Monday, 27 December 2010

Incredible India-Odissi Classical Dance (HD)-Part 1-Mangalacharan by Suj...

Beautiful bhakti Yoga music!

Check out to watch and listen to some wonderful devotional music (kirtanas)as you cook for Krishna!

A couple more dos and don'ts when you are preparing food to offer to Krishna

  • Don't use chives, Spring onions (scallions) or leeks, as they belong to the onion family.
  • Tasting when you cook: this should really be avoided, as Krishna must be the first to enjoy the food. You can develop your senses of smell and touch instead. BUT there are times when you may need to taste the food, especially if it is a dish you have not cooked before, or you are inventing it as you go along. After all, the result has to be edible! In this case, you can taste as long as you are not actually relishing the flavours for your own enjoyment, but are merely testing to see if it's what you are aiming for. Never taste directly from a cooking spoon, but transfer to an eating spoon and wash your hands and rinse out your mouth afterwards.

What did you have for Christmas dinner?- Walnut and red pepper roast

I wanted to have a complete change from the usual nut roast, but the rest of my family wanted one, so I invented a different version:
Walnut and Red Pepper Nut Roast

(Please note slightly better quality of pic this time: I got a camera for Christmas!)
Serves 6-8. All quantities approximate as I had no time to make notes while I worked.
400g walnuts, ground (with a few reserved and quartered)
250g ground almonds
a handful each of ground pumpkin and sunflower seeds
a handful of porridge oats
3 red peppers
soy sauce
coarse ground black pepper
dried oregano
dried herbes de Provence
3/4 tube tomato puree
a few fresh tomatoes, sliced
olives to garnish
  • Mix all the dry ingredients together, including the seasoning
  • Grate the peppers directly into the bowl to catch all the juices
  • Add tomato puree. (Mixture should hold together when you gently squeeze a handful of it.)
  • Line a large square cake tin (I used a silicone one; if you use metal, you should grease and line with baking parchment) with sliced tomato and olives- a bit like the pineapple and cherries in upside -down cake.
  • Put the loaf mixture into the tin, press down lightly and stud the top with the quartered walnuts.
  • Cook in a preheated oven at 225C until browned on top.
  • Turn out onto a serving plate/tray (see photo)
  • We served this with roast potatoes and parsnips (use butter ghee for a delicious change), glazed Brussels sprouts and gravy made from vegetable cooking juices and Marmite. Oh, and don't forget the home-made cranberry sauce!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Happy Christmas!

Yes, it did taste very good! It's not completely crunchy, but that makes it easier to eat. We felt like Hansel and Gretel breaking off chunks of house to eat...

Thursday, 23 December 2010

I made a cute gingerbread house!

I have never made one before, and every year at least one of the kids asks for it, so I decided to have a go. While it's not perfect, the photo really doesn't do it justice and I was really pleased with the results. (And so were the kids!) I found a great recipe and set of instructions; here's the link: . The recipe for the gingerbread is vegetarian, being egg-free, and I just mixed an icing sugar and water paste for the "snow" to glue it together with, thus avoiding egg white. I used vegan margarine instead of melted butter, of course. Can't tell you about the taste yet, as we haven't had the heart to demolish it!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Cake Without Animal Products; basic, adaptable recipe

Oh yes, you can have your cake and eat it too! Vegans don't miss out on a single treat these days... and not only is it the lightest, fluffiest sponge ever, but it's also really easy to make. (Don't know where it stands in relation to healthy eating though- let's just say it's a treat, and much better than additive-laden bought confectionery.) This recipe is based on what I learned and adapted from Cintia Stammers' excellent "The Book of Egg-free cakes." It changed my life (and my dress size, for a while!) You can add coconut, lemon, cocoa, etc. to vary the flavour. Here's how:

400g self-raising flour (I have yet to find a wholemeal one)
4 tsps baking powder (not just bicarb)
200g caster sugar/ fine brown sugar*
400ml soya milk
150ml good quality sunflower, coconut or ricebran oil
natural vanilla essence
1x 9-10"/ 2x 7-8" cake tins, greased and floured, or dampened silicone cake moulds
Oven pre-heated to 180C
*Don't be tempted to mess around with alternative sugars if you want a classic sponge cake: gour or soft brown sugar produce a fudgy, more brownie-like cake. Demerara sugar will do rather than white, but better still if you can whizz it down a bit in a grinder. You can, however, use xylitol as sugar or 200ml agave nectar in the wet ingredients- even a combo of both. Agave gives a slightly wetter mixture, and a reallylovely soft texture.

  • Combine all dry ingredients and all wet ingredients in separate bowls. then add the wet to the dry and beat for about 1-2 minutes max. 
  • Put into cake tin and bake straight away for about 30-40 minutes... et voila!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Foodstuffs you can't offer to Krishna, and why:

""If one offers Me with devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it."   (Bhagavad Gita 9.26) 
Everything in this material world belongs to  one of the three "Modes of Nature", Satva (Goodness), Rajas (Passion) or Tamas (Ignorance). to cultivate our spiritual life, we should only consume those foodstuffs in the mode of goodness. It is not just bhakti yoga which teaches this, but other types of yoga as well, as many yoga books and websites show.
1: Meat, fish, eggs, alcohol, drugs and stimulants: These are in the Mode of Ignorance, as the Vedas teach us. Anything to do with killing, cruelty, exploitation will only serve to foster in us that state of mind and further cover up our radiant real inner selves (the "jiva" or soul). We will suffer in accordance with the amount of suffering we inflict upon other beings- this is the Law of Karma.We are currently in the age of Kali Yuga, where suffering, violence, quarrel and hypocrisy reign supreme: we need an antidote to this, not to perpetuate it. God is above the three modes which govern the material world (goodness, passion and ignorance): He is only pure Love.
2: Onions, garlic: These may perhaps be occasionally taken as medicine (although there are certain toxic as well as therapeutic compounds therein), but not eaten as a matter of course or offered to Krishna. They are in the Modes of Passion and Ignorance, and therefore engender in us a restless, impulsive, violent, overly passionate and sense-gratifying nature which is not conducive to the cultivation of a peaceful mind and a progressive spirtiual life as they detract from bhakti (our love for and devotion to God).
3: Mushrooms: "Mushrooms from the dark forest", says the Srimad Bhagavatam  (a Vedic scripture), should not be eaten. Because of where they naturally grow, on decaying matter and in dark places, they are not considered to be in the mode of goodness.
4: Carrots, red lentils (masoor dal), sea vegetables: Thousands of years ago in Satya Yuga (the "Golden Age"), when a brahmana sacrificed a cow, it did not die but was rejuvenated. But then one brahmana's wife, who was pregnant and had a craving for meat, took a piece of flesh from the cow before the mantras had been said to bring it back to life. When the mantras were said, the piece of meat also came back to life, so the woman threw it away. It landed in the sea, and where the flesh, bone and blood fell as it travelled, carrots, onions, garlic and red lentils grew. One of the foremost living exponents of bhakti yoga, Srila  Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja, confirms the veracity of this,saying that these foods should definitely not be eaten. He does not mention seaweed directly in that particular conversation however. There is an argument which goes that carrots in those days were not the same plant that we call carrots now (they were black or purple, and orange carrots only appeared in Renaissance times), and one which states that it is only the dark red Indian carrots which are prohibited. Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja ("Prabhupada"), revered founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, permitted his disciples to eat carrots, but said that this was an allowance as Krishna Consciousness was relatively new to the West and there are very many rules in bhakti yoga. All I can say is:  do your best according to the time, place and circumstances you are in.
I do not include any of these prohibited foods in my recipes here, but please know that I am not perfect and do slip up from time to time... but please try this yogic diet; you will feel a difference in your consciousness.
You can find more details at: (discourses section) and

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Beautiful Soups!

I like to give suggestions a lot of the time, rather than prescriptive recipes because I think a really important part of cooking is the creativity. Most of my favourite things to cook (and eat) have evolved this way, from adapting a recipe or dreaming up a list of ingredients I know will go really well together and then working out how to combine them into the required form.
In winter there is nothing nicer than a steaming hot bowl of home-made soup, and although there certainly is a place for the generic "vegetable soup" made with whatever you have to hand plus a can of tomatoes, it is so good to make soup with a particular identity too. The secret is often in the seasoning: certain herbs and spices go particularly well with certain vegetables, such as tomato and bay or basil, carrot and coriander, etc. Choose flavours which enhance rather than drown out the flavour of your chosen vegetable(s).  Here are a couple of  sweet and creamy suggestions that go down really well with my teenaged kids in the school holidays as a nourishing lunch. They usually have them with some kind of bread or roti (flatbread) and melted cheese, peanut butter or tahini with a salad garnish. They are then less likely to spend their hard-earned pocket money on crisps and chocolate from the local shop!
  • Alternative to onions: Dishes containing onions cannot be offered to Krishna, so if all your favourite recipes for soup begin with frying onions, try this instead:  finely chop some white cabbage, and fry gently in a good-quality oil (I prefer organic sunflower oil) with the addition of  plenty of hing to add to the pungency, some soy sauce and dark brown sugar or gour (Indian raw cane or palm sugar). Then continue your recipe as normal.
  • Green Pea Soup: Cook up some dried marrowfat peas, "alternative onions", and stir in a little yeast extract, coarse ground black pepper, salt and herbes de Provence/ thyme and oregano/ fresh or dried mint. Then add frozen green peas. Blend. You can then add a little single cream/ soya milk if you want. (My husband recommends home-made cashew cream as a delicious vegan alternative to single cream.) The resulting soup is a beautiful green colour (from the frozen peas: the less of those you add, the duller the green) and should have a delicate flavour. A healthy and colourful garnish for this (which was shown me by a Krishna devotee many years ago) is to grate some fresh, raw beetroot and sprinkle it in the centre of each bowl of soup.
  • Sweetcorn Chowder : Make "alternative onions", add water and frozen sweetcorn. Throw in some chopped red bell pepper at this stage if you like. Season with salt and black pepper, a little paprika, hing, thyme and oregano. Add soy sauce/ Liquid Aminos if desired. Bring to the boil and then blend. Return to the pan and stir in vegan cream or ground sunflower seeds, reheating gently.

    Pumpkin curd or chutney

     If you have ever grown a pumpkin so enormous you don't know what to do with all that succulent orange flesh, then here is an idea: this recipe was inspired by one in Lawrence Hill's excellent book "Organic Gardening", but omits the egg. The quantities are relative, so you can adapt this to the amount of pumpkin you have.

    Ingredients: pumpkin, fresh lemons, butter, brown sugar
    • Dice, cook and puree you pumpkin flesh
    • Add 6 sliced lemons for every 4lb of pumpkins
    • Add 4oz of butter for every 4lbs of pumpkins
    • Add half the cooked weight of the pumpkin in brown sugar.
    • Cook over a low-med heat until all ingredients are blended nicely and the sugar dissolved
    • Bottle in sterilised jars and keep in the fridge once opened.
    You can stir in some chopped, dried or powdered chilli and salt (to taste) to make a chutney that's really good with cheese dishes.

    Tuesday, 30 November 2010

    Check this out!

    Check out my other blog at: for more info on bhakti yoga philosophy, links to some really nice websites etc.

    Monday, 29 November 2010

    Five things I could not do without in my kitchen

    I like to live simply, but there are a few things that are essential for the kind of cooking we do. These are all definitely tools and not gadgets, and useful for many recipes:

    1: Grinder (ground nuts, seeds and dried fruit with water = instant healthy sweets)
    2: Blender (hand mashed hummus just isn't the same...)
    3: Hand blender (saves messy soup transfers)
    4: Peeler (the Y-shaped kind: I do peel non organic root veg because of pesticide residues, and I even use this to de-string celery!)
    5: Pressure cooker (makes short work of dried beans and virtually instant vegetable stews)

    What are your must-have kitchen tools?

    Saturday, 27 November 2010

    Spicy Beanburgers

    How beautiful are these runner bean seeds?
    We've been making these yummy burgers- or variations of them- for about 10 years now, since the kids were small- and they've remained a family favourite! This recipe makes 6-8:

    About 500ml cooked and mashed (or blended) red kidney beans
    A handful each of: ground sunflower seeds, ground pumpkin seeds, ground almonds, porridge oats
    1 tab sesame seeds
    Grated vegetables (1 1/2 parsnips, or a sweet potato or a bell pepper)
    1/2 a tube of tomato puree
    Seasoning: 1 tab soy sauce, a tsp hing (asafoetida), 12 tsps chilli powder, Herbes de Provence/ thyme and oregano, 1 dsp paprika.

    • Combine dry ingredients and mix well. Add grated vegetables, then seasonings.
    • Shape into burgers (makes about 8) and place on an oiled baking tray.
    • Bake at 200C until browned slightly (about 20 minutes), turning halfway through. You can also grill or shallow fry them, but don't cook them too long or they dry out.

    Serve in a homemade wholemeal bun with a fresh green salad and / or alfalfa and sunflower sprouts, guacamole, tomato and relish.

    Ten Reasons to be Vegetarian

    1 Heart disease: More animal products = more chloresterol.
    2 Cancer: It has been shown in scientific studies that breast, ovarian and prostate cancers are all many times more likely to occur in people who eat meat, eggs and dairy products.
    3 Body design: humans are not built like carnivores; we do not have a carnivore's dentition, nor its short gut. (When a people ingests meat, it rots in the human long gut, causing toxins to be released.) A carnivore has stronger stomach acids for digesting meat; we do not.
    4 Environmental: Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels burned for meat production are three times more than those consumed during the production of vegetarian foods. 1 000 species per year become extinct due to rainforest clearance for meat production.

    5 Hunger: If the US alone reduced the amount of land used for meat production by just 10% and grew food crops instead, it would feed 100 million people.
    6 Antibiotics: By 1988 there were 91 types of antibiotic resistant bacteria, compare to just 13 in 1960. In Europe, routine feeding of antibiotics to livestock is now banned not so in the US however.
    7 Water Consumption: It takes 5 000 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef; yet only 25 to produce a pound of wheat.

    8 Ethics: Do we have the right to take the life of another living creature when we can survive without having to do so?
    9 Consciousness: Our food becomes the chemicals of our own bodies, so if you are ingesting the products of an industry based on suffering, pain and killing, then how are you going to develop your consciousness in a positive way? As all our cells are renewed every seven years, we literally are what we eat...what are YOU made of?
    10 Karma: The universal law of karma dictates that for every action there is a reaction. This is a central tenet in both Hinduism and Buddhism and also of many "New Age" thinkers. If you are involved in the process of animal cruelty and slaughter, even indirectly (ie: from consuming meat products) then you will have to suffer the reaction that this action generates. At some point in the future, you will undergo an equivalent measure of suffering.

    For some quotes from famous people about vegetarianism, click here.