Posts Tagged With: nutrition

Seeded spelt bread & simple tips to make awesome loaves

Seeded Spelt Loaf

Seeded Spelt Loaf

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breakfast loaves at Trigonos, almost ready for the oven

Breakfast loaves at Trigonos, almost ready for the oven

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

My favourite picture of Holger - observing the 2015 solar eclipse

My favourite picture of Holger – observing the 2015 solar eclipse

WHAT IS SPELT?

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

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

SIMPLE TIPS FOR AWESOME LOAVES

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

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

Recipe Notes

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

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

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

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

Add white flour instead of spelt for a lighter loaf.

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

 

Seeded Spelt Bread

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

500g spelt flour

1 teas yeast

1 1/3 teas salt

1 tbs malted rice extract (or sweetener of choice)

2 tbs rapeseed oil (plus extra for brushing)

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

350ml warm water

 

Do It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The loaf ready for its final 35 minute prove

The loaf ready for its final 35 minute prove

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

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

(The tray steaming step is not essential).

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

Lovely light spelt loaf with a good thick crust

Lovely light spelt loaf with a good thick crust

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

Serve

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

Foodie Fact

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

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

Chai! Spiced and Warming Indian Tea (plus some travel snaps of India)

One of my favourite spots for a chai.  Baba Cake, up in Kasar Devi, Himalayas, India

One of my favourite spots for a stonking chai!  Baba Cake, up in Kasar Devi, Himalayas, India

“Chaichaichaichaichaichai!”  A cry you will hear quite often when wandering around India.  In the streets, in the middle of the night on a train, it’s a bit of a theme tune to your day.  Jane has several versions recorded which we like to play and bring a little bit of India into the Beach House (along with some recordings of birds singing in the Himalayas).

This is a steaming beverage that will see you cruise through winter (or if you are heading into summer, makes a great iced tea!) The spices here add magical flavours, highly fragrant and invigorating, along with a whole load of vitamins and minerals that benefit our wintery parts.  Of course, if you are vegan, most street-side chai is off the menu.  We must settle for a black tea, which can be delicious, but all too often turns out to be a Lipton tea bag in some warm-ish water.  This means our homemade chai’s are even more special.

Jane enjoying a chai outside out little cottage up near Nanda Devi, Himalayas, India

Jane enjoying a chai outside out little cottage up near Nanda Devi, Himalayas, India

Chai is something that we dearly love over here in the BHK. We make it when we need a little pick me up and a spicy memory of our beloved sub-continent. Chai fuels India. Along with the occasional chapatti/ idli. Chai is normally drank at chai stalls, where chai wallahs work sometimes 24 hours, supplying tiny cups of very sweet, dark tea (‘chai’ is basically Hindi for ‘tea’). You average chai in India does vary, depending on the quality of the chai wallah. Generally the back bone is cardamom and ginger, but there are many additions like clove, black peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon……the list goes on. It really is more of an elixir of life than a simple beverage. I find this in so much of Indian cuisine, a holistic approach that takes into account many things, not just sensational flavours.

Jane and I at the Taj Mahal earlier in '15

Jane and I at the Taj Mahal earlier in ’15

Here we have a simple chai recipe that we can all make at home. There is also a rich and delicious Almond Rooibos Chai recipe in ‘Peace & Parsnips’. Something we make when we’re taking it easy on caffeine.

Stay warm and cosy this winter.  Drink more chai!

Recipe Note
For a more intense chai, crush the ginger and spices in a pestle and mortar or food processor before hand.

Experiment with the quantity of spices, everyone has their favourite chai and no two chai’s are ever equal!

You don’t need to measure the milk/ water exactly, just use the cups that you will be serving the chai in.

Loose leaf black tea can vary greatly in strength.  The best and most authentic tea to use for chai is from Assam in North East India.  The leaves are normally rolled, meaning they look like tiny black balls and have a rich, malty flavour.  If you are using a lighter tea like Darjeeling or Nilgiri, you may like to add another teaspoon or two for a decent brew.

Chai on the hob.  House filled with those gorgeous aromas.

Chai on the hob. House filled with those gorgeous aromas.

The Bits – For 2 mugs
2 mugs non-dairy milk

1 mug water

8 green cardamom pods (lightly crushed)

4 slices fresh ginger

8 black peppercorns

8 cloves

2 inch cinnamon stick (or 1 teas ground cinnamon)

1 star anise (optional)

1 teas fennel seeds (optional)

3-4 teas black loose-leaf tea (or 3 black tea bags, ripped and contents poured into pan)

 

Do It

In a large saucepan add the water along with the ginger and spices, bring gently to a boil and lower heat, simmer for 5 minutes.

Add your tea, simmer for 2 minutes.   Now for the milk and sweetener of choice, bring back to a gentle boil and serve when the tea has a nice deep colour, pouring through a small sieve.

Chai is a saviour in wintery Wales.

Chai is a one cup saviour in wintery Wales.

Serve

We tend to warm our cups with hot water before pouring in the chai.  Nice to it properly, it is chai after all!

Dad and I in the Imperial Hotel Delhi enjoying very posh chai and those very small sandwiches you tend to get with posh tea.

Dad and I in the Imperial Hotel, Delhi enjoying very posh chai and those very small crust-less sandwiches you tend to get with posh tea.

Foodie Fact

Some of you may have Peace & Parsnips and will be well aware of my love of spices.  A large chunk of the beginning of the book relates to spices and their healing properties.   Some of you may have also been reading this here blog for five years or so and be equally as familiar with my spice box and its contents.  I love ’em!

Cinnamon is anti-microbial (kills bad bacteria), lowers GI, excellent source of calcium and fibre plus even the aroma is said to enliven the brain.  Cinnamon is especially warming and when mixed with ginger in a chai becomes a remedy for the onset of colds and flu.

Seeking refreshment in Paharganj, Delhi with the big man (aka Dad)

When you stop for chai, you'll meet some interesting folk.  Bikaner, Rajhastan, India

When you stop for chai, you’ll meet some interesting folk. Bikaner, Rajhastan, India

Categories: Infusions, Recipes, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Apple, Melon and Mint Smoothie and the healing properties of Ginger

Apple, Melon and Mint Smoothie

Apple, Melon and Mint Smoothie

Here is our perfect style of morning pick me up. Bursting with vitality and flavour. We woke up to bright sunshine today with a little autumn chill in the air.  We have been blessed this summer in the Beach House, I’ve had my shorts on twice and fleece of at least a handful of times.  Its been a scorcher!  September is normally one of the best months for sunshine, so we’ll be out in the garden come the morn, sipping smoothies and juices for most of the month (fingers and toes crossed).  Its a beautiful time of year with spectacular sunsets (we have been posting loads of sunset shots over on Twitter).

We managed to get out hands on a nice ripe melon and with some apples and mint from the garden, whipped up this interesting combo of flavours. Sure to get your taste buds zinging in the morn.  We like a ginger pick me up most mornings and it creeps into many of our juices and smoothies.

Mint is running wild in our garden, we have an embarrassment of herbs leaping from all angles!  At the minute we have a couple of peppermint style varieties, very intense, some ginger mint (we used a little in the smoothie) and apple mint.  Apple mint is a lovely variety, with large soft leaves and mellow flavour.  It grows like a hyperactive teenager so we are welcoming it regularly to dishes in the BHK.

The apples we used are known as Bardsey apples, which all came from one ‘mother’ tree on the island of Bardsey, just off the Llyn Peninsula down the road.  The apples are quite sharp and tart and tangy so they go perfectly with the sweet melon and ginger.  Read more about the fascinating story of the Bardsey Apple here.

Apple mint from the garden (via Janes Mum and Dad in Stafford)

Apple mint from the garden (via Janes Mum and Dad in Stafford)

GINGER IS MEDICINE!

Most spices are not just packed with flavour, they also boast amazing health giving properties.  Ginger is one of the most potent examples of this.  I write about this a lot in Peace & Parsnips, there is a whole section dedicated to spices, how to treat them and their health benefits.  This is one of the many reasons why I love Indian, Persian, Middle Eastern etc foods, they are packed with spices that light up the palate and make our bodies shine.

A brief run through the amazing healing properties of Ginger:

Ginger has long been used in ‘alternative’ medicine to treat nausea (morning/ sea sickness), digestive complaints and cold/ flu.

The main active compound in ginger is called gingerol and it is a strong antioxidant and has power anti-inflammatory effects.

Ginger may have strong anti-diabetic properties, lowering blood sugars and heart disease risk along with many bacteria fighting properties, lowering the risk of infections.

Ground ginger has been shown to help with menstrual pain and it generally helps with digestion, especially chronic indigestion.

It is effective in treating exercise induced muscle strain, joint pain and stiffness, when used over a period of time.

There is also some evidence that ginger can reduce bad cholesterol levels, keeping our hearts healthy and that it contains substances that protect us from cancer.

Some studies suggest that ginger can improve brain function and help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

The beautiful thing about ginger is its versatility and we pop it into a cup of hot water, with lemon, in the morning when we feel like being outrageously healthy.  It is the best way to start things off in the morning.

Now thats what I call a super food!!!!

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Beautiful mornings deserve beautiful smoothies:)

The Bits – For Two Big Glasses

3-4 handfuls chopped melon (honeydew, galia…nice and ripe)

3 handfuls chopped apples (tart variety)

1 kiwi (peeled and chopped)

1/2 handful chopped mint leaves (sliced)

2 tbs chopped ginger (or more depending on taste and purpose.  For a serious healthy pick me up, try 3-4 tbs)

Splash of water/ non-dairy milk

Do It

Blitz all together in a blender until smooth and lovely.  Add more liquid to thin to your favourite consistency.  If you leave it thick, its more like a pudding!

Apple, Melon and Mint Smoothie

Apple, Melon and Mint Smoothie

Foodie Fact 

There are over 25 varieties of mint and it has long been used to soothe the belly.

Categories: Healing foods, Healthy Eating, Peace and Parsnips, photography, Recipes, Smoothies, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Banana, Buckwheat and Walnut Slices

Banana, Buckwheat and Walnut Slices

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

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

PLEASE EAT MORE CAKE:)

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

THE LUCKIEST CHEF ALIVE!

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

Lovely to see the Ruby Chard back on the Trigonos Menu

Lovely to see the Ruby Chard back on the Trigonos Menu

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

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

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

Gorgeous summer peas - post pod

Gorgeous summer peas – post pod

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

IDEAS FOR REPLACING EGGS

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

This one’s for you Debbie!!!!!!!x

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

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

The Bits – 24 Slices

Do It

11 oz (310g) self raising wholemeal flour

5 oz (140g) buckwheat flour

10 oz (285g) unrefined brown sugar

 

1/2 pint (285ml) sunflower oil

1/2 pint (285ml) soya/ rice milk

4 ripe bananas

3 oz (85g) crushed walnuts

 

Do It

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serve

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

Foodie Fact

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

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

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

Stacked Portobello Mushrooms & Hazelnut Tofu with a Red Lentil Sauce (No fuss extravagance)

Stacked Portobello Mushrooms, Hazelnut Tofu and Leeks with Caramelised Garlic and Red Lentil Sauce (Quite a mouthful in so many ways!)

Stacked Portobello Mushrooms, Hazelnut Tofu and Leeks with Caramelised Garlic and Red Lentil Sauce (Quite a mouthful in so many ways!)

We are really giving it to you here!  A restaurant-ified dish made at home with very little mess and fuss.  Our kind of food!  It also happens to be outrageously good for you.  This is utter, guilt-free indulgence.

These stacks sound quite complex, but are actually anything but. In fact, it would be a good restaurant dish for the same reasons. It’s simplicity. A few ingredients speaking nicely together all wrapped up in a creamy lentil sauce.

If you meet a vegan/ vegetarian who says they don’t like Portobello mushrooms, look them right in the eye and repeat the question very slowly and slightly suspiciously. “Are you sure????” They may be an undercover carnivore. All veggies like Portobello mushroom, they are so flavoursome and have a magnificent texture. They can be used in all sorts of ways to sate even the most ferocious of carnivores. Some whack them in a burger, other use them as a base for stacking fun and games (that’s me).

Hazelnut tofu is not that easily sourced, but you can always use firm tofu instead. I’d recommend marinating it in a fridge for a while.  Press the tofu to get rid of most of the excess moisture and then glug a little tamari (or good soya sauce) over the top. Toss the tofu in the tamari and leave for a couple of hours before use. Hazelnut tofu can be bought in health food shops and the like, it can also be ordered online and is one of Jane and I’s favourite treat bites.

You would like the lentils quite thin, it is a sauce by name after all. Add a little more water to make it the consistency of a thick gravy.  Leeks, how we have missed them. Most of our recent dishes have revolved around the mighty leek.  Wales does many things well; sunsets, leeks and hail stones and you can only eat one of them.

Cookin' up a stack!

Cookin’ up a stack! (Fleece essential)

The Bits – For 2 (as a big plate) or 4 (as a little plate)

Red Lentil Sauce

1 tbs olive oil

3 garlic cloves (peeled and finely sliced)

2 tomatoes (roughly chopped)

200g red lentils (well washed and rinsed)

1/2 teas dried thyme

750ml water

Leek Greens (finely sliced, see below)

Leeks, how we adore thee.

Leeks, how we adore thee.

Stacks

1 pack hazelnut tofu (roughly 250g, cut into 8, 1 cm thick slices)

4 large Portobello Mushrooms

2 leeks (washed well, green part cut off and finely sliced, white part cut length ways into quarters and then sliced into 4, 3 inch pieces/ chunks)

1 whole head garlic (seperated into individual cloves, skins still on.  Use three of the cloves for the lentil sauce)

A good drizzle of olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

Garnish

Something green (preferably a little fresh thyme, parsley or even finely sliced spinach – as I used here)

Tray of goodness, ready for the oven

Tray of goodness, ready for the oven

Do It

Wash your lentils well, cover them with fresh water and drain.  Keep doing this until the water is clear.  Grab a medium sized saucepan and add 1 tbs oil, warm on a medium heat and then add the sliced garlic, stir and fry for a minute, then add the chopped tomatoes, stir well.  Pop a lid on and allow to bubble on a fast simmer for 5 minutes.

Now add the lentils and water, turn up the heat and bring to a boil.  Drop a lid on and lower the heat to a steady simmer.  Cook for 15 minutes.  Stir in the leek greens and the thyme, place the lid back in and cook for a further 20 minutes.  Adding more water to make thick, gravy like consistency.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Keep warm.

Preheat and oven to 180oC.

Line a baking tray with baking parchment, drizzle over a little oil and rub over the tray with your hand.  Then lay out all of your veggies onto the tray, including the tofu.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Pop in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, remove the mushrooms and tofu, turn over the leeks and garlic, place them back into the oven for 10 minutes (if they need them, they should be nice and soft with the occasional caramelised hue).

Assembly job – in a warm serving dish (or you can serve each stack individually on warm plates).  Cut your tofu in half lengthways, pop the garlic out of their skins (they should not need much encouragement).  Now place two pieces of leek and two cloves of garlic onto a mushroom and top those with four nice slices of tofu (criss-crossed looks cool).  You can put these back in the oven on a low heat to keep warm until serving.

Serve

Pour a thick layer of lentil sauce over your serving dish/ plate and gently place one of your towering stacks on top.  Sprinkle with something green, a little more seasoning with salt and pepper and a slight drizzle of good olive oil.

Stacked P........YUM!

Stacked……..YUM!

Foodie Fact – Leeks

Leeks can be a little overlooked from a nutritional point of view, their more popular cousins the onion and garlic get all the attention.  This means there isn’t as much nutritional info out there about them.  However, we know that leeks are champions of Vitamin K (see our last article, No-Knead Everyday Loaf, for more on ‘K’).  We also know that they are high in Manganese (good for bones and skin) and Folates (Vitamin B’s that keep our cardiovascular system in order).

Probably the most interesting thing  about Leeks are their history.  They originate from Central Asia (not Wales) and were highly revered by the Romans, in fact Emperor Nero used to eat alot of leeks to help give him a strong voice.  Leeks were in fact introduced to the UK by the Romans and are probably most famous for being worn in the helmets the Welsh army, who defeated the Saxons in 1620.

Read more excellent nutritional info here.

Jane on a walk in the hills, the gorse is right out in bloom (lovely honey smells)

Jane and I on a walk in the hills, the gorse is right out in bloom (lovely honey smells)

Follow all the Beach House Kitchen shenanigans and updates on whats going on with the new book Peace and Parsnips on Twitter.

Categories: Dinner, Healthy Eating, photography, Recipes, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , , , , | 2 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: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Homemade Spiced Ginger and Lemon Cordial (Sugar free)

Star Anise - one of the 'stars' of the show

Star Anise – one of the ‘stars’ of the show

So Jane and I decided to go for a walk along the beach yesterday and nearly got blown away.  Spring hasn’t quite arrived in North Wales!

I know this may sound like a winter time treat, but having just returned from India, Wales seems pretty damn wintery to me!  Jane and I are warming our cockles around steaming mugs of hot ginger drinks (I have managed to pick up the dreaded sniffles).  Ginger is the best thing for colds et al, more like a potion than just a refreshing tipple.  This cordial also work brilliantly cold, over ice and in a tall glass (glug of gin optional).

The B.H.K is a global thang and we know that many of you are getting ready for winter.  This zingy cordial will help to ease the blow of dark days and timid sun.  We know that our mates Fran and Steve down in Tasmania will dig it for example.  Serendipity Farm will be buzzing!

Jane throwing shapes on Dinas Dinlle beach - Wales is yet to feel the heat wave of the south

Jane throwing shapes on Dinas Dinlle beach – Wales is yet to feel the heat wave of the south

We love making our own stuff, you know what goes into it.  Most cordials, even if they are organic and well made, are packed full of sugar.  Here, you can use as much or as little sweetener as you like.  Sometimes we have it neat, sugarless.  A real wake up zing in the morning!  Try this with hot apple juice for an even more decadent steaming cup of joy.

This is one of those things, once you make one batch or cordial, you cannot stop.  Roll on the elderflower season.  Coming soon hopefully……..

Glorious grated ginger - can you smell that zing!!!!

Glorious grated ginger – can you smell that zing!!!!

The Bits – Makes roughly 500ml
100g grated ginger root

1/2 lemon (peel and juice)

1 lemon (juice)

4 green cardamom pods (split)

1 star anise

1/2 stick cinnamon

5 cloves

650ml water

Sweetener – as you like, we go sugar free is poss.

 

Do It

Place all (except the lemon juice) in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, pop a lid on and simmer for 20 minutes.  Set aside, squeeze in the lemon juice and leave to steep for 2 hours. The longer you leave, the more punch the cordial will have.  We find that after a night in the fridge, the flavours are even more full power.  You may like to add your sweetener now, but we prefer to do it when we drink it, depending how our sweet tooth is feeling.

Strain into a jug and pour into a clean glass bottle or a kilner jar.  Something sealable and preferably glass.  Because it is lacking in loads of sugar, this won’t last for as long as other cordials. Keep in the fridge and use between 3-5 days. Trust me, it won’t hang around that long!

Serve

Add to cup of hot water (just off boiling) to make a lovely steeper or serve over ice with a slice of lemon and sparkling water, making an awesome ginger ale.  Either of these can be made boozy with a glug of dark rum (a Dark and Stormy) or gin for example (as if you need guidance!)

Sweeten as you like, with what you like.  We use brown rice syrup or sometimes stevia if we are being supremely healthy.  Liquid sweeteners work best as they dissolve quickly and easily.

Hot off the hob – try it warm or cold with great apple juice.  YUMMMAH!

Hot, cold, sparkling, with apple juice, in a champagne flute....you decided!

Hot, cold, sparkling, with apple juice, in a champagne flute….all good!

Foodie Fact

All the spices in this cordial are AMAZING for the body!  They are natural medicines for all sorts of ailments.  We will focus on star anise.  Boil star anise in some water and sip it gently, it will soothe stomach pain and cold/ coughs.  Add cinnamon, coriander seeds and fennel seeds to the pan and you will be cured in double quick time.

Anise has a delicate liqourice flavour and the seeds of the star are simply anise seeds.  Surprisingly!  The seeds and the husk can be used in cooking, baking etc.  The main source of anti-oxidant glory is the volatile (in a good way) oil named anethole, but anise does boast a potent cocktail of other anti-oxidant oils.

In many traditional medicines anise is used for: anti-flatulence, anti-spasmodic, digestive, anti-septic, expectorant, stimulant and tonic.  They are also a wonderful source of the vitamin B’s, vitamin C and A and contains high levels of iron, copper (good for red blood cells), calcium and potassium.

It sounds strange consuming all these minerals, but potassium, for example, really helps to lower blood pressure and control heart rate.  What magnificent and fascinating bodies we inhabit!

The wonderful deep browns and gres of a Welsh spring (gale force wind not apparent)

The wonderful deep browns and gres of a Welsh spring (gale force wind not apparent)

 

Categories: Healing foods, Infusions, photography, Recipes, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 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

Mushroom and Spinach Hash and a Saucy Debate

Mushroom and Spinach Hash

Mushroom and Spinach Hash

Breakfast of champs!!!!!!!!!!!  Although really anytime of day is a good time for hash.  Spinach is not everyone’s breakfast go-to veg, but it adds a stack of vitamins and nutrients to any dish and the body loves few things more first thing.  Give it a go, it might even start making an appearance on your cooked brekkies (or is that a step too far?!).

I always find it strange that the things we eat in the morning normally make an ace late night snack as well.  Hash is proper Brit grub, which for me means it fills the belly after a long walk around our freezing terrains, either returning from a pub or recovering the morning after.  After all, beer and Britain go together like beans and toast, pies and piccalilli, Wimbledon and Cliff Richard (Dad’s personal favourite).  You catch my drift, historically British culture needed food that filled a whole, fueled our passion for hard graft and soaked up buckets of ale.

HASH

An evocative word for many reasons, culinary and otherwise.   Foodie wise, the name hash comes from the French ‘hacher’ which means to chop.  Hash is normally a wonderful receptacle for leftovers, alot like Bubble and Squeak.  In Denmark they have a dish like hash called ‘biksemad’ which means, ‘tossed together food’.  I think this is sums it up.  In fact, most countries have a version of hash up their sleeves, ‘picadillo’ in Spain, ‘pyttipanna’ in Sweden and ‘tyrol’ in Austria.  We love it!

Most people forget that Britain was once struggling and my grandparent and parents would eat things like hash primarily because they were quick and cheap.  Hash is proper ‘poor mans’ grub but this, as we find all over the world, does not mean that its poor food.  Hash is a brilliant way of turning cheaper bits and pieces into a hearty and satisfying meal.  One chap has even release a cookbook dedicated to the mighty hash and high end restaurants are now doing fancy things with the hash medium.

Hash is something I was partially raised on.  In the North East of England there are many varieties.  To my mind, its loads of stuff fried together in a pan, with a potato stuck in their somewhere along the way if you like. Its proper British grub. I think the main thing with pan frying potatoes is to take it slowly and gently, try not to bash them up too much.  Many people around the world add spice to their hash, in my neck of the woods, this is absurd.  Hash is straight up and pure, not spice.  I know that in the States they use the term hash for many differing dishes, some thick stews, some loads of minced meat fried.  Well not it in the Beach House hombres, this hash is strictly plant but not lacking in substance and certainly not lacking in nutrition and taste.

Dad gets caught in the crossfire (notice awesome dressing gown, essential in the Artic realm of the pre-spring Beach House Kitchen)

Dad gets caught in the crossfire (notice awesome dressing gown, essential in the Artic realm of the pre-spring Beach House Kitchen)

I’m not totally blowing our trumpets here (….I am….) but vegans know their way around a nutritious, low saturated fat, nibble or two. As a kid, we used to have this with fatty bacon and probably a load of corned beef whacked in their.  Maybe topped with a sausage or two.  Corned beef was a constant companion to me, or Pek (like Spam, but I found it to be tastier).  Strangely, last night I had a dream/ nightmare based around that jelly you find around the meat in a pork pie. The same jelly you find on Pek, aspic jelly that is a not-too-distant cousin of the jellyfish and seems quite a strange thing to find stuffed into a pie or coating food in general. It was oozing all over the place, like a B-Movie Monster….”Attack of the Aspic Jelly!”

THE SAUCY DEBATE – ARE YOU RED OR BROWN?

In Britain you’re either red or brown.  There is no middle ground.  The battles lines are drawn!  Like the round heads or the royalists, labour or tory it is unwise to mix your allegiance.  Welcome to our saucy world.

Now if you’re reading from anywhere outside of the U.K. this is going to all sound a little strange, but there is a timeless debate raging on these little islands about sauce. Brown sauce to be exact. Brown sauce is a phenomenon that has gripped Britain since the early 20th century.  Frederick Gibson Garton came up with the recipe, a grocer from Nottingham.  I’ve no idea how, but he thought that combining tomatoes, tamarind, dates, molasses and vinegar would appeal to the masses.  It was a hit and apparently they served it in the houses of parliament, hence the name.  HP is the original Brown Sauce, but there are many contenders (see below).  HP was traditionally made in Aston near Birmingham, the factory is now closed.  HP was originally called ‘snotrag’, a charming name taken from the founders name (Garton’s), late in the 60’s and 70’s it was called ‘Wilson’s Gravy’ due to the fact that Harold Wilson, the British Prime Minister at the time, used to cover his meals with the stuff.   HP now comes in a load of different varieties, but its still best out of the old glass bottle.  Why is that?

BROWN SAUCE – CONTENDERS AND TASTING NOTES

Not all Brits are into HP.  There are many options over here.  As a child I was weaned on Daddie’s sauce, slighty more acidic and not quite as concentrated with a less pungent bouquet.  The main attraction was the price I’d imagine.  Chop sauce is another contender that seems popular in the North.  My Uncle Brian swears by Chop.  I like Chop.  Its very thick and has a lighter flavour than HP.  A good chip dipper.  Having said all of this, for me, I opt for HP.  Having been travelling most of my life, the sight of an HP bottle, with its ‘By Appoitment of Her Majesty The Queen’ and Big Ben embossed on the front, stirs a normally absent sense of nostalgia and reminds me of dinner time around my grandparents house.  Its powerful stuff!

Brown sauce is a treat for us in the BHK, in fact Jane is more of a red sauce gal (Tomato Ketchup that is).  I reserve a chilled bottle in the fridge for special breakfast times.  Its highly processed and not what you’d call a healthy option.  Full of salt and sugar.  Its just one of those flavours that is so heavily linked with childhood memories.  Its also vegan and there are precious few ‘childhood memory’ foods that can claim to be purely plant.

The key here is to cook the hash for a while, on a lowish heat and make sure everything is nicely caramelised.  Stirring gently and regularly to ensure the potatoes don’t stick and remain in tact.  Its a hash not a mash!

Brekkie of champs......

Brekkie of champs……

We’ve had a bash at home made HP sauce and homemade baked beans, but this morning Dad and I had a date with a beach walk.  There are some brilliant recipes on the web for both of these things and of course, everything is better homemade right?!

I’ve made hash with firm tofu added before which makes it more substantial and of course brings a load of protein to the party.  More filling for sure.  Crumble some drained firm tofu (roughly 175g or half a block, will be enough) into the pan with the mushrooms.

There are an infinite amount of hashes to experiment with, use whatever veggies you have at hand and put it on toast.  Eeeaaaaaaaaaassssssssssyyyyyyy!

Things are getting golden in the pan

Things are getting golden in the pan

The Bits – For 2

1-2 tbs cooking oil (I used rapeseed oil)

10 mushrooms – chestnut work well (roughly chopped)

2 small potatoes (cut into 1cm cubes, skins scrubbed and kept on)

1 small onion (finely diced)

4 massive handfuls of spinach leaves

1 teas balsamic vinegar

Sea salt and plenty of black pepper (to taste)

You favourite toast and lashings of baked beans

Optional Extra
HP Sauce (the only way to go)

Do It

In a large heavy frying pan on a medium heat, add the oil, potatoes and onions.  Coat well in the oil using a wooden spoon or spatula and continue to gently stir and cook for 10-15 minutes.  The potatoes and mushrooms will now be nicely caramelised.  Add the mushrooms and balsamic vinegar and continue to gently stir regularly and make sure the potatoes are not sticking, lower the heat slightly if you need to.  (Now is a good time to heat your beans if you’re having hash and beans).

Cook for 5-7 minutes and then pile the spinach leaves on top, it will look like alot, but they cook down quickly.  Stir the leaves into the hash and wait for them to wilt, after a couple of minutes, season well with salt and pepper.

Pop your toast in.  As a vegan, you can buy some nice, natural olive oil spreads (like margarine, but without the nasties) or I just like to drizzle olive oil or good rapeseed oil on my toast.

Mushroom and Spinach Hash (with baked beans)

Mushroom and Spinach Hash (with baked beans)

Serve

Spoon the hash over your toast and surround with a steaming moat of beans.  Add sauce in the quantity and location that you prefer and get stuck right in!

Foodie Fact

Spinach is one of the worlds most nutrient dense foods, all wrapped up in a tasty green leaf.  Spinach boasts wild amounts of Vitamin K and A, it is also rammed full of a plethora of minerals like manganese, folate and iron.  Eating spinach will help you against inflammations, cancer, caridiovascular problems and it gives a serious anti-oxidant boost to the body.  Talk about starting the day on a good foot!

Buy vividly green spinach for greater levels of Vitamin C.  If your spinach is wilting anywhere else than your pan, look elsewhere for your daily hit of wonder green leaves.

PS – You may have noticed that Dad is standing in for Jane, who is at this very moment, sunning herself somewhere on a beach in Spain.  Sounds terrible.  She is back next week to really get the BHK rocking.  

Categories: Breakfast, Budget, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Pyramid Cafe Salad and Natural Healing

The Pyramid Salad - Rishikesh Classic

The Pyramid Salad – Rishikesh Classic

A crunchy Rishikesh classic, surely India’s first ever ‘superfood’ salad.  We love salads like this, no strong dressing, the glorious veggies do all the talking……..

This is a little like the Israeli Salad that we wrote about a few posts ago, but The Pyramid Salad has bells, whistles, trimmings and shavings.  This is the ultimate traveler salad in India.  You know that Jane and I love a bowl of crunchy veggie goodness and granted, in many parts of the world, salads may seem quite everyday.  But in India, when you’re on the bumpy, dusty road filled with spiced and deep fried delights, a bowl of salad becomes an sheer delight.  Especially when its sprinkled with gloriously green spirulina!  Indulge us…….

The Pyramid Cafe in Rishikesh is  traveler institution and has been for ages.  It’s one of the only places you used to be able to get a fresh and crisp salad, decent filter coffee and very good vibes (they play the Jungle Book theme tune sometimes at night, “It’s those bear necessities……!”)  It has changed alot recently, Lali and his family have been doing some building work, the pyramids are getting much higher, but the quality of the food remains awesome and fresh, fresh, fresh……  Also Lali and his family are still lovely hosts and their son Rahul, who I met six years ago and has changed from a young lad into a strapping fella, has taken over the running of the restaurant.

We always hike up the steep hill to the Pyramid Cafe, it has wonderful views of the turquoise Ganges and is a quiet little spot in the otherwise hectic Laxman Jhula area.  When this salad greets you, your body and palate become very excited.  You feel healthier just by being in its presence.  The Pyramid Cafe has always been a superbly healthy mecca for wellness, they sell; kombucha, organic spirulina, cacao beans, vanilla pods, silver collioidal and there menu used to double up as an alternative health bible.  Great reading when waiting for dinner.  Sleemy is the man behind the sparkling health approach.  Sleemy was born in Switzerland, but has been living in India for an age and rides around, from North to South, on his customised scooter, known as the ‘Chapatti Express’.  He is a living legend in the Indian travel scene and pops up when you least expect him in Gorkana, Goa or small villages in the high Himalayas.  He is full of wisdom like ‘The best medicine is the one that teaches you how not to need it’.

The bare necessities of life!

 

 

 

NATURAL HEALING

Sleemy has been a student of health for over 30 years and is an advocate of all forms of natural health; yoga, naturopathy, holistic medicines and ayurveda, check out his website here.  Sleemy is a font of information on acheiveing a state of sparkling well being and as he says, “I have built myself an iron cast immune system, and since 1975, I haven’t been ill at all, (not even a cold in winter), and I didn’t consult any doctor since then.”  Sleemy has even wrote an ace travelers health manual named “The Hitchhikers Guide to Medicine“.  It’s well worth a read.  

We also believe that getting ill is the final stages of a problem, not the beginning.  We must work at the roots of good health to prevent future illness, using a varied and radiant diet, healthy habits and regular exercise to prevent the growth and manifestation of illness both physical and mental.  Positive thinking is also a must, laughing alot is very important (as are hugs) along with a basic idea of nutrition.    We also believe that breathing is highly underrated.  Breathing well, deeply and slowly, is a sure fire way decreasing stress and enlivening our body with huge amounts of good energy.  Breathing is our number one way of absorbing pure energy, much more immediate than the food we consume.  Love is also imperative.  Self love and loving relations with relatives, friends, neighbours, work colleagues etcetc.  Wherever possible, love is the answer (and its always possible!x)

Jane and I overlooking the jade green Ganga

Jane and I overlooking the jade green Ganga

Until just a few years ago, salads in India were like playing digestive roulette. Now things are much better, many places wash raw veggies in filtered water, but a few can still lead to upsets. The Pyramid has always known the score and has always been a safe haven for going raw.  They also happen to whip up the finest falafels in the sub continent.

Bright red carrots!!!!!  Please do not be unduly alarmed, carrots in India are dark red, almost crimson in colour.  This is very normal.  Use your preferred/ local shade of carrot in this recipe.  Remember that organic, local carrots, will have loads more nutrition than anything industrially grown.  We have just read some shocking facts about the dearth of nutrition in most non-organic veggies.  Minerals and other nutrients can be as much as 2/3 lower in veggies grown using artificial fertilizer and in depleted soils.

I have guessed what goes into this mythical creation, to be fair, it was not that hard, but worthy.  This salad has enriched many an aspiring yogi and wayward wanderer, finding their way up into the free and liberating spaces of the beautiful Himalayan wilderness.

The Pyramid Cafe also for the best falafels in India

The Pyramid Cafe also for the best falafels in India, brilliantly served in edible bowls (cabbage leaves)

 

The Bits – For 4

2 good sized carrot (grated with a grater, also grate roughly six long slices per person with a potato peeler for presentation – see the photo)

1/2 small white cabbage (grated or very finely sliced)

1/2 small red onion (not a strong one, very finely sliced)

1 little gem lettuce (finely sliced)

3 radishes or 6 inches mooli (grated)

3 tomatoes (finely chopped)

2 big handfuls crunchy sprouts (brown lentils used here)

1 handful alfalfa sprouts

 

Serve

Small bowls of tamari (or good soya sauce), wedges of lime and unrefined oil of your choice

Topped with more sprouts, a hearty sprinkle of spirulina/ wheatgrass/ barley grass.

In India, it would not be unheard of to sprinkle over some dried chilli flakes to perk things up a bit.

Also pleasant with:

Slices of Brown Bread or Wholewheat Chapattis

 

Do It

Beautifully simple.  Combine all in a bowl, toss gently.  Pile up into the centre of  plate, pyramid style.  Lay a few of your carrot shavings over your pyramid of intense delight and sprinkle with sprouts and green powdered joy.

 

Serve

Warm the bread a little and enjoy.

The Pyramid Cafe Superfood Salad

The Pyramid Cafe ‘Superfood’ Salad – pure eye candy for the sabji weary traveller

Foodie Fact

Spirulina is a highly nutritious green/ blue algae that has been eaten by humans for millenia.  It is a great friend of the BHK and is something we eat regularly, especially when we are on the road.  It means that we are getting a concentrated health boost every morning and start the day in the most brilliant way.

Spirulina is made of 60-70% protein and is a great source of amino acids and also has good levels of calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, manganese, folic acid, niacin, vitamin B, caroteniods and iron.  Of course, being so beautifully green, it also contains bags of chlorophyll which has many benefits, including aiding our chemical reactions creating protein, vitamins and sugars.

For more info, check out the post we wrote about Spirulina.

Our favoutire chai spot between Laxman Jhula and Ram Jhula (closed unfortunately)

Our favoutire chai spot between Laxman Jhula and Ram Jhula (closed unfortunately)

Categories: Healing foods, Healthy Living, Recipes, Salads, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Brazil Nut and Banana Breakfast Cookies and the Trials and Tribulations of Vegan Travel

Brazil Nut and Banana Breakfast Cookies - Fresh from the oven

Brazil Nut and Banana Breakfast Cookies – Up close and personal

Warm, healthy cookies for breakfast.  Yes, please!!!!!!  A fine start to any day and even the sleepiest of heads can cope with the simplicity of getting these together.  This is a nourishing and energy giving breakfast on the run and one of these cookies contains much more nutrition than your average bowl of cereal.

A strange post to be winging it across from the Turkish Med, but the weather in the port town of Antalya is dreadful.  Jane and I are tucked up in bed with cups of well stewed Turkish tea.  We were here two weeks ago and the sun was blazing, it now resembles a supermarket car park in Leicester town centre in a November hail storm (with the occasional roman aqueduct thrown in).  Amazing the difference some pants weather can make.

THE BEACH HOUSE ON TOUR

A quick update as to our wandering ways.  We’re in Turkey, as mentioned and have been whizzing around in a hire car for two weeks, covering thousands of kilometres in this fascinating and rich land.  Firstly, Turkey is a country with many layers of incredible history and culture, stunning and varied landscapes, but the real star (as ever we find) is the people.  The folk we have met have been absolutely brilliant, wonderfully hospitable, kind and funny.  Jane and I have felt very at home ever since, on the first night, a genial waiter Abdullah, offered us his house to stay in for as long as we like. We declined his more than generous offer, so he halved our bill and sent us on our merry way.  This has become quite normal, every day we are confronted with bare faced kindness and highly welcoming behaviour.

The view from our hotel in Antalya on the first day, now it looks considerably greyer with occasional lightning forks crackling over the mountains.

The view from our hotel in Antalya on the first day, now it looks considerably greyer with occasional lightning forks crackling over the mountains.

We’ve been so active in the last 14 days its quite hard to recap that’s been done.  Having taken in most of the Turquoise coast, with its stunning ancient Greek and Roman Ruins and beautiful beaches, we headed up to Pammukale, which is a massive calcite wave with hot thermal springs (and an almost token vast ancient Greek settlement on top).  We then whisked our little Fiat up through the Alpine clad mountains, inland and across a vast Anatolian steppe to Konya (the resting place of the poet Rumi and the home of the whirling dervishes) and then spent a few days exploring and hiking in the ridiculously unique and surreal rock features of the Cappdocian valleys.  We stayed in a luxury cave, carved out of compressed volcanic dust.  The beauty of having a car is being able to stop alot along the way and get lost.  Getting lost I find is the best way to get to know a country properly.  The out of the way places are always more fun than the tourist ‘hives’.

Now we’re back on the coast, having traced the silk road for a while and hung out in caravaserai’s.  We’re readying ourselves for a weeks volunteering and cooking on an organic farm and animal sanctuary (meaning sitting down for a day).  Phew!  In a nut shell, its been intensely brilliant.  It feels like we’ve been away for years.  Pictures will hopefully follow when a better internet connection arises.

THE TRIALS AND TRAVAILS OF VEGAN TRAVELER 

Being a vegan foodie traveler outside select parts of LA  is never going to easy, but many Turkish staples are easily veganised and we haven’t struggle for sparkling sustenance thus far.  Saksuka, corba (soup, lentil normally), bean stews, gorgeous pides (Turkish pizza), village rice dishes, shepherd salads, smoked aubergine and pepper salads, many clay pot roasted veggie variations (in wood fired ovens), and lashings of white bread ( no whole grains on the horizon) have kept us ticking over quite nicely.  All washed down with plenty of tiny glasses of Turkish Whiskey (well stewed tea normally grown around the Black Sea).

We do have a very unique diet in the Beach House Kitchen and we always feel the pinch the first few weeks of a travel.  Gone are the 6 vegetable morning juices and rampantly organic raw salads and layered tofu bakes.  Having said that, back here in the big city Antalya (population 11 million) we have just enjoyed a slap up mezze-fest in a white table cloth joint.  Radical selections of local leaves, beetroot, funky turnip juice, fresh steaming white bread, melt in the mouth aubergine dishes (known as the ‘sultan’ of vegetables in Turkey and quiet revered), interesting and intense tomato rice (the shape of which I’d never seen before, very squat and dumpy grains).  Great stuff and an open fire to boot.

Generally travelling as a vegan means scouting out as many fruit and nuts as you can find.  I’m not a huge supplement fan, but do travel with some Spirulina which I picked up in India, see this article I wrote for more info on this wonder green powder.  Getting balanced nutrition is a happy quest when on the road.  A vegan traveler has to be more patient with food and accept the occasion stray lump of cheese or gristle with grace and impeccable manners.  After all, we are ambassadors of something highly  positive, why ruin it all with a restaurant rant.  It can get a little embarrassing on occasion, especially when in a home.  No matter how much you explain yourself, language barriers can become chasms when ordering in a restaurant.  It is quite an alien concept in most parts of the world.  So far, on this trip, I have been fine and had no encounters with surprise ingredients.  There is an element of keeping it simple and realising the the cornucopia of local food is generally out of bounds and you will have to settle with some simple veggies dishes and many baffled and perplexed looks from local waiting staff and restaurant owners.  Jane and I also make alot of salads and simple veggie dishes ourselves, we always travel with a good knife and some plates.  This keeps costs down a little and means that we can pack loads of gorgeous local veggies into diets with relative ease.  Overall, Turkey is a great country for vegan travel and much of the produce is organic and seasonal.

I made these cookies just before we left the Beach House for our travels around Turkey, Spain and India.  They were a real hit with our friends over coffee and chats.  As usual with our sweet things, they are an attempt at taking a gorgeous cake/ cookie recipe and making it as healthy as we can, without compromising on delicousness.

These baked beauts are packed with nutrition and low GI, all that shebang!  They are also super tasty and almost a meal  in themselves.  After one of these for breakfast, we feel pretty much sated for the morning.  We’ve basically put loads of the things that we love in a bowl and baked it, most are ingredients that we believe will do our body the most amount of good first thing in the morn.  A novel way of approaching cookie making you may say?!  But the cookie taste it there, it just so happens that we snook in a few wonder foods as well.  We’ve got oats, flax seeds, bananas, maple syrup, brazil nuts, cinnamon……it’s like a health food shop condensed down into small disc of crispy happiness!  All these things are going to make your body smile and sing.

Gluten free folk may like to try buckwheat flour or your favourite gluten free flour mix instead of the wholewheat flour, we haven’t tried it, but are sure it will lead to magic results.  Gluten free oats are also readily available.  You can also just use oats, but the cookies won’t quite have the density and firm texture that these will.

Fresh out of the the oven

Fresh out of the the oven.  Would you call this a cookie or a biscuit?

SO WHEN IS A BISCUIT A BISCUIT, AND A COOKIE A COOKIE?

I think this is a matter of cultural surroundings and varying criteria.  Personally, a cookie is moist and chewy and a biscuit is crunchy and crumbly.  Cookies are normally fatter and biscuits are thinner.  Cookies are not traditional in the UK, so any new and magical ingredients normally take things in a cookie direction.  What do you think?  I know in the States biscuits are served with savoury dishes, they seem to be more like a semi-scone, but generally quite heavy.  I know one thing, there is no way anybody would refer to these whoopers as a biscuit, maybe a ‘slab’ would be better way of describing them, or a ‘chunk’.

Use any variety of nuts and seeds here, whatever’s handy (although poppy seeds are probably best used only if you love ‘em dearly).

Once baked and cooled fully, these cookies will keep for a few days in a tight fitting container or biscuit tin and don’t just eat them for breakfast, eat them all day if you like!

 

The Bits – 6-8 big cookies

200g Scottish oats (50g more reserved)

30g wholewheat flour

2 bananas (mashed with your hands)

3 tbs sunflower seeds

1 ½ tbs flax seeds

1 handful brazil nuts (roughly chopped)

200ml sunflower oil/ light olive oil

3 tbs maple syrup/ brown rice syrup/

1 teas bicarb of soda

1 ½ teas ground cinnamon

1 teas almond extract

In the mix

In the mix

Do It

Preheat an fan oven to 180oC.

Mix together all the bits in a large bowl until a smooth dough is formed, then add the rest of the oats and stir in.  This will give the cookies a little bite and texture.

For soft cookies bake for 10 minutes, for slightly crisper cookies, turn the tray and bake for a further 2-3 minutes.

Breakfast is served!

Breakfast is served!

Serve

Using a flat spatula, place on a wire rack and leave for 15 minutes to cool.  Best served with a nice big cuppa tea.

Foodie Fact  

Many people believe bananas to be high GI (Glycemic Index) foods, meaning they release their carbohydrates straight into your blood stream and leave you with a ‘sugar spike’ that can lead to blood sugar level mayhem and long term ailments.

Bananas are actually low GI and are our friends, meaning they help against diabetes and keep our heart healthy.  The greener your banana, the less sugar present.  Plantains have the lowest sugar levels.

Goodbye from the Med!  (expect more pics soon)

Goodbye from the Med! (expect more pics soon)

 

Categories: Baking, Breakfast, Recipes, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Quick Tempeh Stir Fry with Buckwheat Noodles, Rainbow Chard and Goji Berries (Gluten Free)

Autumn in a bowl (if you live in the Beach House that is!)

Autumn in a bowl (if you live in the Beach House that is!)

IT’S TIME THE WORLD TRIED TEMPEH!

Here’s a mid-belter to get the taste buds zinging, full of the things we need with winter just around the bend.  When the nights draw in (our clocks have just gone back in the UK which means it gets dark at around 4-5pm already!) we naturally turn to comfort foods rich in carbs to put some padding on for winter.  Stir fries are the ideal way of avoiding really heavy, stodgy grub at this time of year and because the ingredients are cooked quickly, at high heat, they retain more of their health giving properties.  The winter wok is a star and our bodies need a decent kick start to get us through this physically arduous time of year.

Stir fries are always and intense affair, its at the exciting, adrenaline rich end of the cooking spectrum.  You need to be organised, with a very hot pan and trusty spatula at the ready.  If you turn around to grab something, things can go horribly wrong!  This one it ever-so easy to get together and wok, with the pleasing addition of a few superfood-stylee trimmings.  Trust me, the name of this dish sounds far more complex than the cooking.

WHAT’S TEMPEH AND WHY?

Tempeh is so easy to prepare, highly fuss-free and packed with all the protein a vegan needs to sparkle.  Soya is best kept wholebean and the thing I love about tempeh is you can actually see the beans (see below).  Tempeh originated from the Indonesia area and is eaten extensively as a meat substitute, although it is surely appreciated for just being highly tasty (I prefer this approach).  It is whole soya beans, packed together and partly fermented which leads to the health benfits of soya being accentuated.  Our body can utilise its goodness more directly.

Tempeh is now relatively easy to track down in the UK and you can of course find it on line.  I like to eat it regularly, normally as an alternative to tofu.  It always seems like a treat when the tempeh is cracked open. You can buy it frozen in long logs in some Oriental shops/ supermarkets.  The tempeh we use here was in ‘log’ form.  You can steam this tempeh for 10 minutes to revitalise it before cooking.  Frozen tempeh is alot drier than jarred tempeh (which is suspended in brine) so it will absorb much more marinade.   Like most of these vegan, pulse based curd-like creations, it does need a nice, slow marinade to impart wonderful flavours.  Tempeh and tofu are really just ridiculously nutritious launch pads for high charged flavour rockets!!!!  I’ve gone for a straightforward marinade here and 30 minutes should do the trick, marinade wise, on a busy week night, although a couple of hours would be quite awesome.

Tempeh chunks mid marinade

Tempeh chunks mid marinade

Soba noodles are well up there in my noodle league.  They have a firm texture and loads of nutritional perks.  Just check the quantity of buckwheat to wheat if you’re keeping things low gluten.  Pure buckwheat noodles are available, but ‘soba’ noodles are normally a mix.

AUTUMNAL ANTI-OXIDANT FIX

Are we all familiar with goji berries?  They seem to have been a superfood for at least 3000 years now, originating somewhere in ancient China and always very highly regarded for their potent nutritional properties.  Goji’s are the ideal autumn/ winter defence blanket for all kinds of cold/ flu invasions.  Highly charged with anti-oxidants and happy chemicals, a handful of goji’s a day, keeps the snotty, coughy zombie man at bay.  You can pick them up all over the place now and they are the perfect winter salad/ stew ‘sprinkle’ of choice.  If you’re in the UK, try a rosehip as a more local substitute.  They have very similar properties, but would have looked a little incongruous on a highly Oriental style stir fry!

We also have peppers in the mix, which are very (very), very high in vitamin C.  One of the best sources in the vegetal world in fact.  Then we have our friend rainbow chard which is a green and we all know what they do.  Anything green and leafy is our bodies best friend, packed with vitamins and minerals (for more chard -based info – See the ‘Foodie Fact’ below).

If you are looking from serious detox properties from this wok wonder, I’d recommend taking it easier on the shoyu and mirin due to sodium and sugar (respectively) contents.  Our kidneys and liver are never happy to see high levels of salt and sweetness.

 

A WORD ON COOKING CHARD 

Chard contains some funky acids (oxalic acids), whilst not harmful, it is best to avoid them.  Our bodies can absorb the goodness of chard easier when the acids are out of the way.  The best way to do this it to steam or boil them for a few minutes.  Do not use this cooking liquid for soups or stocks.

Last night, we fancied something like a chow mein style dish, low on sauce and high on noodles.  To make this more of a soup, just add some shoyu/ tamari or miso to the water when cooking your noodles (taste the broth to decide how strong you like it) and serve ladled over the final dish.

The Bits – For 2

200g tempeh (cut into chunks, we like big ones, most people go for small 1 cm by 3cm oblong shapes)

1 tbs sunflower oil

1/2 teas toasted sesame oil

 

Marinade

3 teas shoyu/ tamari or good soya sauce (ie not heavily processed)

2 teas mirin or sake/ cream sherry with a pinch of sugar

1 1/2 teas sesame oil

 

4 large stems rainbow chard (finely sliced) – spinach, kale, savoy cabbage etc..any green leaf is cool

1 bell pepper (diced)

1 medium carrot (cut into thin batons, or sliced)

1/2 inch ginger (finely diced)

1 red chilli (if you like it hot)

 

175-200g buckwheat/ soba noodles

1 handful goji berries (soaked for 30 minutes in water)

1 tbs toasted sesame seeds

1 teas lemon juice

Quick Tempeh Stir Fry with Buckwheat Noodles, Rainbow Chard and Goji Berries

Quick Tempeh Stir Fry with Buckwheat Noodles, Rainbow Chard and Goji Berries

Do It

Marinade the tempeh, pour over the ingredients, cover and leave in a fridge for 30 minutes or longer.

I like to start with the noodles, bring 1 ltr of water to a boil and submerge the noodles whole (try not to break them up).  Stir with a fork to keep the noodles seperated, adding a splash of oil if they start sticking (some brands of noodles will do this, its the high buckwheat content I think).  Cook them for a few minutes (follow what the packet says), drain them (or make a broth – see above) and pop them back into the warm pan.  Shake the noodles gently to make sure they’re all happy and seperated, pop a lid on and set aside.

If you are a highly accomplished wok master you can start stir frying whilst the noodles are on their way.

Warm up a wok/ large frying pan and add  1/2 of the sunflower/ sesame oils, on a medium high heat, add the drained tamari and stif fry for 5 minutes, trying to get your chunks coloured on all sides.  Gently play with them as not to break them up.   Set aside and keep warm.  I put a plate on to of the noodle pan and cover it with another plate, using the heat from the noodles to warm the tempeh!

Steamy wok action

Steamy wok action

During the entire stir frying process, the pan can get too hot and leading to burnt bits.  Sprinkle a little water  into the pan to avoid this, slightly lowering the temperature.  Just a s sprinkle is enough, overdoing it will lead to limp veg. 

Wipe the pan if it needs it and add the rest of the oil, on a high heat, add the carrots and ginger stir fry until softened, roughly a minute, then add the other veggies and keep stir frying until they are wilted, softened and delicious.  Remember we want crunch and vitality with a stir fry, so slightly undercook the veggies (they continue to cook when you are preparing to serve). Add a splash of your marinade ingredients to the pan towards the end of cooking to add a little pizzazz, followed by a little lemon juice to cut through all that salty tamari-style behaviour.

Pour the veggies into the noodle pan and combine them nicely together.

Serve

Pour into warm shallow bowls and top with the tempeh and sprinkles of gojis and sesame seeds.

As an option – mix a little more of the marinade ingredients together and people can season their noodles as they like.

Foodie Fact

Chard is a member of the chenopod family, with beetroot, spinach and surprisingly, quinoa!  It is native to the Mediterranean where it has been honoured for its medicinal properties since ancient times, Aristotle even wrote about it!

Chard is packed with phyto nutrients, in fact there are 13 different types of these beneficial chemicals in chard leaves.  Abnormally high!  They can help the heart and regulate blood sugar levels.  Chard is also high in the betalians, like beetroot, the yellow stems have many more than the red and these wonder nutrients help us with detox, inflammation and are a powerful anti-oxidant.  Chard boasts many health giving properties that aid the nervous system, especially the eyes (bags of vitamin A).  High levels of vitamin K and magnesium mean that chard is also aids strong bones.

Green leafy foliage should make regular appearances on our plates if we are looking for optimum health with minimum fuss/ expense.

Categories: Autumn, Detox, gluten-free, Healing foods, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Juicer Pulp Burgers with Seitan, Miso and a Polenta and Sesame Crumb

Pulp Burgers with Seitan, Miso and a Polenta Crumb

Pulp Burgers with Seitan, Miso and a Polenta and Sesame Crumb

THESE VEGAN BURGERS ARE CARNIVORE APPROVED!!!!!  PACKED WITH FLAVOUR AND LOADS OF TEXTURE, YOU WON’T BELIEVE THEY’RE MADE FROM LEFTOVER KITCHEN SCRAPS!

A vivid receptacle for all your kitchen scraps, a modern take on what would have been a very old fashioned, house wife style, classic. Purple vegan burgers are not it Delia’s repertoire yet, but if you love juicing (and more and more people are getting on that ship) you’ll be wondering what to do with all that gorgeous looking leftover pulp. We use it as a fabulously nutritious filler for many dishes, our muffins turn out rather well (see Juicer Pulp Muffins with Pecan, Fig and Turmeric); burgers, cakes, soups etc. They give these burgers a great texture, light and moist. A million miles away from the stodgy, claggy veggie burgers that most of us have to endure on regular occasions. Well, not in the Beach House!!!!!! Pop round for dinner, we’ll whip you a pulp burger up and you’ll leave considering your very own vegan burger odyssey. It’s a large and diverse place to inhabit for a while. The options are mind boggling.

You will need alot of juicer pulp for these burgers, maybe save up for a couple of days. Taste it before you use it, the citrus elements especially can go a little wayward after a day or more in the fridge. We did it in a day! A pint of juice is surely a zingy start to the day. This pulp contains 250g spinach leaves, 4 apples, 4 carrots, 1 beetroot, 1 handful parsley, 1 lemon (with ½ zest), 1 orange (with ½ zest), 2 large florets of broccoli. Phew! Then yum. Quite a list of ingredients, but we use whats to hand and buy loads of veggies and fruits, if they are getting a little past their best we juice them and come up with many odd combos. Swede juices is a real thing! Certainly wakes you up first thing.

HEALTH BENEFITS OF EATING YOUR JUICER PULP?

The pulp leftover from juicing is filled with fibre which is amazing for digestion.  A little word of warning, too much fibre will bung you up so bear that in mind.  No juicer will produce completely dry pulp, so there are benefits from eating the leftover juice along with the pulp.  Fruits (especially citrus) store many of their nutrients/ flavanoids in their skins, so we are not missing out any of that goodness either.

OTHER IDEAS FOR USING UP LEFTOVER JUICE PULP

–  COMPOST IT, THE PULP WILL BREAK DOWN VERY QUICKLY AND THE GARDEN LOVES IT!

–  ADD TO SMOOTHIES FOR A FIBRE HIT

–  ADD IT STRAIGHT TO SOUPS AS A THICKENER INSTEAD OF POTATOES ETC

–  FREEZE IT, GATHER ENOUGH PULP UNTIL YOU HAVE ENOUGH TO MAKE BURGERS ETC.

–  SOME PEOPLE FEED IT TO THEIR PETS AND ANIMALS, MIXED INTO THEIR NORMAL FOOD.

I use cooked rice as the binding/ ballast for these veggie burgs. You can use a similar quantity of cooked millet, buckwheat, pearl barley, quinoa etc. They will all work well once blended up into a sticky paste.
The flavouring of this burger went East, but you can flavour it with whatever you like. Some suggested substitutes would be leeks = onions, tahini = peanut or other nut butters, sesame seeds = any other nuts (crushed for the coating), seitan = firm tofu or tempeh, tamari = soya sauce/ shoyu.

Seitan is an ingredient we use rarely.  It has a lovely texture, sometimes called ‘mock duck’ it is something a bit different.  Seitan is basically pure gluten and these burgers can easily be made gluten free by adding tofu or tempeh instead.  You won’t lose anything by doing so.

I fancied putting a crunchy coating on the burgers and a vivid yellow jacket, so I used polenta. You can leave them naked if you like, or go for breadcrumbs. Both would work very nicely indeed.  I like the colour of them without there jackets and its a little less fuss.

Pulp burgers pre-crumbing

Pulp burgers pre-crumbing

The Bits – Makes 8 Fat Quarter Pounders
3 tbs oil (more for frying)
300g leeks (finely sliced)
1 inch sq fresh ginger (finely diced)
4 cloves garlic (peeled and crushed)
3 teas sesame seeds (more for the coating)
3 tbs tahini
1 -2 tbs tamari
2 tbs brown miso
200g seitan (roughly chopped)
400g brown rice (cooked and cooled – leftovers are best)
1 tbs sesame oil
900g juice pulp

Crumb
1 small handful of sesame seeds
2 big handfuls of polenta (optional)
½ teas turmeric

Do It
In a large frying pan with a heavy bottom, add 2 tbs oil and your leeks, sauté until tender, add your seitan, sesame seeds and ginger, cook for another 3 minutes, then add the garlic, tamari, miso, tahini and 2 tbs water, cook until the liquid has mostly evaporated.

In a blender, blitz your cooked rice until it forms a thick paste. Sticky to the touch.
Add the leek mix and rice to the juice pulp, pour in your sesame oil and 1 tbs more oil. Pop in a fridge for ½ hour or longer to mingle and get together.

The leek mix and juice pulp before mixing

The leek mix and juice pulp before mixing

Scatter sesame seeds, turmeric and polenta on a plate, grab a handful of burger mix and form it into patties of your favourite dimensions. Place on the plate and toss the coating over the burgers, pat gently so that it sticks.

Your burger mix in all its vivid-ness

Your burger mix in all its vivid-ness

Preheat oven to 180oC.

Warm oil in a pan, we like to use roughly 3 tbs, and replenish when needed. For super crispy burgers, cover the base with 1 cm of oil and shallow fry them gently. This is amazing, but uses alot of oil, so we reserve it for what could be called, ‘special’ occasions. Fry the burgers on a medium heat for 2-3 minutes each side, until golden brown and warmed through. Top up the oil as needed.  Use a nice flat spatula and gently flip them over, veggie burgers need to be handled with a little finesse and care, otherwise they’ll look like a dog’s dinner (which basically means not very appetising at all unless you’re a spaniel).

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Quick fry in the pan and then a warm in the oven

After frying, place them onto a baking tray lined with parchment and pop them in the oven to warm for 10-15 minutes, this will ensure that the fat burgers have a piping hot middle.

Serve

However you like burgers. You may like to maintain the sesame theme, as we did, and serve with smokey hummus (smoked paprika mixed into regular hummus) and salad leaves (we used sorrel) or serve them in fresh bread with something creamy, a bean puree for example, and something tangy; pickles, pineapple, then the ubiquitous leaves; spinach, lettuce, sorrel?(it grows like weeds in our garden).

Our juicer pulp burgers, ready for action

Our juicer pulp burgers, ready for action

Foodie Fact

This is Wales and the leek is a national symbol of pride and rightly so for many reasons.  Leeks are said to come from Central Asia and were introduced to Britain by the Romans who believed they helped the voice (could this be why the Welsh are famed for their singing voices?).  The history of leeks in Wales goes back to the 17th Century when a Welsh army defeated the Anglo Saxons, to differentiate themselves form the enemy, the Welsh wore leeks on their helmets.

Leeks are a member of the allium family, along with garlic, onions and many others.  The alliums are filled with flavanoids, folates and anti-oxidants, which combine to keep our heart very healthy indeed.  All of the alliums have anti-inflammatory properties.  The healthiest parts of the leek are the bulb and just above, this is where the health-giving chemicals hang out.

Walking around Aber Falls (near Bangor) recently.  Walking off all those burgers!

Walking around Aber Falls (near Bangor) recently. Walking off all those burgers!

Categories: Recipes, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Top foods that moderate/ lower cholesterol

Here we have a variety of vegan friendly foods that have been shown to moderate cholesterol, as effective as any drug out there.  These foods lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and raise HDL (the good cholesterol).  If eaten in the correct quantities, they will result in lowering cholesterol (as part of a balanced diet etc).  Most of the gorgeous nibbles will also aid diabetes and low blood pressure.

Cholesterol-lowering foods

(Daily amount needed)

Almonds (2 handfuls): Lowers LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol.
Apples (½ cup dried): Lowers LDL cholesterol by 23 percent; total cholesterol by 14 percent.
Apple (1 raw): Lowers LDL by 40 percent.
Avocado (1-2 a week): Fiber and beta-sistosterol compete with cholesterol for uptake (and win).
Beans, peas, lentils, and lima beans (¾ cup). Lowers LDL and total cholesterol.
Blueberries (2 cups frozen): Reduces heart disease by 40 percent.
Chocolate (1-3 ounces): Increases HDL, counters LDL oxidation, lowers total cholesterol.
Citrus fruits (½-1 cup): Rich in pectin, a type of soluble fiber; lowers LDL.
Cooked leafy greens (½-1 cup): Proteins and fiber bind cholesterol.
Garlic (1-4 cloves): Lowers total cholesterol.
Hibiscus (1 cup infusion): Lowers LDL.
Nourishing Herbal Infusions (1-4 cups): Polyphenols and phytosterols reduce total cholesterol and counter oxidation of LDL.
Nuts (handful): Lower LDL.
Oats (½-1 cup): Soluble fiber lowers total cholesterol.
Olive oil (2-4 tablespoons): Lowers total cholesterol.
Pears (dried or fresh, 1): Even more soluble fiber than apples; too bad for LDL.
Roots: The edible roots of plants are concentrated sources of phytosterols and polyphenols.
Shiitake mushrooms: Reduces cholesterol.
Tea, green (2-5 cups): Reduces LDL cholesterol.
Whole grains, including barley, kasha, rice, quinoa, amaranth, millet, wheat, oats: Soluble fiber lowers total cholesterol.

Information used from a post by the ever wonderful Susan Weed.

Categories: Healing foods, Healthy Eating, Nutrition | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Swede and Sorrel Autumn Soup

Bigger than a football, our giant swede (3kgs+)

Bigger than a football, our giant swede (3kgs+)

Swede is a root star!  You may call it a neep, a rutabaga or a yellow turnip.  Whatever the name, not many people agree with me!  Swede is a wonderfully flavoursome vegetable with a real kick of secret mustard-iness that I appreciate (think a concentrated cabbage stem for first time users).  Mashed swede was always my favourite part of my Mum’s traditional Sunday dinner and this soup is like a Sunday dinner in a bowl.  I’ve added a hint of mint here, because our Sunday dinners always came with mint sauce.

Swede is always very cheap, probably the cheapest veggie in town and can be used in so many different ways, check out our Swede, Pear and Tahini Salad to name just one!  Swede has long been known as the ‘poor mans turnip’ which is surely some form of an insult!!!  On my travels around this great globe, I have normally preferred the alleged ‘poor mans’ pickings to the lavish platters of the rich (rich by means normally results in rich OTT foods).

 

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Bigger than my head (that is quite huge!)

This is proper traditional fare, which is perfect as autumn has arrived with a stormy bang in North Wales.  The Beach House is clinging onto Tiger Mountain as the gales and storms (apparently hangovers from some distant hurricanes) are battering us.  We’re inside, eating soup mainly and venturing out in the mornings to see if our new apple tree has blown over and to check that our roof is still all there.  Soup like this, thick and substantial; using things that grow in the garden and veg patch, are what we love to eat when the nights draw in.  Packed with extra nutrition and the antioxidants we need to fight things like colds and other early winter bugs.  As ever, trying to keep things simple and local is a great challenge for me!  I love food from all over the world and cannot help but lob a little spice and a smidgen of chilli into most of the dishes I cook.  This swede soup is stripped to the stem and given a frilly sorrel lining.

The sorrel here grows like wildfire in our garden and we are ever attempting new ways to use it up.  In soups and stews it does lose its vibrant green hue, but maintains that lovely punchy, bitter apple like flavour.  We stir the leaves in at the end to maintain all their vitality and potency.  Use alternate leaves like spinach if sorrel is not growing in your garden or local area.  If you’re in the UK, Im sure you’ll find some hanging around hedgerows or woodlands.

Prepare yourselves, for a classic British Sunday dinner, it a bowl!

Fresh garden rosemary

Fresh garden rosemary

The Bits – Maks 6 decent bowls

1 tbs oil

750g swede (a mere small chunk out of our behemoth)

3 potatoes

2 large celery sticks

1 onion

2 carrots

(All cut into rough chunks)

2 large sprigs rosemary

1 teas dried mint

4 big handfuls of sorrel (keep a few smaller leaves to make it look nice at the end)

750ml warm vegetable stock (with hot water ready as needed)

Salt (if needed, stock is normally salty to start with)

 

Nutritional yeast flakes (optional – for added vegan savoury fun)

Simmering Swedes

Simmering Swedes

Do It

In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, warm the oil on medium low heat and add all the veggies at once. Stir and sauté for 5 minutes, then add the stock and rosemary, covering the veggies by roughly 1 inch with liquid.  Pop lid on and simmer for 45 minutes until the carrots are soft (they take the longest to cook).  Add the dried mint, pick out the rosemary sprigs and blend smooth with a stick blender or pour in batches into a food processor.  Stir in the sorrel leaves and pour into bowls immediately.

Serve

Scatter a few little sorrel leaves on top to look nice and serve to empty bellies and full hearts.  I f you like easy to make bread recipes, try Jane’s Wonder Loaf, preferably toasted and drizzled with rapeseed oil.

Swede and Sorrel Soup

Swede and Sorrel Soup

Foodie Fact

Swede comes from guess where?…….its a tough one I know, but the answer is Sweden.  It was traditionally grown to feed cattle, lucky cows!

Swede is a member of the cabbage family.  It is a great source of nutrients, especially vitamin C and A, making it a perfect autumn boost.  It also contains plenty of fibre, potassium and even calcium.  It also happens to be low in calories, probably due to its cabbage connections.  For all these reasons and because it tastes great, we should all be eating swede like happy cattle.  Its just not very cool is all!

Our neighbourky horses didn't think much of the swede

Our neighbourky horses didn’t think much of the swede

Categories: Autumn, Recipes, Soups | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Bardsey Island Apple and Plum Chutney plus the Tale of Johnny Appleseed

 

Bardsey Island Apple and Plum Chutney

Bardsey Island Apple and Plum Chutney

Its that time of year in the Beach House garden, when you step outside, you’ll probably find some form of fruit landing on your head.  Its raining fruit! Jane very sensibly converted a load of our plums and apples into small pots of gorgeous chutney, I have to say my favourite bit is the label, all hand designed.  Family and friends, may we introduce you to your Christmas pressie!  Chutney bubbling is such a British autumnal pursuit, it seems heavily engrained in our consciousness, we were born here; on this fare island to conserve and pickle at will, then spread it all on a seeded cracker…….with a brew (cuppa tea).

Mum bought me a Bardsey Apple tree for my birthday back in May.  We are preparing a rockery out the back for it to live, but it has thrived this summer after missing the storms and gales that robbed the blossom from our more established apple trees.   Bardsey apple trees are very special, all can be traced back to the ‘Mother’ tree on Bardsey Island, off the rocky tip of the Llyn Peninsula (the eyebrow of Wales when you look on the map).  The Llyn is like Devon or Cornwall 20 years ago, especially the North Coast and Jane and I love to camp over there on the beaches and do some seal watching (they’re massive and quite sociable).  The Llyn is a special place and all roads over there lead to the mythical Barsdesy Island.  I wrote an article on my other blog about it, Bardsey Island – Island of 20,000 Saints and there is plenty of info here about Ian Sturrock and his single handed resurrection of the Bardsey apple tree.  Ian discovered it growing beside an old house on the isolated outpost and ancient pilgrimage site.  After testing the tree, he realised that it was completely unique, nothing like it in the world.  Since then Ian has grafted and grown probably thousands of the trees and exports them as far a field as the U.S. and Japan.  It amazing to think that we are eating almost extinct apples!

The original Bardsey ‘Mother’ Tree

The Bardsey Apples themselves are succulent and golden and a very good ‘all rounder’.  They go great in a pie and a have a lovely sweet and sour twang to them, nice crunch too.  Our little tree has done a great job this year, its young branches heavy laden with apples for most of the summer, it has even survived the regular gales we get up here (even in summer!), Jane and I have had to pick it up a few times after finding it blown across the front garden!  Proper gales up here on Tiger Hill!!!!

Other than the apples, this year has seen a bumper crop for fruits of all varieties.  I have never seen or tasted blackberries like it, huge and super sweet and fragrant.  Our plum tree has gone made, its branches full of plums, reminding me of an abundant Mediterranean grape harvest, not a craggy, long suffering plum tree cowering behind a dry stone wall.  Add to that a huge raspberry harvest earlier in the year and from a fruity perspective, we’ve had a ball!!!!

I’m not sure how Jane dreamt this chutney up, we have been experimenting whenever we have gluts of things in Spain and Wales.  Whatever happened in the pan, it worked, this chutney is well balanced between sweet and sour and had gorgeous occasional chunky surprises like the soft raisins or a lump of plum.

Good organic apples are essential here as apples grown non-organically are normally treated with high levels of pesticides which you cannot get rid off, even after a good rub on your jumper.  Heres an article we wrote about the ‘The Dirty Dozen’ – The 12 worst foods to buy non-organic, not exactly a light read, but worthy information that we regularly incorporate into our fruit and veg foraging escapades.  Organic apples also have a habit of tasting loads better.  As usual, we are lucky sorts, having a bumper crop down at Trigonos has also meant that we can keep things local this year.  I absolutely love apples and Judy’s Discovery’s are up there with some of the tastiest, crunchiest apples I’ve ever scoffed.

I think its probably worth making this all organic actually, especially if your giving it to loved ones as a gift (that seems to be what we end up doing with chutneys and jams).  Our bodies love organic food and non-organic food puts serious pressure on our digestive systems, liver and kidneys, to try and deal with the poison. Its a strong word I know, but pesticide is undoubtedly a poison and when we eat non-organic, we have to deal with it somehow.  We fully appreciate that unless you are rather wealthy, very devoted or have an organic small holding/ farm, being 100% organic in life is a tall order.   We are mainly organic and there is something intangibly wonderful about starting the day with a 100% pure organic juice/ smoothie.  It probably all in the mind, but I am (almost) literally floating around the place after one of those beauts, charged with energy, it certainly cleans out your tubes.

Our little Bardsey Tree (thanks Mum!) - Awaiting a proper home in the back garden

Our little Bardsey Tree (thanks Mum!) – Awaiting a proper home in the back garden

If you live anywhere near a farm or even better, someone with an orchard, knock on their door with a hefty chocolate cake and get into some gentle chatter about how you enjoy apples and wondered if they liked cake.  Trade could happen and you may end up with bags filled with proper apples to make into things, eat whole or have a go at Apple Hooch (basically crush or juice the apples, leave in a clean bucket with a light covering and taste after a week, then everyday after that.  Eventually it will ferment and become alcoholic and you have just made the easiest and probably one of the healthiest forms of booze known to humankind.)

You can buy pickling spice from most shops, even the supermarkets have it.  If you are just making this as a one off, you can use roughly 1/2 teas of the following whole spices (namely, not ground): coriander, cloves, mustard, dried ginger, chillies, all spice and wrap them in a bit of muslin.   If you don’t have them all, add a little more of the others although I would go easy on the cloves and all spice unless you love ’em dearly.

If your planning on keeping this chutney for a while you will need very clean jars.  We keep a stash in the garage, a decent jar for us is a real gift!   Janes method of jar sterilising works every time and we regularly keep chutneys for months without any obvious microbial issues.

Big BHK Love to all happy chutney bubblersX

Gorgeous plum-age

Gorgeous plum-age

The Bits – 8 Medium Jars

750g tomatoes (peeled and chopped)

500g apples (hopefully from a local tree – chopped into small chunks)

120g Onions (chopped)

400g plums (stones removed)

15g pickling spice (tied in a muslin bag)

15g mustard

10g salt

150ml apple cider vinegar

110g sultanas

130g light brown sugar (unrefined)

 

Some of the lovely assembled bits

Some of the lovely assembled bits

Do It

Put tomatoes, onions and apple into a pan and stir, on medium heat, until they start to soften. Add a little water to stop it sticking if you need to.  Then wrap the pickling spice in a muslin bag and add to the mixture, stirring as it simmers.

Blend the mustard and salt with a little vinegar and stir it into the mixture. When the ingredients have softened add the sultanas, sugar and remaining vinegar.

Continue to simmer, stirring often until you have a thick smooth chutney.

Chutney bubbling

Chutney bubbling

While that is going on, sterilise your jars.  Give them all a good wash in hot soapy water, rinse and dry.  Put your jars on a baking tray and place in an oven, turn on the heat to 180oC.  Leave for 10 minutes and then pop in the lids (make sure the’ye not plastic!) and leave to warm up for between 5-10 minutes.  Remove them and leave to cool for 5 minutes.

The jars will still be hot so use a kitchen cloth to handle them.  Pack the chutney into the hot jars, wiping away any spillages around the lip.  Screw the lid on tightly, pressing the ‘button’ down on top.  This should make an airtight seal as the chutney cools.   Store for 2 months or longer before opening.  If you can resist its fruity charms!

Serve

Chutneys go with almost anything, but we found that this went like a dream with home-made loaf toast, or a breakfast pan-bread. Try it on the side with salads, or generously lathered on crackers with fresh sliced tomatoes and salad leaves as a midday snack!  We have also paired this chutney, with great success, with a Goan style curry (one with tamarind/ lemon in to make it a little tarty).  Bascially, you’ll find any excuse to eat this type of chutney!

We Love it!

Sweet and sour, can be eaten at anytime of day on almost anything, we can find little to not like about chutney, especially when its falling from trees!   Money does not grow on trees, but chutney does and it tastes alot nicer than a fiver (that’s 5 British pounds).

Danger - Plums falling!

Danger – Plums falling!

Foodie Fact

“An apple (or two) a day……..”

Apples are part of the rose family, a surprisingly comprehensive family of fruits and nuts including almonds, apricots, plums, cherries, peaches, pears and….roses.

We all know that apples are beautifully sweet, but this does not mean that the sugar is doing us harm.   Apple contain phyto-nutrients that actually regulate our blood sugar levels.  Apples have good levels of fibre, but due to the unique mix of chemicals within apples, this decent level of fibre is transformed into benefits that would normally be associated with foods containing vastly higher levels of fibre (long winded description, but cool non-the-less!)   Apples also allow us to absorb more goodness from our foods in the large intestines.    Apples do contain vitamin C, but not loads, they do however boast a load of polyphenols (which actually act as a sunscreen and are the main reason why apples brown so easily) and most of these chemicals acts as strong antioxidants.  Regular munching of apples will also lower bad cholesterol.

JOHNNY APPLESEED

The coolest story we know about apples is that of Johnny Appleseed (aka Johnny Chapman) who lived in the U.S. in the 1800’s.  He spent a large portion of his life wandering barefoot around the country, some say 100,000 sq kilometres, sowing apple seeds as he went which provided early settlers with food.  He was a generous and caring nurseryman who placed huge significance on the symbolism of the apple and conservation of nature.  Folk who plant many trees and conserve nature are surely worth remembering, in our eyes they are the real heroes.

Categories: Foraging, Garden, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Detox Greens Soup with Welsh Miso, Ginger and Green Lentils

Detox Greens Soup with Welsh Miso, Ginger and Green Lentils

Detox Greens Soup with Welsh Miso, Ginger and Green Lentils

There is just the hint of winter in the air as we move through autumn and this slight chill always gets my soup bells ringing.  Here is a soup that ticks all of the autumnal boxes, tasty and utterly loaded with healthy things, even (almost) locally made Welsh Miso.

This recipe takes care of all of our seasonal fare on Tiger Mountain, all of them green and when simmered together for a time, transform into a tasty health elixir.  The flavours are hearty and comforting with a tinge of ginger and miso in the background to keep things interesting and offer a little Japanese style twang.

My Dad, John (aka the big yin, aka ‘heed’, aka Johnnie Boy) has been visiting for a week and he knows how to enjoy himself, Jane and I struggle to keep up!  We’ve had a week of wonderful times but lets just say that many of them were not exactly beneficial to the health.  Our wine rack is bare (a very grim sight) and our ale stores seriously depleted.  After waving Dad off at the station, we both decided that our bodies needed some kind of green wake up call and nothing comforts and revitalizes more than a decent bowl of soup.

The 'Big Yin' at Aber Falls, near bangor

The ‘Big Yin’ at Aber Falls, near bangor

Cabbage is the backbone of this soup, and a good cabbage is essential late autumn behaviour.  Not the most glamorous of ingredients but when handled with care, one of the tastiest and versatile veggies.  I love wrapping things in cabbage leaves and baking them, or even blanching the leaves and using them as an alternative to something like a spring roll.  One things for sure, in north Wales, we’ll never be short of cabbages, they love it up here and at work the other day (I cook in a retreat/ alternative learning centre), I had the privilege of tackling the largest cabbage I have ever seen.  Judy (farming genius and very much more) wandered into the kitchen bearing a green globe at least 2 feet across!!!!  I swear there must be something magical in the soil over there, we can hardly eke a Brussel sprout out up here!!!!  If you can’t get hold of a good organic cabbage, you may need to add a little more stock to the mix, your taste buds will be the guide…….

We have been building up to making our own miso for a while now, but are fortunate to have Welsh miso being produced almost on our own doorstep, give or take a few hundred miles, in the same country at the very least.  They guys at Source Foods seem like a very decent bunch and their products are top. We recently got hold of a pot of their hemp miso (thanks for forgetting it Helen!) and its a wicked addition to their fabulous fermented offerings.  They use all organic ingredients and without sourcing bits from Japan, which has been very unfortunately effected by the Fukushima tragedy.   Welsh Miso, quite randomnly, is our amazing stuff!

Miso adds unmistakable vitality and deliciousness, but comes with bags of sodium.  If you are serious about making this a detox soup, give your kidneys a break and take it easy on the miso, 2 tbs is enough.  There is however new research coming out that highlights the difference between salt and miso, they are handled differently and have different effects on our bodies.  Salt leads to higher blood pressure and for some miraculous reason, miso does not.  This is backed up by the rate of heart problems in Japan, where high levels of miso is consumed regularly.  We used light miso here, but you can use a darker variety, just use less.  See the ‘Foodie Fact’ below for more info on marvelous Mr Miso.

This soup falls into the bracket of ‘a meal in itself’ and we regularly eat it like a stew, without much liquid and plenty of lumps.  In this state, it will be wonderful with brown rice, but we find it filling enough by itself.

The Bits – For 6 good bowls

1 teas olive oil

1 teas toasted sesame seed oil

1 leek (finely sliced)

1 1/2  inch fresh ginger (finely diced or roughly grated)

2 celery sticks (finely sliced)

1/2 medium savoy cabbage

1 cup green/ puy lentils

1 small head broccoli (cut into small florets)

6 handfuls spinach leaves

600ml warm organic vegetable stock (use only water if you trust your veggies to be amazing)

1 teas dried rosemary

2-5 tbs light miso (to taste)

sea salt (if needed)

 

Drizzle of olive oil (optional)

The Bits all prep'd

The Bits – pre-prep

Do It

In a large heavy bottomed saucepan on medium heat, drizzle in the oils and when warm add the leeks, ginger and celery.  Stir and fry for 4-5 minutes, until soft.  Add the cabbage, lentils, stock/ water and rosemary to the pan.  Bring to a boil and lower heat to a steady simmer, pop a lid on and cook for 20-25 minutes, until the lentils are soft.

Add the broccoli and spinach, stir into the soup and pop the lid back on, cook for a further 5 minutes on a low simmer.  Stir in the miso to taste.  Pulse a few times with a stick blender, or add a quarter of the soup to a food processor and blend until smooth.

Pop a lid on and leave the soup to stand for a couple of minutes.  Miso is really like salt with benefits, it will enhance and deepens the flavours.

Definitely looks healthy!!!

Definitely looks healthy!!!

Serve

Straight away, add a little splash of olive oil for added richness.  If its a very special occasion (or a Tuesday) you could stir in 2-3 tbs of hazelnut butter to add silky creaminess.   Inevitably, Jane’s Easy Seeded Wholemeal Loaf, lightly toasted would be a belter of an accompaniment.

Foodie Fact

‘Miso’ is Japanese for ‘fermenting beans’ and miso can be made with any grain/ bean.  We used soya based miso here but you can find barley, rice, buckwheat, wheat, hemp seed….the list goes on.  Obvious what the miso is made of will alter the nutritional benefits but soya beans are normally used as a base in the process.

Miso involves fermentation, which of course means funky mould (or fungus if you will).  The fungus in question is the brilliantly named  ‘Aspergillus oryzae’ and its highly magic!  The key discovery made in the production of miso was how to keep these spores alive and transportable.  Miso on the move.  People have been fermenting foods in Japan and China for thousands of years (its also traditionally made in Indonesia and Korea), it was referred to as ‘Koji’ and they were well aware of the health benefits brought about by these amazing moulds.  This is the same process used when making sake, soya sauce tamari etc.

To make miso, you basically add the Aspergillus (or other sometimes other bacteria’s/ micro organisms are used) to soaked and cooked soya beans to get things started, this is in turn added to soaked and cooked grains/ beans and the miso is left to mellow and mature.  Miso comes in all sorts of shades and colours, normally white, red and dark brown, the fermentation process dictates the depth of flavour and colour.  Normally the darker the colour, the more intense the flavour, red and brown miso can be matured for three years and ‘Hatcho’ Miso, which is famous in Japan, is matured in 200 year old vats for three winters.

Buy organic miso when you can and ensure that no MSG has been added, cheaper makes will do this.  Miso is very nourishing and is a good source of fibre and protein, it is a very tasty way of adding legumes to your diet, 2 tbs of miso normally contains the nutrition of 2 cups worth of legumes.  The fermentation process of miso means that some of the beneficial chemicals present are already broken down by the magic fungus, giving our digestion a break and allowing our bodies to easily absorb all the goodness.   Misos main attraction, from a health point of view, is its outrageous list of beneficial anti-oxidants, our free radical scavenging friends.

We also just like the word ‘Miso’ and have decided that if another cat decides to move in with us, there are few appearing round our way, we’ll name it ‘Miso’.  Could we get away with calling a child ‘Miso’?!  Hmmm…..

Somethings we’ve cooked with our friend mighty Miso:

Mug of Miso

Sprouted Buckwheat, Onion and Miso Crackers (Raw)

Sava’s Elephant Garlic Flower Salad

Miso and Tahini Dressing

Black Prince Tomato and Coriander Soup (Raw)

Soup on the hob

Soup on the hob

Categories: Detox, Fermentation, Recipes, Soups, Welsh produce | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

One Pot Wonder! Sweetcorn, Carrot and Millet Casserole

Corn and Millet Casserole

Organic Sweetcorn, Carrot and Millet Casserole

Millet is birdseed right?!  No,nononononononono.  We see it more as future of food and it certainly makes a tidy casserole.  Millet can be creamy and fluffy, sweet and savoury, roasted or steamed like cous cous (although gluten free).  It is a hugely versatile grain and one that we peck at regularly.  We reckon Millet also has a bad rap due to the sub-standard outdoor equipment shop (named ‘Millets’) that has tried to steal some this wonder grains glory.

This is one of those substantial veggie dishes which makes me think of old fashioned vegetarian fare from the Cranks days (one of the first veggie restaurant chains in the UK, sadly now closed, but there is one left in Totnes I believe, fighting the good fight).  We have a load of Cranks recipe books from the ’70’s and ’80’s in the kitchen where I work and I love to leaf through their worn pages and pick out some proper golden oldies.  Most are simple and hearty, I love their simplicity, it feels like honest food.  This casserole is a perfect, quick, one pot wonder for a chilly autumn eve.  If I was a mother of many children (and lived in a shoe!) this is the type of dish I’d make every Tuesday or Wednesday……Its even a little bit pretty, with striking colours.  Not something you associate with the word ‘casserole’. 

I’d had a busy day cooking for quite particular meditators at the retreat centre (it’s a lovely place called Trigonos) and was not exactly in the mood for more pot and pan bashing.  Jane stepped in and whipped up this little beauty in a flash and it was a very comforting, wholesome dish, filled with the joys of early autumn and millet.  Millet is a superstar, see the ‘Foodie Fact’ below for the many reasons why.

Cooking grains, especially slightly odd ones like millet, can be tricky at first.  Once you’ve mastered a few techniques, millet is simple to prepare, not dissimilar to rice but even sweeter and a tad nuttier.  Here are some ways we like to go about it:

Tips on Cooking Millet

There are three main ways to treat millet.  Always rinse it first and leave to soak for a couple of minutes, picking out any weird looking things that float to the top.

Fluffy – mix one part millet to two and a half parts water in a pan and bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.  This will result in light fluffy grains, something like a rice with bells on.

Mashed – follow the steps above, but stir regularly adding water as you go.  Keep stirring and adding little splashed of water until you have your desired ‘mash’ consistency.

Toasty – In a dry saucepan on medium heat, toast the millet gently for around 7 minutes, stirring regularly until the turn a darker shade of gold.  Then add the water, cover and cook for 25 minutes.

I generally like to add just twice the amount of water to millet which cooks the millet, but gives it a little more bite.  Millet is so versatile, one of its many amazing traits (WE LOVE MILLET!!!!)

Getting the best from your birdseed (I mean millet)

Millet swells up nicely, roughly the same volume as rice.  If you have leftovers, it makes for a great alternative in Britain’s new favourite dish, Tabouleh or any cous cous/ quinoa style awesome salad.  You can also mix leftover millet with milk, warm and serve for breakfast as a porridge sub (adding your favourite adornments).  I also like to make millet Halwa, using it instead of the traditional semolina.  I find millet more flavoursome.  Millet will aslo make the best burgers/ falafels, it has a slight stickiness to it, espcially if you cook it like mash.  There is also the option of grinding your millet into flour (use a coffee grinder or a decent food processor) and add it to bread/cake/muffin recipes, it makes for a mean gluten free flatbread.

Jane is enjoying her new cookbook, The Mystic Cookfire by Veronika Sophia Robinson, a mighty tome overflowing with pot bubblin’ recipes and a huge amount of wonderful guidance regarding a holistic, vibrant approach in the kitchen and in life generally.  I bought it for Janes birthday and since then we’ve tried a few of the lip-smacking recipes and love ’em.  If we were dishing out marks out of 5, we’d give it a 4.9999999999999999999999999. I believe this recipe resembles the ‘Carrot and Courgette Casserole’ in T.M.C.

We have been revelling in the weather of late and Beach House has been bathed in sun for three days now.  THREE DAYS OF SUN.  So much, we don’t know what to do with it all.  If only we could bottle it for January time!   Dad’s here and revels in a good feed, we’ve been picnicking in the garden, what we call a ‘Fridge Clearing Tapas Adventure’.  Random jars, packets and potions appear on a chopping board and then we go and sit in the long grass and if you’re Jane, paint rocks, if you’re Dad, drink wine and if you’re me, do both.

Picnic time

Picnic time

All of these ingredients came in our veg box this weeks from Pippa and John in Bethel (few valleys to the East-ish).  Its fully organic and this situation always brings smiles to our bellies and faces, we even topped it with parsley from the garden for that extra homegrown vibe.

A B.H.K. 'Fridge Clearing Tapas Adventure"

A B.H.K. ‘Fridge Clearing Tapas Adventure”

You could use any variation of vegetables with this recipe, just make sure that they will cook evenly (harder vegetables will need cutting thinner than softer ones).  Soggy veg is simply unacceptable behavior!!!!  Millet absorbs alot of liquid, you may prefer this dish served with a little soya yoghurt on the side, mix freshly chopped herbs and a little lemon juice into the yoghurt an even better version appears.

How to handle a cob

Sweetcorn is one of my favourite autumn treats.  They are probably best roasted or steamed whole and gnawed at like a content doormouse, but sometimes the cob just gets in the way and you want to spread those kernels for extra YUM!  The technique goes like this;  stand the cob on the stem end, holding it firmly between thumb, index and middle finger, bring a sharp knife, in sawing motions down the cob, cutting evenly at the base of the kernels.  They should come off in a lovely corn sheath, you then simply twist the cob around slightly and continue your merry sawing until all kernels are liberated.  This takes a little practice and please watch those lovely digits.  There is no comparison here with sweetcorn from tins, they are two very different shades of delicious-ness.

Mwynhau!  (Enjoy!)

P.S. – Dear Brits, you know how we generally use cups.  Soz.  Its just so much easier than weighing things out in grams.  Is this a pain for you to convert?

The Bits – For 4

2 tbs olive oil
2 medium carrots (sliced into thin batons)
1 small red onion
1 small red cabbage or half a medium sized one (sliced)
2 corns on the cobs (kernels removed using a sharp knife – technique mentioned above)
1 cup millet
1/4 cup sultanas
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
2 2/3 cups good vegetable stock

2 bay leaves
1 1/2 teas ground coriander
1 teas cinnamon
1/2 teas smoked paprika
Large pinch of cayenne pepper (more if you like a big chilli kick)
1 teas ground ginger
2/3 teas ground cumin
1 teas sea salt (to taste)

Optional Tasty Extra

2 tbs light tahini (mixed with 2 tbs water – stirred in at the end)

Garnish

1 handful of fresh leafy green herbs (coriander or parsley will work well)

 

Do It

Warm the olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan or a casserole dish (hob friendly). Add the onion and fry for 5 minutes, then add the carrots, corn and cabbage. Fry and stir for 3 minutes, then add the millet, seeds, sultanas, salt and spices, pouring over the vegetable stock.  Warm an oven to 180oC, pour into a casserole dish, pop a lid on and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the carrots are softened and the millet is cooked and fluffy. Try some, if its slightly ‘chalky’ when bitten, give it another 5 minutes.

Alternatively, if the oven is not on, opt for the pan-casserole, a Beach House approved phenomenon which saves energy.  Basically, follow the above method, but simply pop a lid on the saucepan and leave to simmer for 15-20 minutes.

If the millet has absorbed all of your gorgeous stock and you feel its a bit dry, simply pour in a splash warm water (from the kettle is best), stirring as you go. Until you reach your ideal texture.

Organic Sweetcorn, Carrot and Millet Casserole

Organic Sweetcorn, Carrot and Millet Casserole

Serve

Sprinkle over some fresh leafy herbs and a drizzle of olive oil. We have also stirred light tahini into this dish, which is amazing!  We served ours with a light green salad.

Foodie Fact

Millet has been around since we dropped down from the trees and started wandering around.  It is very popular in African and in India they make roti  out of ground millet.  It is much more widely consumed outside of Western countries and in India especially, is making a real comeback.  It seems that we turned our back on millet, opting for what seemed like more appealing grain varieties, specifically rice and wheat.  Most countries in the West ate millet before we discovered corn and potatoes in Latin America.

Millet is not so common, but you’ll always find it in your friendly local health/ wholefood store in the grain section (although it is actually a seed).  It is worth the extra effort and we admit to being millet hoarders, we can never buy just one bag of the stuff.

Millet is high in magnesium  which makes it good for the heart, like oats, and can also help to fend off migraines and asthma.  It is high in fibre and also contains phyto nutrients (like antioxidants), especially lignans (very good guys).

Add to all of this the fact that Millet is completely gluten free and grows very well in the U.K. we surely have a contender for the future of allergy friendly, nutritious grain of the future.

Its also cheap.  Cheep!

Did someone say millet?

Categories: Dinner, gluten-free, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Simple Blackberry Compote and Tips on Berry Foraging

The BHK bumper blackberry crop

The BHK bumper blackberry crop

We decided to let our brambles run wild this year, the back of the garden has sprung into a thorny, berry heaven.  Brambles are so prolific and need no encouraging to take over the joint!  We’ve had a bumper crop with kilos of blackberries flying into the kitchen and looking for a home.  I like what the brambles have done to the nether regions of our garden, creating a home for all sorts of cool creepy crawlies and a decent amount of little mice, which are big friends to our developing garden.

On our green and good isle, Britain, we are enjoying a good start to September, the extra rays of sunlight are resulting in some massive, succulent blackberries, so we’ve been making chutneys, wine (this recipe will no doubt appear here soon) and compotes/ jams. We are nicely stocked for the upcoming Christmas/ birthday present-athon. What better gift than a spicy chutney?

Blackberries are such a bountiful autumnal bonus and along with elderberries, are two of my favourite fruity treats. This is such an abundant time of year, it seems like all the warm weather we’ve had this year has come to fruition. Its hanging from almost every bush! It makes all that messing around with soil and late night slug raids on the veg patch worth while. We can eat from the land and there are few things more satisfying than a fruit salad made from you’re own (British!) garden.

Berry foraging bonus - fresh lavender smells around the house

Berry foraging bonus – fresh lavender smells around the house

Blackberries are native to Northern Europe and they grow as far north as Siberia!  Our berries, like most, just run wild all over the place.  You can be more organised and precise and run them up trellises etc.  But thats proper gardeners territory and we’re not there yet.

When making this compote, it will rarely get easier when playing with pots and pans. Two ingredients and a little heat, a jar and a cool place.  All you need for a knockout compote.  We took this in what is known as a ‘sugar free’ direction as a friend was visiting who is avoiding the heinous white powder.  A sprinkle of dates sorts out all of our sweet tooth requirements and also brings a thicker texture to the party.  Taste the compote after 5 minutes bubbling on the hob and add more dates if not quite sweet enough.  We are not sure how long it will last in the fridge, this compote is not made as a ‘preserve’ but should be eaten soon after cooking.  We’ve had a huge pot in the fridge now for over three weeks and its fine.  I did think that the reduced sugar content would shorten its life, but its still soldiering on.

Good blackberries are essential for this type of embellishment free behaviour, raid you local hedgerow to find the finest blackberries.  You will probably have a nice time too, just avoid those vicious thorns and if picking on a road, avoid speeding buses!

TOP TIPS FOR BERRY FORAGING

–  Never pick anything edible around train tracks, they regularly spray chemicals around the tracks to stop weeds growing.  Never pick berries that are cocked dog leg height, for obvious reasons.

–  Be careful not to squash berries when picking them, if you do, we suggest popping them into your mouth.  Try to keep your hands clean when picking fruit, the occasional scoff is very hard to resist (and all part of the fun).

–  Only pick berries that are plump and soft, the ones that fall off in your hand.  If you have to tug it, it ain’t ready for munching.  Leave if for a few days and then go back for it (blackberries grow and ripen quickly).

–  Use the berries straight away, that day.  If they look dirty, or you don’t fancy wild berry munching, submerge berries in cold water when you get home, give them a swish around and then leave them to drain, laying them out on kitchen paper when ready.  Handle them very gently, until they are dry-ish.  Then pop in the fridge covered loosely.  This works for us.  But as mentioned, the sooner they disappear into happy bellies, the better.

–  When picking blackberries, look at the white bit (where the stem should be), this is where maggots reside.  If there are maggots hanging out, ditch the berry on the ground and continue undeterred.

–  Don’t wear your new white shirt or trousers.

The Bits – Makes 2 regular jam jars 

800g freshly picked blackberries

2 big handfuls of chopped dates (to taste)

Do It

In a large, heavy bottomed pan, add the blackerries and dates, bring slowly to a boil and leave to simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the berries have broken down.  Stir regularly, do not allow the base or edges of the compote to catch and burn.

Very easy Blackberry Compote

Very easy Blackberry Compote with some Rye Bread

Serve

The resulting deep purple gorgeous-ness can be spread on warm toast with soya yoghurt or with chopped bananas and nut butter.  Very pleasant when spooned over your morning bowl of muesli or even frozen and made into a sorbet (we haven’t tried this yet).  You could also make a wonderful dressing with it, by adding balsamic vinegar and a touch of oil and seasoning.

Foodie Fact

Blackberries contain a low-calorie sugar substitute called Xylitol, which is low GI, meaning slow absorption into the blood stream.  Blackberries are high in fibre and are full, full, full of antioxidants like vitamin C and chemicals called phenolic flavanoids (good guys).

See below for the physical after effects of a days blackberry picking.

Jane on Aberdaron beach yesterday, full of blackberries!

Jane on Aberdaron beach yesterday, full of blackberries!

Categories: Foraging, Recipes, Wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

What is a Flax Egg? and Other Vegan Egg Substitutes

This is!  (Flax Egg)

This is! (Flax Egg)

THE VEGAN EGG

A flax egg is basically 1 tbs of ground flax seeds mixed with 2-3 tbs of water. Left to sit for around 15 minutes, it becomes gloopy and a little egg-like. Ideal for binding vegan baked fare and highly excellent from a nutritional point of view.

The flax seeds should be as well ground as possible, depending on the equipment you have to hand.  It is best to use something like a high powered food processor or coffee grinder.  We use the later after a good rinse (old coffee grinders smell a little like ashtrays, have you noticed?)  We also try to use a pestle and mortar and after lots of elbow grease and caveman grunting; pounding and crushing, we were left with the consistency above. Namely, not very ground up at all. They are hardy little suckers, maybe it’s because they are so full of good things.  Even when only semi-bashed, they still work well.

OMEGA 3 POWER!

Flax seeds are full, full, full of healthy Omega 3 fatty acids, one of the highest sources in nature.  In fact, flax, chia and hemp seeds contain more Omega 3’s than any type of fish, which may also contain heavy metal contaminants.  Recent studies show that baking or cooking these fats is no problem, these amazing polyunsaturated fats will not wilt in the heat.

One of their main uses for the Omega fats in the body is to aid and stimulate metabolism.  Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown, in tests (by people wearing white coats clutching clipboards) to help with cumulative conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure and strokes and can also assist with inflammation and may potentially help with cancer and mental health.  None of these ‘white coat’ tests seem conclusive but we can be sure that Omega-3’s (and their sibling linolenic fat, Omega 6) help with the healthy development of brains, eyes and nerves.  Other fatty acids in flax seeds give us shiny hair, strong nails and keep our cells firing on all cylinders.  Do I need to go on……………….!!!!  They’re great!

Glorious flaxseed (or is it a linseed?)

Omega 3 fatty acids come in different lengths, and without getting too scientific (because I am a cook), the longer the chains (called EPA and DPA), the easier it is for the body to synthesize these glorious fats.  Plants provide our bodies with short chain fatty acids (ALA), which can be converted into longer chain fatty acids (with more bonds open for chemical reactions) but the conversion rate depends on whether you are male or female, your age and on your diet.  Flax seeds contain roughly 10 times more omega 3 fats per serving than fish, so there is a pretty good chance you will be getting a good dose of the finest EPA’a and DPA’s if you use things like flax eggs, to regularly add flax seeds to foods; cereals, stews, baking, vegan/ veggie burgers, breads and pizza dough etc.  Once you make the decision to give up animal products, you are definitely not saying goodbye to our Omega 3 friends.

LIGNANS AND FIBRE

Flax seeds are also by far the highest source of lignans in nature (some say 800 times the amount of their nearest rivals!!!!), which basically translates as a whole bunch of anti-oxidant benefits. In fact, most people think that anti-oxidants rich foods are normally berries and brightly coloured foods, but flax seeds are well up there in the anti-ox states. Not bad for a grass. Flax seeds are almost 70% fat, but will not make you pile on the pounds. These fats are all beneficial to the body and are essential to a healthy, well balanced diet.

Flax is packed with fibre, which helps, especially in baking, when you are adding sugar to the mix. Flax seeds will help to put the brakes on sugar leaping into our systems and creating metabolic havoc and subsequent weight gain. These little seeds actually help to kickstart the metabolism, perfect morning food.  Flax seeds are widely used to help the bowels, they are cleansing and maintain ‘regularity’.  Especially good for I.B.S., diarrhea and constipation.  Try taking a tablespoon of flax seeds before a meal and you may feel fuller, reduce hunger and stimulate your digestive system.  Healthy bowels also have the knock on effect of you losing a little weight.

—————-

1 tbs of flax seeds contains a similar amount of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and lignans as 30 cups of Broccoli. 

Fibre wise, 1 tbs flax seeds = 30 slices of wholewheat bread 

—————–

Wow!  What a thing.  See this great site, Healthelicious, for more in depth info.

FLAX OR LIN-SEED?  WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

There is no difference, its all in a name.  Just be aware that boiled linseed oil is best for your shed or garden furniture and not for eating.  Things bought in DIY shops are normally not great on the plate!  Linseed oil is actually a brilliant wood preservative and perfectly natural, unlike the horribly toxic alternatives (creosote et al).  Golden linseeds and flax seeds (a dark reddish brown colour) are very similar things and both can be utilised in the same way.

OTHER VEGAN EGGS (!?)

There are many options out there for vegan egg-subsitutes, most come in packets and plastic wrapping. There are powders you can buy, but I have always found ground flax eggs to do the trick, they are like ‘an egg with benefits’.  As I’ve already harped on about, they are proper nutritional powerhouses.  Baking recipes with lots of eggs in are normally out of bounds for vegans, but if its something like a quiche or dished with boiled eggs in, tofu or tempeh will make for a perfect substititute.  I have used plain silken or firm tofu, blended together with gluten free flours like tapioca, potato or gram, this also works well in cakes and vegan burgers/ sausages.  It is always best to blend tofu first, as it may leave chunks in your lovely cake.  I have also used mashed sweet potato as a very funky binder.

Vital wheat gluten (or ‘Seitan’ as its called when formed into chunks) is a great addition to breads and burgers.  It  is basically flour, washed until only the gluten remains.  It acts as a string binding agent when added to things like vegan burgers or sausages.  It is, of course, highly non-gluten free and I like to enjoy it in moderation.

Chia seeds, when ground and soaked in a similar way to flax seeds, offer a decent gloopy texture and as you may know, wondrous health benefits.  Bananas and stewed apples/ fruit can also be used to replace eggs in some recipes, but non of these option offer the ‘fluffiness’ that eggs, especially egg whites can give to baked goods.

Here are some top tips from PETA on egg replacement options:

• 1 egg = 2 Tbsp. potato starch

• 1 egg = 1/4 cup mashed potatoes

• 1 egg = 1/4 cup canned pumpkin or squash

• 1 egg = 1/4 cup puréed prunes

• 1 egg = 2 Tbsp. water + 1 Tbsp. oil + 2 tsp. baking powder

• 1 egg = 1 Tbsp. ground flax seed simmered in 3 Tbsp. water

• 1 egg white = 1 Tbsp. plain agar powder dissolved in 1 Tbsp. water, whipped, chilled, and whipped again

Read more: http://www.peta.org/living/food/egg-replacements/#ixzz3BmJLmnW5

The egg-options mentioned here are a reasonable solution to the vegan baking egg dilemma with the added bonus of being amazing for the heart (and all parts of the body for that matter). See our Juicer Pulp Muffins with Pecans, Fig and Turmeric for flax seed eggs in full effect.  It is fascinating what you can do when baking vegan, and although some recipes will be slightly denser than those with eggs, the obvious health and ethical advantages far out weigh the textural differences.

And flax eggs make these, Juice Pulp Muffins

And flax eggs make these, Juice Pulp Muffins with Pecan, Fig and Turmeric

Categories: Baking, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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