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.

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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.

 

Welsh Pea, Mint and New Potato Fritters

Buddha
Having a veg box delivered featuring both Welsh and English produce helps keep eating seasonally in check. As the summer continues, I also have an abundance of mint plants expanding across my balcony garden. So with bags of peas in pods and new potatoes from Gower and a few sprigs of homegrown mint, I thought some little potato fritters would do nicely for a small person’s dinner last night, or a lunchtime snack.

Pea and Mint Fritters blog1
Welsh Pea, Mint and New Potato Fritters
Makes 4 fritters
Preparation/cooking time 30 mins

4 medium New Potatoes, cubed
24 peas in pods
1 tbsp vegan margarine
4 small heads of mint, finely chopped
Salt and pepper (no salt if cooking for children)
1 tbsp Nutritional Yeast Flakes
Olive oil for frying

1) Pop the peas and place them all into a medium saucepan with the potato.
2) Cover with water, bring to the boil, then turn down to simmer for 15 mins until pots are soft.
3) Drain peas and pots and add in all the other ingredients into the saucepan.
4) Roughly mash everything together with a potato masher. Taste, then add more seasoning or yeast flakes if required.
5) Shape into four fritters and fry in olive oil in a wide frying pan, on a medium heat. Turn over once the fritters are golden on one side.
6) Serve with tomato salad.

Mint  Pea and Mint Fritters blog2

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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Soya Spiced Chai

Chai mix

Chai mix

I am lucky enough to be spending some time at a lovely Ashram in West Wales once a month as I train to become a yoga teacher. One of the nicest parts of my time there is enjoying the traditional Indian cooking of Surender, our teacher and helping to make pots of comforting spiced chai. I’ve started making some every morning, so I thought I’d share the recipe with you all.

Soya Spiced Chai
Serves 2

Spice mix
2 cardamom pods
2 cloves
1cm fresh ginger,
Optional:
1/4 star anise
Small piece cinnamon stick
2 white pepper corns

2 tea bags, either normal tea or use Redbush for a caffeine-free version
2 mugs water
1 mug soya milk
2 tbsp brown sugar

1. Grind together all your spices in a mortar and pestle, or small electric grinder.
2. Place them in a saucepan, with the tea bags and water.
3. Bring it to the boil, then turn down to simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Now remove the tea bags and add the soya milk. Continue to simmer for another 5 minutes so all the flavours infuse.
5. Add the sugar and stir.
6. Serve hot into cups through a tea-strainer.

A trip to the Junk Yard

Beetroot Bomb 2

Beetroot Bomb

I’ve cooked food in a range of different places, from yurts and tents, to caravans, campfires, restaurants and little kitchens. It’s also been fun recently to take pictures of food in different places! We’ve been putting together a new website for Pioneering Vegetarian Producers The Parsnipship. Head Chef Ben said he ‘didn’t like plates’, so we thought we’d pay a trip to a neighbouring junk yard, with a tray full of their lovely pies and bakes. You will soon be able to order them online and have them delivered to your door, anywhere in the UK.

Beetroot Bomb Fire 2

Beetroot Bomb on Fire

Indian Summer Pie Junk

Indian Summer Pie

Log and metal

Hanging out in the junk yard

Landrover 2

Mushroom and Nut Junk 2 small

Mushroom and Nut Roast