veganism

Thai Red Pepper and Coconut Soup – Vegan

Thai Red Pepper and Coconut Soup – Vegan

Something quick and easy to kick start 2019!

A simple, healthy and delicious soup with some of the Thai flavours I totally love.

This is how I’d like to kick off 2019, a steaming, bright and nourishing bowl of goodness.  Red peppers are packed full of vitamin C and after the festive season, I’m sure a lot of you fancy a pick me up, tasty dishes that are lighter and give our body a big hug.  Comfort food can be healthy and satisfying.  No probs.

This soup contains coconut, chickpeas, turmeric, ginger, loads of my favourite foods.  Bar the Kaffir lime leaves (see below) and lemongrass these are easy to find ingredients, that many of you might have in the kitchen already.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year………………

Of course, January is now officially Veganuary, they’ll be changing the calendars next year for sure!  If you’re trying out Veganuary, you’re not alone, record numbers have signed up worldwide this year.  I even saw it all over the TV around New Year’s, right there, bang in the middle of prime time programmes.  Just awesome to see a vegan lifestyle skyrocketing, being embraced and enjoyed!

The people over at Veganuary have always been lovely to us and we even have some recipes over on their website, check them out here.  Good luck to anyone giving it a go and long may your vegan-ness continue!  Let us know if you need a hand or some advice, we’re fully available for pats on back, big thumbs up and bags of encouragement.  GO FOR IT!!

Nourishing vegan Thai soup

What are Kaffir Limes?  Why are they so awesome!!

Dried kaffir lime leaves can be found in most supermarkets.  I buy them frozen in a local Chinese supermarket, these have been frozen fresh.  They are much better than the dried varieties, but you can use either in this recipe.

I’ve been lucky to travel around South East Asia and work and stay in some beautiful places, some even had kaffir lime trees.  The limes themselves are like big, nobbly limes, with thick piths, very fragrant.  The leaves can be used in all kinds of cooking, it’s essential oils are use in perfumery, and it’s really like a bay leaf with an Asian turbo charged twist.  Their flavour is unmistakable!  When I worked on an organic farm in India, I’d wake up, pick a few leaves and make a refreshing tea with them, watch the lizards and mongoose chase each other.

Eating peppers at this time of year means we have a great source of vitamin C.  Peppers are said to be three times higher in vitamin C than oranges, red peppers are best, but green peppers also contain good levels of vit C.

Beach House Kitchen bowl! Nourishing, light and satisfying. Red Thai Coconut Soup – Vegan

Jane and I have been spending time with family and friends over Christmas, we’ve been to North Yorkshire and Durham mainly and really love the time away with the people who rock our world!!

We’ve actually not stuffed ourselves too much!  We both feel like we’ve lost weight over Christmas, which is pretty unusual.  I go back to the fact that freshly cooked vegan food can be so, so healthy and tasty.  We’ve had many positive comments over Christmas, so many non-vegans digging the food.

Keep up to date with all our news, recipes and other bits and pieces by signing up for our seasonal newsletter, right here.

Big thanks to all who cooked our recipes over Christmas and New Years and let us know, it was great to see pictures over on Facebook, it makes our day!!  We love to see your kitchen creations, you really bring our recipes to life!!

Recipe Notes

You may like to pick the lime leaves out before you blend the soup, but I generally leave them in.

Use the softer, centre piece of your lemongrass.  Discard the tough outer leaves.  You’ll find lemongrass in most supermarkets.

 

Thai Red Pepper and Coconut Soup – Vegan

 

The Bits – For 4-6 large bowls

5 red peppers (deseeded and chopped)
3 medium carrots (chopped)

1 large onion (sliced)

3 heaped tbs fresh ginger (roughly chopped)

2 heaped tbs fresh lemongrass (peeled and chopped)

1 fresh chilli (sliced)

1 can chickpeas (drained)
1 can chopped tomato or passatta
1 can coconut milk

8 kaffir lime leaves
1/2 tbs turmeric
Sea salt

To Serve

Tamari or g.f. soya sauce
Lime wedges
Sliced chillies
Chopped coriander

 

Do It
In a large saucepan, add 1 tbs cooking oil, fry the onions and ginger with 1 teas salt until soft, 3 minutes will do.

Then add the carrots, chilli, lemongrass and peppers, fry for 5 minutes, then add the tinned tomatoes, chickpeas, kaffir lime leaves and turmeric, bring to boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Then add the coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes more, until the carrots are soft.

Blend with a stick blender then season with salt, if needed, and adjust the consistency using hot water if it’s too thick.

Serve with chillies, coriander and lime wedges.  We also love it with sticky coconut rice balls.

Foodie Fact

Kaffir lime has many uses in Asia, not just for the pot!  The lime juice makes a great shampoo, the plant is a natural insect repellent, when used in aromatherapy kaffir lime is relaxing, can reduce stress and help with a good nights sleep, also many people chew the leaves, it is said to help with oral health.

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

Christmas Lunch Made Easy! – Full Planner and Top Tips

VEGAN CHRISTMAS LUNCH MADE EASY!

Or at least, a bit easier!!  I’ve been asked before how to make cooking easier.  Of course, there’s no one answer, that would be way too easy!! But here are some guidelines and plenty of helpful tips I’ve learned from experience/ my mistakes.

I’d like to help to make your Christmas lunch 2018 really delicious and the most stress-free festive feast ever!

The only way to do this is with a little preparation and planning. It will mean that you’re comfortable and confident, ready to create a delicious meal for your loved ones and also have a chilled and enjoyable day yourself.

Here’s a few general tips I’ve learned over the years:

  • Try to keep it simple, but tasty. Know your limits and don’t try anything extravagant or totally untested. A main dish with a few side dishes is more than enough, we eat way too much on Christmas day!
  • If you are cooking for people with dietary requirements, like no sugar or gluten-free, get them ready in advance or make the whole menu gluten/ sugar free. There are simple ways of doing this and it will make your life much easier. The last thing you need is to be cooking many different dishes for people on the big day.
  • People expectations don’t matter. Cook the best meal you can with the skills and ingredients you have. Cook the food you love and I’m sure others will enjoy it too. Trying to cook like super chef once a year is just unrealistic!!
  • Chill! Take it as easy as possible on the day. Using this plan below, it will be plain sailing!! Try to keep calm and be focused. Have some trusted helpers around if you can, who are good in a kitchen. What you’re doing is not easy, especially if you do not cook meals like this regularly.
  • Things will, very probably, go wrong.  Take it all in your stride. You’re cooking for loved ones and it’s supposed to be fun!! Remember that professional chefs make mistakes and lose their cool all the time, but staying calm, taking some deep breaths if you need to, will ensure your meal is delicious.

 

Check out our recent Christmas recipes:

 

Portobello Mushroom Wellington with Toasted Walnut and Rosemary Stuffing

 

Festive Chocolate and Orange Brownie Cake with Mulled Berries – Vegan

 

Shallot and Red Wine Gravy – Vegan, Gluten-free

 

Some preparations tips:

The run up….

  • If you can do a dry run of the meal you have planned, invite some people over for a pre-Xmas feast.
  • Buy dry and frozen ingredients, things that will store well, don’t leave all your shopping to the last minute.
  • Cook dishes beforehand that can be easily frozen or jarred, like Cranberry Sauce, even the gravy.
  • Yorkshire puds can be made before and frozen. Just warm them in the oven for 5-10 minutes.
  • Oven space will probably be an issue on the day, plan your menu around this, make sure there is a balance between dishes prepared in the oven and on the hobs.
  • Equipment check, make sure you have big enough dishes, tins and pans. Especially if you don’t normally cook for lots of people.
  • Sizing up recipes. If you’re cooking for a full house, you may need to double or sometimes triple recipes, this can be a challenge. Recipes don’t always work out so well when multiplied up, it’s simply a case of using common sense, especially with things like flavourings, spices etc. Taste the dishes regularly. Always!
  • If you think the meal will be ready for 1pm, set a meal time for 2pm. Don’t feel pressured into getting a meal out bang on time, people are enjoying a drink and the Xmas vibe, take you time, hurry leads to mistakes.

The day before

  • Get a load of your cooking done on Xmas eve.  I know this is idealistic, it’s such a busy time of year, but if you have time, doing all, or some of this, will make Christmas day so much easier in the kitchen.
  • Re-read your recipes highlighting areas of confusion or difficult bits, small things you might miss when busy.
  • Plan a cooking list for the day (see below), noting times for cooking and if different from the recipe, quantities calculated.

On the day

  • Have a good breakfast. Sit down and look over what you have planned with a cuppa. Start calmly, as you mean to go on.
  • Get the kitchen organised, make sure you know where everything is and have all the ingredients and equipment to hand.
  • Have a washer uperer on standby all day. If they want to eat your lovely food, they’ve got to play ball and get the marigolds on! Ask them nicely and I’m sure someone will help
    Delegate jobs for success. You’re the cook, let other people set the table, peel the vegetables, tidy up. In an ideal world, surround yourself with helpful and competent people. That’s a secret to kitchen success!!
  • Have a festive tipple, but not too many!! Being tippled in the kitchen is a recipe for burnt bits.
  • Always best to start earlier than you think, time in the kitchen really flies.
  • It’s true what they say with a Roast Dinner, it’s all about timing. Cook your veg last, as this will not do well sitting around waiting to be served.
  • Warm your plates in the oven if you have time. This will ensure everything is hot for service.
  • Clear the kitchen down before serving, get as much surface space as possible. Serving up is one of the most important times of the process. Make sure everything is simmering and hot and you’ve thought a little about how you’re going to present the meal.

We’ll be cooking using this plan:

Cooking List/ Timetable – Example (with time added for plenty of chatting and sipping)

1 hour Wellington or Nut Roast
1 hour Brownie Cake (including decoration time)
30 minutes Shallot and Red Wine Gravy
45 minutes Soup
30 minutes Glazed Roots
30 minutes Creamy Mash
20 minutes Cranberry Sauce
20 minutes Yorkshire puds
20 minutes Brussels Sprouts (essential!!:)
30 minutes **For when things don’t necessarily go to plan or totally mess up:)**

 

I hope this helps, do let us know if you have any questions in the comments below.

 

Happy Cooking and Merry Christmas! Lee and Jane:)

 

Merry Vegan Christmas 2018!!!!!

Categories: Healthy Eating, plant-based, Special Occasion, Vegan, veganism, Winter | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Shallot and Red Wine Gravy – Vegan, Gluten-free

All you need now are some roast spuds and your favourite people!!

 

A rich, dark vegan gravy that everyone will enjoy.

 

Being a vegan, or just trying out more plant-based recipes, opens a doorway into new flavours and techniques.  Making this gravy is simple and really flavourful, it’s actually not that different from making other gravies really.

 

We all like our gravy in different ways, taste it at the end, add more balsamic, jam, salt or yeast extract (marmite), depending on the balance of flavours you prefer.  If you can’t get your hands on shallots, a white or red onion will also be fine.

Shallot and Red Wine Gravy – Vegan, Gluten-free, Low-fat

Proper gravy for a proper roast dinner

Making your own gravy is an essential part of any roast dinner, for me, it’s a ritual.  I love making gravy, packing all those big flavours into one little pot.

Gravy has always been one of my favourite things about a proper Sunday roast, I also like mashed swede (very important addition) and crispy roast potatoes.  Yorkshire puddings are also well up there.  In fact, let’s face it, is there a less than awesome part of a roast, when done well?

We’re having this gravy with our Portobello Mushroom Wellington with Toasted Walnut and Rosemary Stuffing, Christmas dinner 2018 sorted.

This deep and rich gravy will go perfectly with any Sunday roast.  There are so many vegan centrepieces nowadays for a Sunday roast style dinner, we don’t just have to toss a coin between nut roast or Wellington.  Sometimes I feel like experimenting with a roast dinner, playing with flavours, adding spices, getting a bit cheeky.   Other times, I’m a staunch traditionalist.  I’m happily contrary like that.

Such is my commitment to the Beach House Kitchen, I took these pictures out in the garden in fading winter light, in the rain and wind.  Wrapped in a poncho.  I’m actually surprised at how normal they look whilst trees were bending and the wind was howling.  Got away with it!   There’s good light today. I just had to share this post before Crimbo, gravy is important!!

I’ve said it many times, there are absolutely no down-sides to going vegan, you can live deliciously, any time of year!

 

Recipe Notes

Gravy is, of course, always best served piping hot, a tip is to pour boiling water from a kettle into your gravy boat/ jug before filling with gravy.

Taste your vegetable stock before adding to the soup, it’s  important it’s not too strong or too weak.  Just right!

If you feel that the gravy is lacking flavour, add a pinch of salt.  It’s amazing the difference one or two pinches of salt can make!

Gluten-free version – opt for gluten-free cornflour, yeast extract, wine, and vegetable stock.  Always check the labels.

Tasty and Rich Vegan Gravy

Shallot and Red Wine Gravy – Vegan, Gluten-free

The Bits – For 4-6

3-4 large shallots or 1 large onions (sliced)
1 large carrot (sliced)
1 stick celery (sliced)
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
2 big bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme

100g chestnut mushroom or 1 big portobello mushroom (chopped)
175ml vegan red wine
1 ½ -2 tbs dark cherry jam, cranberry sauce or blackberry jam

2 teas g.f. yeast extract
2 tbs g.f. cornflour
1 tbs tomato puree
1 ½ tbs balsamic vinegar

700ml vegetable stock

Cooking oil (I use cold pressed rapeseed oil)

 

Do It
In a large saucepan, over a medium heat, add 1 tbs cooking oil, then the shallots, celery and carrot, plus the fresh herbs and bay leaves. Cook slowly for 20-25 minutes, until the shallots are golden, stirring regularly.

Mix your cornflour with a few tablespoons of water, until it becomes smooth.

Add the mushrooms, wine and jam to the pan, stir and cook for 3 minutes, making sure your scrape up all the caramelized bits on the bottom of the pan (great flavour there!!).

Then add the tomato puree, vinegar and yeast extract, cook and stir for a minute, then slowly add the vegetable stock.  Pour in the cornflour, whilst stirring, and bring to a boil.  No lower the heat, simmering gently for 20 minutes.

Pass it through a sieve into another pan or bowl, using a spoon to squeeze out all the precious flavours.

Taste and season with salt if needed. Serve hot with your favourite roast dinner of Christmas feast.

Loads of big flavours in one little boat, totally plant-based gravy!!

Foodie Fact

Shallots are long and slender members of the allium family, along with onions and garlic.  They generally have a lighter flavour than onions and I find them perfect for roasting in a tin.

They are more nutritious than onions, high in vitamin A and not bad for vitamin C.  Shallots contain good amounts of minerals like iron, calcium and copper.

They also contain a chemical called Allicin, which is basically anti-bacterial anit-viral and good for the heart and can even help prevent cancer.

 

 

 

Categories: gluten-free, healthy, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Sauces, Vegan, veganism, Winter | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Festive Chocolate and Orange Brownie Cake with Mulled Berries – Vegan

A very rich and chocolatey slice of happiness, perfect for Crimbo

I fancied something different this Christmas for dessert.  

 

I wanted the flavours, the spice, the mulled fruits, the richness, but all mingling together in a different way.  So I wrapped them up in a big brownie, with lots of chocolate.  It just seemed like the right thing to do!  

 

This is a decadent brownie cake, very rich, with lovely taste explosions coming from the mulled berries.  Best served warm with vanilla ice cream I’ve found, or whipped coconut cream is also very special.  Plus, it’s a big brownie, so it’s easy to make.  

You could use any dried fruit really in this recipe, but I prefer, and if you can get them, dried cherries, blueberries or the classic cranberry.  If you don’t drink alcohol, you can cook the berries in orange/ cranberry juice or non-alcoholic wine.

I have cooked the mulled berries with a few cloves, star anise and cinnamon.  But I found that it was a fiddle trying to pick out all the spices, they do add some flavour, but we’re just cooking the berries quickly and there is plenty of cinnamon in the cake.  But, by all means, add the spices.

I love the way cinnamon seems to blend and deepen the the flavour of the dark chocolate.  As a cook, I find myself naturally drawn to flavour combinations, sometimes I have to resist, in order to try something new.  Cinnamon, orange and dark chocolate is special trinity of good things in my eyes.

Festive Chocolate and Orange Brownie Cake with Mulled Berries – Vegan

I do like a Christmas pudding and I’ve always loved Christmas cake.  Mum used to bake it in early December and I remember the whole house filled with those beautiful, spicy cake aromas.  But they’ve very much like Christmas pop songs, I don’t mind them once or twice in a year, but anymore makes me feel a bit sickly (see my post on Alternative Christmas songs here ).  But this brownie cake, I’d happily tuck into in the roasting heart of August.  It also makes the house smell pretty damn good too.  

Jane was a big fan of Terry’s chocolate orange, so I have added a twist of orange here.  It’s a match made in lapland or maybe the Swiss Alps!?  Now Terry’s is off the menu, I go for a very dark chocolate flavoured with orange, there are some awesome bars out there.  If only they made them in little globes with segments.  That’s where all the fun is.  The idea as a kid that chocolate oranges could maybe grow on trees just made Christmas even better.

The thing about cooking at Christmas is preparation.  Cook things well in advance and have a plan.  I’ll be posting some Christmas cooking tips and a full cooking plan in the next couple of days.  However, I think this brownie is best served warm, recently taken from the oven.  Leave it to the day, along with your veggies.

I hope you love this recipe and it woo’s and yum’s the whole family, and all your friends and neighbours and people at work.  Who doesn’t love chocolate cake (actually, one of our bestest buds doesn’t like chocolate cake, but generally speaking, it’s a HIT!)  If Christmas is not your cup of tea, or it’s a hard time of year for you, cake is never a bad thing right!

We send you all our love and good vibes at this time of year, a time to eat, drink and snooze by a fire.

 

Have magical and delicious Festive Time 2018!  

Any questions or comments?  They are very welcome down the bottom there in the comments.  Drops us a chat or just say hello.

Sign up for our seasonal newsletter here (loads of cool stuff coming in 2019) or check us out over on Facebook.

 

If you’re looking for a delicious Christmas centre piece, here’s what we’re having this year (plus recipe):

 

Portobello Mushroom Wellington with Toasted Walnut and Rosemary Stuffing

 

Recipe Notes               

You might like to decorate it with dried orange slices, I’ve added the method below.   They also make for nice decorations. 

If you’d like to go very decadent (steady!!), I’ve also added a link to my quick chocolate sauce recipe below, which is ideal for a chocoholic, maybe a little brandy could sneak in there too.    

I do mention this below, but please don’t overbake this.

If you’re wondering where to get vegan cream or ice cream, you’ll find it in most supermarkets now, and supporting your local health food shop is a wonderful thing too.  They’ll have it.

I know what you may be thinking, that’s a lot of chocolate.  It’s Christmas!!!

Just add cream or ice cream….

Festive Chocolate & Orange Brownie Cake with Mulled Berries

The Bits – For 12-14 slices

175g plain flour

175g light brown sugar

1 ½ teas baking powder

20g or 3 heaped tbs cacao/ cocoa

1 ½ teas ground cinnamon

Large pinch sea salt

 

150g dark vegan chocolate 

100ml cold pressed rapeseed/ sunflower oil

1 ½ teas vanilla extract

1 medium orange (zest)

200ml plant milk, I used soya milk

 

Mulled Berries

150g dried fruits, I use cranberries, cherries or blueberries, or a mixture 

3 slices orange

60ml brandy/ whiskey

Optional Spices – 4 cloves, 1 star anise, 1/2 stick cinnamon

 

Decoration

Dried/ fresh orange slices

Icing sugar

Dried cranberries/ cherries or fresh berries like raspberries/ strawberries

Fresh rosemary sprigs

 

Do It

Boil a kettle.  Preheat a fan oven to 180oC.  Grease and line a large round cake tin (23cm) with oil and baking parchment.

 

Mulled Berries – Place your dried fruits into a small saucepan, pour over the brandy, squeeze the juice out of the orange slices and toss them in too.  Bring to a boil and leave to simmer for 3 minutes. The berries should absorb almost all of the brandy.  Set aside to cool.  Remove the orange slices and any orange pips. 

 

Break your chocolate into a bowl, pour the boiled kettle water into a small pan, place the bowl on top and gently warm the chocolate.  Stirring regularly until it’s melted. Don’t let the base of the bowl touch the boiling water when cooking. Set aside to cool a little.

 

Place the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cocoa, sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl, mix well together.  

 

In a bowl/ measuring jug, stir together the oil, soya milk and vanilla extract and then pour this into the bowl of dry ingredients, along with the cooled melted chocolate.  Finally add the mulled fruits (with any leftover brandy) and orange zest, fold into the mix.  Don’t over mix, just until it’s all combined.  Pour the mixture into the tin, fashion a level top, and place in the oven.

 

Bake for 18 – 25 minutes, depending on your oven.  Don’t over bake, it should still be a little gooey in the middle when you test it with a skewer.  The brownie cake is ready when a light crust has formed over the whole cake.

 

Leave to cool in the tin, then decorate as you like. Nice and festive!

 

Best served warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.  

 

Orange slices – Place 6 orange slices onto a wire/ cooling rack and into a low oven (120oC).  Cook for 1 hour or more, until they have dried out nicely.

 

Can also be served with 2-minute Chocolate Sauce Recipe

 

Foodie Fact

It’s Christmas, I’m going to leave out the healthy Foodie Fact this time around.  But, I’ll just say this, cinnamon is very high in calcium!  Also a good source of iron.  And this, cinnamon has been used medicinally for thousand years, it is an AMAZING source of anti-oxidants.

Winter is the perfect time of year to get your cinnamon oooon!  We love cinnamon tea and it’s so versatile, add it to smoothies, soups and stews.  The next time you cook rice, pop a cinammon stick or some cinnamon bark into the pot.  Lovely sweet and warming flavours.

Festive Brownie Cake, a BIG part of our Christmas Lunch menu 2018 in the Beach House Kitchen

 

Categories: Cakes, Desserts, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Special Occasion, Vegan, veganism, Wales, Winter | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Smoky Beets, Red Pepper and Chipotle Soup

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

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

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

Getting Frosty

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

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

Viva Mexico!

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

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

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

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

Chipotle!

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

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

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

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

Get Your Beet On!

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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Recipe Notes

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

No red peppers, any pepper will work fine.

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

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

Beetroot, Red Pepper and Chipotle Soup

The Bits – For 4-6 bowls

550g beets, roughly 3 medium beetroots (diced)

1 red pepper (diced)

1 medium onion (diced)

200g red lentils (rinsed and drained)

2 teas cumin seeds

1 1/2 teas oregano

1/2 teas cinnamon

3 tbs tomato puree

1 ltr light vegetable stock/ hot water

3-5 teas chipotle puree

 

Topping

Toasted pumpkin seeds

Vegan yoghurt/ creme fraiche (g.f.)

Freshly Chopped Coriander

Sliced chillies

 

Do It 

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

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

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

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

 

Foodie Fact 

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

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

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

Mushroom and Squash Rogan Josh – Traditional Kashmiri Curry

Mushroom and Squash Rogan Josh – How to make a proper vegan curry, from scratch (even the spices!)

Make a decadent, aromatic, rich curry from scratch and even make your own spice mix.  I’ve cooked this curry, and variations of it, loads recently, but think this version is the best.  It does take a little longer, but you just can’t compare the flavours.  I’ve given you options to make this a quick curry too, but I’d urge you to give the full version a try.  You’re gonna love it!!

The Real Deal 

Rogan Josh is a rich, classical style curry made with yoghurt as a sauce base, not onions.  It was brought to Kashmir by the Mughal’s as they swept across North India.  I’m captivated by Indian history and if you’re not a regular BHK reader, by way of background, I’m in love with India and have been there many times, travelling from the tip down south to the top, the Himalayas!  I am yet to visit anywhere that is as enchanting and mesmering and the FOOD, lets just say it will take me this lifetime at least to explore such a vast and tantalising cuisine.  This curry is a good start, a staple and as ever, this is vegan food everyone one will love!  How could you not?  We get all the full flavours of roasted veg and mushrooms and treat it to a very special sauce.

If you make this curry, please let me know, I’d be excited to hear about your spice adventures and how you found the flavour.  Once you try this, you’ll never go back to shop bought or jars (unless you were in a real rush!)  I love curries, but at this time of year, with it getting colder and darker, I think this style of warming, rich curry really comes into it’s own.  A radiant, colourful bowl of big flavours that’s perfectly suited as a winter/ autumn warmer.   I get quite passionate when talking about Indian cooking.  Does it show?!

Make your own spice mix. It’s quick, easy and totally, very much, better than shop bought spices

 

Roast your own!  Spices

Spices!  They bring everything to life.  I’ve written so much about spices over the years, not to mention a hefty spice intro (with nutritional benefits) in Peace and Parsnips. I talked a lot about spices in there, they’re so important to my cooking and dare I say, Indian is my favourite way of cooking.  No, I don’t!  It does depend on how the stars are aligned and what I fancy and all of that, but, we all know Indian food is utterly diverse, vibrant and totally brilliant.

I give you full instructions below about how to toast and grind your own spice mixes, this one is similar to a Garam Masala, a North India spice mix filled with warming spices like cinnamon and cloves, you can see the picture above and you can probably imagine the aroma when all that hits a warm pan.  Out of this world!!

 

Garam Masala – Hot Spice!

Dry toasting spices like this in a pan adds complexity and brings out all the incredible aromas.  There are many versions of Garam Masala (‘Garam’ – Hot, ‘Masala’ – Spice Mix).  You could add Mace or nutmeg for example.  But I think this is a good all rounder.  If you don’t please let me know below.  If you do, again, let’s talk in the comments.  I love chatting about spices and learning new things.

I’ve added smoked paprika and turmeric to this spice mix, they’re not classically ‘Garam Masala’, but I like them in this Rojan Gosh.

You can also use shop bought spices here.  See in the recipe below.  Keep your spices in a sealed container and use well within the use by date on the packet.  Smell them, if they don’t smell of much, they won’t add much to the curry.

 

Rojan Gosh – filled with influence from the Mughals andPersia, this dish has a fascinating history

 We’re going to Kashmir……

Kashmir is a stunning region in the very North West of India, and a very good song of course (click here for Led Zep’s version of Kashmir).  Apparently Robert Plant had never even been to Kashmir when he wrote it, just liked the sound of it.  Maybe he just loved a good Rojan Gosh? Which loosely translates as ‘Rojan’ – to stew, ‘Gosh’ – red.

The well used BHK Dhaba

 

Recipe Notes

I’ve gone for mushrooms and squash here because they’re seasonal and I love them.  But you can use similar vegetables, carrots, potatoes, peppers, whatever takes your fancy.  The key here is the sauce.  That’s where the magic is!

I mentioned that this was traditional, that was a small, white lie.  It is pretty traditional, but in Kashmir they may use something called Cockscomb Flower to give the curry a more reddish hue.  But I’m happy with this colour.

Kashmiri chillies are quite important here.  You’ll find them in most supermarkets and especially Indian/ Asian food shops.  They are milder than many chillies.  We want lots of chillies in the Rojan Gosh masala, but not loads of heat.

If you don’t have dried Kashmiri chillies, that’s cool, go for chilli powder or cayenne pepper, anything to add a little heat to the curry.

Saffron can also be added here, but I think it just gets lost with the other spices and is basically a waste of our precious, and not inexpensive, saffron.

When I mention coconut cream, I mean the cream off a tin of coconut milk.  That means, the thick bit.  Adds lovely creaminess.  Yoghurt is best, unsweetened soya yoghurt, now available in most supermarkets.

Spices, you will have too much here for just one curry, but if you’re going to make your own spice, you may as well make a decent batch I say.  Keep them in a sealed container or jar.  Label them up, with a date, or give them away as a gift.  In my experience, people love the gift of spice!

 

 

Mushroom and Squash Rogan Josh

 

The Bits – For 4-6

1 roasted medium squash, 650g (skin on, chop into chunks, seeds removed)

1 tin chickpeas (drained)

200g or 3 big handfuls mushrooms (chopped)

3 big handfuls or 75g greens (kale, spinach, chard)

5 tbs plain soya yoghurt/ coconut cream

 

Garam Masala – Spice Mix

½ teas green cardamom seeds (seeds from 10 cardamom pods)

½ stick cinnamon

2/3 teas cloves

1 teas black peppercorns

2 tbs cumin seeds

2 tbs coriander seeds

1 teas fennel seeds

3 bay leaves

1-2 dried red Kashmiri chilli

1 teas turmeric

1 ½ teas smoked paprika

 

Or use shop bought spice mix like garam masala plus 1 teas smoked paprika

 

Curry Paste

1 roasted red pepper (seeded, chopped into chunks)

3 garlic cloves

2-4 dried kashmiri chilli

1 inch fresh ginger (chopped)

3 tbs tomato puree

1 teas salt

3 tbs cold pressed rapeseed oil (or whatever oil you use)

 

3-4 tbs Spice Mix

 

Garnish
Fresh coriander and sliced chillies

 

Do It

Preheat a fan oven to 200oC.

On a baking tray lined with parchment, place the red pepper and squash.  Toss in a little salt and cooking oil.  Roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until soft and slightly blackened in places.

For the spices – Place a pan on a medium heat, add all the whole spices and toast for 4-8 minutes or more, tossing them and making sure they’re all toasted and smelling fragrant.  They will take on a slightly darker colour and smell ‘toasty’.

Be sure not to burn them, the best way to check this is the smell and the look.  You don’t want any black bits at all.  Some people prefer darker spices, some prefer lightly toasted.  I’d start with lightly toasted.  Add the ground turmeric and paprika a minute before you finish toasting the spices.

Place all the spices in a small blender or spice grinder (coffee grinders are also good), and blitz until a powder forms.   Use some in the curry and store the rest in an airtight container.  Garam Masala is a versatile spice mix.

For the curry paste – Place the roasted red pepper in a blender with the other curry paste ingredients and blend to a smooth paste.

For the curry – In a large frying pan, warm 1 tbs cooking oil and fry your mushrooms for 5 minutes, until they’re soft.  Add the curry paste, thinning out with water or soya milk (creamier) as needed. Once the curry paste is bubbling away, spoon in the yoghurt and check seasoning.

Now add the roasted squash, chickpeas and greens. Warm through from 5-7 minutes, then serve scattered with freshly chopped coriander with naan, chutneys and rice.

This would be delicious with our Mango and Papaya Chutney or Cashew and Green Pepper Pulao or even Quick Carrot and Ginger Pickle.

 

Snowdonia looking stunning in the autumn sunshine.  Sometimes the mountains around here remind me of the Himalayas.

 

Foodie Fact

Squash is bang in season at the minute, there are so many varities.  If you’re reading from the US, were of course talking Winter Squashes here.  They are a rich source of vitamin C, A and plenty of fibre and minerals.  Also remember the seeds, you can clean and dry them and they are amazing roasted in the oven for 10-12 minutes.

 

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Categories: Autumn, Curries, Dinner, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Vegan, veganism, Wales | Tags: , | 7 Comments

Bilberry and Spelt Scones – Vegan

Bilberry and Spelt Scones – Vegan

Autumn is settling in nicely and it’s definitely time for a scone.  Fresh out of the oven.  You know what I’m talking about there.  Plenty of jam and whipped cream.  Yum!!

We went for a long walk yesterday and it really felt like a touch of winter was in the air, the trees are changing; all those bronze, crimson and golden colours are coming.  It’s such a beautiful time of year up here in Snowdonia.

I made these scones using local bilberries, you can use blueberries, mulberries or blackberries here, if you’re not close to bilberry bushes.  These berries were picked somewhere up a mountain, near a beautiful lake, in the Welsh mist.  My kind of ingredient!

I’ve made the recipes as easy as possible, these scones are served in slices which means very straightforward preparation.  They’re a wholesome style, not your light and fluffy sort, but delicious and satisfying.  They’re also low in sugar, are packed with berries and contain local cold pressed rape seed oil. I know cakes aren’t supposed to be healthy, but I like to try!

 

Autumn = Scone time

Every autumn I like at least one new scone recipe.  Last year we made Coconut Scones, which are a real treat.  I even got invited onto BBC Radio Wales to talk about them.  That’s how good they are!!  Totally different scone style to these.

Really, this is our Beach House version of a Mabon cake, aka the autumn equinox, we’ll talk more about that on our upcoming newsletter coming out this week.  Sign up here (takes a few seconds)

 

Spelt – A Love Affair

Readers of the blog will know my love for spelt flour, we’ve had a long romance through the years.  If I can, I’ll find a way to add spelt or other flours like rye, to my baking adventures.  I just love the flavour and texture.  I like that some of my friends who struggle with gluten can even enjoy spelt.

I have a similar love affair with cold pressed rapeseed oil.  One of my favourite things about the last few years of living and cooking in Wales and the UK.  Just a brilliant ingredient on every level, local, healthy, tasty and inexpensive.  I buy rapeseed oil from small producers whenever I can.  Because small producers are ace!  I also wanted to avoid vegan butter/ margarine type things in this recipe.  Not a huge fan of it.

Bilberry and Spelt Scones – so simple to make

Bilberries – A taste explosion!

Are a real taste explosions!  Much more intense and flavourful than their bigger and more watery relatives the blueberry.  Have a look around for a local bilberry bush, they grow all over the UK and are ripe for the picking.  You’ll probably find them in wilder places like moors though.  Keep your eyes peeled.  They tend to grow together in big clumps.  They’re not normally city dwellers.

Other berries will be great in these scones too.  Maybe blackberries are more local for you?  Either way, foraging for these berries is loads of fun and free.  Or you can do what we did, get a friend to pick them for you!!

 

What to serve vegan scones with?

So whipped cream and butter are long gone.  Great!!  You’ll find some excellent vegan creme fraiche in the shops nowadays, this is awesome with scones.  Blended up cashew nuts is also a great idea.  Just soak some cashews until soft, then blend, adding a little water to get your desired consistency and sweeten with whatever you like.  Just a touch of sweetness will do.  Whipped coconut cream is another great, treat option.  These all add delicious, and much welcomed, creaminess when tackling a scone.  Jam?  Grab your finest jar.  Jane’s Mum’s Strawberry 2017 is a fine vintage indeed.

Bilberry and Spelt Scones – Full of flavours and ingredients from Wales, with local berries and rapeseed oil

Let us know if you makes these scones in the comments below.  If you like the look of this recipe, you’ll find more here.

 

Recipe Notes

When making scones, try not to over mix.  Just enough until things are combined.

Do your best to not pop the berries when you’re combining with the mix.  A few popped ones are fine, you can see I popped a few and they give the scones a cool purple look!

You can buy white spelt flour, but I’ve used the organic brown version here.

All flours are different when you’re baking, the amount of liquid can vary depending on many factors.  4 tbs plant milk is a guide here, we’re looking for quite a dry scone mix.  Just enough liquid to keep it all together.

No spelt flour, no probs.  Use a good quality wholemeal flour instead.

The same goes for rapeseed oil, you can use any cold pressed oil (sooooo much better than refined oils).  I’ve been loving cold pressed sunflower oil of late.

Perfect autumn tea time treat!  Served with Jane’s Mum’s Strawberry Jam

Bilberry and Spelt Scones

The Bits – For 8 slices of scones

Dry 

250g spelt flour

2 teas baking powder

60g light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

 

Wet

80g rapeseed oil (cold pressed)

60ml (4 tbs) plant milk

 

1 big handful (75g) bilberries or blueberries

 

For brushing

A dash of plant milk and rapeseed oil

 

Do It

Preheat a fan oven to 180oC.

 

Place all the dry bits into a mixing bowl, and mix together.  Add the wet and stir to combine.  Mix into the bilberries, being as careful as you can not to pop them.

 

Line a baking tray with parchment.  Form the mix into a disc shape, roughly 3/4 inch thick.  Mix together a dash of plant milk and rapeseed oil in a small bowl, brush your scone with this mix.

 

Bake on a middle shelf of the oven for 20 minutes, the scone will have a nice golden crust around the edges.  Ideally, leave to cool on the tray for 20 minutes before enjoying!

 

Serve topped with whipped coconut cream and your favourite jam or more berries

 

Foodie Fact

Spelt is said to have been cultivated since 5000 BC!  It is a member of the wheat family and is a great source of energy, the Romans called it ‘marching grass’.  It is high in minerals like magnesium, copper and iron and also boasts a load of thiamin, protein and fibre.

 

Categories: Autumn, Baking, Cakes, healthy, Nutrition, plant-based, Recipes, Vegan, veganism, Wales | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

BIG thank you to all!! Beautiful gifts and get inspired

Beach House Kitchen Wreath by Jenna Clyne

We’re feeling really veryvery lucky today, to be able to write this blog. Not a day goes by that I don’t cook or write and take a moment to think about all the cool stuff and incredible people that this blog has brought into our lives. 

NAMASTE mosaic by Madeleine Howard

We have received some beautiful gifts and cards and have just taken a quick snap of two of them.  Jenna’s Beach House Kitchen wreath made from foraged Cornish bits and pieces.  It’s just stunning!  Also Madeleine’s vibrant Namaste mosaic.  Both are works of art, made with such talent and care.  Much love and gratitude to Jenna and Madeleine for these, but also, to everyone who contributes to the blog, checks out our posts.

Jane and I were just saying that without exception, everyone we have met through the blog, TV work, cookbook and all has been so positive and open hearted.  You inspire us to keep going and doing what we do, spreading the message of healthy, peaceful, vegan vibes far and wide.

If you have an inspiring quote or image you’d like to share, it could be your own or someone else’s, please post it in the comments below.  Let’s get inspired this Friday!  Ready for a wonderful weekend.

Thank you always and happy cooking,

Lee and JaneX

 

Categories: photography, plant-based, Vegan, veganism | Tags: | 6 Comments

Plant-based Protein – It’s everywhere!

Tooooo many sources of plant-based protein

Plant-based protein – It really is everywhere!! The question is more, which plant-based foods don’t have protein in them? It’s so abundant. There are NO worries at all on the protein front if you are a vibrant vegan or rockin’ a plant-based diet.

I still get asked the protein question regularly and these graphics are a good reminder.  Thanks to Meow Meix for this one.  Please share if you like.  Let’s get the message out there once and for all.  A balanced plant-based diet is THE way to go!

Switching to a plant-based/ vegan diet is easier now than ever.  There is so much nutritional support out there and of course, plenty of tasty, wholesome recipes to get you started.  I’ve added a few of our favourites below.

We are here to help also, any questions you have, just fire them across or the Vegan Society is always a great source of bang on nutritional information.

Even desserts can be high in protein! This is our Lebanese Choc Ice recipe, made mainly with tahini which is choc-a-bloc filled with protein.

 

All veg and fruit contain small amounts of protein, here are the better sources; broccoli, potatoes, spinach, sweet potatoes, sweetcorn, avocado, artichokes and yes, even Brussels Sprouts. Bananas, blackberries, nectarines are fruity sources.

Also high in protein are; tofu, most beans, tempeh, soya milk, oats, wild rice, nut butters, nuts, seeds, seitan, spelt, quinoa, amaranth, nutritional yeast flakes (nooch), chia seeds.

Mexican Chocolate Brownies – Quick, healthy and very chocolaty.  Gluten-free, made with black beans, which are very high in protein.  

So, really, don’t sweat the plant-based protein question! Eating a balanced diet based around fresh fruit, veg, legumes/ beans, whole grains, seeds and nuts and you’re well on the way to a super healthy, whole hearted diet.

Green Pea Hummus – A delicious twist on chickpea hummus.  Full of protein and so simple.

Categories: healthy, Healthy Eating, Healthy Living, Nutrition, plant-based, Recipes, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Vegan Okonomiyaki – Japanese Savoury Pancake (Gluten-free)

How do you like to Okonomi?!

There are many ways of serving these Japanese Pancakes, so many delicious variations, I felt like sharing two of my favs, one very basic, one with a few more bells and whistles.  TWO RECIPES.  We love you that much!!

This is like Japanese soul food, you can add grated cabbage or carrot or tofu chunks to the pancake and toppings, there are so many; cheese, Okonomiyaki/ Tonkatsu sauce (like BBQ sauce), mayonnaise, pickled ginger, seaweed flakes…..  I was having it for breakfast, so I kept it relatively simple this morning.

I’ve made the classic wheat flour recipe gluten-free and kept it really basic so you can get creative and embellish with your favourite sauces and toppings.  Then I’ve gone and done a twist and shake on the traditional recipe, BHK style.

FOOD IS PLAY

The thing I like about the basic recipe is there are only a few ingredients and kids love it!  Like a pancake but better, cooler, a little exotic and a lot of tasty,  kids love scattering, leaves, snow, crumbs, torn up paper and also toppings, playing with their food like champions!!

I love seeing kids enjoying food and not taking it too seriously.  But then again, I don’t have kids.  I get to give them back at the end of the day/ 5 minute spell.  Maybe some parents will disagree when the food starts flying around the room.  It just makes me giggle and join in.

Vegan and Gluten-Free Okonomiyaki – Japanese Savoury Pancake

HOW YOU LIKE IT!

Okonomiyaki is more than just an awesome name!  Its a delicious snack served all over Japan, but is generally associated with the Kansai and Hiroshima regions.

It’s an easy going dish, loves trying on different flavours for size.  The name itself means okonomi, “how you like” and yaki meaning “grill”.   Basically, get creative and enjoy!

These recipes are a great base for this kind of tasty fun.  It’s that kind of dish, there are many restaurants with teppans tables around a grill, where you can grill your own Okonomiyaki.  I’ve never done it, but it sounds like a great dining experience.

Traditionally, spring onions are used in this recipe, but I love leeks.  At this time of year, I’m getting some beautiful organic leeks.  If you’re in Britain, and not a super traditionalist, I’d go for some nice leeks.  The first recipe is probably something like the simple Okonomiyaki that was popular in  World War II in Japan, when rice was in short supply and this, classically wheat pancake, was nutritious and filling.

Gram/ chickpea flour is of course a genius ingredient and a vegans best friend.  It adds a lovely flavour here which some have described as ‘slightly eggy’ (it was me earlier on).  We’ll be playing more with this recipe soon, expect more variations.

Itadakimasu!!

Vegan Okonomiyaki with Tofu, Pickled Ginger, Sesame Seeds, Radish and Teriyaki Sauce, oh, and a swirl of mayo

Recipe Notes

You can omit the cornflour, but it does help bind the pancake together.

Use any type of gluten-free flour mix.  All the ones I’ve tried work well.

These pancakes are like every pancake in the world, best served ideally straight from the pan.  Although they are still tasty when served cool, just not straight from the fridge if possible.

If you’re not gluten-free you can just replace the other flours with wheat flour.  Unbleached white flour would be good.

No seaweed flakes?  No problems.  Just grab a couple of sheets of nori and pop in a blender and blitz until they are a broken down into small flakes.

—————-

P1350448

Vegan Okonomiyaki – one of my all-time favourite names for a dish

Vegan Okonominyaki – Japanese Savoury Pancake (G/F)

The Bits – 1 pancake, 8 slices

100g spring onions/ leeks – roughly one medium leek (finely sliced)

10g g.f. cornflour

100g g.f. gram/ chickpea flour (or besan)

100g gluten-free flour mix

175ml water

1 tbs sesame oil

3 tbs g.f. teriyaki sauce/ tamari/ g.f. soya sauce

 

Toppings (how you like it….)

Chopped spring onions, toasted sesame seeds, pickled ginger, vegan cheese, mayonnaise, Okonomiyaki sauce (g.f), sea weed flakes, kimchi (is awesome but a curve ball is the traditional thing) or try our Wasabi mayo recipe here.

 

Do It

In a mixing bowl, add the flours and then water, mix together until smooth, add the onions/ leeks, mix in.

In a medium sized frying pan, warm on medium high heat, add the oil, ensure the pan is well covered with oil, pour in the mixture, smooth out into a neat, chunky pancake.

Pop a lid on and cook for 5 minutes, flip over.  You can use a plate to make this easier.  Pop the pancake on a large plate, flip the pan over and place it on top.  Using a kitchen cloth (the pan is hot;) hold the pan over the plate and flip them both over.  Hope that makes sense!  Or just flip it using your A+ pancake tossing skills.

Pop lid back on and cook for 3 minutes more.

Transfer onto a chopping board, cut into 8 pieces.  Brush with the teriyaki sauce, top with chopped spring onions/ leeks and sesame seeds.  Or go wild!!

 

Okonomiyaki Vegan/ GF Style with Tofu, Sesame, Seaweed and Pickled Ginger

Okonominyaki with Tofu, Toasted Sesame, Seaweed and Pickled Ginger – Japanese Savoury Pancake (G/F)

The Bits – For 1 pancake, 8 slices

200ml water

10g g.f. cornflour

100g g.f. gram flour (chickpea flour)

100g gluten-free flour mix

 

125g / 2 small leeks (finely sliced – reserve 1/2 handful of sliced greens)

150g firm tofu (thinly sliced)

3 heaped tbs nooch (nutritional yeast flakes)

2 tbs sesame seeds

3 heaped tbs seaweed flakes

2 pinches salt

 

1 tbs sesame oil

 

Topping 

2-3 tbs g.f. teriyaki/ tamari sauce

3-4 tbs vegan mayonnaise

3 tbs pickled Japanese ginger

1 tbs toasted sesame seeds

1 radish (finely sliced)

1/2 handful spring onion/ leek greens (finely sliced)

 

Do It

In a mixing bowl, add the flours and then water, mix together until smooth, add the onions/ leeks, seaweed, nooch and salt, mix in.

In a medium sized frying pan, warm on medium high heat, add the oil, ensure the pan is well covered with oil, scatter with sesame seeds, then place the tofu on top. Making a layer of tofu on the base of the pan.  Pour over the mixture, smooth out into a neat, chunky pancake.

Pop a lid on and cook for 6 minutes, scatter the pancake with sesame seeds and then flip over.  You can use a plate to make this easier.  Pop the pancake on a large plate, flip the pan over and place it on top.  Using a kitchen cloth (the pan is hot;) hold the pan over the plate and flip them both over.  Hope that makes sense!  Or just flip it using your A+ pancake tossing skills.

Pop the lid back on and cook for 3 minutes more.

Transfer onto a chopping board, cut into 8 pieces.  Brush with the g.f. teriyaki sauce, then mayo and scatter on the other toppings until it looks beautiful.  Serve now!

 

If you try one of these recipes out, please let us know in the comments below.  We’d love to hear how it went!

 

Foodie Fact

Gram flour is a genius!!  It’s basically ground chickpeas.  We cook with it all the time, vegan tortillas/ fritattas, omelettes, nofu (recipe coming soon), g/f chapattis, dosas, farinata and loads of cakes, check out our ‘Spiced Orange and Almond Upside Down Cake‘ from just before Christmas.  So healthy, versatile and gluten-free too.

It’s got high levels of protein, iron, fibre, magnesium, potassium and vitamin B-6.

 

Categories: Breakfast, Budget, gluten-free, healthy, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Snacks and Inbetweens, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

2-Minute Vegan Chocolate Sauce – Only 3 ingredients!

Quick and easy vegan chocolate sauce – good on anything!

We love this one!  3 words, easy, rich and delicious, plus 3 ingredients (and a wee twist of salt).  On our fantasy dessert island, this sauce would be the ocean.

We make this all the time and put it on most things really.  Sometimes though, if you’re going wild, the only accompaniment needed is a big ol’ spoon.  Of course, there is officially over a million ways to make chocolate sauce (no, more!!) but this is the easiest, apart from opening a packetbottlejar-thing.

February seems to be one of those months.  Most people are feeling the winter pinch right now, we’re bang in the middle of Feb (sort of) and I think we all need as much sweetness as possible to get by at this time of year.  This is not food, this is survival!!  Cacao is really high in anti-oxidants so you could kind of say that this is a flu remedy.

RETRO MAGIC

This sauce will also solidify when poured over cold things like ice cream, or those ice cream sandwiches made out of cookies which are just awesome.  Pouring over very cold things will result in a really nice crack and crunch, like the retro chocolate sauce we both had as kids (although Jane is querying the brand here).  I think it was called Birds Ice Magic (see below).  The mint flavour was my favourite, Jane’s was chocolate flavour.  Which is no surprise.  Ice Magic was some kind of revolution.  Anyone remember it?

Ideas for this sauce are of course, ice cream, drizzle over your favourite biscuit/ cake/ pancake/ toast/ fruit/ you get the idea.  This sauce rocks on anything!!

The great thing here is that with three ingredients, you can balance the chocolate sauce how you like it.  Some like it really dark (more cacao/ cocoa), some are sweeties (more sweetener).  You may also like to flavour this sauce with things like ginger, cinnamon, mint, orange, vanilla, butterscotch, brandy (just a dash;) this list goes on.   Let us know if you try it out.

Cacao is unprocessed, well, cacao, which eventually makes chocolate.  Cacao powder is a little more expensive but has loads more nutrients and we think the taste is better.

 

Recipe Notes

We prefer to use coconut oil in this sauce, you can get coconut oil that is low on coconut flavour, if you’re not into that.  At a push, you can use other lightly flavoured oils, but we haven’t tried this extensively.

Maple syrup is our favourite but any liquid sweetener, like brown rice syrup, agave etc will work nicely.

This sauce will keep nicely in the fridge, but its so easy to make and eat, there will be little need for leftovers;)

The coconut oil should be melted, liquid, but not really hot.  Let it chill a bit.

 

—————

2-Minute Vegan Chocolate Sauce

The Bits – One small bowlful 

2 tbs cacao / cocoa powder

2 tbs coconut oil (melted and cooled a little)

1 tbs sweetener (maple syrup, brown rice syrup etc)

Pinch sea salt

 

Do It

Stir together the ingredients in a bowl until a smooth sauce forms.  That’s it!!

 

Foodie Fact 

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

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

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

 

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Categories: Desserts, gluten-free, healthy, Nutrition, plant-based, Recipes, Sauces, Superfoods, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Hello Germany! Peace and Parsnips released in Germany tomorrow

Peace and Parsnips aka Food and Harmony (in Germany only) hits the shops tomorrow in Germany!!

HELLO GERMANY!! “Kreative vegane Küche”

Peace and Parsnips is out in German tomorrow. Under the title ‘Food and Harmony’, but it here.  Danke schön + Guten Appetit!

We’re made up and so grateful about this news. Jane speaks a bit of German, but me, not a word. It’s incredible to see Peace & Parsnips in a new language, one that I can’t even read!!

We’re a bit excited over here in Wales!

If you’re in Germany, let us know if you see ‘Food & Harmony’ or even get yourself a copy. 

If you’re in the UK and have our cookbook, feel free to help us spread the word of tasty, healthy, happy vegan food by leaving feedback or reviews online i.e. on Amazon (the biggest of course), Waterstones, Good Reads etcetc. It’s massive!!:)

Happy cooking to you all, Lee and Jane:)

PS – I’d love to write another cookbook one day, I’ve a load of new recipes to share, maybe soon;)

 

Categories: cookbook, healthy, Peace and Parsnips, photography, plant-based, Vegan, veganism, Wales | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Vegan Carbonara – Classic meal in minutes!

Jen’s Creamy Vegan Carbonara

A classic meal that can be ready in minutes.  Vegan Carbonara can be made loads of ways, but here we make it with tofu, so it’s creamy and rich, but light at the same time.  We all need staple recipes like this!?  Something quick and satisfying that everyone enjoys.

We’d like to thank Jen at Veganuary for sharing this recipe, this is Jen’s photo, over on Instagram.  We’ve been massive fans of Veganuary for years now, so to see it blossom in such a way is incredible.  We even saw Matthew being interviewed on the BBC!

It’s true, we are not Instagramers but maybe one day we’ll make it over there.  What do you think?  Shall we venture into Insta-land?  It does looks awesome!   Some incredible vegan cooks over there doing amazing things.

VEGANUARY 2018 – HOW DID IT GO?

Did you try out Veganuary this year?  How was your experience?  You weren’t alone, over 150,000 people were joining you.   We know a load of people who gave it a go and some have stayed full-time vegans and many are just eating loads more plant-based meals.

Everyone we have talked to feels the benefit of a vegan diet, especially when tried out for a whole month, sometimes it can be hard at first with cravings for our favourites foods and the body adjusting, but then, PING!  Plant power takes over and we feel lighter, more energy, better digestion, brighter eyes and skin and the list goes on.   How cool is that/ this!

STONKING STAPLE

This recipe is a real staple for us, we love to change up the pasta and make it with a full range, from wholewheat to pea, corn to buckwheat, there are so many choices out there now and many are really good quality.  There was a time when gluten-free pasta would be quite soggy and have a dodgy texture.  Not any more.

This sauce can be taken in so many directions, but we like it as it is, a nice touch of garlic and the freshness of the parsley.  We love to green it up too, because we put greens in everything!

BIG THANKS TO ALL FACEBOOKERS:)

We just hit the 2000 mark over on our Facebook page, 2000 happy cooks with healthy outlooks, good vibe vegans, it’s quite a landmark for us.  Thank you to you all for your amazing support over the years, feel free to share the BHK blog with all your friends, fans, followers and families.  We couldn’t and wouldn’t do this without you.

I’m in the BHK today, recipe testing and coming up with new things.  More recipes coming soon right here, I’m really feeling quite Japanese at the minute…….but until then, carbonara!

 

Recipe Notes

Jen used slices of vegan sausage in this picture and left out the greens.

We love it with Mushroom Bacon.  Yum!  Our version coming soon.

If you can’t find silken tofu, firm tofu also works just fine.

If you or the people you’re cooking for are still a little freaked out by tofu, this is a good dish to cook for them.  Just don’t show them the nutritional yeast flakes just yet!!  Maybe after dinner.  We’ve all heard the stunning ‘looks like fish food’ jokes a zillion times before.  But they taste awesome!

Gluten-free option, just use gluten-free pasta.  We are digging pea pasta at the minute.  Great colour!!

————-

Classic Vegan Carbonara

The Bits – For 4

Carbonara Sauce

300g silken tofu (drain off excess liquid)

125ml soya / almond milk

½ lemon (juice)

3 tbs nutritional yeast flakes

3 large cloves garlic (crushed)

2 tbs olive oil

1-2 teas salt

 

Pasta

Pasta of choice – roughly 80g per person

 

2 handfuls watercress/ spinach leaves

2 handfuls smoked sun-dried tomatoes

 

1 handful fresh parsley (chopped)

 

Do It

In a small frying pan, warm the olive oil on medium heat, add the garlic and gently fry for 1-2 minutes until nicely golden.  Allow to cool a little.

Place all the bits for the carbonara sauce, including the cooked garlic oil, into a blender.  Blend until smooth. Taste, adjust salt. How creamy is that!!!?

Cook your pasta, drain and stir in the carbonara sauce.  Now stir in the watercress and leave with a lid on for a minute or so.  If the carbonara gets thick or sticky, this might happen if you don’t serve it straight away, pour a splash of plant milk in and gently stir.  

Serve in shallow bowls, topped with sun dried tomatoes/ mushroom bacon and parsley.  Best with black pepper, vegan parmesan and a nice crisp salad.

 

Foodie Fact

Tofu is a real genius food for so many reasons.  We can all get our hands on it really easy now in the UK, you’ll find it in most supermarkets.  Not only is it a versatile  ingredient, bringing a unique texture and flavour to dishes, its also completely packed with nutritional properties to make you shine.  It’s full of protein to start with, also minerals like manganese, phosphorous and selenium.  It even contains all of the amino acids and good levels of iron and calcium.

 

Categories: Budget, Dinner, gluten-free, healthy, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Sauces, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Vegan Chocolate Mousse Cups

This deep and rich chocolate mousse recipe is simple and decadent, always a good mix!  This is a go to recipe for a quick and stunning dessert that no one can resist.  Top with your favourite, colourful things and serve in cups/ glasses and you have a lovely looking dessert with minimum fuss.

A food processor is fine here, but a blender is probably better to get the mousse really smooth and shiny.  I’ve been playing for a while with my vegan/ gluten-free biscotti recipe and it is getting there.  I may well share it soon, I need another few more tasting sessions first!  A bit of crunch is perfect with the mousse, scooping up the mousse with a biscotti is something outrageous!

Recipe Notes

You can also use silken tofu (drained) to make this mousse.  Replace a similar quantity for the avocadoes or use a mixture of the two.  Both will give a lovely plant-based creaminess.

I don’t like my mousse too sweet, you may need a little more sweetness, give it a taste before serving and add more maple syrup as needed.  Use any sweetener you like, but I love the combo of maple syrup and dark chocolate.

Vegan Chocolate Mousse

To make sure you don’t waste a drop of your mousse, use a rubber spatula to scrape out your food processor/ blender.

Adding a large pinch of chilli powder is a nice idea here, takes it in a slightly Mexican direction which I love.

For your topping, think about contrasting colours and textures.  Pistachios are perfect because they’re delicious, bright and GREEN.  They always look great.

Don’t forget the little twist of salt, it really deepens the chocolate flavour.

———————–

Rich Chocolate Mousse

The Bits – For 4-6

4 ripe avocados
1/2 cup cacao/ cocoa
3/4 cup almond/ other plant milk (unsweetened)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla essence
Large pinch sea salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon
3 tbs coconut oil (melted, but cooled to room temperature)

Topping
Scattering of berries and toasted flaked almonds, sliced strawberry, amaretti biscuit, almond biscotti, pomegranate and pistachio…..whatever your favourite toppings are or what is to hand.

Do It

Place all ingredients into a blender and blitz until smooth.  This may take a few attempts of stopping the blender and scraping down the sides with a blender.

Refrigerate for a few hours to thicken or can be enjoyed straight away.

The dark chocolate mousse goes perfectly with something crispy and sweet, like a biscotti, wafer or amaretti biscuit.

Foodie Fact 

Cacao is unrefined chocolate.  Simple and stunningly healthy.  It comes normally in powder form, but can also be found in cacao ‘nibs’.  Cacao is full of anti-oxidants and as you may know, eating chocolate releases endorphins, makings us more happy, shiny people:)

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

Top 10 tips for new vegans

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

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

VEGAN FOR ALL

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

MY STORY

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

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

So here’s my Top 10 tips:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All the nutrients without the animals

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

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

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

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

Key facts about a veganism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How your diet can change the world

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Categories: Healthy Eating, Healthy Living, Inspiration, Nutrition, plant-based, Travel, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , , | 11 Comments

Black Bean and Cacao Mole with Smoky Bacon – Vegan

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best black beans yet! Straight from Mexico City.

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

Mole!!  Vegan!!!  Por favor

Recipe Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lets MOLE!!!

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

So…..lets MOLE!!!!

———————–

Black Bean and Cacao Mole with Smoky Bacon (Vegan)

The Bits – For 4

550g black beans (cooked)

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

1 large onion (sliced)

4 cloves garlic (crushed)

3 medium tomatoes (chopped)

2 tbs tomato puree

1 stick cinnamon

2 teas all spice

2 teas ground coriander

4 tbs raisins

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

 

250ml water/ or bean cooking broth

2 tbs cocoa/ cacao

3-4 tbs cashew butter/ peanut butter

1-2 teas sea salt

1 lime (juice)

2 tbs cooking oil

Salt and pepper (for seasoning)

 

Garnish

2 handfuls coriander

1-2 chilli (finely sliced)

Vegan yoghurt/ sour cream/ creme fraiche

Lime wedges

 

Do It

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

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

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

 

Smoky Tofu Bacon

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

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

 

Do It

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

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

Serve straight away but is also very nice served cold.

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

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

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

Foodie Fact 

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

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

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

Seeking falafel perfection in Lebanon and making the dream falafel wrap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monster falafels taking over the city (a poster)

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

A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF FALAFEL

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

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

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

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

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

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

FALAFEL GEEK CORNER

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

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

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

THE DREAM FALAFEL WRAP (LEBANESE EDITION)

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

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

What makes the perfect falafel wrap?

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

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

That’s it!  Simply amazing!!

BEST FALAFEL WRAP IN LEBANON….

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

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

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

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

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

Falafel lovers footnote:

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

 

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

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

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

I Ate Lebanon! – My experience of vegan Lebanese cuisine

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

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

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

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

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

MEZZA – LEBANON ON A (LITTLE) PLATE

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

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

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

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

EATING LEBANON

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

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

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

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

WHAT I ATE – VEGAN LEBANON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LEBANON LOVES FOOD (AND DRINK)!

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

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

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

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

LEBANESE COFFEE

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

Sesame flatbread bakery – Tripoli.  That’s all they do, hundreds, thousands of steaming sesame flatbreads.  You know they’ll be good!!  Come out the oven puffed up like golden balloons.
I loved everything I ate in Tripoli, but this was challenging. Sharab Al-‘Eriq Sous is made by continuously pouring water through a bag filled with a licourice mix producing a potent licourice concoction. Wakes the taste buds up and makes you pull funny faces.

DESSERT

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

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

BEIRUT

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

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

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

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

One of the only French style buildings left in Beirut, certainly one of the most impressive. Sursock Museum
Of course, there are still challenges and problems in Lebanon. Protests happen often.
Street Art – Beirut

A RANDOM VEGAN POKE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Healthy Eating, photography, plant-based, Travel, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Italian Vegan Summer Feast – A Celebration! (pt 2)

Italian Vegan Summer Feast!  

Here’s part two of our Italian vegan feast, a whole heaving table of vegan delights perfect for a summer celebration.  The idea is that they’re quick and easy to get together and show-off the incredible produce we get when the sun comes out to play.

These are the flavours of summer and I think Italy is one of my favourite countries to eat, wander and marvel.  I’ve never visited big cities I must add, but the chilled life in the Italian countryside is my kind of vibe.  Simplicity and balancing flavours are just second nature to the cooks and magnificence is never far from my taste buds.  Italy is a vegan travellers dream, in fact, any travellers dream.  I agree with the old school maxim, ‘don’t mess with the produce, just let them shine!’ (I might have just made that up).

EATING ITALIA (JUST THE PLANTS GRAZIE MILLE!)

I’ve done a load of travelling in the past year and was lucky to tour around the south of Italy again; Puglia, Campania, Basilicata, just the names alone have my mouth watering.  The south of Italy has so many vegan choices, traditionally, veggie food down there is very popular.  It was a poorer part of the country where people couldn’t always afford meat and dairy, so they got creative with the plants.  My kind of place!  I love the parmesan they make with basically just fried breadcrumbs.  Great texture and crunch.  I also love the ever present mushrooms.

Every restaurant has a range of vegetable dishes, generally simply prepared, sauteed quickly or char grilled.  There is of course, the classic Marinara pizza.  Just tomato sauce and maybe the occasional basil leaf, but the quality of the base is regularly sensational.  There is Arrabiata and its varietals, huge bowls of fresh pasta with a rich tomato sauce and knock out olive oil.  Occasionally a basil leaf.  The tomato foccacia is dreamy, melts in the mouth and I haven’t even mentioned the Antipasto.  Jeez.  Huge, elaborate displays of preserved flavour explosions.  All kinds and colours of olives, sun dried tomatoes, artichokes, aubergines, peppers, you know the score but really, if you haven’t nibbled one standing in a Puglian market post espresso, you haven’t really tasted the true antipasto.  The pizza/ pasta dishes mentioned normally weigh in at 5-6 euros in a nice restaurant.  Not bad eh!

I think the markets in the south of Italy are my favourite places for sniffing out fresh produce and generally, just to hang out.  I spend quality time admiring the creations on display.  Did I mention the sorbet, no need to miss out on the evening gelato ritual, the sorbet is normally incredible.  Really, incredible.

Have you ever eaten a peach in Italy!!?  That’s a whole other level and blog post I feel.  Even the plums are a wake up call generally to the potential of fruit and veg.  The sweetness.  In Britain, we’re doing out best really.  Great apples and potatoes.

One of our favourite little restaurants, in a cave overlooking the Amalfi Coast.

Italy has a reputation of being an expensive place to travel, not for me.  There is also a growing vegan movement and even in small towns, I found vegan restaurants, salad bars, kebab shops.  It’s become quite trendy, restaurants advertise vegan options via flashing lights or blackboards.

Basically, all lovers of food and the simpler, finer things in life cannot help but fall in love with rural Italy.  Is that right?  Have you been?  What can I look forward to in the North?  The tastebuds boggle.

Back to our humble little feast with an Italian flava.

See the first post here for the Pepper, Basil & Cashew Cream Cheese Tart, Rosemary Roast Potatoes, Tomato & Balsamic Salad and Italian Style Dressing recipes.

The Bits – For 6-8 as part of the Italian Feast

Aubergine Antipasto

2 large aubergines (peeled)
1 large garlic clove (crushed)
4 tbs olive oil
Large pinch salt
Dried oregano

1 handful sun dried tomatoes (chopped)

——————–

Roast your aubergine in the oven, 200oc, 25 minutes, until cooked and a little caramelised. Toss gently with the other ingredients. Leave to cool and pop in the fridge. Can be done in advance.

Roast Squash & Wholegrain Pasta Salad

Roast Squash & Wholegrain Pasta Salad

8 handfuls wholegrain penne
5 tbs vegan mayo
3 handfuls squash (small cubes)
1 bulb of garlic
1 large handful sun dried tomatoes (chopped)
1 handful parsley (chopped)
1/2 lemon (juice)

Salt and pepper

——————

Cook your pasta. Drain and leave to cool a little.

Roast the squash and garlic for 30 minutes in 200oC fan oven with a little oil and salt and pepper, take the garlic out after 20 minutes. Peel the garlic cloves and mash with a fork, stir into the mayo.

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently together.  Season with salt and pepper.

This dish is nice served warm, but also good cold.

White Bean Puree (Vegan)

White Bean Puree

450g white beans
4 tbs olive oil
1/2 lemon juice
1/2 teas sea salt
Parsley

Garnish
Whole beans
Olive oil

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Place all in a blender and blitz until smooth. Check seasoning.

Serve ideally with a drizzle of olive oil and a handful of whole beans on top and maybe chopped soft herbs (basil, parsley) or dried oregano.

 

Serve dishes with

 

Large bowl of mixed salad leaves

Bowl of Olives

Olive oil/ Balsamic

Vegan cheese, like cashew cream, vegan parmesan.

Fresh Foccacia/ Ciabatta/ Any nice bread really

Extra bowl of dried oregano and mild chilli flakes

A bottle of something nice

Sunshine + smiles

Rosemary Focaccia

That’s it!  Enjoy the feast.  If you get to try it all out, or even just a few of the dishes, let us know in the comments below.  We love to hear about your kitchen adventures.

 

Categories: healthy, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Salads, Side Dish, Summer, Travel, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Summer Veg & Almond Cous Cous with Tahini Sauce

Summer Cous Cous with Tahini Sauce

Just landed back in the UK and am chuffed to be back in the kitchen playing with pots, pans and potatoes.  I love travelling but finding a good kitchen to cook in can be a challenge.  It’s probably the only thing I really miss.  I’ve been munching my way around the world for a while now and am ready to recreate a huge chunk of global tastiness this summer on the BHK.  I hadn’t had cous cous for an age and really enjoyed it recently in Beirut.  Although not exactly traditional Lebanese (more of that to come) I thought it would be a nice way to get the BHK recipes rolling again.

This is a quick, easy and delicious summer dish, I love these flavours; a little spice, apricots, crunchy almonds.  YUM!  Plus a creamy tahini sauce.  It takes no time at all to get together and when served with a salad or two, maybe even some warm flatbread, you’ve got a meal every one will enjoy.

So we’re just getting settled into the British vibe again, I must admit that it’s still quite a shock not waking up in India!  It was one of the hottest days of the year yesterday and I wore a big fleece and scarf.  I’ll get used to it!!  2017 has been an incredible year so far, Nepal, India, Lebanon and even a little taste of Ethiopia, but we can’t wait to tour around the UK for all the events, festivals and retreats we have planned.   Maybe see you there!!

If you get the chance to try this, or any of our recipes out, let us know in the comments.  We love to hear about your kitchen adventures.

 

Down on the beach, Dinas Dinlle, North Wales

Recipe Notes

All Spice is best used sparingly, if you don’t have any, go for a spice mix like garam masala or Ras El Hanout and use 1 teas more.

I really like millet and it makes a great sub for cous cous. It’s healthy and gluten free.

You might like to roast your almonds in an oven for 10 minutes to bring out the amazing flavours.

Summer Veg & Almond Cous Cous with Tahini Sauce

The Bits – Light lunch/ dinner for 4
1 large onion (sliced)
2 cloves garlic (crushed)
1 pepper (all cut into small cubes)
1 small aubergine
1 small courgette
1 large tomato

1 tbs cumin seeds

1 1/2 tbs sesame seeds
1 teas all spice (or other spice mix)
2 tbs cooking oil
Salt + pepper

1 handful dried apricots (chopped)

1 big handful almonds (roughly sliced)

1 handful parsley (chopped)

Cous cous (150g is good for 4)

Tahini Sauce
5 tbs light tahini
1/2 lemon (juice)
1 small clove garlic (crushed)
Salt (to taste)
Water

Do It
In a large frying pan on medium high heat, warm the oil and add the cumin and sesame seeds. Stir and fry for 1/2 minute and then add the onions and cook for a few minutes.  Now add salt, pepper, all spice, aubergine, courgette and peppers. Gently stir and fry for 5-7 minutes, until all is soft. Add the tomatoes and apricots, take off the heat and pop a lid on. Set aside. The tomatoes will be just soft and not overcooked.

Cook your cous cous, follow the pack instructions. Using veg stock adds more flavour and a few twists of black pepper is nice.

In a bowl, mix the tahini sauce bits together with a fork, adding water gradually until you have a thin sauce.

Serve warm or cold. Arrange the cous cous on a large plate, pile the veg in the middle and top with parsley and almonds. Drizzle with tahini sauce as you like.

We’re sharing our time between beautiful Wales and Durham this year.

Foodie Fact

Almonds are packed with healthy fats and minerals, it’s been shown that nuts can actually help you lose weight.  We eat the sweet almonds, but bitter almonds are used to flavour things like amaretto and almond extract.

Many people I speak to don’t realise what a good source of antioxidants nuts are and are put off because of high fat contents.  The fat’s in most nuts are healthy and they come with so many more benefits.  Plus, they taste incredible.

Lovely walk in Durham yesterday along the river Wear, seems a long way from the Ganges!!

 

 

Categories: Dinner, Healthy Eating, Lunch, Nutrition, Recipes, Salads, Summer, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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