Posts Tagged With: hiking

Vegan on the Road – Walking the Portuguese Camino de Santiago, Spain (Pt. 1)

Just outside Porto Airport, the shells and yellow arrows began to appear. BHK on the Camino Portuguese ’19

“Camino!  Camino!!”  We made it!

Jane and I completed the Camino Portuguese this summer and would like to share with you our experience of being pilgrims; our pictures, the food we ate and the challenges we faced. There is way too much to say in one blog post, so there will be a few.  Looking back, they were precious times and well worth a few words.

Arriving in the main square of Santiago de Compostela is one hell of an experience!  The breath-taking cathedral complex, the general buzz and merriment of the joyful pilgrims, the sense of achievement and history that surrounds ‘El Camino’.  It’s intoxicating, even before the Estrella Galicia’s are cracked!  A fitting finale to the days, weeks, and sometimes, months of endurance and fortitude.  We’d all started at different points, for different reasons.  Pilgrims are attracted to these routes (or ‘caminos’) from all over the world; Japan, Peru, Slovenian, Cuba, USA, Korea, Mexico, are just a few of the nationalities we met.

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims complete the minimum four days walking per year and all routes finish at this point, outside the ornate facade of the cathedral, built over the tombs of the apostle St James.  Pilgrims have been gathering here, celebrating and venerating, since the early middle ages.  Back then, being a pilgrim was fraught with dangers and was undertaken as an act of penance and religious devotion.  It’s a little different now.

A waymarker in the middle of a forest. You see a lot of scallop shells on the Camino, traditionally used as a small bowl for offerings, eating or drinking.  It is mainly used now as an unorthodox wine glass!

Pilgrims pour through the narrow streets of the cities old town, past the ancient churches and inns, to see their first glimpse of the cathedral towers in the clear blue skies, it’s an emotionally charged experience.  It’s a carnival of battered walking boots, lycra shorts and limps.  There are bagpipes whining (a Galician staple), Ecuadorian missionaries singing songs with guitars, dreadlocked dudes meditating, Spanish kids tearing into the square barefooted (many pilgrims choose to walk the last day barefooted).  Most pilgrims are strooned out in the sun like lizards, propped up on colourful backpacks, staring off into space, halfway between exhaustion and elation.  No beatific, blister induced epiphanies going on here, just mild forms of sunstroke/ dehydration.

This is July and the shadeless square is like a pizza oven, +30oC and counting.  Those medieval architects were not into parasols and pina coladas, they had the divine on their mind.  Mingling in this multitude are streams of tourists snapping selfies, looking well showered and shaven.  To the pilgrims, they seem like people who’ve got a free ticket to the best gig in the world (and have never heard of the band).

We’ve all followed many little yellow arrows over mountains, along coastlines, through vast plains and cities, all imagining what the end would look like.  How we’d feel when the walking is over, like a stylus leaving a well loved record.  Pilgrims leap, pilgrims sing and for most, there is a sense somewhere within that we’re glad it’s all over, but we can’t wait to do it all again!  Or was that just me!!

Jane still had some energy!  Santiago de Compostela Cathedral

Being a pilgrim for a while is a way of life I’d recommend, if you’re looking for something, you might find it by walking the old pilgrim trails of Spain and France (some stretch all the way across Europe).  A good, old-fashioned long walk can make all the difference, a one-way ticket out of the daily grind.  There are sprinkles of magic out there, somewhere in-between the blisters, bunk beds and crescendos of snoring hikers, you’re sure to find some peace of mind and a good slice of soul.

Walking the Camino from Porto to Santiago de Compostela was a kaleidoscope of vivid and beautiful scenery, a glorious patchwork of people, from the quixotic to the capitalistic, the righteous to the rogue.  There were churches and challenges galore, not to mention many laughs, fragrant fields and feet.  We both had no expectations, we had just walked most of the demanding Rota Vicentina skirting the very South West of Portugal, with it’s precipitous coastlines, raging winds, mad surfers and quaint villages.  We felt fairly confident we could have a crack at the less arduous Camino and enjoy it.  We were in good fettle, could take it a little easier and just cruise.  We loved the pilgrim lifestyle, focused on walking and nature, exploring different terrains and trails.  There is a liberating rhythm to it.  It’s an empowering way to see the world, to arrive on your own steam, carrying all you need on your back.  It’s a little taste of freedom.

Pilgrim plate! We cooked most of our food on the Camino. We always carry herbs, spices, knives, a chopping board etc. It means the BHK is a mobile, moveable feast!!

I loved cooking in the hostels and the host of weird and wonderful kitchens we stumbled upon, generally basic, sometimes indoors, but with one constant, stunning local produce.  Vegan food is a little off-piste for most local restaurants, so we focused on hearty homemade dishes, heavy on the veg.  If you’re a vegan and you don’t want to eat bread and bananas 24/7, it’s worth planning a little before you set off.  Make sure you’re ready to do some cooking.  Pack a grater.  A peeler?

Portugal, and latterly Galicia, know how to garden and grow!  It’s a plant-based paradise down there.  The Camino is regularly flanked by family owned fields of various produce, poly-tunnels and little veg patches, most gardens in houses are filled with fruit and vegetables.  Large scale agriculture is rare.  Corn, grapes, nuts, berries, tomatoes, leeks, olives and lots of potatoes.  Official organic farms are rapidly growing in number.  In the South especially, we saw many idyllic, self-sustained places tucked away in the valleys.  It seems mainly elderly couples tend to the small plots, pulling old rickety carts filled with potatoes over cobbled streets, many driveways are covered with garlands of onions drying out in the sun.  I’ve rarely seen this before in my travels, a country so dedicated and skilled at growing their own.  It’s very exciting for a meandering vegan cook!  Whets the wandering appetite.

A rural garden beside the Camino Portuguese, filled with fruit and veg. Notice the ‘verde’ growing in the foreground. These are juvenile versions!

On your vegan ventures, you will find the ubiquitous Caldo Verde lifeline everywhere.  It’s more than a soup, it’s a national treasure in Portugal.  It’s a bowlful of vegan blessings (sometimes served with cornbread.)  A nourishing bowl of pureed potato and collards.  Light on the pocket and heavy in the belly, ideal pilgrim potage.  It’s easy to make at home, I’ll post a recipe soon.  Almost every garden is bordered by funny looking plant protrusions, like baldy broccoli on steroids.  This is the ‘verde’ in your ‘caldo’.  They are trained collard plants, leaves picked with precision, to grow tall, like kale palm trees swaying in the sunshine.  I still have no idea why they do this?  Any ideas?

VEGANS!  Always order your Caldo Verde without the sausage surprises.  You never know when they’ll rear their fatty heads.  The combination of potato (great fuel) and dark collards (loaded with vitamins and good stuff), a drizzle of olive oil and you’re looking at a decent lunch for a couple of euros.  It’s also served in Galicia.  We normally love a simple potato and leek soup in the Welsh wintertime, but this year, we’re adding some greenery.

A particularly good Caldo Verde, on the Camino Portuguese. CV, olives, bread, fruits and nuts. Perfect pilgrim fuel (tasty too;)

People walk the Camino for a variety of reasons, we had none.  Many of the best things I’ve done in my life have been without a reason.  It is a popular topic for conversation along the way, “Why are you walking?”  I just know that it felt right and Jane liked it too. With no reasons and few expectations, the door was open for us to just experience what was happening, step by step, until we got to shake hands with old St James.  He who brought Christianity to the Iberian Peninsula, a right hand man of Jesus.

We met many people going through big life changes and being on the camino, with a large group of generally disparate, yet supportive people, does seem to help and inspire.  Bringing objectivity and clarity.  Must be all that fresh air!  Even though sometimes you’re walking alone on the trail, it never really feels like you’re alone.  You’re part of something greater and there is a bubble of acceptance and kindness that is palpable.  You’re following in some pretty big and often saintly footsteps.  That alone is humbling and makes this no ordinary stroll in the countryside.  Walking everyday, with a shared purpose, means that your fellow pilgrims become a mobile community.  A gang of sweaty seekers.

The trail is flanked by historical niches, shrines and atmospheric churches, all immaculately maintained, with small candles flickering and a sense of piety in full flow.  Some roads are Roman by design, the worn rocks bearing the marks of millions of pilgrims through the ages.  Smiles are easily found and horns are peeped, “Buen Camino/ Bom Camino!!” is a phrase that echoes throughout the day as locals and passers by wish you the best.  Experiencing the reverence that many locals had for the whole pilgrim game changed something deep in my waters.  As it has no doubt changed many folks at levels unknowable, a shared spirit on the myriad routes that lead to Santiago.

Let the yellow arrows lead the way. The Portuguese Way is well ‘arrowed’ making it difficult to lose your way (unless you want to)

There are three main reasons for walking the camino, religious, spiritual or other.  At least they’re the options you have to tick on the check in cards at the government ran hostel (the cheap ones where you get the full Camino experience; a reasonable amount of snoring, sweaty boots, disposable bedding and an acceptable level of discomfort).  Pilgrimages are not meant to be 5 star!

Getting out of our comfort zones was something we were expecting and quite looking forward to. That comfort zone is a cold-blooded killer of zest, verve and vitality.  If life is one long camino, from ignorance to eventual enlightenment, surely, we’ve got to get off the couch!  Get out there into the world, start a journey, an adventure, embrace the unknowable outcome. These camino-style wanders seem like a ideal launch pad for such intentions.

Generally, when you travel like we have around the world, namely on a flimsy budget, off-piste and rough round the edges, most of the camino hostels were actually pretty comfy. Especially when you consider you’re paying 5-7 euros per night and are only there for a quick kip, shower and the joys of hand washing one’s smalls in outdoor sinks.  Al fresco, armed with underwear.  Actually, some hostels have washing machines.  Free of charge.  There are also more up-market options if sleep depravation and communal showers are not your bag.  But…

The coastal route of the Camino Portuguese begins with many small villages and then a long walk by the seaside!

The Camino Portuguese should be 260km, but we were wanton meanders, we took our time, we explored some nooks and crannies. Many pilgrims leave at 6am on the nose, we took it easier, it was a holiday after all!  Leisurely breakfast and we were happy to be out and on the trail by 9am.  Most days were flexible from a distance point of view, you could walk for a few hours or really push on for as long as you like.  The average day is probably about 20-25 kms.

We were lucky in the sense that we had no real time constraints, so we just wandered and picnic’d as we saw fit.  It was always nice to see fellow stragglers tucked away in the woods having a packed lunch, or having a dip in a stream, a beer at noon in a small cafe.  We gradually formed a group of strays with a shared pace on the camino, it might not have been with the traditional pilgrim zeal but it was about experiencing a distinct way of life and viewing the world at a relaxed rate of knots.  Going at our own pace, taking in a fuller experience of where we were, and why not!  Where we were was regularly beautiful.  I’m not one for routines as such, but the Camino did work it’s magic on me.  I got into a good groove.

Plant-based pilgrims!!  Jane and I taking a stroll in some old vineyards.

If you enjoyed this, there will be a Pt. 2 soon.  Probably less of a ramble, more details and how we nearly didn’t make it!!

It’s not all wide open spaces, there are lots of towns and cities to navigate along the way. Vigo, Portuguese Way (Caminho Portuguese)

PS – “Camino, camino!” was a song we made up on the way, you have a lot of time to come up with stuff when you’re walking all day.  Sang to the tune of “My hips don’t lie” by Shakira.  One of many hits we came up with.  “Hill! Oh hill” was the B-side and one we used regularly.  There are bumps out there.

 

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More Vegan on the Road here, our travels around the beautiful regions of Andalucia

 

 

 

 

Categories: Healthy Living, photography, plant-based, Travel, Vegan, vegan travel, vegan traveller | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

What we did this weekend – Beach time!

Dinas Dinlle Beach, one of our favourites

It’s been beautifully freezing and sunny at the minute up here in Snowdonia, North Wales.  We’ve been loving this winter, so much sun and at the minute, loads of snow.  We’re snowed in in Snowdonia!

Jane, well wrapped up

Don’t let the weather put you off!  Get wrapped up and go for it!!

Buddha in the garden……

….Broccoli in the basket (purple sprouting, proper treat;)

Our mate Mr Robin, keeps us company when we have breakfast in the garden.

Remember to leave a little food out for the small birds at this time of year, especially with all this snow.  Naturally, it’s a hard time of year for us all, not much is growing, food is scarce and its been a long winter.

We are making do until Spring kicks in.   There may be potatoes, cabbages, some broccoli, onions, swede, turnip, kale growing locally, so we’re not complaining, plus the occasional Pineapple from the supermarket!

The Llyn Peninsula from Dinas Dinlle

Top Soya Latte – Yum – Providero, Llandudno

Sunset up near the Beach House overlooking Anglesey and the Menai Straits. Booootiful:)

This is one cheeky little chap

Freezing winds but look at that big old sun:) Dinas Dinlle, the local

The beautiful thing about Snowdonia, one of many, is the different environments, from giant craggy mountains, down to wide stretches of beaches and forests, white water rivers, waterfalls, marshlands, it’s paradise for people who love going outside and exploring.

Deep in the heart of Snowdonia;)

Great advice!:)

“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

We like to slow things down in the winter, not fight against the weather and the darkness, but try and enjoy it for what it is.  A chance to take it easy, keep warm, play, cook and sing the winter away.  Winter can be a great time to reflect and recharge.

 

Beam me up!

The first signs of spring are here, the snowdrops and there are rumours about bluebells.  I can’t wait for wild garlic, one of my favourite parts of spring, but this world is warming, there is a little spring in the air and we can’t wait for nature to wake up an bloom.

 

Join us in beautiful North Wales this March at our Food For The Soul – Plant-based Cooking and Yoga Day Retreat, 18th March ’18.

We also have two relaxing Beach House Kitchen cooking holidays, A Taste of Bliss in Spain and Vibrant Vegan Cornwall, in stunning locations.   

Categories: 'The Good Life', Healthy Eating, photography, Wales, Winter | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drunken Cherries – Autumnal Livener!

Drunken Cherries

Surely one of the most delicious ways to warm up!  A fruity little livener!!  This is a simple method to preserve berries and produce some wonderful flavoured spirits to make winter cocktails.

It’s Halloween and we’re having a big fire and welcoming in the darker, wintery times with some luxury hot chocolate spiked with cherry brandy and some rich chocolate mousse (see recipe here) and drunken cherries.  There’s a theme there!!  Cherries and chocolate are a match made somewhere very, very nice.

I love an open fire at Halloween, staring into the flames I feel inspired and a real connection to the festival; from light to dark.  It’s also just great to be outside at night in the winter, especially with a clear sky overhead and maybe a glass of cherry brandy warming your cockles!!  Lighting fires at Halloween (or Samhain in Celtic Traditions) especially on higher ground is said to aid a souls way to heaven.

Samhain was a day set aside for fasting and reflection, but things have changed a little.  Halloween is now a big party of course, all about feasting and treats.  We’re well stocked for trick or treaters and I’m enjoying Rye flour at the minute, so loaves and cakes are on the way for tonight as well as plenty of squash/ pumpkin in a variety of forms.   I might go for a good old school Soul Cake (like a spiced scone really)?  We’ll see….

Beautiful Snowdonia – October is a spectacular month over here

North Wales has been sparkling of late in Autumn sunshine and crystal clear skies.  I love this time of year up here, probably my favourite time in these hills.  We’ve been out walking, exploring new corners of Snowdonia, there seems to be endless trails and paths that lead to new vistas, lakes and terrain.  Soon it will be a bog-fest, many paths transformed into marshes.  The walking is still incredible, but you need to get a little more semi-aquatic, and definitely, a whole lot muddier and chilled.

I’m not a huge fan of the dark, long nights, so tonight is a chance for me to celebrate the brighter times of year.  October has been so beautiful and November is the turning point where the wet and grey rise up and take control.  I’m always reminded of the villages I’ve visited in the high Himalayas, where they are snowed in for many months a year and spend the days with friends and family, drinking local chang (like a watered down moonshine), singing, dancing and telling stories.  That’s their approach to living through a really arduous winter.  I think we all need more singing, dancing and story telling in winter and lets face it, homemade cherry brandy is way better than chang (trust me)!!

You can use this method (technically it’s called ‘macerating’) to preserve and transform any berries really into something warming and delicious in the winter months.  We love to make things like Sloe Gin, Blackberry Whiskey and whatever soft fruits we can get our hands on.  I managed to get some tasty cherries a couple of months ago and now we are reaping the rewards!  I love preserving the bounty of summer/ autumn and enjoying it in the depths of winter, it seems like such a gift to pop open a jar of jam or pickle and share in the joys of the brighter months.  It makes winter slip by a little easier, some summertime sweetness.

Macerating cherries brings out some surprising flavours

Recipe Notes

Berries/ fruits like blackberries, strawberries, loganberries, sloe, plums, damsons, mulberries, blueberries will all be very nice in this recipe.

The longer you leave the fruit to macerate, the more the flavours will develop and change.  Taste it regularly and drink it when you like it!  It’s a fascinating process!!

———————————

Drunken Cherries

 

The Bits – Makes enough for one medium kilner jar

700g cherries (pitted and cut in half)

½ bottle brandy

2 handfuls sugar (to taste)

 

Do It

Place the cherries in medium sized kilner jar, if you’re keeping for awhile, or any large sealable container if otherwise.  Pour over the brandy and sprinkle the sugar over.  Place a lid on and gently shake to combine the sugar.  Now taste.  If you like it sweeter, add more sugar.  Seal and store in a cupboard.

These can be enjoyed after a few days but are better when left for a few weeks or longer.  If there are any cherries sticking above the brandy, either add more brandy or a splash of water.  

Use the cherries in desserts and drink the brandy as you like it.  It’s nice when served warm, especially in hot chocolate.  

Hiking in Snowdonia near Moel Siabod

  Come join us in North Wales for a retreat or cooking workshop soon

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Categories: Autumn, Desserts, gluten-free, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Dal Bhat Power! What’s cookin’ in Nepal

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

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

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

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

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

Jane is a big fan

Jane is a big fan

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

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

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

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

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

Monkey Temple Stupa - Kathmandu

Monkey Temple Stupa – Kathmandu

WHAT ELSE?

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

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

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

THE REAL DEAL

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

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

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

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

Mountain of dhendo! With all the Thakali trimmings

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yomari - a very interesting and unique Nepali sweet

Yomari – a very interesting and unique Nepali sweet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Primitive Juice Man Conquers Mighty Mountain!

Primitive Juice Man - on the way up

Primitive Juice Man – on the way up

I did.  Two days ago I climbed the second highest mountain in Britain, Snowdown, which is just behind our house.   I climbed it in record time (for me) fueled only by a beetroot, carrot, apple and ginger juice.  Wahee!  Juice power.

Super Juice

The Super Juice

As many of you will know, the Beach House is tucked away in the valleys of Wales, overlooking Anglesey and the Llyn Peninsula.  We have the most spectacular views and on days like today, when the skies are clear, I can see some of my favourite landscape anywhere.

Britian is experiencing a  heat wave at the moment and we are getting some of it, with temperatures in the mid 20’s for the past two weeks.  The garden is loving it (post to come soon) and our veg patch is looking amazing.

RAW EARTH MONTH UPDATE

The weather has come at the perfect time for our Raw Earth Month and it is definitely salad and smoothie weather at the moment. The only down side to a proper British summertime is that I get chronic hayfever, which is a huge drag.  We have consulted Jane’s homeopathic/ magician friend and she is sending up some remedies as we speak, hopefully this will stop my sniffles.

We are going to extend our Raw Earth month by two weeks, we are loving it!  The candle light at nights is perfect as it doesn’t get dark until 10ish anyway.  It adds a very peaceful feel to the house and there is something timeless about reading by flickering candlelight.  Handwashing our clothes has been interesting.  It takes a while and a little effort, but with the sun out and a special herbal soap, we are getting great results.

We have been making once a week trips in the car to pick up our amazing veg box from some wonderful people a couple of valleys away, full of the finest organic produce and the courgettes are coming thick and fast at the moment!

 

One thing we are using alot is the dehydrator.  Jane is taking full advantage of the abundant herbs and wildflowers at the moment and we are drying them for use in teas and infusions.  We realise that it uses a bit of electricity, but know that we will have to buy less in the long run.  It seems to at least balance out.

We watched an interesting documentary recently ‘No Impact Man’ about a guy giving up many things in a one year project, in the centre of New York.  We can draw alot of parallels with Colin and his family, but we are lucky to live in the country and have no TV anyway!  We are well from many temptations up here on the hill, no restaurants, bakeries or cafes.  No cinemas, shops, pubs!   It would be alot more difficult to do this kind of thing in a city.  Hats off to Colin and his family for sticking to it and setting an amazing example, his project became huge and was all over the media.  I am sure it made a big impact and they seemed to be having a good time doing it, which is surely the main thing!

I think we’d do this all again, especially the raw food part.  We are consuming alot less, recycling most of our water on the garden and generally life has slowed down.  So far, the experiment is going well and the sun is shining.  What more could you want!

View from the bottom - Snowdon, Nantlle Side.

View from the bottom – Snowdon, Nantlle Side.

View of Nantlle Valley from Snowdon

View of Nantlle Valley from Snowdon

What has this got to do with food you may ask?  Very good question.  I guess it highlights the fact that you don’t need a full English/ Welsh breakfast and 5 mars bars to go walking in the hills and that juices are super cool and full of energy.

I also realise that the weather is chilly in some parts of the world now (Tasmania especially I hear!) and it is surely nice to look at little wet Wales bathing in glorious sunshine for a change!  Long may it continue…..

OK, heres something food related, todays smoothie.  It’s a:

Green Banana, Coconut and Almond Smoothie

Makes one large jugful, enough for three glasses:

The Bits

2 bananas, 2 cups coconut milk (watered down), 1 apple, 1 cup cucumber, 3 cups spinach, 1 cup soaked almonds, 2 teas green powder (barley powder, spirulina), 1 cup grapes, 1 lime (juice and zest)

Do It

In the blender and blend, scrape down the side, blend, scrape down the sides and blend…….repeat until all is smoooooth.

Banana, Coconut, Almond and Spinach Smoothie

Banana, Coconut, Almond and Spinach Smoothie

We Love It!

Very sweet and filling smoothie, packed full of nutrition.  Anything green is great.

Foodie Fact

Spinach is regarded by many as the best thing you can eat.  Ever.  We agree.  Not only does it taste so, so good, it contains more iron than beef, pound for pound.

Categories: 'The Good Life', Healthy Living, Raw Food, Smoothies | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Raw Power Balls

Apricot Sesame and Tahini – Raw Power Balls

These are real super fuels, if you need power and energy, look no further.  These Raw Power Balls are like duracell batteries for the body.

We love a good raw bar.  Nutty or seedy.  Carob or crunch.  Nak’d and Nine Bar are just a couple on sale in the UK which are perfect when you fancy a treat but don’t want to eat a load of junk.  Making them yourself however is a lot more fun and allows your creative side to get busy.

These little balls pack a serious punch, tasty and like rocket fuel, your energy levels and vitality will leap when you try them.  We experiment with this recipe all the time and they are the perfect snack for a long day walking up steep hills (and then down again).  I eat them at work and they keep me rocking all day.  The measurements are rough here, they don’t need to be exact, handfuls are accurate enough.  This is a simple, quick snack that serves as a tasty last minute treat.

Packed with nuts and date, you need to take it easy with this type of snack.  They are very filling and packed full of sugar, hence the power.  Too many and you’ll negate any benefit gained from all that raw goodness (by getting fat!).

They don’t need any preparation, but the dates and nuts will be better for a soak.  They swell up and even taste better. They become softer and easier to blend.  Soaking will also release many of the useful enzymes and nutrients that are otherwise closed off to the body.  If you do decide to soak your bits, keep the juice, date juice is lovely and sweet and the nut juice is packed with nutrients.  We add it to juices, stews or soups.

You may also like to make these into a truffle.  Heat up some chocolate (in a bowl above a pan of steaming water) and roll you power balls in them until well coated.  Place on a tray, covered with baking parchment and stick them in the fridge.  Once the chocolate has hardened, they are ready to be enjoyed.  That’s surely a treat worthy of a special birthday walk or even a dessert in its own right (just make the balls slightly bigger).

On a wander, seeing some flowers.

Here are a few of our favourite Power Ball flavour combos:

The Bits

Makes six decent power balls

Basic recipe:

1 handful of good dates (we like medjool, soaked for 2 hours), 1 handful of almonds (soaked overnight), 1/2 handful of cashews (soaked overnight)

Dark Chocolate Orange

2 heaped teas cacao powder, 3 teas orange blossom water or 2 teas orange zest, 1/2 handful of raisin (soaked) 

Apricot, Sesame and Tahini

3 teas sesame seeds, 2 teas tahini, 1/2 handful of dried apricots (soaked and chopped)

Walnut Apple Pie

1 handful dried apples (soaked), 1 handful of walnuts (replace almonds), 1/2 teas cinnamon

Lemon Cardamom

2 teas lemon zest, 2 teas crushed cardamom seeds

Coco Choco Mint

1/2 handful of fresh coconut (blend first), 2 teas cacao powder, 2 teas finely chopped mint leaves

Vanilla Cashew

1 teas vanilla extract, use only cashew nuts

Very Berry 

1 handful of dried cranberry, 1/2 handful of dried blueberry, 1/2 handful dried cherries, 1 teas vanilla extract

Seedy Wonder

1/2 handful sunflower seeds, 1/2 handful pumpkin seeds, 1/4 handful sesame seeds, 1/4 handful poppy seeds

Ginger Bread

1/2 teas all spice, 1/2 teas dried ginger, 1 handful of pecans (replace almonds)

Maple Fig and Lavender (CAUTION – very sweet!)

1 teas maple syrup, 1/2 teas dried lavender, 1/2 handful dried figs (soaked and chopped)

Peanut Butter 

2 teas peanut butter, 1 handful of raw peanuts

The list goes on…………..like kids in a sweet shop……

Do It

The technique is always the same.  Put it all into a food processor, blitz until smooth (or chunky, you decide).  Get your hands in there and roll out a decent sized ball between your palms.  That’s it!

Place in the fridge for a while to make them firmer and a little less sticky.  They last for a long time in a sealed container in the fridge and can even be frozen and munched at a later date.

Chocolate Orange – Raw Power Balls

Serve

Preferably on top of a peak or in a forest somewhere far away from anywhere.

We Love Them!

Better than a biscuit and full of only raw goodness.

Foodie Fact

Dates give you a hefty dose of protein and fibre.  They are also high in calories, essential when wandering around the countryside (or city for that matter).  They are also a good source of Vitamin B and you’ll even get a splash of C thrown in as well.

Sun on flowers, taken on a walk in the woods

Categories: Desserts, Raw Food, Recipes, Snacks and Inbetweens | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Apricot, Avocado and Kiwi Smoothie

Apricots

Today’s smooth one came out rather nice. The richness of avocado and the zing of kiwi, with the touch of sweetness from the apricot. A well-balanced cup of goodness.

Jane and I had just taken a long walk down to Trigonos Organic Farm in the nearby Nantlle valley.  It has been an absolutely stunning day in the hills.  We popped down to see Pete and the gang and also managed to pick up some delicious little onions, carrots and potatoes.  Pete grows some really interesting, rare varieties.

Down on the farm, Trigonos (taken in April with snow on the hills)

It is all go down there at this time of year, as it is in our own garden and we are picking up many tips from the wise bunch at Trigonos.  Today we learnt to always water your seedlings at night, especially when sunny.  There seems so many do’s and dont’s when it comes to gardening, I have just been sticking seeds in pots and the earth and hope for a bloom.  We shall see…

Nantlle Valley and a black pony

So smoothies.  We needed something filling, I was shooting off to work , so this is a nice thick one, reminiscent of a milkshake with its creaminess, but without all that fat.  Avocados are excellent for this, creaminess without the cow.  I’m sure all vegans will agree!

Happy blending!

The Bits

Makes enough for two cups:

1 avocado (seeded and scooped out), 4 apricots (de-stoned), 2 kiwis (peeled and quartered), 1 cup of soya milk (or milk of your choice)

Do It

In the blender, blitz for a short time until smooth.

Serve

In the nicest glasses available, will also make a delicious smooth topping for a fruit salad or dessert (ie CAKE!), you may need to add a little something sweet to the mix, maybe honey or dates would be nice.

Foodie Fact 

Avocados are technically berries and are sometimes called alligator pears.  They contain a wide range of vitamins and fat (good fats, they’re full of fibre), which is actually a good thing for raw foodist.  We will be needing alot of avocados in a few days (see raw June)!  Avocados actually help your nutrition absorption by up to 300-400%.

Apricot, Avocado and Kiwi Smoothie

Categories: Desserts, Garden, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Local food, Raw Food, Recipes, Smoothies | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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