Vegetarian

Spiced Butternut Squash Mash

As the days begin to get a lot colder and darker in the UK, I definitely find myself daydreaming about white beaches, lush rice fields & warmer climes. Looking through all our travel photos from India doesn't exactly help with the winter blues, but it is an amazing way to find meal inspiration...

One of the dishes we remember fondly from our travels was this spicy pumpkin or squash mash, which was often served as part of a lunchtime thali with other curries & pickles. As squash is in season here at the moment, we decided to make our own version of this delicious, satisfying dish. The whole spices in this meal bring a lot of flavour to the mash, as well having a lot of healing properties that help warm the body up during these colder months!

Butternut Squash Mash with Spices
Butternut Squash mash with spices.

Ingredients
1 large butternut squash (approx 1 kg)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 dried red chili (optional)
1 tbsp coconut oil
1-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
large handful of coriander, chopped finely

Method
-First, peel and cut the squash into chunks and remove the seeds. Then roast in a hot oven for 40-60 minutes, until well cooked and beginning to colour. 
-Once roasted, remove from the over and roughly mash the squash on the tray using the back of a fork. 
-In a pan, heat the coconut oil, then add all of the spices and  the chili and stir fry for 30-60 seconds, until the mustard seeds begin to crackle. This is important for bringing the flavour out of the spices and into the oil!
-As soon as they begin to crackle, add the onions and fry on a medium heat for 8-10 minutes or until they start to turn golden. 
-Once the onions are golden, add the mashed squash to the pan. Mix well and fry for 1-2 more minutes, then turn of the heat.
-Mix in the fresh coriander and lemon juice. Enjoy! 

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Quinoa Tabbouleh with Mint, Parsley & Chives

Although we love spending hours getting creative in the kitchen, life doesn't always provide us with an abundance of spare time. So when life or work gets a little hectic, simple & straightforward meals save the day. But of course, they still have to taste great too!  

This tabbouleh is perfect if you don't have much time, but want to make something beautiful, delicious and healthy. I'm obsessed with how the colours dance together in the bowl - it would make a great dish for a dinner party or as a side dish for Christmas. We often make a big batch and make it last a few days for a quick and tasty lunch option too.  Traditionally, tabbouleh is made with bulgur, but we've swapped ours for quinoa for a nuttier taste. Feel free to swap around the grains, this would also work with buckwheat or spelt couscous!

Quinoa Tabbouleh
Quinoa Tabbouleh

Ingredients (Serves 4 as a main, or 6 as a side dish

1 and 1/2 cups of quinoa, thoroughly rinsed
A large handful each of - fresh mint, parsley and chives, chopped
1 pomegranate
1 cucumber, finely diced
1 lemon
A generous drizzle of good quality olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste

1. First, cook the quinoa with a large pinch of salt, drain well and set aside to cool.
2. Once the quinoa has cooled to room temperature, mix in the fresh herbs, pomegranate seeds and diced cucumber. Drizzle in olive oil, the juice of 1 lemon and season with salt and pepper.
3. Serve ad enjoy! We love ours with roasted butternut squash and hummus.

Quinoa tabbouleh

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3 Pulse Stew with Sumac and Thyme

I remember when I first stopped eating meat, everyone under the sun wanted to know where I was getting all my protein, calcium, iron and all that jazz.

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Despite all the doubts for my survival, 5 years later I’m still breathing – and we both genuinely feel healthier and brighter with this conscious way of eating. Luckily for us, plant-based food has become more and more popular over the past few years. The raised eyebrows and invasive questions are less frequent occurrences, but we’re also quicker in our responses. And more importantly, in tune with what our bodies are in need of.

So in search of a dish that is high in protein but also incredibly delicious, Joe spontaneously created this fragrant 3 pulse stew with sumac, thyme and a precious mix of spices. With chickpeas and two types of lentils, this dish is perfectly rich and fulfilling for even the strictest of meat eaters. But it’s the blend of flavours that transform the stew into something special; with dried herbs, sweet cinnamon and lemony sumac combining to create a nourishing bowl of mini-heaven!

Ingredients

2 Medium Onions (Sliced)
5 Tomatoes (Diced)
2 sticks of celery (finely chopped)
200g of dried chickpeas (can be substituted with 1 tin of chickpeas – however these should be added in after the dish has been simmering for roughly 1 hour, or else they may break too easily)
3 tablespoons of split red lentils
3 tablespoons of whole green or brown lentils
5 gloves of garlic, crushed and chopped

A bundle or 1 tablespoon of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
1 teaspoon of sumac
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
3 All spice berries
Sea salt to taste
Fresh Parsley to garnish

 Instructions 

1. If using dried chickpeas, soak them in water overnight with half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda.

2.In a large saucepan, cook down the onion and celery in plenty of olive oil or coconut oil. When the onions are just beginning to turn brown, add the spices to the pan and fry for roughly one minute.

3.Next, add the tomatoes, garlic and a large pinch of sea salt. Cook for 4-5 minutes.

4. Add your chickpeas and lentils to the pan, stirring well. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Then lower the heat and simmer for 2-3 hours with the lid on.

5.**While cooking, you will occasionally need to add more water to the pan as it gets absorbed by the lentils. We normally let the water cook off so that the stew catches slightly on the bottom of the pan, and then add in the extra water. We find this process really enhances the richness of the dish. **

6..The stew will be ready once the chickpeas become tender and you can mash them with a fork. The final dish should be saucy, but not with too much liquid. By now, it will smell amazing!

7. Before serving, garnish with a little dried oregano and plenty of fresh parsley.

8.Enjoy! We love to eat ours with polenta and dark greens. 

Varanasi – Life, death and the world’s best Lassi

I’d never really faced death so closely until we arrived in Varanasi. This enchanting, unforgetble place is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. Built along the holy river Ganges, it's here that the beginnings and endings of life are woven together to create something truly extraordinary.

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Many Hindus believe that dying in Varanasi offers Moshka – freedom from the cycle of birth and death in order to reach nirvana. Thousands of pilgrims travel here every day to prepare themselves for death. People bathe in the Ganges, drink from it to cleanse their sins and offer their cremated loved ones to the holy water. It's no doubt that this can be an overwhelming place - the demanding heat, burning corpses and endless hassle can leave you feeling both physically/emotionally tired. But we promise It's more than worth it to persevere! 

Strolling along the Ghats is a fascinating, almost twisted-dream for anyone who loves to people watch. From children’s swimming lessons in the river to groups of mourning families and wandering sadhus –it’s incredible to witness a place bursting with so much life and death in one single moment. 

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And so, Varanasi instills such an indescribable feeling in so many of its visitors. To see these intimate acts of religion displayed so publically is so contrasting to our own private culture. But intensity aside, it’s hard not to be astounded by this crazy, magical city that celebrates both life and death in such a unique way. 

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Although strolling along the Ghats and through the ever-winding alleys is a great way to see the city, a sunrise/sunset boat ride is the most popular way to see the streams of life that run through the Ganges. We joined a sunset boat ride which slowly rode us along the Ghats, ending with a perfect view of the famous evening ceremony.

As hundreds of people sung from the Ghats, the golden fires reflecting upon the water and clouds of smoke filling the air, this definitely felt like one of the most surreal experiences of our lives so far. We didn't even take any photos as we were so consumed by the whole moment – either way I’m not sure they could do it justice!

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Sleepy dogs in hidden corners  

Sleepy dogs in hidden corners  

No surprises - we also found some delicious food in Varanasi, including (probably) the best Lassis in the world from ‘Blue Lassi Shop’. For those new to Lassi, this is a tasty Indian drink made with fresh yoghurt, water and often fruits and spices.

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Blue Lassi Shop is no secret to Varanasi, in fact it’s got a pretty legendary reputation as being one of the oldest joints in the city to churn out incredible Lassis. Served in rustic clay pots with mounds of delicate toppings and a spoon – each Lassi is incredibly thick, creamy and so tasty. Definitely the best Lassi we had in the whole of India. There’s a huge amount of flavour options – we tried quite a few, but our favourite was this perfect mango and coconut one.

Blue Lassi is also famous amongst travellers for its strong Bhang Lassis. Drink one of these before a river boatride, and you're guaranteed to have a crazy, dazzling trip of a lifetime.

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We also found some delicious dosas hidden away amongst the faded alleyways. Dosa is a thin, crispy pancake made from fermented rice. This one was stuffed with cashews and vegetables, served up with spicy samba and dreamy coconut chutney! 

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So happily tired and with our bellies satisfied, we left the wonder of Varanasi to head onwards to Agra. So for anyone planning a trip to India, make sure this city is on your list. This true experience of the senses is something you won’t forget for a very long time….