Vegan

Roasted Cauliflower Hearts with Hazelnuts and Creamy Asparagus Sauce

Roasted Cauliflower Hearts with Hazelnuts and Creamy Asparagus Sauce

Roasted Cauliflower Hearts with Hazelnuts and Creamy Asparagus Sauce

I know this may sound complicated, but it ain’t!  A light and simple summer time lunch which is a bit of a looker and won’t have you hanging out in the kitchen or shops for too long. The method is so easy and there are only a handful of ingredients. You want to be outside right, dancing in the sunshine, listening to reggae!!!

This is what you could call a restaurant style dish, I served it recently to some friends and it’s that kind of Saturday night dinner party plate. Dishes like this look much more complicated than they actually are, I think that makes for a good restaurant dish. Making our lives easier in the kitchen doesn’t mean the quality and presentation of food has to suffer. The contrary is generally true. The more chilled and effortless we are in the kitchen, the better the end product. Thats how it works in the BHK anyway!

KING CAULI
Cauliflower is so versatile and its finely getting some real kudos in the ‘foodie’ world. Long overdue! I actually endured the glorious cauliflowers former incarnation recently, that drab and vacuous, steamed way beyond death thing, that graces serving dishes in function rooms across Britain. It was at a wedding. Any flavour that the poor florets had were mercilessly boiled out. What a shame, I only hope they used the stock.

Cauli makes our sauce here super creamy, it actually contains pectin, like apples, which helps to thicken things up nicely. I use cauliflower in soups and stews when looking for a touch of silky creaminess. I’ve even used cauliflower in a chocolate torte which was actually really nice. It was for my Mum’s 60th birthday cake, which was admittedly, a bit of a risk. But no one could have guessed, primarily because I didn’t tell them about the secret ingredient until after they’d eaten at least two slices and showered compliments on the richness of the torte etc. Then I went in, a bit smug. No one was that surprised. They know what I’m like.

Of course, we’re all crazy for roasted cauliflower at the minute and bar maybe potatoes, few veggies can match cauli when it is nicely caramelised and a bit charred around the edges. Yumah!

A plate fit to grace a party

A plate fit to grace a party

Recipe Notes
You’ll probably have a little too much sauce from this recipe. You can thin it down with vegetable stock to make a lovely soup.

If your hazelnuts are not toasted, just pop them on a baking tray and into the oven for 10 minutes. Keep your eye on them.

You can easily cook the cauliflower on a bbq if you prefer. Cauliflower is perfect for all kinds of bbq style behaviour.

Asparagus can be substituted for a number of veggies in this dish. What ever is looking good and seasonal, I’m thinking peas, broad beans, kale, even peppers or squash. Cauliflower is fairly neutral and takes well to many other veggie flavours.

I served this with pan fried mushrooms and spinach with roasted potatoes. Unless you are looking for a light meal, I’d advised some of your favourite, complementarty sides.

The BitsFor 4
1.25 kg cauliflower (a big one)
600g asparagus spears
3 cloves garlic
500ml soya milk (unsweetened)
1 big handful toasted hazelnuts (finely chopped)
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Do It
Preheat an oven to 225oC.

Cut off the asparagus tips (first three-five inches), then chop the stems until you get to the woody bit. Try some, if it’s fibrous, you’ve gone too far.

Trim the leaves off the cauliflower by slicing off the majority of the base stem. Then cut into 3/4 inch slices straight across, use a long knife. Now cut off the ‘hearts’ of cauliflower, basically nicely shaped florets. The more broken, smaller pieces of cauliflower, add to a saucepan for the sauce. This should be roughly 1/2 the cauliflower. Use any leftover pieces of stem for the sauce.

Drizzle some oil onto a large oven tray, add the cauliflower hearts and season with salt and pepper. Toss a little so they are covered with oil and place in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Until they are well caramelised, I’m talking dark brown colours and charred bits here.

Add the soya milk and garlic to the cauliflower in the saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 15 minutes, until the cauliflower is just breaking down. Add the asaparagus and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes more then leave to cool. You can do this in advance, preferably before the cauliflower is roasting in the oven. Using a stick blender or food processor, blitz the sauce until nice and smooth.

Just before serving, grab a frying pan, add a dash of oil and on a high heat, cook the asparagus tips. Fry for 5 minutes, until they caramelise and then season with a touch of salt and pepper.

Serve on big warm plates, add a few spoons of sauce to the centre, use a spoon to form a circle/ square (depending on the shape of your plate), form a row of asparagus tips along the centre, with four large cauliflower florets either side. Finish with a good scattering of hazelnuts. Or anyway you fancy.

This kind of dish demands a nice glass of chilled white wine (with or without bubbles).

Enjoy!!!!!

Enjoy!!!!!

Categories: Dinner, gluten-free, healthy, photography, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , | 2 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: , , , , , , , | Leave a 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.

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

Mango and Cashew Cake

Mango and Cashew Cake

Mango and Cashew Cake

With one eye on a lovely summer, here’s a quick and easy cake filled with some delicious tropical flavas! Served warm with whipped coconut cream and we’re talking something quite heavenly. I’ve added a few bananas meaning only a little sugar is needed, each slice is sweet in a naturally good way. The mango keeps the cake moist and there’s a little ginger there to give it all a kick.

This could quite easily be called a Keralan cake, a part of the world I love.  Any diet that is high in mangoes, cashews, coconuts etc I know I’m going to like.  A vegans paradise!!

ON THE ROAD

Even though I have now flown the Beach House, I’m going to try and keep the tasty recipes flowing. I love sharing what we’re cooking with you guys. I always manage to find a kitchen no matter where I end up.  Right now I’m in a little fishing man’s social club and men are playing dominos and quaffing brandy.

I don’t think I told you guys what we’re up to…….Jane is over in the States at the minute, having a wonderful time and I am in Murcia, Spain. Its a long story, but basically my U.S. visa didn’t work out so I’ll be travelling around the Med (Italy, the Balkans, Greece) and then joining Jane in Asia for some time travelling around Indonesia and beyond. We’ve got some freedom and we’re diving into it!!

Unfortunately, my new gadget has the worst camera imaginable attached to it, making every plate of food look like it’s made from limp cardboard. I’ll therefore not be on instagram for a while, but check out twitter and facebook (see side bars) for more regular updates and photos of our meanderings.  We’re both working on exciting projects and look forward to sharing news about them soon.

Back to the old school with Mum's scales - whats an ounce again!!????!

Back to the old school with Mum’s scales – whats an ounce again!!????!

Recipe Notes

The texture will be improved by 2 tbs aquafaba which is the liquid in a tin of chickpeas or leftover chickpea cooking broth (cooled). Most beans will also work well. This aquafaba works a little like an egg in that it helps to hold things together.

You don’t have to use a heart based baking tin. This is the only cake tin that I could find in Mum’s kitchen. How cool is that!!!

Fresh out of the oven

Fresh out of the oven

The BitsFor 10-12 slices
Dry
175g self raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground ginger
75g soft brown sugar

Wet
3 bananas
100g sunflower/ vegan spread (melted)
1 tsp vanilla extract

125g or half a medium-sized mango (finely diced)
2 handfuls cashews (roughly chopped)

A little more cashews or coconut for topping

Whipped Coconut Cream – For 4

1 tin coconut milk (chilled in the fridge)

Do It
Preheat oven 180oC, grab a 2lb loaf tin or 10 inch cake tin, lightly oil and line with baking parchment.

Sift all the dry ingredients into a bowl.

Beat the banana, melted margarine and vanilla extract together.

Add the banana mix to the dry ingredients and then fold in the mango until all is combined.

Pour into your waiting tin and top with sprinkles of cashews or coconut. Make sure to press any nuts sticking out down. They will catch the heat and burn.

Bake 45 – 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Turn out onto a wire cooling rack and leave to cool for 20 minutes before tucking in.

For the coconut cream – it’s oh so simple!! Grab the tin from the fridge, turn upside down and open.

Pour out the coconut water, this makes a nice drink (I’m thinking a mocktail) or base for a soup or stew. Scoop out the coconut cream and whip with a whisk of fork for a couple of minutes. You may like to add a little sweetener to it or even some lime juice and zest can be amazing.

Serve the cream straight away or put back into the freezer and give a quick whip before serving, it will go soft and floppy at most room temperatures.

Mango and Cashew Cake

Mango and Cashew Cake

Categories: Baking, Cakes, Recipes, Summer, Treats, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Chickpea, Date and Potato Tagine

Chickpea, Date and Potato Tagine

Chickpea, Date and Potato Tagine

Tagine is a great summer time staple, a light stew with lovely spice and hints of sweetness from the dates. The perfect place for brilliant seasonal vegetables, a straightforward and ideal addition to your mid week special board!

In Morocco, tagines are a showcase for the amazing local produce. The stock base is just the cooking juices of the vegetables and a little salt, no added stock needed. You know how good your veggies are, its a good test actually. If this tagine is tasteless, its all down to the produce (add a little veg stock).

I went to Morocco straight from Mexico and I remember being hungry quite a lot. I was travelling on hope and pennies and there was certainly not the range of cheap street eats that you find everywhere in Mexico. It was a bit of a shock to the system. When I found a place that did cook veggie food, normally cous cous or tagine, it was a real find. There was normally then a wait while the cook/ owner went out to but the vegetables and cook the tagine. I travelled in mostly rural areas and this could mean a long wait for dinner/ lunch. Still mint tea always flowed easy and the pace of life in Morocco suits me down to the ground. Life ebbs by nice and easy.

Happy hobs:)

Happy hobs:)

Let’s face it, most of us don’t have a proper tagine (the cooking vessel). That’s fine, we can still call it a tagine (just don’t tell your Moroccan mates!) As you’d imagine, we do have a tagine dish. It is normally used as a fruit bowl and I’m always looking for an excuse to use it. A tagine is actually a brilliant shape and design to cook vegetables and cous cous to perfection. You need very little water as the heavy lid keeps in most of the water, it acts as something like a pressure cooker. I find this especially helpful when cooking cous cous.

I like a good mix of veggies in my tagines and potatoes are very important base to other more glamorous (you know what I mean) veg like aubergine, peppers etc. The potatoes have the added benefit of making the tagine sauce thick when they begin to break down.

The flavour or Morocco (in a little jar), just add amazing veggies

The flavour or Morocco (in a little jar), just add amazing veggies

I always bang on about fresh spice, but it makes a huge difference. Many spices have been lurking around our cupboards for a while and may be past their sensational best. Ras El Hanout is the traditional spice mix used, but you know what, other spice mixes can be added to make a tasty stew. Think garam masala, curry mixes, berbere, jerk style mixes. The basic technique will be the same, just experiment with the spice quantity.

I’ve been cooking all over the UK in the past month, it seems like a different kitchen every night! I love it!! I’ve found most people have really good kitchens and its interesting to try out different ovens and cook with a range of pots, pans and utensils. Most people have some amazing kit, much better than the stuff I’ve got!!!  This tagine was made in Durham a few days ago, my Dad who you probably know by now was like me, a real, full power, carnivore and is now going through a real shift. He’s making his own twelve veggie stew at home. I knew Dad would dig this and he says he’ll be trying it out again soon. It’s always wicked when your loved ones enjoy what you make.

Not Durham!  Sunset from the terrace last night in Spain

Not Durham! Sunset from the terrace last night in Spain

Recipe Notes

Tagines are normally chunky. Cut all the veggies into roughly 1 1/2 inch chunks.

As a variation, you can substitute the dates with dried apricots and use whatever vegetables are good and seasonal, easy to get hold of.

My friend Abdul, who lives in a cave near the Sahara, swears by a nice glug of olive oil when serving a tagine. It adds extra richness and gives the sauce a shimmer.

To make things extra special, adding a few handfuls of greens just before you serve the tagine would be nice. Something like spinach, kale or chard. Spring greens are awesome, just add then about five minutes before serving, they take a bit more cooking.

Do not use a metal spoon or spatula to stir stews, unless you want the vegetables to break down. A trusty wooden spoon is perfect.

We cooked quinoa to serve the tagine with, instead of the traditional cous cous. Gluten free and delicious, its also packed with massive amounts of goodness/ nutrition.

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Simple summer special!

The Bits – For 6-8

2 tbs cooking oil
1 onion (peeled and sliced)
2 inches fresh ginger (peeled and finely sliced)
½ medium butternut squash (peeled and chopped)

4 small potatoes (chopped)

2 bell peppers (deseeded and chopped)

1 aubergine (chopped)

4 large tomatoes (chopped)

250g/1 tin chickpeas
16 dates (de-stoned and cut in half)
4 tbs tomato paste
3 tbs ras el hanout spice mix
1 3 inch cinnamon stick
400ml hot water
Salt (to taste)

Serving
A little good olive oil, fresh coriander and extra spice

Do It

This is an easy one…….

In a large frying pan or saucepan on medium heat, add the oil and fry the onions and ginger for five minutes until soft, then add the other vegetables, cinnamon, spices and some salt. Stir and fry for two minutes then add the tomatoes, dates, tomato puree and water.

Stir gently and pop on a loose fitting lid and cook on a steady simmer for 35-40 minutes, until the potatoes are just breaking down. Season with a little more salt to taste.

Serve with cous cous, topped with a drizzled of olive oil, fresh coriander and a sprinkle of extra spices.

Nice with some greens!  (Isn't everything;)

Nice with some greens! (Isn’t everything;)

Categories: Dinner, gluten-free, healthy, photography, Recipes, Stew, Summer, Vegan | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Kickin’ Kale and Cacao Smoothie with Blueberries

Kickin' Kale and Cacao Smoothie

Kickin’ Kale and Cacao Smoothie

This is quite a morning wake up call packed with super goodness and looks like glorious green mud (in the best possible way). Smoothies are just a perfect way of getting a health buzz in the morning, this kickin’ kale smoothie contains many of our favourite things; berries, flax, kale and of course chocolate.

CACAOTHE BIG DEAL!

We add cacao to many daily staples like cereal, bread, porridge, stews (great in a Mexican style bean stew). It is just delicious and brings so many nutritional benefits to the party. It’s full of anti-oxidants, protein, fibre, minerals, good fats, vitamin B’s. Its wonderfully powerful stuff!!

Raw cacao helps the heart and also contains a chemical that makes you happy, known as the ‘bliss molecule’ and is a mild aphrodisiac thanks to a compound that releases endorphins in our bodies.  It also releases serotonin in the brain (making us doubly happy, bordering on choco infused euphoria).  Cacao keeps us younger, a youthful bean, and helps us burn fat, raising enegry levels and lowering blood pressure.  This list of shining health benefits goes on and on…..

So what exactly is is?  Cacao is basically pure chocolate, just the cocoa bean, as opposed to most chocolate that has added sugar, milk and other things.  Raw cacao is unprocessed and naturally fermented, meaning it’s just plain amazing.  Most chocolate (cocoa beans) is roasted and loses so much of its health giving properties.

2016-04-23 12.07.07

Now this is what I’m talking about:)

Cacao nibs, which we sprinkle onto this smoothie, are just cocoa beans chopped up.  They are a little bitter but we love snacking on them as a treat, like a superfood version of chocolate chips.

After fasting whilst snoozing through the night, our bodies are crying out for nourishment, high-grade fuel, a shining re-boot. Also, if you’ve had one to many sherry’s the night before, this is a world class reviver and bleary eye eradicator.  Give your bod, mind and tastebuds a treat with some kickin’ kale this am. GO GREEN!

Love it with crunchy cacao nibs to finish things off with a superfood stylee flourish

Love it with crunchy cacao nibs to finish things off.  Superfood stylee flourish

Recipe Notes

If you like a sweeter smoothie, stick another banana in our drizzle in maple syrup/ brown rice syrup.

The BitsFor 4 glasses
3 bananas
750ml plant milk
5 tbs raw cacaco powder
5 tbs flax/ linseeds
5 handfuls kale or spinach
3 handfuls blueberries/ blackberries

Topping
Cacao Nibs (optional)

Blitz it up!  The better the blender, the better nutrition.  All the good bits break down and are easier for the body to use.

Blitz it up! The better the blender, the better nutrition. All the good bits break down and are easier for the body to use.

Do It

Pack all into a blender, best add the cacao powder first, then blend until smooth.

Mugs are good!

Mugs are good!

Serve

Your favourite glass (or mug) and a sunny sky.

Foodie Fact

Kale is full (FULL) of protein which is why some people, quite bizzarelly, are calling it the ‘new beef’!?  It is also high in iron, fibre and is a great detox food.  Get on the greens!!

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For more regular updates, foodie experiences  and recipe ideas follow Jane and I on Facebook or Twitter.  We are on the road now but will be sharing our travel experiences as we go:)

Categories: Breakfast, Detox, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, Recipes, Smoothies, Superfoods, Vegan | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Roast Potato and Cumin Frittata with a Farro and Cannellini Bean Salad

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Roast Potato and Cumin Frittata with Farro and Cannellini Bean Salad (Vegan)

I had a great time on BBC Radio Wales recently, a little thing they do called ‘Foodie Friday’.  It was the wonderful Eleri Sion show (although Tom was standing in) and we mainly talked about how accessible and incredible a vegan lifestyle is and coconut scones, but I did mention one of my very favourite dishes at the moment, a simple and really nutritious vegan frittata.  Plant power for all!!  I just had to share the recipe.

Tom mentioned that vegan food can be more time consuming to cook than a lump of meat with vegetables, which may well be true for some dishes, but this frittata is so easy and straightforward and as with all vegan cooking, substitutions can be made, things can be swapped, veggies played with, happiness unearthed, taste buds dance a merry jig.  It’s always easier when you’re done it, so lets do it!

This is a lovely light Italian lunch with a twist.  I just can’t help myself!  Cumin seeds are one of my favourite ingredients (along with gram flour) and they bring a subtle and deep spice to this dish.  I know that cumin is not exactly traditionally Italian, but I’m sure they’ll forgive me!  Especially if they get to try this frittata.  Molto delizioso! (Which means pretty dang nice in Italian)

Spring is taking its gentle hold on North Wales and the nights are lighter and the sun is making reappearance after a long winter.  Its such a beautiful time of year and we are naturally turning to lighter foods.

This frittata is a brilliant way to use up gorgeous roasted vegetables, either freshly roasted or leftovers.  The other night, after some very posh curry and chips (see below), I pondered how to use the leftover potatoes.  It’s been a while since our last Spain time and I know Jane loved Potato Tortillas so this was a no brainer.  I know the art of romance, surprise frittata!

Posh chips and curry sauce - a Beach House classic made with local organic roasted potatoes and a spicy masala sauce (recipe from Peace & Parsnips)  Yumah!

Posh chips and curry sauce – a Beach House classic made with local organic roasted potatoes and a spicy masala sauce (recipe from Peace & Parsnips) Yumah!

Roasties!!!!!!!!

Roasties!!!!!!!!

A tortilla is basically a Spanish name for an unfolded omelette.  Most people will cook this in a pan and then grill it (this is also called a ‘Frittata’ in Italy or even a ‘Kuku’ in Iran – confused yet?!) but I’ve made it easier, pop it in the oven and all is well.  In fact, omellete’s seem to be a staple in most countries I visit, from North Africa to India, the world loves an omellete.  Making it a vegan delight is quick and easy.  I’ve cooked this for many non-vegans and they love it, a few glugs of olive oil for richness and no one misses those strange oval chicken things.

Looking good with a plenty of fresh coriander (although parsley is probably slightly more Italian)

Looking good with a plenty of fresh coriander (although parsley is probably slightly more Italian)

THATS LUNCH!

Frittata is very happy when paired with a grain salad and some green leaves.  That’s lunch!  I’ve made a little Farro and Canellini Bean Salad, packed with crunch and the wholesome feel of the farro, served with some top salad leaves from our local organic farm.  When the leaves are this good, with amazing vitality, fresh flavour and texture, I just give them a quick rinse and tear them up with my hands.  Finely slicing amazing salad leaves just seems like a waste.  I love to see their shapes.

FUTURE SALADS

I am constantly blown away by the diversity of flavours in the plant word and salad leaves, sprouts and cresses are a real joy for me.  At the recent Discovering Vegan Cooking Retreat that we ran at Trigonos, we were privileged to try a load of different cress and leaves.  The flavours were all over the shop, many shocking and delightful in equal measure; some subtle, some full-on.  All suggested that in the near future, salads will be getting much, much more interesting.  Trust me, you ain’t tried nothing like this!

Crazy Cress!  Such a diverse range of flavours and colours all wrapped up in tiny, tiny leaves.  Very interesting.

Crazy Cress! Such a diverse range of flavours and colours all wrapped up in tiny, tiny little leaves. Very interesting.  Boom!!    

Recipe Notes

You can also use this gram flour mix for omelette’s cooked in a pan or as a filling for a vegan quiche or tart.  A baked gram flour pancake in Italy is known as a Farinata and its one of the best things ever.

For a lighter frittata, why not add 1/3 teas baking powder to the gram flour and then stir in the water.

Farro is basically Italian Spelt, meaning that some people who are gluten intolerant can handle it.  If you are off gluten, try using buckwheat or even quinoa.

Due to my intense love of veggies, this salad is light on grains.  I like a high veg ratio in any dish.

Farro and Cannellini Salad

Farro and Cannellini Salad – packed with crunch and vitality

The Bits – For 4-6

Frittata

250g roasted potatoes (or similar quantity of any roasted vegetables)

2 small onions

2 tbsp olive oil

¾ teas cumin seeds

½ teas turmeric

150g gram flour

225ml water

1/3 teas salt

Large pinch pepper
Garnish 

½ handful Fresh Coriander or Parsley (finely chopped)

½ handful Crushed Walnuts (optional)

 

Farro and Cannellini Bean Salad

100g faro (I use quick cook type)

1 small kohlrabi (finely diced)

3 handfuls leek (finely sliced)

½ yellow pepper (finely diced)

1 handful toasted pumpkin seeds

1 handful pitted green olives (sliced)

½ lemon (juice)

200g cannellini beans

4 radishes (sliced into thin batons)

1 handful parsley chopped

Couple of pinches of salt and pepper

Very simple salad, torn leaves.  No need to mess.  Delicious!

Very simple salad, torn leaves. No need to mess. Delicious!

Do It

Frittata

Preheat an oven to 200oc.

Grab a 10 inch non-stick baking dish, round looks good but you could always use a square one.  If you are not sure about the non-stickiness of the dish, line it with baking parchment.

Drizzle in a little oil, add the cumin seeds, onions and a couple of pinches of salt.  Toss together and place in the oven.  Roast for 15 minutes, stir, roast again for 10 minutes, stir, roast again for 10 minutes, by this time the onions should be nicely caramelised and golden.  Set aside.

While the onions are in the oven, in a large bowl, add the gram flour along with the turmeric, olive oil and a couple pinches of salt.  Stir together and then gradually pour in the water whilst stirring, until a thick and smooth batter forms.

Add your potatoes to the oven dish, mixing them in with the onions.  Pour over the batter and sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the frittata.

Pop in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, until the frittata is firm and getting nice and golden on top.  Cut into slices and drizzle over a little more olive oil and a sprinkle of coriander/ parsley.  A few toasted walnuts are also delicious.

Can be served warm or cold.

Salad

In a saucepan, bring roughly 1 litre water to a rolling boil, add the farro and simmer for 10-12 minutes.  Until the grains are soft.  Drain and refresh with cold water.  Set aside.

Once the grains have cooled, toss everything together in a big bowl.  Serve with your favourite dressing and ideally, a nice big slab of frittata.

Vegan frittata - ideal and super nutritious Spring lunch

Vegan frittata – ideal and super nutritious Spring lunch

My dressing for this was using pomegranate molasses, english mustard and sherry vinegar, with a light olive oil and a touch of salt and maple syrup.

My dressing for this was using pomegranate molasses, english mustard and sherry vinegar, with a light olive oil and a touch of salt and maple syrup.  Worked nicely!  

Foodie Fact

Did you know that potatoes are a good source of protein, iron, fibre and vitamin C?  I sometimes overlook how nutritious potatoes are.

Gram or Chickpea flour is another ingredient to get excited about (of you’re that way inclined).  I love using the stuff!  It makes for a brilliant egg replacer, when stirred with a little water, in baking and is sooooooooo versatile.  Helpfully, its also gluten-free and packed with nutrition.  High in

When buying gram flour, it may be called Besan (unroasted) or Chana (roasted) flour.  They both have slightly different flavours.  Chickpea flour has twice the amount of protein that wholewheat flour has and six times the amount of protein compared to white flour.  It is also very high in folates and healthy unsaturated fats and is a good source of vitamin B6, iron and magnesium.

Wales is so beautiful in early spring - taken at Trigonos, Nantlle Valley, North Wales

Wales is so beautiful in early spring – taken at Trigonos, Nantlle Valley, North Wales

Categories: gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Lunch, Nutrition, Organic, photography, Recipes, Salads, Spring, Vegan | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

The Healing Power of Nettles

Nettle tea - 2015 vintage

Nettle tea – 2015 vintage

After a strong nettle tea this morning, I feel supercharged and inspire to share the wealth of our green and bountiful friend.  The nettle plant is much misunderstood, yes it stings a bit, but there is so much more to nettles than that.  It is one of the healthiest plants that grows in temperate areas and is something we could all benefit hugely from incorporating into our diets.   Nettles are one of natures multivitamins (and the rest)!!

We love drinking nettle tea, its a complete health tonic and ideal first thing in the morning. The way we start our days is so very important, what we choose to put into our bodies after many hours sleeping can have a huge effect on our day and health in general.  Nettle tea is the perfect start!  It’s just one of those infusions that you know is doing you the power of good. Then you read a little into it and you’re certain. Nettles are packed full of pure plant power.

Nettles have historically been regarded as a superbly healthy food in many different cultures.  Milarepa the famous Tibetan sage and saint ate them when meditating for ten years in a cave, eventually turning green and gaining the ability to fly (I love these legends).  Sometimes I think we feel like exotic foods, with cool names, are our only source of sparkling nutrition.  However, there are so, so many super foods on our doorsteps (or nearby).

Milarepa - Green after a few too many nettles

Milarepa – Green after a few too many nettles

The nettle picking season is just around the corner and we’re very excited. Hopefully a few will be ready before we head over to the States. North Wales is quite a tough place to grow things however nettles love it and we go on massive picking sessions each year, drying them in our dehydrator or in the boot of our estate car (on very warm days). We can then store the leaves for tea and adding to soups and stews throughout the year. You can even pan fry the leaves or use them fresh, just like spinach. Its a way of stocking up on essential minerals, vitamins and a whole host of sparkling nutritional properties, not to mention that the tea tastes wonderful. Its in the realm of green tea with a few added nuances. Some say its an acquired taste, but I think most are?! When the leaves are fresh, they have a lighter flavour. Free wonderfoods fresh from the hedgerow, now you’re talking!!

Nettles grow prolifically throughout the temperate areas of the world.  They actually thrive on the waste we produce and interestingly, large patches of nettles may be used as sign of previous settlements that are now long gone from our countryside.

Pan Roast Maple Parsnips and Young Nettles

Pan Roast Maple Parsnips and Young Nettles Recipe

THE POWER OF NETTLES
One of Jane’s teachers, Susan Weed, is a firm advocate of all things nettle and writes about them extensively.  Nettles are also known as the devil’s leaf and even wild spinach, they are certainly equally delicious and even more nutritious.  There are literally hundreds of health properties attributed to this wonder plant, here are a few:

  • Nettles strengthen the kidneys.  Their Greek name is Urtica Dioica, ‘Uro’ meaning urine.
  • They are a powerful tonic, anti-anaemic, diuretic, anti-spasmodic, anti-allergenic, decongestant, anti-arthritic, laxative, antiseptic, anti-rheumatic, anti-asthmatic, expectorant……..the list goes on and on.
  • Nettles are ideal for women, especially during pregnancy, childbirth and lactation.  Nettles help with menstrual cramps, nausea and bloating.
  • A general relaxant that helps with hypertension.
  • Fresh nettle juice is antispetic and can be used as a kitchen spray, for washing skin.
  • Nettles infusions can be used to wash hair, leaving it shiny and thick.  They are also said to prevent hair loss.
  • Helps with gastrointestinal diseases, IBS and constipation.
  • Cures the common cold.
  • They can also help with hormonal, adrenal and energetic imbalances and the circulatory system.
  • They can be taken as an anti-histamine, which over a period of time, can cure ailments like hayfever.
  • Reduces gingivitis and prevents plaque when used as a mouthwash.
  • Nettles are known as a digestive restorer and consistent use of nettles strengthens lungs, intestines, arteries and kidneys.
  • Even the nettles sting has been shown to alleviate joint pain!
  • And many, many more……

It’s even been said; 

“The seed of nettle stirreth up lust……”

Gerarde-Johnson 1633

You can definitely say that nettles are an all-rounder!

It is worth mentioning that if you are taking certain pharmaceuticals, you should seek a doctors advice before taking nettles regularly.

NUTRIENTS

Nettles are especially high in calcium, vitamin C and iron.  They are also high in protein and fibre, a whole host of minerals and many more vitamins.

The whole plant is basically a powerful medicine, from roots to seeds.  It is especially good for ‘pale and pasty types’.  I like this little rhyme:

“If they would eat nettles in March and drink Mugwort in May, so many fine maidens would not go to the clay” (Funeral song of a Scottish mermaid)

We seem to have lost touch with so many of natures gifts that surround us throughout every season which are there to give us health and vitality.  I believe that in each environment we can find the nourishment we need to thrive, that is, if we have the knowledge and are inspired to seek them out.

Brewing nettles for tea

HARVESTING NETTLES

Nettles are easily identified by most, we’ve all had a little incident with them as children.  Like any plant, if you are not completely sure, don’t pick it.  There are many different types o nettles, this is especially true if you’re traveling to other countries.  Some have a very nasty sting.

We travel with marigolds and bags in nettle season and when we see a good patch, we harvest.  For eating fresh and drying, take the tender, young leaves from the top of the plant.  The first four is a good rule of thumb.  Like many plants, the growing energy is concentrated in the upper plant, this is what we after.  Nettles become more fibrous as the season goes on, so get in there during early spring although some young paler nettles will grow in shaded areas until late summer.  Always pick nettles, and any edible plants, away from man made signs of poisons and ground contamination.  This means away from roads, railway lines etc.  Many foragers also avoid plants near popular dog walking areas, or at least pick above leg cocking height!

COOKING NETTLES
Nettles are easily transformed into a delicious edible green leaf vegetable.  Simple blanch them in boiling water, this breaks down the formic acid which stings.  You can leave them to steep to make a lovely tea or use as you would any leafy green.  Try a Nettle Aloo or Nettle Soup.  We love them in smoothies and iced teas.  Nettles make for a great pesto and can be used in place of basil and we especially like nettle hummus an stirring the leaves into hot pasta.

NETTLE JUICE

Rinse young leaves and stalks in water, place in a mechanical juicer or place leaves in warm water and leave to steep for 30 minutes.  Place in muslin cloth and wring out the bright green juice.  The juice will keep in a fridge for one day.

RUTH’S NETTLE SOUP

Recipe here.

NETTLE TEA

Recipe here.

PAN FRIED NETTLES

Blanch the nettles leaves in just boiled water.  Save the water as a stock or drink it.  Strain the leaves well.  In a frying pan, add some oil and garlic followed by the leaves.  Fry for a minute and served topped with pine nuts or almonds.

TINCTURES

Jane also makes a wonderful nettle tincture, basically pop lots of leaves into a kilner jar and cover with vinegar (you can also use alcohol like vodka or gin).  You should use young leaves,  dried or fresh are both fine.  Leave for a month or more (the longer left, the stronger the tincture) and then strain with muslin cloth.  Place in small bottles and use the tincture for eczema, psoriasis, allergic rashes, rinse in hair to treat dandruff, taken internally it is known to treat hayfever.  Take 1 teas poon every morning as a preventative or three times a day to treat ailments.

Glorious nettles!

Dry the leaves without blanching them.  As I mentioned, you can do this in a warm car with a couple of windows slightly opened.  On a very sunny day, thinly lay out the nettle leaves on news paper.  Leave for a day and check that the leaves are nicely dry and crisp.  If you are lucky enough to have a dehydrator at home, dry as you would kale or other leaves.  It won’t take long.

The strong fibres of the nettle plant have been used to make paper, sails, bags, cloth (think a silky linen) and makes a very strong string or rope (fifty times stronger than cotton).  Nettles have been cultivated in Mexico for 8000 years for these purposes.  Nettles can also be made into a dye, the leaves for green and the stalks for yellow.

Nettles are a gardeners delight.  They are hugely nourishing to the soil and are amazing on compost heaps.  They can be brewed into a homemade plant fertiliser packed with nitrogen compounds (this stuff stinks by the way) and can be grown as a companion crop with tomatoes and aromatic herbs.

I still think that it’s incredible that nettles are not sold in greengrocers or markets.  It is a shame that more people are not benefiting from this stunning plant.  I’d say if you’re taking multivitamins, why not try nettles instead.  They’re perfectly natural and free!

Drinking nettle tea and eating fresh nettles in stir fries, soups etc will ease and energise the circulatory, immune, endocrine, nervous and urinary systems.  Like I said, an incredible overall tonic and they literally grow on trees (or in small bushes).  If we all used nettles wisely, pharmacies would go out of business!  Nettles are good for us in ways that we don’t really fully understand yet.  The nettles season is coming, don’t miss out!

If you are interested in foraging or taking courses in the UK, www.wildforage.co.uk is a good place to start.

Categories: Detox, Foraging, Healing foods, Healthy Eating, Inspiration, Local food, Nutrition, Recipes, Spring, Superfoods, Vegan | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Decadent Double Chocolate Cake

Decadent Double Chocolate Cake

Decadent Double Chocolate Cake

A really decadent vegan chocolate cake!  This is one we find any excuse to make.  Its a lovely light and rich cake smothered in a very silky, chocolaty icing.  I think you’re going to love it!!

Nigella Lawson certainly knows her way around a cake and this recipe is based on one from her new book. Thanks Nigella! Jane found it somewhere and is such a fan of sweet things, knew it would be a wonder.  It’s one of those recipes that any non-vegan would be amazed to find out had no eggs or dairy in. The texture is wonderful and the icing is a knockout.  I don’t always tell people things are vegan anyway.  It’s just shining, delicious food.  ‘Nuff said!

THE UK COOKING CREW

People like Nigella, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Jamie Oliver and Rick Stein really kept me interested in cooking in my mid 20’s.  Mum normally had Rick and Nigella’s knocking around the house and Hugh was one of my favs. I remember him cooking things on open fires with antique looking pots dangling off his land rover and belting out ‘Baba O Riley’ by The Who with some proper chops. He seemed to be having a great time and it was infectious.  I loved the idea of grabbing a bunch of tomatoes from the green house and popping them straight into a pot.  That definitely sounded like the good life.

SIR JAMIE

A lady bought me Jamie’s first book in a hotel I used to work at, she knew I liked cooking and felt that a cheeky chap on a scooter would appeal.  I loved Jamie’s energy, skill and passion.  He didn’t go down stairs, he slid down bannister’s.  He tore stuff up, threw things, chopped things with his bare hands….  His carefree approach triggered something in me, I’d worked in a kitchen that was classically French, with big hats and all.  Simple, fresh and tasty food was where it was at and Jamie made it all accessible and fun.  That was one of the main things, it was FUN!  You didn’t have to take yourself or food seriously and this was surprisingly quite revolutionary.  Well done Sir Jamie (it can’t be long now lets face it with the sugar thing and all!!!)  Just one little question mate. When are you going fully vegan again????!  Jamie recently talked to Tim Shieff and came straight out and said that the future of food is plant-based.  Which was a really bold thing to say for a celeb chef but unfortunately, in his new book, there is not one vegan recipe.  Maybe the next one will be charged with plant power.  Fingers crossed.   I know that he loves vegan food and there are loads of vegan recipes over on Jamie’s site.

I used to try out loads of this crews recipes whenever I wasn’t working, which was quite a bit back then as I was a restaurant manager.  Cooking has always been a way for me to unwind and be creative.  I remember baking loads of Nigella cakes, there was one chocolate orange cake, oh! and who could forget the chocolate and guiness one.  I used to have it routinely for birthdays.  I just made some chocolate and stout cupcakes that I think you’ll like….coming soon.

Being a vegan chef now, I get the same feeling of inspiration that I did back in my early 20’s when I discovered the real joy of playing with pots and pans.  I can now check out these guy’s recipes and take them in a whole new direction.  The world of vegan cooking seems so vibrant and creative at the minute, I feel so lucky to be part of it.  It’s also great to see Nigella taking a step into the world of vegan baking.  There is an almost unlimited scope for brilliant baking without all that other, unnecessary stuff.  All you need is plants!!

THE MAIN EVENT

I make this Decadent Double Chocolate Cake recipe at least once a week in the kitchen and sometimes opt for a slightly less luxurious icing, a standard chocolate butter cream icing made using plant-based spread goes down very well (see below) and is a reasonable economy style option.  The team I work with in the retreat centre get quite excited when they see this on the menu, which cannot be a bad thing (as long as there’s leftovers that is!)

If you try this recipe out, please let us know.  We’ll be over the moon to hear that you’re in a happy chocolate place.

Recipe Notes

The batter is wet here, don’t fret.  Use a tight fitting tin and line it well.  This will mean that the batter doesn’t sneak through.

Please, please (please), please…..do not open the oven door, no matter how curious you get, when baking.  Leave it for 45 minutes before peaking.  This cake is a good sinker, the bicarb makes it shoot up, but until its almost baked, will quite happily sag back down making it a bit on the heavy side.

Ovens vary and this batter takes a long time to bake but thats what gives the lovely crust and gooey middle.  A winner of a cake combo!  It may need another 10 minutes.

Unless its a special occasion, we normally substitute the coconut oil in the cake and icing for vegan sunflower or olive spread.  This works well, but lacks the ultimate richness and shine that coco oil gives.  We’d recommend treating yourself to a nice big jar of coconut oil.  Early Christmas present.

You can see that I also make a version of the cake in a rectangular tin, whatever you’ve got really.  A rectangular cake is easier to portion, but in this instance, is much wider than a circular cake tin.  This means less time in the oven as the mix is thinner.  Go with your cake instincts!

The economy version with a more everyday icing

The economy version with a more everyday icing

Have some fun with this one!!!!!

Decadent Double Chocolate Cake

The Bits – 1 large cake (10-12 slices)

225g white flour

2 tbs chickpea flour

1½ teaspoons instant coffee powder

80g cocoa

300g soft light brown sugar

1½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

½ teaspoon sea salt

375ml hot water

75g non-dairy spread or solid coconut oil

1½ teaspoons apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar

Chocolate Icing

150g dark chocolate (finely chopped)

75g coconut oil

50g light brown sugar

60ml cold water

1½ tablespoons cocoa

Decoration (optional)

1 tbs edible rose petals or flowers

2 tbs chopped pistachios or almonds

1 tbs orange zest

Do It

Preheat oven 180oC and pop in a baking tray.

For the icing – Put all of the icing ingredients except the chopped chocolate into a heavy-based saucepan and bring to a gentle boil.  Stirring and ensuring all is dissolve. Then turn off the heat and add the chocolate, stir until melted and the icing is glossy. Leave to cool, stirring occasionally.

Line the bottom of a 20cm round springform/ loose bottomed cake tin (you will need a leak proof one, this is a wet batter) with baking parchment.

Place the flour, bicarb, salt, instant coffee, chickpea flour and cocoa in a bowl and mix together.

In a separate bowl, mix together the sugar, hot (not warm) water, non-dairy spread/ coconut oil and vinegar until all has melted and is combined. Stir gradually into the dry ingredients, adding a little liquid at a time, then pour into the prepared tin and bake for 45-55 minutes.

Check after 45 minutes. When done, the cake will be coming away from the edges of the tin and a cake tester will come out clean, apart from a few crumbs. This is a fudgey style cake and you don’t want to overdo it.

Transfer the tin to a wire rack and let the cake cool in its tin.

Give the icing a good stir and check it is nice and thick, yet runny enough to spread on the cake. Pour over the cake and use a spatula to ease the icing to the edges.

A lovely light cake

A lovely light cake

Decorate the cake with scattering of pistachios, orange zest and edible flowers if you have them. Leave to stand for 30 minutes for the icing to set before slicing into the cake.

Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

This cake freezes well, without the icing. Wrap the fully cooled cake in a double layer of cling film and a layer of foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. To defrost, unwrap and place on a serving plate at room temperature for 3-4 hours. 

Pop some flowers on your cake - you won't regret it

Pop some flowers on your cake – you won’t regret it

Foodie Fact

For loads of information and nutritional facts about chocolate, or more specifically, cacao, head over to our previous post.  We had an almighty chocolate tasting recently and sampled all the wonders of cacao.

 

Categories: Baking, Cakes, Dairy/ Lactose Free, Desserts, photography, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , | 16 Comments

Seeded spelt bread & simple tips to make awesome loaves

Seeded Spelt Loaf

Seeded Spelt Loaf

Here’s a simple, wholesome and tasty loaf for all made with one of our favourite flours, spelt.  In the wonderful world of bread making, this Seeded Spelt Bread is one for the beginner but will no doubt be enjoyed by everyone.  There is nothing that can beat the fresh wafts of warm bread floating around your house, although Dad’s mulled wine at Christmas does come close.  Bread wafts instantly makes a house into a home.

Shop bought bread, not even the posh deli style stuff, can come close to a lovely loaf of home baked happiness.  Some things you just can’t buy and I believe that most foods are well worth that little bit extra effort and bread is definitely one of those.

There is something priceless and utterly magnificent about the whole bread making process.  Its magical and only takes a little practice and know how.  I’ve popped a few tips below that will get you started on the road to bread brilliance.  If you’re a keen baker, and lets face it, its become a bit of trend recently, this loaf is simple and yet delicious.

A loaf of bread is surely one of the nicest things you could ever give to someone.  If I enter a persons house and they say ‘I’ve just taken some loaves out of the oven’ it’s like entering some kind of ideal parallel universe where everything is just about right.  I was once made a German sourdough loaf by some friends and I rave about it still.  It was over five years ago but I’ll be taking that loaf to the grave!  I wanted to move into their kitchen and make baked goods for the rest of my days.

In my humble opinion, making bread is one of the most soulful things you can do in the kitchen.  Really, I see cooking for people as a privilege.  Once you get the hang of it, the world of bread is yours to explore.   There is no doubting that bread making can be daunting at first and you’ll probably not knock out a perfectly risen and crusty sourdough loaf at the first time of asking.  But stick to the basics and you’ll make something wholesome and full of homemade goodness.

We don’t eat loads of bread in the BHK, I might bake one morning a week.  At work, I bake bread every morning and its one of my favourite ways of starting a day.  All that kneading wakes the body up nicely.  For me, keeping things simple first thing is always a good idea!  We make fresh bread at Trigonos for breakfast and a nice loaf to go out with soup at lunchtime.  In many ways being a chef is a good workout all round, after a ten hour shift in a busy kitchen the gym looks a little pale and tranquil in comparison.  Playing with pots and pans all day keeps chefs lithe and focused (most of the time).

Breakfast loaves at Trigonos, almost ready for the oven

Breakfast loaves at Trigonos, almost ready for the oven

This recipe has been fully approved by our resident bread expert at Trigonos, Holger.  Holger is a proper loaf lover, master wine maker (he even makes wine out of oak leaves!) and German.  Apparently, spelt is more widely available over there and is sold as loaves and rolls, well named ‘Dinkelbrot’.  I know Holger is partial to this loaf because he always goes back for seconds.  Enough said.  It’s a success!

My favourite picture of Holger - observing the 2015 solar eclipse

My favourite picture of Holger – observing the 2015 solar eclipse

WHAT IS SPELT?

Spelt is one of my favourite flours giving a lovely light and nutty loaf.  It is really different from using wheat flour and is a highly nutritious grain that many people who are sensitive to wheat can enjoy.  Sometimes known as dinkel wheat (a word I appreciate) spelt has been cultivated since 5000BC.  It’s fair to say that folk around here in North Wales have probably been making loaves like this since the Bronze age.

Spelt is basically a sub species of wheat and being an ancient grain, has not been manipulated to meet manufacturing needs (like many variations of wheat have for example).  Spelt is easy on the digestive system as the gluten in spelt is water soluble and breaks down when mixed or chewed.  Being an ancient grain, spelt has kept its hard hull intact.  Many modern wheat grains have no hull which protects the grains from pests and the elements.  These wheat grains have now developed an enzyme inhibitor that keeps pests at bay but effects the way that we digest these grains, as enzymes are an essential part of good digestion.  If you feel bloated or heavy after eating bread, switching to spelt bread may be a good idea.

SIMPLE TIPS FOR AWESOME LOAVES

Bread takes some time and effort, not to mention a little technique and skill:

  • LINING – Line your loaf tin/ oven tray with baking parchment.  If your equipment is not totally non-stick, and that attribute is quite rare, then don’t risk a sticky situation.  Quickly line with baking parchment and you are certain of a simple extraction.
  • PROVING – The texture of a loaf comes mainly from the gluten waking up and doing its thing.   This takes a long proving and some kneading.  You don’t always have to pummel your dough for a long time, you can even leave dough in a fridge or a cool place for a very slow prove, overnight for example.  This allows gluten and flavours to develop and makes for a delicious loaf.  In Wales, it is so cold and we have no central heating, we have no choice but to take it slow.  We have however been known to use a warm hot water bottle to help get our dough woken up.
  • OVEN – Baking in general will mean getting to know your oven.  They are all different and timings may vary.  Where you place loaves/ cakes in an oven has a huge effect on the outcome and results will vary depending on whether the oven is heated by a fan or the main heat source is from the base etc.  It can be trail and error at first and the only way to learn sometimes is an over baked bottom on your loaf.
  • PRESENTATION – Bread looks cool when its a bit rough I believe.  Smooth is nice but try and give the surface some texture by not playing with it too much.  Tears and bobbles are great on bread and add to the texture of an interesting loaf.  You may also like to slash the top of the loaf before the final proving.  This adds texture to the loaf and also looks mighty fine.  Dusting with flour will result in a soft crust and brushing with soya milk will result in a crisp and darker crust.  With wet doughs, the loaf will spread out in the oven a little, this is worth bearing in mind if you have a particular shape in mind.
  • OBSERVE – Its also important to remember to be patient with bread making and flexible.  Observe the bread, whats happening to it?  When proving the loaf, is it rising too quickly or too slowly.  This will all be dependent on the ambient temperature (or you forgot the yeast!!)  Gauge whether the loaf is actually twice the size and amend the timings, less or more.  Sometimes the loaf will take much longer to prove and that is fine and actually preferred.  The key factor is that the yeast wakes up and does its thing, working its magic within the bread.  A quick prove can result in off, sour aromas and big air pockets in the loaf.
  • KNEADING – A wet, sticky dough is always better than dry and floury loaf.  I use oil when kneading the loaf as this will not add flour to the recipe, changing the texture of the loaf.  Many bread makers use dough spatulas instead of hands when ‘kneading’.  The old fashioned image of sleeves rolled up and pummeling an hapless lump of dough is not always the best way to go.  When your dough can stretched easily without breaking, around 8 inches is a good gauge, then its ready.
  • STEAM – Turn your oven at home into a professional bakers oven by adding a cooking tray to a lower shelf whilst preheating and when the loaf goes in, pour some water into the tray.  Creating steam which allows the loaf to develop a nice thick and light crust.  I do this with most loaves.
  • YEAST – This is the magic dust that makes bread rise.  Always keep it separate from salt,  they don’t get along and salt can kill it.  Add them to different parts of the bowl.  You can add your yeast to the warm water before mixing, but I find that it wakes up by itself.

Recipe Notes

I like this loaf with poppy seeds included in the seed mix.  They have a lovely flavour and give a nice bite to the loaf.  You may also like to add dried fruits like dates, apricots or herbs like rosemary and thyme to the loaf.  Spices like cinnamon and even garam masala can be delicious.

Rapeseed is one of my favourite oils and is local to us in the UK.  It has a great flavour that compliments spelt well, but you can use any oil, olive or sunflower etc.

Remember that spelt proves quicker than wheat.  I have proved this loaf twice, but you can easily omit the first prove and go straight for a single 40 minute prove followed by baking.  This is of course quicker and leads to a lighter loaf and ever so slightly crumbly.  Not better or worse really, just different.

This bread can be baked in a loaf tin, this makes it easier to handle as the dough can be quite wet.  If your just starting on your bread journey, go for a 1kg tin here.  Handling a spelt loaf is different from a wheat loaf, it can be quite floppy and needs some gentle encouragement (see below).

Add white flour instead of spelt for a lighter loaf.

Due to the gluten being different in spelt, it does not take as much kneading as wheat.  This can actually break down the gluten in the loaf, as oppose to strengthen it as with wheat.

 

Seeded Spelt Bread

The Bits – For one large loaf (10-12 slices)

500g spelt flour

1 teas yeast

1 1/3 teas salt

1 tbs malted rice extract (or sweetener of choice)

2 tbs rapeseed oil (plus extra for brushing)

2 handfuls mixed seeds (choose from poppy, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, hemp etc)

350ml warm water

 

Do It

In a large mixing bowl add the flour, seeds, salt and yeast.  Stir the sweetener into the water and gradually pour the water into the flour mix. Mixing it in with your hand or a wooden spoon.   Once all of the water is combined and a dough is formed add the oil and brush/ rub all the excess dough on your hands/ spoon back into the bowl and begin to knead the dough.

If your bowl is big enough, its possible to knead it in the bowl.  Otherwise turn out onto a cool surface, ideally lightly oiled.  Knead, it will be quite sticky, don’t worry, just give a good twist and pummel.  A lightly film of oil on your hands helps with the stickiness.  Work it!  Imagine you’re a kid again playing with food.  Its fun!  Give it roughly a couple of minutes kneading.  When the dough is smooth and pliant, you’re ready.

Form a ball and lightly oil it all over, in the bowl, lightly cover with a kitchen cloth and leave in a place that is slightly warmer than room temperature for 45 minutes.  The warmer it is, the more the yeast will come to life, so keep your eye on it.  The key is that the dough doubles in size.

A nicely shaped spelt dough ball, ready for its first prove

A nicely shaped spelt dough ball, ready for its first prove

Now knock it back (or knead it again).  Basically knocking the bubbles out of the bread and getting the gluten going even more.  This will all add to the firm and chewy texture of the loaf.  Form a rough and fat ball.  It will spread out, so tall is good.

Sprinkle or roll the dough in seeds if you like.  Grab an oven tray lined with baking parchment and place your dough on it and leave to prove for 35 minutes, until the dough has almost doubled in size (ideally, in a very perfect world, leaving just a little room for expanding in the oven).

Preheat an oven to 200oc and place a baking tray on a lower shelf.

The loaf ready for its final 35 minute prove

The loaf ready for its final 35 minute prove

This is spelt so the loaf may now look like a fat pizza base.  This is fine.  Using your hands or a spatula, gently form the loaf back together into the shape you prefer, pushing it and tucking it in.  You don’t want to handle it much at all at this stage.  A bit of gentle persuasion is best.  The loaf will be quite thin, nothing like a sphere but should not resemble a gorgeous, 2D frisbee.

Pour a couple of cups of water into a the now hot oven tray (lots of steam) and pop the loaf into the oven on a middle shelf.

(The tray steaming step is not essential).

Bake for 40-45 minutes.  Tap the base, it should sound nice and hollow with a good crust.  If this is not the case, pop it back in for another five minutes and repeat the process.

Lovely light spelt loaf with a good thick crust

Lovely light spelt loaf with a good thick crust

Once baked, leave the loaf on a wire rack (with a few inches of clearance underneath, too close to the surface and you’ll end up with a soggy bottom, which is never pleasant).  I give it at least 30 minutes before tucking in.  If you are in a hurry to cool the loaf down, cut in half or quarters.  This will release the steam making the loaf cool much quicker.

Serve

Makes a brilliant slice of toast and is ideal with soups especially.  I like it best warm with a drizzle of nice rapeseed oil or a little pot of balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Just a quick dip in that and then………woahhhhhh!  Lovely stuff.

Foodie Fact

Spelt is a good source of protein, dietary fibre, some B vitamins and minerals, especially manganese with good levels of iron.  It makes for a highly nutritious loaf.

Categories: Baking, Dairy/ Lactose Free, Healthy Eating, photography, Recipes, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Feeding the future – My recent article in the Barefoot Vegan Magazine

The new Barefoot Vegan packed full of inspiration and joy

The new Barefoot Vegan full of inspirational articles and reasons to be cheerful

Many of you may know that I’m a regular contributor to the Barefoot Vegan Magazine.  Its a place where a positive and vibrant vegan message can be found.  Something so peaceful, healthy, natural and inspiring for all!  Vegans and non-vegans are bound to find articles of interest and this edition focuses on kids and young people.

Subscribe to the Barefoot Vegan here.

My recent article - subscribe now and read it in full

My recent article – subscribe now and read it in full

I think it is so rare to find a publication that is based purely on love and positivity.  The focus in the Barefoot Vegan is creating a better world for all, a powerful message that is deeply effecting and in the magazine you get all the good news!

There are so many people out there pulling in the right direction, making efforts and putting energy into creating a more peaceful, accepting and harmonious global society.  The Barefoot Vegan is like an antidote to what we see on the news or read via the media in general.  Its empowering and full of hope, without which, positive change is hard to muster on any level.  We’re off to the Americas for a while very soon, but hopefully I’ll be able to write an article or two on the road.

There are so many reasons to feel proud of each other and the efforts we make, no matter how small, to reverse the trend of a depressive world view and destructive approaches to living.  Going vegan is massive step in so many wonderful ways and has profound effects.  It’s much, much more than simply changing our diet.

The Barefoot Vegan is like a sanctuary where optimism, compassion and peace are virtues to be celebrated and are ultimately realistic and hugely transforming.

Peace and Happiness, lee

'Feeding the future!' - a vegan diet is wonderfully nutritious for children and all ages

‘Feeding the future!’ – a vegan diet is wonderfully nutritious for children and all ages

 

Categories: barefoot vegan, Dairy/ Lactose Free, Environmentalism, Healing foods, healthy, Healthy Eating, Inspiration, magazine, Sustainability, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The big chocolate tasting and the thrills of real cacao

Mid chocolate scoff/ tasting

In the library at Trigonos – Mid chocolate tasting

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

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

One of the cooking demos at the vegan cooking retreat

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

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

So much glorious chocolate on one table!!!

So much glorious chocolate on one table!!!

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

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

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

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

So let the tasting begin…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

choco mama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOT CHOCOLATE HEAVEN

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

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

cyl-venezuelan-carenero--e1427891943355

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

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

A cacao pod

A cacao pod – where every chocolate bar begins…

THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF REAL CACAO

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

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

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

——————————————-

FULL CHOCOLATE TASTING RESULTS – TRIGONOS 4/3/16

Pana Chocolate – Fig and Wild Orange – 15 points

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

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

Choco Mama’s – Mulberry Crunch – 2 points

Ethicoco – Ugandan Oat Milk and Raisin – 2 points

Pana Chocolate – Nut – 2 points

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

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

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

——-

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

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

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

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

Coconut Scones

Coconut Scones (Vegan)

Coconut Scones (Vegan)

Mum’s here!!!! (and Dad)  When Mum visits we get stuck into loads of cooking.  We always have done and I’ve had these scones in mind for a while.  I knew Mum would love ’em!  Coconut + scones = genius.

This is a light, rich and crispy scone recipe especially for all those Mum’s out there. It’s MOTHERS DAY!! (Well it was yesterday when we made them!)  This will make any afternoon tea a little bit special.  Just add your favourite jam or Mum just had one with chocolate spread.  Yowzah!

These little beauties are based on the awesome recipe sent across to us by Janice at Nourished by Nature.  A place we visit regularly for nutritious, delicious, healthy recipes.  Janice is so passionate and creative and we love the way she cooks!  These scones even scooped the ‘Sweet Treat’ award at our last cookbook giveaway.  We just had to share our version of the recipe.

I love making scones and must admit, that at the moment I make more savoury scones.  Rosemary scones being my favourite.  They work so well with a nice hearty vegetable broth in these chilly winter months.  I have some great memories of Mum’s baking as a child.  Mum’s walnut and date scones were always amazing!  They were at least three times the thickness of these little guys.  I must remember to ask very nicely for a recipe…..

I have never used a food processor to make scones before, but I will again.  If used with care, i.e. not over working the mixture, the resulting scones are light with a delicious crispy crust.  I do not have a massive sweet tooth but these are right up my street!  A brilliant twist on a classic, just what we’d expect from Janice.

Mum busy with scones.  Always amazing to see Mum in the kitchen!

Mum busy with scones. Always amazing to see Mum in the kitchen!

Recipe Notes

I use the coconut oil here in solid form. This works best.

Feel free to use vegan spread instead of coconut oil, which I realise is quite expensive.  I must admit, I prefer the coconut oil ones.  Richer, lighter and with a crispier crust.

These scones can be made thicker, but I find thin scones great because there is less leftover mixture at the end and that means more lighter scones.  Once we start to reform the leftover straggly bits, the scones become heavier (although still very tasty).  Try weighing them in your hands, you’ll see what I mean.

Remember when baking scones, cookies etc they will seem a little underdone when removing them from the oven, they tend to firm up on the cooling rack.  This is perfectly normal and its best to take them out slightly undone than slightly overdone I feel.  Check the tops and bottoms, if they are beginning to brown, you’re there.

The Bits – Makes 8 medium-sized scones

225g self raising white flour

2 level teaspoons baking powder

50g unrefined white sugar (unprocessed)

100g coconut oil or vegan spread (olive, sunflower etc)

55g desiccated coconut

4-5 tablespoons plant based milk (soya milks works well)

2 tbs soya milk (for brushing)

2 tbs desscated coconut (for topping

Do It

Preheat an oven to 200oC (180oC Fan Oven)

In a food processor, add all the dry ingrdients and pulse a few times until a loose crumb forms. Add the soya milk gradually whilst pulsing until the mixture just starts coming together.

If you are not using a food processor, place all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and crumble the mixture using your fingers and thumbs (think breadcrumbs). After a while it will form a fine crumb, add the milk gradually, mixing with a spoon.

Fresh out of the oven

Fresh out of the oven

Pop the mixture onto a floured surface and bring it together with your hands. Do not over handle at this stage or your scones will be dense. Light scones will come about from very little handling.

Roll out the mixture using a rolling pin to a depth of 1 – 1/2 inches and cut out the scones using a cutter of your choice (Janice using a very cool heart shaped one). These ones will be the lightest, gather together the straggly bits of pasty and make into extra scones.  

Place on a baking tray lined with parchment and bake on a middle shelf in the oven for 12-14 minutes until the tops are have browned.

Coconut Scones - one ain't enough!;)

Coconut Scones with Rhubarb and Blueberry Jam – one ain’t enough!;)

Serve

You know how you love ’em!  A scone eaten still warm from the oven is a thing of rare beauty (blazing fire and purring cat on lap optional).

Foodie Fact

Coconut is an incredibly good thing in so many ways.  It is high in fat, giving it that gorgeous richness.  The fat in coconut is no ordinary fat however, a large portion of it is known as lauric acid.  A fat which has been shown to heighten our good cholesterol levels.  A medium coconut covers all of our energetic, mineral and vitamin needs for a whole day!   If you are ever in a tropical country and feeling the heat, reach for coconut water.  It is excellent at rehydrating the body

Categories: Baking, Cakes, Nutrition, photography, Recipes, Treats, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

Quick Carrot and Ginger Pickle plus Five Health Benefits of Ginger

Quick and easy - Carrot and Ginger Pickle

Quick and easy – Carrot and Ginger Pickle

This is the perfect accompaniment to your Saturday night curry feast!  Curry makes any weekend extra special.

I like shop bought pickles, it’s generally what you eat in restaurants in India. Although the very best pickles I’ve ever eaten have been home made (no surprises there then!) Mango, lime and mixed pickles are my favs but I had a few nice carrots in the kitchen, so I thought I’d give this a go. The spice combination and method can be used for most firm, sweet veggies, pumpkin or squash for example also work very well. This is very much a milder pickle don’t expect that eye-popping and taste bud tickling saltiness.  Its mellow like a mango pickle with spicy bells on with a nice sweet and sour chilli-ness.

The drawback of most shop bought pickles is the salt. In India I have noticed pickles are used sparingly, a couple of teaspoons per meal. In Britain, I think we can overdo it sometimes and all that salt is just not cool. The lovely thing about taking a wholefood approach, making an effort to cook much of your food at home, is that you know whats going into your dishes. We can moderate the sugar and salt levels here accordingly.

FIVE HEALTH BENEFITS OF GINGER
Really ginger is more like a medicine than a food!  It is just so good for us.  Some people get a little freaked out when I start talking about the health properties of food, but I can’t help myself!!  I love to know that the food I enjoy is actually doing me some good, not just tasting amazing, but filling me with nutrition and vitality.  Healthy food is not the worthy, boring grey slop of old, its the bright and very tasty future for us all!

  1. Anti-oxidant – Ginger contains a powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory called gingerol.  It is one of the natural oils in ginger which gives it such a powerful aroma.  Ginger may also help to prevent cancer and helps to fight infections.
  2. Helps Nausea – Many people use ginger to treat nausea like morning sickness and sea sickness.
  3. Lowers Cholesterol – Ginger has been shown in many studies to reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol and has even been shown to lower blood sugar levels.
  4. Helps the brain – Studies show that ginger can help to prevent age-related damage to the brain and improve brain function in elderly people.
  5.  Can help to treat chronic indigestion and pre-menstrual aches – Food containing ginger leave the stomach quicker, beneficial for people who suffer from indigestion.  It may also help reduce pre-menstrual pains if taken at the start of the menstrual cycle.  It has shown to be as effective as taking drugs like Ibuprofen.

Ginger is most certainly one of those foods worthy of the ‘superfood’ name!

Back to pickle.  Enjoy this tangy, spicy pickle with flat breads and of course, a curry or two for company. It also goes down well in sandwiches and I even like it on toast in the morning. Remember, I also eat chillies for breakfast on occasion. I understand that it’s a slightly more intense affair than strawberry jam.

 

The Bits – Makes 1 jar or serves 4-6

450g carrot (peeled and cut thin half moons – slice anyway you like really as long as its thin)

1 onion (finely sliced)

3 tbs ginger (finely sliced or grated)

3 tbsp oil

½ tsp fenugreek seeds

1 1/2 teas cumin seeds

1 teas coriander seeds (the smaller ones are best)

5 whole dried red chillies (cut in half length ways – more if you love chilli)

1 ½ tsp turmeric

2 tsp salt

5 tbsp unrefined sugar

1/2 lemon (juice)

Very simple recipe:)

Very simple recipe with brilliant results:)

Do It

If you are jarring the pickle and looking to preserve it for a while, sterilise the jars by either boil the jar and lid in a pan of water or bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

Add the oil to a large saucepan on medium heat and when hot pop in the fenugreek, cumin seeds and dried chillies. Fry until they pop, a minute or less, then add the carrot, onion and ginger, fry for five minutes.

Add the salt and turmeric, stir and lower heat, cover the pan and leave to cook until the carrot is soft, 20 minutes. Add the sugar and lemon juice stir, warm through for a minute and then leave to cool.

This pickle can be enjoyed once cooled or preserved for later tasty times. It will keep nicely in a sealed container for a week.

Quick Carrot and Ginger Pickle

Quick Carrot and Ginger Pickle

Serve

With your favourite curry or like I said, good on toast!

Foodie Fact 

See above – we’ve got ginger covered.

We've been loving the winter sunshine down on the beach.

We’ve been loving the winter sunshine down on the beach.

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Rock hoppin

Dinas Dinlle beach on a sunny day - fresh, fresh air

Dinas Dinlle beach on a sunny day – fresh, fresh air

Categories: Chutney, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, photography, Recipes, Side Dish, Superfoods, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Blender Banana and Pecan Pancakes with Chocolate Sauce (Gluten-free)

Blender Banana and Pecan Pancakes (Gluten-free)

Blender Banana and Pecan Pancakes (Gluten-free)

There is only one pancake night so lets do it in style!!!!  Why is there only one pancake night actually?  I feel like we need at least a weekly or bi-weekly pancake night.  Pancakes are better than that.

So I felt like joining in on the pancake party but with a busy week ahead, I wasn’t going to have much time to play with pancakes.  I needed something super quick and tasty.  I know that a lot of you are avoiding or taking it easy on gluten and I wanted to give you a brilliant option.  I love making food accessible to all and no one will feel like they’re missing out with these pancakes.  Impossible!

They’ll make for a great breakfast or dessert any time of year, maybe add some berries or chopped fruit, a little dusting of cocoa…..

I like pecans any way they come......

What is it about pecans, maple syrup and pancakes?!

I’m going to have to write this quickly before I eat all of these!  I am actually multi-tasking here, typing with a mouthful of pancake.  It is possible after all!!  This recipes is hot out of the pan.  I always said that the precious time that I get out of the kitchen I would not spend in the kitchen (does that make sense!!) taking 56 pictures of a pile of pancakes.  Tonight…..I have. There is surely no better way to spend an evening.

This is easy.  Pop all the ingredients in a blender, blitz, fry and enjoy!  I love the way some talk about pancakes ‘behaving well’ in the pan!?  A well behaved pancake sounds so bland.  Make these small and you’ll have no problems at all flipping them and kids absolutely love a mini pancake (mini most things really).

THE GHOSTS OF PANCAKE DAY PAST

Pancakes have come a long way since my family launching them at the ceiling and redecorating the walls with flour and eggs.  It always seems a very messy night with loads of fuss for a little, thin thing that normally had the consistency of a supple frisbee.   It was always fun though and we laughed at our attempts and devastation.  Everyone had a go at flipping and it was always very exciting and quite nerve wracking as an 8 year old.  You always remembered your technique from last year, after four failed and mangled attempts!

One of my heroes...as an 8 year old. Banana Man!

Do you remember this man? One of my heroes…as an 8 year old. Banana Man!!!!

I still love the classic lemon and sugar crepe, but lets face it, we’ve all become a bit more Americanized with our pancake habits.  Hotcakes are big, light and fluffy (like some Americans I know) you eat two and feel like you’re about to explode.  Quite filling they are.  Sets you up for the day or an early return to bed!!!  Sleep off breakfast.

This is the later, light and fluffy, but without that heavy feeling.  We use gluten-free flour and the delights of banana paired with pecans.

SAUCY IDEAS

There are so many!  I had mine with a simple chocolate sauce (melted chocolate with a little coconut oil mixed in) or try warming peanut butter in a pan and stirring in some maple syrup, or tahini in the same way, in fact any nut butter is sensational warmed with some sweetness stirred in. Another option is warming the peanut butter, sweetening it and then stirring in a little coconut cream (the thick stuff in a tin of coconut milk).  Wow!  That is a sensation.

Something fruity, how about marmalade or cherry jam, warmed in a pan with a dash of whiskey or dark rum stirred in.  Why not toss some apples, dates and orange zest in a pan and warm them through.  Once the apple has broken down you have a lovely apple compote to use liberally on pancakes and more.

Although, having said all of that and being a purist in the department, just maple syrup is enough for me.

Recipe Note

Not everyone likes the full taste of buckwheat, I do.  These pancakes are awesome with just buckwheat flour.

I like these pancakes small, you can eat more of them and they are fresher when you do.  In a large frying pan you should be able to fry three at a time.  Use a spatula to flip them.  If you can flip three pancakes by tossing them in the air…..well done.

If you’ve no pecans, walnuts will be fine.  If you have no walnuts…cashews will do.

You can experiment with your favourite mix of gluten-free flour.  If you’re using normal flour, I’d mash up the banana, chop up the pecans and stir it all togther.  The blender may get the gluten going in the flour and you’ll be left with weird pancakes.

These pancakes are easy flippers, no messing about for you this pancake night.

These pancakes are easy flippers, no messing about for you this pancake night.

The Bits – 12 mini pancakes (serves 2)
2 ripe bananas
1/2 teas bicarb of soda
1 handful pecans
4 tbs white gluten-free flour mix
3 tbs buckwheat flour
150ml soya milk (or plant milk of choice)
1/2 teas vanilla extract
Pinch salt

Dark chocolate

Coconut oil

Do It

Make your sauce first.  Place a glass bowl over a pan of gently simmering water.  Add your chocolate and melt.  Stir in a little oil, the sauce will be shiny and super rich.  Its best serve warm.

In a blender, add all the pancake ingredients and blitz until all is combined.  There will be chunks of nuts left, that is cool.  You may need to get a spoon in there and mix things up, making sure all in smooth and batter-like.

Lightly oil a frying pan and warm on medium heat.  Add 2-3 tbs of mix per pancake.  Fry 2-3 minutes one side, flip and fry for 1-2 minutes on the other.  I normally reduce the heat of my pan as I go through the batches of pancakes.  It can get carried away.  Keep your eye on it.

Keep the pancakes warm in an oven, or wrap them in a clean kitchen cloth until you’re ready to serve.

Serve

Enjoy with your favourite sauce or topping.  You know the one……

Get them while they're hot!

Get them while they’re hot!

Foodie Fact

Pecans are so intensely brilliant in many ways.  They are packed with good fats and fatty acids, keeping your heart healthy.  They are full of fibre which helps our digestion out, anti-oxidants and they are powerhouses of minerals, helping things like our bones, skin and immune systems.  A handful of nuts a day, keeps the grim reaper at bay!

Categories: Breakfast, Desserts, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Baked Mushrooms with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto and Walnuts

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Baked Mushrooms with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto and Walnuts

Just such and easy and flavoursome number!  The kind of dish you could serve as a main course or starter  at a dinner party (aka when you’re trying to look a bit flash in the kitchen) and really not go to any great trouble.

One of the main reasons for me popping this recipe on the BHK is the wonderful Vegan Recipe Hour, happening soon over on Twitter.  A great place for vegan cooking inspiration and tonight the theme is……well……MUSHROOMS!

They look lovely and pack some intense flavours; mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted nuts, pesto, these are some of the bedrocks of richness and savoury flavours in a vegan cooks locker.  Combined……POW!  I’d also like to mention that this is most definitely healthy.

UMAMI!

One of the five basic tastes and a word that sounds like something Vic and Bob would exclaim (with loads of reverb) mid ‘Shooting Stars’.  If you are not British, this may take some explaining…..this clip might help.

Umami is a savoury taste in things like mushrooms, nuts, fermented foods like miso and tamari, yeast extract, seaweed and sun dried tomatoes, they’re packed with that mysterious and delicious flavour that acts like catnip to our tastebuds.  We know we love it!

The history of umami can be found here and it is of course the source of MSG.  Its natures MSG, which means all the crazy good flavour without the unpleasant side effects.  Many rich and flavourful plant based meals use something umami as a base.

BEST JOB IN THE WORLD!

Some of you may know that I cook at a glorious retreat centre in Snowdonia, Trigonos.  (Queue a quick plug for the retreat and workshop I’m running soon –  ‘Discovering Vegan Cooking’).  I have started to make these mushrooms for lunch there and they always go down a treat.  Greater than the sum of their preparation skills and time.  The sign of a winning restaurant dish, especially when you’re working in the kitchen!  This is a dish I choose when I’m giving myself a bit of a break.  Normally, if you eat at Trigonos, you’ll be joining me on a voyage into vegan cooking.  I have a rough idea what I’ll be cooking but I generally see what is good from the land that day (we have our own organic farm) and what’s looking great from out veg supplier.  Then I play with food and enjoy myself.  One of the most wonderful occupations imaginable.

Now.  Lets make something delicious.

Recipe Notes

The mushrooms will shrink quite a bit during cooking.  Make sure you get big ones, or double up per person.  I have found that most folk like a second mushroom after they’ve tasted the first.

Portobellos are full of flavour and texture but field mushrooms are also fine (and a little cheaper).

I always try to make my own pesto, but at this time of year, fresh leafy herbs are not exactly sprouting from the earth.  You could use a good jar of vegan pesto, you’ll find this in most supermarkets and especially health food shops or similar.

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A typical Trigonos lunch plate, plenty of colours!

The Bits – For 4

4 large mushrooms (peeled and the end of stalks trimmed off)

Pesto

2 big handfuls sun dried tomatoes (roughly chopped)

2 big handfuls basil leaves

1/2 lemon (zest)

3 large cloves garlic (peeled and crushed)

1 handful cashews (best when soaked in warm water for an hour before)

50ml+ olive oil

2 tbs nutritional yeast flakes

Sea Salt (to taste)

OR

10-12 tbs green pesto (of your choice)

Mixing in the sun dried tomatoes and lemon (zest) – same quantities as above

 

2 handfuls walnuts (roughly chopped)

 

Topping

Fresh green herbs – parsley, thyme, basil

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Fresh out of the oven

Do It

Preheat an oven 180oc.

Peel the mushrooms, lightly oil a baking tray, sprinkle the mushrooms with salt and pepper.  Bake the mushrooms for 15-20 minutes.  They should be soft but still nice and succulent.

Place all of the pesto ingredients into a food processor (except the olive oil) and pulse until a chunky pesto is formed whilst drizzling in the oil.  Or, just mix the tomatoes and lemon zest into your shop bought pesto.  Taste and season with salt if needed.  Adding more nooch (nutritional yeast flakes) will up the cheesiness. A good thing.

Spoon roughly 2-3 tbs of the pesto over each mushroom and sprinkle with walnuts.  Pop back into the oven for 10 minutes to warm them through.  Thats it!

Sprinkle over some herbs and serve soon after.

Here are some dishes I’ve served recently to accompany these mushrooms:

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Categories: Dairy/ Lactose Free, Dinner, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Vegan Myth Busted! – Top Plant-Based Sources of Iron

vegan

Plant power!

There is still a popular food myth doing the rounds that vegans are generally short of iron in their diets or it’s difficult to find natural sources of iron without taking supplements and the like.  This is way off the mark.

“How do you get enough iron eating only plants?” A question I get asked quite a lot.  The answer is simple; loads of very accessible, inexpensive, plant-based places. Eating a balanced vegan diet, the question is more, “Where do we not get our iron, protein, vitamins, other minerals……..?” A vegan diet allows us all to thrive!

The WHO consider iron deficiency to be the number one nutritional disorder in the world. 80% of the world population may be iron deficient, so it is always a good idea to keep topped up and learn a little about plant-based nutrition (Vitamin B12 for example).

Iron is essential to health and basically helps our blood carry oxegen to our bodies tissues. Our body stores iron but we still need to eat a reasonable amount per day, roughly 18mg for adults  is advised. Women who are menstruating will need more, this can lead to cravings for iron rich foods.

The iron found in plants is different than that in meat. When we eat meat we are basically directly ingesting the iron in the blood, organs and muscles of the animal. It is easier for the body to access. We need to be aware that iron in plants will not be as easily absorbed.  But no worries, this is easily sorted.

Plant-based iron is best absorbed when combined with Vitamin C and it is also best to avoid tea and coffee if you’re looking at helping your body absorb plant based iron.  They both contain tannins and calcium which hinder absorption.  So leave a good half an hour before or after eating until you put the kettle on or eat high foods high in calcium.

THE IRON RICH ‘HIT-LIST’

Many beans like pinto, kidney, black eyed and black.  Lentils. Soya is best fermented like miso, tempeh. Tomato paste or sauce. Potatoes, spring greens (collards), spirulina, tahini, whole wheat, bulghur wheat, oats, nuts, kale, pumpkin seeds, mushrooms, quinoa, raisins, peas, sunflower seeds, apricots, watermelon, millet, almonds……I’m getting hungry here!

Popeye did well on it, but spinach is actually not the best choice for iron.  It contains acids that inhibit absorption but Vitamin C again can help.

You can see that many of the staples that most vegans eat are good sources of iron.  1 cup of lentils for example contains almost your RDA for iron and black strap molasses is worth a mention, 2 tbs contains 7.2g iron.

TIPS TO GET IRON INTO YOUR DIET

Seasonal fruits can also be a great source of iron so grab a bowl of oats topped seasonal fruits for a nutritious and iron rich way to start the day.  Some vegetables, like Broccoli and Bo Choi, are rich in both iron and Vitamin C.  Which, as mentioned, is a great combo!  Snacking on dried fruit like raisins and apricots or seeds, eating beans with greens, adding tahini or molasses to dishes or dressings, are all good ways of introducing iron rich foods into our everyday meals.

CALORIE COUNTING

If you are counting calories, it is worth mentioning that sources of plant based iron are obviously the better choice. Cooked spring greens (collards) for example contain 4.5mg of iron/100 calories, whereas Sirloin Steak weighs in with a mere 0.9mg of iron/100 calories.

It has also been said that cooking in iron pots can help.  Cooking a tomato sauce in a cast iron pot can increase the iron levels ten fold!

In a balanced vegan diet there are so many sources of iron and vitamin C that a lack of iron is no major concern.  There is also no evidence to suggest that vegan and vegetarians have a higher incidence of iron deficiency than meat eaters.

As you can see, vegans are sorted for iron!  Another vegan myth busted!!

If you know of any other sources of plant-based iron, please let us know.

Vegan sources of iron

Vegan sources of iron – Image by Vegans of Instagram 

Some of the information and figures for this article came from this link.

Categories: Dairy/ Lactose Free, Healthy Eating, Inspiration, Nutrition, Vegan, veganism, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cookbook Competition Winners & Happy Birthday Beach House Kitchen!!!

What a way to celebrate a birthday!  So many amazing recipes have hit our blog inbox over the past couple of weeks. Our minds are boggled now by sheer deliciousness…..!  Its been so hard to pick winners so we’ve changed the rules a little, we’re giving away two more books!!  You are all winners really and we will be cooking as many of your amazing recipes as possible.

Here are the lucky three who will be getting a copy of ‘Peace & Parsnips’ very soon (plus two we just had to include for being extra amazing…..):

Cucumber Rolls with Harissa Cream by Katharina

Winner!  Little Plate – Cucumber Rolls with Harissa Cream by Katharina

Little Plate – Cucumber Rolls with Harissa Cream
Katharina loves drawing, eating and cooking….sometimes all at the same time!!!  Instead of a taking a photo, Katharina sent in a painting.  We thing its wonderful!  Anybody this talented with a paintbrush is bound to be a hit in the kitchen!  We think these will look incredible, rolled into a beautiful rose and stuffed with a harissa cashew cream.  Woah!  The kick of the Harissa makes Katarina happy and we are sure this dish is going to make us smile.  This cream will also go well on bread, with salads or dip a falafel in.  YUM!
You need
1 cup cashews, soaked
3 tbs nooch, aka the nutritional yeast:)
2 tbs olive oil, extra virgin of course
3 tbs water or some more if needed
3 ts smoky paprika
1 ts jeera/ cumin
1 ts caraway seeds
1 ts coriander seeds
1 ts salt (Himalayan Rose)
to serve
1 long cucumber
iceberg salad or frillice
Blend cashews with water and  nutritional yeast and grind the spices in a pestle and mortar.  Add the spice mix to the cashew cream and give it a short final blend.
Slice cucumber lengthways with vegetable peeler into thin long strips. Spread the cream onto the strips and roll them into roses.

 

Big Plate Winner! Greek Butter Bean Pie by Laura

Winner! Big Plate Winner – Greek Butter Bean Pie by Laura

Big Plate – Greek Butter Bean Pie
We love the cooking style of the Med so much and Laura is such a talented cook and blogger.
“A hearty baked version of a Greek meze classic. This Butter Bean Pie is simple to make, full of delicious savoury flavour and packed with wholesome ingredients.”
You’ll find more delicious recipes like this on Laura’s blog ‘The Whole Ingredient’.
Serves: 2-4
Ingredients
  • 200g dried butter beans, soaked overnight (or 3 tins of pre-cooked butter beans)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 4-6 garlic cloves
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp + 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 30g fresh dill
  • 200g fresh spinach
Method
  1. Heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.
  2. If you haven’t already pre-cooked the butter beans, put them on to boil in a large pan of water. Leave to simmer for 20-30 minutes – about the same time it takes to prepare the sauce.
  3. While the beans are cooking, make the sauce. Chop the onion, carrot and celery small, all to a similar size.
  4. Heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a large frying pan and add these to the pan.
  5. Cook for 5-10 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Slice the garlic and add this to the pan, giving it all a good stir.
  6. Now stir in the chopped tomatoes, tomato purée, lemon juice, 1 tbsp of oregano, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Chop the dill (discarding any thick or tough stalks) and stir this in too.
  7. Leave the sauce to simmer for 10 minutes.
  8. While this is cooking, wilt the spinach in a separate pan until there is no water remaining from the leaves.
  9. You can now assemble the pie. Line the bottom of an oven dish or pie tin with the spinach. Drain the butter beans and stir these into the tomato sauce. Gently pour this over the spinach and level it out. Sprinkle on the rest of the oregano and olive oil.
  10. Cook on a middle shelf for 30 minutes.
Coconut Scones by Janice

Winner! Sweet Treat – Coconut Scones by Janice

Sweet Treat – Coconut Scones

Janice says: “The most delicious scones ever!” These are low in sugar but sweetened with the super healthy coconut.  A ingredient Janice and ourselves can’t get enough of. Janice recommends cutting these scones thick, as they should be (otherwise they’re biscuits) and enjoying them straight from the oven with plenty of coconut oil and home chia seed jam!  Sounds truly amazeballs!!!

Find plant-based delights and natural health magic over at Janice’s blog ‘Nourished by Nature’.

Ingredients

8oz/225g self raising flour, preferably organic

2 level teaspoons baking powder

1 ½ oz/40g caster sugar

4 oz /110g soya or sunflower spread

2 oz/55g desiccated coconut

3 or 4 tablespoons plant based milk

Method

1. Heat the oven to 220C/425F/ Gas 7 and lightly grease a baking sheet.

2. The easiest way to make these scones is to add all the dry ingredients to
a food processor and pulse for a few minutes, then add the milk a little at
a time until the mixture comes together,

3. If you don’t have a food processor then put the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Using your fingertips rub the spread into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Vegan spreads are really soft so run your hands under a cold tap before you start and work quickly to keep the mixture from clumping.

4. Stir in the sugar and coconut then add the milk gradually and mix with a
wooden spoon until the mixture comes together.

5. Turn out onto a floured work surface and pat into a round ¾ inch or 2 cm thick.

6. Cut out 10 scones, I use a heart shaped cookie cutter since I reckon
we could all do with more love in our lives!

7. Brush the tops of the scones with milk and liberally sprinkle coconut on
the top.

8. Bake in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes until well risen and nicely browned

EXTRA AMAZING SPECIAL MENTIONS:
Copies of ‘Peace & Parsnips’ will also be heading to Victoria and Amy who both sent in three course vegan banquets to make even the most hardy meat-eater drool!  Delicious!!  We’ve included a picture of some of the dishes below:
Stuffed Peppers

A couple of Victoria’s beautiful dishes. Stuffed Peppers with Cauliflower Rice.  We love cauliflower rice and everything tastes amazing when stuffed in a pepper;)

 

Baked Apples -

Stuffed Baked Apples with Cashew Vanilla Cream by Victoria.  Love the blackberries in this and the cashew cream sounds delicious!!!

Amy is 17!  What a rock n roll star!!!!  Amy is studying cooking at college and is interested and passionate about cooking all foods.  Amy loved trying out vegan food and it shows.  We especially like Amy’s specially printed menu.  Vegan<3

Amy cooked up a wonderful three course feast!

Amy cooked up a wonderful three course feast!  Can’t wait to try the chocolate brownie recipe and curries are always welcome in the BHK.

 

We loved Amy's specially printed menu. So cool:)

We loved Amy’s specially printed menu. So cool:)

We’d also like send big thanks to (recipes that we loved and will be cooking soon):

Sharon’s – Seaside Pasta with Samphire
Rebecca’s – Parsnip and Chickpea Loaf with Lemon and Thyme AKA Not Roast and Chocolate Tiffin
Cora’s – Unbaked Banana Bread Balls
V’s – Spiced Coconutty Butternut Squash Soup
Thank you so much to everyone who has taken part, we loved reading your emails and recipes, the response has really touched us.  You’ve made our 4th birthday party extra special.  Its been a real celebration of home cooked happiness!
Happy Cooking,
Lee & JaneX
Categories: competition, Desserts, Dinner, Healthy Eating, Peace and Parsnips, photography, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

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