Posts Tagged With: food

Kala Chana Masala with Beetroot and Bok Choi

Jane on 'The Rock' - Karuna Farm, Western Ghats, Tamil Nadu

Jane on ‘The Rock’ – Karuna Farm, Western Ghats, Tamil Nadu

Finally, we post something!!!!  We have loads of half finished bits typed hurriedly in internet cafes, but have yet had the time and drive to actually finish one off!  

We’ve been in Indian now for three months and things have been thick with experience and too many foodie experiences to recollect.  Expect many Indian themed post soon, packed full of delicious and authentic recipes……. 

Kodai Kanal, Tamil Nadu 21st March 2014

Kodai is a little ex-British Hill Station (somewhere where the Raj used to go and cool off during the summer months).  Lots of little Anglo Indian stone cottages with lawns and chimneys, tea rooms and a beautiful lake.  We are staying on a farm, on a steep slope, with spectacular views over the plains towards Madurai.  It thick jungle, full nature and absolutely beautiful and best of all, we have a small kitchen to play in!!!!!

A random little post here, but we are half way up a hill in the middle of nowhere (Southern India). This recipe came together on our first night in Karuna Farm, in the green and verdant Western Ghats of Tamil Nadu. We have been sweating and meditating, sweating and yoga-ing, sweating and chanting our way through the early part of March in the Sivananda Ashram, outside Madurai. The temperatures soared, so it is magical to be up here in the mountains where the night air is crisp and the sunrises come on like an intergalactic firework show.

This is a spectacular little farm and we are witnessing many positive projects in motion. They are building earth ships, from recyclable car tyres and starting a permaculture project to supply the on-farm restaurant with some proper local produce.

On Sunday, Jane and I ventured up to Kodai Kanala (the main town). We walked through little villages, with many smiles greeting us, for 2 hours and then managed to catch a little rickety van the rest of the way to town (we’re quite remote here!).

Kodai is an old British hill station, with many rock built chalets and a large dollop of Christianity. It is now a popular retreat for Indian honeymooners and surprisingly few gringos on the streets.

Haggling at Kodai Market

Haggling at Kodai Market

Sunday is market day and we spent most of it wandering around and ogling the local produce. Non of it organic, but all of it vibrant and full of potential. Our accommodation, a nice little cottage in a banana plantation, actually has a kitchen!  The first time we’ve been able to cook, apart from random cooking classes and making spicy tea with the chai wallas.  I was so chuffed to be having a bash at the pots and pans again.  We filled our backpacks with veggies and fruits and have not looked back since.

Internet in India is tough and I must apologise for the lack of BHK activity in recent times. We have heads full of recipes and new ways of conjuring up tasty nibbles.  We can’t wait to share them with you all from HQ (North Wales, which seems like a million and one miles away).

WHAT IS KALA CHANA?

Kala Chana (also Desi Chana or Bengal Gram) are brown chickpeas, unprocessed and packed with fibre.   ‘Kala’ actually means black in Hindi and Urdu.  They have more of a robust texture than your average chicker.  This type of chana has been enjoyed all over the world for millenia, from ancient Rome, Persia and Greece, to Africa and Latin America.  It has been used in British cooking since the middle ages.

Chana is so versatile to a veggie cook, we can boil them, sprout them, roast them in the oven, make them into magic puree’s (like hummus) or even make desserts with them.

We love this rough chana, especially in a dish with full flavoured veggies like cabbage and beetroot. A lovely old lady was selling these bok chois, we couldn’t resist them. I have never seen them cooked in India, but you wouldn’t expect us to be traditional now would you??!!

This is a highly spiced dish, similar to chana masala in many ways. The spices are warming including cinnamon and cloves, making it very much north Indian fare. In the South we have been eating mainly coconuts and white rice, the staple down here. Generally lightly spiced bu heavy on the dried chilli.

This dish, served with a massive salad, made a wonderful change and we actually cooked it ourselves! I have to say our bellies have not felt this good in the 2 month India adventure.

Jane washing up sporting socks and sandals, our new look

Jane washing up sporting socks and sandals, our new look

Grating the veggies for the sauce (called a masala over here) gives the overall dish a smoother texture and helps to thicken things up. Of course, grating things unlocks the flavours of the veggies and means you don’t need to cook them for so long to get maximum flavour.

I will be volunteering on an organic farm and cooking in a vegan kitchen soon, settling down a little. I imagine they will have internet and should catch up a little with the backlog of recipes and posts that have accumulated on my little computer gadget. There are some crackers!
Namaste and Much Love,

Lee and JaneXXXXXXX

The Bits – For 2
2 tbs coconut oil (or cooking oil)
1 large beetroot (scrubbed and diced)
6 large leaves bok choi (plus their fleshly stumps, chopped)
1 large carrot (scrubbed and grated)
1 small potato (scrubbed and diced)
1 big handful cabbage (grated)

Masala
1 onion (peeled and grated)
4-5 cloves garlic (peeled and grated)
1 ½ inch ginger (peeled and grated)
3 tomatoes (grated, skins discarded)
2 teas garam masala (or spice mix of your choice)
6 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 tea cumin seeds
1 teas black mustard seeds
2 tbs curry leaves
½ teas chilli powder
½ teas sea salt
½ teas black pepper

¾ cup chana daal (soaked overnight)

Brown Chana Masala with  Beetroot and Bok Choi

Brown Chana Masala with Beetroot and Bok Choi

Do It
Drain your chickpeas and rinse. Place in a small saucepan and cover with 3 inches of water, bring to a boil and simmer with a lid on for 1 hour (or until nicely tender).

Whilst they’re cooking, get your masala ready. In a frying pan, warm 1 tbs of oil, add the cumin seeds, cloves and cinnamon stick fry for a 30 seconds then add the onions. Fry all on a med high heat for 5 minutes, until golden.

Add the garlic, ginger and beetroot, fry for 3 minutes, then add the carrots and cabbage. Stir well and warm through. Cook for 5 minutes and add the garam masala, chilli powder and tomato. Bring to a boil and cover. After 10 minutes cooking on a steady simmer, add 100ml water and stir, then recover. Cooking for another 10 minutes. The sauce should be nice and thick.

Now add the masala to the chickpea pan, there should be some liquid left in the pan. Stir in and thin out the sauce with more water if needed. Check seasoning, adding salt and pepper. Be heavy on the pepper, chana masala loves pepper!

In a small frying pan, warm 1 tbs oil and add the mustard seeds and curry leaves on medium heat. Let the splutter for 30 seconds and remove pan from the heat.

Once the chickpeas are warm through, stir in the seasoned oil and serve.

No lights in our cabin, but candles are better anyway.

No lights in our cabin, but candles are better anyway.

Serve
In these parts we’d be having rice and rice (with a side helping of rice!)  but tonight, in our own little cottage, we’re having one of Jane’s bonza raw salads; with grated beetroot, kohlrabi, peanuts, beetroot leaves, carrot, coriander and lots more market fresh bits (when Jane does a salad, the entire veg basket is used!)

Sunrise outside the kitchen window

Sunrise outside the kitchen window

Foodie Fact
Kala Chana is very high in dietary fibre, one big bowlful of this curry with give women almost half of their daily intake of fibre (men a little less than that).  These brown garbanzos are also high in protein and rich in minerals like iron, copper and manganese.

Kala Chana is one of the earliest cultivated legumes, remains have been discovered dating back 7500 years!  India is by far the biggest producer of chana in the world, Australia is the second, which I find surprising.

 

Categories: Curries, Dinner, Recipes, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Vegan-ity hits the UK!

I’m not a massive newspaper reader, but whilst visiting my sisters gaff in Whistable for some festive frivolity, I chanced upon a well known British broadsheet and dove in.  Surprisingly unearthing two separate articles about veganism, prompting me to believe the hype; vegan-ity is really hitting this little island cluster.

It’s been in the pipe line for a while, but now the celebs are on board and we all know what  that means…….  The first vegan supermarket is opening in 2015 and generally the tofu tide is shifting.  People are eating more plants which can only be a good thing.  I even learnt that Mike Tyson is a vegan, primarily due to the fact that Roman Gladiators ate a vegan diet.  Ferocious and animal friendly makes for an interesting combination.

Veganism is more than a passing dietary trend and I like to see it as a new type of food experience, like the recent trends for Southern Mediterranean cuisine or the rise of Peruvian nibbles, vegan food is just another wonderful way of treating food.  It doesn’t have to be drastic, pedantic or serious; it is fun, naturally healthy and easy to prepare and source.  Most people already eat alot of vegan food and don’t even know it!  Being a vegan normally means that you care about the welfare of animals, your personal health and that of the environment, but it can also just mean very interesting food prepared in creative ways.

Vegans make up less than 1% of the British population, but most folk are realising the benefits that vegan food can bring to any diet and going ‘plant-based’ for a meal/ day or week, can have a massive effect on health and well being.  It is surely the ultimate low bad fat/ cholesterol diet.

I’m thinking about starting a tofu helpline, aimed at spreading the good word of curd and offering survival tips to first time tofu tamperers (in a word, MADINADE, the rest is easy, quick and delicious).  This may ease the integration slightly.

Veganism has been around since 1944, or the moniker has at least.  The movement was started by a chap named Donald Watson who set up the British Vegan Society.  Only recently has the name be officially recognised.  Vegan-ity now has legal status in the UK.  Its taking root and establishing credibility.

Vegans no longer necessarily worship mung beans and wear scratchy kaftan’s as standard (although that is very cool by me!!!).  I hope Veganism is shedding these dodgy, out dated, misconceptions; with more focus being placed on the benefits of the diet and the glorious flavour’s of the food.  Badly cooked vegan food, prepared without passion or knowledge is just like any other badly cooked food, prepared without passion or knowledge.  Pants!  Once the good word of V spreads, the general standards will improve, just like vegetarianism in recent times.   Great food is simply great food; even minus a chunk of meat, or a poached egg on top.

Tastes change and veganism uses flavours and textures in new and inspirational ways.  Proper cooks love a new challenge and I imagine veganism as that new challenge.  I see vegan food as something vital and fresh, ever changing and evolving.  Food for us all to enjoy.

We are just about to leave for our Delhi bound flight, wishing you all a brilliant start to the new yearX  The Beach House Kitchen is on the road until April…..expect a few holiday snaps soonX

Categories: Healthy Eating, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Chard, Coriander and Avocado Smoothie

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Quite a mad sounding smoothie, but we can’t get enough of it at the moment. It’s more of a breakfast pudding than a smoothie. You can drink it, but a spoon is probably the safer bet.

What we haven’t mentioned yet is that this smoothie is sweetened with banana, so its not all funky vegetal flavour, but actually well balanced and thick like beautiful green custard.

We experiment with all sorts of things in the blender and they normally work.  Kale is fine, some cabbages are hard to take (especially when sweetness is involved in the mix), asparagus is fine and spinach is a real hero, melding into all sorts of flavour combos.  Soaked nuts add dramatic richness, different milks are fun to play with and really anything that needs using up from the veg basket/ drawer can be smoothed out into something lovely and superbly nutritious.  It’s floppy leaf territory.

Recently we juiced a parsnip with excellent results.  Next up swede (rudabaga), which could prove quite a challenge.  Turnip juice sounds fresh and sweet……

I think  my body likes me even more when I give it a smoothie first thing, I can feel it smiling and appreciating the pureed magnificence.

Jane on a beach walk, near Bolunuevo, Mazzaron, Spain

Jane on a beach walk, near Bolunuevo, Mazzaron, Spain

The Bits – For 2

1 avocado (de-stoned), 1 bananas, glug of rice/ soya milk, 3 chard leaves (stems kept for a stir fry), handful coriander leaves (stems in or out)

Do It

Place all in a blender and blitz into a very thick smoothie.

Hands off!!!!!!!

Hands off!!!!!!!

Serve

We love it with a splash of milk on top, like a green pint of guiness, you can then mix the ‘head’ in with a spoon.  It also looks very cool (the importance of which is never underestimated in the BHK).

We Love It!

Thick and green, two things we always appreciate, add sweet to the mix and sold.

Foodie Fact

Coriander (or cilantro) hails from the Mediterranean and like all green things boasts an almost ridiculous amount of antioxidants.  It helps fight ‘bad cholesterols’ and has a brilliant range of vitamins.  Coriander  has one of natures highest levels of Vitamin K which helps us in so many ways, mainly assisting the bones in growth and repair.

Categories: Breakfast, Healthy Eating, Recipes, Smoothies | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Simple Chickpea and Pumpkin Stew

Simple Chickpea Stew

Simple Chickpea Stew

In the Beach house we love simple cooking with a smile and this stew definitely makes us beam a bit.  We’ve just landed in Spain after a mental few weeks in the UK for a variety of reasons that we’d prefer not to bore you with.  I am super busy on a food based project that I will no doubt tell you about soon, but until then, the posts are going to be few and far between as I type my little fingers to the bone.

Some of you may have read about our winter retreat last year, near the sleepy port town of Mazzaron, up near the hills (you will no doubt be unsurprised to hear).  It’s a real country area and the Med sparkles from our terrace every morning and each night sky is filled with incredible maps of stars.  All that sun means there are some amazing veggies for sale here in the markets and we have loved having a dabble and a haggle!  We pick up ridiculous bargains and then get home and wonder what on earth we are going to do with it all…!  We only have a little kitchen and the Beach House Kitchen (Part II) is slightly underequipped compared to the gleaming ‘Mark 1’.

Our favourite new bit of equipment is a wooden handled knife that we picked up off a flamenco-loving-gypsy-with-a-mullet for a euro.  It seems to be impervious to bluntness.  The Excalibur of onion chopping and potato peeling.  It is worth mentioning that we buy lettuce and tomatoes from this fellow’s Mum, who normally wears a pink dressing gown and a has a cigarette hanging from her mouth.  The dressing gown is held together by a piece of frayed string and is probably one of the most fashionable statements on display, come market day, in little Puerto Mazarron.  We love that market, but this week it was called off due to adverse weather conditions.  It rained a little and was a little blowy!  We wouldn’t get much done in Wales with these kind of restrictions.

We have just spent a busy week with my Mum doing plenty of café and bar hopping and taking in a few ancient looking little towns along the way.  Unfortunately every time we’ve got the camera out, at least one of us has been stuffing our face with tapas, so we are short of pleasant pictures of us lounging around the place.  I’m sure you can imagine the scene we enough and I hope we are not rubbing in our good fortune to be here.  To balance things out, I have had my normal restaurant experience in Spain, which go a little something like this:

Step 1)  I apologise profusely for being a vegetarian, smile through the imminent baffled glare and disdain, then fully expect the worst…..

Step 2)  I am faced with a decision to eat around fish and or meat or go hungry.

Step 3) The next course arrives and I revert to Step 2

Step 4) I eat fruit for dessert

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Vibrant veggies in the mix

Having said that, the wine is good and cheap and this carries me through each disappointing dining experience.  You’ve got to love the people here though – a brilliant bunch of rogues, fishermen and characters.  Veganism or Vegetarianism has not reached these parts, but when it does, it will be repelled with sharp sticks and incredulous words.  NO HAM!  What are you, insane!!!!!  I love them all, even if they think I am from the planet Parsnip.

NB Casa Monika’s in Puert0 Mazzaron is not included in this generalization, as one of the LOVELY owners Jose is Vegetarian, and the food rocks. Thank you.

So……we keep things even simpler in Spain and this was a stew we had for dinner last night and thought you guys would love.  The chickpeas here are little works of art, after soaking they swell up like small plums and the spices are very, very potent.  The smoked paprika almost takes your breath away and the cumin we can still smell even when its sealed in a jar in a cupboard (at first Jane thought I had some strange musty body odour thing going on).

We use a lot of vegetables here, making full use of our mammoth stash, but you can really pick and choose what ever is handy.  The classic combination of warming spices and chickpeas will lend itself to almost any vegetable.  As you can see, I like to sweeten it a little with dates, it seems in-keeping with the style of the dish.  You can always omit the sweetener, or use some honey or brown sugar.  Another idea we have been playing with recently to good effect is adding a little soya milk to stews and soups; it is surprisingly creamy and changes the texture.  You may like to throw a cup of soya milk in here and see how it goes (it will go well!!!!) Jane did it by mistake the other day confusing the carton of stock with Soya milk in a pea and mint soup… it was a lucky accident (the less said about her vegetable stock-on-muesli accident the better though)!

The coriander and glug of olive oil at the end sets this dish apart, as with so many stews and soups, that little finishing touch makes all of the difference.  Golden olive oil warmed on a stew is something almost to gorgeous to describe in feeble words.  I am sure Jane would say ‘It’s ace!’ and I would certainly agree.

I’d love to think that we’ll be posting again soon and we’ll be drinking G and T’s on the terrace on your behalf!  It’s a Beach House life, what can we say!!!!!

Lovely salad accompaniment

Lovely salad accompaniment

The Bits – For 4-6

1 inch and a half square ginger (grated), 3 garlic cloves (peeled and grated), ½ tsp cinnamon,1 tsp ground oriander, 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, 1tsp ground cumin

2 tomatoes, 1 tbsp tomato puree (depending on how good your tomatoes are), 1 carrot (finely diced), handful of cabbage leaves (or other greens), 1 onion (finely sliced), 1 cup of pumpkin (medium sized cubes), 1 small courgette (same size as pumpkin), 2 handfuls of spinach leaves.

3 cups of chickpeas (with cooking juices), 4 fresh dates (finely chopped), 1 cup vegetable stock, sea salt and pepper (to taste)

Fresh coriander leaves and stalks (for topping)

Do It

Soak the chickpeas overnight and cook them in fresh water for roughly 45mins- 1 hour  (add 1 teas of bicarb of soda to speed up the cooking process).

In a hot pan, brown the onions for 3-4 minutes. Then add the fresh ginger, garlic, pumpkin, carrot and courgette. Fry them off for 5 minutes.

Now add the cabbage leaves, cumin, sweet paprika, ground coriander, cinnamon, and chopped fresh tomatoes (with the tomato puree if you’re using it). Time for the chickpeas with their juice from their cooking and a good old stir.

Add one cup stock if needed (if you haven’t got enough chickpea juice). Bring to the boil and cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the carrots are nice and tender.

Sprinkle in spinach leaves cover and turn off heat.  Leave for 5 minutes and give a final stir and serve.

Even more salad reinforcements (we eat alot of salad in Spain!)

Even more salad reinforcements (we eat alot of salad in Spain!)

We Love It

This is our every day nosh, full of veggies and goodness.  This is the type of winter fuel that sparks us into life! We worship the tasty spicy-ness of this dish.

Foodie Fact

Chickpeas are super high in fibre and are renowned for their ‘filling’ properties.  Eat a few, feel full, don’t snack on all those beetroot crisps you’ve got locked away in the cupboards.  Chickpeas have been shown to help stabilise insulin and blood sugar, they are also awesome for your digestion and colon.  Lovely little chickers!!!!!

Categories: Dinner, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Goodbye Buster (The Worlds Coolest Cat) and Big Hello from Spain!

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Buster (aka, Buzzy, Buzz-man, Buzzeroonie, Buzz face, Raja, Buzzer, Buzzoid, Buzzeroo, Busty, Little Tiger………and other pet names) has left the building. He is the most wonderful little guy, but we are now in Puerto Mazzaron, Spain and soon to be in India for an extended period and we couldn’t find a way of keeping him close.

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We managed to find a brilliant home for the Buzzman in the next valley, real animal lovers.  The first night he went to his new home, he made his way back over the mountains at night and turned up at the back door, a little peckish.  He must have used the stars as a map to make his way across the streams and hills, its around 5 miles away.  What a little grey star he is!

Just looking at our recent lack of posts makes us very ashamed of our behaviour. We miss the posts but have been busy with other exciting projects, more about these very soon…….  We have been cooking shiny food all the time and have a huge backlog of photographs and recipes to post, we just need a little time and internet access (which always helps!)

Much Love from us and have a magical festive timeXXXXXX

 

Categories: 'The Good Life' | Tags: , , , , ,

Autumn Photo Scrapbook – Garden, Flowers and Buster

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On the funghi hunt, lost and wandering up the Nantlle Valley, we’ve had magic weather even in October.

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Pleasant views abound – from the Nantlle Ridge (behind our back garden)

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The man with a sock on his head – harvesting our potato crop. Smaller potatoes this year but more of them.

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Busters fancies a hike too……lovely little punk!

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A small tree in our garden suddenly started to sprout apples. It’s an apple tree!!!!! Wahee. Lucky us, this is part of the windfall apple bonanza.

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We’ve had so much sun this year even the sunflowers had a growth spurt.

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Part of our winter preparations, HEAT! Scavenged logs meet Mr Chainsaw = cosy nights by the fire. Time consuming, but free.

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We’ve had some gorgeous beetroots this year, three varities and all of them awesome and sweet.

Our local waterfall where we sit sometimes and watch water fall.

Our local waterfall where we sit sometimes and watch water fall.  Then POW tofu inspiration strikes!

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A Great Beach House Bake Off!

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Love CoconutsX

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Your Gracious HostsXXXXXXXXX  At Jane’s parents gaff

So the clocks have changed and we’re plunged into darkness for another year, still, plenty of swedes and parsnips to look forward to.

HAPPY WINTER EVERYONEXXXXXXXX

Categories: 'The Good Life', Photography, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

A 10 Minute Meal – Hazelnut Tofu and Soba Noodle Broth with Red Pepper and Brussels Sprout

Hazelnut Tofu and Soba Noodle Broth - On the hob

Hazelnut Tofu and Soba Noodle Broth – Bubblin’ away

Here we have a delicious 10 minute meal.  5 minutes chopping, 5 minutes cooking and it won’t last long in the bowl either.  So simple, yet tastes so amazing and dare I say it, complex.  You have to love that!

Nothing says British winter more than a bowl of Soba Noodle Broth….or is that just me!  I love a noodle broth anytime of the year and this one is wonder, putting the years first brussels sprout to good use.  I could eat this by the bucket full, bowls just aren’t big enough.

The first winter chills are definitely visiting the Snowdonia hills at the moment, the winds blows a gale and we’ve kissed goodbye to what was a lovely summer of warmth and light nights.  Sitting in the garden at 10pm in the sun is surely a thing all Britons cherish.

The Beautiful Nantlle Valley - just behind the Beach House Kitchen

A view from the beautiful Nantlle Valley – just behind the Beach House Kitchen, where we walk when not eating like Tokyo-ites

As are brussels sprouts.  They’re like little cabbage hand grenades and add a punch to all they grace, we love ‘em! So, so, so very wasted on your average Sunday Roast (traditional British Sunday Lunch containing roast meats and unfortunately over cooked vegetables), boiled to death and flaccid. A quick blanch in this broth and they are a revelation of crunchy texture and potent flavour.

This is an ‘Asian’ broth, which I know covers a large chunk of global cuisine.  Its a hybrid of flavours that meld and work.  Some Japanese, some Chinese, but all super tasty.

In the Beach House we condone slurping in all its forms.  Food should be eaten with gusto and vigour, slurping is an essential part of the noodle broth experience.  We like to attack a bowl of noodle broth armed with a large spoon and some chopsticks, on occasion we resemble koi carp, such is our commitment to the cause.  Jane is a particularly good slurper, we put it down to being raised with a koi carp named bonehead.  Bonehead still lives with Jane’s Mum and Dad and is a big fish in a small pond.  He can also be stroked like a dog.

Jane, is that you?!  Koi carp – like jaws in a pond

This type of broth is best served piping hot, with all ingredients cooked for the minimum length of time.  Freshness and crunch is imperative.  The gulping and slurping actually helps the noodles cool down on the way to the mouth.  At least that’s our excuse!  It also happens to be alot of fun.

We’ve added plenty of colour here, essential in these gradually greying months, by using the last of the years red peppers and some brazen red cabbage. This broth is also nice and warming, fresh ginger and Chinese five spice take care of this.  For even more of a restorative slurp, I added some wasabi to mine which really got my juices flowing.

SOBA NOODLES

Soba noodles are always a highlight, soba meaning ‘buckwheat’ in Japanese, the noodle choice of most Tokyo-ites.  Traditionally in Japan buckwheat can be harvested four times a year, a wonder crop for sure.

Soba Noodles have a lovely bite to them, a hearty noodle ideal for my rapidly diminishing wheat intake as they are made with a large amount of buckwheat (not a wheat even though it is called a wheat!?) This means less gluten all around. For some bizarre reason, soba noodles are normally a tad more expensive than your average joe noodle, but they’re well worth the extra pennies.

Soba Noodles

We use tamari because we prefer the flavour, it contains no wheat and is always made to a certain standard. Meaning no strangeness and dodgy health issues with the soya used.

There are alot of ingredients in the broth here, really, some good stock, ginger and a splash of tamari will suffice, the other ingredients just make it extra special. Most of them can be found in any decent Chinese-style food store.

As can the Hazelnut Tofu.  It’s basically tofu mixed with hazelnuts, and a few toasted sesame seeds, pressed back together.  It is delicious and has plenty of flavour, unlike normal tofu.  It seems to be springing up in some supermarkets, but as with most of these niche veggie/ vegan bits, a health food shop is your best bet.

Makes two massive bowlfuls (or four medium sized):

The Bits
300g soba noodles, 125g hazelnut tofu (chopped into little cubes), 1/4 red cabbage (finely shredded), 1 red pepper (finely chopped), 6 brussel sprouts (finely sliced lengthways)

For the broth – 1 inch fresh ginger (minced), 2 teas chinkiang vinegar (balsamic will do), 2 tbs tamari (soya sauce is a close sub), 1 tbs rice wine (or dry sherry), 1 tbs good stock powder (or fresh if you are brilliant) – to taste, 1/2 teas Chinese five spice, 1.5 ltr boiling water

Taste the stock, make it right for you.

Wasabi stirred in to taste (if you like things spicy)

Topping – 2 spring onions (finely sliced)

Do It

Boil a kettle with enough water.

Chop your vegetables thinly.

Add boiled water to a large, warm sauce pan and get a steady boil going.  Bubblin’.

Add all of your stock ingredients in no particular order, give it a stir (no stock powder lumps, they are the enemy).

Now add your cabbage, brussels sprout and peppers, boil for two minutes, then add your tofu and noodles, simmer for a further two-three minutes and prepare to serve.

By the time you’ve got bowls and ladles and all that jazz together, your noodles should be cooked nicely.  Overcooking soba noodles is a huge sin.

Serve
Piping hot and topped with a handful of sliced spring onions.  If you have a small flask of warm sake available, well done!  Have extra tamari, wasabi and vinegar on the table so people can play with the flavouring or their stock.

Hazelnut Tofu and Soba Noodle Broth with Red Pepper and Brussel Sprouts

Hazelnut Tofu and Soba Noodle Broth with Red Pepper and Brussel Sprouts – Camera in one hand, large spoon in another…….

We Love It!

Soul slurping of the highest order and buckwheat noodles to boot.  Lucky us.  So quick and satisfying, we could eat this for dinner every night!  A soulful soup of the highest order.

Foodie Fact

Buckwheat is high in Thiamine and soba noodles were regularly eaten by wealthy  Japanese folk to balance their large intake of white rice (very low thaimine) thus avoiding what was called ‘beri beri’.

As we all know by now, buckwheat is a relative of rhubarb!  A berry and not a grain, a wonderful gluten-free substitute.  Buckwheat is full of flavanoids which are very good for the cardiovascular system.  In fact, some folk say  that buckwheat is better for you than any fruit or vegetable.  Quite a claim!

Categories: Dairy/ Lactose Free, Recipes, Soups, Vegan, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Gertrude’s Chocolate Cake filled with Dark Cherry Jam

Gertrude's Chocolate Cake filled with Dark Cherry Jam

Gertrude’s Chocolate Cake filled with Dark Cherry Jam

A quick one here that goes out to the Tasmania crew, Fran and Steve of The Road to Serendipity fame.  Fran has requested Gertrude’s (Jane’s Nan) recipe ever since seeing it on a previous post.  Well Fran, here it is, better late than later.  Soz…….

Just to rave about Fran and Steve for a moment, their blog is a massive slice of living off grid (with two cool dogs Bezial and the mighty Earl and bags of awesome looking food, nature, ideas, good livin’, love and plenty of peaceful vibrations).  They really are shining examples of living close to nature and Tasmania looks incredibly beautiful judging by their photos.  There can be few more dedicated and prolific bloggers than our Fran and we always appreciate her enthused feedback.  It is people like Fran who keep this little old blog rocking!  Cheers guys for your constant stream of inspiration and kindness.  You make the blog world a brighter place to be.

This recipe is taken from a scrap of paper written by Gertrude, who is no longer with us.  Gertrude lived to the ripe old age of 96 and dictated this recipe as Jane made it and Keith (Jane’s Dad) scribbled it all down word for word, quaint little sayings and all.  Goodness knows how many times this cake was made, Jane was brought up on it.  All of this means that this is a recipe we hold very dear and even closer to our hearts.  It also makes a lovely light chocolate cake and is ever so easy to make.

This will make one small sandwich cake, double the mix for a big ‘un.

The Bits

4oz margarine (good stuff), 4oz caster sugar, 1/2 teas vanilla essence, 2 eggs (beaten), 4 oz self raising flour (sieved), 1 heaped tbs cocoa (sieved), pinch salt, 1 teas milk (if needed)

Do It

Preheat oven to 190oC (360F)

In a mixing bowl, paste the margarine and caster sugar together with a wooden spoon.

Slowly add the eggs to the paste, stirring nicely.

Gently add the the flour and cocoa, fold into mix.

Add salt and milk if mixture is too dry, should be thick batter texture (that plops off a spoon).

Pour into two small round baking tins (6 inch) with marg rubbed on sides and bottom.  Use baking parchment if you don’t trust the non-stickness of your tin.

Clean out bowl with finger, give to Jane.

Get Nan to smooth it over.

Slam tins on table twice each.

Place in oven, 2/3 the way up.

Check in 1/4 hour with a wooden chopstick or skewer.  It should be clean when retracted.

Serve

We filled our with a fine dark cherry jam and grated dark chocolate on top. Although I hear Gertrude was quite partial to a little butter icing.

We Love It!

‘Cause Gertrude made it.

Foodie Fact

Eating cake makes you happy.

 

Categories: Baking, Budget, Cakes, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Roast Corn, Avocado and Basil Salad

The corn invasion is ON

The corn invasion is ON

The corn has come and it’s come in droves. I love corn, fresh corn on the cob is one of the finest things imaginable and it plays the lead role in this super salad supported admirably by some ripe Mexican avocado and fresh basil leaves (from the garden).

Back in the day (mid to late 80′s for the record) nothing said summer more than fresh corn on the cob; boiled almost to death and lathered with butter (maybe margarine, times were tough).  I remember the sweetness and laughing at everyone with corn in their teeth and realising that you were just as bad.  It’s all part of the fun, yellow teeth.

CORNY CORN

This superbly fresh corn can be eaten raw, I have been told that is not a good idea but this stuff is so succulent and juicy it is hard to resist.  Thankfully some made it to the pan on this occasion.

Anyone who has ventured to the lands of Latin America will know there way around an ear of corn or maize as it is known.  Corn is in many things, cakes, breads and of course, straight up roasted on braziers in the streets, which is the finest way to go.  Maize comes in all shapes and sizes and has been eaten for thousands of years, it was the main fuel for the Mayans, Aztecs etc…..  Maize even comes in different colours, you can get purple, black, blue, red and our personal favourite, pink.  Interestingly, all of the differing colours have their own unique health benefits.

Autumn is gradually fading to winter and the bounty of the last few weeks is subsiding, the last summer squashes are disappearing (too fast) and even the blackberries are off (blown by some pretty freaky storm action).  The time of the roots is nigh, but we still have a few treats up our sleeve before we get to the stodge-fest of winter.

We’ve incorporated a few more of our local veggie bits in here, but cannot resist a bit of avocado, it always ups the luxury stakes.  Some vegan creaminess to add to the carnival of crunch.

This is a simple salad, but magic combinations abound and the luxurious flavour is something to savour.  The basil adds its usual glorious fragrance to the show.  The lovely thing about a warm salad is the flavours are all THERE!  BANG…….

Serve as a main course, or bulk it up with grains like spelt or bulghur.

The Bits
Serves two
2 corn on the cobs (kernels removed), 1 avocado (2 if you’re feeling decadent), 2 small tomatoes, 1 small courgette, 2 handfuls of basil leaves, juice of 1/2 lemon, drizzle of olive oil, decent pinch sea salt and cracked pepper

Do It
Remove your kernels from the cob, stand up straight on a chopping board (thicker end down) and run a sharp knife down the cob, as close as you can to the base of the kernels. Use quick, sawing actions and the little yellow critters will just fly off.

Chop your courgette, tomato and avocado into similar sized cubes.

Warm a frying pan and some oil, fry off your courgette and corn on a high heat until slightly charred. Leave to cool.

Place the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and add your corn and courgette, mix gently with your hands getting it all nicely combined.  You will now get wafts of glorious basil filling the air, mixed with that roast corn-ness!

Roast Corn, Avocado and Basil Salad

Roast Corn, Avocado and Basil Salad

Serve

Big bowl, scattered with abandon and flair (and a pinch of cracked black pepper).

We Love It!

An abundance of avocado and the beautiful sweetness of fresh, seasonal corn. This is a very satisfying salad.

Foodie Fact

Corn is not exactly a nutrient powerhouse unfortunately, but it is classed as a grain and therefore gets many brownie points.  When compared to other grains it has good levels of fibre, vitamin C and the B’s.  It is also low in calories if that’s your way.

Roast Corn, Avocado and Basil Salad

Roast Corn, Avocado and Basil Salad

Categories: Gluten-free, Recipes, Salads, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Morcilla De Verano – Murcian Summer Black Pudding

Morcilla De Verano

Morcilla De Verano

A really meaty yet vegan substitute for the Spanish classic Morcilla (black pudding basically).  Morcilla De Verano is a classic Murcian (Region in the South of Spain) dish, you regularly see it on tapas bar counters.  Its a great option for me in the land of jambon.  We’ve gone vegan here, with the addition of tempeh (or tofu would be cool also). The aubergine cooks down to its normal lovely golden self and the garlic and onions do their sweet and savoury thing, add to that a raft of Spanish style spice and herb and we’re moving in a gourmet direction.

Even though its called a ‘summer’ dish, we think this is great all year around.  Due to its meaty nature, this is a dish to sate all, we’re always trying to find dishes that will appeal to meat eaters aka most of our family and friends.  You know, I love Spanish food and this dish really taps into the rustic heart of their magical range of cuisine.  More than many other countries, Spanish food speaks of the land and culture.  It is the perfect expression of such a diverse land and for me, the cuisine of the South perfectly matches the arid plains and craggy red mountains.  Its rugged, its got bags of soul and it can take your breath away.

As some of you will know, my parents have a little place over in Murcia, Jane and I are regular visitors chasing the sun and the Med life.  This dish is based on a recipe passed to us from wonderful friends over that way, Fye and Jose.  It is actually Jose’s brother Andres recipe and he created it in an attempt to eat less meat (he’s a real maverick in the area, only 0.3% of Spain’s population are veggies after all).  I still have the little scrap of paper that he wrote it down on one night, for me that is real soul cooking.  This recipe is connected with so many memories of wonderful people and places, we can’t help but love it.  We have of course made our usual Beach House alterations, but this does not stray too far from Andres Murcian delight.   Gracias HombresX

Don’t be shy with the oil here, remember it is Spanish after all!  The dish should be slightly on the oily side which of course makes it very rich and satisfying.  After eating this for dinner Jane exclaimed “I feel like I’ve just eaten meat and two veg” rubbing her belly.  Always a good sign in the Beach House.

We decided that this is a star dish and very versatile.  It could be used to stuff a vegetable, a round courgette sounds perfect.  Taking it into non-vegan land, you could make some wells in the morcilla and crack in some eggs and cook them gently together.  Forming something like a shakshuka.  This could be served with toasted bread and smiles!  Of course, we are talking brilliant tapas potential here.  This Morcilla de Verano is just a brilliant centre piece for so many potential dishes.

Buen Provecho!

The Bits

2 small aubergines, 1 courgette, 1 small onion (all three finely diced and kept seperate), 2 garlic cloves (minced), 2 teas fresh rosemary (finely chopped), 2 teas sherry vinegar, 2 teas sweet paprika, 1/2 teas cinnamon, 1/2 teas all spice, 2 teas fresh oregano (finely chopped), 200g tempeh (or tofu), 2 teas sea salt, 2 teas cracked black pepper, 3 1/2 tbs olive oil

2 tbs pine nuts (topping)

Do It

This is a three part saute routine, meaning a number of stages until your meaty morcilla is just right.

First saute, courgettes and aubergine

First saute, courgettes and aubergine

Start with your aubergine and courgette.  Add 2 tbs of the oil and warm on a medium heat in a heavy based frying pan.  Add the aubergine and saute for 7-10 minutes, until nice and golden and releasing some of their liquid, then add the courgettes and continue to saute for another 5 minutes.  This is the real meaty aspect of the dish, the aubergines should be nicely browned and gorgeously sweet by this stage.  Set aside.

Tempeh hits the pan

Tempeh hits the pan

Next, your tempeh needs sorting.  Chop it up finely, it will resemble dried scramble egg.  Add 1/2 tbs of oil and saute for 5-7 minutes, until it is beginning to get brown around the edges.  Set aside with the aubergine mix.

Now, 1 tbs more oil onions in the same pan (wipe out if necessary).  Lower the heat of things are getting a little hot.  The onions should take 6-8 minutes to become golden, we don’t want to rush them and risk charring them.  Once they are golden, add the garlic and cook for 3 minutes, pop your vinegar in to a big hiss.  Now it’s time to spice things up.

Sweet onions and spice

Sweet onions and spice

Add your paprika, all spice and cinnamon, saute for a minute, stirring all the time and not allowing the mix to stick.  Then add your herbs and the aubergine/tempeh mix to the pan.  Stir well and warm through for a couple of minutes.  Your ready for the plate.

Warm through and enjoy the awesome aromas

Warm through and enjoy the awesome aromas

Serve

In a warm serving dish, topped with some pine nuts and a sprinkling of paprika.

We served our morcilla with some steamed green vegetables (broad beans, runner beans and broccoli) with some pan fried lemon cabbage all drizzled with a little truffle oil (a little decadent for a Thursday night!!!!)  As we mentioned above, this morcilla make a great centre piece to any number of dishes.

Morcilla de Verano - looking good!

Morcilla de Verano – looking good!

We Love It!

Really satisfying rustic style Spanish fare.  I imagine this is pretty close to Morcilla itself and cannot wait to try it out on some meat eaters.  Dads coming soon, one of our favourite guinea pigs.

Foodie Fact

Pine nuts are just incredible little things.  Now so expensive, but worth every penny as a treat item.  They can make a real difference to a dish, especially when roasted a little to bring out the flavour.

Pine nuts are full of vitamin A, so you’ll be able to see in the dark.  They have good levels of vitamin D, for the bones and are also rich in vitamin C and iron.  They are quite fatty, which is obvious when you enjoy them, but its mono-unsaturated fats.  Pine nuts are also packed full of energy, great on cereal for a morning buzz and fizz.

Served with some blanched greens and truffle oil - Not bad for Thursday

Served with some blanched greens and truffle oil – Not bad for Thursday

Categories: Dinner, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Raw Vegan Lasagne with Avocado and Lemon Ricotta (Gluten-free)

Raw Lasagne with Avocado and Lemon Ricotta (Vegan/ Gluten Free)

Raw Vegan Lasagne with Avocado Lemon Ricotta, Red Bean and Walnut with Tomato and Basil Sauce (Vegan/ Gluten Free)

This is one of those dishes that really stands out.  A dish that just makes perfect sense and falls into place perfectly on the plate and palate.  All those yummy layers, one on top of another.

Meat eaters beware!  This is a ‘converter’, one fork-full and you’ll join the lighter side.  A dish that dis spells the ludicrous myths that vegetarians are merely ‘rabbit food’ munchers.

We have found vegan raw food presents a simple equation:

Raw Vegan Food = Shiny and Zinging Life of the Highest Order + Awesome, Creative New Flavours and Combinations

Granted its not the simplest of equations, but its a fine one non-the-less!  This dish is full, full, full of delicious flavour, nutrition and vegetarian protein power (see top 5 veggie sources of protein here).

Jane was typing whilst I made this and here is what I said about it, hot off the press:

“So good for you and tasty, I can see this stuff really catching on!  I see this as the future of food.  Its a simple as that.  Pasta without the carbs, supercharged full of colour and nutrition, all the flavours of Italy.  Fascinating combination of flavours only ever seen in vegan cooking, using all whole foods, nothing jarred – this is what we are going for in the BHK.”

Reading this back again, I completely agree with what my former self uttered.  This is the future of cooking (and non-cooking).  We all want the best for ourselves and raw vegan food gives us just that.  This is a trend that is actually positive for mind and body.  Can you imagine how much the National Health Service would save if we all decided to eat vegan raw food, or incorporate more of it into our diets.  We’d all live to 150 and hardly ever darken the door of a hospital or doctor.  We believe that nutrition and the food we eat is that important.  Call it preventative medicine if you will, but taking care of yourself and eating amazing food doesn’t sound like too bad a deal.  No compromise on taste either, just look at this wonder plate!

Semi-rant over for now, back to the recipe.  Its not totally raw this one, but could be very easily.  Because Raw Earth Month has now officially ended (yes we are using the odd light at night and the occasional square of chocolate is disappearing from the cupboard) cooked beans have re-entered our diets.  How I missed them.  I love a bean.  Without even thinking, I added red kidney beans to the ‘meat’ layer of our lasagne.  They are perfect colour wise and they add a great texture.  I also love them with walnuts, no idea why?

We are lucky to have a raft of inspirational friends and the original idea for this lasagne comes from the sparkling Sava over at Travel Butterfly.  Sava is a constant source of inspiration on many levels for us at the Beach House and some of her vegan/ raw recipes really hit the wonder mark.

This lasagne, and lasagne in general, has a few components to sort, it takes a little time.  Its well worth it though and would definitely be classed as a special occasion dish.  This dish has the whiff of wow factor about it, one that looks almost as good as it tastes (after all, food that looks better than it tastes is such a let down).  I am always interested to find that most people who don’t cook much still know how to make a decent lasagne.  Its quite a tricky and time consuming thing to get together, especially the art of a non-lumpy bechamel.  I generally think people are alot better at cooking than they claim to be!

Raw Vegan Lasage

Raw Vegan Lasagne

Good tomatoes here are essential.  We had some in our veg box this week and they blew us away, when I tried the sauce, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t added a sweetener to it.  That’s it reaction you need!  Gorgeous tomatoes are hard to find.  Some tomatoes just need a little love, leave them in a bowl, ripen them just like a fruit and sometimes they come good, at the very least, they will get better.  A chilled tomato is just no good.  There is a soup we made a little like this, found here.

If you are completely raw, we’d probably substitute the beans with more seeds and nuts.  Maybe a little dried apricot to bind things together.   I am sure you have your own ideas, as being a raw vegan really pushes your creativity to the limits.  We know how it is.

We use amino acids of tamari here because most soya sauce is just no good.  Soya is a funny thing and unless processed properly, can be of detriment to the body.  Tamari and something like Braggs Liquid Amino Acids are perfect replacements and tamari especially, even tastes finer.

We top this all off with some Nutritional Yeast Flakes.  I know we all don’t have them in the cupboard, but they are brilliant little flakes to add an almost cheesiness to dishes.  They have a unique savoury taste that must be tried to appreciate and are a vegan lifesaver.  For me, they are little like a vegan parmesan.  That intense!

A few other raw recipes that may tickle your tastebuds:

Black Prince Tomato and Coriander Soup

Crunchy Thai Salad with Green Coco Dressing

Raw Coconut and Lime Cheesecake

Hazelnut and Lentil Hummus

 

Now, lets non-cook!

 

The Bits

Tomato and Basil Sauce
3 cups plum cherry toms, 1 cup soaked sundried toms (finely chopped) with ¼ cup of oil from the jar), 1 cup fresh basil leaves, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 clove crushed garlic (crushed)

Bean and Walnut Layer
250g red kidney beans (cooked) or 1 tin-ish, 1 cup of walnuts, ½ cup of pumpkin seeds (add bite), 2 x teaspoon Braggs Liquid Aminos (or tamari), Pinch of salt and pepper

Pasta Layers
1 gold courgette, 1 green courgette (or two green is fine)
Cut in half width-ways and finely sliced into layers

Avocado and Lemon Ricotta
1 ripe avocado (must be ripe), 250g firm tofu (drained well, save a few thin slices for the topping), 2 tbls olive oil, ¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes, 1 small clove garlic (crushed), ½ lemon juice and zest, pinch of salt

Topping
Thinly sliced tofu, olives (finely chopped), sprinkled with Nutritional Yeast Flakes

Do It

This raw game is an easy one.  Just whack it in the food processor and voila!  Gorgeous Lasagne.

Tomato and Basil Sauce – Pop all in a FP and whizz until smooth.  Set aside and clean blender.

Bean Walnut Layer – Pop all in a FP and blitz until smooth but with lots of chunks (similar to mince I guess).  Set aside and clean blender.

Avocado and Lemon Ricotta – Pop all in a FP, blend until smooth.  Set aside.

Pop all in the fridge for an hour to chill and thicken up a little before the layering.

Raw Lasgane ready for stacking

Raw Lasgane ready for stacking

Make sure that you slice you courgette/ zucchini carefully.  You want them to be almost as thin as pasta sheets.  A mandolin is perfect for this, but a big beware here!  They love to slice fingers also.

Now to layer the beast.

On your chosen serving plate (a square one would be perfect), lay out your first layer of courgette. Depending on your chopping skills, you may need to put two layers of courgette (if wafer thin style).  Carefully spread on your bean and walnut layer and a thin layer of the tomato and basil sauce.

Next, add another layer of courgette, slightly smaller in diameter than the first, pressing down gently to make the layer stick.  This is mainly a presentation thing, you can see the layers better when they are not overhanging each other.  Once the layer is neatly placed, spread on your vegan ricotta.

First layer underway

First layer underway

The final layer, once more press down gently and arrange a nicely overlapping mosaic of your wonderfully sliced courgette, top with a layer of tofu (which can’t help but look a little like mozzarella), a good layer of tomato and basil sauce, sprinkle on your chopped olives and a good sprinkle of yeast flakes.  Top with some basil that you will no doubt have hanging around your glorious kitchen.

That’s it!  As simple or as difficult as you make it!  We think its medium in the ‘fiddle scale’.

Raw Vegan Lasagne with Avocado and Lemon Ricotta - A taste explosion waiting to happen.

Raw Vegan Lasagne with Avocado and Lemon Ricotta – A taste explosion waiting to happen.

Serve

Immediately.  The salt will gradually release liquids in the lasagne, which are very tasty, but don’t look the best.  This lasagne can be sliced as usual and the layers will stay intact and look amazing.

We Love It!

A dish in the locker that will impress friends and family for many years and make us look very clever indeed when actually its leisurely walk in the park.

The flavours mingle and merge in some form of Italian perfection and you will be amazed at the reaction from meat-eaters.  Try it!  They love it too!

Foodie Fact

Courgette (zucchini to some) is a summer squash, they are said to have originated in Mexico and come in all shapes and sizes.   Courgettes are very low in calories and have no cholesterol or fat, the peel is full of dietary fibre and it is also a good source of vitamin A and has high levels of heart friendly potassium.

Jane's been making dollies out of wheat again.  This is Trevor.

Jane’s been making dollies out of wheat again. This is Wild Johnny.

Categories: Healthy Eating, Raw Food, Recipes, Special Occasion, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

World’s Best Kitchen Implement – Skrub’a Gloves!

Jane happily skrubbing!

Jane happily skrubbing!

A very lovely friend from Germany sent us the most fantastic present the other day, the like of which we have never seen before on Welsh shores! Introducing Skrub’a The Scrubbingglove  – a clever Danish invention in a pretty orange carrot design!

These wonder-gloves could not have come at more perfect timing (another wonderful synchronicity, thanks Nicole). You probably know that we are now lucky enough to be loving the weekly fresh local and organic veggie box grown by lovely Pippa and John down the road…. Such delicious, fresh and DIRTY veggies! Up until now the lowly washing up brush has been doing all the hard scrubbing work. But we find that still leaves little bits of dirt on the veggies, especially in the nobbles and bumps.

gloves

gloves

It was with delight and happy intrepidation that we donned the gloves for the first time, dunked the root veg and began skrub-ing them with our gloved hands. The gloves (very much like those exfoliating shower-mitts) were utterly perfect at getting into the grooves and pits of the most twisty of carrot.

It was a quick and unusually satisfying job, and at the end of it we had smiley faces and very clean beetroots. Not only that, but 50% of the vitamins in veggies are in the peel! So Skrub’a Gloves thank you very much, you are our new favourite kitchen implement!

Categories: 'The Good Life' | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Apple Mint Herbal Vinegar – Health Tonic Extraordinaire!

delicious minty vinegar

delicious minty vinegar

It has been a luscious blossoming blooming year for gardeners across the land. Much sunlight and only occasional rain has kept most of the slug and snail critters at bay, hoorah! And over in Staffordshire, Mum and dad’s apple mint went wild again, and started springing up everywhere in places most unexpected. We were lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time to harvest the lot, bring it back to the Beach House Kitchen and get creative.

When faced with huge armfuls of thick 3ft long mint stems, it is easy to find yourself wondering what on earth you’re going to do with the bounty of furry goodness there in front of you! But luckily there are many ways to preserve herbs – in oils, vinegars, dried in jars; and many uses for the finished product like salad dressings, flavouring for your cooking, teas and delightful herbal baths! Lets face it a whole shelf of different herbal vinegars is pure visual delight – and that’s before you’ve even eaten any!

yummy mint, fresh and dried

yummy mint, fresh and dried

The Bits

Glass or plastic jar with waxed paper and elastic band for lid if metal (vinegar disintegrates metal lids)

Apple cider vinegar with the mother culture (great for your digestive system)

Aromatic herbs, such as apple mint (or all the other kinds of mint too), chives and chive blossom, dandelion flowers and leaves, organic orange peel, lavender flowers, even nettles…. The list goes on…

Do it

Fill a jar with your freshly cut chopped herbs, making sure the jar is well filled but not packed too tightly either… (After a few goes you’ll get the idea, I don’t think I put enough in ours)!

Pour room-temperature apple cider vinegar into the jar until it is full.

Cover jar with wax paper held on with a rubber band and metal lid on top, or a plastic lid, or a cork.

Label the jar with the name of the herb and the date.

Put the jar in a kitchen cupboard not too hot and not too cold but out of direct sunlight and leave for 6 weeks.

Don’t forget it’s there!

Serve

Over salads or beans and grains at dinner, in salad dressings, or to season stir fries and soups.

You can even drink it in the morning in a glass of water as a health tonic, after all what could be more healthy than your own produce soaked in apple cider vinegar!

We love it

There’s a lovely aspect of this creative process too and it’s all about the love and appreciation of food that has come out of your own soil. The very act of stripping the leaves from the stem, drying them, and getting creative all feels like a very natural and heart-warming process; one which our ancestors would have done too, to preserve that nourishing goodness of Summer ready for darker Wintery times. And it is SO good for you! Daily use of preserved herbs gives you a little health boost with virtually no expense or effort.

Foodie fact

Herbs are magic because of the high level of nutrients they contain – mint for example contains a lot of Calcium.

Apple cider vinegar has been known as a health-giving agent for centuries. Hippocrates swore by it, along with honey. It is incredible at lowering cholesterol, improving skin tone, and even for arthritis. It is also very good at dissolving nutrients from plants which water is not so good at, meaning this vinegar is super-healthy and mineral rich.

Ever seen your granny splash some vinegar onto her greens before serving? Eaten with iron rich vegetables like spinach or broccoli, vinegar can increase the amount of calcium you get by a third. Pretty amazing stuff!

Vinegar is highly alkaline, I know that sounds strange, but when it is metabolised by the body, it goes through a serious change.  Alkaline foods are incredible for health and keep disease and other baddies at bay.

minty spiral

minty spiral

Categories: Foraging, Infusions, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

North Indian Feast – Baingan Bhantha and Gobi Tikka

Bengan Bhargha and Gobi Tikka

Baingan Bhantha and Gobi Tikka

Our first cooked meal in what seems like and age, for no other reason than Ravi Shankar and memories of warm chapattis in Varanasi. Thats all we need and we’re back in the land of spice and wonder. Mother India, her food tantalises our palates and senses.

I was spending some time with brother Justin over at ‘The Lotus and Artichoke‘ blog.  He is a man I trust highly with India food. He lives and breathes (and no doubt dreams) food and travel, a man after our own hearts. He has a book for sale and its awesome, we don’t have it, but one day we will. This is a man who has learnt to cook in real kitchens, real houses with real families, the proper way to go about understanding different cultures foods.  These recipes are influenced by his and our shared love for India grub.

We dusted the pans off and said goodbye to our raw food time in style, what better way than a North Indian Banquet to remember.  North Indian food is generally richer than food from the south, which is more coconut based.  I like both, they are so different and suit their climates and geography perfectly.  India is such a vast and diverse land, but these curries use spice mixtures that you will find all over and like all masalas (spice mixes), the balance is essential to the authenticity.

These two curry recipes are straight forward, but very rewarding.  I became semi-addicted/ partially obsessed with Baingan (Bengan) Bhartha in Laos of all places!  I was missing Indian food on my travels and I found a Gujarati fellow tucked away in Luang Prabang who made a mean curry, it did take well over an hour to arrive, but when it was well worth the wait. I loved the place, when we order beers and curries, one of his kids would jump on a scooter and buy the ingredients from the market.  It was super fresh veg and herbs!!!!!  And warm beer unfortunately.

Baingan Bhartha is normally a puree like curry/ dip served with chapatti, but I love it with rice also.  Its actually a little like an Indian Babaganoush.  I like to keep the aubergine in pieces and pan fry them until golden and just about falling apart.  Traditionally I believe they are oven baked whole and the insides sccoped out or flame charred over an open flame.  It all sounds good to me.

RAW EARTH MONTH – THE CLOSING CEREMONY

So we didn’t end it all in a tidal wave of cava or a wave of espresso’s, this month’s (six weeks actually) raw adventure came to an end with a curry and plenty of rooibos chai.

Raw Earth Month has actually been really enjoyable, all of the ‘sacrifices’ we’ve made have turned into enjoyable routines and good lessons.  We certainly appreciate things more; lights at night, a washing machine, the joys of good chocolate.

We are not rushing back into anything and getting our bodies adjusted slowly.  After the meal last night, we admit to feeling a little full and lethargic.  We did eat alot, but cooked food definitely sits on the stomach.  As we always say, it doesn’t really matter what you’re eating, as long as its cooked and eaten with love and last night was a lovely occasion.

So coffee and wine are back on the menu, wahee!!!!!  The strange things is that we don’t really feel like either at the minute.  After being raw vegan for four months, we both feel bright as buttons and our cravings have flown out of the window.  We will no doubt encounter our little food vices again shortly, but at the minute, that morning beetroot juice is looking pretty damn good!

On a rock before the Himalayan giants, Gaumukh, India.  I had some awesome curries up their cooked in sheds by Sadhus.

On a rock before the Himalayan giants, Gaumukh, India. I had some awesome curries up their cooked in sheds by Sadhus.

A WORD ON ONIONS

Curries rely heavy on onions.  We are lucky to get ours from an organic farm at the minute and they are a completely different beast to those frequenting the fluorescent shelves of the supermarkets.  Onions should be firm and easy to cut, most should make you cry like a big baby.  If they are not fresh, they are really no good.  This goes for garlic also.  Onions and garlic suffer from being good agers, they last longer than most vegetables and therefore can be abused due to poor rotation.  Buying smaller quantities of these staples works.  Onions are such a wonderful ingredients, you can use them in so many different ways and with curries, they are the root of the flavour; the stage for the spices to do their merry dance.  Good onions matter!

A WORD ON SPICES

Spices also matter!  Big time!  Freshly roasted spices are the best by far, they also keep better in your cupboard.  If you have a pack of turmeric lingering in the cupboard, please get rid of it and buy some more.  I know its a waste, but old spices are pointless and lead to insipid curries.  The beauty of Indian cooking is primarily found in the freshness of the spices used.  If your using spices, keep them in an airtight container, in a dark place.  We cherish our spices and generally use freshly roast spices, ground in a pestle and mortar.  If you’re going to make a curry, you might as well make it spectacular!

The teaspoons below are all pretty level or one heaped half teaspoon.

Serves two curry fiends:

Bengan Bhartha

The Bits

2 aubergines (cut into chunky batons), 3 medium tomatoes (roughly diced) or 1 punnet  of cherry tomatoes, 4 cloves garlic, 2 cm ginger (finely chopped), 1 medium onion (finely sliced), 1 teas mustard seeds, 1 teas ground cumin, 1 teas ground coriander, 1 teas turmeric, 1/2 tsp sweet paprika, 1 chilli (finely diced), 1/2 teas asafoetida, 1 teas sea salt, 3 tbl oil, 2 tbl filtered water, fresh coriander (for garnish)

Do It

(We are adverse to turning our oven on for one little thing, so we roast our tomatoes and aubergine in pans.)

On a medium heat, add your cumin and coriander seeds to the pan.  Roast for a few minutes, until fragrant and slightly brown.  Bash up well in pestle and mortar.

Roast your aubergine in 2 tbl of oil on a high heat, tossing regularly.  Cook for 10-15 minutes, until nicely soft and well caramelised.  YUM.  Set aside and cover with a plate.  No roast your tomatoes in the left over oil on a very high heat, a little dark colour is good here, for around 5 minutes.  Set aside and cover.

In the same pan, add 1 tbl of oil and saute your mustard seeds for 30 seconds, they will pop a little, then add your onions and lower heat slightly.  Cook the onions until they are becoming golden, then add your garlic and ginger, cookf for three minutes, then your spices hit the pan, stir them well, not allowing the spices to stick to the bottom, add a little water if this happens.  Saute for a few minutes and then add your tomatoes, aubergine and water (if needed, check consistency).  Cover and warm through for 5 minutes.

North India 'Fest

North India ‘Fest

GOBI TIKKA

The Bits

1 small cauliflower (cut into big florets), 2cm cube fresh ginger (finely diced), 1 tomato (roughly chopped), 3 garlic cloves (finely diced), 1/2 lemon juice and zest, 1 tbs tamarind pulp/ paste, 1 teas turmeric, cumin, paprika and coriander, 1/2 teas mango powder, sea salt and black pepper, 2 dates (finely chopped), fresh coriander (for garnish), 1 tbs oil, rainbow chard (an extra that we added from the garden, couldn’t resist but not traditional in any way)

Do It

(If you feel like roasting this in an oven, please do, we used the hob.)

On a high heat, add the oil and roast the cauliflower for 5 minutes, until it becomes brown and slightly charred.  Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well (be gentle with the cauliflower).  Cook for 10 minutes on a gentle simmer, then place a lid on the pan and leave to infuse for a further 10 minutes.

Serve 

With mango pickle or your favourite Indian condiments.  Our pickle actually comes from Pakistan and is really, really potent.  We also had a little organic soya yoghurt.  All scattered liberally with freshly chopped coriander and some nutty brown basmati.

We Love It!

For me, this is the ultimate meal.  We are missing a few warm chapattis, but this is my idea of food heaven (for today anyway!)  A selection of curries with all the accompaniments has long been my favourite meal, I was raised in the Philippines and every Friday night we had something like this for dinner.  Mango chutney may be nice, oh, mango chutney, so sweet.

Foodie Fact 

Asafoetida is a funny one, not just because if its tongue twisting name.  It is the root of a herb and is also known as devils dung or stinking gum!  It has a pungent aroma and some amazing medicinal properties, added to food it has a smooth flavour, similar to that of leeks.

Asafoetida aids digestion, it has been used to treat hysteria, respiratory problems,  painful menstruation, it has even been said to cure impotence!  It is a sedative and has been used to treat opium addicts, it has been used as a natural pesticide and has anti-biotic properties.

An Indian Cafe Menu - Gangotri, Himalayas

An Indian Cafe Menu – Gangotri, Himalayas

Categories: Curries, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Umami Flax Seed Crackers and Veg Box Salad (Raw/ Vegan/ Gluten Free)

Umami Flax Seed Crackers

Umami Flax Seed Crackers

 

These crackers came out of the blue, as an afterthought, they appeared in a bowl, I stirred them, decided to dry them and hey pesto!  Umami Crackers came into the world.  CRUNCH!

The real reason for these flax crackers was the desire to make a superbly healthy cracker, something to idly munch on without care.  Jane and I can put away vast quantities of oat cakes/ crackers at one mid-sitting, its something to do with the texture.  Most crackers aren’t exactly packed with nutrition, we’ve found that after a couple of these we are sated.  Its all the good stuff in them we reckon.

Flax (or Lin) Seeds are a special little thing, one of the finest things for our digestion.  When you pop a little water on them, you’ll see why.  Flax takes on a gooey, emulsion-like property which the belly and below loves, this is the exact property that makes these crackers ‘gel’.  Just add a little water to flax, leave them for a few minutes and they become a vehicle for all sorts of flavours and once dried/ baked they make crunchy biscuits to get excited about.  There is absolutely nothing negative about these crackers, nutritionally, they are food for super humans (that’s all of us then!!!!)

Umami is the fifth taste, along with bitter, sweet etc.  Umami means ‘yummy’ in Japanese and the Umami spectrum was opened up by a Japanese fellow.  Umami is a delicious savouriness, think MSG but natural.  MSG is not the baddy that many think, it is present naturally in foods like parmesan, sun dried tomatoes, mushrooms.  Added to this, umami just sounds like alot of fun!

I used a splendid Halen Mon product here, Umami powder.  Its a mixture of their awesome sea salt (from the Menia Straits just outside the Beach House) and some seaweed and dried mushrooms.  Seriously savoury and brilliant for perking things up, stews, risottos, soups…..you get the picture.  Its a wonder condiment.

The Veg Box Salad is a Jane speciality that we enjoy on numerous occasions per week (especially when Janes cooking/non-cooking).  It consists of loads of veggies and other special bits from the fridge and larder (seeds, olives, dried fruits…..), you never know what to expect from a Veg Box Salad, but you know that it will be massive and super tasty.  The exhaustive list of ingredients of this particular salad are below, but feel free to empty your own fridge or veg box into a bowl and enjoy the spoils!!!!!   There is an alarming amount of awesome veg to be found here.

A good salad is all about combining textures, flavours and colours, all topped off with a kickin’ dressing.  Ingredients don’t matter here, this is free-flowing fare, changing with the seasons and your whims.

Crackers

Makes around 10 crackers

1 1/2 cup flax (lin) seeds, 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup sunblushed tomatoes (finely chopped), 1 teas umami powder, 2 tbs black sesame seeds, 2 cloves garlic (crushed, minced or mashed up)

Umami Flax Seed Crackers (Raw/ Vegan)

Umami Flax Seed Crackers (Raw/ Vegan)

Do It

Mix water into flax seeds and leave for 10 minutes, the seeds should be sticky, but not too wet.  Add the rest of your ingredients and stir well.  Spread out onto dehydrator tray or baking tray, oiled.  1/2 cm thickness is good and any shape that take you fancy.  Cracker size!?

Dehydrate for 6 hours until crispy, bake for 10-15 minutes at around 1800C or until crispy.

Be gentle when handling the finished crackers, they are sensitive little guys.  Use a flat spatula for the sake of a decent sized cracker.

Veg Box delights!

Veg Box delights!

Veg Box Salad

One massive bowlful 

3 stems swiss chard (finely sliced), 1/4 green cabbage (shredded), 1/2 white onion (finely chopped), 2 stems celery (chopped), 2 handfuls chopped parsley, 1 avocado (roughly chopped), 1 green apple (diced and cored), 1 small courgette, small cucumber, small broccoli (all diced), 2 handfuls of olives, 2 handfuls of pumpkin seeds, 3 tbs nutritional yeast flakes (optional but very tasty)

Dressing

1 handful of fresh mint, 1 handful of fresh basil, juice and zest of 1/2 lemon, 1/2 cup fruity olive oil, 1 cup soya yoghurt, 1 teas sea salt, 1 teas bharat (spice mix, or garam masala), 1 tbs apple juice concentrate (or honey), 1 tbs white wine vinegar

Blend all together in a food processor, adding the olive oil slowly to for a good emulsion.

Serve

We broke up some of the crackers and added them as a topping which worked out nicely.  Big bowls.  BIG bowls!

We Love It!

Every Thursday (that’s today) we pick up our veg box and are consistently surprised by the wonderful veg produced by the magical John and Pippa.   There is no better way to celebrate good vegetables than very, very simply.  Salad style definitely works here.

The flavours of these organic vegetables light up the bowl, a dressing almost seems like overkill.  The crackers make a decent accompaniment to such a bounty of veg goodness.

Foodie Fact 

Flax seeds are unique in many ways.  Firstly, they provide the highest levels of Omega 3 oils found in a vegetarian diet (hundreds times more than the nearest competitor!) and these abundant oils are not altered by cooking at high heats.  Which is great news!

Flax seeds are also insanely high in lignans, which act like fibre and have antioxidant effects on the body.

As mentioned above, flax seeds have mucilage properties, which means they form a ‘gum’ like substance in the body which helps the absorption of many nutrients in the intestines.

Some Beach House leaves picked yesterday

Some Beach House leaves picked yesterday

 

Categories: Local food, Raw Food, Recipes, Salads | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Raw Chocolate, Hazelnut and Goji Cookie (Gluten Free/Vegan/No Added Sugar)

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Raw Chocolate, Hazelnut and Goji Cookie – The Worlds Healthiest Cookie

The worlds healthiest cookie!?  Very probably, certainly one of the dang tastiest.

These beauties are so easy and satisfying, not to say as addictive as broad beans fresh from their little green sleeping bags (lunch today, once you pop……) and we all know how addictive the world of fresh podding can be!?

Healthy cookies!!!!??^*^#**^*#  What!!!!!!  I know, but really, they are not laden-ed with spinach or spirulina, but are an amazing treat for the tastebuds that is also amazing for the body and I dare say the soul.  Eating one of these will have you soaring in a world of food goodness.

These cookies boast raw cacao (super, super food), nuts (just plain super) and tahini (seriously super); all raw, with no flour, no added sugar or dairy in sight, but oh so rich and sweet.  Add to this the odd goji berry and you are flying in cookie heaven.  Ground control to major biscuit!

Lunch - what a great time of year!

Lunch – what a great time of year!

Gojis are cool for many reasons, primarily it’s down to the name.  GOJI, or as some call them ‘Wolf Berries’ (almost equally as cool), they are popular ingredient in the East, especially China.  Goji berries can normally be found in Asian food stores for a fraction of the price of your average ‘health food’ shop and most I have found are not ‘organically’ grown anyway.  Gojis have a pleasant flavour eaten alone, but for some reason, really compliment nuts.

THE ESSENCE OF NON-BAKING

Is it just me or is there something quite Zen about this whole non-cooking thing.  Today, we are non-baking.  Baking, without baking…….Heating very gently, maintaining goodness.

Non-baking/cooking is basically keeping everything below 46oC (or thereabouts) over which vitamins and enzymes simply die, never to enrich thy body.

Non-baking is so much easier and generally alot simpler than conventional baking.  The food processor is the key piece of equipment for getting things together and then the dehydrator takes over, replacing the oven.

They could be baked on a gentle setting, we are looking for a cookie with a moist centre and a crisp outer layer.  Something like 150oC for 45 minutes (I am guessing).  We used our little dehydrator to get the cookies nice and crispy and we even had the pleasure of eating some straight from the dehydrator, like fresh bread from the oven, you can’t beat it.

I remember reading of raw food people eating ‘warm’ things from the dehydrator and thinking it quite odd, but its strange how quickly things change.  Like the wind.  We now love our dehydrator and use it daily for all sorts of things.

WHAT IS RAW CACAO?

Tastes like chocolate and really it is unprocessed chocolate, with all the superb health qualities of the worlds favourite treat preserved.  Cacao is the cousin of the roasted and processed bean that is used in the vast majority of chocolate making.  Raw cacao has a mild stimulant, theobromine, which helps to cure depression and does give you a little buzz (similar to coffee, but without the come-down).  Traditionally in the Americas, chocolate (cacao) has even been used as a medicine.

Raw cacao has alarming levels of anti-oxidants and plenty of dietary fibre.  Having said all of this, eating too much chocolate is not a good thing.  It can irritate the kidneys and liver and can even lead to sexual dysfunction.  Ouch!!!!  Still, nutrition news morphs fast, its hard to keep track sometimes.  A few, peaceful squares on chocolate on a comfortable couch is something whole-heartedly promoted (and practiced) by all in the BHK.

A COOK DREAMIN’ OF SWEETER ONIONS

Last night I looked up and saw our pots hanging there and remembered that cooking is possible in the house.  I am not missing the washing up I can tell you!   I do however miss frying onions and garlic, reducing sauces until they’re thick and potent, I miss roasting spices, roasted and sweet veggies in general and the joys of homemade bread.

I have been cooking loads recently and playing with many recipes, mostly vegan.  I have reached the unenviable stage of actually dreaming about food.  It has become quite serious, dreaming of recipes.  The main problem being that when you wake up you either forget them, or they turn out to be complete nonsense.  Fortunately, in last nights dreamland, I was lost in India on pretty funky looking bus, then in Delhi getting my palm read by an old, toothless gypsy crone.  Then a cobra!  A welcome return to dreamland form.  Food just doesn’t fit in other astral plains, its surely just a humanoid pass time.

So cooked dishes will be returning to the BHK shortly, but raw food is still a real blast!  Raw food will always play a major role in our diet, but some cooked goodies will be incorporated.  Some things are actually better for you when cooked, tomatoes being one.  Raw food is awesome, whole food is awesome, all food is awesome!  What a wonderful way of giving our body energy, breathing and eating (not at the same time please).

Treat yourself, go a little Choco Nut Tahini today.

Makes 8 decent cookie sized cookies:

The Bits

1 1/2 cups cashews (soaked 3 hours), 1 cup almond (soaked 3 hours), 3/4 cup chopped dates, 1 cup almond milk (or your favourite milk), 2 tbs dark tahini, 2 tbs goji berries, 4 tbs raw cacao, 1/2 cup whole hazelnuts

Mash it up!

Mash it up!

Do It 

In a food processor, blend your cashews, tahini, cacao, goji, dates and almonds to a rough paste (scrapping down the sides regularly).  Begin to add your milk slowly until a sticky, dough-like paste is formed.  You want it to be a little wet, as this will dry out in the dehydrator/ oven and leave a nice moist middle.   At the end, add your hazelnuts and pulse a few times to incorporate, but not break up too much.

Spread into your dehydrator shelf for a tray bake approach or as we do, cut out squares of baking parchment (lightly oiled) and form small balls in your hands (like a slightly small squash ball).  Pat them onto the baking parchment until it resembles a cooking, they will shrink a little when dehydrated, but not much.  Pop a whole hazelnut on top to finish things off nicely.

Pre-non-bake

Pre-non-bake

Leave to dehydrate for around 5 hours for a moist centre of for 8 hours for a crisp cookie.  Whichever you prefer.

Leave to cool in the rack for 30 minutes, then place in a tupperware to keep them nice and crisp.

Serve

Ideally warm, we had ours with a magic ‘peach melba cream’ (raw vegan, recipe to follow).

Raw Choco, Nut and Goji Cookies

Raw Choco, Nut and Goji Cookies

We Love It!

Because when you can have your cake and eat it, it is always best to do so with gusto and smiles!

Foodie Fact

I think all berries are good for you, except those deadly nightshade things (although they did look enticing as a child even with that name!)

Goji berries have long been heralded as a ‘super’ food, mainly because they contain ridiculously high levels of vitamin C (some say the highest around).

They contain 18 amino acids, 21 minerals, glyco-nutrients for cell communication, and more beta-carotene than any other food on earth.  They also contain a substance that stimulants the release of growth hormones in the body, making them an anti-aging gift from nature.

Categories: Baking, Gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Raw Food, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Blooming Marvelous! Garden Update

The Queen of Salads!

The Queen of Salads!

Well, well, well……I mean really.  We had a summer, a proper stint of sun.  We woke every morning expecting it to be sunny.  How rare, how brilliant!  The garden has appreciated the warmth and light, things are blooming like never before in our little mountain abode, we can’t keep up with the progress, most of the time just letting nature do its thing and appreciate what comes from that.  This generally hides our lack of discipline with gardening and confirms our inherent feeling that nature cannot be contained in a plant pot, or bossed around.  Our potatoes seem to appreciate the approach!

The Potato Patch

The Potato Patch

Courgette Flower

Courgette Flower

The Beach House Garden is quite big and wild, after not strimming for a while it was resembling a Welsh jungle and wild things lurked out towards the horse field.  Fortunately they were just frogs and the occasional mole, although the rabid sheep have been making unwanted appearances in the garden.  Feral lot that they are.

So this year we have some decent looking beetroots, rhubarb chard, cavolo nero and even courgettes coming along.  The herbs have gone wild (which we always enjoy) and as I said, we have three varieties of potatoes leaping from the ground at an alarming rate.  Come early August and freak storms permitting, we should have a reasonable bounty to play with in the BHK and share amongst our nearest and dearest.

'Erbs running wild

‘Erbs running wild

Raw Earth Month marches on bathed in sun and good vibrations.  I have to say, the food has been grand and we are trying our best to post more recipes.  Our month of total raw/ vegan-ness ended yesterday, no booze, coffee, consuming, chemicals, lights, washing machine etc for over a month now and going strong.  Once you start this and feel good about it, it’s always hard to get back off it.  I am sure one day a scone will come along and that will be it!  Until then we are thinking another two weeks are in order.  There are two bottles of cava primed for the closing ceremony, we’ll have a picnic in the back garden on the stone circle and eat sandwiches and a lemon drizzle cake (Jane’s favourite) and get slightly sozzled in the sun (hopefully).

Yellow Lilly's (I think) growing in the pond

Yellow Lilly’s (I think) growing in the pond

Cavolo Nero, Beetroots and Chard

Cavolo Nero, Beetroots and Chard

We are so lucky to have wild strawberries growing this year, if we can grab them before the birds take their share!  They are the sweeetest, fragrant little things.  Just one tiny strawberry can change your day, much better than their big brother variety.

Wild Strawberries

Wild Strawberries

My hayfever has taken a back seat now that Jane’s magical herbalist friend has sent some little sweet pills through.  I can now enjoy the garden without fear of pathetic dribbles and sneezing fits taking over.  Hoorah!  This has made a huge difference to my enjoyment of the dramatic transformations in these green and golden hills.

We are being battered by odd humid, tropical storms at the moment, but somewhere behind those grey clouds, there’s a sun waiting to get busy.

On a walk near the Beach House

On a walk near the Beach House

Some classic George (you saw this one coming surely!):

Hopefully you’ll be seeing some of our garden produce in our recipes very soon, there is nothing quite like cooking with your own veg.  I am lucky enough to be working at a wonderful retreat centre at the moment and cook with alot of veg grown on the land.  There is something intangible and whole heatedly enjoyable about cooking with such produce.  It makes all the difference and the flavours are spectacular!  Eating the stem of a rhubarb chard recently is a food experience I will never forget!

Enjoy the heat wave (while it lasts)!

Categories: Garden, Raw Food, Summer | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Flower Power – Homemade Elderflower Cordial

Elderflower Cordial soaking in our giant pot

Elderflower Cordial soaking in our giant pot

I know, that’s two Elderflower cordial-ish recipes this summer, but it is such a great thing to do!  Elderflowers are all the rage in our village this June. we’ve had neighbours knocking on the door asking for recipes. What can we say, they are a beautiful thing and they grow on trees!  Some even call this drink the ‘nectar of the Gods’!

This is not technically raw, as it is simmered slightly, but we hope that it didn’t make it above 46oC as this stuff is lighting up our life right now!  Very easy to make and plentiful, something all Brits should have in the fridge door ready to be mixed with sparking water, gin or whatever takes your tipple fancy.  Did you hear that Brits, its a must!  In the States, I think it grows?  I know you can buy it dried over there and its just as good, if not more intense.

Elderflower Cordial - the perfect summer cooler

Elderflower Cordial – the perfect summer cooler

FLOWER POWER

There are over 30 varities of Elderflowers and some may be slightly toxic, don’t let this put you off.  None of the flowers are toxic, only the leaves and stems, so if you are not sure, just leave out the greens.

You cannot mistake an elderflower tree (some younger plants look more like bushes), the unmistakable aroma will be the first  thing that hits you.  They have the coolest micro-flowers, white and yellow.

When picking Elderflowers, make sure you leave some for the tree!  We only take a small share from each tree and keep our eyes out when driving or walking around for new trees to pick from.  This is the great thing about foraging for your own ingredients, wherever you go, the plants follow!

We recommend making the cordial as soon as you pick the flowers, otherwise they will naturally deteriorate and lose some of their vitality and flavour.  You can of course dry them if you have a dehydrator or live in a particularly hot place (lucky you!)

The Elderflowers will also turn into gorgeous Elderberries later in the year and these are worth the wait.  It makes us feel much more connected to the seasons, watching the trees and plants changing as we move through summer towards the bounty of autumn.

You may also like to try this with orange or lime, anything citrus will do and mix things up a little.  Lemon is the classic though to be sipped on a steamy British summer’s day preferably with a knotted handkerchief on your head and some cucumber sandwiches to hand.  Croquet anyone!  Splendid.

If you like this, you may like our Elderflower Champagne Recipe.

Makes 1.5 litres:

The Bits 

30 heads of Elderflower, 1.5kg sugar, 3 unwaxed organic lemons, 2 pints water, 75g citric acid (food grade) optional

Do It

Shake the Elderflowers and make sure there are no little crawly friends still present.  No need to wash them, they have been breathing the same air as we have!  If they are growing at ‘dog cocking leg height’, wash them well.  Place in a large heatproof bowl.

Put water into a pan and heat gently, add sugar and stir to form a syrup.  Leave to cool.

Now zest your lemons into the syrup and then slice them acrossways, add the slices also.  Pour the slightly cooled syrup onto the Elderflowers and stir in the citric acid.  Cover with a plate and leave to stand for a day.

After that, taste the cordial, then strain through muslin into sterilised bottles.  We use old wine bottles with corks.

Will keep in the fridge for at  least three weeks, but it won’t last that long anyway!

Elderflower Cordial

Elderflower Cordial

Serve

We have ours with sparkling water and a little ice, maybe a squeeze more lemon.  We have also had it in cucumber juice, which was quite amazing.  Of course there is lots of boozy fun to be had here, add to sparkling wine or a gin and tonic for something quite special.

We Love It!

The essence of the British summer, concentrate and bottled.

Foodie Fact

Elderflower’s are one of natures power flowers.  They contain bio-flavanoids, many of the omega fatty acids, pectin and tanins.  They are also good for allergies, and I feel alot better hayfever-wise after a glass of this flower power.  It also helps colds, flu, fevers and arthritis.

It has been shown that Elderflower can help to remove toxins from the blood, it stabilises kidney function and even helps with intestinal problems.

Proper FLOWER POWER going on here!

Jane gathering Apple Mint

Jane gathering Apple Mint (with her slipper on)

Categories: Foraging, Healing foods, Infusions, Summer | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Primitive Juice Man Conquers Mighty Mountain!

Primitive Juice Man - on the way up

Primitive Juice Man – on the way up

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

Super Juice

The Super Juice

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

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

RAW EARTH MONTH UPDATE

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

View from the bottom - Snowdon, Nantlle Side.

View from the bottom – Snowdon, Nantlle Side.

View of Nantlle Valley from Snowdon

View of Nantlle Valley from Snowdon

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

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

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

Green Banana, Coconut and Almond Smoothie

Makes one large jugful, enough for three glasses:

The Bits

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

Do It

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

Banana, Coconut, Almond and Spinach Smoothie

Banana, Coconut, Almond and Spinach Smoothie

We Love It!

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

Foodie Fact

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

Categories: 'The Good Life', Healthy Living, Raw Food, Smoothies | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Avocado, Coconut and Apple Breakfast Pudding + THE Best Way to Start the Day

Avocado, Lime and Apple Breakfast Pudding

Avocado, Lime and Apple Breakfast Pudding

This makes for a sweet and super nutritious start to the day.  Who says pudding is just for later in the day anyway!  We like to mix things up over here on the hill and this is dessert first thing, what a way to start the day!

A serious combination of goodness this avocado and coconut, to some a pair of fat filled fiends, but to those of us in the nutritious know, two full blown detox powerhouses of legendary proportions.  Am I exaggerating, very probably!!!!  But seriously, don’t be put off by all that fat talk, fat doesn’t even make you fat anyway!  It’s all that sugar aka carbs, aka breakfast cereals…….  We haven’t even got started on how these two actually taste, a mixture made in heaven for certain (if you dig that kind of behaviour).

THE BEST WAY TO START THE DAY

The coco water here is a brilliant re-hydrator due to its high quantity of electrolytes, beats any ‘sports drink’ hands down, and we all need a good dose of hydration in the morning.  This is a dense pudding so get the body fully woken up before you attempt to spoon it down.  We’d always recommend starting the day with a pint of warm water with a squeeze of lemon or a tbs of apple cider vinger (avec mother) in it at least 20 mins before having your breakfast/ pud.  This is the best way to start the day with plenty of good clean fluids which will get the system well oiled, hydrated and sparkling early on.  A pint of water can only help at anytime, especially in the morning when our body has being shriveling up whilst we sleep.

This ‘pudding’ is utterly guilt free!!!!!  It has a firm kick of greens, with some wonder green powder, spinach (or kale, or cabbage leaves, whatever you have handy) and the wonderfully gelatinous linseeds.  This is what gives the coco pudding its super thick texture and pudding-ness.

Naturally sweet and creamy, this could probably be frozen and made into a splendid summer ice cream.  We haven’t tried this though.  Has anyone frozen an avocado?

Good Mornin’s and BHOM!

The Bits

1 avocado, ½ fresh coconut plus coco water (chopped in chunks), 2 sweet apples (halved and seeded), 1 tbs linseeds (soaked for 2 hours), 1 cup coconut milk, ½ lime (zest and juice), 1 handful spinach leaves, 1 tbs barley powder/ wheatgrass/ spirulina

Breakfast Pud in the mix

Breakfast Pud in the mix

Do It

Blend it, all of it, until thick and creamy.  Leave to sit for 15 minutes, let the linseeds do their work and bring things together a little.

Here it is again (in case you missed the first one)

Here it is again (in case you missed the first one)

Serve 

Sprinkle things on top if you like, but its great just as it is and as always, not too cold please, set the flavours free!

We Love It!

What a way to get things going in the morn!  Its fair to say that Jane and I are not natural morning birds, we tend to blossom later in the day, especially when we’re feed some AM dessert!  Hoorah!  What a concept, this could be the next big thing (way bigger than the last big thing, which was just medium/large in comparison.)

Foodie Fact

Coconuts are one of the most nutritious fruits on earth.  It contains a load of lauric acid, which is known for antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial properties and also boost the immune system.

Coconut water (the stuff in the nut) has a huge amount of electrolytes, making it an ace in preventing dehydration.  In some parts of the world they use it intravenously to hydrate critically ill patients.

Coconut, although being high in fat, actually helps you loose weight!  Its good for the heart, rejuvenates the skin (keeping wrinkles away), increases metabolism and actually lowers cholesterol.

Only downside is, they don’t grow in Wales!!!!!

Yesterdays breakfast - eaten in the garden!!!!!

Yesterdays breakfast – Blueberry and Mango Salad with a Banana Tahini Sauce eaten in the garden with the sun!!!!!

Categories: Breakfast, Raw Food, Recipes, Summer, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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