Vegan

Cooling Watermelon, Tofu & Mint Salad

Cooling Watermelon, Tofu and Mint Salad

It’s getting HOT over here!

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

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

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

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


Recipe Notes

The chillies are a great little kick, but optional.

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

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

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


The Bits – For 2 lunch

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

1 green chilli (finely sliced) – optional

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy cooking!

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

Hot off the press! Announcing our next two vegan cooking retreats

 

We’re very excited to announce our next two vegan cooking retreats at the wonderful Trigonos.

One World Vegan – 4 day healthy cooking retreat
29 August – 2 September 2017

Home Cooked Happiness – 4 day simple vegan cooking retreat
16 – 20 September 2017

Full details are below.

Both courses will be packed with creative plant-based cooking, with optional yoga and meditation as well as evening entertainment and a long walk in the beautiful Snowdonia valleys.

All bookings and enquiries are via Trigonos here or contact on info@trigonos.org for a booking form and more info.

We have limited places available, we like to keep the groups small, it’s more intimate that way.  Gluten-free options available for all recipes.

See you in beautiful North Wales soon.

Lee & Jane:)

———–

ONE WORLD VEGAN: 4 DAY HEALTHY COOKING RETREAT

29 August – 2 September 2017
Led by Lee Watson
Author of Peace and Parsnips – Vegan Cooking for Everyone (Penguin/Michael Joseph)
co-presenter ‘Meat vs Veg’ TV Programme (24Kitchen)

A Trigonos Course

Join us for a rejuvenating, informative and fun retreat in idyllic Snowdonia and learn to cook traditional and contemporary vegan dishes from around the globe. Inspired by Lee’s travel experiences and the recipes, knowledge and tales he’s picked up along the way, this four day retreat will give an introduction Mexican, Indian, African, South East Asian and more with plenty of surprise additions and creative twists that all home cooks can master and everyone enjoy.

The emphasis will be on seasonal and local UK produce, along with essential and readily available ingredients from around the world. Recipes will be healthy and fresh, simple and quick. From exotic desserts to the world’s simplest curry, street food delights and Buddha bowls, we’ll explore all the delicious potential plant-based food has to offer.

The retreat will be informative and relaxing at the same time. Coffee, tea, herbal infusions and treats are free flowing – very important!

We have optional beginners yoga and meditation to start the day in a peaceful way, followed by breakfast with fresh juices and smoothies. Then cooking demonstrations with Lee with opportunities to get hands-on and involved.

Time is set aside to explore the beautiful nature and landscapes around Trigonos with an afternoon set aside for walking in the mountains and valleys of Snowdonia. Each evening will bring local entertainment and drinks by the fire in the Trigonos library, with optional meditation to end the day.

This retreat will be ideal for anyone looking to try something new in the kitchen, spice up their cooking and get adventurous!

Prices from £380 to £550

We’ll be using lots of fresh produce grown on the Trigonos land (check out those tomatoes!!)

 

HOME COOKED HAPPINESS: 4 DAY SIMPLE VEGAN COOKING

16 – 20 September 2017
Led by Lee Watson
Author of Peace and Parsnips – Vegan Cooking for Everyone (Penguin/Michael Joseph)
Co-presenter ‘Meat vs Veg’ TV Programme (24Kitchen)

Looking for a healthy kick-start in the kitchen, something quick and easy that all the family will enjoy? Seeking simple and inspiring dishes that you’ll want to cook all the time? In this retreat we’ll learn the basic skills for transforming fruits, nuts and vegetables into nutritious and delicious meals that everyone will love. All dishes have been highly rated by non-vegans! This is quick, creative and delicious cooking on a budget.

We know that eating more fruit and vegetables is important for good health. A balanced vegan diet can be very healthy and it doesn’t cost the earth.

The cooking demonstrations by Lee will give even the beginner the confidence to explore the creative and nutritious potential in plant-based foods whilst having fun in the kitchen. We’ll be ‘veganising’ many classic dishes and learning simple techniques covering breakfast, bread, soups, starters, salads, stews, bakes, cakes and many desserts.

The retreat is also designed as a relaxing break from our busy lives, somewhere you can recharge. We’ll have optional meditation and yoga in mornings and evenings. Fresh juices and herbal infusions are always available, along with plenty of treats, fresh coffee and nice surprises along the way.

You’ll have ample time to explore the beautiful area around Trigonos and there will be an optional hike in the mountains and valleys of Snowdonia. Every night we’ll relax around the fire in the comfort of the Trigonos library and enjoy drinks and local entertainment.

This is vegan cooking for everyone and we’ll make even the simplest of produce shine.

Prices from £320 to £490

To book your place contact Trigonos on 01286 882 388

 

 

Categories: Cooking Retreats, Healthy Eating, Vegan, veganism, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

5 cookbooks that inspire my cooking (and eating!) – Happy Foodie Article

If you’re trying out vegan living this January with the awesome Veganuary or just looking for some interesting cookbooks, here’s a little selection I picked for the Happy Foodie site:

Lee Watson, the author of vegan cookbook Peace & Parsnips, has shared the 5 cookbooks that shaped the way he thinks about (and eats!) food. Find out more about Lee’s own cookbook here.

The New Good Life – John Robbins

I have been cooking vegan food for many years, I’ve always been fascinated by the creative way we can use plant-based ingredients to produce stunning dishes to suit any palate. Veganism for me was a gradual shift, it seemed liked the more I learnt about it, the more it embodied the lifestyle I wanted and my ethics and hopes for the future. The New Good Life was one book that made a big impact on me. Being a vegan has many positive effects, not just relating to animals, the environment and our health. This is a passionate book which gives practical steps to move away from the view that happiness is gauged by our status or what we have lurking about in the bank. We can live well on less, whilst moving ever closer to harmony with nature, the planet and ourselves. This is certainly my approach. Diet is a major part of this and John explains the health benefits of a plant-based diet, planet-friendly food that saves money and much more.

John was a big part of the popular ice cream brand ‘Baskin and Robbins’ until he went through a complete change of heart after realising the true implications and costs of the dairy industry. John became an advocate for a vegan lifestyle and has now been campaigning for years, living the good life and writing many books, ‘The New Good Life’ is my favourite.

As a sign of the times, Baskins and Robbins are now releasing their first ever vegan ice creams. I’m looking forward to trying some soon.

Diet for a Small Planet – Frances Moore Lappé

This book came out in the early 70’s, it was before its time, one of the first books to highlight the hugely negative impact of meat production on the environment. It is also filled with meat-free recipes and tips on a healthier diet. Frances argued for ‘environmental vegetarianism’ and veganism naturally takes this further in the right direction. The book also highlighted issues like world hunger and how it is affected by our still highly ineffective food policies.

It can be baffling and frustrating to read this book and know that we’ve been talking about the same issue for over 50 years. I think one major issue is that we just aren’t offered the correct information about the environmental impact of our dietary choices.

Going vegan or choosing to eat more plant-based meals minimises the support for large-scale animal agriculture, which is the number one source of global warming, much more destructive than the entire transport industry put together! This is a contentious issue but gradually, the true impact of animal agriculture is being understood. Environmental issues like these certainly influenced my reasons for becoming a vegan and cooking planet-friendly foods.

World Peace Diet – Will Tuttle

For anyone interested in veganism or moving in this direction, on any level, this is the first book that I recommend. There are precious few books out there that speak from the heart of veganism, which for me, is rooted in compassion for all beings. Will looks deeply into the implications and rationale of a vegan lifestyle; from ethical, health, historical, cultural and environmental perspectives. He really breaks it down in a highly readable, logical and illuminating way.

Veganism is a profoundly positive and peaceful way of thinking and acting, many global issues can be linked with the food we consume and how it is produced. Will brings this to life with realistic examples, scientific support and an open approach. I think the secrets to a truly better, more peaceful and sustainable world are tucked away in these pages.

How to Cook Your Life – Dogen

I admit to not reading many cookbooks or watching food programmes on TV. I work as a chef and once I’ve been cooking all day, then cooked dinner, I’m ready for something a little different. A nice slice of peace.

Mindfulness is becoming more and more popular and How to Cook Your Life takes us back to the 13th century, the writing of Zen master and philosopher Dogen. It reveals the rules and etiquette of a Zen kitchen and how cooking well is an integral part of living well.

I believe wholeheartedly in this approach, every part of the cooking process is important, from buying or growing the food right up to the washing up!

I see mindfulness as being inextricably linked with a vegan lifestyle. The more mindful I become, the more sensitive I am to the way that my thoughts and actions affect myself and others.

In a Zen Monastery, only the abbot has a higher status than the cook (or tenzo), who is always an experienced monk. The abbot looks after spiritual matters, you could say feeding the mind, and the cook takes care of the physical side, feeding the body with wholesome food imbued with good energy. This book helped me to realise a more conscious and focused approach to the way that I cook, eat and live.

The Mystic Cookfire – Veronika Sophia Robinson

This is one of my partner Jane’s favourite cookbooks. It was a tough choice as there are so many amazing vegan chefs out there writing brilliant books; Aine Carlin, Isa Chandra Moscowitz and Angela Liddon to name but a few, but my cooking influences come from all sorts of angles.

The Mystic Cookfire is beautifully written with an open heart and lovely illustrations. It’s the rare kind of cookbook that you could quite happily read like a novel, tucked up in bed, with some hot chocolate. On the rare occasion that I have a day off playing with pots and pans, this is Jane’s go to cookbook, we eat from the ‘Mystic Cookfire’ (what a name!!).

I love eating food with soul, something so intangible, but you know the kind of food I’m talking about. Home cooked happiness! These recipes are simple, plant-based and nourishing; the kind of food that can make a house a home, dishes that will become family staples for years to come.

This book also focuses on the deeper relevance of food and cooking. How it is much more than just throwing some ingredients together. Cooking can be a daily routine that accentuates the lives of cooks, families and loved ones.

I’m a sucker for a good quote and this book is packed with amusing and informative references and quotes. Good cooking for me comes from a place deeper than just sound technique. There has to be some love in the mix!

Originally posted on the Happy Foodie site.

Categories: cookbook, Environmentalism, Healthy Eating, Sustainability, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Street Eats and Delicious Days – Our Indonesian holiday snaps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salamat Maka! (Bon Appetit!)

Traditional village - Tana Toraja, Sulawesi

Traditional village – Tana Toraja, Sulawesi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you IndonesiaX

Thank you IndonesiaX

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

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

Dal Bhat Power! What’s cookin’ in Nepal

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

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

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

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

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

Jane is a big fan

Jane is a big fan

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

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

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

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

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

Monkey Temple Stupa - Kathmandu

Monkey Temple Stupa – Kathmandu

WHAT ELSE?

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

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

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

THE REAL DEAL

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

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

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

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

Mountain of dhendo! With all the Thakali trimmings

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yomari - a very interesting and unique Nepali sweet

Yomari – a very interesting and unique Nepali sweet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

We’re supporting Veganuary 2017! Everyone is going vegan this January

We are very excited to read about this years Veganuary and it’s incredible success, over 30,000 people have already pledged. January 2017 looks like the best yet!

Veganuary aims to campaign, support and inspire people to go fully vegan every January. Have you signed up yet? See below for more details.

VEGANUARY SITE

Going vegan in January is an amazingly positive way to start the year and is so easy, there is loads of information and tips on the Veganuary site.  After trying out a vegan lifestyle for a month, many people feel and understand the benefits to themselves, the planet and of course, to animals.  Not to mention the outrageously sensational food!  You’re going to shine inside and out after a month of feeling the effects of full power plant diet.

Check out Veganuary’s awesome vegan food essentials.  There is even a vegan starter kit.  What more could you need.  Going vegan has never been so easy and tasty!

They also have an excellent facebook page full of great stuff.

Of course, there are loads of recipes on the BHK you can try in January and Jane and I are always here to soothe any plant-based problems.  We know loads of friends and family giving it a go.  How cool!

GO FOR IT!!!!!

GO VEGAN!

Start 2017 in peace.  Be kind, be healthy, be happy;)

Categories: Environmentalism, healthy, Healthy Living, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Visiting Tofu Village – Yogyakarta, Indonesia

The load, hot and crispy end of the kitchen

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

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

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

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

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

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

Firstly - Cook the ground beans and add coagulant

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

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

Put into moulds, then leave to dry on racks

Put into moulds, then leave to dry on racks

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

Chop it up (Jane slightly assisting)

Chop it up (Jane slightly assisting)

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

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

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

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

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

All wood fired in these parts

All wood fired in these parts

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

Lazy Lizard Lunch – Bangkok

In the lazy lizard hut

In the lazy lizard hut

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Markets - one of my favourite places to wander

Markets – one of my favourite places to wander

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mama takes a closer look

Mama takes a closer look

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

More Thai vegan adventures to follow….

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

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

Peace & Parsnips out now in the U.S.A!

It’s a great day for the BHK, our cookbook is out in the U.S.A!! Jane and I are very proud and super excited by it all. Jane is actually over in Santa Cruz, California now and will be buying a copy today. I’m expecting a picture very soon.  I can tell you that she is loving all the amazing vegan food in California, burgers bigger than your head washed down with vegan milkshakes!!  Wow!

Below are some links all about the book, there are over 200 plant-based recipes packed with flavours and colours. The book was a labour of love and its amazing to see it available now in the U.S.  I hope you love it guys!!!

Peace and Parsnips comes out soon in the USA:)

Peace and Parsnips out now in the USA!!!!!:)

Peace & Parsnips recipes, reviews, plus more.

Here’s a sneak peek of some of the recipes:

tablee_s0x500_q80_noupscale

Braised Cauliflower Tabouleh

Lazy Lahmacun - One of our Turkish favourites.

Lazy Lahmacun – One of our Turkish favourites

Oven Baked Squash Gnocchi with Sun-dried Tomato, Fennel and Spinach Pesto

Oven Baked Squash Gnocchi with Sun-dried Tomato, Fennel and Spinach Pesto

Aviyal - Keralan Coconut Curry

Aviyal – Keralan Coconut Curry

Fragrant Wild Rice, Curly Kale and Pistachio Salad - Recipe from Peace & Parsnips

Fragrant Wild Rice, Curly Kale and Pistachio Salad

Blueberry and Macadamia Cheesecake

Blueberry and Macadamia Cheesecake

I’m celebrating tonight with a very Stateside meal…….a sushi feast!!  I’m using the local avocadoes, smoked tofu, plenty of oyster mushrooms, roasted peppers…..yum! There may even be a glass of something fizzy!

Categories: cookbook, healthy, Peace and Parsnips, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pea and Mint Hummus

Pea and Mint Hummus

Pea and Mint Hummus

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

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

A hummus twist

A hummus twist

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

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

Give peas a chance;)

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The Bits – Makes one big bowlful

480g chickpeas

275g peas

1 tbs dried mint

1 big handful fresh mint (finely sliced)

150ml olive oil

4 tbs tahini

1 1/2 medium lemons (juice)

2 big cloves garlic (crushed)

1 teas salt

50ml chickpea cooking broth

 

Do It

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

View from one of the local interent hubs/ bars

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

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

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

Butter Bean, Lemon and Black Olive Salad

Butter Bean, Lemon and Black Olive Salad

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

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

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

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

Puerto Mazarron market in full swing

Puerto Mazarron market in full swing

DOWN AT ‘EL MERCADO ESTUPENDO’

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

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

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

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

Tomatoes - so many new types to try in Murcia

Tomatoes – so many new types to try in Murcia

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

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

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

Mazarron sunsets are regularly a bit special

Mazarron sunsets are regularly a bit special

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

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

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

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

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

Great with some toasted croutons or a handful or toasted almonds

Great with some toasted croutons or a handful or toasted almonds

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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

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