Posts Tagged With: North Wales

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

Cooking demos in the studio

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mushrooms grown and foraged in Snowdonia, Wales

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

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

Simple and delicious. Rose, Macadamia and Strawberry Cheesecake

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

Just checking out the afternoon tea:)

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

The buffet table is always packed with vegan treats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everyone say “Home Cooked Happiness!!!”

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

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

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

Diolch yn Fawr!!

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

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

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

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

One World Vegan Cooking Retreat – Photos, Memories and Thanks

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

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

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

The lake at dawn behind Trigonos,

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

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

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

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

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

Dark Chocolate Brownies with Dulce de Leche 

Jane and I during one of the cooking demonstrations

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

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

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

Trigonos beautiful in the sunshine

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

Artichoke flower

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

Down by the lake

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

One World Vegan – Local produce given a global twist

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

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

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

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

The group getting involved during one of the cooking demonstrations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs Robin keeping an eye on us.

Mrs Robin keeping an eye on us.

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

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

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Our noble red acer

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

Choppin'  logs

Chopin’ logs – Feeling warmer already

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

The Lotus Succulent

The Crimson Lotus Succulent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pond ferns

Pond ferns

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

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

Sorrel is a star

Sorrel is a star

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

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

Some blue skies......

Some blue skies……

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

Roast Squash and Pepper Soup with Baharat

 

Roast Squash and Pepper Soup with Bharat

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

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

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

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

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

Us.  Catching some well earned rays...

Us. Catching some well earned rays on Criccieth beach

BAHARAT

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

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

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

The Bits – For 4 small bowls

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

1 head garlic (skins on)

2 yellow peppers (deseeded)

1 large onion (sliced)

3 teas bharat

2 teas turmeric

2-3 teas salt

Olive oil (for roasting and frying)

 

Do It

Preheat oven to 190oC.

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

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

Roasted Squash and Pepper Soup with Baharat

Roasted Squash and Pepper Soup with Baharat

Serve

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

Foodie Fact

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

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

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

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

And who can forget……the glorious CHIPS!

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

PEACE & PARSNIPS – Behind the scenes at the photo shoot

Peace and Parsnips climbed Snowdon recently

Peace and Parsnips climbed Snowdon recently

Only a couple of days until the BIG DAY!!!!! No, I’m not talking about the election (which surely must be a little refreshing), I’m talking ‘PEACE AND PARSNIPS‘!!!!!!!

‘Happy, healthy and hearty – it’s time to cook vegan…discover the delights of eating meat- and diary-free recipes, bursting with vitality and taste. Using fresh produce, Lee celebrates this incredibly healthy way of eating through recipes that are varied, nutritious and utterly delicious. From curries, burgers and bakes to show-stoppers….’

Preparations are almost complete, like Christmas Day, all of the vegan elves and parsnip fairies have been working overtime to get the book ready and on Thursday, all the good veggie (and non veggie) boys and girls of the world will wake to a massive slice of vegan deliciousness.  It’s a real tome, over 350 pages packed with recipes and gorgeous pictures of North Wales, many of which are gluten free (or with options for GF).  Its the full montilado!!!!

Here’s a little look behind the scenes of the shoot where I’m trying to keep my cool in the middle of a heatwave and full on cookathon:

Here’s an interview here:  The Happy Foodie

PLUS

An article in the lovely Healthista

There will be some very exciting things happening in the press over the next couple of weeks.  Watch this space or twitter (below) for updates.

The first vegan cookbook ever to climb Mount Snowdon - clever thing!

The first vegan cookbook ever to climb Mount Snowdon – clever thing!

I’m new to twitter, but am sharing loads over there; pictures, recipes and all – @lee_the_vegan or check out #peaceandparsnips

Categories: gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Peace and Parsnips, photography, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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