Posts Tagged With: food

Visiting Tofu Village – Yogyakarta, Indonesia

The load, hot and crispy end of the kitchen

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

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

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

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

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

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

Firstly - Cook the ground beans and add coagulant

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

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

Put into moulds, then leave to dry on racks

Put into moulds, then leave to dry on racks

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

Chop it up (Jane slightly assisting)

Chop it up (Jane slightly assisting)

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

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

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

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

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

All wood fired in these parts

All wood fired in these parts

Categories: healthy, photography, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Lazy Lizard Lunch – Bangkok

In the lazy lizard hut

In the lazy lizard hut

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Markets - one of my favourite places to wander

Markets – one of my favourite places to wander

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mama takes a closer look

Mama takes a closer look

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

More Thai vegan adventures to follow….

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

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

Roasted Cauliflower Hearts with Hazelnuts and Creamy Asparagus Sauce

Roasted Cauliflower Hearts with Hazelnuts and Creamy Asparagus Sauce

Roasted Cauliflower Hearts with Hazelnuts and Creamy Asparagus Sauce

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

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

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

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

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

A plate fit to grace a party

A plate fit to grace a party

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do It
Preheat an oven to 225oC.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!!!!!

Enjoy!!!!!

Categories: Dinner, gluten-free, healthy, photography, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Peace and Parsnips comes out soon in the USA:)

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

Not long now!!:)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Loving the US edition;)

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

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

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

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

Kickin’ Kale and Cacao Smoothie with Blueberries

Kickin' Kale and Cacao Smoothie

Kickin’ Kale and Cacao Smoothie

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

CACAOTHE BIG DEAL!

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

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

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

2016-04-23 12.07.07

Now this is what I’m talking about:)

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

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

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

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

Recipe Notes

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

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

Topping
Cacao Nibs (optional)

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

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

Do It

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

Mugs are good!

Mugs are good!

Serve

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

Foodie Fact

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roasties!!!!!!!!

Roasties!!!!!!!!

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

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

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

THATS LUNCH!

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

FUTURE SALADS

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

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

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

Recipe Notes

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

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

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

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

Farro and Cannellini Salad

Farro and Cannellini Salad – packed with crunch and vitality

The Bits – For 4-6

Frittata

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

2 small onions

2 tbsp olive oil

¾ teas cumin seeds

½ teas turmeric

150g gram flour

225ml water

1/3 teas salt

Large pinch pepper
Garnish 

½ handful Fresh Coriander or Parsley (finely chopped)

½ handful Crushed Walnuts (optional)

 

Farro and Cannellini Bean Salad

100g faro (I use quick cook type)

1 small kohlrabi (finely diced)

3 handfuls leek (finely sliced)

½ yellow pepper (finely diced)

1 handful toasted pumpkin seeds

1 handful pitted green olives (sliced)

½ lemon (juice)

200g cannellini beans

4 radishes (sliced into thin batons)

1 handful parsley chopped

Couple of pinches of salt and pepper

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

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

Do It

Frittata

Preheat an oven to 200oc.

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

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

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

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

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

Can be served warm or cold.

Salad

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

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

Vegan frittata - ideal and super nutritious Spring lunch

Vegan frittata – ideal and super nutritious Spring lunch

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

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

Foodie Fact

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seeded spelt bread & simple tips to make awesome loaves

Seeded Spelt Loaf

Seeded Spelt Loaf

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breakfast loaves at Trigonos, almost ready for the oven

Breakfast loaves at Trigonos, almost ready for the oven

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

My favourite picture of Holger - observing the 2015 solar eclipse

My favourite picture of Holger – observing the 2015 solar eclipse

WHAT IS SPELT?

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

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

SIMPLE TIPS FOR AWESOME LOAVES

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

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

Recipe Notes

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

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

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

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

Add white flour instead of spelt for a lighter loaf.

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

 

Seeded Spelt Bread

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

500g spelt flour

1 teas yeast

1 1/3 teas salt

1 tbs malted rice extract (or sweetener of choice)

2 tbs rapeseed oil (plus extra for brushing)

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

350ml warm water

 

Do It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The loaf ready for its final 35 minute prove

The loaf ready for its final 35 minute prove

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

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

(The tray steaming step is not essential).

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

Lovely light spelt loaf with a good thick crust

Lovely light spelt loaf with a good thick crust

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

Serve

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

Foodie Fact

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

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

Baked Mushrooms with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto and Walnuts

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Baked Mushrooms with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto and Walnuts

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

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

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

UMAMI!

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

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

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

BEST JOB IN THE WORLD!

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

Now.  Lets make something delicious.

Recipe Notes

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

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

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

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A typical Trigonos lunch plate, plenty of colours!

The Bits – For 4

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

Pesto

2 big handfuls sun dried tomatoes (roughly chopped)

2 big handfuls basil leaves

1/2 lemon (zest)

3 large cloves garlic (peeled and crushed)

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

50ml+ olive oil

2 tbs nutritional yeast flakes

Sea Salt (to taste)

OR

10-12 tbs green pesto (of your choice)

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

 

2 handfuls walnuts (roughly chopped)

 

Topping

Fresh green herbs – parsley, thyme, basil

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Fresh out of the oven

Do It

Preheat an oven 180oc.

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

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

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

Sprinkle over some herbs and serve soon after.

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

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

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

vegan

Plant power!

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE IRON RICH ‘HIT-LIST’

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

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

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

TIPS TO GET IRON INTO YOUR DIET

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

CALORIE COUNTING

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

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

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

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

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

Vegan sources of iron

Vegan sources of iron – Image by Vegans of Instagram 

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

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

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

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

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

Cucumber Rolls with Harissa Cream by Katharina

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

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

 

Big Plate Winner! Greek Butter Bean Pie by Laura

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

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

Winner! Sweet Treat – Coconut Scones by Janice

Sweet Treat – Coconut Scones

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

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

Ingredients

8oz/225g self raising flour, preferably organic

2 level teaspoons baking powder

1 ½ oz/40g caster sugar

4 oz /110g soya or sunflower spread

2 oz/55g desiccated coconut

3 or 4 tablespoons plant based milk

Method

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Baked Apples -

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

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

Amy cooked up a wonderful three course feast!

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

 

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

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

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

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

Weird and Wonderful Food – 22 of the worlds bizarrest sounding foods

January is a time of year when food can lose some of its joy and fun.  After the excess and celebrations of the festive times, this is only natural.  Especially as many of us are trying out new diets, weight loss plans, attempts at detox…..in fact there are so many methods of feeling great but today in the BHK, laughter in the best medicine.  Food is fun (sometimes bordering on hilarious)!

Jane and I have had a proper chuckle writing this post.  The sheer, bare-faced absurdity of some food names.  All the weird, wonderful and just plain strange titles for things we love to munch on.  Its amazing that we manage to talk about some foods with a straight face over the dinner table.  “Darling, could you pass me a handful of kumquats.” Many foods sound like something you don’t want anywhere near your mouth!

We have brilliant sounding food names ranging from a kind of appetitsing primordial ooze to things that sound like growths or alien life forms.  You know where this is heading, so no further introduction needed……

Here are today’s top 22 food weirdos (in no particular order):

1) Schoog – sci-fi sounding sauce from the Middle East.  An alien race from a distant galaxy.  Delicious.

2) Botrytis – mould that grows on wine grapes (and hopefully nowhere else), essential for sensational dessert wine.

3) Burgoo – stew from Kentucky.  ‘Goo’ never a good thing especially when eating.

4) Pumpernickel – not strange as such just a bit amusing

5) Larb – sounds anatomical for some reason?!  A sensational ranges of mashes or purees from Laos.

6) Rutabaga – the American name for Swede.  Sounds like an old truck.

7) Succotash – another stew from the southern U.S.  Comical or offensive.

8) Forcemeat – Thankfully vegans don’t have this problem.

9) Devils Dung – Nickname for Asafoetida or Hing and a reasonably accurate description.

10) Laver Bread – the famous Welsh delicacy made from seaweed. Normally eaten at breakfast. Laver is the same seaweed as ‘Nori’ in Japan.

11) Mucilage – the slime around some foods.  Surprisingly, this can be a good thing.

12) Wine bottle sizes – they have epic biblical names like Magnum (2), Jeroboam (4), Rehoboam (6) Methusulah (8), Salmanazar (12), Balthazar (16), Nebuchadnezzar (20), Melchior (24).

13 – Nooch – Nickname for the vegan staple, Nutritional Yeast Flakes. Lets face it, it needed some work.

14) Studding – a verb used when poking things into food.  “I just studded…….”

15) Spatchcock/ Speck/ Offal/ Giblets – If anything is going to help you give up meat, its words like this.

16) Kumquat – funny little orange things.

17) Bratwurst – little embellishment needed.  A naughty German sausage.

18) Egg Plant – Confused(ing).

19) Gigglebeans/ Garbanzo – plain old chickpeas in the UK (which is also quite a good one)

20) Wheat Germ Muffin – Germs just don’t sound right in a baked good.

21) Umami – UMAMI! Just makes me happy to say it.  I think of a Japanese Manga Cartoon Robot.

22) Turkey – What we call a Turkey (the bird) in Turkey they call an ‘India’.

Worthy mentions – Semolina (I don’t know why?!), Guava (a great mouth exercise), Bangers, Passion Fruit (<3) Sprats/ Winckles (….?..), Cock-a-leekie (……!…), Nougat (there is no right way of saying this), Mung Beans,  Lady fingers, Gumbo, Gherkins….Johnny cakes……Arugula….Lumpia…..Scallions (pirates)…..Flan (the most grey sounding food)…….that’s it, I’m exhausted.

This hilarity cannot continue, although if you have any food related words that make you giggle or sound like a character from the ‘Twilight Zone’ please send them over.  We love oddballs!

Categories: Dairy/ Lactose Free, Healthy Living | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Win a Cookbook! Celebrating four years of the B.H.K

Jane and I on the beach today, enjoying the a little bit of sun (too rare).

THANK YOUXXXxxxxx (From usX)

Four years. Woah! Where did that go!!! We’ve shared recipes from our little hillside kitchen in Wales and all the way from India, Turkey, Italy, Cuba, France, Panama, Spain…..It’s been a rollercoaster ride of deliciousness.

We are super excited to announce a competition to help us celebrate our fourth BHK birthday party with you on the 31st January ’16. Basically, we want to send out a big tasty virtual hug to you all and THANK YOU (thankyouthankyou….x loads) for everything!  There are copies of Peace & Parsnips to win and it’s oh so easy to enter (see below).

YOU’RE THE BEST!

We simply couldn’t (and wouldn’t) do it without you all. Reading your comments and support makes sharing what we are passionate about so very sweet! The hours that we spend happily testing recipes, typing them up and photographing them are very well spent.  Its wonderful to be part of a group of passionate and kind food lovers; whether you’re in Saudi Arabia or Southampton, Japan or Jerusalem……we share the same common joy of cooking and of course, eating!

It seems like an age since we came up with the idea for the Beach House Kitchen over a cup of tea. Its been such a big part of our lives now, 384 posts and still going strong…..I had just returned from India and was ‘between’ jobs and felt like sharing recipes and meeting wonderful new like-minded people. Jane felt the same and it was as simple as that.  The blog has led us straight into so many incredible projects; like a TV series and a cookbook! Who knew!!  What a wild ride it has been!!!

The Beach House Kitchen has always been approached as a hobby. We both love writing and cooking, but are by no means food photographers or computer genius folk. From our first hasty snaps of dishes in our little kitchen, we have tried to become more creative in our presentation and how we choose to share the food that we eat. We have learnt and developed so much through the blog.

The Beach House Kitchen remains true to its roots, we post what we eat and we eat what we post!  Its what we’ve just had for dinner, piping hot out of the oven and made with what’s local, seasonal and most importantly, in the cupboards.  We don’t plan much (ever) and share what we love; hearty, home-cooked, happiness!

THE WAY WE EAT CAN CHANGE THE WORLD

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

We’re giving away Peace & Parsnips

THE COMPETITION – HOW TO ENTER AND WIN!
As a way of saying thank you to all of you for the support over the years, even if you’re just tuning in, we thought we’d give away three copies of our latest cookbook ‘Peace & Parsnips’. If you are regulars to the blog, you’ll be very familiar with it by now!

The idea is gorgeous food, made with plants. Vibrant, sensational, vegan wonder foods! That’s it! Share your beautiful creations with us, be it savoury or sweet and we’ll pick our favourites.

The three categories are little plate, big plate and sweet treat with a copy of the book to be won for each course. We’re celebrating with a three course feast!  You can enter one recipe, or a recipe for each course.

Recipes have to be your own, something you love to cook and can have appeared on blogs or other publications before.  Recipes should be accompanied by a nice picture and a little note as to why you think we’ll like it would also be appreciated.

We’ll then post the winning recipes on the blog on 31st January ’16.

Email recipes to: thebeachhousekitchenwales@gmail.com

Please share the competition and love with your friends and like-minded happy foodies.  The more the merrier!

*The competition is only open to UK residents as ‘Peace & Parsnips’ is quite a chunky book and doesn’t travel so well. So it’s postage in the UK only.*

The Snowdon Horse Shoe

Hugs and happiness from Snowdonia;) X

 www.theprizefinder.com – See more at: http://www.theprizefinder.com/content/cookbook#sthash.ZxWkIm31.dpuf

Categories: Healthy Eating, Peace and Parsnips, photography, Recipes, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Lazy Lahmacun (Turkish Flatbread Wrap)

Lazy Lahmacun - One of our Turkish favourites.

Lazy Lahmacun – One of our Turkish favourites.

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

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

Sunset in the intriguing landscape of Cappadocia

Sunset in the intriguing landscape of Cappadocia

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

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

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

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

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

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

Afiyet olsun! (Enjoy!)

Lazy Lahmacun (Turkish Flatbread Wrap)

The Bits – Makes 4

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

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6

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

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

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

Serve

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

Heading for the Med, near Antalya

Heading for the Med, near Antalya

Foodie Fact

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

The enchanting Blue Mosque, Istanbul

The enchanting Blue Mosque, Istanbul

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

‘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

Oven Baked Squash Gnocchi with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Fennel & Spinach Pesto

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

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

Veganz! Omnivores! Traffic Wardens! Rock Stars! Mamas! Papas! Botanists! Kayakers!……..You’re all going to like this one.

January is here and most of us feel quite droopy.  Over fed and watered, back to work but filled with good intentions for the new year.  Over 15,000 people world wide are trying out a vegan lifestyle in January thanks to the awesome Veganuary (see below).  This year we’re all going to be healthy superheroes!  Environmental angels!  Animal lovers extraordinaire!  Just by changing our eating and consuming habits.   Its such a shining, peaceful, positive way to get 2016 off to a flying start.

Here’s a healthy recipe straight out of Peace & Parsnips.  Loads of people have been in touch and said that this has been one of their favourites.  A colourful twist on your traditional gnocchi. This is a light dish packed with texture, a rich pesto, bucket loads of nutrition and plenty of big flavours.

Colourful food always gets us happy and hungry and this is a proper rainbow plate; orange, red, green, red……YUM!  It’s an ideal dish for a special dinner, a Saturday night feast or mid-week indulgence.  If you are cooking for people who think vegan/ healthy/ vegetables/(fill in the blank….) is boring and bland, here’s something to dispel such misguided waffle.

I’m sure this recipe will help all those going fully vegan for this Veganuary.  It’s not all veggie burger, tofu and falafels after all.  One friend said to me recently, a little apprehensively; “But is being vegan any fun?”, I replied “How much fun is Halloumi???!?”  (We  were talking about giving up Halloumi at the time).  How much fun is cheese?  There is no connection between happiness and dairy products.  Trust me.

Go vegan for January (what's left of it;)

Go vegan for January (what’s left of it;)

Veganuary is a global campaign that gets people into a vegan lifestyle in January.  Being a vegan is big news in 2016 and there has been plenty of interest in the press.  There are thousands of people giving veganism a try; my Mum and sister are giving it a go and Jane is giving up her Kefir and occasional Cappuccino for the month.  I also have a load of friends who are getting into the plant-based party.  Its amazing!  Jack Monroe is posting vegan recipes over on ‘Cooking on a Bootstrap’ and other celebrities like Vivienne Westwood, Sarah Pascoe and Romesh Ranganathan are taking part.  In 2015, 49% of the folk who tried out Veganuary stayed vegan full-time.  The Veganuary site is packed with information, advice, recipes and inspiration.  In fact, you’ll find a load of recipes from Peace & Parsnips over there.  Of course, you could also have a wee look at our back catalogue for a massive slice of vegan treats.

Being vegan is becoming ever more accessible, there are an infinite number of ways to eat simply delicious, plant-based food.  Many more restaurants, supermarkets and suppliers are realising that being vegan is far from a fad.  Interest in veganism has grown hugely worldwide in 2015 and will continue to do so in 2016.

Let’s cook plants!  Here’s what I said in the book:

Making gnocchi with coloured vegetables makes brilliant sense. Any quite starchy root works well: parsnip, sweet potato, purple potatoes, cassava, pumpkin . . . But the vivid orange of squash really electrifies the plate (and the palate). With its vibrant oranges, reds and greens, this dish is a feast for the eyes as well as the belly!

The Bits

1 large squash, about 1.5kg (the more starchy varieties of summer squash are best, such as butternut) peeled and cut into rough chunks olive oil, for roasting

a little sea salt

1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced lengthways

240g firm tofu, well drained

300g unbleached white flour, sifted

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon white pepper

1½ teaspoons dried sage

2 big handfuls of sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped

 

For the topping
2 tablespoons roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Spinach Pistou

100g hazelnuts

100g spinach or watercress leaves

2 big handfuls fresh basil leaves

3 cloves garlic (crushed)

juice of 1 lemon

zest of 1/2 lemon

Large pinch of sea salt

2 large pinches of black pepper

75ml extra virgin olive oil

 

Do It – For 4-6

First make the spinach pistou (even better if you can make it the day before). Pistou is a Provencal version of Pesto – much lighter, without the cheese and pine nuts.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6.

Place the squash on an oiled baking tray. Rub a little oil and salt over it and bake for 30 minutes, turning the pieces gently over once. You’re not looking for loads of colour here, just lovely soft, golden squash.

Toss the fennel in olive oil, place on a separate baking tray and scatter with a pinch of sea salt. Bake for 30 minutes, turning once, until it’s nicely golden and sweet. When the squash is ready, put it into a processor with the tofu and blend until smooth. Now, place in a large bowl and stir in the flour, salt, pepper and sage until a soft dough forms. Leave to cool down and firm up – it will be a lot easier to handle.

Using two teaspoons, make gnocchi shapes (lovely little flat oval dumplings) with the mixture and place on an oiled baking sheet, leaving about 5cm of space for each gnocchi to grow. Brush the gnocchi with a little more oil and bake for 20–25 minutes, until crisp and slightly golden.

For the Spinach Pistou – Place the hazelnuts in a small skillet and warm on medium heat.  Keep them moving for 5-7 minutes – they will become roasted and smell so very sweet! Put them into a food processor and blitz for 30 seconds.  The nuts should begin to break down into lumps and chunks, which is what we want.  Add the rest of the pistou ingredients (except the oil) and blitz, drizzling the oil in gradually until you get a nice runny texture, like a think sauce.  You will need to scrape down the sides of the food processor a few times.  Add more oil if the pistou needs thinning.  Check your seasoning and set aside.

Serve

Warm, on nice big plates, drizzled liberally with the pistou. Scatter the crispy fennel and sun-dried tomatoes on top with a little more pistou, and finish with some chopped roasted hazelnuts.

Foodie Fact

Winter squashes like pumpkin and butternut squash are directly related to summer squashes like courgette and even watermelon (they’re known as the gourd family).  You can use most winter squashes in this recipe, as long as they are not too watery; acorn or hokkaido will be delicious.

Butternut squash is almost 30% protein and contains outrageous levels of vitamin A which makes our skin shine.  They’re also high in vitamin C and boast a good range of minerals like iron and calcium.

All of the parts of a squash plant are edible; fruit, flowers, leaves and seeds.

Categories: Dairy/ Lactose Free, Dinner, Healthy Eating, Peace and Parsnips, Recipes, Special Occasion, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Boozy Snowball Truffles

Boozy Christmas Snowflakes

Boozy Christmas Snowflakes – Vegan, sugar-free, healthy, all that jazz……

These snowflakes taste just like Christmas pudding but are waaaaaayyyyy easier and packed with natural sugars and gorgeous plant power!  When combined with our warm Cashew Brandy Sauce, this makes for the perfect Xmas sweet thang.

I always loved snowballs, normally chucking them at my sister. Also snowmen (or women) maybe one day we’ll make a boozy snow human! YUM!  We are visiting Jane’s Ma and Pa in sensational Stafford and it’s 14oC!  These sweeties will probably be as close as we get to snowflakes this year.

Here we have little explosions of tastiness, super rich and with a massive kick of brandy, chocolate and pecans to get you right into that festive cheer.  Everyone will LOVE them (guaranteed).  They can be made well in advance and keep nicely.

The warm sauce elevates these into the realms of dessert.  Quantity wise, have a play.  Thin out with water and add a touch of vanilla extract.  Make to your taste.  Its a little like custard but dare I say it…..even better (contentious behaviour there).  Having said that, custard would be lovely with these.

They are part of our lighter, nutritious, simple Christmas this year. These little snowflakes are easily made gluten-free, technically they are ‘sugar-free’ (refined that is) and are of course, full power plant-based, vegan happy.

MERRY CHRISTMAS Y”ALL!!!!!XXXxxxxxxxx

Festive sweet thangs....

Festive sweet thangs….

Recipe Notes
Use any combo of dried fruits, all welcome. We are not massive fans of that ‘dried mixed fruit’ stuff you can buy, they’re a little too dry.  We used whole dried fruits that are relatively inexpensive.

Not into the booze aspect. That’s very cool. Just up the juice quantity.

You don’t necessarily need a blender for this.  You can mash the fruit mix up with a potato masher. Jane’s Mum’s blender wasn’t doing it for us here, so we mashed it up.

The Bits - Maple syrup, soaked boozy fruit and pecans.  Woooah!

The Bits – Maple syrup, soaked boozy fruit and pecans. Woooah!

The Bits – Makes 15 little snowflakes
1 handful of each, dried apricot, dried pear/ apple, dried dates, dried figs (all roughly chopped)
2 handfuls raisins
4 tbs brandy
3 tbs apple juice or orange juice
1 orange (zest)
1 1/2 inch fresh ginger (finely grated)
1 teas ground cinnamon
2 teas mixed spice
1/4 teas ground cloves
2 teas vanilla extract

4 handfuls oats
4 handfuls pecans (broken up with hands)

125g dark vegan chocolate

2-3 tbs maple syrup (optional)

Snow
2 handfuls desiccated or grated fresh coconut

Cashew Brandy Sauce (varies depending on numbers)

Cashew butter

Maple Syrup

Brandy

Vanilla extract

 

Do It
Soak the dried fruit, spices, vanilla and orange zest for at least two hours in the brandy and juice. Longer is better.

Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl above gently simmering water. Leave to cool for 15 minutes.

In a food processor/ blender, add the oats and blitz until they resemble a coarse flour. Add the dried fruit mix and pulse until the mix is broken down but still chunky.

Scrape out into a large bowl, add the chocolate and pecans. Combine well with a trusty wooden spoon/ spatula.  Taste and stir in maple syrup if you’d like it sweeter.

Scatter the coconut over a plate and with slighty wet hands (prevents too much sticking) grab a squash ball sized lump of the mix and roll between your hands into nice even balls.

Place in the coconut and roll gently. Now pop them onto your display plate.

These snowflakes will keep well in a sealed container, but look best when freshly rolled.

For an extra special dessert, gently warm up enough cashew butter in a small saucepan and add maple syrup, vanilla extract and brandy until you love it!  One tablespoon at a time is best.  Thin with a touch of water or soya milk if needed.

Just like Christmas pudding, but wee.

Just like Christmas pudding, but wee.

Serve

Spoon your sauce onto a plate and pop two or three snowflakes on top.  They are also amazing as they are.

Foodie Fact

A word on ‘sugarfree’-ness.  Not all sugar is the same!  Sugar in dried fruits like these are in a natural solution of all kinds of things; anti-oxidants, minerals, micro-nutrients most of which are beneficial to the body and really help out the immune system.  Dried fruit is packed with goodness and the ideal winter snack and fruit sugar should not be lumbered in there with refined, cane, beet, corn sugars etc.  Fruit sugars (not loads of course) are way cool with us.

PS – Dried fruit is also very high in fibre, which is an all-time superhero for our bodies.

Categories: Dairy/ Lactose Free, Desserts, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Maple Roasted Parsnip, Walnut & Mushroom Roulade with Cashew Cream Sauce (Traditional Vegan Christmas Fare)

Parsnip, Walnut & Mushroom Roulade with some tasty trimmings

Parsnip, Walnut & Mushroom Roulade with some tasty trimmings

A simple, vegan feast to satisfy all this Christmas!

Here is a old school dish that I came up with last night, ideal for a Christmas day centre piece and only using two pans and a baking tray! I’ve also included quick recipes for the cooking veggie accompaniments – Chicory braised in sloe gin and pan fried Brussels Sprouts with Curly Kale and the creamy sauce is something everyone will enjoy.  You are sorted for Xmas 2015!

I’ve had quite a few requests for a Christmas recipe that is both straightforward and seasonal.  Being the BHK, we don’t plan things, we just let them leap out of the veg basket and we had to go parsnip this year.  It has been ‘the year of the parsnip’ for us in many ways!

All of these ingredients most of us have around the kitchen at this time of year.  I love the way that we can create feasts from simple plant-based ingredients, packed with bold flavours and interesting textures.  We are spending Christmas this year with Jane’s parents and I think they’ll love this dish, a taste of more traditional British fare.

A vegan Christmas is a delight!  I find that I cook lighter and more nourishing dishes than previous Christmas times.  Xmas can be so packed with heavy, rich food and I can’t help feeling lucky to be stuffing myself with food that is delicious and won’t leave me in a food coma, snoring by the fire place.  If I could tone down the red wine glugging, Christmas would be a highly healthy time of year!  Jane and I will be making a whole host of vegan dishes on the big day and all across the festive season, the perfect time of year to let plants shine and inspire.

I like this recipe because it is fun for all the family, no matter what the tastes.  The pastry is something everyone can get down with, crispy, flaky and then the filling is packed with flavour finished with a very creamy, slightly cheesy plant-based sauce that will be a surprise to some.  Cashews are superheroes for plant-based creaminess.

This recipe suits is you are catering for a vegan/s over Christmas.  It can be made in advance and warmed up in the oven on the day or you can prepare the filling ingredients and roll the roulade in the morning.  I have to say that freshly baked it is tastier and the pastry has a better texture.

A festive feast!

A festive feast!

Recipe Notes

This roulade will be lovely with any veggies, but we’ve paired it with a few of our extra special favourites; chicory, kale and Brussels Sprouts.  A few roast potatoes are never a bad idea!   We also love red cabbage however it arises.

If you don’t have any nutritional yeast flakes the sauce will not be cheesy.  Now may be a good time to invest in a pot of these wonderful, savoury flakes.  Especially if you are planning on cooking vegan food regularly.  Otherwise stir in some Dijon mustard or herbs.  It will be delicious.

Cashew butter can easily be substituted by blending up cashew nuts, seasoning with salt.  Soak two handfuls of cashews for 2 hours in plenty of water and then blend.  They will form a smooth paste, perfect for adding to sauces and stews.

If you don’t have access to fresh herbs, that’s cool, lets go for roughly 3/4 teas dried rosemary and 1 1/2 teas dried thyme.  You can always taste the leeks after cooking and add more herbs if you like.

This is the easiest method of rolling a roulade, you can go for a more traditional roulade roll if you are happy with that.  This method is failsafe.

Many brands of puff pastry are vegan, have a quick check of the ingredients.

Chicory is generally quite bitter but when cooked with a sweet liqueur or even a fruit vinegar, will have delicious sweet and sour flavour.

Christmas is not complete without delicious Brussels Sprouts.  Simply pan fried in a little oil, with sea salt is my favourite way to enjoy them.

Happy cooking and Merry Christmas!!!!!!!!

 

The Bits – Makes 12 slices (enough for 4-6) 

325g/ 2 medium-sized parsnips (chopped into 1 1/2 cm wide batons – the longer the better)

2 big handfuls walnuts (roughly chopped)

3 teas maple syrup

1 1/2 teas lemon (zest)

1 head garlic (whole)

 

300g/ 2 medium leeks (cleaned and finely sliced)

2 teas fresh rosemary (finely sliced)

3 teas thyme leaves (picked from stems)

 

250g mushrooms (finely diced)

Black pepper and sea salt

 

2/3 500g vegan puff pastry block (roughly 350g)

3 tbs soya milk

Flour (for dusting)

 

Cashew Cream Sauce

100g/ 1 small leek (cleaned and finely sliced)

400ml soya milk (or non-dairy milk of choice)

4 tbs cashew butter

2 tbs nutritional yeast flakes

Sea salt (to taste)

Lovely maple roasted parsnips and walnuts

Lovely maple roasted parsnips and walnuts

Do It

Preheat an oven to 200oc (180oc fan oven).

Place the parsnips and head of garlic on a baking tray, toss with a 2 tbs of oil and a large pinch of salt.  Roast for 15 mins then gently turn over the parsnips, scatter the walnuts around the tray and drizzle all with maple syrup.  Roast for 7 minutes, turn and check that they are not burning.  Roast for 3 minutes more until the parsnips are totally. beautifully golden.  The walnuts will also be nicely caramelised.  Little explosions of flavour for the roulade!  Scatter over the lemon zest and set aside.

While the parsnips are roasting, grab a large frying pan.  Add 1 tbs oil and fry your leeks for 5- 7 minutes.  When they are soft, stir in the herbs.  Set aside.  Rinse out the pan.

Now add another 1 tbs of oil to the pan and fry your mushrooms for 8 minutes on a medium heat until most of their moisture has been released.  Mix with your leeks, season with salt and pepper, set aside.

Cut a piece of baking parchment/ greaseproof paper out that will snugly fit in a baking tray.  Place on a cool work surface and lightly dust with flour, using a rolling pin, begin to roll out your pastry.  Dusting regularly as you roll, it will help to turn the pastry over a few times while you are rolling.  You’re looking for a rectangular shape around 14″ by 10″, nice and even.  When your happy with the size, trim the edges of with a sharp knife.

Your filling ingredients should now be cool, if not leave them for a while.  Begin to fill your roulade, leeks first.  See the photo below.   Now top with a layer of walnuts,  pressing down lightly.  Top with your parsnips.  Using the baking parchment, roll your roulade.   Lightly brush all of the edges, a 2cm border all around, with soya milk.  Pull the top edge of the paper towards you, packing any filling back in as you go.  Now spin the roulade around and pull the other side of the pastry up and over so the pastry overlaps slightly.  Press gently and using the paper again, flip the roulade over so that the fold is on the bottom.  Using your hands, shape the roulade into a neat, fat sausage shape.  Now press and tuck in your ends, making sure they are well sealed.  All of this is best explained by the photos below:

Spread out the leek layer and top with walnuts, pressing down gently.

Spread out the leek layer and top with walnuts, pressing down gently

Top with the roasted parsnips

Top with the roasted parsnips

Using the baking paper, roll one edge over.....

Using the baking paper, roll one edge over…..

Rolled up like a big, fat......sausage.

Rolled up like a big, fat……sausage

Cut slices, which help to act as a portioning guide and brush with soya milk

Cut slices, which help to act as a portioning guide and brush with soya milk

Cut slices into the top of the roulade and brush with soya milk.  Place in the oven for 40-45 minutes, turning once to get a nice even bake.

Sauce time.  Simple.  Add all of the ingredients to a small saucepan and warm until a low simmer, stirring regularly.  Pop a lid on, turn the heat down and leave to slowly cook through for 10 -12 minutes.  Once the leeks are soft, stir in the yeast flakes and blend with a stick blender, adding salt as needed.  This sauce does not like to be boiled for a long time, a low simmer is ideal, keep your eye on it.

Chicory braised in sloe gin

Chicory braised in sloe gin

The Veggies

3 large heads chicory (cut lengthways into quarters)

3 tbs sloe gin, port or berry vinegar (like blackberry, blackcurrant or even raspberry)

Black pepper and sea salt

 

6 large stems curly kale (stems removed, leaves finely sliced)

400g Brussels sprouts

Sea salt

 

In your trusty frying pan, add 1 tbs oil and warm on a high heat.  Lay in your chicory pieces, season with salt and pepper, fry for a couple of minutes until well caramelised and then turn over.  Fry for another 2 minutes, drizzle over the sloe gin.  Lower the heat, pop a lid on and leave to cook for 5-7 minutes, adding a splash of water if needed.  The chicory will bes soft, set aside and keep warm.  Rinse out the pan.

Adding 1 tbs oil, warm of medium high heat and add the sprouts.  Toss gently and fry for roughly 6 minutes, until the sprouts are nicely coloured (the way you like ’em).  Now add your kale and a splash of water.  Lower the heat and leave to cook for 6 minutes.  Try one (yum!).  Season with salt.

You’re now looking good to serve your festive feast!

Brussels!  Yes, please.....

Brussels! Yes, please…..

Serve

Place the golden roulade onto a nice serving platter (big plate) or chopping board and surround with glorious veggies.  Using bowls to serve the leftover vegetables.  Pour the sauce into a warm bowl/ sauce boat and enjoy the feast!  This dish goes brilliantly with a spoonful of our Pear and Cranberry Chutney.

Yes, it does look a bit like a pastry-based rocket.

Yes, it does look a bit like a pastry-based rocket

MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone! (Drawn by Jane's niece Martha)

MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone! (Drawn by Jane’s niece Martha – 9 years old)

 

Categories: Dinner, Recipes, Sauces, Special Occasion, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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

LEARN AND CONTRIBUTE HERE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn more and contribute by clicking below:

PEOPLEFOODMUSIC

  

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

Roasted Lebanese Cauliflower with Muhammara (Red Pepper & Walnut Dip)

Lebanese Roasted Cauliflower with Muhammara (Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip)

Lebanese Roasted Cauliflower with Muhammara (Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip)

There are zillion and one Xmas stylee recipes floating around at the minute, but I would like to take things is a slightly different direction here.  All the way to Lebanon!!!

Here’s a little festive taste of the Southern Mediterranean, with plenty of warming spices and a really rich and luxurious dip.  This Muhammara recipe is one of my all time favourite dips/ purees and it features in our cookbook.  It is an ideal alternative to hummus at this time of year.  I love hummus, but a change is always good!

Everyone is roasting cauliflower at the minute and I’m all for it.  Roasting brings out the sweetness of the cauliflower and transforms it into something spectacular.  Cauliflower is worthy of taking centre stage and in this recipe, with a few adornments, it shines.  The spices and pomegranate molasses here really takes it up a few notches.

I would eat this as light lunch around the festive season, when you have maybe gone overboard the day before, and it is nice and easy to get together yet bursting with vibrant flavours.

As close as Jane got to a swim (the Med's a bit chilly in winter), El Mojon, Spain

As close as Jane got to a swim (the Med’s a bit chilly in winter), El Mojon, Spain

Jane and I are not long back from Spain, where we had a magnificent time by the beaches and mountains of Murcia.  Regular Beach House readers will know that its one of our favourite spots in the world and we return their regularly.  You will also notice, by the beaming sunshine, that this dish was cooked in sunny Espana.  My parents own a little house out there and I’ve lived and worked over there so its just like going home really.  Our Spanish lingo is improving and we seem to do a load more socialising over there than we do in Wales, something to do with the free-flowing tapas and wine no doubt.

Our local watering hole. A well (pozo) near our house. Murica, Spain

Our local watering hole. A well (pozo) near our house. Murica, Spa

WHAT TO DO WITH POMEGRANATE MOLASSES?

I know that Pomegranate Molasses may not be top of your Christmas/shopping list this week, but it is a brilliant addition to your cupboards.  It can be used to jazz up roasted roots and veggies, as it does in this recipe.  It has a lovely sweet and sour flavour (think cranberries) and is high in sugar, meaning it adds to the caramelised effect we all know and love in roasted roots et al.

It can also be a wonderful sub for citrus in dressings and adds richness and depth to stews, dips (see below) and soups.  Have a play with it!   We also like it drizzled on bread or mixed with tahini to make a delicious spread for toast or even stir it into hot or fizzy water for a refreshing drink.

Pomegranate Molasses is something that is used so frequently in countries like Lebanon and Turkey, where Pomegranate trees are as frequent as oak trees are in Wales.  It is an ideal way of preserving gluts of Pomegranates and turning them into something gorgeously versatile.  It is basically pomegrantes juice cooked down, way down, until a sticky syrup is formed.  You can buy it in Turkey in plastic water bottles by the side of the road. PM is tangy and not overly sweet, unless sugar has been added, check the bottle.

I will be looking at posting a few more festive fav recipes on the blog before the big day.  I’ve just roasted a load of chestnuts and they need a home.  Any ideas?

There are loads of our holiday snaps over on our Facebook page and I am always sharing tasty things on Twitter.

Sorting out some stunning veggies and fruit down at the Sunday market. Mazarron, Spain

Sorting out some stunning veggies and fruit down at the Sunday market. Mazarron, Spain

Recipe Notes

When cutting the cauliflower, don’t worry too much about small pieces that break off.  These can be kept and used to thicken/ flavour soups, gravies and stews.  They can also be sprinkled into salads.

Baharat is a spice mix from the Middle East.  You may also like to use garam masala, ras el hanout etc.  Spice mixes which include warming spices like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg etc are perfect.

If you do not have pomegranate molasses, use a squeeze of lemon juice and sweetener of your choice; brown rice syrup, maple syrup etc.  This adds that gorgeous sweet and sour finish to the roasted cauliflower.

Fennel seeds are a great addition to many dishes and worth buying.  They add a little explosion of that unmistakeable aniseed/ fennel flavour.  I understand that they are not a regular ingredient and can be omitted, add a few more cumin seeds if you are fennel-less.

I know Christmas is a super busy time of year, you can buy pre-roasted red peppers in most shops.  They are normally jarred and stored in oil.  This will save a little time with the Muhammara.

Roasted Lebanese Cauliflower with Muhammara

Roasted Lebanese Cauliflower with Muhammara

The Bits – For 4

Roasted Lebanese Cauliflower

1 medium sized cauliflower (cut into 2 inch florets)

2 small onions (cut into 1/8’s)

1 head of garlic (top trimmed off to expose cloves)

 

1 teas fennel seeds

1 teas cumin seeds

2 tbs olive oil

1 1/2 teas baharat (or other spice mix)

2 teas pomegranate molasses

1/2 teas sea salt

 

Muhammara (Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip) – Makes 1 small bowlful

2 red peppers

2 tbs olive oil

1 teas chilli flakes

2 slices wholemeal bread (crusts taken off, stale bread works best)

2 big handfuls walnuts

1 1/2 tbs pomegranate molasses (or 1/2 lemon juice)

1 teas unrefined brown sugar or sweetener of choice

1/2 teas smoked paprika

125g firm tofu

1/2 teas sea salt

 

Garnish

1 handful fresh parsley (chopped)

Big glug extra virgin olive oil

Large pinch of bharat and smoked paprika

 

Do It

Preheat an oven on high, 240oC.

Start by roasting the peppers for the Muhammara.  Rub oil over the peppers and place on a baking tray.  Roast for 15-20 minutes, turning them once, until they are slightly blackened and soft.  Place in a bowl and cover.  Once cooled, cut in half and remove the seeds, peeling off the skin.  It should slip off nice and easy.

In a bowl, gently toss the cauliflower, onion and garlic in the oil, cumin seeds, fennel seeds and salt.  Scatter over a baking tray and place in the hot oven.  Roast for 12 minutes.

Turn all veggies over using a flat spatula (including the head of garlic), there should be some nice caramelised edges forming on the cauli and onions, this is definitely what we want.  Even nice, dark charred edges are great for this recipe.

Now sprinkle over the baharat spice and drizzle over the pomegranate molasses, give the tray a little shake and pop back into the hot oven for 10 more minutes roasting, until dark golden and crispy.

While all the roasting is going on, you can make your Muhammara.  Place the peppers and all other ingredients in a food processor and blitz until creamy.   Check the seasoning and scoop into your most attractive bowl.

Warm a nice big shallow bowl or serving platter and scoop over your cauliflower.  The garlic will be nice and soft, just pop the cloves out of their skins and scatter over the dish.

The aroma of this dish is a delight. Spicy!

The aroma of this dish is a delight. Spicy!

Serve

Sprinkle a little more Bharat over the cauliflower and finished the Muhammara with a drizzle of delicious olive oil, a sprinkle of paprika and a little freshly chopped parsley.

The Roasted Cauliflower and Muhammara will be delicious with a crisp, green salad and a bowl of olives.  In Peace & Parsnips I recommend warm black olives and toasted pitta bread.  Pickles of any variety will be a great addition.  Now this is really starting to sound like a feast fit for the festive season!

Beach House on the road. The many deserted beaches of Murcia. Aguillas, Spain

Beach House on the road. The many deserted beaches of Murcia. Aguillas, Spain

Foodie Fact

Pomegranate certainly brightens up this time of year and I much prefer the flavour to cranberries, our festive staple for tanginess and that lovely festive touch of bright red.    Pomegranate is packed with vitamins C and K and is also high in calcium and potassium.  Pomegranate is also a good source of fibre and will help to keep our heart, digestive and immune system healthy.  Perfect food to get us through the dark, winter days.

Hiking up in the Espuna mountains. Beautiful forests. Murcia, Spain

Hiking up in the Espuna mountains. Beautiful forests. Murcia, Spain

 

Mazarron sunsets demand a G+T - Murcia, Spain.

Mazarron sunsets demand a G+T – Murcia, Spain.

Categories: Dairy/ Lactose Free, Dinner, Healthy Eating, Peace and Parsnips, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pumpkin, Ginger and Kaffir Lime Soup

Pumpkin, Ginger and Kaffir Lime Soup

Pumpkin, Ginger and Kaffir Lime Soup

At this time of year, I’d quite happily live on soup.

I just have time to squeeze this post in before driving to Durham and the sparkling NEVFest (North East Vegan Fest).  The first time that Jane and I have not been to a food festival this year together.

Durham is where all of my family are from and I’m very much looking forward to cooking and doing a talk in the Stadium of Light, the home of Sunderland AFC.  For my sins, I support the red and whites.  It will be quite surreal.  I never imagined talking and cooking vegan in a football stadium but learnt recently that at least one professional football team in the UK has gone totally vegan, so maybe its not so strange.  Lentil pies at half time with some miso broth.  Yum!  The future…..

You may think that the life of a food blogger is all hanging out by the fire, sipping a cheeky Oolong whilst leafing through a mountain of cookbooks, but it ain’t.  We all have busy lives these days and posts are normally squeezed in somewhere or other.  Janice (over at the sparkling Nourished by Nature blog) and I were just chatting about this the other day.  Blogging is a labour of love for many of us and we are just crazy about food and sharing our foodie inspiration.

This is not helped by the fact that I am a complete luddite.  I still do not have a phone (hence the lack of Instagram action) and only have a bulky laptop.  I’m trying.  But in reality, I am a techno caveman at heart.  I like paper and pens, books and postcards.  The occasional stapler.  I do love sharing things online though and hope you enjoy these little recipes.  I’ve met such a wonderful global community via the BHK.  The internet is an AMAZING place!

I’ve been cooking with loads of squashes and pumpkins (actually pumpkins are members of the squash family) at Trigonos and at home.  Our local organic veg farm Tyddyn Teg has been growing a wonderful variety of squashes; spaghetti, the mighty crown prince and even little acorns.  Some are even larger than my head.

Squashes are perfect winter fuel, high in energy with loads (I mean loads!) of antioxidants and beta carotene.  Just what our bodies crave and thrive on come the wintery months.  In darker times, eat brighter foods!  Squashes also store well, but I doubt they’ll be lasting very long around these parts.

COCO!

When I say coconut cream I mean the cream in a tin of coconut milk.  If  your coconut milk contains emulsifiers and the like, it will not separate and therefore you cannot extract the cream.

To extract coconut cream from a tin of coco milk, simply place it in a fridge for a couple of hours, turn it over, open the tin and pour out the coco water.  You are left with at least half a tin of very creamy coconut cream to play with.  Try whipping it up with some lime zest and juice or just add a little sweetener to make delicious, vegan whipped cream.   Use the leftover coco water in smoothies, on your morning cereal, add it to stews or even cook rice with it (one of our personal favs).

You may also like to use the hard, block variety of coconut cream.  Just follow the pack instructions.  Don’t worry about adding too much coconut cream to this soup, it will only make it even richer and more delicious.

Pumpkin Seeds before roasting in the oven....

Pumpkin Seeds before roasting in the oven….

ROAST YOUR OWN PUMPKIN SEEDS

I never waste my squash/ pumpkin seeds.  I always pick them out and quickly roast them in the oven with a drop of oil and salt.  Delicious!  Just place them on a baking tray and bake them for 8 minutes on 180oC.  Stir them and keep baking them for 5 minute intervals until they are dark golden and crisp.  Its so easy and each type of squash seed will taste slightly different and have their own texture.  Pumpkin seeds are nice and light, very crispy when roasted.  Perfect as a soup-topper.

...and after. YUM!

…and after. YUM!

I love adding ginger to soups and a little kaffir gives a vibrant fragrance to the rich, sweetness of the pumpkin.  You can use any type of squash here and you may like to half the recipe or freeze the leftovers.  I think cooking in big batches makes loads of sense.  We’ve also been experimenting with pumpkin smoothies and they are a real treat.  A pumpkin chai latte smoothie is a thing of beauty and I’ll hopefully get around to sharing it soon.

Enjoy and stay cosy,

LeeX

Recipe Notes

As I mentioned, experiment with different squashes, they are all wonderful and have properties of their own.  Some sweet and firm, some lighter and slightly blander, others intense and wonderful roasted.  There are so many varieties and this is still (just about) the time to enjoy them in season here in the UK.

You’ll need an extra big pan for this one.  As I said, half the recipe for something a little more manageable.

Pumpkins are ace!

Pumpkins are ace!

The Bits – Makes 10 large bowls
1 medium pumpkin – 1.75kg (peeled and cut into rough 1 inch chunks)
1.5 litres water/ light vegetable stock
7 kaffir lime leaves
50-60g fresh ginger (peeled and finely diced)
2 onions (finely diced)
200g coconut cream

2 teas salt

Do It

In a very large pan, add 2 teas cooking oil, warm and then add your onions and salt.  Fry on medium heat for five minutes until softened and then add your pumpkin, ginger and lime leaves.  Stir well and cook for another two minutes, then add the water/ stock.  Bring to a boil and pop a lid on, lowering the heat.  Simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the coconut cream, stirring well and simmer for another 10 minutes, adding more hot water if needed.  The pumpkin should now be nice and soft.

Pick out as many lime leaves as you can.  Taste the soup, checking for seasoning.  Now give the soup a blend until creamy and smooth with a stick blender or in a food processor.

Serve

In warm bowls, scattered with freshly chopped chillies and some roasted pumpkin seeds.  A little fresh coriander would also be a delight!

The flavours here do lend themselves to sesame and I have been serving this at Trigonos with sesame bread rolls.

Foodie Fact

Pumpkins are a member of the gourd family, which means they are cousins to melons, watermelons, cucumbers, squashes.

Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of anti-oxidants and minerals, they even contain a good amount of iron and of course, plenty of protein.  Surprisingly China is now the worlds largest pumpkin seed producer.  Who knew!

Categories: Dairy/ Lactose Free, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Recipes, Soups, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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