This bread is sure to win over any sweet tooth. The combination of ingredients create an aromatic flavour with lovely textures, particularly from the seeds of the dried fig. I have used apple purée before to bake with which works as a great binder and source of sweetness; I wanted to try pear as they are my favourite fruit and I feel they are quite an English staple, with a variety of types available for most of the year. Simmering and mashing the pear did the job but I also like to leave one cut into pieces, again to develop the texture journey more!

This recipe requires no blender, no nuts and contains neither gluten, nor dairy, making it very accessible to all.

If you are not a fan of pears, swap them for apples; if you’re not a fan of figs, swap them for apricots; if you’re not a fan of cardamom, swap for cinnamon. These are just examples, of course make the bread exactly as you like it and enjoy being creative.

Ingredients:

3 smaller or 2 larger Pears
1 large very ripe Banana
2 tbsps Chia Seeds (in 5tbsps water)
1/4c Coconut Sugar
2c Buckwheat Flour
1/2c Fine Oats
1 1/2 tbsps Ground Cardamom
1/2c Dried Figs
1tsp Baking Powder
1/2c Water
Salt

1. Make purée: cover 2 of the 3 pears with water, just. Allow these to simmer for around 15 minutes until soft and squishy then take a fork and mash into a purée.

2. Make chia egg: soak the 2 tbsps of seeds in 5 tbsps of water, leave for 10 minutes.

3. Mash the banana in a large mixing bowl. Chop the figs and the last of the pear into small pieces. Combine all of the other ingredients.

4. Taste test. This will taste different when baked but if it doesn’t taste sweet enough for you then add more coconut sugar as it will taste less sweet when cooked.

5. Bake: add the mixture to a lined loaf tin and cook for 40 mins at about 150 degrees.

6. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 20 minutes before enjoying your soft, sweet bread.

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1. The nature
Although Berlin is a big city, it really doesn’t feel like it! During my stay, I didn’t once get that claustrophobic feeling that I often do in a highly populated central area. The city isn’t piled high with skyscrapers; instead, many of the beautiful, colourful buildings are covered in greenery, huge plants line the pavements and trees are even often the centrepieces throughout a main road. Granted, I did visit during spring: its prime, but my it was a beautiful sight indeed. In the south east of the city are the lakes. I took a bike all the way out to Krumme Lanke and my trip was made. It was absolutely stunning and so quiet! I felt like I had my very own private paradise and thoroughly enjoyed my time with the birds and fishies, even when I plunged into the freezing, pure water that revitalised every cell in my body!

2. The people
This was my first ever visit to Germany and I can honestly say that I found the German people to be some of the nicest I’ve come across; I didn’t have one single negative interaction. I always carry my water bottle with me and rely on people filling it up when I’m out all day. In some places around the world, they’re funny about it; in Germany, shop assistants, bar staff, and pretty much anyone near a tap did it without question.

3. The transport
Riding a bike across the city was one of my favourite things I did and I didn’t have to hire it for the day and take it back; instead I downloaded the ‘My Next Bike’ app and was able to pick up any ‘Deezer’ bike from around the city and lock it back up (finish paying) wherever and whenever. Although this isn’t strictly true, I rode it all the way out to the lake which was unknown to me, out of the ‘zone’ and so I had to pay a fine. This was my fault though and I would highly recommend using Deezer bikes to explore Berlin. They’re cruiser bikes which are so nice to ride and there are amazing bike networks throughout the city, keeping cyclists safe.
I even liked the trains/U-bahn. Here the underground doesn’t remind me of London at all. Instead of going further down underground than you could ever imagine, you usually go down just one or two sets of stairs then you’re on the platform. Also, there’s no equivalent of that crazy London rush hour that can happen at any time during a bank holiday, festival, etc. In Berlin, there’s a lot less people (partly to do with the fact that many are enjoying the fresh air on their bikes) and a hell of a lot more space! I found travelling a much more pleasant experience than I have in most other cities.

4. The commitment to reusing & recycling
The public bins throughout Berlin tend to have different sections allowing for the recycling of different materials. In homes, residents separate their paper, plastic, organic food waste and then the rest. There’s a system in the shops where you can return glass bottles to receive money. When you buy a bottle of beer, part of the cost is a deposit, when the bottle is returned you get the deposit back. I love this empowering yet simple system that encourages everyone to participate in local recycling schemes.
My friend who lives in the city was telling me that there are groups on Facebook where Berliners give away their unwanted furniture; this occurs a lot as it’s a city where many come and go.
I spent a whole day shopping in the city, something I had planned to do as I’d heard there are lots of second hand shops. I try to buy all my clothes (minus sports wear and undies) second hand so this was the perfect opportunity. I was not disappointed; I was in and out of so many shops from high-end designer vintage to up-cycling fashion to thrift stores where you buy per kilo. There was something for every desire and every budget.

5. The commitment to organic produce
This awareness and drive towards sustainability doesn’t end with advanced infrastructure for cyclists, appreciation of plants and trees and second hand treasures in the form of both home furnishings and personal clothing; in Berlin, organic is important. In many supermarkets only organically produced goods are sold. It seems that eating organic is fairly standard, it’s the expected way of sourcing food. The organic choice is still of course more expensive but it seems that people in this city are willing to pay more for quality food that nourishes the soil it’s grown in and the farmers who make a living from it. Berlin is an inspiring place to be – power to the people!

Often when people talk about travelling, the topic of money can be one of the first. The thing is, everyone travels differently and even from trip to trip. Soon I am to embark on a totally new adventure (all will be revealed soon!) but before that, I thought I’d share my tips for budget backpacking. For me it’s not about how much money do I have, I just always choose to spend as little as possible, I actually get a thrill out of it. Of course I don’t mean missing out on all of the things you’d love to do (or there’d be no point), but I mean finding pleasure in the simple things and saving in the places where it’s hardly going to make a difference to your experience.

Accommodation:
Sometimes the cheapest bed isn’t always the best way of saving money (although sometimes it is!!) as, if a hostel offers lots of extras it can mean you don’t spend money elsewhere. Some of the hostels I’ve stayed in are super basic and that’s worked totally fine, but other times they offer much more than that.
Here’s just some of the ‘freebies’ I’ve enjoyed over my travels: water (this can save you a substantial amount of money and the environment when you can refill!), tea, various breakfasts ranging from just bread to the full mashings where you can order from a restaurant menu and recently there was porridge (THE reason I picked a hostel in Arequipa, Peru), pool, yoga classes, circus equipment with lessons, homemade pasta, bikes, language lessons, snacks, complimentary laundry, tours (usually walking but once in Bagan, Myanmar there was a free moped tour!) and also just good, reliable advice.

Transport:
Do your research as often there’s more than one way to travel and I think it’s really part of the fun trying out various modes. When I was in Laos we could get cheap speed boats to islands; when in Asia in general tuk tuks are cheap; when in Europe sometimes you can bag a cheap, quick flight.
If you’re a student you may be able to get discounts on certain transportation but not others, always look into it. If you have a rail card then of course that can bring costs down. Whether you’re booking in advance or last minute that will determine where the best deal lies.
Getting overnight buses is a great way of saving money as you will travel a big distance for a very small price and you’re getting a night’s accommodation too. In Australia, the greyhound bus was literally bus seats for the night – nightmare! And I experienced a similar discomfort on an overnight cargo boat to Sardinia. In Asia I experienced a variety and one was a full on horizontal double bed with a curtain! Luckily I was travelling with my friend at this point otherwise this could have made for a much too intimate setting!! In Peru, the overnight buses, and even the short buses come to think of it, brought around snacks or full meals; way better than aeroplane offerings, it would include street food from the locals.
Another tip that mostly refers to island travel is scooters! Maybe the best tip, yet also the most ironic as I don’t ride them. I’ve just always made friends with lovely people who allow me to jump on the back (score!!). It allows you to explore so much further, away from tourists and away from the beaten track. It gives you so much freedom and is so so much cheaper than getting taxis. If you can’t ride on a scooter, at least motorbike taxis are much cheaper than cars so if you’re on your own this can be a good option but be sure to be careful!

Food:
Experience the street food and know that you’ll get the most authentic, tasty and cheap vendors away from the centre and therefore away from the bulk of tourists.
Cook in hostels whenever possible – not really possible in most of south east Asia but it certainly is throughout Australia. In other destinations it can vary, but this comes back to choosing your accommodation modation carefully.
Eat at the markets. I LOVE going to the local market, looking at the array of colours, oo’ing and ahh’ing at the fruits and vegetables I’ve never seen. The markets will serve up local produce without the add on charges you get at a cafe or supermarket.

The Rest:
– Swap and change books: lots of hostels and cafes offer a place for this; you can take a new book for yourself and leave behind the one you’ve already read instead of buying a new one if reading is your thing.
– Know the things you like: I always think it’s fine to spend money on the things you love but then a annoying when you spend a lot on doing something OK that’s not really your cup of tea.
– Don’t feel like you need to be DOING something each day: booking onto guided tours or taking on a new adventure sport each day can hugely costly! Travel is so much more than ‘doing’, it’s about ‘being’; being with yourself in a new environment, wandering the streets, allowing your feet to take you wherever they please, leaving time and opportunity for spontaneous adventure, meeting the locals, sharing with fellow travellers, simply smelling the air and soaking up your new surroundings with a total sense of freedom and unknown.

 

 

In yogic philosophy, we are taught that everything in the material world is governed by these three gunas; that includes the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the music we listen us, and even just ourselves.

Sattva
Sattvic equals ‘goodness’. This is the light guna that we can feel in the expansion of nature, the serenity of silence and the comfort of a warm bath. A sattvic wardrobe would consist of linen and cotton; clothes which are loose, comfortable and light in both colour and weight. Sattvic eating is eating with total awareness, being wholly involved with every colour, texture, flavour and smell. The food would be unprocessed whole-food and the sattvic person would stop when full.

Rajas
For something to be rajastic it is fast-paced and passionate; for example, watching action thriller films, rushing in a busy city to work or talking at a fast pace. Rajastic qualities can be linked with high pressured environments, a sense of drive and also, feelings of anxiety. Much of ‘city life’ links with this guna with the idea of the ‘rat race’ being about a rush to the top of the economic ladder, as well as there being a pressure to socialise just as hard as you work.

Tamas
Tamasic behaviour is that which is slow, very slow. Tamas is a dark, dull energy that weighs us down. This guna would be linked to wearing dark, heavy clothing such as black, platformed leather boots. Such behaviours may involve oversleeping until late in the morning, watching horror films and eating highly processed foods and stimulants, which are void of prana (life force) and will also lead to a crash later.

Here I have attempted to state the pure guna by itself, however we as individuals are made up with a unique combination of all three of these gunas and we need/like to draw on each at different times. In this modern world sometimes it is necessary to be very organised and tick things off a to-do list in order to follow a trajectory towards where you’re hoping to grow. Similarly, after periods of stress; be it emotional, physical or mental, we may need to take some deep rest, which could perhaps be seen as tamasic.

It’s great to have an understanding of the three gunas and really feel the effect each has on you. Then we can generally recognise that the more sattva we can bring into our lives, through our environment, interactions and behaviours, the more content and at ease we will become. Have a think of ways you can achieve this more peaceful state and write them down. Here’s a few ideas to get you started…

Sattva: love, light, truth:

1. Connect with nature: watch the sunrise/set, walk in the countryside, smell the flowers, spend time in open space, swim in the ocean, listen to the birds.
2. Create a peaceful home: bring nature inside with plants & flowers, listen to soft, soothing music, light natural candles, keep a clean & tidy space that feels organised and pleasant to be in.
3. Self love: meditate, wear natural fabrics, take time off social media, read, create rituals where you become totally mindful in daily acts e.g. when drinking your favourite cup of tea and showering in warm cleansing water.
4. Connect with others: smile, laugh, enjoy heart-felt hugs and massage.

This is a beautiful soul warmer that will also aid your body’s natural detoxification processes.

Springtime is a time for new beginnings; a fresh start after winter’s stagnant energy. The greens in this soup will fuel you with a feeling of energised lightness. Often it’s raw salads that are associated with being the ‘healthiest’ choice as this doesn’t reduce the number of enzymes and minerals in the food, however, when we gently cook and wilt food, we break down the layers, making it a lot easier for our body to absorb the nutrients. Therefore, what we may lose in heating, we make up for in increased bioavailability.

This soup includes cannellini beans, yet many people tell me they get bad belly trouble when eating beans. Much more often than not, it turns out that the person suffering has been eating cold, uncooked beans in a salad. If this is you, I strongly recommend you try cooking (soaked) beans with spices to break them down and again make them so much easier to digest. Then hopefully you’ll be able to enjoy the wonderous world of beans!!

Ingredients for 3 servings:

1 Courgette
1 Broccoli
Kale (you can substitute with spinach if you’d like)
1 tin Cannellini Beans
1 tbsp Coconut Oil
2-3 tbsps Cumin
1 Lemon
1 large handful fresh Coriander
4 Cloves Garlic
Salt
Black Pepper
3 tsps unpasteurised Miso Paste (optional)

Melt the coconut oil in a deep saucepan then add the finely chopped garlic. Then add the chopped courgette and broccoli (including the stalk), along with the cumin, salt and pepper. Keep moving and allow the veg to fry in the spice and oil. Meanwhile, boil the kettle, drain and rinse the beans, tear the kale leaves from their stems. After the veg has fried for around 5-10 minutes, add the beans and kale before covering the lot with boiled water. Put the lid on, bring to boil, then lower and leave to simmer for about 30-45 minutes. Check it a couple of times to see if you need to add more water. Afterwards, turn off the heat and stir through the chopped coriander then blend the soup to desired consistency. Pour into bowls before stirring in a squeeze of lemon and miso paste, if using, then top with a sprinkling of fresh coriander.

 

I recently spent a little while in London and it seemed to me that the principle of personal choice was largely being forgotten. Advertisements and the media can encourage the idea that we all must just follow suit and do what all those around us are doing. I saw that FOMO (fear of missing out) is alive and powerful. But what seems more fearsome to me is the idea of not taking control over your life and never actually discovering the things that truly light you up!

We all have choices to make at every moment of each day. Don’t let this overwhelm you, allow it to empower you!

How do you choose to start your day?
I think it’s extremely important to do something special, for yourself, before looking into a screen and turning your attention outwards. Instead, take the time to connect to yourself. This doesn’t need to be hours of morning rituals (although sometimes you may want to treat yourself to this!) but can simply be 5 deep, mindful breaths; observing where and how this life force moves through the body. Other ideas include meditation, journaling, stretching, going for a walk, surf, swim, etc.

How do you go through your day?
It’s your choice how you spend your commute to work. If you take public transport, I understand how easy it can be to get pulled into the habit of staring into your phone, but you can instead listen to an inspiring podcast, read a book, or perhaps just sit, observe and practice keeping the mind steady, instead of letting the stories run away with you. If you drive, it’s your choice the pace you go at. Setting off late and powering through the same streets is not only very dangerous but also an extremely stressful way to start the day. An idea to mix it up is to try and take different routes if possible; that could mean some days taking the short cut, other days taking the longer option, or perhaps getting a different tube/bus that takes you in a similar enough direction; it could even literally be taking one street different that links up to the one you’re heading for and just being mindful about what is on the lesser trodden path. Doing this helps keep your brain active, as opposed to going through the motions. Mindful (not rushed) movement is a great way to find the deep pleasure in simplicity.

How do you end your day?
Everyone goes to sleep at some point, you choose how you lead up to that point. Regardless of the responsibilities you may hold up until late into the evening, there’s always time to tune into your breath and body. Switching off from screens for a little while before bedtime is a key method of winding down. When we overload our brain with so much stimulation right up until the last minute, when our head then hits the pillow, out mind is still racing at 100 miles an hour! You can try simply lying down and counting the length of your breaths, working towards extending the exhales. This very simple breathing exercise can focus the mind and have a beautifully calming effect on the nervous system.

Know that you are the creator of your own happiness. Often the mind can play tricks on us, making us think that we don’t want to make the choices we really do, because it’s perhaps easier to go through the motions. We always have the choice to be mindful and the more we practice, the stronger, and more natural, this habit will become.

This is a truly delicious meal, filled with flavour and nourishment. It includes a whole array of vibrant colours which signifies its exuberant nature, therefore feeding the body with prana: life force.

Kale is quite the trendy vegetable these days, however, if not prepared properly it can be a huge task for your digestive system. You want to tend to your agni (digestive fire) with tenderness, as opposed to overloading it and risking the fire burning out. By massaging this delicious dressing into the leaves, we wilt the kale and then leave the greens to enjoy in their post massage bliss for 30-60 minutes. This means that we create a pre-digestion phase, allowing the outer walls to begin to breakdown before our internal organs take on the full digestion processes.

Activating the nuts is another step we can make to allow this salad to be a lighter load on our bodies. You can soak the pecans for around 4-6 hours before draining and rinsing with clean water.

Here’s the ingredients for 1 serving, however I think it’s useful to make double the amount here then the oven only needs to be used once for twice the grub; plus all your massaging efforts will provide twice the feat!

Ingredients:

Kale leaves
1 Beetroot
1/2 tin Chickpeas
1 handful Pecans
1/2 Avocado

1tsp Miso
1-2 tsp(s) Tahini
1/2 Lemon
1tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil

Olive/Coconut Oil
Spices of your choice (whatever is in the cupboard!)

1. Turn the oven on to 180 degrees and place the whole beetroot in there to cook for anywhere between 40mins – 1 hour. I usually leave mine in for around 50 minutes, however on our organic veg delivery this week we got the tiniest baby beetroot that I only left in for about 35 mins.
2. Tear the kale leaves from the stems and add to a mixing bowl then massage in the dressing ingredients. Use your hands and massage firmly for at least 2 minutes before leaving to sit.
3. When the beetroot is about 10 minutes away from being cooked, drain the chickpeas and add them to a baking tray with coconut or olive oil and any spices of your choice (I like cinnamon, turmeric & cumin, plus salt and pepper).
4. Take beetroot out on the oven and put the pecans in beside the chickpeas that you might like to shuffle around a little to evenly cook. Leave the beetroot to cool for 10 minutes before peeling off the skin and cutting, while the pecans toast. Keep an eye on the nuts, they don’t need long. Although if you’ve activated and rinsed them so they’re wet, they will of course take longer to toast but make sure you pat them dry with a tea towel / kitchen roll first to remove excess water.
5. Add the massaged kale, sliced avocado, roasted chickpeas, toasted pecans and cooked beetroot to your bowl and top with a final squeeze of lemon plus salt and pepper.

 

Tomorrow is the beginning of Easter weekend which means, of course, my post this week is dedicated to chocolate.

I’m recently back from a trip travelling around Peru, the world’s number one producer of organic cacao. I was interested to learn more about this crop that I absolutely love. I eat cacao blended into my smoothies, mixed into raw deserts and warmed up to make a healthy hot chocolate, but when we buy the stuff in a shop, we can be very removed its cultivation. Making my own chocolate has allowed me to learn more about the process, however when I read about this cacao workshop in Arequipa (even before I touched down in the country), it was among my top priorities during my visit.

Cacao has been a sacred food; in ancient times it was known as the food of the gods. Historically, in Peru, the beans were revered so highly that 3 of them could be traded for a woman for the night and just 20 beans would be the value needed to buy yourself a woman for life! Obviously doesn’t happen today!

Cacao beans grow on trees then must ferment for 8 days before being sun-dried for 14; if they go through this process, the beans last for 5 years. We made our own chocolate in the workshop; first, we were given the fermented beans to de-shell. We used our fingers for this fiddly process which is how it used to be done, however these days there are machines that do the job in no time. After we had de-shelled our fair share of beans we roasted them lightly for around 20 minutes before grinding the beans with a pestle and mortar; we all took our turn to show our strength and help to turn the beans into a paste. We used the paste to enjoy a cacao tea before going downstairs to the kitchen where we used the cacao mix that had already been totally blended into a liquid. We sprinkled our choc moulds with the ingredients we desired; there were options of coconut, chia seed, quinoa, sea salt, dried banana, brazil nuts, coca leaf powder, cacao nibs, almonds and more, before we filled the moulds to the top with fresh chocolate. These all went into the freezer while we returned upstairs for our chocolate tasting, trying to distinguish between ‘real’ and ‘fake’ (less than 25% cacao) chocolate. And then, our chocolates were ready for us to take out of the moulds and package. They handed us a plastic bag, which I declined as I’d kept mini plastic bags from our market trip to reuse as many times as possible, and we could take away our very own hand-made chocolates looking oh so professional.

I love cacao and will continue to enjoy fair-trade organic cacao in all its glory, taking centre stage in my foodie creations… just like this delightful (gluten-free) granola that’s perfect for Easter and all year round. I like to eat a bowl with warmed nut milk; coconut yogurt and fruit; or to top smoothie/porridge bowls.

Ingredients:

1.5c Almonds
1.5c Buckwheat Grouts
1c Sunflower Seeds
1c Pumpkin Seeds
1/2c Cashews (or any other nut you fancy/have in your cupboard)

3 tbsps Coconut Oil
2-3 Red Apples
1 tbsp Cinnamon (optional)
3 tbsps Pure Maple Syrup
4 tbsps Raw Organic Peruvian Cacao

1c Goji Berries (or another dried fruit of your choice)
1.5c Raw Organic Peruvian Cacao Nibs
1/2c Dried Coconut

1. If you want to make an activated granola, like I do, then soaking your nuts and grains is the first step. Almonds take the longest so soak these overnight then in the morning drain and wash them then put the buckwheat and seeds plus any extra nuts in a big bowl and leave to soak for 4-6 hours. I find that the almonds will dry naturally in a strainer after rinsing. These can stay whole or can be blitzed in a food processor to break down which I prefer (or you can chop them if you don’t have a machine) but wait until they’re dry to do this.
2. Once the buckwheat and seeds have had a good soaking, drain these too and rinse well to get rid of all the gunk (very satisfying!). This will make them easier to digest and therefore higher in nutrients which are readily available for your body to absorb. Pat and squeeze excess water from these using a tea towel before spreading over a baking tray or two and put in the oven at a low temperature to partially dehydrate. I put mine in at about 100 degrees centigrade for about 30 minutes. You don’t want them to cook as they’ll be returning to the oven again.

If you’re not activating the nuts you can begin at step 3:

3. Meanwhile, peel and chop the apples into cubes and make into purée by adding to a saucepan with about a centimetre of water. Bring to boil then to a simmer. Keep an eye on them and if they get low on water then top it up to avoid burning. After about 20 minutes (whenever it’s become mushy), you can take off the heat, add the cinnamon and mash with a fork.
4. Gently melt the coconut oil on a low heat in a wide frying pan then stir in the apple purée, raw cacao powder and maple syrup.
When the buckwheat and seeds are dry, add them to a mixing bowl with the (broken down) almonds and then stir in this thick, hot, delicious chocolate sauce. Combine it well so that all of the dry ingredients are covered.
5. Line the baking trays with baking paper and spread the granola over them. Turn the heat up to 160 degrees and allow to cook for around 40 minutes but make sure to fully mix and turn the granola a few times during the process to make sure nothing burns.
6. I like to re-hydrate goji berries before eating so they’re plump and juicy. I do this by putting them in a bowl and just about covering with boiling water for a minute, then strain. Add the gojis and coconut to the granola mix for the final 3-5 minutes.
7. Finally, remove your well-loved creation from the oven, allow to cool, then stir through the cacao nibs for an extra choccy kick!

We get a box of organic veggies delivered to our house each week; it’s so fun experimenting with the goods. I’ve enjoyed so many beets in these boxes and thought it was time for me to get more creative with them. As well as adding sweet chunks to my salad, I began adding the odd cooked beetroot to my smoothie (e.g. Red Velvet Smoothie recipe), and now this Golden Pesto has further expanded the potential! I love both deep purple and precious golden beetroot; the golden is softer in colour and flavour, handy for not dyeing everything in its path. By combining these with toasted pine nuts, you get a lovely shade of sunshine pesto – perfect for springtime.

I like to activate my nuts. This means soaking them in order to remove some of the natural enzyme inhibitors. You don’t have to do this step but it does make them easier to digest, increasing their available nutritional value, so if you have time, I recommend it. It’s so easy, just calls for a little planning ahead. I also love lightly roasting nuts as it enhances their flavour so much, doubling their nuttiness!

You can stir this deeply flavoursome pesto through pasta or courgetti noodles, spread into your sandwich or keep it thick and use it like hummus to dip your crudités and potato wedges. The options are endless and once you’ve blended it, you will no doubt be eating this pesto straight from the spoon!

Ingredients:

2/3c Pine Nuts (activated)
1c chopped (2 large, 3-4 small) Golden Beetroot
1 large Lemon
3 tbsps Olive Oil
1 large handful on Basil (my generous ‘handful’ may be considered two handfuls by some)
1 large clove Garlic
3 tbsp Nutritional Yeast (I always use the one fortified with b12 which is an important vitamin we generally don’t get from a plant based diet. This is an optional ingredient altogether.)
Sea Salt to taste
Water to desired consistency (I recommend about 1/3c)

Soak pine nuts (5-7 hours). Heat the oven to 180 degrees and place the whole beetroots into the oven to cook for about an hour. Drain and rinse the pine nuts and place on a tea towel to squeeze out excess water before putting into a baking tray and adding to the oven to dry and toast until lightly golden, this will only take about 10 minutes or less; keep a close eye on them, you don’t want them to burn! When the beets have been cooked for an hour (note: if using smaller beetroots they will take less time to cook; large ones will take the full hour), you can take them out of the oven to cool, before peeling off the skins, chopping, and adding to your food processor, along with the pine nuts, lemon juice, olive oil, basil, garlic, nutritional yeast and salt. Blend well to give a thick, creamy consistency, then add the water slowly so you can stop when you reach the consistency that suits. Taste test to see if you like it just like me or perhaps want a little more sweet basil, punchy garlic or zesty lemon. Enjoy!

I have chosen to write about the three main cities of Peru, which are in fact bursting with healthy hotspots. As opposed to them being ‘international’ hubs, they serve true Peruvian cuisine. Peru is the home of many western ‘superfoods’, from root powders like cacao, maca, lucuma, to grains such as quinoa, and even nuts from the Andean mountains like sacha inchi. I found so many plant based option, it was easy to enjoy the delicious food. One thing is for sure: potatoes are always on the menu when the country grows hundreds and hundreds of different kinds!

Cusco is a tourist hub due to its rich history. It is surrounded by ancient ruins including, of course, the famous Machu Picchu. We only spent 4 days around Cusco but with excursions to hike Rainbow Mountain, explore the sacred valley, and a day at Machu Picchu, it left us with only one full day for Cusco itself and I would have loved one more day here in this bustling city that has many quiet, peaceful streets with hidden treasures.

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San Pedro Market
Cusco’s central market was my favourite of all the markets I went to. The senses come alive within the rainbow of colour from the ripe and juicy fruits to the aromatic flower stalls with an abundance of textures and shapes. There are many stalls selling nuts and dried fruits by the kilo. We chose one and stocked up. The woman who owned the stall kept generously giving us tastes of pretty much anything we looked at. We filled up with a selection of golden berries, brazil nuts, sacha inchi, dried figs, bee pollen, almonds, walnuts and pecans. The pecans here are HUGE and taste a lot fresher than at home. These snacks kept us going throughout the next week of adventures with hikes and plane journeys and excursions where our included breakfast were really nothing more than bread. (Top tip: take avocado and a lime everywhere! We did and it made every piece of bread so much more delicious, nutritious and therefore, satisfying.)

The Shaman Restaurant
We ate the set lunch menu here and were blown away at how much food we got for such little cost. They claim to prepare and cook their food in line with shamanic principles. We had 4 or 5 courses here including soup, quinoa and vegetable dishes and an almond milk rice pudding to end. It was lovely.

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Green Stop (shop & restaurant)
The tea and herbs sold here are sourced from the sacred valley along with many other dried goods. They also make their own fresh produce; cashew cheeses, raw brownies, plant based cookies etc. I got to sample a mouthful of the chocolate chickpea brownie and it was out of this world! Just around the corner is the sister restaurant; the food looks incredible, although fairly pricy, but I didn’t get the chance to try as I was still full from our shamanic feast for lunch.

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Arequipa was probably might favourite place I went to in Peru. This city feels much more like a town due to the many pedestrian-only areas and therefore, the much calmer atmosphere. It has a rich history just like the rest of these incredible Peruvian towns, a beautiful main square with lush green gardens and the city is surrounded by three huge, dramatic, snow-covered volcanoes which you can choose to hike up or admire from afar.

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Chaq Cacao
This chocolate haven has a shop, cafe and chocolate kitchen (not to mention the daily cacao workshops they hold daily which I will do a full post on soon!). The cakes are made daily at a bakery close by with their organic cacao and, oh my, they are not to be missed!!

Las Gringas
This restaurant is next door to Chaq Cacao, sharing the lovely courtyard (where a really great walking tour of the city begins), and serves local, organic produce. By day it serves açai bowls, salads and focaccia sandwiches and by night it become a pizza restaurant, making top notch thin crust extravaganzas in their pizza oven. I actually went back on my last night before an overnight bus because it was so good. They have innovative takes on an international favourite by incorporating Peruvian crops, such as (gluten free) purple corn crust and quinoa bases. There is the option for avocado instead of cheese. Las Gringas also specialises in beers although I can’t tell you anything more on that topic as I don’t drink it.

El Buddha Perano
The food at this vegan sushi bar is amazing! I was the only person dining there so it didn’t have much atmosphere but the food is fresh, colourful, healthy and so tasty.

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Omphalos
I came here for lunch on my last day and again got a big set lunch menu for just 10 sol which is about £2.20! From potato to soup to a huge main, that I was able to pick from 4 options (I went for a bean stew), all the way to dessert, it was another seemingly never-ending lunch. I enjoyed it but was a total carb overload. It was a heavy meal and that was without eating the desert which was some sort of mango jelly (not my jam), however I would definitely recommend for those wanting to try the local non-meat food on a budget.

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Lima is the capital of Peru and is far larger than any of its other cities. This is evident when you arrive; the streets are crowded with cars and loud with honks. However, because it’s on the coast, you get this whole sea (literally) of open space and a sense of serenity.

Germinando Vida
I came here with friends that live in Lima and work in Barranco, which is known as the bohemian suburb of this big city. There are many options for cafes in Lima and particularly in this area, but I was so glad we came to Germinando, mostly because of the starters. We ordered a couple of entrees for the 4 of us: mango cerviche (a vegetarian take on this coastal fishy delicacy) and another bowl featuring all of the local food: potatoes, avocado, corn etc. Again these vegetables were so fresh and ripe and the combination of flavours was amazing! My bean burger and salad for main was pretty tasty too.

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Raw Cafe
This spot is in Miraflores which is where my friend lives. There are many exciting options and because it’s such a hard decision we came here 3 times! I tried the falafel nourish bowl for dinner and had the flax wrap for lunch as well as a half of the pancakes then on another visit sampled the carrot cake! The meals were full of healthy ingredients however, in all honesty, it wasn’t really anything to rave about in my opinion.

AmaZ
Ending with a bang; amaZ was the best meal I had and is without a doubt in my top 5 restaurant meal EVER. This is a fancy spot next door to the Hilton hotel and it has a price tag to match. In classic Peruvian style, amaZ also does a set lunch menu which happens to be vegetarian, so as well as this being the best value for money, it definitely suited me best. The price was not the standard 10-20 sol but was 270 for the 2 of us. If you’re looking for something special, I couldn’t recommend this more and it actually coverts to only around £30 each which is what you’d pay for a nice 2 course dinner in England anyway! The set menu had 10 dishes but rather than them being brought out one by one and us nibbling for about 5 hours, they brought out the first 4 together for our first course, then another 4 for our main, and finally the last 2 for dessert. Yes, we were full. What’s so special about this restaurant is that all the ingredients come from the amazon rainforest. A few of my favourite dishes were yucca empanadas, mushroom and callampas patarashca, plantain farofa and the homemade sorbets made with regional fruits such as orange, lime and palmarosa. Everything was absolutely amaZing and provided a real experience over and above the taste of the exquisite, creatively prepared food. Here we had our unbelievable feast then got to enjoy dandering back along the coast to return to my friend’s place In Miraflores. In I find myself in Lima again, I would definitely come back here and be excited to see what new Amazonian delights they had crafted.

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