Wales

The Ultimate Umami Vegan Burger

Ultimate Umami Vegan Burger with Basil Yoghurt & Roasted Vegetables

The ‘Ultimate Umami’ is a special occasion in a bun!  it’s the main event (with a side order of wedges.)  I think this burger will be enjoyed by absolutely everyone!  

I think most of us now know that veggie burgers can have way much more flavour and texture than a traditional meat burger, we just need to make them right and flavour them up with bold and delicious flavours.  This is where all that ‘umami’ comes into play.  We’ve all had a sub-standard, borderline nightmare, veggie burger experience.  This ain’t it!!  

These are perfect for a late autumn BBQ.  The sun is still hanging on up here in North Wales and there’s that lovely nip in the air.  September and October are two of my favourite months in Snowdonia, winter is well on the way, but we can still squeeze in some BBQ’s and picnics.  The sea is still warm-ish, the moutains take on amazing colours and shades and there is so much local produce to play with. 

Winter is coming in Snowdonia, but we still have a few BBQ’s left in us yet!

I’ve packed these patties with big flavours and the texture is solid (good ‘solid’, not brick like). It’s not going to flake or crumble out on you at the decisive BBQ moment or grill flip.  We enjoyed them down in Ludlow, the night before our cooking demonstration and talk, on a little BBQ sat outside the coolest caravan ever, a ’59 Vintage Airstream in mint condition with a bath outside under the stars.  Lucky, lucky us!! The burger was a highlight, but a bath at dawn, with the mist rising off the meadows probably just pipped it in the amazing-ness stakes.

Us – Outside the Streamline ’59 Caravan , before the Ludlow Food Festival

INTRODUCING UU!

The ‘Ultimate Umami’ (UU for short) will blow your taste buds away (to somewhere nice, like the coast of Southern Italy, or the Himalayas on a clear and sunny day.  Burgers have that power!) I don’t think I’m exaggerating here!  Name me one person who does not truly get a burger tickle on occasion? (Comments below).

There’s some kind of magic there, but the accompaniments need to be bang on too, it’s a team effort, so we’ve gone to the Med to pick our favourite flavours; basil yoghurt, sweet roasted peppers…..  This burger will also be ideal with any of your favourite sides and sauce; it’s got that deep, savoury, deliciousness that accompanies most things brilliantly.  It’s a launchpad for a burger feast to remember.  

UNIVERSAL VEGAN BURGER LAWS

You need a tasty burger if you want to be a vegan cooking wizard or wizard-ess. It’s one of the universal vegan cooking laws. Those timeless guidelines, set in a block of ancient fossilized tempeh, somewhere high in the hills of Eastern California, by a veg patch and smoothie bar. ‘Thou shall munch on tasty burgers! Then thou shall use a napkin afterwards (it can get a little messy)!’ Other vegans laws include ‘Open mindedness towards tofu’ and ‘When in doubt, blend it!’

Perfect autumn lunch out in the sunshine

UMAMI?

Umami overload! Not a bad thing. Mushrooms, red rice, balsamic vinegar, yeast extract, caramelised onions, toasted walnuts, miso, smoked paprika……it’s all there. Intense. It’s a bells and whistles burger for sure.

Umami is the fifth flavour and is present naturally in many foods, normally the very tasty ones. Of course, a Japanese scientist isolated it and turned it into MSG. Not good stuff. But umami itself is basically the thing that makes you go MMMMM in savoury dishes.

Perfect with all the trimmings, pick your favourites, I went a bit Mediterranean.

We hope you get the chance to sit in a garden soon with one of these whoppers and enjoy the late Autumn sun.

Recipe Notes

Don’t mess with veg burger too much. Handle them minimally and gently. Once in/on the pan/grill, just flip them once. Once they are cooked and left to rest, they will firm up some more.

You can make the burger mix beforehand. This works nicely, a night in the fridges and the flavours can really get to know each other better.

This mix will also freeze nicely. Keep for three months max.

We made these into little burger bites at our Home Cooked Happiness Vegan Cooking Retreat, think falafel sized bites.   They can be deep fried if you like, makes them very crispy.

Red rice is a super nutritious and tasty ingredient (see ‘Foodie Fact’ below), but you can substitute it for a wholesome brown rice instead.  In fact, at the cooking retreat, I tried the recipe with red quinoa, which was delicious.

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The ‘Ultimate Umami’ Vegan Burger (Gluten-free)

The Bits – For 4 

Burger

100g red rice

50g green/ brown lentils 

240g red kidney beans (cooked)

 

400g mushrooms (diced)

1 large onion (diced)

3 garlic cloves (crushed)

2 tbs balsamic vinegar

 

80g toasted walnuts (ground to a rough crumb in blender)

3 teas brown miso 

2 tbs onion marmalade

1 tbs yeast extract 

60g bread crumbs (gluten-free is fine)

 

Roast Potato & Carrot Wedges

300g carrots (cut into thick batons)

500g potatoes (cut into wedges)

1 teas smoked paprika

1 teas thyme

1 teas cumin seeds

Salt

 

Basil Yoghurt

350ml unsweetened soya yoghurt

10g basil leaves (one big handful)

¼ lemon (juice)

1 garlic clove

Pinch salt

 

4 tbs white flour

 

Serve

Roasted Med Veg (your favourite selection, I used onions, peppers and aubergine)

Salad leaves/ Rocket

Onion Marmalade (see our recipe for Onion & Chilli Marmalade here.)

 

Do It

Burgers

In a small sauce pan, wash and drain the rice and lentils, then cover with 1.5 cm water, bring to boil, pop lid on, cook for 30 minutes on low heat.  Leave to cool. 

In a frying pan, add 1 tbs cooking oil and add the mushroom, fry for around 12 minutes, until they are caramelised and all their liquid is cooked off. Set aside. Add more oil and fry the onion until golden, add the garlic and balsamic, stir and cook until the balsamic vinegar has evaporated, five minute-ish.  Leave to cool. 

In a large bowl, mix and mash together all the other ingredients. Combine well.  You’re looking for most of the beans to be mashed but a few whole, for texture. Refrigerate. The mix is best used straight from the fridge, but it’s not essential.

The Burger Mix – Chunks are welcome! Gives the burger nice texture.

Form the mix into burger patties, roughly 10cm wide, 1.5cm deep. This is easiest done with slightly wet hands.  Scatter the flour onto a plate. Place the patties in the flour and give a light coating all over.

Warm 1 tbs oil in a large frying pan on medium high heat. When warm, fry off two burgers at a time. Cook for 4-5 minutes each side, until a little charred. Place them on a lined baking tray and repeat.

When ready to serve, place the burgers in an oven, 200oC for 10-12 minutes, making sure they are warmed through.  

 

Wedges

On a baking tray lined with parchment (stops the wedges sticking to the tray), toss the potatoes and carrots in the oil, paprika, thyme, salt and cumin seeds.

Preheat a fan oven to 200oc and bake the wedges for 30 minutes, turning them gently at least once to ensure even cooking.

 

Yoghurt

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

 

Serve

In your favourite buns/ rolls with a little side salad, relish and loads of Autumn sunshine.

The bounty of autumn. A cooks paradise:)

Foodie Fact

Red rice is normally unhulled and has a lovely nutty flavour as well as loads of healthy properties.  Red rice is normally a little more expensive than other white or brown rices, it is more scarce and also has a much lower yield.

Red rice has a stronger flavour and when cooked, will share its bright red colour with other ingredients.  In these burgers, the rice adds a full flavour, loads of fibre and is the perfect ‘binder’ to help keep the burger together when being cooked and nibbled.

There is a good amount of protein in red rice and plenty of minerals like zinc and especially iron and magnesium.  You’ll also find Vitamin B1, B6 and B2, calcium, plus plenty of anti-oxidants.

During our cooking demo at the Ludlow Food Festival (I’m holding an imaginary cauliflower, it’s a long story……;)

If you try the ‘Ultimate Umami’ Burgers, let us know below in the comments.  We love to hear from you!!

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Come and say hello in London soon!  We’ll be at Vegfest 2017 and cooking at our Global Vegan event in Brixton.  

Can’t wait!

 

 

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

Home Cooked Happiness Vegan Cooking Retreat – Photos, Food and Thanks

Cooking demos in the studio

Here are a few photos of our recent Home Cooked Happiness retreat at the beautiful Trigonos in North Wales.  There were full days of vegan cooking demos, walks near Snowdon, yoga and lots and lots of good eating (and laughs)!

I cooked simple and creative dishes from all over the world; Mexico, Lebanon, Italy, Spain, Indonesia, Greece and China.  It was a pleasure to cook for such a wonderful group of people, I love these retreats, always leaving with a whole new gang of friends and inspiration to do more cooking retreats/ holidays.  I just have the best time!

First morning of HCH, I was up at dawn pressing tofu;)

Mexican Dark Chocolate & Pecan Blender Brownies (g/f) with Dulce de Leche – Dessert on Day 1

This time of year means an abundance of incredible organic, seasonal produce

I was so lucky to be able to cook with almost exclusively organic, local produce from the Trigonos farm and the brilliant Tyddyn Teg.  Thanks to Judy and Claire for providing produce that chef’s dream of;  Crown Prince Squash, Spaghetti Squash, beautiful greens, radiant tomatoes and even giant Welsh aubergines.

Mushrooms grown and foraged in Snowdonia, Wales

I even managed to get some local mushrooms, grown just the other side of Snowdon.  We had some foraged Chaterelles, loads of Shiitakes and even some Hedgehog mushrooms.  They made our paella extra special!  Thanks to The Mushroom Garden.

One of my favourite nights, Spanish feast with wild mushroom paella and a roast potato and thyme tortilla

Simple and delicious. Rose, Macadamia and Strawberry Cheesecake

View from the studio window. The weather was very un-Welsh throughout the retreat. The sun shone!

Just checking out the afternoon tea:)

Home Cooked Happiness starts in the kitchen, the heart of the home and ripples out into all aspects of our lives.  After all, eating a healthy and peaceful diet can only make our lives healthier and more peaceful!!  Cooking nourishing, fresh food at home is for me, one of the most important things we can do with our time.  It’s a gift for ourselves, body and mind, and those loved ones we share our lives with.  It doesn’t have to be fiddly or complicated, we learned loads of methods and techniques to make the most out of plants, the kind of dishes that anyone will enjoy, young or old, vegan or otherwise.

The buffet table is always packed with vegan treats

We went all Mexican on the first night.  Quesadillas, mole and all the bright and colourful trimmings.  I love it!

Every meal is accompanied by a varied cheese board, sometimes with homemade cheeses.

I’d like to thank Vegusto, V-Bites and Mozza Risella for providing some tasty cheeses for our cheese boards.

Willie’s Chocolate tasting on the last day. Everyone leaves buzzing on amazing chocolate!

Thanks to our lovely yoga teacher Claire for getting our mornings off to the best possible starts.

We start most mornings with yoga, meditation and a healthy breakfast, normally light, there is a lot of eating to do everyday!

We had three cooking demos every day, ranging from making plant milks and cheeses, to all kinds of global dishes, curries. soups, breads, cakes, desserts and lots of trying new ingredients from around the world.  Not to mention some pickling and fermenting.

I love cooking and preparing for these retreats, it pushes me to try out new things and develop new recipes.  Each attendee gets a big, fat recipe booklet to take home and play with in their kitchens.  The vast majority of the recipes are designed especially for the specific retreat.  Here’s one:

Rich chocolate mousse with drunken cherries and almond biscotti (g/f)

I’ll be sharing some of these new recipes on the blog soon.

The Italian Dinner rounded things off with seasonal feast of pasta, local vegetables and other Puglian delights!

Everyone say “Home Cooked Happiness!!!”

I can’t imagine a more beautiful location to host a retreat. I feel very lucky to have worked at Trigonos and be able to invite happy cooks into Snowdonia.

Thanks to all at Trigonos for the care, help and support in getting this retreat together and running it.  Most of all, thanks to all the Home Cooked Happiness group who made the retreat so special and memorable for me.  Your positive energy and passion made cooking for you a dream!  Now all you have to do is practice, practice, practice.  I can’t wait to see your kitchen inspiration over on our Facebook vegan cooking group.

So that’s it for our Trigonos retreats this year, both Home Cooked Happiness and One World Vegan have been an incredible experience for us both.  They have flown over and we’ll hopefully see some of you up here next year for more whole food, plant-based cooking and good times in North Wales.

Diolch yn Fawr!!

Our next event is soon in London – Global Vegan Cooking Demonstration and Lunch

Then we’re across to Vegfest London for a cooking demonstration. 

We also have our Taste of Bliss – Plant-based Yoga Holiday next May in Spain.  Just like Wales, but we substitute the mountains for beaches!

Categories: Cooking demos, Cooking Retreats, Events, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Vegan, veganism, Wales | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

One World Vegan Cooking Retreat – Photos, Memories and Thanks

I think pictures sometimes tell a better story than words.  We had an amazing time at our vegan cooking retreat last week at Trigonos.

Cooking Demo at One World Vegan, with the Snowdon Mountain Range in the background

Jane and I would like to thank all who attended and the Trigonos team for making it such a special and memorable time.

The lake at dawn behind Trigonos,

We were lucky with the weather as the sun shone for most of the retreat and we had a good walk around Snowdon.

Jane and the One Wold Vegan group, on a walk in Snowdonia.

We cooked food which we love and enjoyed on our travels around the Balkans, China, Indonesia, Italy, India, Mexico and more.

The buffet table was always packed with dishes;)  We brought the flavours  we savoured around the world back to North Wales.

I came up with a menu filled with original recipes, created especially for the retreat.  I love sharing the bounty and creativity of pure plant-based cooking.  With a few tricks and tips, it can be so easy to recreate wonderful, healthy, wholefood vegan food at home.

Dark Chocolate Brownies with Dulce de Leche 

Jane and I during one of the cooking demonstrations

Everyone who attended mentioned that it was a daily feast, but there is always room on the last day for the chocolate tasting.  Thanks to Willies Cacao, Essy & Bella and Vivani for supplying an interesting range of chocolates.  We traveled all around the world, just by sampling chocolates of differing origin.  A great way to travel!!  I think one of the most popular times is when we make hot chocolate with Willie’s 100% Single Estate Peruvian Black Cacao.  It tastes like no other hot chocolate!!  As we all know, chocolate is very, very important and should be taken seriously;)  Results of the chocolate tasting will be on a post soon.

The chocolate tasting on the final day is always a highlight.

We made a variety of vegan cheeses, from Smoky Cashew Cheese to Baked Almond Cheese, but I’d also like to thank Vegusto, V-Bites and Mozzarisella for contributing cheeses to our cheese boards at lunch and dinner.  I’d also like to mention the incredible Tomato Stall, based on the Isle of Wight, who produce some of the most delicious tomato based delights.  Their Oak Smoked Tomatoes are one of my favourite things.  I’m also loving their new Sun Dried Tomato Balsamic Vinegar.  Wow!!

Trigonos beautiful in the sunshine

We used a lot of Trigonos produce, grown to organic standards.  It’s such a privilege to cook with home grown produce.

Artichoke flower

Many of the group woke around dawn to pratice Tai Chi by the lake, even spotting otters most mornings.

Down by the lake

Judy and Owain picked fresh herbs and vegetables every morning from the Trigonos gardens and poly tunnels.

One World Vegan – Local produce given a global twist

Another table full vegan dishes, this was the Spanish dinner with paella

It’s a brilliant experience for me to meet so many people passionate about cooking and open to learning new techniques and recipes.

I’m just running through the menu for lunch here in the dining room

Great to see Janice from the ace blog Nourished by Nature again and thanks to Jan for taking some of these pictures.   I must mention Ninja Blenders for providing the BHK with a new, high quality blender and food processor, after ours finally gave up on a chocolate mousse one day.  It’s got so many features and we’re loving making ranges of smoothies, raw desserts and sauces with our new gadget.  It’s easy to clean and use, with loads of power to make things creamy and smooth.  We’ve never had a blender this good!

The group getting involved during one of the cooking demonstrations.

We’d also like to thank Laura from Yoga Wellbeing for coming up and teaching our yoga and meditation classes, plus John, Sarah and Gillian for the music and storytelling in the evenings.

Yoga classes in the mornings and meditation in the evenings help us all to relax and enjoy the beautiful location.  Classes taught by lovely Laura at Yoga Wellbeing (my sis;)

These cooking retreats go so quickly, sometimes I wish they could last for longer, we meet so many like-minded people and always make new friends.

Some of our group on the last day, hard to say goodbye.  We’ll have to do it again next year:)

We will be hosting other cooking retreats at Trigonos in the future.  Home Cooked Happiness – Creative Vegan Cooking Retreat starts this Saturday, 16th Septemeber.  We still have a few spaces available, more information on our Facebook page or call Trigonos directly 01286 882388.

Goodbye Trigonos and the Nantlle Valley, see you again soon:)

Categories: Cooking Retreats, Events, healthy, Healthy Eating, photography, plant-based, Vegan, veganism, Wales | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

One World Vegan Cooking Retreat – 29/8-2/9/17, North Wales

The lake beside Trigonos the venue for the One World Vegan Cooking Retreat

COME AND COOK WITH US!!

I’ve just put the finishing touches to the new menus for the ‘One World Vegan’ Cooking Retreat at Trigonos, North Wales.  I’m really excited about them, the food is looking great and we have a diverse range of dishes to learn how to cook and most importantly, taste!  No one has seen these dishes before, expect Jane, we were up to 1 am last night trying new dishes out.  Yum!

There are a few places now available for this course, book by calling 01286 882388 or click for more info here

We’ll be working our way around the world, from Mexico to Lebanon, China to India, Indonesia to Italy with a little bit of the Balkans thrown in.  We’ll be cooking classics, that I’ve given my own twist and flavours to.  The vast majority of the dishes are gluten-free, as well as being healthy and decadent.  I’ve also just finished the recipe booklet, packed with recipes exclusively designed for this retreat.

Cooking at Trigonos last year.

I can’t wait to get cooking soon, Trigonos is one of my favourite places to cook and we’ll be using organic produce from a local farm and even Trigonos’s own fruit and veg, grown using organic practices.  I’m a very lucky chef indeed!!  All this plus spices and ingredients I brought back with me from the food markets of Delhi, Tripoli, Beijing and Jakarta.   It’s going to be a feast!

The coast. Irish Sea and beaches are just down the road.

Come and join us in a week or so for yoga, long walks in the hills and loads of laughs and windows of relaxation in picturesque surroundings.  I know it’s a bit last minute, but sometimes the best things are;)

Happy Cooking and Hopefully See You Soon!

Lee & Jane

North Wales, we love you!!

Categories: Cooking Retreats, Events, gluten-free, healthy, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, Organic, photography, plant-based, Travel, Vegan, veganism, Wales | Tags: | Leave a comment

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

 

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

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

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

Full details are below.

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

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

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

See you in beautiful North Wales soon.

Lee & Jane:)

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ONE WORLD VEGAN: 4 DAY HEALTHY COOKING RETREAT

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

A Trigonos Course

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prices from £380 to £550

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

 

HOME COOKED HAPPINESS: 4 DAY SIMPLE VEGAN COOKING

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

Are you looking for a healthy and creative kick-start in the kitchen? Seeking simple and inspiring dishes that you’ll want to cook all the time? Or maybe something more decadent for weekends full of treats? On the Home Cooked Happiness Retreat, held at the stunning Trigonos centre in the heart of Snowdonia National Park, we’ll learn a range of skills for transforming simple and accessible produce into nutritious and delicious meals. All dishes have been approved by non-vegans!
 
We know that eating more fruit and vegetables is important for good health, but how can we fit cooking with fresh ingredients into our daily lives? It’s possible and this retreat will give you the techniques needed.
 
A balanced, whole food plant-based diet is the healthiest way to eat and it can be sensational and doesn’t need to cost the earth. During the retreat we’ll be using fresh produce grown on the the Trigonos land.
 
The cooking demonstrations by Lee will be fun and informative and give even the beginner the confidence to explore the potential of vegan food with opportunities to get involved yourself.
 
We’ll be ‘veganising’ many classic, staple dishes and learning recipes covering breakfast ideas, breads, soups, starters, vegan cheese, imaginative salads, stews, burgers, curries, bakes, beautiful bowls, smoothies, cakes and many desserts.
 
The retreat is also designed as a relaxing break from the busy world, somewhere you can recharge. We’ll have optional meditation and yoga in mornings and evenings. Fresh juices and herbal infusions are always available, along with plenty of treats, fresh coffee, cakes and nice surprises along the way.
 
You’ll have ample time to explore the beautiful area, lakes and hills, around Trigonos and one afternoon, we’ll go on a long walk in the mountains and valleys of Snowdonia with a qualified local guide.
 
Every night, after dinner, we’ll relax around a log fire and enjoy drinks and local entertainment.
 
This will be a rejuvenating four days, filled with delicious food, where we’ll meet like-minded people and learn how to cook vegan food for everyone!

Prices from £320 to £490

To book your place contact Trigonos on 01286 882 388

 

 

Categories: Cooking Retreats, Healthy Eating, Vegan, veganism, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Seeded spelt bread & simple tips to make awesome loaves

Seeded Spelt Loaf

Seeded Spelt Loaf

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breakfast loaves at Trigonos, almost ready for the oven

Breakfast loaves at Trigonos, almost ready for the oven

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

My favourite picture of Holger - observing the 2015 solar eclipse

My favourite picture of Holger – observing the 2015 solar eclipse

WHAT IS SPELT?

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

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

SIMPLE TIPS FOR AWESOME LOAVES

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

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

Recipe Notes

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

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

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

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

Add white flour instead of spelt for a lighter loaf.

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

 

Seeded Spelt Bread

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

500g spelt flour

1 teas yeast

1 1/3 teas salt

1 tbs malted rice extract (or sweetener of choice)

2 tbs rapeseed oil (plus extra for brushing)

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

350ml warm water

 

Do It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The loaf ready for its final 35 minute prove

The loaf ready for its final 35 minute prove

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

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

(The tray steaming step is not essential).

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

Lovely light spelt loaf with a good thick crust

Lovely light spelt loaf with a good thick crust

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

Serve

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

Foodie Fact

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

Categories: Baking, Healthy Eating, photography, Recipes, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The big chocolate tasting and the thrills of real cacao

Mid chocolate scoff/ tasting

In the library at Trigonos – Mid chocolate tasting

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

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

One of the cooking demos at the vegan cooking retreat

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

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

So much glorious chocolate on one table!!!

So much glorious chocolate on one table!!!

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

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

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

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

So let the tasting begin…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

choco mama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOT CHOCOLATE HEAVEN

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

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

cyl-venezuelan-carenero--e1427891943355

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

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

A cacao pod

A cacao pod – where every chocolate bar begins…

THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF REAL CACAO

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

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

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

——————————————-

FULL CHOCOLATE TASTING RESULTS – TRIGONOS 4/3/16

Pana Chocolate – Fig and Wild Orange – 15 points

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

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

Choco Mama’s – Mulberry Crunch – 2 points

Ethicoco – Ugandan Oat Milk and Raisin – 2 points

Pana Chocolate – Nut – 2 points

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

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

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

——-

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

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

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

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

Coconut Scones

Coconut Scones (Vegan)

Coconut Scones (Vegan)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recipe Notes

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

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

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

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

The Bits – Makes 8 medium-sized scones

225g self raising white flour

2 level teaspoons baking powder

50g unrefined white sugar (unprocessed)

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

55g desiccated coconut

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

2 tbs soya milk (for brushing)

2 tbs desscated coconut (for topping

Do It

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

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

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

Fresh out of the oven

Fresh out of the oven

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

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

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

Coconut Scones - one ain't enough!;)

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

Serve

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

Foodie Fact

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

Categories: Baking, Cakes, Nutrition, photography, Recipes, Treats, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , , , , | 11 Comments

Quick Carrot and Ginger Pickle plus Five Health Benefits of Ginger

Quick and easy - Carrot and Ginger Pickle

Quick and easy – Carrot and Ginger Pickle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Bits – Makes 1 jar or serves 4-6

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

1 onion (finely sliced)

3 tbs ginger (finely sliced or grated)

3 tbsp oil

½ tsp fenugreek seeds

1 1/2 teas cumin seeds

1 teas coriander seeds (the smaller ones are best)

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

1 ½ tsp turmeric

2 tsp salt

5 tbsp unrefined sugar

1/2 lemon (juice)

Very simple recipe:)

Very simple recipe with brilliant results:)

Do It

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

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

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

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

Quick Carrot and Ginger Pickle

Quick Carrot and Ginger Pickle

Serve

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

Foodie Fact 

See above – we’ve got ginger covered.

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

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

P1270645

Rock hoppin

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

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

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

‘Discovering Vegan Cooking’ Workshop and Retreat 1st – 4th March ’16

Lee-Watson (2)

THE PLEASURES AND BENEFITS OF A VEGAN DIET ARE OPEN TO ALL.  THIS WORKSHOP WILL SHOW YOU HOW………

Join Jane and I for a rejuvenating and instructive healthy vegan cooking adventure in a wonderful lakeside retreat centre in Snowdonia.

As well as hands-on cooking workshops there will be optional yoga and meditation sessions as well as a music workshop and much more…….

The ideal Spring pick me up!

Jane getting to grips with an onion - Udaipur, 2/14

Trigonos is set in stunning lakeside grounds in the heart of Snowdonia

We’d  love to hear from you with any questions or contact the Trigonos team for more information and bookings.

Residential and non-residential places are available.

Trigonos

Plas Baladeulyn, Nantlle, Caernarfon, Gwynedd, Wales, UK. LL54 6BW

Phone – 01286  882 388

Email – info@trigonos.org

We’re so excited about this course and can’t wait to welcome you to North Wales!

L+Jx

Walking near Trigonos, stunning views of Snowdon

Walking near Trigonos, stunning views of Snowdon

Categories: Healthy Eating, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Come join us for a cooking retreat in beautiful Snowdonia!

 

5146.Main

I’ll be demonstrating the joys of vegan cooking. Delicious, creative and healthy (with loads of treats along the way).

COME JOIN US!

Jane and I are excited to announce our first full retreat this December at Trigonos, located in beautiful Snowdonia, the retreat centre where I cook.  We’d love to welcome you there for a revitalising weekend with great food and much, much more!  Find details of the retreat below:

Discovering Vegan Cooking – Workshop and Retreat

with Lee Watson, Trigonos Chef

11th – 14th December 2015

The pleasures and benefits of a vegan diet are open to all. This workshop and retreat shows you how.

Join Lee Watson, Trigonos Chef (author of the vegan cookbook ‘Peace and Parsnips’ and presenter of ‘Meat vs Veg’ TV Programme) for a rejuvenating and instructive healthy vegan cooking adventure. The ideal mid-winter, pre-Christmas pick me up!

For further details and a booking form see here.

To reserve your place phone Trigonos 01286 882388 or email info@trigonos.org

Jane getting to grips with an onion - Udaipur, 2/14

Jane will assisting all weekend and showing us the wonders of juicing and smoothie making.

We'll be cooking some recipes from Peace & Parsnips (our new vegan cookbook)

We’ll be cooking some recipes from Peace & Parsnips (our new vegan cookbook)

You'll be sampling a whole host of vegan treats, from divine Indian curries.....

You’ll be sampling a whole host of vegan treats, from divine Indian curries…..

....to tasty burgers.....

….tasty burgers…..

....to desserts for all!

….to desserts for all and everything in between!

Trigonos is set in stunning lakeside grounds in the heart of Snowdonia

Trigonos is set in stunning lakeside grounds in the heart of Snowdonia

We will be using many vegetables from our farm, all grown using organic principles

We will be using many vegetables from our farm, all grown using organic principles

There will be plenty f time to relax and take in the stunning scenery.....

You are free, with plenty of time to relax, read in the library or take in the stunning scenery

The Nantlle Valley awaits!

There will also be daily gentle yoga and meditation and much more…….. The Nantlle Valley awaits! 

 

 

Categories: Detox, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, Organic, photography, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Windfall Apple and Oat Crumble – Simple Autumn Classic

Windfall Apple and Oat Crumble

Windfall Apple and Oat Crumble

So the leaves are all turning burnt gold, auburn, crimson and the morning are crisp with deep powder blue skies.  I love this time of year, wandering through dried leaves, staring into fires, wrapping up, rediscovering the delights of sloe gin and big, bombastic bakes!

Desserts or otherwise, its time to wake the oven up,  it tends to be underused in the summer months and dust off our oven dishes.  Autumn and winter mean we need warm hugs and serious sustenance in our bowls/ plates.  It’s something of a survival mechanism and certainly leads to oodles of well-being.  Cosy soul food!

Nothing says autumn more than the first crumble of the year.  Your body knows what’s coming, the dark and windy time when we crave large plates of stodgy happiness to warm our wintery bones.  We are enjoying a beautiful September up here on Tiger Mountain, but the  nights are getting a bit chilly and crumble is the perfect antidote.  Easing us into this time of year in the tastiest of ways.

Crumble’s beauty lie in their simplicity and the way they gobble up our autumn fruity abundance.  This recipe is beautifully basic and can be taken in so many directions with addition of other fruits (think blackberries, damsons, mulberries, dried fruits etc) or flavourings (like elderflower, orange blossom, I’ve even tried a tahini and apple crumble which was a treat).  Adding chocolate to a crumble has been tried and works like a dream.  This recipe is a lovely foundation to add to as you see fit.

ORCHARD DREAMS

We are setting out a little orchard in the garden.  The trees are young (bar our ancient looking plum tree and windswept crab apple) and normally offer scant fruit.  My Snowdonia Pear Tree, a juvenile, was unceremoniously beheaded by a storm recently.  Its tough going for saplings in these parts!  Our little Bardsey Apple tree however is a rugged super star, branches laden every year with tart and juicy, vivid green apples.  Not such great eaters (too much of a twang) but perfect when cooked.  These apples were actually all windfall, saved from the fate of an army of slugs that camp out and descend like slimy vultures on any fruit that hits the deck.

Windfall Bardsey apples in the garden

Windfall Bardsey Apples in the garden

APPLE ABUNDANCE

What to do with all those apples?  If your, family members, neighbours, avid scrumpers know of an apple tree, I’m sure you’re asking yourself the same thing.  Here are few little ideas for all those surplus apples:

  • Make a Tart Tatin (see below)
  • Cook into apple sauce and use on desserts and breakfast bowls.  Apple sauce is also wonderful in baking, it helps to bind cakes etc together.
  • Make your own Apple Cider Vinegar or Apple and Mint Vinegar
  • Make Apple Vodka, Whiskey or Gin by steeping the apples in alcohol.
  • Try a Apple and Ginger Smoothie or Apple and Kale Juice
  • Add slices to pancakes and bread (works brilliantly with rye or spelt flours)
  • They make a great Raita
  • Chop them up and mix them into your muesli/ granola/ sprouted grains etc for breakfast.
  • Make Apple and Plum Chutney
  • Make Beetroot and Apple Sauerkraut or add to your favourite Kimchi recipe (there’s a nice one in Peace and Parsnips
  • Add them to stews, salads or soups
  • Spread them out somewhere, preferably on cardboard and keep them for as long as possible.  Crunch and yum!
  • Make cider.
Discovery Apple and Apricot Tart Tatin

Discovery Apple and Apricot Tart Tatin

ALL APPLES ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL

When cooking with apples its worth tasting one first.  They can be so varied and this is what I love about them.  They are surely one of the finest things we grow in the UK and our traditional varieties offer up a fascinating and varied palate of flavours and textures to play with in the kitchen; some are flowery in texture and sweet, some crisp and tangy, we just need to find them the right home.  I have to say that the best way to eat a good apple is to give it a little polish on our trousers or jumper (why do we do that?) and crunch into it.  I like to eat the core and seeds as well.

Making this pud into a pure plant-based pleasure is a cinch, you’re really just substituting the butter in the traditional crumble with oil and some flax seeds, which offer a lovely nutty flavour and help to give the crumble a little bite and oodles of nutrition.  I am also not great at using large scoops of sugar, I need gentle persuasion.  You can probably make this with other sweeteners, but for once in the BHK, we’re going (almost) traditional.

Crumble is oh so simple but surprisingly many are still not great.  Being too sweet or having a dry, floury crumble are two cardinal sins of crumble-hood.  I like a nutty, crisp crumble.  This is why crumble is always enjoyed best straight out of the oven.  The longer its left, the more time for the crumble to loose its magic crunch.  I like to add nuts and flax seeds to add even more flavour and bite.  To avoid just a mouthful of floury sweetness, I like oats bound with a little flour.  Simple pleasures are always the best!

So grab a fireplace, a large spoon and a nice crisp autumn night and enjoy this true British classic.

Recipe Notes

You can use buckwheat flour and gluten free oats to side step gluten here.  I love the flavour of buckwheat; its fuller and deeper than wholemeal.

The amount of sugar you will need depends on your apples.  Ours are very sharp, so we went for 90g.  Jane has a sweet tooth (see above) and was very pleased with the sweetness level with that amount.

Crumble is amazingly adaptable, make it well in advance or make a large batch of apple sauce and use for other purposes (see above).  Crumbles also freeze brilliantly.

I don’t like going ott with cinnamon, I just like it somewhere in the background.  Not a main player in a crumble.  Add more if your a spicy crumbler.

Enough frivolity, lets crumble!!!!!!

The Bits

Apples

950g apples

60-100g light brown sugar (unrefined)

3 tbs water

1/2 – 1 teas cinnamon

 

Crumble

100g oats

20g flax seeds (ground)

75g mixed nuts (roughly chopped)

30g light brown sugar (unrefined)

70ml rapeseed/ olive oil

1 teas cinnamon

20g buckwheat/ wholemeal flour

 

Do It

In a saucepan, add all of the ingredients for the apples.  Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 20 mins with a lid on or until the apples are tender and just falling apart.

Mix all of the crumble ingredients together in a bowl.  Preheat oven to 200oC.

In a baking dish (approx 10″ by 8″), spoon in the apple sauce and sprinkle over the crumble mix until there is a nice thick layer.

Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, until the crumble is a dark golden colour and the apple sauce is bubbling away.

Before.....

Beginning…..

Middle......

Middle……

End!

End!

The Prequel (?)  - Windfall Apple and Oat Crumble with lashings of custard

The Prequel (?) – Windfall Apple and Oat Crumble with lashings of custard

Serve

We had ours with custard.  Mainly because we don’t have any ice cream in the freezer.  If we had ice cream, I am sure there would have been a long debate about which way to go.  Which way do you go?  The timeless question.  I think it depends on how the stars are aligned (or something).  PS – It must be vanilla ice cream.  Of course.  Anything else would be utterly ridiculous.

Beach walking off all that crumble - Dinas Dinlle, near Anglesey

Beach walking off all that crumble – Dinas Dinlle, near Anglesey

Foodie Fact

Crumble is food of the Gods and makes you happy:)

Dinas Dinlle Beach

Dinas Dinlle Beach

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Happy Autumn to you all!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Categories: Desserts, Foraging, gluten-free, Recipes, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Charred Cauliflower Steaks with Coconut & Kale Puree

Charred Cauliflower Steaks with Coconut and Kale Puree

Charred Cauliflower Steaks with Coconut and Kale Puree

This really is vegan food for everyone!  Charred cauliflower is something that appeals to all and not something you’d expect from the humble cauli.  It’s actually a superstar veg and has been hopelessly cooked over the years, giving it a bad rep.  Don’t boil it to death, breath life into it by bringing out its intense flavours and creaminess.  Of course, this being the BHK, we have to talk a little about its shining health properties.  Its REALLY good for you (see ‘Foodie Fact’ below).

Here’s a dish that looks great, tastes mighty fine and takes very little preparation. This is the easy kind of recipe that anyone can whip up at home and make it look like a restaurant style dish. I love it when that happens! This is also a very BBQ friendly way of cooking cauliflower.  These steaks will grace any BBQ and make a tasty burger filling (or two).  Charring the cauliflower ‘steaks’ (what else could we call them?!) and poaching the rest of the cauli in coconut milk highlights two of the amazing flavours hidden in a humble cauliflower.  In this dish, you get the best of both worlds.  Great texture and superbly creamy when poached and blended (something to do with the natural pectins).

Vegans can easily cook this for self-confessed carnivores (aka people who cannot live without meat….until they try these!!!) and want to make their way into the world of plant-based food.  There is a huge shift towards plant-based foods happening and there are an infinite number of ways of making plants incredible; vegans are now making meringues and macaroons out of chickpea/ bean juice, the other night I made something like a parmesan cheese out of gram flour (its a long story……more to come in that department).  Endless is the plant kingdoms culinary surprises and I feel we are only beginning to harness the tastiness of plants.  Watch this space.  Vegans are pulling out all the creative stops!

BLEEDING BURGERS!?

Somebody has recently made a vegan burger than bleeds.  I have very contrasting feelings about that.  One, a little unsettled.  Two, amazing for our health, animals and the planet.  Looking at it like that, the little weirdness is something I can get over.  The more plants we pack into our diets, the better for all!

Its a stormy day up here on the hill, but we’ve had a few nice days of sunshine which always makes me very happy for our little veg patches.  I also get to dig my shorts out.  Our cauliflowers are nothing to write home about this year, slugs seem to find them irresistible and our slug issues are many and overwhelming sometimes.  You know we’ve only watered the garden once this year.  Once!  This is surely some kind of record.  Wales will not be running low on water anytime soon.  Its a blessing (in a way).  But maybe it could bless us more in autumn, than in the heart of summer.  We’ve been harvesting blackberries (strangely early), raspberries, rocket and kale.  We’ve also got a good looking crop of potatoes, beetroots, parsnips and we may even get a few peas if the wind stays down.

BEACH LOVIN’

When the sun comes out, we’re on the beach.  Our local beach Dinas Dinlle (where a lot of the pictures in Peace & Parsnips were taken) is one of my all-time favourites.  Backed by the Snowdonia hills and mountain rangers, it stretches for many miles, all the way from Caernarfon down to Trefor near the Llyn Peninsula.  There is a large Bronze age fort halfway along the beach and at one end you have a bird anctuary and the other, a dramatic mountain range, the Rivals.  I run along the beach quite often and when the tide is out, feel like the only person alive. No footprints to be seen, just me and the smooth sand stretching off into the distance, the sea birds, the occasional wave.  Even though the weather is….changeable, the sea is still warm and the water seriously rejuvenating.  A swim in the Irish Sea is not easily forgotten!  There is something very special about our local beach, overlooking Lovers Peninsula on Anglesey and the Menai Straits.  (Maybe I should start working for the Welsh Tourist Board?)  Anyway…..back to the kitchen….

No complaints here - North Wales is beautiful! Dinas Dinlle Beach

No complaints here – North Wales is beautiful! Dinas Dinlle Beach

The Bits – For 2
1 large cauliflower (750g)
1 white onion (finely diced)
3 teas ground cumin
2 teas turmeric
2 pinches chilli flakes
3 large stems kale (roughly 80g leaves only)
3 tbs light olive/ coconut oil
500ml coconut milk

Black pepper and sea salt

Do It

Trim your kale leaves off the woody stems.  Finely slice.  Cut cauliflower (as below) down the centre into two cross sections/ steaks, roughly 1 1/2 inches think.  Nice and chunky.  Trim the end of the stems off.  Roughly chop the rest of the cauliflower.  Sprinkle the steaks with salt and pepper.

Cut your 'steaks' from the centre of the cauliflower. Nice, neat, cross sections if poss. (they cook nicer that way)

Cut your ‘steaks’ from the centre of the cauliflower. Nice, neat, cross sections if poss. (they cook nicer that way)

Preheat oven to 180oC.

For the puree – In a large saucepan, add 1 tbs oil and warm on a medium heat, saute your onions for 2 minutes, until softened.  Now add the cauliflower and 2 teas turmeric and 2 teas cumin.  Stir well and cook for 2 minutes.  Pour in the coconut milk, bring to a boil and lower heat to a simmer.  Pop a lid on and leave to cook for 15 minutes.  Stirring occasionally.

For the steaks – While the puree is simmering.  Grab a large, heavy frying pan.  On a high heat, warm 1 tbs oil.  When hot, place your cauliflower steak (one at a time), face down, into the pan.  There should be a good sizzle now.  Press down with a spatula to get it nicely charred.  Check after 1-2 minutes of frying.  Once you get a nice char, flip over and do the same on the other side.  You may need a drizzle more oil here. don’t be shy with it, this dish needs a bit of oil to get that nice colour.

Straight out of the pan, sprinkled with spices, ready for the oven

Straight out of the pan, sprinkled with spices, ready for the oven

Now place the cauliflower steak onto a baking tray, lightly sprinkle with ground cumin, chilli flakes and a few more twists of fresh black pepper.   Repeat the process with the other piece of cauliflower.  Once both are cooked, place the tray in the oven and finish off cooking the cauliflower for 15-20 minutes.  Check that the base of the stem is softened.  You can do this by trimming off a slice of the stem and trying it.

Finish the puree, by adding the finely sliced kale leaves and stirring them in.  Pop a lid back on and simmer for a few minutes.  Then blend the puree well with a stick blender or add to a food processor and blitz, thin with a little water if needed.  Check seasoning and keep warming.

Charred Caulifower Steak - Ready for your resident/ local carnivores approval!

Charred Caulifower Steak – Ready for your resident/ local carnivores approval!

Serve

On a warm plate, ladle out some sauce into the centre, spread out evenly in a circular motion with the base of the spatula and gently place a cauliflower steak in the middle.

Foodie Fact

Cauliflowers are actually really high in Vitamin C, in fact, this dish will easily supply your daily RDA for Vitamin C in one tasty plate.  Cauli also contain a good amount of protein and high levels of fibre.  It also offers a load of the vitamin B’s and a healthy helping of omega 3 fats.    So if you’d like to keep a healthy heart, brain, give yourself a bit of a detox, cauliflower is perfect.

Catching a few rare sun rays in the herb garden aka the sun trap

Catching a few precious sun rays in the herb garden aka the sun trap

Categories: gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, photography, Recipes, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Banana, Buckwheat and Walnut Slices (Yummy, easy and don’t cost the earth!)

Banana, Buckwheat and Walnut Slices

Banana, Buckwheat and Walnut Slices

A nice slice of proper, old fashioned cake here. I love baking these traditional style cakes, you can’t go wrong with them.  Its so quick and easy to get together and it is also very cheap.  I doubt you’ll be able to cobble a cake together for much less.  This recipe is a request from one of our lovely guests at Trigonos, Debbie. It is a Trigonos classic and a variation on Ed’s (long serving chef and all around superhero) recipe that has been served to many thousands of artists, meditators, yoga students etc over the years. One of the best things about it, is its ease in preparation. Never a bad thing when working in a busy kitchen!

I was going to make Jack Monroe’s awesome looking Extra-Wholesome Banana Loaf and will be soon as I am always open to adding coconut oil to cakes.  I think its the closest we vegans can get to butter in baking and certainly adds richness and a fuller texture to your favourite slab of sweet happiness.  The extra-wholesome element in this cake is the buckwheat.  Adding great nutrition and a depth to the flavour of the cake.

PLEASE EAT MORE CAKE:)

Afternoon tea at Trigonos is always a highlight for most of our guests. It seems that this tradition is fast disappearing, maybe Great British Bake Off is reversing the trend a little, but a nice sit down with a cup of tea is a British institution that is dwindling due to our now fast paced lifestyles.  I think eating cake is essential to a balance, healthy, blissed out existence.  A little sweetness brings a smile.  Even if its a piece of fruit or one of the vast array of healthy cakes out there now; no sugar, gluten free etc.  We’re making one today actually, something revolving around polenta, garden blackberries and gram flour.  Watch this space (idea pinched from the brilliant Laura at Whole Ingredient blog!)

THE LUCKIEST CHEF ALIVE!

Trigonos is rocking at the minute with local produce.  I’m the luckiest chef living to be able to cook everyday with glorious organic produce.  Its all thanks to Judy and Owain who work their socks off year round to make the conditions right for these summer gluts.  The team have just podded over 200lb of peas alone, the sun has been out a little recently meaning the tomatoes are finally going red and we’ve a whole poly tunnel of them to munch, roast and/ or jar up.

Lovely to see the Ruby Chard back on the Trigonos Menu

Lovely to see the Ruby Chard back on the Trigonos Menu

As a cook, its a busy time of year, but a wonderfully satisfying one.  Our freezers are beginning to burst at the seams with blanched and fresh veggies, prepared for the more leaner months.  Our guests at the retreat centre really appreciate the fact that a lot of the food they eat was grown on the land, it certainly adds to the dining experience.  You can’t beat the flavour and vibrancy!

The courgettes are just taking off and that’s always interesting, overnight they can turn into something resembling a canoe crossed with a marrow.  They just blow up!  Sometimes these are great stuffed, as a real centre piece.  Basil has also ran wild this year, meaning many pesto/ pistou’s.  An abundance of basil is always a rare gift.  I’ve been loving Toasted Cashew and Sun Dried Tomato Pesto, hopefully I’ll get the recipe on the BHK soon.  Jane and I are also doing a few house renovations and working on plenty of Beach House/ Peace & Parsnips based projects.  More news of those to follow soon.

Overall, I’m consistently amazed at how the Trigo guys eek out such abundant harvests from what is quite a damp and overcast part of the world with fairly dodgy volcanic soil. Its taken 17 years to get it to this stage.  I think that is the main lesson with organic farming/ veg growing.  Patience.

Gorgeous summer peas - post pod

Gorgeous summer peas – post pod

This recipe makes roughly 24 slices. It comes directly from my Trigonos recipe book (a cluster of precious, undecipherable scrap paper) where recipes are normally fit to serve 20-30.  Please feel free to scale it down a little.  I’ve also made this with added tahini and sesame seeds (no walnuts) and it becomes even richer with a nice chewy texture.  You may also like to add seasonal berries to the cake.  Raspberries and blackberries, for example, work beautifully.  As ever, use this recipe as a base and go wild!  Feel ever free to experiment…………  Use any oil you like, of course unrefined is much better, preferably with a neutral flavour.  If you don’t have buckwheat flour, you can use all wholemeal.

IDEAS FOR REPLACING EGGS

The bananas here act as a egg replacer.  Other vegan options for helping to bind things together when baking are apple sauce (cooked apples), silken tofu, mashed sweet potato/ squash, ground flax seeds……there are loads of healthy and effective plant based options.

This one’s for you Debbie!!!!!!!x

Trigonos farm - looking a bit misty yesterday.  We're having a pretty good year with produce, but unfortunately, much less sunshine than last year.

Trigonos farm – looking a bit misty yesterday. We’re having a pretty good year with produce, but much less sunshine than last year.

The Bits – 24 Slices

Do It

11 oz (310g) self raising wholemeal flour

5 oz (140g) buckwheat flour

10 oz (285g) unrefined brown sugar

 

1/2 pint (285ml) sunflower oil

1/2 pint (285ml) soya/ rice milk

4 ripe bananas

3 oz (85g) crushed walnuts

 

Do It

Oil and line a 10 inch x 14 inch (roughly) pan with baking parchment.  Preheat an oven to 375oF (190oC).

Sieve the flour and sugar into a large mixing bowl.   Mash your bananas in a seperate bowl with a fork, until smooth.  Make a well in the flour and sugar, gradually pour in your oil and milk followed by your bananas.  Stir until all is nicely combined (not too much).

Pour into the baking pan and pop in the oven for 40-45 mins.  Until your trusty skewer comes out clean when pressed into the centre of the cake.

Turn out onto a wire rack (removing the baking parchment) and leave to cool for 20 minutes.  Devour at will.

Banana. Buckwheat and Walnut Slices - This recipe makes a load, but don't worry, it freezes well!

Banana. Buckwheat and Walnut Slices – This recipe makes a load, but don’t worry, it freezes well!

Serve

Big cups of tea with your neighbour or granny.   Cats are also nice to have around when eating good cake.

Foodie Fact

Buckwheat is a great, gluten free alternative when used as a flour or grain.  Buckwheat is classed as a whole grain but is actually a fruit and is related to sorrel and rhubarb.  Buckwheat is a good source of magnesium and has other properties that promote good cardiovascular health.   Fibre is so important in a well balanced diet and buckwheat, being a whole wholegrain, is full of it.

I use buckwheat, both flour and grain, loads in Peace & Parsnips, things like Buckwheat Pancakes, Toasted Almond Buckwheat Crumble, Kasha with Rosemary, Apricots and Walnuts…….  It’s such a nutritious and tasty thang.

Categories: Baking, Cakes, Local food, photography, Recipes, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bok Choi, Orange and Sesame Salad

Bok Choi, Orange and Sesame Salad

Bok Choi, Orange and Sesame Salad

When the Welsh sun is out and proud, salads suddenly become highly relevant, essential and a playground for all things fresh and seasonal.  They become a palate for vibrant colours and fresh textures.  This recipe has a real taste of South Asia about it, with the chillies, sesame, ginger, orange and tamari.  Certainly a wake up call for the taste buds!  I love to take gorgeous British produce and jazz them up with some global flavours.

We are getting the first stages of our glorious organic veg bounty from the hardworking local growers and its truly a beautiful time of the year!  Spring has bowed out to full on early summer (with the occasional patch of dramatic storms) and things are starting to leap from the ground in the most wonderful ways.  Even our garden is waking up and every fertile day sees growth.

ORGANIC VEG FARMERS ARE REAL HEROS

Tyddyn Teg is back up and running with a new gang of lovely folk at the helm, they even have a facebook page this year! The farm is looking incredible which means we are going to be a busy one in the BHK, in the best possible way.  Loads of fresh and lovely local produce (you can probably tell we’re a bit excited about this!!!)  The farm is 10 acres and a huge under taking.  These guys are real hero’s, nothing to do with money and profit and all to do with integrity, promoting organic farming practices and ensuring folk around here have healthy affordable food.

John and Pippa have been growing organic veggies near Bethel for many years and have taken a well earned step back, it has taken six young people to replace them!  We’ll be showcasing their beautiful produce throughout the year.

BOK CHOI LOVES WALES!

Succulent Bok Choi is something that thrives in poly tunnels up here and we use a lot of it at Trigonos and in the BHK.  Trigonos have many different varities growing at the minute.  My favourite is the crunchy, peppery, purple Mizuna Leaf (surely a close relative?!) a real surprise package in salads and stir fries.  Does anyone really, truthfully, know the real difference between bok and pak?  It’s a size thing no?  I feel that flavour and texture wise, there is very little between the two.  They sound so exotic and yet thrive here in North Wales, as does our brassica buddy Mr Kohlrabi with his alien tendrils.  Its basically a turnip/ cabbage crossed with an extra terrestrial space craft.  Sometimes called a German Turnip.  We love them grated in slaws, roasted whole or just chopped simply into a salad.

THE WANDERERS RETURN

Jane and I’s wandering summer got off to a flying start in Durham and Newcastle this weekend.  We both made talks at the brilliant Vegan Festival Newcastle which took  place in the lovely, historical Assembly Rooms.  We met loads of inspiring people, vegans and non-vegans alike, and really enjoyed our first speaking engagements.  Afterwards we enjoyed a cool drink high above the River Tyne, perched in the Baltic Art Gallery Restaurant.  Newcastle looked glorious with the setting sun and glittering river, even the roaring gangs of stag-do’s seemed to mellow out as the light became richer.

Delicious vegan salad with avocado on toast - Flat White, Durham

Delicious vegan salad with avocado on toast – Flat White, Durham

On Sunday we whizzed over to beautiful Durham (where my family are all from) and spent a morning at Flat White Cafe with the ace Patrick and his gang of merry baristas.  Its such a buzzy little place, tucked in a nook, packed with style and surely the coolest place to enjoy a coffee in the North East of England.  You get a proper mug of intense Americano!

So its been a weekend of meeting kindred spirits and plenty of celebrating so returning to the little Beach House on the hill seemed like a very peaceful, healthy proposition indeed.  This salad certainly brightened things up, its insanely nutritious and fresh.  We are looking forward to more food and chat-based adventures this summer mixed in with our usual raw food month (probably in September this year).  This salad gave us a flavour of what is to come……(minus the toasty sesames!)

Jane and I in Durham at the weekend.  We had a book signing at Flat White Cafe.

Jane and I in Durham at Flat White is Durham, signing books and sipping sensational coffee.

The Bits – For 2

1 large head of Bok Choi (leaves trimmed from the heart)
1 handful red cabbage (finely diced)
1 courgette (cut into long thin slices or thin ribbons using with a French peeler)
1 orange (cut into segments, without pith preferable)
1/2 small red chilli (thinly sliced)
1 tbs fine capers
1 tbs toasted sesame seeds
2 tbs fresh coriander (finely chopped)

Ginger and Orange Dressing
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs orange juice
2 teas cider vinegar
1/2 teas tamari
1/4 teas finely grated ginger
1/2 teas agave syrup
1/4 teas orange zest

Do It

Peel the pith off your orange with a sharp knife, following the shape of the fruit, to leave very little pith.  Then, holding the orange in one hand, gently cutting each segment out, using a sawing motion, just inside the pith of each segment.  When you are finished, squeeze out the juice from the left over orange piece to make your dressing.

In a nice shallow bowl or large plate, scatter your bok choi and then courgette ribbons/ slices and orange.  Sprinkle over the red cabbage, chillies, capers and finally the coriander and sesame seeds.

Whisk up the dressing in a small bowl and drizzle over the salad.

Serve

This crunchy number makes for a very colourful side dish and just by adding a little chopped firm tofu or a handful of nuts and serving with some bread, a brilliant summery main course.  Adding the tofu and nuts are an obvious protein addition to most plant-based dishes, but there are so many ways of getting good, healthy, plant protein onto our plates:

We have oodles of fresh basil at the minute and feel that a couple of handfuls of basil leaves would be quite sensational (and probably highly excessive in a good way!)

Foodie Fact

Sesame seeds have a higher calcium content than milk!  In fact, they are a great source of so much!  Read more nutritional info here.

Random little fact, Myanmar is the top producer of sesame seeds in the world.

Categories: Healthy Eating, Organic, photography, Raw Food, Recipes, Salads, Summer, Vegan, Wales, Welsh produce | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

A million miles from partial, self-sustainability (but trying!) – Beach House garden pics and update

Enjoying a cuppa at the Pant Du Winery (just down the road).  Yes, Richard is making wine in Wales!  Very nice tipple as well (the cider is especially amazing)

Enjoying a cuppa at the Pant Du Winery (just down the road). Richard and his family are making wine up here in North Wales! Very nice tipple as well, red, white or rose (the cider is especially amazing).

Here we are again, challenged by our beautiful hill side climate. The Beach House Garden is a wild place to be. We’re 400 metres up Tiger Hill, staring out towards Ireland and Angelsey and the weather so far in 2015 has been unrelenting and way too chilled.  The veg patch is not very photogenic at the moment, the plants look a little timid, not sure whether they’ll bother this year.  But, when the sun is out and you’re lying on the grass, watching the apple tree dance; the world seems bountiful and ever generous.  Thank you nature, I’m not complaining.

The back of the garden, where the wild ones live.....growing freely for all the little critters, bees and hedgehogs.

The back of the garden, where the wild ones live…..growing freely for all the little critters, bees and hedgehogs.

Now Buster (our semi-feral part-time cat) seems to have found a better deal, small birds are flocking to our garden. Its wonderful. Goldfinches and all sorts of busy tits.  We even have a robins nest directly opposite our kitchen window in the dry stone wall. We can see the little Mum robins head poking out of the nest when we’re washing up. I have to say, the Dad robin is working a hard shift getting the twigs sorted and gathering fat worms.

Mrs Robin keeping an eye on us.

Mrs Robin keeping an eye on us.

Jane bought me a very cool, Snowdonia Pear Tree for my birthday, so that will be going into the earth very soon. We have a lovely little sunny spot ear-marked for Percival (2.5/10 for originality there!)  I’ve always thought an orchard would be beyond me, but it seems we’re getting a nice little gathering of fruit trees together.  Even the cherry tree has decided to burst into life.

The herb garden is doing well, we have some funky varieties of mint growing, I’ve gamble on some tough ‘bush’ basil and of course, the rosemary, thyme and sage are doing well (they’re toughies).  Mint is such a trooper, we now have ginger mint growing in our grass.  A nice surprise!  I’m in charge of edibles and Jane loves to work with the frillier plants.  The colourful ones that look nice.  Jane’s favourite plant is a ‘Lady Shallot’ Rose, beautifully peach.  It gets favourable marks from me just for having an onion in its name.  Our Acer tree is loving it this year and has doubled in size.  Acers always remind me of Japan.  I love the little red guy for that.

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Our noble red acer

When the sun does get out and we are both at home, we chop wood.  The chainsaw gets cranked up and we fill our garage full of scavenged trunks and branches.  There is something very reassuring having a garage half filled with logs for the fire.  Jane’s brother in law, Paul, will be coming up soon to help us get one of our years biggest projects finished.  A new woodstore.  Knowing Paul, it will be a work of art!

Choppin'  logs

Chopin’ logs – Feeling warmer already

I think one of the highlights of our garden is the succulents. They are an interesting plant, like a cactus meets a rose, normally on a stony wall. I planted a little succulent and couple of years ago, wedged it between a few stones with some soil and it now looks like a perfect, crimson, lotus flower.

The Lotus Succulent

The Crimson Lotus Succulent

Our apple and plum trees went wild with blossom, which is now blown all over the garden. Hopefully the bees did there work and we’ll have some fruit again this autumn. This year is, so far, nothing like last, which was a bumper year for fruit and berries. Come on plums!

Plum blossom going strong.  Last year we had a festival of plums.  This year will be more like a quiet get-together.

Plum blossom going strong. Last year we had a festival of plums. This year will be more like a quiet get-together.

We are growing our own lettuce this year and have trays of seedlings all over the place, we’re also going for plenty of rocket. Our veg patch is sporting tiny shoots of cauliflower, cavolo nero, beetroot, fennel, potato, chard and savoy cabbage. We’re realising that the veggies we grow up here on Tiger Hill need to be the equivalent of a very enthusiastic SAS commando to even stand a chance. If Bear Grylls was a carrot, he wouldn’t last long in our veg patch!  Anything like a creeping bean will soon be blown over to the curious sheep (or horses) next door and turned into a tasty bite.

Orange, gold and black, at sunset, Tiger Hill lives up to its name.

Orange, gold and black, at sunset, Tiger Hill lives up to its name.  Overlooking Nantlle Valley.

One of the advantages of the plants being small, is that the slugs seem to have followed suit. They’re tiny little guys, still doing a slugs-worth of damage, but in smaller nibbles than usual. I have built up some of the edges of the veg patches, but have generally given up on slug traps/ assault courses. I think the best way is patience and surrendering a decent portion of each crop to the greedy little critters.

Eeking out a few veggies is more than a hobby though, it helps to keep me connected to the seasons and what’s going to be good on the BHK menu and the menu at Trigonos. When the weather is beautiful I feel great for the garden, when the storms set in, I just hope they survive another day!

Pond ferns

Pond ferns

The pond is doing brilliantly.  We rarely touch it, which seems to do the trick.  Everytime you walk past you can hear small amphibians throwing themselves into the safety of the overgrown water feature.  We have many newts living there, and frogs.  We have also noticed baby red dragonflies.  I think this all points towards a nice clean pond.  Again, since Buster left us (we miss you little man) the frogs especially are thriving.

At this time of year sorrel is really doing its thing.  We’ve tried growing it in beds, but our sorrel prefers to grow through the slates in the front garden.  It seems very happy there and is thriving.  Its one of my favourite leaves, full of bitter apple twang, I’m happy to see its found a home.

Sorrel is a star

Sorrel is a star

It looks like the garden this year will be more play than productivity, I can see the fire pit being cranked up later in the summer.  Apparently, September is going to be a stunner.  Only another three months to wait then!

So after four years of Beach House gardening adventures, we’re still roughly a million miles away from our wonderful goal of partial self-sustainability. But I know we are on the right track!  If all else fails, maybe we can dive into the world of poly-tunnels.  We’ll keep experimenting until we figure something’s out, we learn a little more each year and for that alone, the Beach House garden is ever valuable and fertile.

Some blue skies......

Some blue skies……

Categories: Healthy Living, photography, Summer, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Baingan Bharta (Minced Aubergine Curry)

Baingan Bharta (Minced Aubergine Curry)

Baingan Bharta (Minced Aubergine Curry)

This curry is perfect for a Saturday curry festival.  I love BB, its surely one of my favourite Indian dishes and is always a delight.  This is one of those recipes that I will surely be cooking for the rest of my days.  When we look at Indian recipes, they can look a bit long, but most of the ingredients are spices and when you break it down, this is a very straightforward recipe and packed with gorgeous smoky flavours.

Baingan Bharta is eaten all over India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.  Its like an Indian version of Babaganoush (or is Babaganoush a Mediterranean version of BB?).  There are many variations, they use plenty of mustard oil in West Bengal of course and it is eaten in many parts of the sub-continent at weddings.  Brinjals (Aubergine) in India normally come in quite a small size, but its alot easier and convenient in Europe to use the larger varieties of aubs for this dish, more delightful aubergine flesh and less skin to deal with.  You can imagine that traditionally, a warm flatbread is the best accompaniment to this dish.

IS IT A DIP?

Some would call BB a dip, but I cannot get to grips with the word dip.  Especially for something so majestically tasty as BB or Babaganoush.  I always think of a supermarket bought ’90’s style dip medley’ (those four shades of dodgy dips that come in plastic trays) and these dishes are light years away from that kind of fare.  BB has serious heritage and is a feast in puree form.

Because aubergine breaks down so much when cooked, this seems like one (only one I may add) of the finest ways of treating an aubergine.  In Turkey they do amazing things to aubergines and its known as the ‘Sultan’ of vegetables.  In Wales we’ll call it the ‘Tribe Leader’ of vegetables!  I made a version of Babaganoush a couple of days ago and will post it somewhere soon.  You can never have too much aubergine on one blog!  Impossible!!

COOKING TIPS

I like to caramelise the aubergine in the pan, making it stick to the bottom a little.  A crust will form, this is fine and adds to the richness and depth to the sauce.  Just make sure that it doesn’t burn too much!  As with so many recipes, the pan scrapings are the best bits for making sauces/ gravy, basically concentrated flavours.

Traditionally Baingan Bharta is made a little like Babaganoush in that the aubergines are cooked over open flames.  Unfortunately, in the Beach House Kitchen we have an electric hob.  No open flames, so this technique is a decent option and more straightforward.  It also means that you get the benefits of all the goodness found in aubergine skins.

If you are getting a BBQ going this summer, I cannot recommend smoking a load of aubergines highly enough.  The flavour is wonderful and you can always freeze any excess aubs.  This gives you the base ingredient to make either of these delicious vegan dishes.  I mentioned on twitter recently that there is nothing as decadent as a well roasted aubergine and a few of you commented that you can probably think of a few things slightly more decadent.  This is probably true!  But aubergines to me are a sensational veg, especially for a vegan.  They have so many qualities, a wonderful vegetal creaminess and when mixed with something rich like olive oil or tahini, for example, I’ve got one foot in Nirvana.

G.M. CROPS IN INDIA

Genetically Modified (G.M.) crops are becoming a huge problem in India as large multi-national agriculture businesses, with a myriad affiliates and branches, try to introduce GM crops to India.  There are many people fighting against this unnatural invasion, one of the main spokesperson in Vandana Shiva.  In 2011 to protest against the introduction of GM Brinjal (Aubergine) into India, the Meridien Hotel and Greenpeace volunteers in Delhi cooked a world record 342 kilograms of organic aubergine and presented a portion of the dish to the president at the time, Manmohan Singh.  A very tasty protest!

A RADIANT DAY ON THE HILL

Its a lovely day up here on Tiger Hill and Jane is facilitating a Feminine Workshop, so I am home alone.  Jane has been working really hard on her new website this week, Womans Wheel.  It looks beautiful!  I’m off for a walk up ‘Myndd Mawr‘ (Big Mountain, also called Elephant mountain because it looks like a massive sleeping Elephant or ‘Yr Eliffat’) and will then plant Percy, our new Snowdon Pear Tree in the garden.  We’ve picked a nice sunny spot for him.  I’m also making tofu today and am seeking a nice firm tofu texture.  I’m going for a different salt to coagulate the beans and hopefully this will help.  Homemade tofu is really easy and cost effective, I’ll post the recipe soon.  Anyone got any top tips for homemade tofu?

Jane at the base of Snowdon with Mynydd Mawr in the background

Jane at the base of Snowdon with Mynydd Mawr in the background

JO POTT SUPPER CLUB

We had a delicious meal at Jo Pott’s last night.  Each month Jo puts on a fantastic five course menu, served in a very cosy and stylish attic space above her cafe in the Kiffin area of Bangor.  Last night, the theme was South Asia and we enjoyed all kinds of traditional delicacies with a twist.  I loved the Aduki, rice and ginger balls and I think Jane was quite taken with the Watermelon and Vodka crush (which I ate half of because Jane was driving).  The Lentil Cakes in Citrus Broth was also really interesting.  Jo’s food is always creative and looks beautiful.  Jo does this every month and the fact that Jane and I could sit down to a 5 course vegan meal in a beautiful space was a real treat.  Nice one Jo!

 

The Bits  – For 2

2 large aubergines (cut into chunky batons)

3 medium tomatoes (roughly diced)

4 cloves garlic

3 cm ginger (finely chopped)

1 medium onion (finely sliced)

Spices

1 teas mustard seeds

2 teas ground cumin seeds (1 teas ground)

3 teas coriander seeds (1 ½ teas ground)

1 teas turmeric

1 teas sweet paprika

1 chilli (finely diced or 1/3 teas chilli powder)

1/2 teas asafoetida

 

1 -2 teas sea salt

3 tbs oil

125ml water

 

Garnish

Fresh coriander (or sprouted lentils as we used)

 

Do It

On a medium heat, add your coriander seeds to a pan, toast for two minutes and then add your cumin seeds and toast for one more minute, until fragrant and slightly brown.  Bash up well in pestle and mortar.  Use ground spices if you’re in a hurry.

In the same pan, add 2 tbs of cooking oil on a medium high heat and fry the aubergines.  Stir/ toss them regularly and add 1 teas salt.  Cook for 12-15 minutes, until nicely soft and well caramelised.  They will stick to the bottom a bit, but this is perfect.  That crust equals deep flavour.  Set the aubs aside and cover with a plate.

Now put the pan back on the heat and add your tomatoes to the remaining oil on a high heat, stir them well and try to scrape up the aubergine crust to combine with the tomatoes. Fry for around 5 minutes.  Set aside and cover.

Wipe out the pan and add 1 tbs of oil and on a medium heat, fry your mustard seeds for 30 seconds, they will pop a little, then add your onions and lower heat slightly.  Cook the onions until they are becoming golden, 8 minutes, then add your garlic, chilli and ginger, cook for three minutes, then your spices hit the pan, stir them well, not allowing the spices to stick to the bottom, add 1 tbs of water if this happens.  Saute for two minutes and then add your tomatoes, aubergine and 125 ml water and cover cook on a fast simmer for 5 minutes.  Add salt to taste.

Baingan Bharta

Baingan Bharta

Serve

We love it with fresh, homemade super simple chapattis (recipe here).  They are really easy once you get into a flow.  We also love Baingan Bharta with pulao and pickles, or with daal, why not go the whole shebang and get a Indian feast together, Beetroot Raita and all.  It is Saturday night almost after all!

One of our new neighbours - Trev

One of our new neighbours – Not sure what to call him yet?  Trev?!  

Foodie Fact

Aubergine is just one of those veggies that has it all, good lucks, charisma, tastiness, and dashing nutritional properties.  I love all veggies and when I learn about their nutritional benefits to body and mind, I get even more excited.

Aubergine has loads of dietary fibre, which is amazing for the digestive system and is one of the most important factors in detoxifying our body.  Vitamins are important, fibre equally so.

Aub is a nightshade, like tomatoes, peppers and potatoes.  Called ‘eggplant’ in many parts of the world, I think the coolest type of aubergine is surely the ‘graffiti’ aubergine, with its purple, speckled skin.

Aubergine is a good source of B1 and B6, potassium, copper and magnesium.

Categories: Curries, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, photography, Recipes, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lee’s BBC Radio interviews with Steve Wright and Eleri Sion

I thought I’d pop these on #thebeachhousekitchen as I had such a laugh doing them, it was the first time I’d ever set foot into a radio studio and spoke to a nation!  Quite a day out.  All the people I met were lovely and made me feel very relaxed.  I’ve never had a problem talking (loads) about anything!  Especially veganism, something I’m so passionate about.  They could hardly shut me up!

I ended up chatting about all things vegan, fav foods, chia seeds, healthy eating, nutrition, vegetarian week and ‘Peace and Parsnips’.  I started the day with BBC Radio Wales and Eleri was a real star.  We kicked off with a little ABBA ‘Knowing me, knowing you’ and halfway through the interview we went for ‘Whhhaakkaaan Be Your Hero Baby’ by Enrique Inglesias.  The banter could hardly live up to the tunes, but we tried.  Eleri is the daughter of a cattle farmer and I had little chance of converting her to vegan ways (not that I expected to!) but we had a real laugh and some of Eleri’s questions were quite a surprise.  My favourite of the day was;

‘So Lee, tell us, where is the peace in ‘Peace and Parsnips’?’

I wasn’t prepared for something so deep!  I thought we’d just talk a bit of tofu.

Steve and Janie Lee Grace were very nice and welcoming, the interview was high energy with loads of chat and questions flying around the place. I challenged Steve to a ‘Roast Squash Gnocchi’ (a recipe from the book) which he didn’t fancy much, but I got the impression that they were both open to the idea of vegan food and more veggies in our diets.   I was sandwiched between the guys from ‘Made in Chelsea’ and Gilbert O’Sullivan.  A mixed bag!  I also got my picture taken outside of the BBC building by the paparazzi and touched Elton Johns piano.  Quite surreal times.

Todays cook off - Loads of new tasty recipes for the Beach House Kitchen.

Todays cook off – Loads of new tasty recipes for the Beach House Kitchen.

Click HERE for the Steve Wright interview.

Listen to me chatting with Eleri Sion HERE about vegan wind issues, the joy of plants and PEACE.  I start about 2:05 minutes.

Sunbathing today on Dinas Dinlle, many miles away from a Radio interview!

Sunbathing today on Dinas Dinlle, many miles away from a Radio interview!     PS – This is how we sunbathe up here, wearing jeans and hiking boots.

If you’re not in the U.K. I don’t think you can access these.  Sorry about that.  If you’d like to hear them, Jane’s recorded them on her ZOOM.  We can maybe transfer them across somehow.

PEACE AND PARSNIPS ROCKS THE TOP 20

Peace and Parsnips has been selling really well and even stormed the Amazon top 20 bestsellers recently.  It is still the number 1 selling Salad cookbook on Amazon and we have plenty more promotional behaviour planned for the summer.  Jane and I are organising some supper club style nights in local cafes and restaurants, I’ll be doing book signings and cooking demos around the country and we may even run a vegan cooking course (with yoga and hiking) this winter.  We’ll let you know. Add all that to tending to our veg patch and cooking up a storm in the BHK and 2015 is looking like a busy one!

WIN!

If you’d like to win a copy of Peace and Parsnips, have a look here.  Plenty of sparkling veggie books being given away by the great folk over at The Happy Foodie.

Categories: Healthy Eating, Peace and Parsnips, photography, Press, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Roast Squash and Pepper Soup with Baharat

 

Roast Squash and Pepper Soup with Bharat

Roast Squash and Pepper Soup with Bharat – bowls of sun in The Beach House Kitchen

I’m conscious that on a day like today, Monday, time is more precious than at other times of the week.  I am very much, in the same boat.  I made tonight’s soup as easy as possible, but did not want to compromise on deliciousness!  The roasting part here adds unmistakeable sweetness and the bharat brings a spicy edge to the soup.

You may ask the obvious question, “but Lee, you are in a hurry and yet you take pictures of your food and write a blog piece?!”  It does seem like a strange way to behave, I admit this, but such is the ways of the food blogger.  We are those people in the restaurants who unabashedly whip out their camera when presented with a particularly nice slice of cake while the rest of the table pretend they aren’t with you.  Its a passion/ affliction.  Once you blog, you can’t stop……

We are in the middle of some very stormy and chilly days up here in the Beach House and soups seems like a very good idea.  I love the bright colour of this soup, with added radiance from the turmeric.  Its sunshine in a bowl and is a real lift when the sun is hiding behind the clouds.

rsz_p1250242

We’ve been celebrating a little after the release of ‘Peace & Parsnips’.  Jane and I took a trip down to Criccieth, a local beach and went down to Black Rock Sands for a proper bag of chips.  There is an amazing chippy in Porthmadog that we frequent on rare occasions.  Chips = celebration!  We sat on the flat sands, a rare place where you can actually drive cars around on a beach without the imminent danger of sinking like a stone.  Black Rock Sands reminds me of beaches in Australia, or what I imagine the tip of South Africa to look like. You can look out over maybe a kilometre of flat sand before you see the sea.  A truly beautiful place to scoff chips!

Us.  Catching some well earned rays...

Us. Catching some well earned rays on Criccieth beach

BAHARAT

Is basically a spice mix from the Middle East, as well as Turkey and Iran.  Although the ingredients may vary, some usual suspects are: black pepper, cardamom seeds, cassia cark, nutmeg, chillies, cumin seeds, coriander seeds.  The baharat we use is very much a Middle Eastern style, in Turkey they add a lot of mint and in Tunisia they make a mix with rose petals, cinnamon and black pepper.  There are an almost infinite number of combinations of spice mixes, but most of the baharat sold in large shops in the UK is similar.   More a warming spice mix than a turmeric or chilli driven one.

If you don’t have any Baharat around the kitchen, use the same amount of Rae El Hanout or Garam Masala.  They will add a similar spice kick to the background of the sweet peppers and squash.

This soup is as easy as roasting a tray of very roughly chopped vegetables and blending.

The Bits – For 4 small bowls

1 medium butternut squash – 1kg (cut into 1/4 lengthways)

1 head garlic (skins on)

2 yellow peppers (deseeded)

1 large onion (sliced)

3 teas bharat

2 teas turmeric

2-3 teas salt

Olive oil (for roasting and frying)

 

Do It

Preheat oven to 190oC.

Grab a large baking tray and rub a little oil over the squash and peppers.  Pop them in the oven for 20 minutes.  Rub a little oil into the garlic cloves and take the tray out of the oven and scatter the garlic cloves onto the tray.  Pop back into the oven and roast for another 15 minutes.  Take the garlic and pepper out, check to see if the squash is nice and soft, if not, put back in for another 10 minutes.  Set the garlic and pepper aside to cool, do the same with the squash once it is lovely and softened.

In a large sauce pan, add 1 tbs olive oil and fry the onion on a medium heat for 6 minutes, until translucent and soft.  While the onions are on, peel the skin off your peppers, garlic and squash.  Chop them all roughly.  Add the spices to your soft onions and stir for a minute, then add the squash etc.  Pour over 1 ltr of hot water and check seasoning (add salt as needed).  Leave it to simmer for 5 minutes before blending the soup with a stick blender or using a food processor (leave the soup to cool a little beforehand for this).

Roasted Squash and Pepper Soup with Baharat

Roasted Squash and Pepper Soup with Baharat

Serve

A nice idea, for added richness is to stir some tahini into the soup.  Tahini is also packed with goodness, so nutritionally the soup becomes a real shiner.  If you are going all out tonight (it is a Monday after all!!!) chop up some coriander leaves and finish with little sprinkle of baharat.

Foodie Fact

Butternut squash is one of the healthiest veggies you can eat.  It is much lower in calories than potato and leaves you feeling nice and full after eating it.  Calories are of course only one part of the dietary picture, counting calories is definitely not our thing (big bags of chips and all!)  You can tell by the colour that its loaded with some good carotenes, which are ace anti-oxidants.  Squash is also good for vitamin C and is high in dietary fibre.

Our car off in the distance, Black Rock Sands, North Wales

Our car off in the distance at Black Rock Sands, North Wales

And who can forget......CHIPS!

And who can forget……the glorious CHIPS!

Categories: gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, photography, Recipes, Soups, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

PEACE & PARSNIPS – Published TODAY! Plus my top 11 recipes from the book

It’s a bit like Christmas morning in the Beach House today……..Peace & Parsnips goes on sale across the world.  There are people selling it in Germany, France, Spain, Czech Republic (we think), Japan, Korea, Russia….all over…..Its very cool indeed!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Peace & Parsnips is finally out in the shops. It seems like an age since I first sat down to begin writing it and dream up the recipes and how best to showcase vegan food. “How can I make vegan recipes appeal to everyone?”  Make them outrageously tasty I think is the answer!

The process has been long and fascinating and I must thank all at Penguin Books UK for their amazing support and enthusiasm.  Peace & Parsnips was written in India, Spain, Turkey, Italy, Wales and various family and friends houses in England. It has been a wonderful experience getting this cookbook together and seeing it morph and change, finally creating a gorgeous vegan tome.  I still can’t believe it happened!!!!  The shoots in London and Wales especially were a real laugh and the photography in the book is just stunning.

Peace & Parsnips have been a labour of love for sure.  It really is ‘vegan cooking for everyone’ and I have packed as many tantalising recipes into the 350 pages as possible.  No filler, all foodie heaven.  There are many recipes I love, so many great memories of friends and family are linked to them.  Food is so important to Jane and I, we believe it links us all and goes a long way to representing who we are.

PEACE & PARSNIPS Sausage sandwich

Chestnut, Millet and Sage Sausage Sarnie with Homemade Ketchup

 

If I had to do a top 11 recipes that I’d make right now for lunch.  It would be (drum rollllllllllllllll  pllleeaassseee):

–  Portobello Pecan Burger with Roast Pumpkin Wedges

–  Blueberry and Macadamia Cheesecake

–  Shiiitake Tempura with Wasabi Mayo

–  Seitan and Sweet Potato Kebabs with Mango Barbecue Sauce

–  Oven Baked Squash Gnocchi with Spinach Pesto

–  Smoked Chocolate and Beetroot Beans with Baked Chilli Polenta

–  Pakistani Beetroot and Pumpkin Bhuna with Banana and Lime Raita

–  Puy Lentil and Walnut Burger with Parsnip Clotted Cream

–  Chargrilled Chorizo Pinchos with Pistachio and Coriander Pesto

–  Okra, Corn and Black Eyed Bean Succotash with Chilli Cornbread Crust

–  Spiced Apple and Date Pie

 

Peace and parsnips recipe slider, by Healthista.com

Portobello and Pecan Burger, Raw Blueberry and Macadamia Cheesecake – a few shots from Peace & Pasrnips

 

In the book, Jane and I share with the world what it is to live up here in the Beach House and cook in our lovely kitchen.  The book revolves around our little cottage and the beautiful landscape around.  There is, of course, some shots of us on the beach and me trying to catch some little waves on our surfboard.  Unsuccessfully!  We also take in local waterfalls, lakes, valleys, mountains and of course, our local glorious veg and fruit farms.  Wales sparkles and shines in the book.

Burgers, curries, many sweet treats, bakes, salads, sauces and dips, tapas style little plates, mammoth style big plates, hot drinks and smoothies, its all here in P & P.  All superbly healthy and naturally vibrant.  I hope you love it as much as I loved writing it!!!

I’m off for some Champagne on toast!

BUY PEACE & PARSNIPS (Available globally)

Thanks to PETA UK and Hodmedod’s for supporting the launch today.

Categories: Healthy Eating, Peace and Parsnips, photography, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , | 29 Comments

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