Our famous Vegan Spanakopita

So as a vegetarian, I loved Spinach and Feta Pie, or Spanakopita. But as I love cows more than I do cheese, I thought it was only fair I make my own Vegan Spanakopita. It has now become a firm favourite at Urban Zen Yoga Cafe in Swansea, where one pie generally sells out within a couple of hours. So I thought I’d share spread the love and share the recipe. It’s the perfect thing to enjoy on a warm summers day with some nice potatoes and salad.

Vegan Spanakopita
Serves 4-6
Takes 35 minutes to make and cook

1.2kg approx  firm tofu, patted dry and crumbled
6 spring onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
4 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp tahini
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tbsp fresh dill or parsley or dried mixed herbs
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp toasted pinenuts or cashew pieces (plus a few extra to top)
1 tbsp mixed seeds (optional)
Juice of ½ a lemon
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1 large bag spinach, washed. You can add other greens like pea shoots too
1 pack Filo Pastry, Jus Roll is vegan

1. Wilt the spinach in a pan in a little water and then set aside. Drain off excess water.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the other ingredients together, apart from the filo pastry. Mix it all in well and add in the spinach.
3. Brush a large, deep oven dish with olive oil. Layer 3-4 sheets of filo pastry all around the dish, across the bottom and up over the sides, with enough pastry to fold over a few inches into the middle. You need to brush olive oil in between each sheet as you layer it.
4. Spoon the tofu mix onto the pasty and smooth down with a spatula until evenly and firmly distributed. Now place some filo layers over the top, brushing with oil and you go, so the pie becomes enclosed. Smooth off the top with more olive oil.
6. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C/Gas Mark 6, for 20 minutes, until the top is golden.
7. Serve with additional toasted pinenuts sprinkled across the top with a lovely salad and potatoes.

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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.

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.

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!).

Redbush Chai Vegan Cupcakes

From many a weekend spent enjoying homemade soya chai at my yoga teacher training school, Yoga Satsanga Ashram in West Wales, I have developed a love for tea infused with Indian spices. I’m also trying to reduce the amount of caffeine I have and so was delighted to try two varieties of loose Redbush Tea from organic suppliers, Steenbergs. After enjoying several pots of warm and fragrant Redbush Chai and Vanilla Redbush, I thought it would be a grand idea to try to transfer the flavours into some soft and delicate cupcakes; and so here they are. The little bundles were dusted off with some milled cocoa nibs, cinnamon and icing sugar. The recipe follows the pictures.

Cupcakes5 Cupcakes4 Cupcakes2 Cupcakes 1
Redbush Vanilla Chai Cupcakes

Makes 12
Preparation/cooking time 30 mins

1.5 cups almond milk
2 tbsp of Redbush Vanilla Chai Tea*
1/4 cup vegetable or sunflower oil
1/4 cup coconut or soya yoghurt (I used Coyo Coconut Yoghurt)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups plain flour
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Topping
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tbsp cocoa nibs, milled (I used Steenbergs) or cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 180C or 160C with a fan assisted oven.
2. Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.
3. Heat your almond milk in a small saucepan until nearly boiling. Stir in the loose tea, over and remove from the heat. Let it rest for 10 mins.
4. The pour the tea mixture into a jug through a tea strainer, to collect the loose tea. If you are left with any less than 1 and a half cups of tea mixture, add a bit more milk (this is about 12.5 fl oz).
5. Whisk the oil, yoghurt, sugar and vanilla into the tea mixture until smooth.
6. Now sift in the flour, raising agents and salt, mixing with a wooden spoon until all the large lumps are gone.
7. Use a tablespoon to fill the cupcake liners to the top and then bake for around 22-25 mins. They are cooked when a skewer inserted in one comes out clean.
8. Allow to cool completely while you prepare the topping.
9. Mill the cocoa nibs (I used my Nutribullet) or similar grinder (or use cocoa powder).
10.  Combine the icing sugar, cocoa, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl, then shift over the top of the cupcakes.
11. Enjoy with a matching cup of Redbush Chai Tea!

*You could use ordinary Redbush tea, then add 2 tbsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ground cardamom, 1/2 tsp ground ginger and 1/4 tsp ground cloves.

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.