Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Another way to enjoy your greens

Swiss chard and spinaches are greens that I eat only sporadically, as they contain oxalic acid (that binds with calcium and eliminates it from the body). At the market the swiss chard looked delicious so this was a good occasion to break the rule.

Bright green rolls:
-1 cup cannellini beans
-300 grm swiss chard 
-1 grated carrot
-1 clove of garlic
- shoyu or tamari

The nigh before- soak 1  cup of cannellini beans. The day after boil them till tender.
Bring a large stockpot of water to the boil, when the water boils drop the chard and cover the pot, cook till bright green, don't over boil. Drain the leaves and dry them. Save the larger leaves  and chop up finely the smaller leaves.

Heat up 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, and a crushed garlic till golden brown, add 1 crunched dried chillie (or flakes). Stir in the grated carrots and the finely chopped chard  and stir fry till tender but still crunchy. Add the beans and stir. Add few drops of shoyu and cook for another minute.

Spoon over the leaves that were left aside and roll over.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Wholegrain porridge

I was reading the column "the green kitchen" from Richard Ehrlich on the Times magazine last week, we got this delivered together with our food shopping, and it was interestingly about using rice leftovers. The article is not yet online, but it is very much about re-using rice without killing yourself with harmful bacteria that can develop if the rice is not carefully packed and stored in the fridge. I shall link the article as soon as available.
For people that have an interest in a macrobiotic lifestyle, grains leftovers have always been a treasure.
"Re-use the grain from the day before" recommend all the macro teachers and the classic books.
My favourite way to reuse grains and re-energize them is by using them as  porridge.
I cannot imagine a more energetic breakfast then a hot bowl of porridge with a spoon of sugar free preserve (in the picture is a currant one!).
Exact recipes are not really possible (it depends on the leftover grains).
In the picture: quinoa and brown rice porridge.

2 cups of leftover rice
1 cup of leftover quinoa
7 parts of water or 6 parts and 1 part of rice milk

add the water to the grains bring to the boil, turn the flame down and let simmer till the water is absorbed. You want to cook the grain in a heavy weight pot (I use Le Creuset cast iron pot).

I enjoyed my porridge with  few roasted walnuts on top, preserve, blenched apples, but the combinations are endlesss.
For a savoury breakfast, try steam kale, few drops of tamari, seaweeds, gomasio etc...

Even the dark sky at 7 am is more bearable after a good breakfast!

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Pasta with kale and raisins

Lately, and for far too long I have been having lunch at my desk. This is WRONG.
 I think eating means appreciating each single bite, but also the way we eat and whether or not we can concentrate on what we are chewing , will influence our health and the repercussions are the famous bloated stomach, tiredness and so on (we should chew a lot, to make our food more digestible, and to eat less and feel more satysfied).
One in five workers in the UK never takes a lunch break, there is a culture of long hours and clearly this is very bad, in fact the time gained eating at the desk is a false economy, and apart from the health even the productivity really suffer for it.
Apart from this, it often happens to me to say " it's too dull and grey to go out" but that is so untrue. Even just walking around the area where you work (in my lucky case it's beautiful Notting Hill) with an umbrella can make you feel so much better!
Hold on a minute.. no you have no really thouht that I eat out of a plastic container? No, no, no that is beyond being wrong, that is forgetting that you are a human being! The food is dished out in a China plate as no matter what happen, my food is taken very very seriously :)

Whole pasta with kale and raisins

soak 1/4 of a cup of raisin in warm water (they are covered in vegetable oil to preserve them, did you know that?)

200 grm of wholeweat pasta
300 grm of Kale, cut in 2 cm wide strips
2 garlic cloves
1 dried chilly
olive oil

Boil plenty of salted water, and cook the pasta (penne if you ask me) till they are al dente, 1 minute before it's ready add the shredded kale.
Heat up 4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, fry a couple of crushed cloves of garlic  with a pinch of salt till golden, add the crushed chillie.
Drain the pasta and kale and add to the spicey oil  and sauteè for a couple of minutes, add the rinsed raisins. Serve with a sprinkle of nutritional yeast if you like it.

I would like to apologize for not knowing that Gwyneth Paltrow has changed her habits, I  suggested to visit her blog, where she in fact has even a turkey ragu recipe... apologies for the sensitive vegans that have been directed to her site and found it disturbing! I still like the site especially the food pictures are excellent, I'd be interested to know if she took them herself. 

Monday, 24 November 2008

Nice things in November

My new "frugal" addiction is swapping book (yes I do like swapping everything!) a website where you put old books you don't want anymore, just type in their isbn number, the details and picture will come up, just add the description, all you have to do is find books that you want on other members list and if they want one of your you can swap! Better then buying second hand books on Amazon, you can then just post the book 2nd class and voila' in 2 days circa you get a new book, how very recessionista. Just do not expect any macrobiotic recipe book (yet)

Between this site and my friend charity shop I have collected a very tall pile of books, one of them is "Sweetness in the belly" by Camilla Gibb (can anybody help me to understand how come all good writers are from Canada?), she has her say about food too:

[...]"Do you miss eating with a knife and a fork?"
"But it's not very hygienic."
"It's much more sociable, though." There's something uncharitable about having your own plate, something wrong about stabbing your food with a piece of metal. Food tastes right from the hand."[...]

Other things which I discovered this month are that Gwyneth Paltrow has got her website, you can subscribe to her weekly newsletter, which she has not started yet, and receive it into your inbox. Considering that she has been following macrobiotic for few years, I am looking forward to find out what it's all about. I like the look of the site, in this recession time, it all sound very down to earth.

Also a nice list of tips that are actually reliable from Dan Lepard and all the best bakers in the world, because you probably know that the more reliable the source the better bread and cookies you get! But... he wants to know your baking tips, so write them as a comment to the Guardian article and you could win a cookbook.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

I am back (and it's going to get messy)

I am back, just back from the farmers market :) and also back writing this blog after... what seems like a lifetime. Did anybody notice? I am not sure, but definitely my friends did, which is really flattering :) 
I am not going to explain why it's just to boring to share, but I was still cooking, taking notes and getting generally excited about food. 

This weekend hasn't been the mot successful one in the kitchen, but instead of reading it as an Omen (I already binned a few cookies and no macrobiotic cookies are not good- you can't prove me wrong here), I thought if I decide to share then I have to make good stuff!
As a Sunday lunch  baked pasta is so satisfying, but just make sure that you have done your home chores before, as it is going to be impossible to mop the floors after these!

Jerusalem artichoke and walnuts vegan lasagne

Cook the lasagne in some salted boiling water (I add few drop of olive oil) cook for 5 min or according to the package, lay them on a damp tea towel and set them aside.

Peel the artichokes (we used 300 grams for 2 people)
slice them finely (3mm circa), heat a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to a saucepan, and add one crushed clove of garlic and few sag leaves if available, after a couple of minutes add the jerusalem artichockes.
Cook till tender and leave aside.
Preheat oven at 250 C° and toast 1/2 a cup of  walnuts till golden (keep an eye on them as they burn quickly). Grind or like we did crush with a mortar and pestle.

Prepare the besciamel (white sauce):
I start with two tbs of flour in 250 ml of rice milk, cook whisking vigorously till thick (no lumps allowed!) add the olive oil, keep whisking and keep it dry thick and smooth. Turn flame off, grate some nutmeg, pepper and salt.

Now you are ready to layer!
1 layer of lasagna, 1 layer of besciamel and vegetables sprinkle the crushed walnuts, then another layer of lasagna and so on... as much as you like :)

On top of the lasagne I add some more artichokes and some nutritional yeast (it has an acquired taste try it before spoiling the whole thing)
Bake 180C° for 20 min or till the top layer looks golden.

We had it with some Nobile di Montepulciano, and felt strangely quite Christmassy!
This was the first delicious thing that I made the whole weekend.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Rice bells with spring vegetables

What a great day...
Saturdays can be extraordinarily lazy and still give you a full sense of achievement, if this make sense?

I had a bit of a cleaning with my new flatmate and then she gave me a full body massage as she is studying to be a masseur, I always believed in God, now I even think that he cares about my well being :)
You will hear more about my flatmate as she is a great individual that happen to be on the Internet at the right time!

Once you get an hour massage all your energy is refreshed and you feel like you could do anything or even just read in bed all afternoon, but no this wasn't the case.
I made a nice Saturday lunch that was yummy and had a sprig touch.
I just found an old magazine during the cleaning, it got stuck behind the bed as cookery magazines are my bed time reading- weird I know, let's move on.

Rice bells with spring vegetables- for two
1 cup rice 
1 bunch asparagus
1 bunch spring onions
1 3cm piece of ginger
2 medium size new potatoes
bunch of radish (they are 10 in the UK)
some mint leaves

Boil the rice with double the volume of water till the water is all absorbed.
Seam the asparagus till cooked but crunchy (I steamed on top of the rice for 8 minutes)
Chop the stems in small pieces leave the tips to decorate.

In  a large saucepan (everything will fit in it once the rice is cooked), fry the sliced onions with the grated ginger in 4 tablespoon of olive oil.
Once the onion is cooked (7-8 minutes) add the diced potatoes and cover till soft (about 12 minutes) add some water if necessary.

Mix rice, asparagus potatoes in the pan add the radishes quartered.
Shape using bowls or ramekins, decorate with mint and asparagus tips and more radish.

I served immediately  with mache salad.
From an old "cucina e salute naturale" a great Italian magazine... not available in the UK, but always available at my mum house!

Friday, 28 March 2008

food to share: quick crostini

There is nothing as challenging as having a few fussy friends around to feed. Each one of them have their own food preference but also each one not with  something they are not eating.
 I find that having many different things that they can pick save you and them from the embarassment of leaving a whole untouched starter.
I am also in the mood for some colorful food, craving the spring I suppose!
I made my sourdough bread (my favourite recipe being again here) but I have got a good tip for the londoners, end especially the north London one (am I narrowing down my niche too much here?). You can buy your bread at euphorium bakery after 8PM buy one get one free (normally the price is quite high), mhh what a very English idea... However this means you can get bread in the evening and prepare a Sunday Lunch (I refuse to say brunch here), without having to bake, they do sourdough too.

You need to slice your bread in slices of about 1.5 cm then brush them with extra virgin olive oil, and put them in he oven at 200C° for 15 minutes or till golden.

My toppings:
  • Marinated courgettes (sliced finely with a potato peeler), my marinate: 4 tbsp of eldelflower vinegar, 2 tbsp of olive oil, salt to taste, fresh marjoram
  • Roasted and peeled peppers (bake till the skin gets dark, then place in a paper bag for few minutes and then peel of the skin once that they cool down), slice and mix  with green olives, capers and mint (and again a bit of olive oil)
  • tofu cream, which is just a packet of silken tofu blend with a small bunch of dill and a finely chopped leek plus 2 tbs of good shoyu or Tamari soy sauce (I prepare this the night before and keep in the fridge)
  • olive pate' which consist in blend kalamata olives and basil
Isn't just easy to please everyone?

Euphorium Bakery
202 Upper Street Islington

Monday, 24 March 2008

Easter in London and homemade Gnocchi

I was never quite sure whether my mum loved or hated cooking. I think she did like to be adored like the only one that could feed me and dad, but she would have happily put some quicker meals on the table rather then the  Sunday lunches my dad xpected her to. 
The place where I come from in Italy  is all about traditons an when my mum arrived from Eastern Europe (the neighboor called her Bulgarian, Polish and Russian never getting it right) she had to learn quickly from my auntie as my father would not eat any nonsense ethnic stuff. My mum did not know how to cook an egg which was lucky in a way as she did not have her own way to cook and she just picked the Italian one quite quickly.Sunday was normally all about the traditional homemade pasta,"cappelletti" for years. I remember quite clearly that one fine Sunday mum did some gnocchi, an it was as revolutionary as it could get in her kitchen.
On Easter day I have done them just the way she toughed me, boiling the potatoes, mashing them and adding 1/5 of their weight in flour mixing in a dough when the potatoes are still warm. Then I rolled out some ropes of dough cut in  bite size gnocchi and rolled them with my thumb on a fork.
My mum used to do them with fresh tomatoes and basil for me and with ragu' (bolognaise sauce) for her and my father, and they were the most delicious thing ever (or so I remember them to be)
Now I always say to my friends that live in the UK  that thy sould  make them as there is no comparison between the potatoes back home and the ones they have in Britain which are far superior, it's easy and you friends would love it, although I very raely eat potatoes this is my favourite way to use them.  
I did my gnocchi at Easter with an easy easy rocket pesto:
1 bunch rocket
1 clove garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup pistachio nuts
Blend the rocket and garlic and salt add 3 tbs olive oil and taste.
Blend the pistachio nuts, mix with the rocket and add olive oil if you need to preserve it in the fridge (it will keep for 3 days).
Otherwise  put in a sauce pan when your pasta (or gnocchi) is ready add 3 tbsp or more to the pesto of the boiling water to thin it down and
 add the gnocchi to the pesto mixing thoroughly, add dry yeast if your vegan and if you like the taste of it. You can add cashewnuts to the pistachio for a different flavour.
Once again don't buy a jar of pest already made! It's disgusting is not fresh the oil they use is cheap and it would never be as good s you make your own and have it straight away.
The cost of home made:
organic pistachio nuts 1£ for 85gr
olive oil maybe 20 pence for three tbsp
rocket you could grow it on your balcony
salt not sure maybe free if you get it from the neighboor, 50p in Portobello Market.
the waitrose pesto is not vegan and it's 1.99, so fresh is better isn't it? You can obviously add parmesan if you eat dairy but it would still be nicer, and soon you'd be able to do it with basil (ehm it was snowing this morning!)

a guest has a suspicious approach to the rocket pesto :)

Sunday, 16 March 2008

The protest -part two

I would like to thank the Hare Khrisna people that fed us at the protest to end the siege on Gaza,  we were many in Trafalgar Square and they offered food for free. If you feel like giving back you could visit their London restaurant a classic vegetarian address (they are not vegan but you can find some dishes without dairy).

10 Soho street London W1D 3DL,
tel 02074374928
the Bombay mix they gave us at the march was glorious...

Friday, 14 March 2008

A special tahini

Tomorrow like many people we will be attending the protest to end the siege on Gaza in Trafalgar Square, if you would like to see the impact that the siege has you can read it here.
This is only a food blog so  for me the best way to support the cau
se trough it is just to recommend you some ingredients that come from Palestine, so that we can try to support the Palestinians right to have a normal life.
In the UK there are several ways you can get hold of the products from online sellers.
Last week I attended the Palestine Trade Fair at the Arab Chamber of commerce in London, I got to know the products of Canaan Fair Trade (US).
Now if you know me or read my blog you know how I use tahini in almost everything, but the one I bought from the fair is the best I ever had, as it is quite liquid compared to the ones I normally buy but it has really go body and flavor. The olive oil (that I bought from a producer that unfortunately doesn't have a website) has got nothing to envy to an Italian one, and I think that from now on I will always buy Palestinian olive oil.

So if you can't come to Trafalgar square tomorrow (assemble at noon) maybe you can think about filling your pantry with this delicacies.
As they say on the Zaytoun website (UK) the best way is  "resisting the occupation by insisting on life".

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Apple strudel

I don't know what's wrong with me but the more busy I am socially and at work the more prolific I become in the kitchen.
I guess it is just a way to prove myself that I can have a busy schedule and still be an Eco-domestic-goddess? Being submerged with things to do at work and having to find a flatmate (this is a mild form of advertisement if you are interest please leave a comment) I still manage to make all my lunchboxes, and cook almost all my meals. Tonight I went to a restaurant on Essex road called Zigni House, it was delicious! BUT I did not want to skip cooking and made a strudel to have after the dinner... 
So, give me a  lazy Sunday with no commitment and I will probably feed myself with bread and tahini  but pack in so many things in the week, and I will have dozens of pots on the stoves and a funny blob in the oven, I guess cooking makes me so happy that it balances out all the mad stress?

Busy Busy Apple strudel
1 cup whole flour
1/4 cup rice flour
1/4 cup sunflower seeds oil
1/4 cup water
a pinch of salt
3 peeled and diced small apples (I used cox)
1/2 cup raisin
1/2 cup water 
1 teaspoon kuzu
pinch of salt
3/4 cup cashew nuts
1/8 tbs Cinnamon
In a bowl mix together the flour and salt. Rub in the water and oil and make a soft dough, it does not need kneading.Make a ball and leave it to rest while you prepare the filling.
In a small saucepan put all the ingredients for the filling but not the nuts. put on a medium flame and wait till the kuzu is all dissolved and the fruit is covered in the jelly mixture. Let it cool.
Now you can roll the dough between waxed paper ( I have to admit I used tin foil but it's evil so don't do it!)
My dough was really thin (careful not to break it) and the size was like 25cmX10cm. 
You can remove the top sheet and you end up with this almost rectangular thing.
I put the mixture of fruit in the middle and cut slits on the sides and braided them (if you look at the picture you'd understand) :)
You can also spread the mixture all over the surface and simply roll it.

Bake it in a preheat oven 200C° for 30 minutes, when still hot I brush it with 1 teaspoon of rice malt mixed dissolved into 2 of water.

Adapted from Macrobiotic community cookbook by Andrea Bliss-Lerman

Sunday, 9 March 2008

the uplifting aduki beans

Since when I was 18 I learned that to be a good vegetarian you need to soak the beans the night before, no matter if you are planning or not to use them, as once  decided  that you do ... then it's too late!

There are some pulses that can do the job without soaking like certain types of lentils, but to make an hearty soup you need to plan in advance!

I soak mine with a strip of kombu seaweed to avoid digestion problems for almost half of my life, and I try to avoid soggy disgusting canned ones. Canned beans have really the weirdest texture and I can only stand chick peas but really very rarely. 

Cooking with dry pulses is incredibly rewarding and very cheap,  the general rule for a satisfying balanced meal is: one soup, one  grain selection, one long cooking vegetable, and one short cooking one, my long cooking dishes are normally beans.

Once that the beans are soaked overnight you need to boil them for 1 hour I add a strip of kombu seaweed this keeps the pulses more digestible.

Uplifting stir fry

Add 1 tbsp of extravergin olive oil to a pan, add 2 cups of shredded savoy cabbage and few juniper berry, 2 grated carrots, half a sliced red onion, when the vegetables are almost cooked add the cooked beans, a drizzle of tamari and a teaspoon of rice vinegar. Serve sprinkled with gomasio (roasted sesame seeds and sea salt)

This is just an improvised dish but I am trying to use more and more the aduki beans for their amazing properties, and the delicious sweet taste.

If you want to read more about them and wish to find fool-proof recipes click here

Friday, 22 February 2008

Paris for fussy eaters and tired girls on a business trip, vegan paris part 1 (Paris végétalienne)

Having a blackberry is more or less like being kidnapped by the aliens and  having a microchip  

installed behind your ear, you know that they know where you are and there is no excuse and no hiding. I had it for he past week and it was a terrifying experience.

I got into my first trip to Paris after the launch of the new faster Eurostar and the new re-vamped St Pancras station opening, two hours and fifteen minutes can be an eternity if you use the time to reply to an infinite number of email and each flashing envelope on the screen makes you jump in your seat.

So was this a week of hard work and modern days slavery? Well just partly.

I enjoy Paris and go fairly often, even this time after ten hours work and when my thumb was about to fall off (yes the BB again) I still had the energy to go out, and exhausted the day after I never regretted it!

Paris has been difficult for me in the past as it is hardly a paradise for vegetarians, and even if there is a great deal of bakeries and ethnic restaurants I always felt like I was just filling myself with bread and cous cous and not much else.

But something is changing!As soon as I arrived at la Gare du Nord a group of dreadlocked-pierced people were giving food away to the commuters. 

When I approached them the lovely girl that handed over the dahl told me that the food was végétalienne (vegan) and made with the supermarket donations (of ingredients near the expiring date).

they are part of  FOOD NOT BOMBS how could I disagree?

was this really happening in Paris? In the country of the croque-monsieur and Beef Bourguignon

The first night I went to  one of my favourite restaurants: Le Potager du Marais, it is in fact located in the best area, it’s cheap delicious and the atmosphere is so great, I needed to book as he place is minuscule, if I was in Paris with a non-vegetarian I would choose this place for sure as their veg dishes are delicious, also they have great spelt and barley beers and good wines. I liked the fact that the waitresses spoke English, Italian and Greek!

22 Rue Rambuteau

tel 0142742466


A good snack in the afternoon in the Marais could be at the Victoire Supreme du Coeur especially if you don’ mind a bit of rudeness from the staff (maybe I was just unlucky?).

27-31 Rue du Bourg Tibourg

tel 0140419503


My favourite peaceful island to unwind is a macrobiotic place, where the food is delicious and clean and it works on your body when you have been really working hard and talked all day and there are no fashion people on sight…

Au Grande Appetit 

9 Rue de la Cerisaie 

tel 0140270495

You can drink as much Japanese tea as you like and even if you eat a lot you will not spend more then 17 euros. I loved their delicate petit assiette that is a complete and balanced meal that made me feel immediately home. 

The ladies that run the place are very friendly and there is even a Japanese scenographer passionated about Italian theatre that works there part time as the food is soooo good!

The dessert are delicious too. In line with the macrobiotic principles don't expect a fancy restaurant but a simple and pleasant one.


A bizarre place is The Green Garden, the place is a Chinese specialized in Mock meats located in the China town of Paris. It is not central and when I booked it through my hotel (my French is rather poor) the lady at the reception gave me a strange look but I just ignored her and kept my eyes on the infernal device (BB if you were wondering)

20 rue National (M porte d'Ivry

tel 0145829954

I visited the place as it was reviewed on the beautiful Chez Pim blog, the location is really unappealing but the owner is the nicest person and the food is really really good (if you like Chinese of course)


Much more convenient is the  Vietnamese  Tien Hiang restaurant in the Bastille area also specializes in mock meats but as that’s really not my favourite thing I ordered a fresh soup, and what arrived is like the soup I always dream of when I think Asian food. Lots of different  ingredients, quite filling and superhot, it is exactly what I would expect to get at Wagamama (that is sadly always below my expectation). You don't get any cheaper then this in Paris and it is a cheerful simple place just 10 minutes walk from Bastille.


92 rue du Chemin Vert

Tanks to the friends that make Paris always a great place to be! That took me to the theatre, made me laugh, and to the ones that  I met as a coincidence(!)

Monday, 11 February 2008

ready to go again..

Back to the reality far too quickly and getting ready for the next work trip, while I am packing to go to Paris I remember that something terrible happened in the Gambia. My camera has been a victim of my carelessness. My camera has been with me every day ever since I got it as a gift but just in my peculiar style with no case. Of course!
The Gambia is no place for such lousiness and the sand is unforgiving, it gets everywhere.

Today I cook and was about to take a picture of the dish  (freak I know) but I had to take it with my phone and I think this is very likely to be the trend till I get a new one…


Last night I went to see Carbon Casino it was the fifth night of the Carbon Silicon special gigs and you are still on time to catch the last one next Friday!

 "The Carbon Casino" - each Friday from January 11th until February 22nd 2008. To give everybody a chance for entry, there is NO advance tickets for these shows - just turn up on the night holding a £10 note at the Inn on the green in Portobello.

Carbon/Silicon is a Garage Rock duo consisting of Mick Jones formerly of the Clash and Tony James (Generation X) but there is a lot more to see at Carbon Casino lots of other bands DJ set and the athmosphere is  cheerful and genuine, lots of old punks, the audience is really enthusiastic. 

As always after a gig when I woke up I was starving and I also needed to empty the fridge before leaving for Paris.

So the perfect solution was:

Punk Curly Kale Monsters

About 150 gm of Curly Kale

1 small parsnip

2 small leeks

½ cup of Oat flakes

200 grams of firm tofu

Flaked almonds

½ spoon of sodium bicarbonate

2 tbs tamari



I steamed the veggies till soft and blend them with the soy sauce and the other ingredients (a part from the almonds) till really smooth, I divided the blend in individual ramekin topped with almonds baked for 20 mins 180C° till golden and sprinkled with parsley.


Note that I used random vegetables that needed to evacuate the fridge before my departure, most greens will do.

The sun is shining on London again, we are getting spoiled! 

If you are going down to Notting Hill to the last Carbon Casino take advantage of the cheap and great for vegetarians Malaysian Cafè Makan, that has been going for ages and on this neck of the wood that's a pretty good sign.





A gourmet holiday? The Gambia

Friend: So how come you have not been cooking lately, nor you have been talking about some boring farmers market in London?

Glowing happy blogger: I have been to Gambia

Friend: Where??

Glowing happy blogger: Gambia West Africa near Senegal.

Gambia is an inspiring place. Food is probably not what is known for, but the experience of street food or even the family food that was cooked at our compound was truly excellent.

The Gambian food is mainly based on one grain that could be other rice, cous cous or millet, and root vegetables cooked in palm oil. Cassava is what you are more likely to eat every day.

I have to admit that having the vegan version of the Gambian food made me feel a bit of a spoilt child but our guesthouse was vegan so no fussing or embarrassment.
Nyima was our cook, she is an exceptionally beautiful young woman that has been cooking for this very special place for ten years.
My favorite bit of cooking was bought from the street vendors by our host for breakfast we had Accara (fried bean flower) accompanied by what is literally a baguette and some spicy sauce.

Having fried food first thing in the morning is not really the healthiest of things but it seemed perfectly suitable when I was there…

Some other guest requested porridge and they were served a delicious Chura (millet porridge).
In the evening I had different sorts of stews and vegetables but never took any picture after 6PM as I was too hungry to wait! I particularly enjoyed Benachin that is rice cooked with tomato sauce (same principle as a risotto the rice is cooked for absorption) topped in the same pot with some vegetables (or fish for the non-veg).
Generally food is very hot and the chillies are of those kind that you find almost only in Brixton Market and are illegal anywhere else ☺

Interesting food facts from the Gambia:
for a cost reason everything in
Gambia is packed in small plastic bags, rice, sugar, even ice cream come in those!

ice cream in bags
Fans of peanut butter will love Gambia! The groundnut paste is sold everywhere and it’s delicious
Those that avoid sugar will find difficult to explain to Gambian friends why, Gambians are amongst the sweet-toothest people I
ever met.
If want to know where you can learn to drum (djembe’ but also other drums on request), eat vegan food and maybe learn how to cook some west African delicacies just check here

lovely food shop

Sunday, 27 January 2008

On a sunny Saturday

The best thing about living somewhere where the weather is almost always depressing is that it comes as surprise when it isn’t. Everything seems easier when it’s sunny!
On Friday night I didn’t sleep very much I was kept awake for most of the night by teenagers that were dancing and stomping and shouting on the flat above. Mummy was probably away and they are only sixteen so I didn’t feel like arguing and just accepted that on Saturday I would have been shattered. And shattered I was when the delivery company delivered my new bed!
So it was a sunny morning and I was finally saying bye bye to my futon.
Did it get even better? Yes my lovely friends put the bed together without me having to do anything :D
So as a reward for their hard wok I put together a little lunch, something maybe too summery but the day was glorious and all I fancied was salad!

So I got inspiration from the millet tostadas from Susan Marque:

The tostadas are really easy:

1 cup millet
3 cup water
1 pinch of salt

cook the millet in the water till it has absorbed it all, pour it in a baking dish and level it so that is all even, let it cool down.
Cut in squares and fry in a little olive oil. The millet would hold together even without frying it as long as you don't dry it out too much if you slightly overcook it it becomes really unpleasant though.. it's a fine line.

I served it with:
Jerusalem artichokes: peel, slice and bake with 2 tbsp of Shoyu and ½ cup of water

Adzuki beans, soaked overnight, simply boiled with added parsley

Sliced avocados (I know tropical, bad macrobiotic rating!)

Pressed carrots:
Finely grate three carrots, add a pinch of salt and a finely sliced onion. Put a dish on top and a weight and leave for a few hours. Add cumin raisins and lemon juice.

In the beautiful daylight those colourful plates were so joyous!

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

This week best food article

As my friends know and as those that bothered looking into my links I am a big fan of the New Statesman a weekly current affair magazine that makes my evening in more meaningful and my flight or tube journey less dull.
Not just but their art and culture columns are probably the most interesting and stimulatin around and I end up making to do/read/watch lists much more that I would with the Time Out! I have a subscription that somebody that knows me really well gave me as a gift for my birthday last year.

On this week issue Anne Perkins wrote an interesting article about food that is also questioning why eating less meat is not a bad thing... well if you landed on this blog you probably are not eating much meat anyway!

Not writing any recipe now as I a simply enjoying cooking miso soups, grains and steamed veg, no need for a recipe for those!

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Bad habits?

So what are our papers greeting us with in the New Year?
Apparently too much salt, saturated fat and added sugar and not enough fruit, vegetables, whole-grains or oily fish lead to a premature death yawn. What a novelty…

But the news I am afraid is a bit more upsetting that this, apparently the borough of London that will suffer the most will be
Tower Hamlets, Southwark and City and Hackney, as they are the “poor” boroughs. Not just they will be victim of their obesity but also of their smoking habits.
I am furious. I have been living in Shoreditch which isn’t exactly “a poor part” of tower hamlet, but still I did not have a supermarket or a market nearby.I tried to buy some breakfast cereal at the corner shop and it was impossible. Food for “poor people” is full of sugar preservatives colourings etc..

I chose macrobiotic like many people to embrace a more natural lifestyle a simpler way of living and as a more suistainable one. Soaking some dried beans (which I always prefer to tofu or tempeh) eating only seasonal and local seems reasonable and healthy. Reading this article it just feel painfully middle class.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Welcome 2008! (and throat infection)

What a great end 2007 had, the parties the joy, friends, family children, everything great, but now what a miserable beginning!
I am in bed, trying to get better after waking up with swollen glands and throat.
This is for me the time for a more careful diet as the reason for my current status may really be the way I ate during the holiday. I had so much white bread and Pasta and fruit that I was always hungry craving for more!

Hopefully I will be better quickly and enjoying the New Year to the full.

Today I cooked nishime style so “waterless” this should be a very strengthening way of cooking, as it is very “yang”, I am feeling so weak that I really hope that it helps!
I soaked a strip of kombu seaweed and cut it to small squares, I placed them in the bottom of my cast iron saucepan (the lid has to be heavy and fit tightly).
I added very little water (literally few tablespoons).
I cut Hokkaido squash and carrot but you can add a variety of root/round vegetables cut lager for long time cooking and smaller for short time.
I placed the squash as a first layer and the carrot on top. Once the pot is covered you need to put it on a high flame till the lid becomes really hot and you almost can’t touch it, then turn the flame down as much as possible. Cook for 35 min. Add a tablespoon of shoyu replace the lid and cook for further 5 mins.
Today I added few drops of grated ginger juice.