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!).

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Indian Rice Pudding (kheer)

A few weeks ago someone fed me some incredibly lovely Indian-style rice pudding. It was the first time I’d ever had any. Since being vegan, rice pudding has been off the menu and had become nothing but a distant, not very pleasant childhood memory of something from a tin.

Now it’s time to think again! This Indian Rice Pudding is totally delicious, fragrant, creamy and warming. It is made using a combination of almond and coconut milk, basmati rice, coconut, cardamom and the highest quality Organic Saffron strands and Rose Water, from specialist Fairtrade supplier, Steenbergs. Both the saffron and the rose water boast a delicate, precious quality with their origin and fragrance.

This kheer would make a special dessert for supper time over the festive season.. or a mid evening snack with a hint of luxury.

Indian Rice Pudding (kheer)
Serve 4
Preparation/cooking time 1.5 hours

5 cups plant milk (I used 3 coconut milk, 2 sweetened almond) plus extra to add at the end
1/2 cup basmati rice
1/4 cup caster sugar
6 almonds, roughly chopped
1/8 tsp rose water
12 strands of saffron
4 cardamom pods, lightly cracked
2 tbsp desiccated coconut

1. Pour the milks and rice into a medium-sized saucepan and bring to the boil.
2. Stir with a wooden spoon, then turn down to simmer for around 20 mins, or until the rice becomes soft and creamy.
3. Add in the almonds, rose water, saffron and cardamom.
4. Stir in another 3/4 cup of coconut or almond milk.
5. Now place a lid on the saucepan and leave the rice pudding to stand for around an hour. It will soften even more in this time and the flavours will infuse.
6. When you return to the pudding, stir in the desiccated coconut and some more milk if it is too thick and return to the heat to warm thoroughly, before serving (you can also eat it cold of course). I also broke the rice down a bit more by mashing the pudding a few times with a potato masher.
7. Sprinkle with a few flaked almonds or pistachio nuts to serve.

Indian Rice Pudding 2

Yoga and Vegan Cookery Retreat, West Wales

Last week, I was delighted to host a wonderful Yoga and Vegan Cookery Retreat at my Yoga Ashram in West Wales.

Between Friday and Sunday, I was joined by 10+ hungry and enthusiastic students at Yoga Satsanga Ashram, near Whitland, for a full programme of hatha yoga, pranayama, meditation, bhajan singing and lots and lots of vegan cookery!

Our menu showcased some of my favourite dishes from the recently published Viva! Cookbook, including the Artichoke, Butterbean and Filo Pie, Mediterranean Roast Potatoes, Cheeze and Cranberry Parcels, Chestnut Pate en Croute, Porcini Mushroom Gravy, Savoury Scones, Chocolate Chip Muffins and our Big Vanilla Sponge! Many of these recipes can also be found at the accompanying website www.veganrecipeclub.org.uk

Many thanks to budding vegan cook Kass, Sarah and Debi for all their help and support too.

I am hoping to run more such retreats next year, and can also be found leading guided lunch cooking sessions during general Yoga Retreats at the Ashram. Visit their website for more details and dates.

Suma Blogger’s Network: How to feed 66 hungry yogis!

Last weekend saw the very first All Roots Mini Yoga Festival take place near Three Cliffs Bay, on Gower in South West Wales. A collection of yoga teachers from several different disciplines joined together with therapists and yoga practitioners, for three days of inspiring yoga classes, sunshine, good company and great food.

As well as teaching the Sunday morning yoga class, it was great that my good friend Jane Easton (Viva!) and I were able to step in at the last moment and cook dinner for everyone on the Saturday evening. During my time at Viva! Jane and I worked together on dozens of events, cooking vegan in bulk for crowds of people at festivals and roadshows – so it was a great reunion for us to cook together once again.

Using lots of key ingredients from Suma, including Chickpeas, Quinoa, Brown Rice and Gluten-free Flour, we used bulk recipes adapted from Viva!’s Vegan Recipe Club to cook up our Moroccan Chickpea Stew, Quinoa Pilaf and Rice, Mixed Salad, Carrot Salad and three varieties of vegan cake; Coffee and Walnut, Carrot and Gluten-free Lemon Cake.

Ingredient lists for most dishes can be multiplied for bulk cooking, but it is always worth bearing the following points in mind when cooking for lots of people;

  • Cook the dish first to familiarise yourself with its taste and how the ingredients work together
  • Working out the quantities of main ingredients such as vegetables or pulses normally works fine by simple multiplication based on how many people you are feeding
  • Seasoning isn’t so simple. You need to season gradually as you go along, tasting to see how spices and salt are behaving in larger quantities. Some won’t go as far and you may need to add more or less
  • Some dishes improve with time, like stews or curry, so cook these first, while leaving accompaniments like rice or other grains to nearer serving time
  • Don’t be tempted to try to cook everything in one or two large pans. It’s easier to stir and cook large quantities of food spread across several medium-sized pans, especially to be able to stir food with ease
  • When cooking in bulk for a specific event, it can save lots of time preparing and chopping vegetables in advance and taking them with you in covered containers
  • Weighing out herbs and spices in advance also saves time
  • Making use of appliances such as small chopping blenders or food processors can also make bulk cooking quicker (as does having several pairs of hands to help!)
  • If you do have a team of helpers, nominate someone to be in charge of chopping, someone overseeing cooking tasks and one or two people keeping on top of the washing and clearing up
  • Be mindful of good food hygiene practises. Get people to wash their hands and keep hair tied up
  • Discuss how you are going to serve the food before hand and who is responsible for what
  • Don’t underestimate the time required afterwards for clearing plates, washing up and leaving the kitchen clean and tidy
  • Save money by ordering bulk wholefood items from a specialist supplier such as Suma Wholefoods

Moroccan Chickpea Stew (Bulk)
Preparation/cooking time 60 mins
Serves 35-40 people

180ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
6 large onions, medium diced
3 large bulbs garlic, peeled and blended
45g/3 tbsp ground cinnamon
45g/3 tbsp ground cumin
12.5g/2½ tsp cayenne pepper
75g/12 heaping tsp (sweet) paprika
6 x 400g tins OR 2.4L can of chopped tomatoes
15 x 400g tins Suma chickpeas drained OR 3.6K cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed well
2.85L/ 6 pints vegetable stock
45g/3 tbsp brown sugar
Salt to taste (adjust if stock is salty)
Freshly ground black pepper
1K pre-washed spinach, chopped OR the equivalent frozen spinach. If using frozen, reduce stock a little
500g/2 jars sun-dried tomatoes, chopped in blender (if in oil, you can use this to replace some of the olive oil)

Optional
Olives – black, green or mixed – chopped

1. Heat olive oil/sun-dried tomato oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until they begin to turn translucent. Add the garlic to the onions and cook in, lowering the heat if browning starts to occur.

2. Add the cinnamon, cumin, cayenne and paprika and sauté a minute or so. Add tomatoes, chickpeas, stock and sugar. Season with salt and plenty of black pepper.

3. Stir well. The chickpeas should be slightly covered with liquid. If the level is too low, add some water to bring it just above the chickpeas. Bring the mixture to a simmer, and then lower the heat to low and gently simmer for 45 minutes.

4. Remove the soup from heat. Use a potato masher to mash-up some of the chickpeas right in the pot. Stir in the spinach and let it heat through until wilted, just a few minutes. Season again, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve the soup, and sprinkle the sun-dried tomato pieces on the top with a drizzle of their oil if desired.

We served this with Quinoa Pilaf, organic Quinoa supplied by Suma.

Click on an image to open the gallery.

 

A New Venture

Hello faithful blog followers.
I thought I’d write and let you all know I’ve been busy working on a new venture (hence I haven’t been writing many recipes recently). I’ve just completed my training as a Yoga Teacher in Wales. I’ve started a new business called Womankind Yoga Wales and next month I’ll be starting my own yoga class at a dance studio in Swansea. If any of you fancy a look, my new website is www.womankindyoga.com. There is also a blog on there which I’ll be posting yoga related articles on.
With best wishes to you all,
Helen.

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Ashima and Our Diet

Hen

By Ahimsa, Patanjali meant the removal of the desire to kill. All forms of life have an equal right to the air of maya. The saint who uncovers the secret of creation will be in harmony with nature’s countless bewildering expressions. All men may understand this truth by overcoming the passion for destruction. Sri Yukteswar to Paramahansa Yogananda

Ahimsa is simply, not causing pain. In the modern world, if we are observing Yamas as part of our yoga practice, then this, many believe means abstaining from meat, fish and even dairy products.

One of the clearest interpretations of Ahimsa is that we should not condone cruelty to any living being, whether human or animal nor the planet we live on.

Not only does consuming animal products contribute to many major health conditions including cancer, heart disease, stoke and obesity, the means by which the meat goes from field or barn to plate involves a process of great suffering and pain.

The roots of non-injury, non- killing and non-consumption of meat are found in the Vedas, Agamas, Upanishadas, Dharma Shastras, Tirumurai, Yoga Sutras and dozens of other sacred texts of Hinduism.

In our culture and civilisation, we do not need to rely upon meat from animals to provide us with protein. We are no longer hunter-gathers and can easily get all the nutrients we need from a plant-based diet.

No matter which way you turn, the consumption of animal products inherently has involved the fear and suffering of the creature it has been derived from. By going vegetarian or vegan makes a statement that you no longer wish no part in this cycle of suffering.

The meat and dairy industries also cause massive damage to the environment through production of more greenhouse gases than all the world’s transport systems put together, so observing AHIMSA in terms of animals also recognises a love and respect for our planet.

As we grow spiritually, we can experience a great deal of love, compassion and balance with nature and with others following a similar path. Living in peace and with respect for all life creates a wonderful common bond between people and animals.

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be measured by the way in which its animals are treated. Mahatma Gandhi


Vegetable Bhaji from Yoga Satsanga Ashram

Vegetable Bhaji

Vegetable Bhaji
By Yogachariya Jnandev Yoga Satsanga Ashram
Serves 4

With fresh bread rolls, rice and salad

Vegetable oil
1 tbsp cumin seeds
Small bunch spring onions, chopped
4 tomatoes, chopped
½ tsp chili powder
1/s tsp turmeric
½ tsp ground coriander

Cook separately by boiling:
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
½ cauliflower, broken into florets
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, peeled and chopped

Bunch coriander, chopped, to add at the end

1) Heat about 1cm of oil in a medium/large saucepan.
2) When it is hot, add the cumin seeds and allow them to cook for a few minutes.
3) Add in the tomatoes and spring onion and cook until juice appears around the oil from the tomatoes.
4) Now add the chili, turmeric and ground coriander and stir.
5) Place a lid on the saucepan. The spices are cooked when oil appear up around the vegetables.
6) Now add the pre-cooked sweet potato, cauliflower, potatoes and carrots. Mix them in and mash roughly to thicken the bhaji.
7) Now add the coriander and serve.