Posts Tagged With: india

Easy Vegan Indian Bowl – Roasted Vegetable and Coconut Curry, Black Kale Daal and Coconut Rice

Beach House Kitchen Bowl!

Better than takeaway! Wayyyy better!! Made with only fresh vegetables and spices, this Indian feast is delicious, rich and healthy too.  I’ve stripped down the preparation and ingredients, so this need not be a weekend treat.  It’s very mid-weekable!  Three recipes, served with our favourite condiments and we’re feasting vegan style!

I’m addicted to spice!  Can’t live without it for long.  When I travel around Italy or France, I’m always packing garam masala.  We really fancied a thali today, something colourful, filled with fragrant aromas, dishes to enliven the taste buds.  Plus, it’s my day off, what better way to celebrate!  We were missing India (see some of our India travels here) and felt like a light and seasonal curry. Lots of it….this is our Beach House Kitchen Thali Bowl!*

Curry in the BHK front garden, where the herb garden has gone a little feral.

It happens at this time of year.  The trees are all turning golden and crimson and I begin to ponder dark nights and BIG storms (we live on a mountain side).  I love the drama and peace of winter, but I need colours, spice and variety to get me through.  I like to get some rainbows cooking in the kitchen when the skies are grey.

We eat curries every week, sometimes even for breakfast (AM curry recipe here). I love giving local, seasonal veggies an Indian twist. I’ve used simple spices and ingredients here, like I said, this is a staple recipe, something I’d like you to find easy to cook. Add and subtract vegetables as you like, whatever is good or in your veg basket/ fridge.

Travelling India, especially in the South, is a moveable vegan’s feast. So many, coconut based options and up North, just ask to hold the ghee and you have a whole host of tantalising options, from street foods to wedding banquets, you’re gonna eat well in India as a plant-based wanderer.

Easy Vegan Curry Feast – 3 quick recipes

The essence of a good curry is fresh spices and a vibrant sauce (or gravy as they sometimes call it in India).  Got to be flavourful, it’s the base for soulful and spicy things to happen in your kitchen.  You’re creating something very special.

Here we make a simple tomato sauce, that can be used in a whole host of curries.  We mix in coconut cream, but it can be served as it is with vegetables.  We don’t blend it here, but that will make for a nice smooth sauce.

A portal to Pondicherry…..India we miss you (thanks for the spice!)

This was our lunch, so we ate it out in the garden.  I love the autumn up here in Snowdonia, the sunsets are regularly spectacular and there is plenty of sunshine with a nip in the air.  Ideal for walking in the mountains and along the beaches.  I’ll post some pictures soon.

We’ve been preparing for winter by refining our fermentation skills, Jane is on kombucha, I’m all over sourdough and sauerkraut etc.  Packing loads of colours and flavours into big jars and fermenting, it really is magic.  You can see some of our Radish Bombs here, with a nice hit of lime and spices.  Perfect on most things!  We are always inspired by our friend Janice from Nourished by Nature, see Spicy Radish Bomb recipe here.  A shining light!

These curry recipes will keep you going this autumn, straight through winter, filled with spicy, rainbow bowls.

Roasted Vegetable and Coconut Curry, all the trimmings…

Recipe Notes

The curry and daal will freeze well.  Make double if you fancy, portion it up into seperate containers and you’re well ahead.

The vegetables can be played with here. No squash, carrots or pumpkin is fine. No kale, use savoy cabbage or spinach.  No peppers, try courgettes or aubergines.  You get the idea!  Mix and match.  Play.  Enjoy!!

I’m not shy with oil here.  It adds richness, but using less will not adversely affect these dishes at all.  Stirring coconut oil into these dishes at the last minute is a nice way to finish things.

I roast and grind my own spices before cooking, especially the cumin and coriander.  You can’t beat the flavour.  Here’s a post about roasting and grinding your precious spices.

This is a mild, lightly spiced curry.  If you like spices add more!  If you like chillies, go crazy!!

Timing is everything right!  

Stage one – Start with your rice, then daal, then roast your vegetables and get the sauce cooking.

Stage two – Leave a lid on the rice (keep it warm), finish off the daal with the fried spices and garlic, add your roasted vegetables to your sauce.

There will be a lot going on here, you’ll need four pans and an oven working in harmony, but that’s the buzz and excitement of cooking like this, pots bubbling away, all action.  Once you’ve made these recipes a couple of times, you won’t even need the recipes.  You’ll be free-styling and expressing yourselves like true curry champions!!

Do let us know if you like this recipe, or even better, if you try it out.  

We love to hear from you below in the comments.  Say “hello!”  

I’ve also just started posting over on Instagram.  

Svaadisht!

 

Easy Vegan Indian Feast – Roasted Vegetable and Coconut Curry, Black Kale Daal and Coconut Rice

 

The Bits – For 4 big eaters or 6

Coconut Rice 

250ml brown basmati rice

500ml vegetable stock

1 1/2 teas cumin seeds

2/3 teas nigella/ kalongi seeds

1/2 teas mustard seeds

1/2 stick cinnamon

5 green cardamom pods (cracked)

4 tbs dessiccated coconut

1 tbs cold pressed oil/ coconut oil

1/2 teas sea salt

 

Black Kale Daal

250g red lentils

850ml vegetable stock

1/2 teas turmeric

 

125g black kale/ cavolo nero (finely sliced)

1/2 tbs cold pressed oil/ coconut oil

3 cloves garlic

2 heaped tbs chopped ginger

1 1/2 teas cumin seeds

1 teas mustard seeds

1/2-1 teas sea salt

 

Roasted Vegetable and Coconut Curry

2 peppers (chopped)

500g/ 1/2 large butternut squash

1 large onion

1/2-1 tbs cold pressed oil/ coconut oil

Sea salt and black pepper

 

Spicy Tomato Sauce 

1 large onion (chopped)

5 tomatoes (chopped)

5 cloves garlic (finely chopped)

2 tbs ginger (finely chopped)

1-2 red chillies (sliced)

150g/ 2 handfuls white cabbage (sliced)

2 teas garam masala

2 teas ground cumin

1 1/2 teas ground turmeric

1 1/2 teas ground coriander

1-2 tbs cold pressed oil/ coconut oil

1 teas sea salt and black pepper

Easy to be vegan!

Do It

Rice

Wash and drain your rice several times.  Add the oil to a small saucepan, heat on medium, add the seeds, stir for a 30 seconds, add the coconut, cinnamon and cardamon, stir and cook for a few minutes, until the coconut is golden and fragrant.  Add the rice and stock.  Stir again and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to a slow simmer and pop a lid on.  Leave to cook for 25-30 minutes.  It will depend on your rice.

Daal

Wash and drain your lentils well.  Add them to a medium sauce pan.  Cover with the stock, add the turmeric and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to a low simmer, pop a lid on and leave to cook for 25 minutes.  Stirring a few times.  Once the lentils are cooked, in a small frying pan, add the oil and heat on medium.  Fry the seeds, ginger and garlic together until the garlic is golden.  Add this mix to the lentils, along with the kale, season with salt and thin out the daal with hot water from a kettle if needed.

Curry

Preheat oven to 200oc.  Toss you squash, peppers and onion on a baking tray with oil, salt and pepper.  Place in the oven and roast for 30 minutes, turning once.  Get some nice colour onto the vegetables, some caramelised edges are very welcome.

While that’s happening, in a large frying pan on high heat, add your oil and cook the onions for 7 minutes, until golden.  Add the garlic, chilli, ginger and spices, fry a minute, stirring.  Now add the tomatoes and salt.  Lower the heat and cover with a lid.  Leave to cook for 8 minutes.  Take the lid off, add the coconut milk and cabbage, leave to simmer for 10 minutes.  Check the seasoning and ensure the cabbage is cooked through.

Your roasted vegetables will now be ready, scrape them gently into the pan and combine well with the sauce.

You’re good to go!  On a preferably warm plate/ shallow bowl, add the rice, daal and curry.

Serve topped with sliced chillies, your favourite pickles, crispy onions, radish bombs and we had coconut yoghurt.

Vegan curries all the way!  Healthy and delicious, always possible!!

Foodie Fact

Every part of this curry sparkles with nutritional wonders.  Because we’re only using fresh vegetables, whole grains and spices, it really is a bowl of healthy happy.  Eating a balanced vegan diet, based around fresh fruit and veg is the healthiest way we can fuel ourselves, tasty too!  This bowl is filled with a huge range of vitamins, minerals, iron, protein, anti-oxidants, pro-biotic goodness, good energy, good fats, good vibes!   This bowl is good for your heart, your mind, your skin, your tastebuds!!

You could even add some steamed broccoli or kale for an ultimate healthy happy bowl.

 

*PS – A thali is a traditional plate, with loads of compartments for treats.  We don’t have one.  I’d like one, but I’m trying to minimise my kitchen equipment.  It’s amazing what you can do with a few spoons and a pan.  No gimmicks.  No gadgetry.  I’m getting back to the roots of cooking.  Except my blender.  I draw the old school line there.  How do you hand-make a smoothie?

Categories: Autumn, Curries, gluten-free, healthy, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mango and Papaya Chutney

Mango and Papaya Chutney (vegan, gluten-free)

A tangy summertime tropical treat that goes well with most things; curries, burgers, salads, vegan cheese.  I used our Moxarella – Vegan Mozzarella recipe here on quite a tropical ploughman’s style platter.

Mango and papaya are two of my favourite fruits, although getting good ones can be tough in Wales.  I’ve noticed more papayas becoming available and the key to a papaya is to get them nice and ripe.  The skin should be almost completely yellow and orange and it should feel a little soft.  When I’ve eaten papayas in more tropical places, they go from just ripe to woah, take it easy, way too ripe in around 10 minutes.  It seems that in cooler climates, papayas are more relaxed.  Ours took around 4 days to ripen in a fruit bowl with bananas, if you want to keep it from ripening, pop it in the fridge.  I think a ripe papaya is a match for a ripe mango and, in India especially, is probably a 1/5 of the price.  No wonder Christopher Columbus called it ‘The Fruit of the Angels’.

Papaya Farming

I’ve worked on a organic farm which grew papayas in India. I became pretty good at harvesting them.  This entails using a long piece of bamboo, standing under the tree and jabbing (gently) a ripe papaya with your bamboo appendage, they’re the yellow/ orange ones, and in approximately less than a second, catching the falling papaya with your free hand.  This is a tricky business and takes practice and the reactions of a mongoose, of which there was family of living just beside my hut.  This was in Tamil Nadu.  Most mornings we harvested the crops for the local market, a fascinating array of produce created in a relatively small area, using mainly permaculture farming practices.

I was writing parts of Peace & Parsnips at the time, in the sweltering heat of summertime, the farming was a day job of sorts.  It was a organic farm in a community called Auroville.  A fascinating place.  The farm was called Solitude Farm and I also cooked lunch there with the women in the kitchen.  I learned much, mainly about using tropical ingredients like yams, banana flowers, plantains, various flowers, purple amaranth, snake gourds, plenty of coconut, and all kinds of other things.  Surprisingly for me, basil and little sweet cherry tomatoes grew like weeds all over the place.  We cooked on wood fires, crouching on the floor.  I loved it.  The restaurant used only organic produce grown on the farm, even the rice and peanuts.

Lunch is legendary at Solitude – celebrating the produce from the farm

I’ve also harvested mango’s. It’s a more dangerous undertaking.  Mango trees do not want you to pick their fragrant fruits.  Goggles and gloves can be useful.

This chutney is quick n’ easy, give it a whirl and be sure to let us know how it goes in the comments below.

Recipe Notes

This is a lower sugar chutney, I prefer it that way.  This has a good balance I feel, but if you like a very stick and sweet chutney, you may prefer a few more tablespoons of sugar.

We enjoyed this chutney with a mixed bag of a platter.  Nachos, salsa, smoky vegan mozzarella and pickled jalapenos.

Papayas are easy to skin, you can use a potato peeler or a sharp knife.  Then just scoop out all the big black shiny seeds.  The seeds are edible, quite peppery and bitter.  Your papaya flesh should be soft and deep orange/ pink in colour.

When you cut into a mango, be sure to trim away as much fruits as possible from the seed.  There can be quite a bit of fruit hidden around the seed.

Papayas can be huge, but in Britain, they are sold quite small, lets say around 8-10 inches in length.  That’s the size we use here.  Avoid papayas which are bruised or have lots of black spots.

 

Mango and Papaya Chutney (Vegan. Gluten-free)

 

The Bits – Make two large jars or 1 litre kilner jar

1 onion (finely diced)

2 heaped tbs fresh ginger (finely chopped)

1 small cinnamon stick

1 teas cumin seeds

1 teas coriander seeds

 

4 green cardamom pods (cracked)

1/3 – 1/2 teas chilli flakes or 1 red chilli (deseeded finely diced)

1/2 teas ground turmeric

3/4 teas nigella seeds

2 mangoes (peeled, deseeded and diced)

1 papaya (peeled, deseeded and diced)

100-125 g light brown sugar

125 ml red wine vinegar

1 tbs cooking oil

 

Do It 

In a sauce pan, add the oil and warm on medium high heat.  Add the cumin, cinnamon and coriander seeds, stir a few times, for around 30 seconds.  Then add the onions and ginger.  Fry for 6 minutes, until soft, then add the rest of the spices followed by the fruit and then finally, the sugar and vinegar.  Stir well and bring to a simmer.  Leave to cook for 35 minutes, until the chutney thickens.

Allow to cool, then spoon into a sterilised jar and use within three days. This chutney is ideal served with your favourite curries, salads, burgers or why not try a tropical cheeze platter.

Foodie Fact

Papaya is very high in vitamin C and is also a good source of folates, vitamin A and fibre.  Papayas help to support our immune system, are anti-inflammatory and may well keep our hearts healthy.

Categories: Chutney, Curries, gluten-free, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , | 24 Comments

Simple Black Bean & Pumpkin Curry

 

 

We had this for breakfast! Might not be everyones bowl of morning happiness but Jane and I love curry for brekkie, a pleasant habit we picked up at train stations and little bus stops in India. We wanted the all-time classic ‘Chana Masala’, but we didn’t have chickpeas!? What’s going on there?!! I feel like I have failed our household. Still, it lead to this creation which I was so pleased with, I felt the urge to share and write and celebrate the beauty of a simple curry.

SPICY WAKE UP CALL

We were getting tired of the smoothies and bowls of nuts and fruits and things routine, we wanted some SPICE in our early, sleepy eyed life!  When the grey tickles us, as it can at this time of year, we need to put some rainbow flavours and magic into our food.  Spices are magic dust right?!  Does any food have as much pizazz and down right tastiness as a deep and potent curry?  It can enliven the senses.  The sheer complexity of flavours mingling and merging, having a massive party all over your taste buds?  This curry doesn’t have to be eaten for brekkie, but do let us know if you try.  Ditch the fry up this Sunday AM and get spicy!!

I’ve been to India many times, it has become my second home.  I love living a life of contrasts, living on a hill in middle of nowhere, slightly mossy, Wales, straight to the honking depths of down town Delhi, thats my kind of contrast.  Mix things up.  Keep things vibrant and interesting.   For me, India is the country with everything going on within its borders, travel there is rich.  I know I go on about the food all the time, but, it is incredible.  Consistently.  Mind boggling in variety.  Like I’ve died and gone to a Dhaba.

Intensely orange – Pumpkin this time of year they be.

HIDDEN TREASURES (AND PICKLES)

If you’re looking for the best spices and Indian/ Pakistani/ Bangladeshi/ Nepalese etc ingredients, I recommend a regular visit to your local Asian shop/ supermarket.  It’s where all the best ingredients will be hiding and normally for very reasonable prices.  I find them a perfect location for spice worship.  Eastern cooking treasure troves, designed for real food lovers to disappear into for days, reappearing with carfull’s of fantastic ingredients, pickles and inspiration.

I say, take the afternoon off and have a good luck around, ask for help and guidance.  For me they’re like a flavour library for a cook, sifting through the ingredients and always finding something new and interesting to take home and play with in the kitchen.

The curry powder we used here was recommended to us by an Indian man in one of my favourite Asian supermarkets in Newcastle.  He wasn’t wrong, its brilliant, fiery and fragrant.  Curry powder has a bit of a bad name, but its just the same as any spice mix like bharat, ras el hanout etc.  If you buy a decent one, it works well.  Of course, making your own is the holy grail of any spice enthusiast.  But having the time and means to do that can be a challenge.  This is a quick dish, so lets keep it simple.

This is no traditional curry, but its not far off.  I’ve made this curry super easy for you, I’d love you to cook and enjoy it!  With only two spice mixes, garam masala and curry powder, which most of you will have knocking about in your cupboards and a quick cooking time.

If you don’t have the spice mixes, just try making your own up using things like turmeric, cumin and coriander for the curry mix, adding a little cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom for the garam masala.  Could be a very nice experiment!  I add red lentils to thicken the sauce up and make things hearty and substantial.  I used pumpkin, because its their ultra orange time of year, but use any vegetables you like here and a nice idea is stirring some greens in just before serving, a couple of handfuls of spinach leaves is cool.

In Nirvana, this is breakfast!

India, we miss you!x

Recipe Notes

I like the curry quite thin, more a thick daal than a chunky curry. Better for dipping warm chappatis into!  The lentils will just keep sucking up the water, so just keep some warm water handy when cooking, preferably a recently boiled kettle (easier) and top up the water as you fancy.

Mash it up!! Your garlic and ginger and chilli as best you can, blending them or whacking them in a pestle and mortar is best.  Releasing all their vibrant potential.

Leaving the curry to cool slighty, let it sit for 10 minutes with a lid on, will help the flavours to mix and mingle, get deep and meaningful.

I’ve gone easy on the chillies because Jane is anti-chilli, but you go wild if you like!

The lemon and coriander to finish are extras, but the lemon especially, will add a lovely citrus twist to the generally sweet curry, it also seems to re-vitalise the spices a little, bring the flavours to some kind of glorious crescendo!!!!  Swadishtx

The chickpea chapatis in the photos are made by whisking some gram flour, water and salt together, until a double cream texture forms, and frying in a little oil.  Simple, gluten-free, healthy, tasty…….

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Simple Black Bean & Pumpkin Curry  Serving suggestion – eat outside, in a garden.

Simple Black Bean & Pumpkin Curry
The Bits – For 2

1 small onion (sliced)
1/2 tbs cooking oil

3 garlic cloves (peeled and crushed)
1 inch ginger – roughly 1 heaped tbs (finely grated)
1/2-1 green chilli (finely diced)

250g black beans
75g red lentil – 1 big handful (washed)

200g squash/ pumpkin – 2 handfuls (diced)
300ml hot water
2 tomatoes (chopped and mashed)
1 heaped tbs tomato puree
1 teas salt
1 1/2 tbs curry powder

1 heaped tbs garam masala

Roughly 2 teas lemon juice

Handful chopped coriander (optional one for the coriander lovers out there)

 

Do It

In a large sauce pan, fry the onions until they are texture like sun (golden brown), then stir in your garlic, ginger and chilli, stir and fry for a minute and then add the lentils, beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, curry powder, squash, water and stir together.  Bring to a boil.

Cook on a fast simmer for 10 minutes with a lid on, stirring occasionally to stop the lentils sticking to the bottom. Add your garam masala and cook for 5 minutes more.  Stir in a little more water if its getting too thick.

Once the squash is nice and soft, stir in the lemon juice, check seasoning and serve. If you like coriander, sprinkle some chopped coriander over the dish. I like it with warm chapatis or chickpea chapatis, dip them in and enjoy!  I also served it with some green mango pickle.  One of my favs.

 

Foodie Fact

Pumpkin is full, full of good things.  Especially this time of year when they’re bang on seasonal and hopefully quite local.  Very orange, means goodness.  Lots of vitamin A, one cup contains 200% of your daily need.  You’ll be seeing in the dark in no time.  It’s got loads of fibre and pumpkin is also said to keep our skin shining.  Bananas are famous potassium sources, but pumpkin actually has considerably higher levels of potassium than bananas.  Vitamin C, also in the mix somewhere, they’re just one of the best things we can eat at this time of year and throughout winter.   Superstars!!

PS – Please don’t throw away the seeds, clean them off and roast them for a while in an oven.  You will not regret the slightly time consuming picking orange gloop off them.

 

Categories: Autumn, Curries, Dinner, gluten-free, healthy, Nutrition, Organic, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Quick Carrot and Ginger Pickle plus Five Health Benefits of Ginger

Quick and easy - Carrot and Ginger Pickle Quick and easy – Carrot and Ginger Pickle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Bits – Makes 1 jar or serves 4-6

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

1 onion (finely sliced)

3 tbs ginger (finely sliced or grated)

3 tbsp oil

½ tsp fenugreek seeds

1 1/2 teas cumin seeds

1 teas coriander seeds (the smaller ones are best)

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

1 ½ tsp turmeric

2 tsp salt

5 tbsp unrefined sugar

1/2 lemon (juice)

Very simple recipe:) Very simple recipe with brilliant results:)

Do It

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

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

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

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

Quick Carrot and Ginger Pickle Quick Carrot and Ginger Pickle

Serve

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

Foodie Fact 

See above – we’ve got ginger covered.

We've been loving the winter sunshine down on the beach. We’ve been loving the winter sunshine down on the beach.
Categories: Chutney, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, photography, Recipes, Side Dish, Superfoods, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Mango & Coconut Lassi

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Mango and Coconut Lassi (Vegan)

A quick and delicious breakfast for us this morning.  The perfect antidote to a very grey day in Wales, some tropical flava!  We managed to pick up/ save some very ripe mangoes recently and have been trying out coconut water, which seems like a bit of a craze at the minute.  Mangoes and coconut, beaches and palm trees, a little escapism from the dark nights and storms of our little hillside retreat.

A lassi is something like an Indian milkshake that comes in many varieties, basically salty or sweet, but there are so many ways this yoghurt based drink can be enjoyed.  Salted lassi is lovely, normally flavoured with a little ground cumin.  Lassi’s are easily made vegan with the addition of non-dairy milk and vegan yoghurt, both are best used unsweetened we find.  You can then control which and how much sweetener you choose to use, if any.  The mango and coconut water are already sweet here and any sweetener is really only needed to give the sweet tooth a little treat.

TOP MANGOES

We’ve eaten mangoes all over the world, but have to say that the best are Indian.  I don’t think any other country reveres a fruit quite like Indians with their mangoes.  Maybe the French with grapes?!  Italians with tomatoes?!!  Brits with apples?!! Its out there for discussion.  Surely having a mango tree in your garden is a sign of very good karma though!  Especially in Wales!!

The sheer diversity of mangoes in India is bewildering and the season is anticipated like the festive season over here.  Mangoes are now very expensive in India, especially certain highly regarded varieties like Alphonso, Badami, Chausa, Dasheri…..there are loads.  Where are you favourite Mangoes from?  Thailand and the Philippines are closely behind India in the mango nirvana stakes for sure.  The ones we bought here were from Brazil(!)

Adding turmeric to lassi’s is an age old remedy for stomach complaints in the sub-continent and we like adding turmeric to anything, such is it’s vibrant health giving properties (not to mention the colour!  WHAM!!  YELLOW!!!)

We are drinking these in autumnal Wales and need no extra chilling.  If you happen to be in a nice hot part of the globe (well done!) you may like to add a few ice cubes to the lassi and decrease the coconut water a little.  You could also freeze your coconut water into ice cubes, this works brilliantly and adds a lovely coco twist to cold drinks.

Other lassi varieties you could try:

Strawberry, Pineapple and Mint, Avocado and Lime, Beetroot and Thyme, Chocolate and Pistachio,  Apple and Chai Spiced…….

You may also like to check out the brilliant Vegan Richa’s recipe for a spicy Thandai Lassi.

How to pick a ripe mango?  Well worth knowing.

Mangoes are such a treat in Wales, they don’t come our way very often.  We think a lassi is the perfect home for a nice ripe mango and a breath of bright tropical air in the early dark nights and rain clouds of beautiful Wales.

Recipe Notes

If are struggling to find coconut water, go for non-dairy milk (like soya or almond) and even straight water will make a good lassi.

If you can get ground cardamom, please do.  Just a sprinkle on the top transforms the lassi.  Cardamom and Indian sweets got together perfectly, but remember that too much can be overpowering.  Lightly sprinkle.

These lassi’s are made without turmeric, so the colour is a little lighter.

Mango and Coconut Lassi (Vegan)

Mango and Coconut Lassi (Vegan)

The Bits – Makes two small glasses

1 mango (peeled and de-stoned)

175ml coconut water

5 tbs dairy free yoghurt

1-2 teas sweetener (we used brown rice syrup)

1/2 teas turmeric (optional)

 

Pinch cardamom powder

Do It

Pop all ingredients into a blender and blitz until smooth and creamy.  Check the sweetness and you can even add more yoghurt for extra creaminess.

Creamy sweet fruity YUM!

Creamy sweet fruity YUM!

Serve

Pour into your finest glassware and sprinkle over a little cardamom and chopped almonds or pistachios for a real authentic India style.

Foodie Fact

Soya is packed full of protein and coconut has amazingly healthy fats.  Mangoes are very high in vitamin A and C……as far as breakfasts go, this is a smooth and tasty winner!

Categories: Breakfast, Healthy Eating, Recipes, Smoothies, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Aviyal – Keralan Coconut & Vegetable Curry with Watermelon & Pineapple Salad

Aviyal - Keralan Coconut and Vegetable Curry with Pineapple and Watermelon Salad

Aviyal – Keralan Coconut and Vegetable Curry with Pineapple and Watermelon Salad

A simple, light summer curry with all the joys and sparkling nutrition of coconut and seasonal vegetables.  This is a recipe straight outta Peace & Parsnips and was recently featured online here in Reveal Magazine.  Recipes like this are a wonderful reminder for me of special times spent travelling and cooking in India.  Kerala is surely one of the most beautiful corners of the planet and its food is surprisingly vegan friendly, diverse and really healthy.

This is a recipe I learnt from my friend Narendra on the patio of a wooden hut in a yoga retreat, rural Tamil Nadu.  Although this is (probably) a traditional Keralan style curry, they love it in neighbouring Tamil Nadu also.  I had been eating it regularly in India and was so pleased when Narendra took the time to sit down with me and finally get a recipe on paper.  He taught me his families traditional recipe, from the ancient temple town of Madurai, and it was pleasing simple.  Like many Indian family staples, the difference is in the freshness of the ingredients; the vegetables and the spices.  Most Indian households will have what I call a ‘Sabji’ (Vegetable) man.  Just like a milk man in the UK, he wanders the streets in the mornings selling his wares from a cart, shouting up to the windows of house wives what’s good , freshest and of course, on special offer!  Fresh vegetables are everywhere in India and veg markets are frequent and always interesting to wander around and pick up some funky looking spice or odd looking root (maybe a mooli or two?).

The beaches of North Kerala are stunning!

The beaches of North Kerala are stunning! Kannur

Although this is a simple recipe, cooked most days in Keralan homes, it adapts well to the changing seasons in most countries.  Any variety of vegetables can be used in its preparation and Aviyal lends itself perfectly to British/ European veg.  In fact, Narendra’s grandmother used to call things like carrots ‘British veg’ as they we only grown and popularised in the time of the Raj, when much of Indian cooking as we know it was altered and influenced by British tastes.

The ladies at Varnam Homestay, Wayanand, Kerala - Lunch prep in full swing

The women Varnam Homestay, Wayanand, Kerala – Lunch prep in full swing

I was lucky to cook in a beautiful kitchen near Wayanad National Park, Northern Kerala with some amazing ladies.  Here I learnt some proper Keralan classics and top tips that you can only learn by actually getting your hands on the pots and pans.  I loved the way that they used very roasted coconut to add depth and flavour to sauces, especially when used with piles of freshly grated ginger.  I also loved cooking with a wide range of local produce, all of their dishes contained only ingredients from their own land.  Spices and all!  They even grew their own coffee and we were inundated each day with fresh exotic fruits, many of which I’d never seen before.  Mangoes grew above the hammocks in the garden, guavas, green figs, coconuts, plantains……you can imagine, it was a bit like eden/ nirvana!

Cooking at Varnam Homestay, Kerala

Cooking at Varnam Homestay, Kerala

Aviyal is such a healthy, light dish, nothing like the rich and fiery curries of the much of North India.  Coconut is king in the south, making travelling around South India a foodie paradise for vegans.  Its up there with places like Thailand or parts of the Med for traditional vegan dishes.  Anywhere that the vegetable or coconut thrives, you find brilliant vegan dishes.  Vegan food is so creative and evolving all the time, but it is nice to find dishes on my travels that reflect a cultures heritage and history.  We’ve always eaten and enjoyed vegan dishes, we just don’t necessarily give them that name (which, for whatever reason, can put some people off).

Indian spices, down at the market

Indian spices, down at the market

The Bits – For 4
For the curry
•2-3 fresh green chillies
•2 big handfuls of freshly grated or desiccated coconut
•2tsp cumin seeds
•220ml coconut milk or unsweetened soya yogurt
•2 large carrots, scrubbed
•2 large potatoes, scrubbed
•1 large courgette
•6 fat asparagus spears
•2 green plantains, peeled
•200ml water
•1tsp ground turmeric
•1tsp of sea salt
•1 big handful of mangetout or green beans
•2tbsp coconut oil
•2tsp mustard seeds
•3tbsp curry leaves
For the pineapple & watermelon salad
•A small pineapple
•One third of a small watermelon (don’t bother deseeding)
•1 large cucumber
•1 small handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
•A pinch of sea salt
•A large pinch of chaat masala mix or black salt (optional)

Do It
In a pestle and mortar or a food processor, blend together the chillies, coconut and cumin seeds (if you’re using desiccated coconut, add 2tbsp of the coconut milk to make a thick paste). This is best done in advance and can be left overnight in the fridge to develop zing.

Cut the carrots, potatoes, courgette, asparagus and plantains into 2.5cm pieces. Heat the water in a large pan and add the turmeric, salt, carrots and potatoes. Bring to a steady boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and pop a lid on the pan. Cook for 10 minutes, then add the courgettes and plantains and cook for 10 minutes more, keeping the lid on.

Add the coconut paste to the curry with the coconut milk or yogurt and stir carefully to combine. Cook uncovered for 8-10 mins on a gentle simmer. Check that the carrots and potatoes are tender, then add the asparagus and mangetout and remove the pan from the heat. Cover, set aside for a few minutes.

Jane and I in the Yoga Retreat, Tamil Nadu

Jane and I in the Yoga Retreat, Tamil Nadu

Serve

Really simply, with steamed rice.  Keralans love their rice!  A crunchy salad is great as a side, exotic fruits work well here with Aviyal.  This is how they served it in the Yoga Ashram (where the food was excellent).

Foodie Fact

Coconuts are wonderfully healthy, containing high levels of Lauric Acid which is anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacteria.  They also have the highest level of electrolytes known to man, making them perfect when exercising or when dehydrated.  In some parts of the world it is even used intravenously for the purpose of re-hydration.  Coconut can boost our metabolism and make our skin shine.

Keralan sunset

A Keralan sunset, Kannur

Categories: Curries, Healthy Eating, Peace and Parsnips, Recipes, Salads, Summer, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Vegan Baingan Bharta (Minced Aubergine Curry)

Baingan Bharta (Minced Aubergine Curry) Baingan Bharta (Minced Aubergine Curry)

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

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

IS IT A DIP?

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

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

COOKING TIPS

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

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

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

G.M. CROPS IN INDIA

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

A RADIANT DAY ON THE HILL

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

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

JO POTT SUPPER CLUB

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

 

The Bits  – For 2

2 large aubergines (cut into chunky batons)

4 medium tomatoes (roughly diced)

4 cloves garlic

3 cm fresh ginger (finely chopped)

1 medium onion (finely sliced)

Spices

1 teas mustard seeds

2 1/2 teas ground cumin seeds (1 teas ground)

3 teas coriander seeds (1 ½ teas ground)

1 teas turmeric

2 teas sweet paprika

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

1/2 teas asafoetida

 

1 -2 teas sea salt

3 tbs oil

125ml water

 

Garnish

Fresh coriander (or sprouted lentils as we used)

 

Do It

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

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

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

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

Baingan Bharta Baingan Bharta

Serve

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

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

Foodie Fact

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

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

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

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

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

Creamy Peanut and Sweet Potato Curry

Creamy Peanut Curry with Sweet Potatoes (Vegan) Creamy Peanut Curry with Sweet Potatoes (Vegan)

This is not a fussy thing!  Not a gram (or lentil) of stress, just lots of spicy and sweet creaminess……the perfect dish to end Vegetarian Week. Twitter takes up a lot of time! I’ve been tweeting like a nutter this morning but its great to come back to the BHK. Blog-ville!

Here is last nights dinner which worked out a treat. Creamy and sweet with a hint of nuttiness and plenty of spice this is pure plant and packed with things to make you shine and go MMmmmmmmm……. This is a chunky curry, all made in the one pan for ease of preparation. We like to keep things whole food and don’t think this means loads or extra prep or time over the hob. There is no separate masala sauce making here, we just dive straight in and get maximum flavour and richness from the soya milk and peanut butter.

Jane and I celebrated my birthday on the beach and in the garden yesterday. A little belated as I’ve been busy promoting ‘Peace and Parsnips’ down in London and working at the Trig.  We quaffed a nice bottle of Sancerre and watched the sun slowly set from a rug near our stone circle (quite a cool feature of our garden!)  Pretty idyllic behaviour!  Our garden is looking wild and verdant at the minute, alive with the hum of big busy bumble bees.  You have to wait ages for a sunset at this time of year, we gave up at 9:30pm and retreated into the Beach House. I mention in the recipe that we like our veggies with a little crunch and must say that the pictures of the curry were taken alot later in the evening when the curry had sat and carried on cooking. They were well cooked by that stage (a bottle of wine can have a bizarre effect on cooking).

The Beach House Garden - Waiting for sunset The Beach House Garden – Waiting for sunset

NATURAL HEALING

Later we watched an interesting documentary ‘Sacred Science‘ about natural plant healing, straight from the shamans of the Amazon.  There is so much healing potential in the plant world, most of which we are unaware of.  This documentary opened our eyes to the potency of the natural world to heal even serious or terminal illness; cancer, parkinsons, diabetes etc.  The Amazon is tragically disappearing for a number of reasons, one of the main ones being deforestation for the growing of soya beans to fatten cattle for humans to consume.  Cutting out meat and dairy will have a hugely positive effect on the Amazon, safeguarding the plants that will one day, no doubt, be used more widely to cure illnesses that presently can only be treated with powerful chemical drugs with many side effects.

Shades view Shades view

A WORD ON WELSH WEATHER

(Always an interesting conversation in North Wales.  We had hail stones the other day like ping pong balls.  It sounded like the world was being pummelled with marbles!) Its been chilly up here in North Wales and the plants are taking it slowly this year. Basically, not growing. We are about to put our crop of seedlings out into the veg patch, but if things don’t get alot drier and sunnier, we fear stunted beetroots and shy cabbages. Come on SUN! Trigonos (is our local organic/ biodynamic veggie farm) is growing a load of veggies this year and hopefully soon we’ll have some local seasonal veggies to play with. At the minute we are turning to things like sweet potato regularly, primarily because they are one of the most nutritious (see ‘Foodie Fact’ below) and delicious things that could ever pass your hungry lips.

ULTIMATE SPINACH!

Jane makes me a mix CD for my birthday every year, last year we had the magnificence of ‘Wild Honeypie’ which contained alot of tracks from the awesome snowboarding movie ‘Valhalla‘. This years offering is ‘Hazy Daze’ and I’ve popped a couple of the tunes at the bottom of this post. To give you an idea of what we’re grooving to when peeling our radiant orange spuds. Its fair to say that ‘Ultimate Spinach’ are our new favourite band for so many reasons.

So, a simple curry which we hope you make with big smiles and eat with loved ones and laughterXXXXxx

Jane getting out little birthday picnic ready Jane getting our little birthday picnic ready – the Beach House Garden

The Bits – For 4

850g sweet potatoes (peeled and chopped into 2 inch chunks)

1 large onion (sliced)

1 large pepper (deseeded and cut into 2 inch chunks)

1 large courgette

2 large tomatoes (roughly diced)

1 chilli (finely diced) or 1/2 teas chilli flakes

2 inches ginger (roughly grated)

250ml soya milk

2-3 tbs smooth peanut butter

1 tbs vegetable oil

1 teas sea salt

 

Spices

2 teas cumin seeds

1 1/2 teas mustard seeds

1 teas fenugreek seeds

 

1 teas ground turmeric

2 teas ground coriander

1/2 teas ground cardamom or 4 cardamom pods

Just about ready - Curries up! Just about ready – Curries up!

Do It

In a large frying pan, warm the vegetable oil and add the spice seeds (only).  Leave them to fry and pop for 30 seconds and then add the onion.  Stir well and add 1 tbs of water if the pan is getting too hot.  This helps to prevent the spices from sticking and potentially burning.  Fry and stir for 5 minutes, when the onions are golden, add the ginger, chilli and sweet potatoes and cook for another 3 minutes.  Making sure you stir regularly.

Now add the ground spices to the pan, stir well and add the tomatoes with 2 tbs water.  Cover and cook for 5 minutes.  Now add the soya milk, courgettes and pepper, turn the heat up a little and bring the curry to a boil. Lower the heat and cover and cook for roughly 5-7 minutes, until the courgettes are soft with some crunch still.  If you plan on serving the curry later, cook only for a few minutes, the veggies will cook through when you come to re-heating the curry.

Just before serving, stir in the peanut butter.  If you really like peanuts, go for 3 tbs, 2 tbs will give a light, nuttiness.

Serve

Would be lovely with some freshly chopped coriander, brown rice and all your favourite curry accompaniments. A spiced chutney of some sort will be magnificent!  To add even more nutrition by adding a few handfuls of spinach to the finished curry and stirring them in.

Creamy Peanut Curry with Sweet Potato (Vegan) Creamy Peanut Curry with Sweet Potato (Vegan)

Foodie Fact

Sweet potato is one of our favourite ingredients.  Its such a treat in so many ways, just roasted in its jacket is something sublime.  Sweet potato (also called Yam) is grown all over the world, there are actually over 200 varieties.  The insides of these potatoes can be purple, cream, yellow, pink, white….  They are originally from Central and South America, one of the oldest foods known to man, nowadays the worlds largest producer is China. Sweet potato is one of the finest sources of beta-carotene, raising our Vitamin A levels.  Eating sweet potatoes with a little fat, i.e. the vegetable oil in this recipe, helps the body absorb the beta-carotene. These vivid tubers also contain lots of Vitamin C and Manganese.

Categories: Curries, Healthy Eating, Music, Nutrition, photography, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Toasted Cashew and Green Pepper Pulao plus the healthy magic of Cinnamon

Toasty Cashews.  YUMAH!

Toasty Cashews. YUMAH!

Toasty cashews with sweet peppers and a raft of spices and fluffy rice.  Its all there.  Indians taking a staple dish way up there towards Nirvana and beyond!!!!!!

A simple rice dish (don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients) with some seriously tasty touches.  Toasted cashews are ever delicious.  Pulao is basically a side dish, but can really be a main course, something like a Biryani for example, with a few more veggies and a little more spice.  Pulao is like a toned down cousin of Biryani.  Just like all Indian food, flavours here are turned up to 11 and the possibility of spice combing are fully explored.  This may seem like alot spices to be putting into your rice, but they are worth it and if you are interested in cooking Indian food, you will find that all of these spices are used almost on a daily basis in your average Indian kitchen.

In India this March, above the Himalayan snowline in a family home.  Dinner time was a huge highlight (we could warm out hands over the rice)

In India this March, above the Himalayan snowline in a family home. Dinner time was a huge highlight (we could warm out hands over the rice)

A SPICY CONUNDRUM 

When you see the recipes for many Indian dishes you are immediately confronted with the sheer length and seemingly mind boggling array of spices in even a simple dish.  Do not fret, once you get them all together and start cooking more Indian food, your dhaba (spice rack) will become your best friend.  I always bang on about this, but keep your spices in sealed containers and preferably in the fridge (if you live in a hot place or your central heating is potent).  Don’t mix strong smelling spices with, like Hing (Asafoetida) with other spices, they’ll all be tinged with the funk of hing.  Get your spices ready, in one bowl if possible, before hand.  Then when the pan is hot and the spatula is flying, you can simply pour them in with no real fuss.  Bear  in mind however that some spices are better added earlier or later in the cooking process, depending on the dish/ spice.  Its a little complex really!  Being a bit organised with your spices beforehand saves you clambering around with slippy jars and unruly spice bags.

I’ve used brown rice and thrown some of my favourites, flax seeds in, but both are not exactly traditional.   If you use white rice, you could knock 10 minutes off the overall cooking time.

One of the main men in Nainital market.  Great onions.  India '15

One of the main men in Nainital market. Great onions. India ’15

The Bits

1 tbs cooking oil (vegetable/ sunflower etc)

400g brown rice

600ml light vegetable stock

1 green pepper (as finely diced as you can)

1 handful of cashews (chopped in half lengthways, like half moons)

2 cloves garlic (peeled and smashed up or finely diced)

1 large tomato (finely diced)

 

Spices

1-2 large red chilli (dried and cut lengthways, remove seeds for less heat)

6 green cardamom pods (split)

1 small cinnamon stick (2 inches long)

5 cloves

6 green cardamom pods (split)

1 teas cumin seeds

1 teas fennel seeds

½ teas nigella seeds

1 tbs flax/linseeds

 

Optional Topping

1 handful toasted cashews

1 handful fresh coriander leaves (roughly chopped) – we didn’t have any (soz)

Fried Pulao - Just add a few tomatoes

Fried Pulao – Just add a few tomatoes for a super simple lunch treat

Do It

In a large saucepan, with a good fitting lid, warm the oil on medium high heat and add the green peppers, fry them for a couple of minutes before adding the cumin and nigella seeds, stir for a minute and then add the rest of the spices and garlic, stirring all the time.  Cook these for a minute and then it’s time to pour in the rice and tomatoes.  Combine all the ingredients well and leave to warm through for yet another minute.

Pour over the stock and turn the heat up a little until the rice is vigorously boiling.  Now place a well fitting lid over the rice and turn the heat down to minimum.  Leave to steam away for 40-45 minutes (white rice, know off 10 minutes cooking time).

While the rice is cooking, grab a small frying pan and on medium heat, add the cashews and toast them gently.  Tossing them about, getting them nice and coloured.  Toasty.  Gorgeous.  Dark golden.

Once cooked, have a peak, the rice should be nice and fluffy.  With a fork, being careful not to scratch your nice, non-stick pan (if you are lucky enough to have one), gently tease and fluff the rice.  If you like added richness, you can add a drizzle of oil here and coat the rice.  It gives nice shine and richness and would be condone by most Indian cooks I know, although they would probably add a good knob of ghee.  Pop the lid on and leave to sit for a few minutes before serving.  The final, fragrant mingle……

Side/Main Dish (just add spoons)

Toasted Cashew and Green Pepper Pulao – Side/Main Dish (just add spoons)

Serve

Pulao is an occasion.  Mix in most of the cashews.  Warm a platter and pile it in the middle, this makes for a lovely centre piece for any Indian feast.  Or you can line some tea cups with cling film and spoon the pulao into them, packing it down quite well.  Turn the cups over, onto the plate you’re using for serving and gently lift off the cup.  This will leave you with a very neat and professional looking pile of rice.  Scatter with some freshly toasted cashews and a little fresh coriander.

Foodie Fact

All these spices are so very good for you.  At random let me pick cinnamon, a serious, serious anti-oxidants.  So much so, that it should be offered in all pharmacies across the country to treat and prevent things like colds.  Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties, it can help to stabilise insulin and hormones and can even help against heart disease.

Spices are our natural friends and the more spices you can add to your food, namely cook plenty of food from India or the Middle East, the healthier you will no doubt be.  Imagine the cumulative effects of eating decent amounts of cinnamon, fennel seeds, cloves, cumin, coriander…………….you’ll live a healthy life until you’re 200 (with some decent karmic conditions along the way).

JUST ADD SPICEX

Jane in Norbulingka Palace, Dharamasala, India '15

Jane in Norbulingka Palace, Dharamasala, India ’15

Categories: Curries, Healthy Eating, Recipes, Side Dish | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Sweet Potato and Spinach Thoran (Keralan Stir Fry)

Sweet Potato and Red Pepper Thoran

Sweet Potato and Red Pepper Thoran

Do not be put off by the long list of ingredients, this is Indian cooking in a flash! Thoran is like a South Indian stir fry, very quick to get together and whip up.  Its one of those dishes that easily slots into the ‘staples’ category of your recipe repertoire.   Small efforts are rewarded with massive and delightful flavours.  Definitely our way of doing things.

The ingredients for this have been adapted to Wales, a subtle change from steaming, tropical Kerala.  I’ve still gone for some non-native ingredients, pepper and sweet potato, but swede and parsnips just don’t seem to fit the bill (although I did use them for a soup – coming soon……)

Thoran is what the Indians would call a ‘dry’ side dish, normally served with a saucy curry (like Sambar) and rice, some coconut chutney would finish things off like a tropical Keralan dream.  Thoran is cooked especially well in Kerala and Tamil Nadu and this part of the world is a vegans heaven.  There are very few dishes which are reliant on ghee (clarified butter) that dominates the cooking of North India.  In the south its all about the coconut and sometimes, if you’re lucky, the odd cashew.  The food is lighter and seems fresher, without the reliance on uber rich, spicy sauces (which I might add are extremely delicious).

Thoran is an essential part of a Sadya, which is basically a very elaborate South Indian Thali, normally served on a banana leaf (if you’re in the right joint) at festival times.  Sadya showcases the depth and diversity of Indian cuisine, the way for centuries it has been designed and modified to tantalise all of the tastebuds and senses.  Sadya will have dry curries, saucy curries, fluffy rice, crispy papads (poppadoms), sour chutneys, creamy/ herb based chutneys, smokey chutneys, banana chips, spicy pickles and normally a tamarind based soup (Rasam) to aid digestion of all of this.  In fact, a full on Sadhya served at a big festival can consist of around 28 dishes (some even go up to 60!)  I would have to say that to get the most flavour from your Keralan food, it has to be eaten with (well washed) hands.  Roll up your sleeves and dive in.  A Sadya sounds like an elaborate feast but its actually quite a normal meal, inexpensive and versions of it are served in modest restaurants all over Kerala.  I think we normally paid around one pound for an all you can eat Sadya.  Yes ONE POUND for all that deliciousness!  Welcome to India!  The dishes all come out in a specific order and a nice gentleman will come over and just keep spooning things onto your welcoming leaf.  It is quite a complicated process, but when you’re the recipient, you just scoop away and smile.

Trying to help, learning loads.....

Trying to help, learning loads…..

I have just got back from the Mother land and while I was there stayed in some amazing homestays.  I spent the first six weeks travelling from Delhi to Kerala with my Dad (see out blog ‘The Jalebi Express‘) and then we met Jane in Delhi and Jane and I travelled the Himalayas and spent time with the Tibetans up in Mcleod Ganj. Homestays are not normal in India, they vary greatly, some are just like hotels although many hotels in India can soon become something like a homestay.  If you hang around for a while, you are bound to get to know all the people that work there.  More so than in other countries.  Even in the heart of Delhi, I now know all the people who work in my favourite hotels, restaurants, shops and chai stands.

Whilst travelling around the spectacular North of Kerala we stayed at Varnam Homestay, just outside Wayanad National Park.  There, I had the pleasure of cooking with Beena (our host) and her amazing team of lady helpers.  Wayanad is tucked away in the northern tip of Kerala and is a stunning area, the flora and fauna are dense and spectacular; wild elephants and tigers roam the land and the people are gentle and very hospitable.  The way of life hardly wavers above a gentle amble.  Beena and Varghese our gracious hosts were amazing and could not have made Dad and I more welcome.  When I mentioned my passion for food and cooking they immediately roped me in to helping out with the next days lunch and dinner prep.  I learnt so much and was amazed to see their chopping skills.  You pull a plastic sheath over your index finger and use it as a mid-air chopping board.  The knives are sharp and occasionally you end up cutting through the flimsy guard.  Once the blood is stemmed, you carry on with a new colourful finger guard.  This of course never happens to the ladies.

The Varnam ladies get busy

The Varnam ladies get busy

We prepared many dishes, but the Plantain Thoran was one of the highlights, cooked over a wood flame stove with minimal fuss.  We also made a Keralan classic sauce, with highly roasted coconut and ginger as a base.   A very unique flavour and something I will be cooking very soon (I forgot the name, it may be called Inchi Curry – see here for a recipe).  Once i find a good supply of coconuts up here, our kitchen is heading towards Kerala again.

Varnam Homestay was set in some impressive farmland and forests.  The little huts are raised on stilts to ensure the farmers have somewhere to go when a tiger wanders by

Varnam Homestay is set in some impressive farmland and forests. The little huts are raised on stilts to ensure the farmers have somewhere to go when a tiger wanders by

Varnam Homestay is set in acres of its own land and we were served only ingredients that grew on their land, that included the rice, coffee, all the sensational fruits and vegetables and even milk (they had a few cows roaming behind the kitchen).  The family were so friendly and warm, Dad and I stayed an extra two days, mainly exploring the locals hills and testing out the hammocks for comfort and durability.  They all seemed to work well.  We also saw a tigers footprint, which looked fresh, but I am no expert.  It sounds like I’m belittling the whole experience but the food was a highlight and to be served only homegrown, was a rare and highly tasty treat.  Another wonderful aspect was the other guests, not something you can say in every hotel. They were such a good bunch from all around the world, we ate together on a large table and during the delicious meals,  very quickly became friends.  I think eating is the best way to meet new people, we all relax over a good curry!

Varnam's Plantain Thoran

Varnam’s Plantain Thoran

Indian food is mind boggling at times and can be complex, but that’s why I like Thoran, its cheap and quick.  The other wonderful thing about a dish like Thoran is it is there to use up any seasonal produce.  In Kerala for example plantains are a regular ingredient, as well as bitter gourd, yucca, yardlong beans, giant arums, red cheera and several different types of flowers.  Even banana flowers make a mean Thoran.  In Britain, you can opt for potato, green beans, carrots, I’d even go for asparagus.

Thoran is quick to cook and so easy to get together

Thoran is quick to cook and so easy to get together

The Bits – For 4 (as a side dish)
2 tbs coconut oil
400g sweet potato – or 1 big one (peeled)
1 onion (peeled)
1 large red pepper (deseeded)
(all finely diced)
4 large handfuls spinach leaves
1 teas mustard seeds
1 teas cumin seeds
1 handful curry leaves
2 dried chillies (cut down the middle lengthways)
2 tbs grated ginger
1 tbs turmeric
75ml water

Finish with……
1 massive handful grated fresh coconut (or desiccated coconut will do)
1 large chilli (finely sliced)
1 handful fresh coriander (finely chopped)

Do It

Thoran cooks quickly, so best have all your ingredients to hand and prepared.  Stay with the pan for most of the cooking time, stirring gently with a non-metal spoon or spatula.  I love this kind of cooking, its exciting!

In a large, heavy frying pan, preferably with a chunky bottom, warm your coco oil on high heat.  Add the dried chillies, mustard seeds, when the seeds pop a little add the curry leaves.  Fry for a minute and then add your sweet potato, onion and peppers, stir.  After a couple of minutes, add the ginger and turmeric and a little water if things begin to stick to the bottom.  Fry for a couple of minutes and then scatter the spinach on top and cover the pan with a lid.  Lower the heat a touch, leave to cook for five minutes.

Check that the sweet potato is softened, then stir in the grated coconut, fresh coriander and chillies.  Reserving a little of these for a final flourish.

Serve 

Spoon into a preferably warm and striking serving dish and sprinkle on your ‘final flourish’ ingredients.  Munch with relish and dream  of swaying palms and endless rivers of mango juice.  Check out those vibrant flavours!!

Sweet Potato and Red Pepper Thoran

Sweet Potato and Red Pepper Thoran

Foodie Fact

Sweet potato is packed with beta-carotenes.  In fact it is one of natures best sources of Vitamin A.  They also boast plenty of vitamin C.  Although SP’s are a starchy root veg, they actually help to maintain and regulated our blood sugar levels, mainly due to their high levels of dietary fibre.

One of the local residents, who was friendlier than he looked

One of the local residents, who was friendlier than he looked

 

Categories: Curries, Healthy Eating, Recipes, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Happiness is the highest form of health – The Dalai Lama

No matter how many kale smoothies we drink, no matter how much we avoid processed sugar or potatoes, “happiness is the highest form of health.”  I found this little quote put much of our current eating habits into focus.  Enjoy your food, whatever you’re cooking or eating!  A healthy, content and happy mind inevitably leads to a healthier body.

Happy gardener, happy cook, happy food, happy eater.

Jane and I are up in Mcleod Ganj, India, at the moment, spending time with the Tibetan Community in exile.  Read more about our antics here.  If you like this quote, we post regular things like this on our Facebook page.

Chagpo Nang (take care)……

Long life to the Dalai Lama!

FREE TIBET

Categories: Friends of B.H.K, Healthy Living, Inspiration | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Taste of Goan Cuisine and Papaya Paradise

 

Papaya Paradise - Papaya, cashews and a drop of coconut milk.  A fruity delight.

Papaya Paradise – Papaya, cashews and a drop of coconut milk. A tropical tickle.

Paradise for me involves papaya, cashews and coconut. Maybe a beach and a few palm trees lolling in the background. Put all those in a bowl (minus the salt water, sand and chewy leaves) you are approaching my idea of a fruit-based nirvana.  We are in Goa and all of these things are plentiful, there are stalls that enforce coconuts on you with each passing, men gifting papayas to you on a regular basis and cashews, the size of small curved chipolatas, are sold for peanuts.  Also, it is not mango season in India, so there is no fruity conflict for me, the papaya reigns supreme.

Peter (the wonderful man who looks after the apartment we are staying in) gifted us the largest and ripest papaya I have ever clapped eyes on yesterday. Carving it is something like hollowing out a canoe from a large orange tree trunk. Peter obviously has a secret local supplier, I’ve never seen a papaya like this is the stalls by the side of the road. It would take up half the stall!

I am not sure if you’re going to be able to get a decent papaya in Europe and beyond. Maybe try a Caribbean or Asian shop, you know the one, the Aladdin’s cave of interesting ingredients from all corners of the world. The little space that transports you to Africa, Jamaica, Thailand and Pakistan just by the power of the brands they stock, the occasional aroma and random, unknown, packet of semi-illicit looking spice that just has to be experimented with.

Se Cathedral - the largest cathedral in Asia (with the largest bell also)

Se Cathedral – dedicated to Saint Catherine, the largest cathedral in Asia (with the largest bell also)

Goa is a magical land, totally different from the rest of India, the cuisine is very interesting, a mixture of many things, Indian and Portugese especially. Each dish changes from region to region and this is not a huge state by Indian standards.
I have been reticent to cook much in the apartment, not wanting to stock up on loads of spices and ingredients, we are only here a short time and whenever I travel I always end up with kilos of half used packets and sachets lurking in the depths of my backpack. This time, I’m trying not to waste a thing.

Tonight I will try something like a Goan Curry, which normally has a good tang to it, created by adding toddy vinegar or tamarind. Adding vinegar to food was the main influence of the Portugese who were here for hundreds of years, in fact, Vasco de Gama landed in 1498 and they hung around until well into the 17th century.  Old Goa had population larger than Lisbon or London at that time. The Portugese also brought some other quite important staples across the waves; namely, chilies and potato, along with some very common spices, especially nutmeg, which the Goans love to use liberally in savoury dishes.  The Portugese also influenced the Goan desserts, many resemble the flans and tortas of the Iberian Peninsula.  Most of our local friends, living around the apartment have Portugese ancestory and could actually emigrate to Portugal if they wished. Interestingly, most of them have the last name ‘De Souza’, there are a few ‘Courtinho’s’, ‘Perrera’s’ and so on.

Dad does an Abbey Road Impression - in front of the Bom Jesus Cathedral, Old Goa

Dad does an Abbey Road Impression – in front of the Bom Jesus Cathedral, Old Goa (‘Bom’ means ‘good’ in Portugese.

Goa is mainly divided between Christian and Hindu (with a small population of Muslims), they have lived in harmony since the beginning and even share some festival days. Religious background affects the way that dishes are prepared, one Xacutti or Kodi will differ greatly depending on the faith involved. Goan cuisine is incredibly traditional and diverse, awe inspiring really. I have never tasted anything like the Vegetable Xacutti I had yesterday in the excellent ‘Viva Panjim!’. A restaurant tucked down a side alley in a sedate quarter of the capital city, Panjim. ‘Viva Panjim!’ is located in the old Fountainhas area of the city, with many colonial looking buildings forming small quiet alleyways and nooks. In this place you can really see what things would have looked like under Portugese rule. My Xacutti involved alot of roasted coconut and was heavy on the warming spices, especially cinnamon and clove, there was definitely some kind of nutmeg/ mace going on in there as well . Dad opted for a Kingfish Goan Curry (like a ‘Vindalau’ – as they call it here), which has a vibrantly red coloured sauce which contained; Kashmiri chillies, tamarind, lots of onions and garlic, cumin seeds and tomatoes. It looked sensational. All of this served in an old colonial home with slow fans and hand carved furniture. The owner Madam Linda D’Souza sat at a desk overseeing things and when we showed an interest in the cuisine, how it was prepared (I was digging for a recipe or two of course) she gifted us a beautiful cook book, packed with the history of Goan culture and very personalised recipes from local home cooks and chefs.  There are even diagrams of how to climb a coconut tree and work a rice paddy.

In 'Viva Pajim!' one of our finest dining experiences to date

In ‘Viva Pajim!’ one of our finest dining experiences to date

Goa has no end of old school hippy joints that sell homemade tofu or seitan, pancakes, vegan cakes etc which was fine for a couple of meals (Bean Me Up, Blue Tao, Whole Bean Cafe and the legendary German Bakery were particular favourites) but we are now definitely in the hunt for more Goan delicacies. The only problem is we’ll have to leave the beaches and head inland, to the small towns to find the real deal. It seems that travelers/ tourists are not really into the local wonders. Which is a real shame. We have been invited by two real old school gents, Patrick and Peter (who run a tiny bar beneath our place) to their home for a home cooked (vegan!) dinner on Sunday. Something we are both very excited about. Will keep you posted.

Vegetable Xacuti, Fried Aubergine Chips and Dad's Goan Fish Curry

Vegetable Xacuti, Fried Aubergine Chips and Dad’s Goan Fish Curry

Categories: Curries, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Tribal Vegans of the Bishnoi Villages, Near Jodphur – 20th January 2015

I’ve been writing a travel blog about my Dad and I’s journey around India, ‘The Jalebi Express’.  We visited some tribal vegans recently, wonderful peace-loving people living in the Thar Desert, Rajasthan.  I hope you enjoy the article!

The Tribal Vegans of the Bishnoi Villages, Near Jodphur – 20th January 2015.

Grinding millet into flour

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

Sepen (Spicy Tibetan Dipping Sauce) and the Nightshade Fairy

Tawang Monastery, Arunachal Pradesh Tawang Monastery, Arunachal Pradesh

Tibet in a bowl!  I have never been to Tibet as such, but I’ve been close on a number of occasions, visiting various Tibetan regions of Northern India.  Tibetan culture is alive and well in India (unfortunately the same cannot be said of Tibetan culture in Tibet, but thats a whole different blog. post.  See here for more details regarding the present state of affairs in Tibet).  Once, on a hike in Himachal Pradesh (North West India) I thought I’d made it across the border when a Indian army fella popped out from behind a boulder with an AK-47 and politely asked me to turn around and don’t look back.  Shame, it was the absolute middle of nowhere!  Tibet looked like a majestic place, all icy peaks and vistas to take the breath away and inspire sheer awe..

Tibetan Monks, Tawang Monastery - March '14 Tibetan Monks, Tawang Monastery – March ’14

VEGGIE TIBETAN DELICACIES 

The food in Tibet is designed to fuel some of the worlds most hardy folk, many of them nomads.  Living at very high altitudes, with extreme temperatures and very little water, most Tibetans are rock solid folk and they need alot of sustenance.  Salted yak butter tea is one way of getting fat and energy into the body, but we would definitely not recommend it as a tasty beverage.  I normally opt for soemthing like Jasmin tea and Green tea is also common.

Tsampa is normal fare for breakfast, basically roast barley gruel (which grows well up there in the rare airs and windswept plains), sweetened or salty and we like to add banana to it for a luxury version.  Tsampa is lovely and reminds me of a very nutritious and fortifying ‘Ready Brek’ (a British brand of thin porridge that most kids were rasied on in the ’80’s).  ‘Balep’ is a light, spongy and chewy bread that is excellent dipped in a cup of hot tea on a crisp mountain morn.  ‘Tingmo’ is a light, dimsun like bun that is popular as a snack and can sometimes be found by the side of village and town streets, served straight from the steamer.  A welcome sight on wet and chilly day (seemingly very common in most of the Tibetan areas in India).

Noodles are an ever present and are made into something resembling what we’d call ‘Chow Mein’, sometimes with a broth, sometimes with bags of oil.  Basically different sizes and styles of quite bland noodles.  They normally call it Chow Chow, or they did in Arunachal Pradesh anyway.  ‘Thentuk’ is like a soft tagiliatelle noodle in broth which I find the most appetising way of noodling in Tibetan parts.  ‘Thukpa’ is another shape of noodle.  Seasonal vegetables are an ever present in these dishes and you normally get a good amount of greens mixed in.  The humble cabbage is well loved and creeps into most dishes.  Fermented bamboo shoots are very popular and add a wonderful flavour contrast to meals with a very, very funky smell indeed.

Our handmade noodle dish in Menchuka, Arunachal Pradesh. Our handmade noodle dish in Menchuka, Arunachal Pradesh.

We hand made noodles whilst up in Menchuka village, Arunachal Pradesh (the north east corner of India, sandwiched between Bangladesh, Tibet, Bhutan and Myanmar).  We were staying with a lady named ‘Nana’ and she cooked us local specialities every night.  These noodles were made as a second course, eaten after momos.  The stock used was the water left after steaming the momos, she added some local vegetables (grown in the garden) and greens to the stock and let it simmer for a while and there it was, a gorgeous bowl of broth-y noodles, one of my favourite foods.  Definitely what we’d call a ‘bowlful of soul’.  I like the way Nana used the steaming water from the momo cooking, this type of cooking trick makes me very happy, it always seems that more traditional cooking techniques are far less wasteful than modern and the zero waste policy is something that we try and put into practice in the BHK.  The beloved family Mithun (a cross between a buffalo and a cow, only found in A.P.) ate the vegetable scraps and seemed very happy with them.

Wild Mithun Mithun (when a cow merges with a buffalo)

Tibetans love cheese and make many varieties, normally using Yak milk.  Dried yak cheese looks alot like parmesan and certainly smells like it.  They also make fantastic little pastry parcels (like a British pasty) which I normally avoid as they’re stuffed with meat, like beef, or cheese. They do look delicious though.

Tibetans love a tipple and normally afterwards, a little boogie.  Chang (not the terrible Thai lager) is a barley beer drank in most households and distilled grain alcohol, called Ara, is something resembling rocket fuel that gets you there very quickly, especially when huddled around a blazing fire.  Falling over and dancing like a happy loon is quite common in Tibet (or maybe that’s just me!)

Being a vegan/ vegetarian couple, we find travelling around Tibetan regions quite easy, there are always plenty of vegetable based options to be had.  The ‘usual suspects’ on menu’s (mentioned above) can become a little repetitive, especially when compared to the fabulous diversity of food in the plains of India.

Probably the most ubiquitous of Tibetan foods is the mighty Momo (see here for our post on these bite size pockets of supreme tastiness) and Sepen, or something similar, is the sauce you will find on most Tibetan tables.  Momos are normally quite bland and need some jazzing up and this Sepen is the John Coltrane of condiments.

Menchuka high street, Arunachal Pradesh - March '14 Menchuka high street, Arunachal Pradesh – March ’14

This bowl of bright red wonderment is destined to accompany the MOMOS, but it also makes an awesome sauce to stir into noodles and can be used as a spicy little dip when canapes and nibbles are on the horizon.  You can use it like any Indian style sauce, stirring it into freshly roasted vegetables is a thing of extreme tastiness.  Its a good all rounder and one of our favourite things at the moment (even better than turmeric milk.  Yes, that good!)

This is pretty much the exact same sauce as you get in little momo shacks all the way across the Himalayas and to eat it in the Beach House Kitchen (North Wales) is quite a tastebud twister.  We have just recently been sorting our way through the local tomato bombardment, no not La Tomatina (that festival in Spain where they all lob tomatoes at each other), no, this is more like massive boxes of local tomatoes landing on our doorstep (twas the nightshade fairy we’re told!!)  We have been trying to figure out what on earth to do with the big old tom glut and sauces like this are perfect.  Ideal frozen (leave out the fresh coriander until you re-heat) we are amassing little red bags of sauces and chutneys all over our freezer.  Of course, Sepen is by far the finest, thats why we’re sharing it with you guys.

The work of the nightshade fairies (aka John and Pippa and their amazing farm in Bethel) The work of the nightshade fairies (aka John and Pippa and their amazing farm in Bethel)

Make a big bowlful:

The Bits

1 tbsp oil
2 tsp
crushed garlic
2 tsp
crushed ginger
¼ tsp
fenugreek seeds
1
dried red chilli (finely chopped) or 1/8 teas chilli flakes – to taste
500g ripe tomatoes
½ cup
fresh coriander (chopped)

Sepen in the pot Sepen in the pot

Do It

Gently fry the garlic and ginger in the oil over a medium low heat, taking care not to burn. After a couple of minutes add the fenugreek seeds and the chilli and stir until the fenugreek starts to turn a darker shade of gold.  Add the chopped tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, then blitz up in a food processer with the fresh coriander until smooth.

Serve

You can have this sauce warm or cold, both are very tasty.  Like most sauces/ stews, it does get better with age.  We’d recommend an evening of chilling in a fridge, to mingle and merge the beautiful flavours.

Couple of our mates from Arunachal Couple of our mates from Arunachal

Foodie Fact

We love our tomatoes and we love our raw food, but the two don’t exactly mix.  Tomatoes are one of the only fruits/ vegetables that benefit nutritionally from a little warmth.  Cooking tomatoes stimulates the lycopene (a phtyo chemical found in the red pigment of tomatoes and other red fruits and vegetables) content, but does reduce the vitamin C content.  For example, lycopene content in tomato paste is four times higher than that of raw tomatoes.  Its a balancing act, I imagine warm tomatoes are the way forward; not totally raw, not totally roasted.

Lycopene has been shown in tests to reduce the risk of cancer, but like most nutritional research, the evidence is debatable.   Tomatoes are good for you, eat them by the barrel-full (if you’re not allergic to nightshades that is!)  That’s the B.H.K’s advice.

Categories: Sauces, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Tibetan ‘Magic Herb’ Momos

 

Momos a la GayBoo Homestay. Made bt the magnicficent Nana and Gemma in Menchuka Village Momos a la GayBoo Homestay. Made bt the magnicficent Nana and Gemma in Menchuka Village

Menchuka, or ‘healing-ice-water’, is a small village in a remote valley close to the Tibetan border of Arunachal Pradesh, Norteastern India.   Menchuka has a real outpost feel and is inhabited by the Memba, Ramo, Bokar and Libo tribes.  A.P. is one of the most stunningly beautiful, tribally diverse and ‘off the beaten track’ regions we’ve ever visited. Its a tough place to travel around, good old fashion slog with rickety jeeps and random time tables (most leave at 5am).  Arunachal Pradesh is very rich in culture, which normally means rich in food tradition and it didn’t let us down.  We ate alot of Momo’s stuffed with all sorts of wonderful bits (normally cabbage based) but this little recipe by Nana really blew our taste buds away.  We made Momo’s or noodles together most nights and it became the highlight of the day.

Because it’s a stone’s throw from Tibet, Menchuka is an expression of what India stands for, which is surely the most fabulous melting pot of humanity, religion and traditions.  Surrounded by endless ancient forests, where tigers roam freely and with a stunning backdrop of the high Himalayan snowy peaks, it is an untamed wild-land where we felt on top of the world (in more ways that one, its sits at over 6000 feet!).  The land is extremely verdant, with seemingly endless virgin landscapes stretching over countless valleys and breathtaking waterfalls.  Transport is tough, small jeeps playing terrible pop music cling to the craggy and pot-hole ridden roads/ trails and the pace of life slows right down, sometimes to a halt.

Some people say that Menchuka is the fabled ‘Shangri-La’ but it was normally raining and cloudy when we were there, this is picture is taken from Wikipedia (we’ve been to this exact spot, but couldn’t even see the village below due to cloud cover).

Menchuka is the end of the road and it took three days travel just to pass through Menchuka Valley from the nearest large town named, Along.  Each valley and turn seemed to unearth a totally different tribal culture; with differing techniques for hut construction, cultivating the land and keeping livestock, worshipping nature and dressing in a usually flamboyant and vibrant fashion.  Some of our best memories revolve around the nightly fire in Gayboo’s Homestay with all sorts of rosy cheeked local characters; hitching tractor lifts along muddy roads with friendly locals (crammed in with the lumber!), searching for isolated Tibetan Monasteries and Monks in the misty pine forests, navigating our way around the local army base with the massive runway construction project underway, slurping chow chow noodles (think a greasy chow mein) with mugs of restorative hot water in local eateries and crossing wide white rivers on long and creaking rope bridges… we had a ball!

Crossing creaky rope bridges......near Menchuka, Arunachal Pradesh Crossing creaky rope bridges……near Menchuka, Arunachal Pradesh

What made it extra special was finding Gayboo’s homestay; a small group of log cabins in the middle of the village. The only warm place was beside the communal family fire, where we dried out with a mug of hot tea after yet another damp and chilly hike.  Gayboo, and his wife Nana, made us feel like we were wrapped up in a warm blanket in our little sanctuary home in the mountains.

Our sweet and very kind hosts welcomed us with open hearts and bright smiles. They told us the tales of their lives, showed us photographs of carpets of Spring time wild flowers blooming in secret places, and made us all sorts of Memba (their tribe) specialties.

They also taught us the art of making  Tibetan Momos, their speciality dish, served with a tasty chilli herb dip, made from a recipe passed down to them from generation to generation.  These momos are really special, the real deal. Of Nana’s three techniques to wrap them I liked the so called ‘pinch-pull’ method which gave the Momo a classic British Pastie look.  There was also the ‘twist’ and the ‘crimp’, favoured by Nana’s daughter Gemma, which admittedly sounds like something out of the Mighty Boosh, but all will be revealed….…

Jane and Nana gettign warm pre-momo 'fest. Jane and Nana gettign warm pre-momo ‘fest.

The ‘Magic Herb’ mentioned in the title was intriguing at first, but turned out to be something very much like a whole Szchechuan peppercorn, which was bashed up and added to the mix.  A process we have repeated in Wales to a very nice effect.  The family gave Lee a whole peppercorn to chew on with comical, gurning results.  We would recommend going easy on them in their raw state!!!

The Bits – for 4 (makes about 16 momos – more if your dough rolling skills are good and thin)

Momo Filling
600g boiled potato (peeled and diced)
200g broccoli (grated)
1 medium onion (grated)
½ tsp chilli powder
2 cloves garlic (crushed)
1 inch ginger (crushed)
½ tsp salt
1 teaspoon oil
100g chard or kale (very finely chopped)
¼ teaspoon Szechuan pepper (to taste – you have been warned!!)

Momo Dough
2 cups white unbleached flour
½ – ¾ cup of water (depends on the type of flour)
¾ tsp salt
2 tsp oil

The Tibetan 'Cornish Pastie' The Tibetan ‘Cornish Pastie’

Do It

Get the potatoes straight into a pan of salted boiling water and cook until they go soft and mashable.

While the potatoes are boiling, slowly and gently fry the rest of the filling ingredients in the oil over a low/medium heat so that they turn nice and soft. Take them off the heat before they go brown.

Mash up the potato when it is cooked, then add the fried ingredients. Give the mixture a good stir, seasoning it just as you like it.  Leave to cool for a good hour until at room temperature.

Whilst the mixture is cooling down, make the dough. For this, mix the flour, salt and oil in a bowl and add water gradually until the texture is smooth and the dough is stretchy. Knead the douhg for a minute and then stick it in the fridge to chill.

Then roll out the dough into a big circle and use a standard sized mug or scone cutter to cut it into smaller discs.  The size doesn’t really matter, just not too massive.  Then get creative with your folding styles!  The ‘crimp’ looks like a little semi-circle, the ‘push-pinch’ looks like a Cornish pasty and the ‘twist’ ends up looking like a little ‘dimsun’ style ball with a twisty top. Lee is the ‘crimp’ king, I’m partial to a ‘push-pinch’. See the pictures for a reasonable idea about what we are getting at.

There may be some filling left over at the end if the dough is a little too thickly rolled (they will still taste lovely though, so no worries!). This filling is so delicious you can just make leftovers into little patties the next day, or just snack on it while you are rolling.  If you are Tibetan and an expert then you’ll probably end up with too much dough!  Nana’s Momos were very thin, but we are just beginner Momo-makers.  We had a little filling left over at the end of our rolling session.

Momo's steaming on an open fire.... Momos steaming on an open fire…….Gayboo’s Homestay, Menchuka

Top Tip – if you try and put too much mixture in each momo it splurges out of the end…..!

These tasty little critters can steamed or shallow fried.  We steamed ours, so lightly oil both the steamer and the Momos so that they don’t stick to each other creating a giant inseparable momo blob. They take about 10-12 minutes to cook through on a decent steam and when they are done there is no stickiness to the dough any more, and the filling is piping hot through.

Serve

We quickly and simply pan fried bok choi, courgettes, tamari and ginger to make the perfect veggie accompaniment; eating our fresh Momos near a picture of the Dalai Lama with our minds all Himalayan.  We always serve Momo’s with ‘Senchen’, a Tibetan dipping sauce.  We’ll dig out the recipe and post it soon.

Foodie Fact

Fenugreek is a fascinating plant – even the ancient Egyptians understood the benefits of fenugreek – it’s seeds were found in Tutankhamen’s tomb!

The health benefits of fenugreek include relief from anemia, loss of taste, fever, dandruff, stomach disorders, biliousness, respiratory disorders, mouth ulcers, sore throat, diabetes, inflammations, wounds and insomnia. What a plant!

Slow moving traffic, waterfall meets road in Arunachal Pradesh. Slow moving traffic, waterfall meets road in Arunachal Pradesh.

Wishing you all happy momo-rolling times. There are few things as satisfying as munching fresh Momos slowly as you’re rolling more of the delicious beasts!!!!!  It is a highly relaxing way to spend an evening away.

Om Mani Padme HumX

Categories: Recipes, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Spiced Beach House Chai and the Awesome Power of Cinnamon

 

Beach House Chai in Tamil Nadu

Beach House Chai on Karuna Farm, Tamil Nadu

This is something we quaff every day; with some sitar int he background and little incense waft, we could be back in Tamil Nadu, in our cottage on the hills (we have a thing for cottages on hills!!!!)

The ceremony of chai, the aroma as it bubbles on the stove, makes us both feel so at home. Its up there with the smell of freshly baked bread or sweet peas in the depth of summer.

A simple everyday chai here that adds spice and warmth to your morning cuppa. You may like it milkier, adjust the water to milk ratio as you like.  Namastex

Happy Chai Man, Madurai '14

Happy Chai Man, Madurai ’14

The Bits – 4-6 cups

1.5 ltrs filtered water

500ml almond/ soya milk (unsweetened)

12 green cardamom pods
2 inch piece of fresh ginger
1 cinnamon stick (3 inches, broken in two)
2 star anise

4 teas loose leaf tea (assam is best or 4 normal tea bags ripped open)
jaggery or unrefined brown sugar (to taste)

Do It
Grab a large saucepan. Boil the water in a kettle (quicker) or bring to a boil in the sauce pan.

In a pestle and mortar, bash up the cinnamon and star anise, add to the boiling water, then bash up the cardamom and cinnamon, add that to the boiling water. Lower heat to a simmer and cover, leave to infuse for 20 minutes.

Now, bring back to a rolling boil, spoon in the tea. Leave to bubble away for a couple of minutes and then add your milk. Bring back to a boil and sweeten as you prefer. Indians love it very sweet indeed.  Using a sieve (and a ladle is easiest), pour into your favoured receptacle.

Serve

In your finest cups. Smaller cups are better and more authentic, even a small glass will do (generally how its served in a proper Chai stall). Sip and slurp with relish.

 

Foodie Fact – Cinnamon

Surely one of the worlds coolest barks!  Cinnamon is medicine. Powerful agent for healing.  There are two main types of Cinnamon that we can buy, Chinese (known as Cassia) and Ceylon(which is harder to find and supposedly more refined), it is one of the oldest spices we know of and was used by the ancient Egyptians as medicine and also for embalming!  It was considered more precious than gold.  It was even mentioned in Chinese botanical medicine over 4700 years ago.

Containing some truly magical essential oils, cinnamon is a potent anti-inflammatory, anti microbial (cinnamon essential oil can be used as a powerful preservative), flavouring high carb food with cinnamon slows the release of sugars into the blood stream,  helps with type-2 diabetes, it is a very, very, very strong anti-oxidant.  Even smelling the scent of cinnamon has been shown to boost brain activity.   It is also an excellent source of fibre, calcium and manganese.

Cinnamon has long be regarded as a warming spice in Chinese and Indian energy based medicine systems.  This means that is you feel a cold coming on drink plenty of cinnamon, ginger and lemon tea and you’ll be fine!!!

Cinnamon is best bought in stick form, it stores well for an age.  You can then crush it or grind it up freshly ans savour that familiar aroma.  Once crushed, kept it in a sealed container out of natural sunlight.  A fridge is best (this goes for all spices).

Chai's off the menu for me, I hit the Jack Fruit stand instead.  Yum!

Chai’s off the menu for me in India, I hit the Jack Fruit stand instead. Yum!

Or

Or a banana....

 Banana!!!!!

Categories: Healing foods, Infusions, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

We’re Back! and India Holiday Snaps

Under the Big Tree - Sivananda Ashram Madurai, 3/14

Under the Big Tree – Sivananda Ashram Madurai, 3/14

We’re back!  In two pieces;  older, wiser and hairier!

North Wales is shining; bee buzzing, flowers swaying, sheep baaaaaa-ing. This is definitetly the home of the B.H.K. Writing the blog from distant shores just seems a little strange, the creative culinary juices just aren’t flowing as deeply as when we’re hanging out up here with the heather.

This blog is such a big part of our life in Wales, so we’re back and ready to get stuck into good mountain living, with some gorgeous nibbles along the way……

There seems far too much water under the bridge to begin to catch up on the last 6 months. I decided to post a few travel pics to get us warmed up and reacquainted again.

I have been busy (even when travelling!) working on another food-related project which I am superbly excited about. More to follow on this soon. (Hopefully that is a decent enough excuse for not posting any news or recipes for a ridiculous length of time.)

Back in the lovely little Beach House, the fire is roaring (in June) and we are both full tilt and ready to get the garden blooming and the hob fully loaded with plenty of wonderful fruit and veggie action and no doubt some pictures of Buster the cat (who came back on our first morning back in the house, it seems we are linked with the little grey furball!).

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

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

Very brief catch up of our antics :
– We have been distant for the last 6 months, in Spain and India, spending time in the Himalayas and on a variety of beaches; cooked vegan food on farms, ate papaya straight from the tree, visited many huge desert forts and palaces, lived in huts and buses, hung out with warm tribal folk, learned to count to 10 in Hindi, practiced yoga by the Ganges, woke at 4am to sing songs, realised that there is more to life than chapatis (but not much!), ate our body weight several times over with the complete rainbow spectrum of all things curries, watched endangered rhinos play whilst sitting on a juvenile elephant, celebrated a Gods birthday……….too much. much, much to tell. Here are a few pics (most food related) that tell a better story:

It's Thali time!!!! (South Indian style), Madurai, 3/14

It’s Thali time!!!! (South Indian style), Madurai, 3/14

Tawang Lake, way up in the Himalayas, Arunachal Pradesh, 4/14

Tawang Lake, way up in the Himalayas, Arunachal Pradesh, 4/14

Cooking up a monsoon, Rishikesh, 1/14

Cooking up a monsoon, Rishikesh, 1/14

Survival Travel Breakfast (Papaya and Chia Seeds)

Survival Travel Breakfast (Papaya and Chia Seeds)

Jane, first day, first Bindi, Delhi. 1/14

Jane, first day, first Bindi, Delhi. 1/14

Vadas - some of South India's finest

Vadas – some of South India’s finest

A little taster, a canape of sorts, a wee bite into our last 6 months wandering the world.  We have a massive book full of new recipes to cook and hopefully post.  Its looking like a busy summer!

Love and Peace to all of you out there…..XXXXX

It’s great to be back, Lee and Janexxxxx

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

Punjabi Rajma Chawal – Red Kidney Bean Curry

Kitchen in a Punjabi Dhaba – http://alexbecherer.tumblr.com

A simple bean curry and very much a nutritious staple in India homes and especially the legendary roadside Punjabi Dhabas.  This red kidney bean curry has a fantastic full flavour and is easy and cheap to get  together (it’s also a super healthy bite).

Punjabi food is renowned as one of India’s finest.  Very rich and packed with spice.  Punjab is a state located in the North West of India, bordering Pakistan and is home to many Sikhs.  The Golden Temple in Amritsar is rightly regarded as one of the most awesome religious monuments.  The Punjab is a very arable region, meaning a great diversity of produce.

Punjabi dhabas are famous for their cheap, fresh and super tasty food.  They are basically an eatery, that have spread around India and the world.  Wherever there are Punjabis, there are Dhabas!  In a Punjabi Dhaba the food is always quick and plentiful with a constant stream of fresh rotis from the tandoor oven and top ups of all curries, relishes and rice dishes.  Its a great way to eat, a real food experience and you always leave with a full belly.

These Dhabas started to feed truck drivers originally and the range of dishes are quite standard from Chandigarh to Chiswick.  Dal Makhani is one of my favourites; a dark, rich lentil stew.  It will be here on the BHK soon (I can’t believe its taken this long!)

The Golden Temple at sunset

Chilling at the Golden Temple at sunset

For years I was disillusioned with kidney beans; I didn’t like the name or the way they were served (normally in an insipid tomato stew, aka the dreaded British style chilli con carne).  I was ten years old at that time and have come a long way round since.  This is one of the finest way to serve a kidney bean, the rich and spicy tomato sauce compliment the earthy bean well.

In India it can be difficult to get beans, but the rajma (kidney bean in Hindi) is easily found and consistently tasty with mounds of chawal (rice).  I cannot go long without a bean hit after all.

This is something that I have been whipping up after work recently and although the list on ingredients looks a little extensive, its actually a stroll once you get into the groove.  Instead of all the individual spices, use something like a Garam Masala mix or even a good quality curry powder.

We normally stir some soya yoghurt in just before serving to give that extra touch of richness.  The finer you chop or grate your vegetables the greater release of flavour.  The just disappear into the sauce.  Grating garlic, ginger, onions and even tomatoes is a great way of making an intense fresh sauce, much, much better than anything you can buy in a tin.

The Bits

2 tbs cooking oil (unrefined)

1 onion (grated/ finely chopped)

4 cloves garlic

2 inch cube of ginger (both grated/ crushed)

4 tomatoes (chopped finely/ grated)

1 teas fennel seeds

1 teas cumin powder

1/2 teas turmeric

1 teas coriander powder

1/4 – 1/2 teas chilli powder

sea salt (to taste)

For the beans

2 cups dried red kidney beans (tins can be used, but not as good)

4 cloves

3 cardamom pods

1 stick cinnamon (or 1 teas cinnamon powder)

1 bay leaf

Topping

1 handful torn coriander leaves

1 tbsp soya yoghurt (stirred in – optional)

Gorgeous spicy tomato sauce get down reducing

Gorgeous spicy tomato sauce get down reducing

Do It

Beans – Soak your beans for 12 hours in cold water.  Rinse well and cover with 2 inches of water and bring to the boil, add your spices and allow to boil, then lower heat and pop a lid on.  Leave to simmer for 1 hour, until they are nice and tender.  If the beans are falling apart slightly, no problem, this will help to thicken the sauce.  You can of course use tinned beans if you’re in a hurry.

Sauce – In a frying pan, add your oil and on a medium heat cook your onions until golden, then add your ginger, fennel seeds and garlic, give it another three minutes, now its time for your tomatoes and spices, stir well and bring to a gentle simmer.  Cover and cook until tomatoes are nicely softened, 6-8 minutes is fine.

Get your beans into the mix (we used our flash new slotted spoon here.  Hoorah!) add all the beans and 250ml of the cooking stock (more can be added if sauce is a little thick).  Heat through, a gentle bubble, for 10 minutes more and you’re ready to get Dhaba’d!

Punjabi Rajma Chawal

Punjabi Rajma Chawal

Serve

Stir in your soya yoghurt and pour over fluffy rice and a chapatti (if you are very lucky and have time, make your own!).  Coriander leaves scatter very well here.

We Love It!

Simple and full of the spices and aromas that make India cooking so tantalising and satisfying.  Heres to all those Dhabas out there!  Dishing up brilliant food for pennies and keeping the truck drivers of India rotund and smiling.  Much better than a Little Chef I can tell you!

Foodie Fact

Red kidney beans and beans in general are full of fibre (in fact they are the best source of fibre) that benefits not only the digestive system but also lowers cholesterol.  These beans are a virtually fat free source of protein,

We get alot of our foodie fact information from the comprehensive site W H Foods.  Whats in a  kumquat?  W H know these things.

Tunes

The thing I love about cooking all this Indian food in the Beach House Kitchen is the opportunity to share my favourite Indian artists.  Here’s the master Ali Akbar Khan and another mesmeric raja:

Categories: Curries, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Dark Chocolate Masala Chai

Dark Chocolate Chai

Dark Chocolate Masala Chai

This is luxury chai (tea in English).  Packed with chocolate and spice, I can assure you they don’t drink it like this Chandhni Chowk (Delhi)!  But it’s a luxury take on the classic Indian masala chai recipe.

I have been playing around with my masala chai recipe for years and this is the best.  We normally drink it without the chocolate, this is just something for a very special treat.  The recipe works very well by itself.

Masala chai is more a potion, an elixir, than a mere hot beverage.  Add fresh chocolate shavings to the mix and you have something rather special indeed.  I have heard rumours about adventurous folk even adding a glug of brandy or whisky to it, I can imagine that to be quite a thing!

Masala chai basically means mixed spice tea and is normally brewed in the milk, rather than adding milk later.  It normally contains black tea, but we also love it with rooibos (for those not sipping caffeine).  Tea from Assam is best due to its dark orange colour and robust flavour.  Darjeeling tea is best reserved for drinking black or with a touch of milk, after all it is the champagne of teas don’t you know (normally meaning more expensive and well marketed!)

Indians now drink the most amount of tea in the word, chai (tea) is part of Indian everyday life and chai wallah’s (like Starbucks but more low-key and infinitely better) dot every street side around the country.  Thats over 1 billion people hooked on the spicy sweet goodness of chai and its really all down to the Brits.  Tea has always been grown up near Darjeeling and Assam in the wet and wonderful northeast of India, but it was the Brits who began to plant it on an industrial scale and ship it back.  What a meddling lot we were!

Sweetening chai is a must and we like to use jaggery if we can get it or dark sugar.

Star anise, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg……this is truly a magic potion and it tastes pretty darn magic too.  I love this combination of spices and if you can get them all fresh and whole, the chai will be much better for it.  Powders are decent, but a proper chai should be simmering for hours and all of those massive flavours infused.

We have used soya milk here because we like the taste, but any of your favourite milks will be fine.

Traditionally, chai should be taken from small tea cups or even glasses, definitely not big mugs.  Chai is to be slurped and enjoyed, made a fuss of and very much savoured.  The smaller the tea cup the better (almost espresso size), this also has the advantage of prolonging chai time.

Bring on the potion!

The Bits – Makes one large sauce pan full, enough for 8 small cups

Beach House Chai contains:

1 stick of cinnamon

4 star anise

6 green cardamom pods (crushed)

4 cloves

2 heaped teas grated ginger

1 teas all spice

3/4 litre of soya/ almond milk, 1/3 litre water

3 good black tea bags (assam preferable, loose leaf tea is alot better and more traditional)

2 heaped tbs jaggery/ dark brown sugar or sweetener of choice (chai should be served nice and sweet)

1 big handful dark chocolate (grated)

Many other spices can be added including fennel seeds, cumin seeds (very warming), peppercorns, saffron, liquorice or even rose….the list goes on and each area of India has a particular favourite.

Do It

Get the water boiling in a large saucepan, add all the spices and turn down to a rolling simmer, leave for at least 10 minutes for the flavours to infuse (longer is better).

Now add milk, bring to a boil and then add your tea leaves/ tea bags.  Stir in and help the tea infuse.  Bring back to the boil.  Leave until you are happy with your chai shade, deeper is better.  Stir in your sweetener and chocolate.

Taste and adjust sweetness.

Serve

Strain into little cups with plenty of slurps and great conversation.  A biscuit would be nice!

We Love It!

This chocolate masala chai adds a whole new level to the chai experience, its a dessert in a cup and with that amazing mix of spices is the perfect antidote to a grey March day.  Indulge!

Foodie Fact

Black tea is the oxidised leaf of the tea bush, if it wasn’t oxidised it would be green tea (which makes sense!)  Black tea has many health benefits and considerably less caffeine than coffee.  It has a high level of anti-oxidants, it boosts the immune system, helps the heart and even lowers the level of stress hormones.  What a grand cuppa!

Tunes

Making chai in your home, you need some real India rajas to get the spices flowing.  Here is the late and and sorely missed Ravi Shankar playing with his daughter Anoushka:

 

 

Categories: Recipes, Tea | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Himalayan Porridge

 

P1190020

Himalayan Porridge

We are a long, long way from the Himalayas at the moment.  We can see the beautiful blue Mediterranean from our terrace!  There are a few hills, but thats it for undulations.  It is winter here in Murcia though and it can get a little chilly in the mornings so this very special porridge has kept Jane and I nice and cosy.

This recipe has made it’s way to the Beach House all the way from the high Himalayas in northwest India, a tiny village set below some of the most beautiful mountain ranges imaginable.  Our wonderful friend Mary is spending the winter up there with her new husband Arjun.  Mary is braving  -20oC weather conditions and much snow in a small traditional house.  The peace and beauty of the place is truly magical.

This porridge is a recipe that they make together regularly to warm their cockles; simple, cheap and very hearty.  This porridge sticks to the ribs all day and acts as central heating for the body way up there in the mountain airs.

I visited the Himalayas a couple of years ago and was blown away by the beauty, diversity and scale of this mountain range.  I had the pleasure of meeting Mary in the small village that she now calls home, but luckily visited in the summertime when it is snow free!

Up in the Himalayas, near the source of the Ganges, 2010

Up in the Himalayas, near the source of the Ganges, 2010

This porridge is super high energy food and will set anybody up for the day ahead.  Nuts, honey, oats and coconut mean that it’s a very tasty treat too and the spices add a very Indian flavour.  Most of the ingredients must be soaked the night before, this makes them swell up and release more nutrients, it also makes them easier to digest and cook.

We didn’t have cashews for the recipe, so we used hazelnuts instead.  Cashews will certainly give it more of Himalayan feel, they are freely available up there.

Remember to cook your porridge on a low heat and stir regularly.  Good porridge needs good lovin’ and attention.  No lumps, nice and smooth.

We have made this recipe dairy free by using soya yoghurt and milk and it is equally delicious.

Over to Mary, way up their in the rare airs……

The Bits

2 mugs of organic oats, lots of whole organic milk, 1 small handful of freshly grated coconut, 4 cardamoms, 1 small stick of cinnamon, 1 full handful of organic sultanas, honey (to taste), handful of cashew nuts chopped and roasted (without using oil), live Greek yogurt

Do It

Leave all the ingredient’s (bar honey, nuts and yogurt) soaking in milk overnight. In the morning add more milk and simmer as slowly as possible (this is one for the bottom of an Arga) for 30 minutes using one of those flat metal mats to diffuse the flame.

Pour onto a dinner plate and spread evenly. Wait for 5 minutes then cover with a thin’ish layer of live curd (organic thick Greek yogurt will suffice), drizzle honey on top and sprinkle with halved roasted cashew nuts.  Serve the liquid from the coconut first to aid digestion. The nuts and coconut take a number of hours to digest so it’s very satisfying for us poor sadhus!

Serve

Allow to cool (remember the three bears story!!!!) and top with more nuts and raisins.

Himalayan Porridge (by the pool!)

Himalayan Porridge (by the pool in a tapas bowl!)

We Love It!

Just thinking about Mary and Arjun sitting around their fire and eating this breakfast fills us with the magic of travel and the beauty of world.

Foodie Fact

Oats are a hardy grain that flourishes in the worst of soil conditions.  Even though most oats are hulled this does not remove their bran and germ, this maintains their nutritional and fibre properties.  If sustenance and energy is what you are looking for, you cannot beat an oat.  They are also great for people suffering from diabetes or heart conditions due to some unique antioxidants.

Mary at her tiger pool up in the Himalayas

Mary at her tiger pool up in the Himalayas

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Breakfast, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

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