Broccoli & Lentil Curry

I honestly cannot understand people who hate broccoli.


Now hold on- give the poor vegetable a chance! Broccoli has been unfairly lumped with the most hated vegetables, amongst brussel sprouts, cauliflower and beetroot. All of these vegetables have redeemable qualities; except you beetroot, you’re absolutely hopeless.


I find that the reason why people hate these vegetables is often not because of the way the vegetable tastes but the way that it is prepared. Broccoli is often steamed until it becomes a mushy lump of green slime. I’m here to show you that broccoli doesn’t need to be steamed into submission, it can be thrown into a curry just before serving, left to soften and absorb the flavours of the curry and come out tasting fantastico! Don’t believe me, just give this recipe a try.

 

Broccoli & Lentil Curry

Ingredients

  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • a cinnamon stick
  • 2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1×14 oz tin of coconut milk
  • 1 cup dry red lentils
  • 200g chopped broccoli florets
  • 200g chopped green beans
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 3 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Optional for serving: chopped peanuts, fresh parsley, naan bread, jasmine rice, squeeze of lemon juice

Method

  1. Heat some olive oil in a large non-stick saucepan. When the oil is hot, add the onions and the cinnamon stick. Fry the onions on high until starting to turn golden brown.
  2. Add the curry paste and tomato paste and stir to combine. Cook for 2 minutes or until the tomato paste is starting to caramelise; you’ll be able to tell by the browning of the tomato paste on the edges and the smell of the curry. Slowly pour in the coconut milk, stirring whilst you do so. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If the curry is too spicy then add more coconut milk.
  3. Bring the sauce to a boil before adding the lentils and reducing the heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the lentils are cooked- they should be soft but not firm to the bite. Throw in the broccoli and green beans and stir to coat in the sauce. Cook for another 5 minutes. If you find that the curry is too thick for the broccoli then add ½ cup of water to loosen it up.
  4. Just before serving, stir the garam masala and lemon juice through the curry and season one last time with salt and pepper. Serve hot with some warm naan and jasmine rice- enjoy!
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Easy Strawberry Vanilla Vegan Crepes

After the crazy first week of college that I’ve had, I could use a batch of these deliciously light crepes.


Hi! It’s been a while, I know. Quick update: I have since relocated to Philadelphia. Pennsylvania in the USA from Zimbabwe to start college at the University of Pennsylvania! How’s the first few weeks of college been? Insane, wild and fun to put it in a few words. Expect a blog post detailing my experiences to come soon!

Anyways, on to this recipe. I think that crepes are severely underrated and underappreciated. The French really had something going with this one. Crepes can be had as either a breakfast option or a dessert, but the best part of having crepes is that the basic recipe never changes but there is an infinite combination of crepe fillings. I just filled these with cacao macademia spread (a vegan alternative to Nutella) and fresh strawberries but you can go with whatever you like! I’ve previously used lemon curd, strawberry jam and even plain sugar. You can top them with powdered sugar, ice cream, custard, the limits go as far as your imagination!


Strawberry Vanilla Vegan Crepes 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 cups soy milk (or any other plant based milk)
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 tbsp any neutral oil (I used coconut oil but vegetable oil would work too)
  • ½ cup strawberry jam or chocolate spread
  • 100g fresh strawberries, sliced in half

Method

  1. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Stir together before pouring in the soy milk, vanilla essence and oil. Stir with a fork until just combined. Don’t worry about getting all the lumps out it’s okay if there are a few here and there. The batter should be very runny.
  2. Heat a large saucepan on high and brush with some oil. Try not to add to much oil to the pan otherwise the crepe batter will run with the oil. Use a ladle to pour the crepe batter in the saucepan. Swirl the pan around to spread the crepe batter all around the bottom of the pan. Cook until the edges of the crepe start to turn up, about 2 minutes, before turning over. Remove the warm crepe to a plate and store in a warm oven so that they don’t get cold. Repeat the process until you’ve used up all the crepe batter.
  3. Once you’ve cooked all the crepes, spread the lighter side of the crepes with some strawberry jam or chocolate spread. Fold the crepes into half and then into quarters before serving topped with the fresh strawberries. Enjoy!

Maple Pecan Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

This is a winner right here, ladies and gentlemen.



Is there any greater blessing to a baker than that of overripe bananas? I don’t happen to think so. I rescued these bananas from a dire situation in which my father was about to toss them in the compost heap. It took a fair bit of convincing on my part for my dad to believe that these bananas were of actual value and that no, they would not make him sick.


The chocolate pecan topping on his bread is what makes it oh-so-delightful, staring at it just makes my mouth water! The bananas help make this bread incredibly moist whilst using maple syrup as a sweetener enhances the flavour as it pairs so well with the pecans. For extra flavour points, roast the pecans on the stove or in a hot oven for 10 minutes or until fragrant. That’s a one way ticket to bliss!

Maple Pecan Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe bananas, peeled
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup milk of your choice (I used soy)
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1+½ cups cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • a pinch of salt
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped roughly
  • 50g chopped pecans

Method 

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F. Grease a standard loaf and pan and line with parchment paper.
  2. Add the ripe bananas, egg, milk, maple syrup and vegetable oil to a blender. Blend until combined, about 2 minutes. Separately, add the cake flour, baking powder and cinnamon and salt to a large bowl and stir to combine. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and use a rubber spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the wet.
  3. Throw in the chocolate and pecans, making sure to reserve some for the top of the cake. Stir with a rubber spatula to distribute the nuts. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the nuts and chocolate over the top. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out with a few crumbs. Allow to cool before serving, enjoy!

Saying Goodbye

Never thought that this moment would arrive but Father Time will always find a moment to catch up with you.

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To catch you up to speed, I graduated high school last year in Zimbabwe and I am starting college at the University of Pennsylvania this fall. The Southern African school calendar is marginally different from the rest of the world: whilst we graduated in November 2016, my American age mates only graduated in April of 2017 which meant a 10 month holiday until the start of college in late August. So what exactly does one do with themselves during this period? If you’re me, then you backpack across Europe, take up cycling on the weekends and read more books than you ever thought possible. What can I say, I’m not your typical party-going 18 year old.

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You may have noticed that I have neglected to publish any posts over the last 2 weeks and mind you, it’s not out of laziness. I decided to put the blog work away and postpone any distractions so that I could properly bid adieu to the place I was born, and have spent the past 18 years of my life in. It’s not easy when every landmark reminds you of an event; there’s the insurmountable hill that crushed us when we decided to run a 12km race, now we’re driving past my nursery school and look, that’s the restaurant where we hosted my 5th birthday party!

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One thing that several of my parents’ friends have said to me is that when I next return home, I will be looking at it through the eyes of an outsider. Moving away is like uprooting yourself from the comfortable pot you had sprouted in only be transported to an expansive field, where you have more space to grow, flower and really turn yourself into the person you want to be.

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Although it is difficult to say goodbye, everything has to come to an end. There is a time for everything, I’ve had my time to relax and bum around for the past 10 months, but now it is time for me to put my head down and get back to work. Obviously in between getting to know my fellow classmates, exploring the city of Philadelphia and just having fun you know? As I close this chapter of my life, I remember to be grateful for all the experiences I have had, I have only fond childhood memories to look back on. Several photos I take with me, including the ones in this post that were all taken by me. I am eager to make new memories in the US of A!

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Sending warm hugs to wherever you are in the world, let this be a reminder for you to get out there and try something new!

x Andy

Italy – Rome + Venice

I apologise to you in advance for what I am going to say next. I acknowledge the sheer controversy surrounding my statements to follow but I have a commitment to tell the truth to my readers. To all my Italian readers and Italophiles out there- I am sorry.

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After exploring Geneva for a week, the next stop was Italy. We planned to spend 4 days exploring the 2 major tourist destinations, Rome and Venice. The first thing I have to tell you is that the Italian countryside is unattractive. We took the train from Rome to Venice and there was not a single thing to marvel at. Perhaps we travelled at the wrong time of year when the flowers had not yet bloomed or there hadn’t been rain for some time, but it was like a barren wasteland. We spent 9 hours on the train, 2 hours more than had been anticipated, but with a transport strike to follow the next day, I don’t think the Italians were all too bothered about the delay. The landscapes were largely marked by fields of dry yellow grass, rundown gloomy farmhouses and large expanses of empty fields. My advice to you: air travel would be the smartest way to get around Italy. Not only are airlines immune to transport strikes, the views will not disappoint you and you are expected to arrive at your destination on time, even if delayed, the wait time isn’t usually too grievous.

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Rome

Rome is an ancient city. Just how ancient? The city is approximately 2770 years old, having been founded in 753 BC. It has seen numerous bloodbaths: the city has been sacked 6 times by greedy barbarians looking to expand their territories. The Colosseum is a spectacle to behold, although one must not forget the immense suffering that took place within its walls. Slaves were forced to dress as gladiators and compelled to fight to the death; their opponent either another unfortunate soul who found themselves in that precarious situation, or a ferocious (and famished) wild lion looking to appease its ravenous appetite. Even after the fall of Western Roman empire, the Dark Ages and the black death, the city still persisted. Ancient Roman monuments are still standing today and we are able to marvel at the rich history of the city and study the demise of what I think is the world’s greatest empire.

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We stayed at the Youth Station Hostel, which is a wonderful place to stay if you’re a student on a budget. They provide everything a millennial backpacker needs: a hot shower, clean bed linens and reliable Wi-Fi. If you’re not willing to share a room with 8 strangers, cannot survive without room service and detest bunk beds then I suggest trying the Four Seasons Hotel a few blocks away. We were on a strict budget, and nothing sounds more magical to a student than ‘€11 a night’ (about USD12). This hostel is perfect for anyone who’s on a budget and I would recommend it!

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The buffet spread at a restaurant down the road from our hostel!

It was here that we met Pierre-Louis Tharreau, a Parisain freelance photographer/videographer. Pierre is passionate about travelling and capturing the sights he sees in stunning photos and video clips. He has previously lived in India, teaching English and in the UK, studying photography. You can check out his YouTube channel here. Sa langue principale est le français but don’t despair if you don’t understand French, he does add English subtitles!

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We only had 1 full day in Rome and we spent it walking around the Colosseum and its surrounding sites. Think Torre Argentina (where Caesar is believed to have been stabbed by his closest friends), Septimius Severus Arch Arco di Settimio Severo (Italians are really good at naming things) and the Altare della Patria. The icing on the cake was watching the sunset at Gianicolo Hill, which is famous for not being of Rome’s Seven Hills, which is pretty elitist in my opinion. You can see the entire city of Rome here, though our view was somewhat obstructed by a couple of overgrown trees.

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 Another thing you need to know about Rome, and Italy in general is that everything is looking to take your money. Some will be very upfront about it, others will be sly and try to pinch your wallet whilst you’re not looking, but you should beware the cunning who construct elaborate plans to extract your hard earned dollars. Dear Gladiator, I am looking at you. Whilst taking photos outside one of Rome’s many basilicas, an enthusiastic Roman gladiator decided to steal the spotlight and pose for a photo with Ruva. Mind you, he hadn’t been invited to the photoshoot but his cheap costume enthralled us and our guards came crashing down. We put on dramatic heroic faces as we stabbed our new gladiator friend with his wooden sword, our thoughts preoccupied with how cool the Instagram shot would look. 2 minutes later, he stuck out his hand demanding €10 (about USD11).

We reluctantly paid his bill, splitting it between the two of us. Instagram banished from my thoughts, my thoughts wandered to all the things that could have afforded me- another night in Rome, dinner for tonight, a bus pass… You’ll be glad to hear that when a slick-backed Italian approached us in Venice offering a bouquet of red roses, we vehemently refused. What you should spend your money on- having your portrait painted.

Venice

You already know how I feel about the train ride from Rome to Venice so I’ll avoid talking about the journey. I’ll just tell you about the train station. Feeling drained and exhausted from the extended train journey, we decided to grab a snack in the train station. Ruva trotted off to a coffee shop to find a drink whilst I installed myself in a sandwich shop with my first meal in 12 hours. I don’t know about you but I enjoy people-watching. I couldn’t help but notice a shabby middle aged woman jumping from person to person outside the shop. Honestly speaking, I was too tired to give her a second thought and was quick to dismiss her when she came to my table asking for money. If you think that I gave her a cold reception, it was nothing compared to the people sitting at the table next to me. ‘THIEF!’ they exclaimed, ‘She just tried to rob us outside the shop, get out!’ screamed the distraught Americans. My curiosity aroused, I decided to actively spectate the debacle. Rapid Italian insults (I imagine they were insults, the old lady didn’t use a very polite tone) followed and the beggar was quickly dismissed from the shop. Ruva arrived with her hot chocolate soon after, having missed the entire thing. I was quick to alert her to the actions of the pickpocket outside though. There is no way that that man lacked coordination to the extent that he had to lean heavily on everyone who walked past him.

DSC_0050.JPGBefore I forget to mention it, we stayed at Camping Rialto. Yep, that’s a camping site. I’ll say it one more time for the people at the back, we slept at a camping site, in a tent. A nicely furnished tent for that matter, it housed 2 single beds with clean linens, a thick blanket and smooth wooden flooring. It was my first time sleeping in a tent, and I wish that someone told me how hot tents get. It’s like a greenhouse, the air feels like it’s suffocating you. It’s pretty glamorous for a campsite, I only begrudge the fact that there were 8 charging stations for the entire campsite which houses about 200 people. You can imagine how nightmarish that would be for millennials. All in all, I did enjoy our stay here (and the price) and I would recommend it to all my fellow backpackers.

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Fun fact: the touristic Venice only encompasses the island of Venice. Mainland Venice, known as Venezia Mestre is generally unattractive and there’s not much to see. I would like to tell you that every street corner on the island of Venice was painted in beautiful pastel, lined with marvellous cobblestones and adorned by beautiful colourful magnolias. That may be true for the streets of Venice that are most frequently walked by tourists, but it doesn’t reflect the quieter side of town, where the less affluent Venezians reside.

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For what it’s worth, Venice is incredibly stunning. However there isn’t much to it besides walking around, getting lost and discovering yet another canal. With the price of a gondola ride starting at €80 (about USD90), that’s the only thing we could afford to do. Thankfully, the price of food was more reasonable. I enjoyed several cups of authenitc Italian gelato, almond cream filled cannolis and even a glass of Prosecco. This city has a multitude of picturesque scenes but to avoid boredom, I would advise you not to spend more than 24 hours here.

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We had initially planned to take the boat out to Lido Beach and spend our second day there, but we hadn’t factored the transport strike into the equation. Private boats had the monopoly on the canals and we weren’t keen on spending €40 (about USD45) on a trip that was supposed to only cost half as much. Alternatively, we visited the Magnum store and had custom Magnums made for us for the grand total of €5! The rest of the trip was characterised by getting lost, discovering even more basilicas and chasing pigeons.

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That sums up our tour of Italy! If you have any questions then feel free to ask me in the comments. Did you have a different experience in Italy? Let me know! As always, sending love to wherever you are in the world!

x Andy

 

Almond Caramel Apple Shortcakes

Today’s post is proudly inspired by Mary Berry.


If you’ve never heard of her, firstly, do you live under a rock? Secondly, I’d like you to Google the Great British Bake-Off. I’ll give you a moment to catch up with the rest of the world before coming back to this post. Are we all on the same page now? Good, let’s continue.



Last week my mum and I were watching her cooking show, Mary Berry Cooks, this particular episode being about summer entertaining and afternoon tea. In case you missed it: last week I hosted a Wimbledon afternoon tea party that included this cake. I opted to make one large strawberry shortcake but Mary Berry chose to make several smaller scones to make serving (and thus eating and clean-up) easier. As someone who had heaps of cream dropped over the table, chairs and floor next week, I can testify that making individual shortcakes is a superior method- plus they still look just as appetising.




I paid tribute to Wimbledon with the classic strawberries and cream last week, so I decided that this week would belong to a different combination- apples, cinnamon and caramel. Trust me, it will not disappoint you.



What are some of your favourite flavour combinations? I’m looking to be more adventurous in my recipe testing and I’d love to hear from some of you!

Almond Caramel Apple Shortcakes

Ingredients

For the scones:

  • 2 cups self-raising flour
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar + extra for dusting the scones
  • 2 tsp baking powder*
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup (8 tbsp) cold butter, grated like cheese or cut into small cubes
  • ¾ cup buttermilk, cold
  • 1 egg (optional, the recipe still works well without it)
  • a handful of crushed slivered almonds, optional

For the apples:

  • 2 large Granny Smith apples, sliced thinly
  • 4 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup whipped cream
  • 2 tsp icing sugar, optional

For the caramel sauce: 

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp fresh cream
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence

Method

  1. Start by baking the scones. Preheat your oven to 180°C/350F°. Grease a large rimless baking sheet and like with parchment paper.
  2. Sieve the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and toss to combine. Add the butter to the dry mixture and use our hands to rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles a dry coarse sand.
  3. Whisk the buttermilk and egg (if using)  together in a large measuring cup or a small bowl, making sure there are no streaks of egg yolk remaining. Reserve about a tablespoon of this mixture for brushing the scones.
  4. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Be careful not to overmix. The dough should be slightly wet but not so much that it is sticking to your hands. If the dough is too wet then add flour, one tablespoon at a time until it holds together.
  5. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and use your hands to press it into a large circle, about 2 cm/¾ inch thick. Use a cookie cutter or a small glass to cut the dough into scones. Gather any remaining scraps of dough and mould them together to make one huge scone.
  6. Add the cut scones and your scrap-scone to the prepared baking sheet. Brush with the reserved egg/buttermilk mixture before topping with the granulated sugar and almonds. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until the tops are just starting to turn golden brown. Allow to cool at room temperature before serving.

Prepare the filling:

  1. Whilst the scones are baking, core the apples and cut into thin slices. In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon. Toss with the apples, making sure to coat them in the lemon juice. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes.
  2. Prepare the caramel. Add the brown sugar to a small saucepan on medium-low heat. Allow the sugar to melt, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula to prevent it from burning. Once the sugar has melted completely and you have a smooth dark brown liquid, pour in the fresh cream. The mixture will sputter and spurt and that’s okay. Cut the butter into the hot brown sugar and stir until it’s completely melted. You should have a smooth, golden brown caramel. Stir in the vanilla essence and a pinch of salt, if desired.
  3. Once the scones have cooled, cut them in half. Layer first with sliced apple, followed by whipped cream and finally topping with warm caramel. If desired, you may dust with icing sugar. Enjoy!

Gruyère Spinach Tortellini Bake

In case you were wondering what I brought back from Switzerland, it was a bunch of cheese.


Seriously, there’s a pound of Gruyère in my fridge. As I type this post, I have to restrict myself from running to the kitchen to sneak a bite. Naturally, I would want to dump it all on top of my pasta and drown in the calorific goodness. That’s what this recipe is all about, it’s a comfy one pot winter meal. I chose to transfer my pasta into a baking dish just to make it easier to transfer to a friend’s house. You could make this all in one pot and save yourself the washing up!


If you’re looking to try out more pasta dishes, check out the Pasta category on the blog. A few of my favorites include this INSANE pasta sauce, this One Pot Spinach Pesto Pasta Bake and this Butternut Squash and Kale Ravioli




Gruyère Spinach Tortellini Bake

Ingredients

  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1×14 oz can tinned tomatoes
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup roughly chopped spinach
  • 300g uncooked tortellini (I used spinach + ricotta but you can use any of your choice)
  • 1 cup grated Gruyère cheese
  • ½ cup grated mozzarella cheese

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F and if using a baking dish, grease lightly with some butter. Alternatively, you can bake the tortellini directly in the skillet, thus making it a one pot meal.
  2. Heat some olive oil in a large cast iron pot and fry the onions on high heat until translucent. Add the basil, rosemary, basil and oregano to the pot. Stir to coat the onions in the dried herbs. Throw in the minced garlic and toss with a wooden spoon until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Pour in the tinned tomatoes and the vegetable stock. Season with salt and pepper and bring the mixture to a boil. Throw in the tortellini and toss to coat in the sauce. Add the chopped spinach and stir until the spinach has wilted, remove from heat. If using a baking dish, transfer the tortellini and sauce to the baking dish. Top with the grated mozzarella and grated Gruyère.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling adn the cheese is a deep golden brown. Serve hot! If desired, top with some fresh basil and grated Parmesan. Throw in some crusty bread and white wine and you’ve got a winning dinner!