‘Van Life’ Living – Western Australia Roadtrip

February brought the completion of my level 2, 300 hour yoga teacher training, then a three week holiday to follow, and so I took my opportunity to explore this wonderful country more. When I first arrived in Australia, I spent three week travelling down the top half of the east coast down to Brisbane. After that, I lived in Sydney for four months, followed by Ballina for three and now Byron for six (and counting). During my year and a half in Australia I’ve definitely had a good go at exploring the popular east, however I thought it was time to take the lesser travelled path over to the west, and what a great decision that was.

As some of you may know, I am 22 years old and wow do I love it! I have no responsibilities, no ties and I only answer to myself. If you are in a similar boat, take advantage! I can’t recommend travel enough and although doing it with friends can be so much fun, travelling alone is something so incredibly special. Why? Don’t you get bored? No! I love time on my own so much and learn a huge amount about myself, nevertheless I think people misunderstand solo travel as being secluded time from start to finish but in all my travels I actually have to fend for this alone time. You meet SO many people and being on your own opens you right up to each and every one of them. There are so many interesting people on the road and the simple fact that they have this same thirst for adventure already puts you on a similar page in a sense, you have some common ground and it’s likely that you have similarities, as well as lots you can learn from one another.

As soon as I got back from Woodford festival this year I kicked my butt into gear, requested time of work (don’t ask, don’t get), booked my flight and arranged my wicked camper all in preparation for my adventure.

First of all, I will point out that I’m very lucky in that one of my close friends here in Byron is actually from Margaret River, one of the most well known, sought after spots on the west coast, and he wrote me out a guide of his tips, along with some contacts. This is actually an important point to make, once you of start travelling, you start to accumulate contacts all over the world and it makes distant places far more accessible. Exploring a new place with the locals is always the best way to do it, otherwise you can get stuck in the tourist spots and that really isn’t a true reflection.

My Trip

Before I got the car I spent a couple of days in Perth staying with a gorgeous friend from uni back in Manchester. We explored Rottnest Island by bike and also did a torchlit tour of the prison in Fremantle where the convicts were sent to in the past (but really not that long ago!).

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For the first two days on the road I didn’t sleep in my car as planned; instead, I met some beautiful people who had me stay in their spare bed out the bush, in between Dunsborough and Yallingup, two beautiful coastal towns with both famous beaches and plenty of secluded little bays. I met their friends and went to a house part with them all. I got to fell the vibe of the Dunsborough area and realise its not far from the people of Byron.

I continued south to Margaret River which is known for its relaxed vibe and wholesome sense of community. I arrived on the day of the farmers markets which was the perfect start then while checking out some of the popular surfing beaches I met a lovely girl Larissa and we just hit it off straight away. That afternoon we went along with her boyfriend and friends back up to Gracetown for a sunset surf, where I’d been hoping to visit but had beelined for the markets that morning. In the dark I followed her back to her property and wow that really was out in the bush, in towards Witchcliffe. We drove down what I guess you could maybe call dirt roads in between the huge trees. Eventually we arrived at her caravan and while I was thinking how brave she is to stay here alone every night, her and her boyfriend got straight to lighting the gas stove and cooking dinner with no electricity, running water nor, of course, reception. Here we were on the west coast of Australia, so far from the rest of the world, and right now I was away from all the people, just us and nature; it was so beautiful. I looked up and what I saw was magical; the stars looked so close and bright and were all out to kiss us goodnight. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many.

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I continued onto the Karri Forest, still in the Margaret River region but further south than the town and beaches. It was so amazing to be so alone. I’d been told by a worker at the information centre to find myself a stick because of course, the bush is where the snakes live and there were many venomous ones around. I asked, “so what am I supposed to do with a stick if a snake comes?”, and she said to just wag it around and hit it to the floor to make noise which will keep them at bay. So, I drove down beautiful Boranup Drive and on my first stop for a walk, within seconds, the perfect stick was lying in front of me as if the forest was offering it up. Off I went exploring through the huge trees with beautiful bark peeling down the sides. That night I slept in the forest and when I woke up, I rolled out my yoga mat and had a deep, slow yoga practice, breathing in that quality oxygenated air, flowing with the leaves on the trees.

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Onward and upward (or actually downward) from the forest, I drove to Walpole for the tree top walk and then on to Denmark, a beautiful southern western aussie town with a real sense of community. Here I checked into an actual campsite by Parry Beach. It cost me 15 dollars a night which I was. at first, rather horrified about but then realised it was totally worth it. As I’d gone further down the coast it was getting cooler. As I had come from boiling Byron, it hadn’t even crossed my mind to bring a jumper or trousers for sleeping in and had been getting by borrowing. Denmark was actually cold and a little rainy but I really didn’t want to spend money on a jumper to wear for just two nights. At the campsite, the little old women that volunteer gave me two quilted blankets and showed me to my campsite, backing right onto the beach. Not only that but there were showers! Oh the joy. I bought myself those exfoliating gloves to commemorate this special moment where I wasn’t having to sneak my bar of soap into the beach showers on the sly. I was showering and proud! Afterwards I lathered my whole body in my roship oil and got snug as a bug in a rug. Then followed my best sleep of the whole trip.

I really liked Denmark straight away regardless of cooler climate which wouldn’t have been my choice. The shops are all locally owned and the people working their really care about what it is they’re producing and sharing. There were posters up in all the whole food cafes for things like massage, eco projects and community yoga. After living in Byron for six months, I’m so used to this amazing sense of community and I’m really very aware of it now. Denmark had no chains, just locals supporting each other an growing together. On top of this, Greens Pool and Elephant Rock area was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been!!

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Afterward I made the six hour drive back up to Perth and spent my last day in Freantle after a jog at North Beach. Fremantle is wonderful. I explored the markets that are on every Friday, Saturday and Sunday all day and loved perusing the shops where so many goods are handmade by local artists, making beautiful unique pieces which show talent and care. There was a huge second hand bookstore I’d have loved to spend longer in and would actually have loved more time there in general, exploring the antique buildings. After Fremantle, I went to return my car which I’d become so attached to: my transport, my home and my travel companion in everywhere I went. It was amazing to have everything I needed in that one space and here’s some advice for if you’d like to do a similar trip.

My ‘vanlife’ essentials:

Yoga mat (amazing to have the freedom to do yoga wherever whenever. I yogi’d on next to the ocean, in the forest, on grass, on sand etc etc and it was all beautiful.)
Sleeping bag
Cushion
Stainless steel water bottle (even in stinking hot weather you can still drink cool water – precious)
Knife
Spoon
Glass jar to mix oats
Tissues
Torch
A jumper (something I didn’t have and wished I did, I borrowed the whole way)
A bar of soap in a container
A bar of shampoo
A microfibre towel (Travel essential)
Phone charger (& phone which hardly needs mentioning for most but I’m quite technically challenged and was so impressed with the maps on my phone!)

My Food

In terms of food, I absolutely loved what I ate. Pretty much everything was organic and I spent so little. I would buy little bits here and there and just stocked up once on the Saturday when I went to the Margaret River farmers market which was so lovely. It’s just important to remember that you have no fridge and so things may not last quite as long. If you’re wanting to buy for days ahead, it needs to be sturdy: dry goods or at least a thick skin. I kept all my food goods in a canvas shopping bag underneath my ‘bed’ so it got no direct sunlight and could stay fairly cool even in super hot weather.

My food essentials:

Himalayan pink salt: The key to everything!
Sweet potatoes: Bake these in an oven for 50 mins – 1 hour then wrap up and they’ll last a few days.
Oats or Quinoa Flakes: How on earth could I go two weeks without?
Peruvian Protein Powder: I get this from where I work, Bare Blends. I genuinely love this powder so so much. I work at the smoothie bar in Byron but their product can be bought online and shipped all over the world.
Chia seeds: These help to add bulk and essential nutrients to my oaty, mushy goodness.
Almond (/rice/oat) Milk: Lasts outside the fridge.
Avocados: My favourite!!!
Rice Cakes: Find the best quality you can by looking for organic with the least amount of ingredients. It should still be super cheap!
Cucumbers: They hold up well outside of the fridge and are so refreshing.
Fruit: Buy mangos, apples, plums, whatever is in season where you are travelling.
Fresh Bread: This isn’t a necessity but I picked up a fresh fruit loaf from a beautiful farmers market and it made me oh so happy.
Peanut Butter: I bought a jar when I first arrived in Perth then when it was finished (it doesn’t take me long), that’s the jar I used to mix my oats in – so easy to transport, mix, eat from and rinse.

For example, a day may look something like this:
Breakfast: Oats, chia, almond milk, peruvian powder (if not this try some cacao or carob powder)
Lunch: Avo on rice cakes with salt and perhaps some tomatoes or cucumber / Baked sweet potato
Dinner: Sweet potato / more oats / more avo on bread or rice cakes
Snacks: Fruit / more oats / more avo

Can you tell I love chocolatey oats and avocado? They’re just delicious! It’s so wonderful to get back to simple eating sometimes. At home, my cupboard is full of herbs and spices and I’m huge on condiments. This isn’t a bad thing but tastebuds can become accustomed to certain flavouring and then you need to add more and more to get the usual kick you once got. Therefore, it was great for me to go back to basics and enjoy the simple pleasures.

Nevertheless, although this list made up the majority of my food, I was sure to try out some local treats too. One example is Gabriels Chocolate; it’s in Yallingup and Fremantle and is not to be missed! Here you can do chocolate tastings where the workers explain all about the origins and history. Beans come from Uganda, Ecuador, all over the world, and are made into very dark, dark, milk and sweet milk variations. My favourite though is the ice cream. No it’s not dairy or sugar free but my is it nourishing for the soul. The chocolatiers make the ice cream themselves and you can really tell how passionate they are about it. When that much love goes into a food, it’s doing something good for you. I had it when I was in Yallingup and then before my flight back home I made sure to make a trip to the shop in Fremantle!

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Spiced Savoury Bread

This recipe is inspired by the beautiful cooks at Byron Yoga Centre where I study two days a week. This week I’m actually just completing my level 2 teacher training there after studying for six months, but long ago on our very first day we were treated to lunch and were all given this almond bread… it was never forgotten. Every other lunch time was delicious but my group could never stop wondering when that unbelievable almond bread would show its face back on the menu. Eventually, I asked for the recipe and since that day I’ve been chopping and changing it every time, playing with lots of ideas. The first time it was too moist, then too dry, I’ve often had it become more of an almond crumble, however this time I got it just right.

Nevertheless, what I have here is a very vague recipe. That is not because I’m trying to keep some big secret but it’s because I want everyone to have the opportunity to express their creativity in the kitchen. I loved making all my ‘mistakes’ and there was certainly never a batch that went uneaten nor enjoyed! Experimenting with different spices, veggies, oils and milks and seeing what works for your tastebuds is what makes baking so fun.

As you can see I enjoy a little bread with my butter but that’s actually doctor’s orders (winning!!). After a one on one consultation with an ayurveduc doctor, I was told that I couldn’t have enough healthy fats to nourish my dry nervous system; and so, I bake ghee filled, butter topped bread and I’m one very happy girl. But if you prefer you can use olive oil or coconut oil as was suggested to me in the first recipe and this bread is wonderful with salads, soups, etc and makes a great breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Anyway, here’s my rough outline of what went in to my latest creation. Have a read and have the best time creating your own nuttiness…

Ingredients:

2 cups Almond Pulp (I have this from making almond milk. Almonds or almond meal works fine)
2 cups Buckwheat Flour (or use brown rice flour)
1 grated Zucchini (here just use whatever veggies you’ve got in the fridge)
Broccoli (I had a very small amount and just cut up into tiny pieces)
1/2 cup Filtered Water (you may want to use a nut milk)
3-4 heaped tbsp melted Organic, Grass-Fed Ghee
2 tbsp Chia Seeds
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Bicarb Soda
Fresh Rosemary Sprigs
Dried Italian Herbs
Turmeric, Paprika, Cumin, Madras Curry Powder
Fennel Seeds & Corriander Seeds
Himilayan Salt & Pepper

Method:

Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Melt the ghee in a sauce pan then combine with almond pulp (just blend almonds in food processor if you have the whole nuts), flour, chia seeds, baking powder, bicarb soda, rosemary sprigs, herbs & spices. Then add the fennel and coriander seeds to the pan and let them toast. Once the fennel is changing colour and producing an aroma take off the heat and add to all of the other ingredients with a good dose of salt and pepper. Get your hands in there and miss mash everything together along with the water which you may need to play around with on quantities. Line a baking tray and push the mixture into all corners and create a fairly smooth top. Place in the oven for around 45 minutes. You can test if it’s ready by placing a sharp knife in and if it comes out clean then it’s ready, if part of the bread comes out on it, leave it a little longer. Allow the bread to cool a little before slicing.

Please note: I use almond pulp which is an already wet mixture. If you’re using dry nuts, you will need to add more liquid to this recipe, either from water, nut milk, oil… have a play and find out!

Eat Local

I’m so lucky to have the wonderful Byron farmers markets every week. Unfortunately it’s on one of the days I study but I go out of my way to get there and make it work by either getting up really early, riding there, stocking up, cycling home with a backpack and basket full, unload, then straight back out for a day full of yoga; or I continue onto school and ask them to put my goods in their fridge but then have an even further way to travel with all my precious produce.

It really is worth finding a local market though for many reasons. Buying fresh from farmers means that your money is going to the people who earned it by producing that food, instead of adding in a whole chain of ‘middle men’ who all, of course, need paying too. This encourages both a fair payment to the supplier as well as a good deal for the customer. Also, by cutting out all this transport from farm to warehouse, to store, to home, we minimise emissions from transportation and of course, we save a whole load of time, meaning that the food is on our plate while it’s still super fresh and nutritious. You’re much more likely to get better quality for lower price at a farmers market where often the produce will be organic, or if not certified organic, it may still be spray free. This isn’t just fruit and veg but I also get pecan butter, flowers, cashew cheese, brown rice, eggs, macadamia butter, sauerkraut, honey, sprouts, chocolate and bread (-this list could go on and on!) from local businesses and farms. Be inquisitive and ask about the conditions of the goods you’re buying, I’ve found it really interesting learning more about food from stall holders; often people love telling you about the process of yielding their product and it shows that it’s been done with love and care.

On top of all this, one of my favourite things about a good farmers maket is the atmosphere. Markets around here are so fun with a real community vibe. People come together, enjoy local live music, meet, chat, drink coffee/juice, eat good food and shop for their weekly food and flowers in a way that supports their fellow community members, all working together to thrive and prosper.

Research, explore, enjoy.

Opening the door within…

… Through the hips! I feel like my life story is hidden in my hips. Working through tensions in this area unleashes so many emotions. Some people store a lot in their shoulders, others in the jaw; while I can do both of these, hips are definitely my body’s go-to storage for sadness, pain, grief, anger, any negative emotion that my mind decides I’m unable to deal with. Because we cannot just make emotions vanish, if we don’t work with them, they will get nailed into our physical bodies.

I find my hips fascinating and actually love working with them to release emotions, although I have to say that it can certainly be very overwhelming. I work to stretch my hips every single day because each morning when I wake up, after sleeping in a curled up ball, they are tight again, it’s a daily practice which is an exploration as opposed to a continuous progression. I think yoga classes focused on hip openers should always come with a serious warning. It’s huge how powerful attention on this area can go.

I have been working with hanumanasana lately (full splits) as I feel like it really flexes the hip in a way like no other stretch can. You do not need muscular strength to hold you there, but simply the more you release, the deeper you get and the more you stretch that tough hip. We often spend a lot of our day decreasing the angle of the hip: sitting, cycling, running etc, but by taking the leg backwards we can get an amazing stretch, releasing important muscles such as the psoas which is closely related to stress.

Lunges with the back knee on the floor is a wonderful place to start. I find that this really opens up my hip and you can play around with the arms, feeling how the stretch changes (e.g. Overhead, leaning to one side, interlaced behind back). It’s also important to stretch the hamstrings in order to progress with hanuman and get into the hips.

I hope you can enjoy exploring your hip fexors and work in a self-loving way to gently release emotions which can be causing unconscious stress in the body, helping you to feel both a physical and emotional release.

Chocolate Mouse

Weeks ago I bought a black sappote from the farmers market, also known as chocolate pudding fruit. It sat in the fruit bowl for a long, long time then yesterday I came home and realised it was finally soft and squishy! I cut it in half and scooped out some flesh but it didn’t taste like chocolate pudding… Until I blended it with the essentials. The finished product was dreamy. If you come across black sappote, you must make this creamy mousse, it’s what dreams are made of.

Ingredients:
1 ripe Black Sappote
1 small frozen Banana
1 tbsp Cacao
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2tsp Cardamom
Rice or Coconut Milk (add slowly to create the desired consistency)

Add everything to your blender and whip up this whole-food dessert.

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Warm Green Salad

This is a warming, comforting recipe that’s packed with green goodness. By mixing raw, sautéed and roasted veggies and pulses, you get something totally wholesome. I created this dish on a lovely, rainy Sunday afternoon and it made me shine from the inside out.

Ingredients:
1 small Broccoli
3 stalks Silverbeet (or any spinach)
1/2 tin Chickpeas
1 small Zucchini / Courgette
1/2 small Avocado
1 large Clove Garlic
1 handful of Black Kalamata Olives
1 tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil (or good quality olive oil)
Lemon
Fennel Seeds
Spices: I like cumin, paprika, turmeric
Salt
Pepper
1 tbsp Coconut oil

Turn the oven to 180 degrees. Put the coconut oil in a baking dish and put into the oven to melt while you wash and drain the chickpeas and chop up the broccoli. Put these into the baking dish and put the spices, salt and pepper over the chickpeas and just salt and pepper over the broccoli then turn them all over and around so it’s all covered in the oil and flavours. These can cook in the oven for around 25 minutes, until the broccoli has become crispy on the edges. Meanwhile, slice the garlic and cook in a little coconut oil. After a minute, add the sliced courgette and silverbeet; after another couple of minutes add the olives and let them all cook together on a low heat for another 2-3 mins. In this time you can lightly toast the fennel seeds in a separate pan and cut up your avocado. Finally, add you roasted broccoli and chickpeas to a plate long with the sautéed veggies then add in the avocado and top with a drizzling of oil, lemon juice, toasted fennel seeds and extra black pepper.

Chickpea & Beef Bolognese

Here is my first meat recipe. My diet is still very much plant-based, however after years of iron deficiency and a more recent b-12 deficiency alongside hormonal imbalances, I decided, with the help of my doctor and naturopath, that my body may just need a little red meat these days. I have started to include small quantities of the best quality meat as responsible meat eating is something I am passionate about. While organic food of all kinds is hugely beneficial, organic meat is massively important. Local, organic, grass-fed beef has become part of my weekly diet and so I experimented a little and created this delicious Bolognese that has been tried and tested on my friend who is a real meat-eater, he loved it and I hope you do too.

I think that it’s important to constantly reassess our bodies and check in with what they are telling us. Our body’s are constantly changing and a diet we may have thrived on in the past may not be the same forever. Listen to your body and let it be your guide.

Ingredients:
Organic minced Beef (I just asked the butcher for enough for 2 people)
1 Onion
2 Cloves of Garlic
1 tin Tomatoes (I used organic tomatoes with basil & oregano)
1 tin Chickpeas
2-3 stalks Celery (whole – inc leaves)
1 tsp Paprika (if you don’t have all these spices don’t worry, just go with what you’ve got)
1tsp Cumin
1 tsp Ginger
1tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Garam Masala
1 tsp Coconut Oil
1 tsp Black Pepper
10 Kalamata Olives
A pinch of Chilli Flakes
1 tbsp Fennel Seeds

Heat the oil in a pan and add diced onion, ginger, garlic, cumin, paprika. After a couple of minutes, add the mince and break up in the pan. Add black pepper, chilli flakes and cut all the celery into slices then combine with beef. When the mince is brown, add the drained and washed chickpeas, olives, cinnamon and Garam masala. Add the tomatoes then fill the tin half way with boiled water from the kettle and pour into the pan. Stir thoroughly. Let the mixture cook for around 30 minutes, keep stirring every few minutes. Add fennel seed to small pan and turn on the heat to toast them. Use these to top the Bolognese after serving into bowls.

Creamy Cardamom Shake

This is one thick indulgent shake that I cannot get enough of. Cardamom has overtaken cinnamon lately in the quest to become my most used spice. It’s so delicious, especially when paired with vanilla.

The vanilla in this smoothie comes from the paleo protein I’ve been eating, it’s mixed with organic vanilla bean and stevia so has a sweet taste. However, if you have a protein powder without such an appealing flavour you can mimic this one here by adding vanilla and your choice of sweetener, perhaps stevia or coconut sugar.

This is a good shake to have an hour or two before a workout as its full of healthy fats providing you with lots of energy. I like having some time to enjoy this alongside an amazing book such as ‘Bringing Yoga to Life’ – highly recommend!

Ingredients:
1 small frozen Banana
1-2 tbsps Avocado (as the sizes of avos vary so much)
2-3 tbsps Protein Powder
1 tsp Ground Cardamom
1 tbsp Almond Butter or any other nut butter
Rice Milk or any other non-dairy milk (the amount depends of the consistency you like)

Optional:
1 tsp Vanilla Powder
1 tsp Stevia or Coconut Sugar

A sprinkling of Coconut to top.

Add all the ingredients except the nut butter to the blend and create a smooth consistency. Check if you’d like more milk or if you want it thicker, add a little extra avo. At this point add the almond butter for a quick last whizz; this creates a super creamy blend and you get to have cheeky big dollops of almond butter mmmm.

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Banana Chai Bread

Who likes chai? I love chai; chai tea, chai lattes, chai chocolate, everything; so I thought surely you can’t go wrong with a banana chai bread…

This is a moist, sticky, aromatic, delicious bread that really hits the spot. It’s nut-free as I know that people with nut allergies can find it difficult when finding sweet treats. However, if you’re a nut lover you can top slices of banana bread with creamy nut butter when it’s fresh out of the oven. Honestly it’s amazing on its own but if it manages to last to the next day, it’s great toasting it and topping with butter or coconut oil and honey mmmm.

Of course, the bread is best enjoyed alongside a hot mug of chai – it’s a chai lovers dream.

Ingredients:
5 ripe Bananas
300g Oats
150g Raisins (sultanas, currents or anything similar will do the job)
6 tbsp Apple Purée (I make this in batches and store in the freezer)
6 tbsp Pure Maple Syrup
2 tbsp Coconut Oil
1 heaped tbsp Cinnamon
1 level tbsp Ginger
1 heaped tbsp Cardamom
1 tsp Nutmeg

Firstly make the apple purée if you don’t have it already; you simply boil peeled and cubed apples in a little water, drain, blend. Turn the oven onto 180 degrees. Mash the bananas in a bowl and add all of the spices. Grind the oats into a flour and add to the banana mix along with the coconut oil, melt in a pan first if it’s hard. Grease a baking tin with coconut oil and add the mix to the tin. Bake for 50-55 minutes. This time can vary so just keep checking on the bread and when the top has become a golden brown and you can stick a knife in and it come out clean, it’s ready to come out. Leave for at least 30 minutes before removing from the tin and slicing.

I’ve cooked it for an hour before and although it was delicious, I prefer it super soft and sticky so I think 5 mins less works for me. Leaving it for half an hour after allows it to stick together even though it’s still soft.

Raw Vanilla & Coconut Buckwheat Porridge

This is an impressive brekky that’s really easy to throw together. It’s raw, vegan, gluten free and nut free so is safe for people with allergies, intolerances and other dietary requirements. The flavours work so well together and I love the mixture of textures. It’s filling and delicious yet still light and fresh. I tried out this recipe with a large audience of well-experienced foodies who work at the top cafes in Byron; they all loved it! I hope you do too.

Ingredients (serves 2):
2/3c Buckwheat Grouts
1 large ripe Banana
1 handful Desicated Coconut
1/2c Coconut Milk
1 tbsp Coconut Oil
1 tsp Vanilla Powder (or the seeds of 2 pods)
1 tbsp Chia Seeds

Optional sweetener
1 tsp coconut sugar / pure maple syrup

Soak the buckwheat in water and leave overnight. When you’re ready to prepare the raw porridge, drain the buckwheat and rinse well under running water, it will be gooey. Place 2/3 of this buckwheat into a food processor along with all of the other ingredients. Blend the mixture until creamy but not totally smooth as you don’t want it to end up like a smoothie. At this point, stir in the remaining buckwheat to add extra bite and maybe top with a sprinkling of extra coconut.