in its preparation and Aviyal lends itself perfectly to British/ European veg.  In fact, Narendra’s grandmother used to call things like carrots ‘British veg’ as they we only grown and popularised in the time of the Raj, when much of Indian cooking as we know it was altered and influenced by British tastes.

The ladies at Varnam Homestay, Wayanand, Kerala - Lunch prep in full swing

The women Varnam Homestay, Wayanand, Kerala – Lunch prep in full swing

I was lucky to cook in a beautiful kitchen near Wayanad National Park, Northern Kerala with some amazing ladies.  Here I learnt some proper Keralan classics and top tips that you can only learn by actually getting your hands on the pots and pans.  I loved the way that they used very roasted coconut to add depth and flavour to sauces, especially when used with piles of freshly grated ginger.  I also loved cooking with a wide range of local produce, all of their dishes contained only ingredients from their own land.  Spices and all!  They even grew their own coffee and we were inundated each day with fresh exotic fruits, many of which I’d never seen before.  Mangoes grew above the hammocks in the garden, guavas, green figs, coconuts, plantains……you can imagine, it was a bit like eden/ nirvana!

Cooking at Varnam Homestay, Kerala

Cooking at Varnam Homestay, Kerala

Aviyal is such a healthy, light dish, nothing like the rich and fiery curries of the much of North India.  Coconut is king in the south, making travelling around South India a foodie paradise for vegans.  Its up there with places like Thailand or parts of the Med for traditional vegan dishes.  Anywhere that the vegetable or coconut thrives, you find brilliant vegan dishes.  Vegan food is so creative and evolving all the time, but it is nice to find dishes on my travels that reflect a cultures heritage and history.  We’ve always eaten and enjoyed vegan dishes, we just don’t necessarily give them that name (which, for whatever reason, can put some people off).

Indian spices, down at the market

Indian spices, down at the market

The Bits – For 4
For the curry
•2-3 fresh green chillies
•2 big handfuls of freshly grated or desiccated coconut
•2tsp cumin seeds
•220ml coconut milk or unsweetened soya yogurt
•2 large carrots, scrubbed
•2 large potatoes, scrubbed
•1 large courgette
•6 fat asparagus spears
•2 green plantains, peeled
•200ml water
•1tsp ground turmeric
•1tsp of sea salt
•1 big handful of mangetout or green beans
•2tbsp coconut oil
•2tsp mustard seeds
•3tbsp curry leaves
For the pineapple & watermelon salad
•A small pineapple
•One third of a small watermelon (don’t bother deseeding)
•1 large cucumber
•1 small handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
•A pinch of sea salt
•A large pinch of chaat masala mix or black salt (optional)

Do It
In a pestle and mortar or a food processor, blend together the chillies, coconut and cumin seeds (if you’re using desiccated coconut, add 2tbsp of the coconut milk to make a thick paste). This is best done in advance and can be left overnight in the fridge to develop zing.

Cut the carrots, potatoes, courgette, asparagus and plantains into 2.5cm pieces. Heat the water in a large pan and add the turmeric, salt, carrots and potatoes. Bring to a steady boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and pop a lid on the pan. Cook for 10 minutes, then add the courgettes and plantains and cook for 10 minutes more, keeping the lid on.

Add the coconut paste to the curry with the coconut milk or yogurt and stir carefully to combine. Cook uncovered for 8-10 mins on a gentle simmer. Check that the carrots and potatoes are tender, then add the asparagus and mangetout and remove the pan from the heat. Cover, set aside for a few minutes.

Jane and I in the Yoga Retreat, Tamil Nadu

Jane and I in the Yoga Retreat, Tamil Nadu

Serve

Really simply, with steamed rice.  Keralans love their rice!  A crunchy salad is great as a side, exotic fruits work well here with Aviyal.  This is how they served it in the Yoga Ashram (where the food was excellent).

Foodie Fact

Coconuts are wonderfully healthy, containing high levels of Lauric Acid which is anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacteria.  They also have the highest level of electrolytes known to man, making them perfect when exercising or when dehydrated.  In some parts of the world it is even used intravenously for the purpose of re-hydration.  Coconut can boost our metabolism and make our skin shine.

Keralan sunset

A Keralan sunset, Kannur

Categories: Curries, Healthy Eating, Peace and Parsnips, Recipes, Salads, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sweet Potato and Spinach Thoran (Keralan Stir Fry)

Sweet Potato and Red Pepper Thoran

Sweet Potato and Red Pepper Thoran

Do not be put off by the long list of ingredients, this is Indian cooking in a flash! Thoran is like a South Indian stir fry, very quick to get together and whip up.  Its one of those dishes that easily slots into the ‘staples’ category of your recipe repertoire.   Small efforts are rewarded with massive and delightful flavours.  Definitely our way of doing things.

The ingredients for this have been adapted to Wales, a subtle change from steaming, tropical Kerala.  I’ve still gone for some non-native ingredients, pepper and sweet potato, but swede and parsnips just don’t seem to fit the bill (although I did use them for a soup – coming soon……)

Thoran is what the Indians would call a ‘dry’ side dish, normally served with a saucy curry (like Sambar) and rice, some coconut chutney would finish things off like a tropical Keralan dream.  Thoran is cooked especially well in Kerala and Tamil Nadu and this part of the world is a vegans heaven.  There are very few dishes which are reliant on ghee (clarified butter) that dominates the cooking of North India.  In the south its all about the coconut and sometimes, if you’re lucky, the odd cashew.  The food is lighter and seems fresher, without the reliance on uber rich, spicy sauces (which I might add are extremely delicious).

Thoran is an essential part of a Sadya, which is basically a very elaborate South Indian Thali, normally served on a banana leaf (if you’re in the right joint) at festival times.  Sadya showcases the depth and diversity of Indian cuisine, the way for centuries it has been designed and modified to tantalise all of the tastebuds and senses.  Sadya will have dry curries, saucy curries, fluffy rice, crispy papads (poppadoms), sour chutneys, creamy/ herb based chutneys, smokey chutneys, banana chips, spicy pickles and normally a tamarind based soup (Rasam) to aid digestion of all of this.  In fact, a full on Sadhya served at a big festival can consist of around 28 dishes (some even go up to 60!)  I would have to say that to get the most flavour from your Keralan food, it has to be eaten with (well washed) hands.  Roll up your sleeves and dive in.  A Sadya sounds like an elaborate feast but its actually quite a normal meal, inexpensive and versions of it are served in modest restaurants all over Kerala.  I think we normally paid around one pound for an all you can eat Sadya.  Yes ONE POUND for all that deliciousness!  Welcome to India!  The dishes all come out in a specific order and a nice gentleman will come over and just keep spooning things onto your welcoming leaf.  It is quite a complicated process, but when you’re the recipient, you just scoop away and smile.

Trying to help, learning loads.....

Trying to help, learning loads…..

I have just got back from the Mother land and while I was there stayed in some amazing homestays.  I spent the first six weeks travelling from Delhi to Kerala with my Dad (see out blog ‘The Jalebi Express‘) and then we met Jane in Delhi and Jane and I travelled the Himalayas and spent time with the Tibetans up in Mcleod Ganj. Homestays are not normal in India, they vary greatly, some are just like hotels although many hotels in India can soon become something like a homestay.  If you hang around for a while, you are bound to get to know all the people that work there.  More so than in other countries.  Even in the heart of Delhi, I now know all the people who work in my favourite hotels, restaurants, shops and chai stands.

Whilst travelling around the spectacular North of Kerala we stayed at Varnam Homestay, just outside Wayanad National Park.  There, I had the pleasure of cooking with Beena (our host) and her amazing team of lady helpers.  Wayanad is tucked away in the northern tip of Kerala and is a stunning area, the flora and fauna are dense and spectacular; wild elephants and tigers roam the land and the people are gentle and very hospitable.  The way of life hardly wavers above a gentle amble.  Beena and Varghese our gracious hosts were amazing and could not have made Dad and I more welcome.  When I mentioned my passion for food and cooking they immediately roped me in to helping out with the next days lunch and dinner prep.  I learnt so much and was amazed to see their chopping skills.  You pull a plastic sheath over your index finger and use it as a mid-air chopping board.  The knives are sharp and occasionally you end up cutting through the flimsy guard.  Once the blood is stemmed, you carry on with a new colourful finger guard.  This of course never happens to the ladies.

The Varnam ladies get busy

The Varnam ladies get busy

We prepared many dishes, but the Plantain Thoran was one of the highlights, cooked over a wood flame stove with minimal fuss.  We also made a Keralan classic sauce, with highly roasted coconut and ginger as a base.   A very unique flavour and something I will be cooking very soon (I forgot the name, it may be called Inchi Curry – see here for a recipe).  Once i find a good supply of coconuts up here, our kitchen is heading towards Kerala again.

Varnam Homestay was set in some impressive farmland and forests.  The little huts are raised on stilts to ensure the farmers have somewhere to go when a tiger wanders by

Varnam Homestay is set in some impressive farmland and forests. The little huts are raised on stilts to ensure the farmers have somewhere to go when a tiger wanders by

Varnam Homestay is set in acres of its own land and we were served only ingredients that grew on their land, that included the rice, coffee, all the sensational fruits and vegetables and even milk (they had a few cows roaming behind the kitchen).  The family were so friendly and warm, Dad and I stayed an extra two days, mainly exploring the locals hills and testing out the hammocks for comfort and durability.  They all seemed to work well.  We also saw a tigers footprint, which looked fresh, but I am no expert.  It sounds like I’m belittling the whole experience but the food was a highlight and to be served only homegrown, was a rare and highly tasty treat.  Another wonderful aspect was the other guests, not something you can say in every hotel. They were such a good bunch from all around the world, we ate together on a large table and during the delicious meals,  very quickly became friends.  I think eating is the best way to meet new people, we all relax over a good curry!

Varnam's Plantain Thoran

Varnam’s Plantain Thoran

Indian food is mind boggling at times and can be complex, but that’s why I like Thoran, its cheap and quick.  The other wonderful thing about a dish like Thoran is it is there to use up any seasonal produce.  In Kerala for example plantains are a regular ingredient, as well as bitter gourd, yucca, yardlong beans, giant arums, red cheera and several different types of flowers.  Even banana flowers make a mean Thoran.  In Britain, you can opt for potato, green beans, carrots, I’d even go for asparagus.

Thoran is quick to cook and so easy to get together

Thoran is quick to cook and so easy to get together

The Bits – For 4 (as a side dish)
2 tbs coconut oil
400g sweet potato – or 1 big one (peeled)
1 onion (peeled)
1 large red pepper (deseeded)
(all finely diced)
4 large handfuls spinach leaves
1 teas mustard seeds
1 teas cumin seeds
1 handful curry leaves
2 dried chillies (cut down the middle lengthways)
2 tbs grated ginger
1 tbs turmeric
75ml water

Finish with……
1 massive handful grated fresh coconut (or desiccated coconut will do)
1 large chilli (finely sliced)
1 handful fresh coriander (finely chopped)

Do It

Thoran cooks quickly, so best have all your ingredients to hand and prepared.  Stay with the pan for most of the cooking time, stirring gently with a non-metal spoon or spatula.  I love this kind of cooking, its exciting!

In a large, heavy frying pan, preferably with a chunky bottom, warm your coco oil on high heat.  Add the dried chillies, mustard seeds, when the seeds pop a little add the curry leaves.  Fry for a minute and then add your sweet potato, onion and peppers, stir.  After a couple of minutes, add the ginger and turmeric and a little water if things begin to stick to the bottom.  Fry for a couple of minutes and then scatter the spinach on top and cover the pan with a lid.  Lower the heat a touch, leave to cook for five minutes.

Check that the sweet potato is softened, then stir in the grated coconut, fresh coriander and chillies.  Reserving a little of these for a final flourish.

Serve 

Spoon into a preferably warm and striking serving dish and sprinkle on your ‘final flourish’ ingredients.  Munch with relish and dream  of swaying palms and endless rivers of mango juice.  Check out those vibrant flavours!!

Sweet Potato and Red Pepper Thoran

Sweet Potato and Red Pepper Thoran

Foodie Fact

Sweet potato is packed with beta-carotenes.  In fact it is one of natures best sources of Vitamin A.  They also boast plenty of vitamin C.  Although SP’s are a starchy root veg, they actually help to maintain and regulated our blood sugar levels, mainly due to their high levels of dietary fibre.

One of the local residents, who was friendlier than he looked

One of the local residents, who was friendlier than he looked

 

Categories: Curries, Healthy Eating, Recipes, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Pyramid Cafe Salad and Natural Healing

The Pyramid Salad - Rishikesh Classic

The Pyramid Salad – Rishikesh Classic

A crunchy Rishikesh classic, surely India’s first ever ‘superfood’ salad.  We love salads like this, no strong dressing, the glorious veggies do all the talking……..

This is a little like the Israeli Salad that we wrote about a few posts ago, but The Pyramid Salad has bells, whistles, trimmings and shavings.  This is the ultimate traveler salad in India.  You know that Jane and I love a bowl of crunchy veggie goodness and granted, in many parts of the world, salads may seem quite everyday.  But in India, when you’re on the bumpy, dusty road filled with spiced and deep fried delights, a bowl of salad becomes an sheer delight.  Especially when its sprinkled with gloriously green spirulina!  Indulge us…….

The Pyramid Cafe in Rishikesh is  traveler institution and has been for ages.  It’s one of the only places you used to be able to get a fresh and crisp salad, decent filter coffee and very good vibes (they play the Jungle Book theme tune sometimes at night, “It’s those bear necessities……!”)  It has changed alot recently, Lali and his family have been doing some building work, the pyramids are getting much higher, but the quality of the food remains awesome and fresh, fresh, fresh……  Also Lali and his family are still lovely hosts and their son Rahul, who I met six years ago and has changed from a young lad into a strapping fella, has taken over the running of the restaurant.

We always hike up the steep hill to the Pyramid Cafe, it has wonderful views of the turquoise Ganges and is a quiet little spot in the otherwise hectic Laxman Jhula area.  When this salad greets you, your body and palate become very excited.  You feel healthier just by being in its presence.  The Pyramid Cafe has always been a superbly healthy mecca for wellness, they sell; kombucha, organic spirulina, cacao beans, vanilla pods, silver collioidal and there menu used to double up as an alternative health bible.  Great reading when waiting for dinner.  Sleemy is the man behind the sparkling health approach.  Sleemy was born in Switzerland, but has been living in India for an age and rides around, from North to South, on his customised scooter, known as the ‘Chapatti Express’.  He is a living legend in the Indian travel scene and pops up when you least expect him in Gorkana, Goa or small villages in the high Himalayas.  He is full of wisdom like ‘The best medicine is the one that teaches you how not to need it’.

The bare necessities of life!

 

 

 

NATURAL HEALING

Sleemy has been a student of health for over 30 years and is an advocate of all forms of natural health; yoga, naturopathy, holistic medicines and ayurveda, check out his website here.  Sleemy is a font of information on acheiveing a state of sparkling well being and as he says, “I have built myself an iron cast immune system, and since 1975, I haven’t been ill at all, (not even a cold in winter), and I didn’t consult any doctor since then.”  Sleemy has even wrote an ace travelers health manual named “The Hitchhikers Guide to Medicine“.  It’s well worth a read.  

We also believe that getting ill is the final stages of a problem, not the beginning.  We must work at the roots of good health to prevent future illness, using a varied and radiant diet, healthy habits and regular exercise to prevent the growth and manifestation of illness both physical and mental.  Positive thinking is also a must, laughing alot is very important (as are hugs) along with a basic idea of nutrition.    We also believe that breathing is highly underrated.  Breathing well, deeply and slowly, is a sure fire way decreasing stress and enlivening our body with huge amounts of good energy.  Breathing is our number one way of absorbing pure energy, much more immediate than the food we consume.  Love is also imperative.  Self love and loving relations with relatives, friends, neighbours, work colleagues etcetc.  Wherever possible, love is the answer (and its always possible!x)

Jane and I overlooking the jade green Ganga

Jane and I overlooking the jade green Ganga

Until just a few years ago, salads in India were like playing digestive roulette. Now things are much better, many places wash raw veggies in filtered water, but a few can still lead to upsets. The Pyramid has always known the score and has always been a safe haven for going raw.  They also happen to whip up the finest falafels in the sub continent.

Bright red carrots!!!!!  Please do not be unduly alarmed, carrots in India are dark red, almost crimson in colour.  This is very normal.  Use your preferred/ local shade of carrot in this recipe.  Remember that organic, local carrots, will have loads more nutrition than anything industrially grown.  We have just read some shocking facts about the dearth of nutrition in most non-organic veggies.  Minerals and other nutrients can be as much as 2/3 lower in veggies grown using artificial fertilizer and in depleted soils.

I have guessed what goes into this mythical creation, to be fair, it was not that hard, but worthy.  This salad has enriched many an aspiring yogi and wayward wanderer, finding their way up into the free and liberating spaces of the beautiful Himalayan wilderness.

The Pyramid Cafe also for the best falafels in India

The Pyramid Cafe also for the best falafels in India, brilliantly served in edible bowls (cabbage leaves)

 

The Bits – For 4

2 good sized carrot (grated with a grater, also grate roughly six long slices per person with a potato peeler for presentation – see the photo)

1/2 small white cabbage (grated or very finely sliced)

1/2 small red onion (not a strong one, very finely sliced)

1 little gem lettuce (finely sliced)

3 radishes or 6 inches mooli (grated)

3 tomatoes (finely chopped)

2 big handfuls crunchy sprouts (brown lentils used here)

1 handful alfalfa sprouts

 

Serve

Small bowls of tamari (or good soya sauce), wedges of lime and unrefined oil of your choice

Topped with more sprouts, a hearty sprinkle of spirulina/ wheatgrass/ barley grass.

In India, it would not be unheard of to sprinkle over some dried chilli flakes to perk things up a bit.

Also pleasant with:

Slices of Brown Bread or Wholewheat Chapattis

 

Do It

Beautifully simple.  Combine all in a bowl, toss gently.  Pile up into the centre of  plate, pyramid style.  Lay a few of your carrot shavings over your pyramid of intense delight and sprinkle with sprouts and green powdered joy.

 

Serve

Warm the bread a little and enjoy.

The Pyramid Cafe Superfood Salad

The Pyramid Cafe ‘Superfood’ Salad – pure eye candy for the sabji weary traveller

Foodie Fact

Spirulina is a highly nutritious green/ blue algae that has been eaten by humans for millenia.  It is a great friend of the BHK and is something we eat regularly, especially when we are on the road.  It means that we are getting a concentrated health boost every morning and start the day in the most brilliant way.

Spirulina is made of 60-70% protein and is a great source of amino acids and also has good levels of calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, manganese, folic acid, niacin, vitamin B, caroteniods and iron.  Of course, being so beautifully green, it also contains bags of chlorophyll which has many benefits, including aiding our chemical reactions creating protein, vitamins and sugars.

For more info, check out the post we wrote about Spirulina.

Our favoutire chai spot between Laxman Jhula and Ram Jhula (closed unfortunately)

Our favoutire chai spot between Laxman Jhula and Ram Jhula (closed unfortunately)

Categories: Healing foods, Healthy Living, Recipes, Salads, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Himalayan Monkey Munch Porridge

Monkey Munch Porridge

Monkey Munch Porridge

Here we have our Himalayan retreat breakfast of choice; filling, warming and packed with monkey flavas!!!  There are monkeys galore up here in Kasar Devi (Uttarakand) and they bother our banana stash daily.  We are looking out towards Nanda Devi (India’s highest mountain) and the giant massif’s of the Great Himalayas.  Spring is just about settling in, meaning chilly nights and generally bright and warm days.  Clouds have obscured the mountains most days, but even the most occasional of glimpses, is more than enough.  We have hired small red brick cottage with a simple kitchen from a lovely local family. The cottage has quickly become a home away from home and we have been doing a little cooking and plenty of tea making.

Monkeys flock around our little garden, the mischievous macak variety, desperate to liberate you of any stray snacks that may be lurking around half opened windows and doors. There are also flocks of little and large birds, woodpeckers, small owls, vultures and eagles soar regularly overhead and a three local leopards pay regular visits to the village. They make a sound like sawing wood, an excited pant.  This makes the evening trip to the outdoor toilet a bracing affair.

Dawn raider, banana botherer, meddling Macak, monkey brotherx

Dawn raider, banana botherer, meddling Macak, monkey brotherx

We have found a slice of beauty, a place where many hippies used to flock; folk like Herman Hesse, Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens, to name a few, have graced this thin ridge in the 60’s and bar a few houses, not much has changed really.  There are a couple of restaurants (the Rainbow Restaurant especially is brilliant, Hari makes the best pasta in India!) and a little cafe known as ‘Baba Cake‘ which is set in a corrugated metal shed and serves awesome South Indian coffee, local organic herbal infusions and lip smacking Indian nibbles.

We have met many like minded folk in this secluded corner and the local people are all exceptionally warm and full of smiles.  Five days has just not been enough, but we have had time to do plenty of thinking and dreaming, way up here in the clouds and rare airs there is little else to occupy time.

It has been wonderful to take control over our diets again, and porridge, of course, plays a major role. We are British after all!  We picked up a 2kg bag in Delhi of these precious grains and carted them all the way up here to find that a small local shop sells crates of healthy muesli and porridge oats. Who knew? All the way up here, close to the wild expanses of Nepal there would be such good western breakfast options!

One morning, watching the monkeys reek havoc on the neighbours in their own immutably comical way, I thought I’d dedicate a dish to them and stick as many of their favourite foods in it. The ones they like to pinch anyway (a monkey once stole the banana out of my sandwich one morning in Rishikesh!)

Outside the legendary Baba Cake

Outside the legendary Baba Cake

We would add a handful of flax/linseeds to this at home, but they are hard to come by here. Roasted peanuts are better because the taste is more intense and you can finish is off with coconut flakes or desiccated coconuts if you have some handy. We used green raisins here, but any tasty raisin will do.  For richness and even greater nutritional pizazz, why not try a heaped teaspoon of coconut oil, stirred in just before serving.  This is India, the cardamom is essential!  Like many of the spices used in classic Indian cuisine, cardamom is not just a fragrant delight, but actually acts as medicine for the body; giving it a huge boost, especially needed in the morning.  People over here actually chew cardamom pods, they are an acquired taste to most, but act as a super charged breath freshener and have been known to help smokers quit.  Everytime you fancy a ciggy, pop in a pod instead.  We even like to pop the crushed, black seeds into a pot of tea to jazz things up a little.  So please chew your cardamom pods with gusto, don’t spit them out!

The Bits – For 2

Let’s keep it simple, handfuls only here

5 big handfuls porridge oats

2 big, ripe bananas (mashed with a fork)

1/2 tin coconut milk (or 200 ml non-dairy milk of choice)

4-6 green cardamom cloves (crushed a little, until cracked, in a pestle and mortar)

2 big handfuls roasted peanuts

1 big handful green raisins (or normal ones will do)

Sweetener of your choice (nothing white or processed please!)

 

Topping 

Roughly 1/2 handful of grated coconut, more bananas, raisins and peanuts

(sprinkled over both bowls for an extra special touch)

 

Do It

Check which porridge oats you’re using and cook accordingly, as per the packet.  It doesn’t really matter which ones you use, this monkey madness will be a delight.  Take it easy, rushing porridge leads to a stick pan bottom, a gentle simmer is good.

Add all the ingredients to the pan, cover the oats with around 1 1/2 inches of water and bring to a slow and gentle simmer, stirring regularly.  Add more hot water to get your desired consistency, we like it thick and yet pourable.  Not too gluey sticky.  In less than ten minutes, you’ll have a yummy breakfast.

Himalayan Monkey Munch Porridge

Our cottage it tucked away in there somewhere.  Behind the tree!!!!

Serve

Piping hot, straight from the pan (using a spatula or something like it, to scrape out all that porridge goodness).  Sprinkle over your toppings and munch way like happymonkeys!

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Himalayan Monkey Munch Porridge

 

Foodie Fact

Why Cardamom is a must! 

Cardamom (or Elaichi) is native to Southern India and is well regarded for its medicinal properties, especially in the Indian holistic system of Ayurveda.  There are such a huge list, I’ll summarise.  Cardamom has many anti-oxidant, disease preventing and health promoting properties.  They contain a long list of volatile essential oils and help greatly with digestion.  They are a good source of minerals like manganese, iron and potassium, as well as copper.  They are also high in vitamin C and riboflavin.  A true gift from nature.

Jane taking in some rays outside the cottage - Kasar Devi

Jane taking in some rays outside the cottage – Kasar Devi

 

Categories: Ayurveda, Breakfast, Dairy/ Lactose Free, Nutrition, Recipes, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Taste of Goan Cuisine and Papaya Paradise

 

Papaya Paradise - Papaya, cashews and a drop of coconut milk.  A fruity delight.

Papaya Paradise – Papaya, cashews and a drop of coconut milk. A tropical tickle.

Paradise for me involves papaya, cashews and coconut. Maybe a beach and a few palm trees lolling in the background. Put all those in a bowl (minus the salt water, sand and chewy leaves) you are approaching my idea of a fruit-based nirvana.  We are in Goa and all of these things are plentiful, there are stalls that enforce coconuts on you with each passing, men gifting papayas to you on a regular basis and cashews, the size of small curved chipolatas, are sold for peanuts.  Also, it is not mango season in India, so there is no fruity conflict for me, the papaya reigns supreme.

Peter (the wonderful man who looks after the apartment we are staying in) gifted us the largest and ripest papaya I have ever clapped eyes on yesterday. Carving it is something like hollowing out a canoe from a large orange tree trunk. Peter obviously has a secret local supplier, I’ve never seen a papaya like this is the stalls by the side of the road. It would take up half the stall!

I am not sure if you’re going to be able to get a decent papaya in Europe and beyond. Maybe try a Caribbean or Asian shop, you know the one, the Aladdin’s cave of interesting ingredients from all corners of the world. The little space that transports you to Africa, Jamaica, Thailand and Pakistan just by the power of the brands they stock, the occasional aroma and random, unknown, packet of semi-illicit looking spice that just has to be experimented with.

Se Cathedral - the largest cathedral in Asia (with the largest bell also)

Se Cathedral – dedicated to Saint Catherine, the largest cathedral in Asia (with the largest bell also)

Goa is a magical land, totally different from the rest of India, the cuisine is very interesting, a mixture of many things, Indian and Portugese especially. Each dish changes from region to region and this is not a huge state by Indian standards.
I have been reticent to cook much in the apartment, not wanting to stock up on loads of spices and ingredients, we are only here a short time and whenever I travel I always end up with kilos of half used packets and sachets lurking in the depths of my backpack. This time, I’m trying not to waste a thing.

Tonight I will try something like a Goan Curry, which normally has a good tang to it, created by adding toddy vinegar or tamarind. Adding vinegar to food was the main influence of the Portugese who were here for hundreds of years, in fact, Vasco de Gama landed in 1498 and they hung around until well into the 17th century.  Old Goa had population larger than Lisbon or London at that time. The Portugese also brought some other quite important staples across the waves; namely, chilies and potato, along with some very common spices, especially nutmeg, which the Goans love to use liberally in savoury dishes.  The Portugese also influenced the Goan desserts, many resemble the flans and tortas of the Iberian Peninsula.  Most of our local friends, living around the apartment have Portugese ancestory and could actually emigrate to Portugal if they wished. Interestingly, most of them have the last name ‘De Souza’, there are a few ‘Courtinho’s’, ‘Perrera’s’ and so on.

Dad does an Abbey Road Impression - in front of the Bom Jesus Cathedral, Old Goa

Dad does an Abbey Road Impression – in front of the Bom Jesus Cathedral, Old Goa (‘Bom’ means ‘good’ in Portugese.

Goa is mainly divided between Christian and Hindu (with a small population of Muslims), they have lived in harmony since the beginning and even share some festival days. Religious background affects the way that dishes are prepared, one Xacutti or Kodi will differ greatly depending on the faith involved. Goan cuisine is incredibly traditional and diverse, awe inspiring really. I have never tasted anything like the Vegetable Xacutti I had yesterday in the excellent ‘Viva Panjim!’. A restaurant tucked down a side alley in a sedate quarter of the capital city, Panjim. ‘Viva Panjim!’ is located in the old Fountainhas area of the city, with many colonial looking buildings forming small quiet alleyways and nooks. In this place you can really see what things would have looked like under Portugese rule. My Xacutti involved alot of roasted coconut and was heavy on the warming spices, especially cinnamon and clove, there was definitely some kind of nutmeg/ mace going on in there as well . Dad opted for a Kingfish Goan Curry (like a ‘Vindalau’ – as they call it here), which has a vibrantly red coloured sauce which contained; Kashmiri chillies, tamarind, lots of onions and garlic, cumin seeds and tomatoes. It looked sensational. All of this served in an old colonial home with slow fans and hand carved furniture. The owner Madam Linda D’Souza sat at a desk overseeing things and when we showed an interest in the cuisine, how it was prepared (I was digging for a recipe or two of course) she gifted us a beautiful cook book, packed with the history of Goan culture and very personalised recipes from local home cooks and chefs.  There are even diagrams of how to climb a coconut tree and work a rice paddy.

In 'Viva Pajim!' one of our finest dining experiences to date

In ‘Viva Pajim!’ one of our finest dining experiences to date

Goa has no end of old school hippy joints that sell homemade tofu or seitan, pancakes, vegan cakes etc which was fine for a couple of meals (Bean Me Up, Blue Tao, Whole Bean Cafe and the legendary German Bakery were particular favourites) but we are now definitely in the hunt for more Goan delicacies. The only problem is we’ll have to leave the beaches and head inland, to the small towns to find the real deal. It seems that travelers/ tourists are not really into the local wonders. Which is a real shame. We have been invited by two real old school gents, Patrick and Peter (who run a tiny bar beneath our place) to their home for a home cooked (vegan!) dinner on Sunday. Something we are both very excited about. Will keep you posted.

Vegetable Xacuti, Fried Aubergine Chips and Dad's Goan Fish Curry

Vegetable Xacuti, Fried Aubergine Chips and Dad’s Goan Fish Curry

Categories: Curries, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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