Just a little raw boost for the New Year

Squash Spagetti Salad 3

The problem, sometimes, with being someone who just loves cooking, is that you can have too much great food! Being a vegan chef means I certainly never, ever, miss out on anything. You name it, I will cook and eat it (if it comes from plants, obviously!).

So this December I’ve been doing just that, at work and at home. Squash and Spinach Filo pies, soups, salads, sweet potato chips, mayonnaise, vegan cream cheese, roasted veg, stuffing, sourdough spread with avocado and Marmite, dahls, chapatis and rice, raw chocolate, raw cake, crumbles, puddings, mince pies, chocolate, more chocolate, udon noodles, edamame, tempura vegetables, ice cream, deluxe chestnut, shallot and mushroom tart, roast potatoes… the list just goes on.

But somewhere, we have to create a balance. Even when you are eating home cooked, delicious vegan food, sometimes our bodies just need a break. Digesting rich foods takes power, it takes energy. After completing a four day yogic fast in the summer, I saw how you can actually increase your energy by fasting and then temporarily eating less and more importantly, eating a bit differently.

I am a realist however and not a food saint. I’m going to share a nutrient packed, colorful, fresh and mostly raw dish and juice to give your body a little rest and a boost.

I’m not saying I’m going to be jumping on the New Year detox bandwagon tomorrow and I’m not suggesting you do either. I’m hoping to embrace a more rounded and sustainable approach. By incorporating more raw fruit and vegetable based dishes and drinks into your diet in general you can give yourself a gentle daily boost that won’t leave you beaten and reaching for that coffee and cake because you’ve simply gone all-out too intensively after a season of indulgence.

Today I started the day with a cup of hot water and a slice of lemon, to get the digestive system moving. I followed this with a cup of matcha green tea, to give me an easy mood and energy lift. This was followed by two pieces of wholemeal toast with almond butter and banana.

Hot lemon

Supergreens Juicce 2

Mid morning I had my Supergreens Juice. Nutrient packed, this tangy and wholesome juice will really get you off to a great start!

Supergreens Juice
Serves 1
Pass the following ingredients through your juicer, and enjoy! 

5 romane lettuce leaves or other lettuce leaves
2 handfuls kale
2 handfuls spinach
1 apple
1 stick of celery
6 mint leaves
1/4 pineapple

If you don’t have a juicer, but only a smoothie maker like a Nutribullet, you can make a Supergreens Smoothie instead: 

2 romane lettuce leaves or other lettuce leaves
2 handfuls kale
2 handfuls spinach
6 mint leaves
1/4 pineapple
Dash of lemon juice (optional)
Topped up with 1/4 cup of water or more to reach desired consistency if the smoothie is too thick. You can add the apple and celery, but they give a lumpy consistency when blended.

For lunch I put together a salad bowl of Raw Squash Spaghetti, Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, Hummus, Edamame, Peppers, Lamb’s Lettuce and Raw Vegetable Cous Cous.

Super Raw Salad Bowl
Serves 1

2 handfuls lambs lettuce
1/4 small butternut squash or carrot, spiralized or grated
2 tbsp hummus (homemade or shop-brought)
1 tbsp fresh edamame
3 tbsp mixed diced pepper
3 tbsp raw vegetable cous cous

How to make Raw Vegetable Cous Cous
Serves 2
Raw Vegetable Cous Cous is the latest thing! You can ever buy it in Tesco. It’s great for a raw meal and especially handy for wheat-free diners.

This variety was made by placing the following ingredients into my food processor and blending in turn:

1/4 head broccoli florets
1 raw beetroot, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, washed and roughly chopped
1/2 red onion, roughly chopped
4 baby corn

Dressed with 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar mixed with 2 tbsp olive oil, cracked sea salt and black pepper. Add in different veg to see how it turns out! for example cauliflower or peppers.

Here’s another recipe for an amazing looking Raw Veggie Medley Cous Cous to give you some more ideas.

Squash Spagetti Salad 2

So why not treat yourself and your body to some fresh, raw and lively foods this January, if not everyday, whenever you feel like you need a lift and your body needs some TLC.

Chestnut, Wild Mushroom and Cranberry Tart

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Now the pots and pans have found their proper homes in the new kitchen at Urban Zen Yoga Wholefood Cafe in Swansea, I’ve had time to make some specials. We have served up a couple of delicious Squash, Spinach and Toasted Pinenut Filo Pies in the last couple of weeks. This week, manager Amina, came across this delightful seasonal tart recipe from Jamie Oliver. While I can’t take credit for this recipe, I just had to share it, since it has been crowned such a triumph in the lead up to Christmas. It is great to see popular chefs such as Jamie embracing more and more vegan food.

Here is the link to the recipe. All I did to make it simple was use ready made Jus Roll Shortcrust Pastry instead of making my own. I also topped it with fresh rhyme, not parsley.IMG_20151217_135121

 

 

 

 

 

 

Urban Zen leading Swansea food revolution

Rainbow SaladIt’s been a month since Swansea’s first vegan cafe and yoga studio opened its doors. Urban Zen, on Little Gam Street, has been causing some serious ripples in the Swansea food scene!

What no cow’s milk? What no bacon sandwiches? That’s right. And I’m very proud to be the head cook at this revolutionary new business in the city centre. Since August I have been worked closely with the owner, Emily Cole, to develop a unique and innovative wholefood menu that aims to fill people with nothing but delicious and extremely healthy food. We’re had a fantastic first month, welcoming hundreds of people through the doors to what is only Wales’ second 100% vegan eatery.

We offer an extensive breakfast and lunch menu, alongside cakes and a large selection of juices, smoothies, teas and coffees. You can read more by visiting www.urbanzenyogacafe.com or finding us on Facebook, where we are very proud of receiving no less than forty five 5* reviews already!

The cafe at Urban Zen was created out of a passion for nourishing people with delicious whole foods.

“Our aim was to create an exciting menu and environment that supports health and sustainability for both our community and the planet.

Our plant based menu is prepared with love and changes regularly to reflect the seasons, we source locally and organic where possible. We promise to never serve you anything from the “dirty dozen” (the Environmental Working Group’s list of foods with the highest levels of chemicals and pesticides present) unless it’s organic, regardless of the cost or difficulty in sourcing.

We invite you to visit our unique space and enjoy being someone that chooses to love your food, respect your body and have fun whilst being nourished.”

urbanzen-menu.jpg

Here are some highlights in pictures! The first image is of owner, Emily Cole, enjoying the first Full Vegan Breakfast on opening day.

New Yoga Studio and Vegan Cafe for Swansea

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After three years of running Lots of Nice Things and being involved in many different vegan food projects and events and after much hard work, I am delighted to tell you all that I am going to be starting work as Head Cook in a new vegan cafe and yoga studio in Swansea.

Urban Zen Yoga Studio & Cafe will offer a wide variety of Yoga classes and health treatments alongside its wholefood cafe in the heart of Swansea city centre and I am currently working hard producing its first menu!

My heart tells me it is time to bring Lots of Nice Things to a close. I’d like to thank you all for your interest and support over the last few years and I hope you’ll continue to follow my work and recipes through Urban Zen Cafe. Our website, which currently under construction, will feature a blog where you’ll be able to see exactly what we’ve been up to. You can also follow on Facebook.

If you happen to be in Wales, please come down and say hello.

With love,

Annapurna (Helen)

Catering for a Yoga Retreat

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of going to work as a private chef on a Yoga Retreat in Worcestershire. The brief was to produce three meals a day for ten women, using as many organic ingredients as possible. All the food was of course vegan. I had a wonderful time in the kitchen and the event gave me the opportunity to showcase some of the dishes I’ve been working on over the last few months.

It was also amazing to practice some yoga with the inspirational Leela Miller, of Tri Yoga, London.

Many thanks to The Organic Fresh Food Company of Lampeter in Wales for their assistance in my very large order of organic produce (all of which was fantastic!).

Kale and Walnut Pesto or Dip

Kale is such an amazing food. I’ve recently been eating lots more of it, after my friend Ruth told me about ‘massaging’ it with olive oil. If you haven’t tried this, do give it a go! Here is a link to an article about it from the Huffington Post. Kale is so fabulous – containing vitamins A, C and K as well as minerals like copper, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus. A cup of fresh kale has only about 40 calories but packs almost three grams of protein.
So I thought I’d try making a pesto or dip with raw kale, as another way to enjoy this super-green. Enjoy stirred through warm pasta, or spread onto some lovely wholemeal bread.

Kale and Walnut Pesto 2Kale and Walnut Pesto or Dip
Makes one medium pot

2 handfuls of chopped kale
4 tbsp walnut pieces
1 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
1/4 tsp sea salt
Pinch black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
12 cherry tomatoes or 6 medium tomatoes, chopped

Place all ingredients together in a high-speed blender, like a Nutribullet and blend until smooth or a consistency you like is reached. Taste and add more seasoning if you need. If the pesto/dip is too thick, add more oil, or a splash of plant milk if you prefer. Enjoy!

The best ever Vegan Chocolate Cake

Introducing what I believe is the very finest vegan chocolate cake. It will turn heads, make people close their eyes and smile as they eat it..

It’s called the Affinities Cake. It’s not my recipe, I wish it was! No, it is taken from a feature in The Telegraph and was given to my mother-in-law when she was hunting for the perfect recipe to use for our wedding cake. The original recipe is by Chantal Coady, the only difference here is that I make a vegan ganache by melting chocolate into hot almond milk. I decorate mine with raspberries, rose petals, marigold flowers and cocoa nibs.

The Affinities Cake

The Affinities Cake
Cooking time: 1 hour 20 mins

200g (7oz) plain flour
75g (2¾oz) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
200g (7oz) golden caster sugar
100g (3½oz) ground almonds
A small pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp good-quality balsamic vinegar
6 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
400ml (14fl oz) prune juice
Fresh pink rose petals, to decorate
For the ganache
170g (6oz) good-quality dark chocolate
150ml (5fl oz) almond milk

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2. Grease the insides of a deep 20cm (8in) round cake tin, or loose-bottomed 20cm (8in) cake tin, with olive oil and line the bottom of the tin with greaseproof paper. If you are using a loose-bottomed tin, double-line it with greaseproof paper (line the base, the sides, then line the base again to seal the lining), to prevent the mixture leaking out.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl, then add the sugar, ground almonds and salt. Make three holes in the dry mixture with a spoon. Put the vanilla in one hole, the vinegar in the second, and the oil into the third. Pour in the prune juice and mix well. Bubbles will start to rise to the surface. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 45 minutes to one hour, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove the cake from the tin and leave it to cool on a wire rack.

To make the ganache icing, blitz the chocolate into crumbs in a food processor. Place the crumbs in a heat-proof glass bowl. Heat the milk to boiling point in a heavy-based saucepan, then pour the milk over the chocolate. Gently mix the chocolate with the milk, working from the centre of the bowl outwards with a rubber spatula, until you have a smooth and glossy emulsion. Let it cool to room temperature, then spread it on top of the cooled cake.

NB this cake usually takes about 1 hour 15 mins to cook! Keep testing it, but don’t take it out of the oven to do so, otherwise it may sink.