Friday, December 28, 2012

Rawdyssey: Bahay Kalipay revisited

Cashew cheese, dehydrated caramelized onions on top of flax seed crackers.

Though raw food keeps on being prominent in this blog, I must clarify, that I am not a raw foodist. To date, I'm a food enthusiast, raw and cooked. Mostly cooked, based on my history. Very vata, I'm not the kind of person who would usually feel full on a green, leafy salad. So, my love affair with warm meals have been on-going. 

However, raw food keeps on popping up for me, wherever I travel, through the people I meet. All over, people are choosing to eat differently. And I am totally fascinated by this. 

BK Breakfast: fresh fruits with dehydrated
coconut meat, sprouted buckwheat, and goji berries,
topped with carob-coco milk.
My introduction to raw food began at Bahay Kalipay in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, March 2010, when my friends and I visited the energy healing center for the very first time. At that point, my contact with raw food seemed mostly through TV and print media, where the buzz about the seemingly extreme diet was tinged with some irony and humor. What I didn't know then was that this 5-day-long encounter with raw food and Inner Dance, the main purpose of our coming, would start a fascination with the raw food movement.
On Dec 3, 2012, I returned to Bahay Kalipay, my fourth trip to the retreat center, to teach for a couple of days before going to Maia, a raw-food and coconut intuitive community just an hour away from Bahay Kalipay. 

I always find these trips to Bahay Kalipay interesting. It brings up a lot of stuff for me. Before going, I get a little edgy about "going raw." I worry wether I can sustain a dynamic yoga practice while there. When I get there, I question whether I will feel full on what they are serving. It always looks so small in comparison to cooked fare. I'm always ok in the end, always getting to the point where I've had enough with plenty of food still on the table, always consuming so much less than what I'm used to. 

Daniw and her son, Sinag. 
I'm still a huge fan of putting my food to fire, but I have to say that Daniw's "cooking" and the food she serves in Bahay Kalipay really makes me question my ideas about food, it challenges me also, showing me that there is a million and one ways of eating raw food. They come in all shapes and all sizes, all textures and all flavors. 

There's also a certain mindfulness that kicks in when you are intentionally eating raw. I find I eat slower. I savor more. There's this sense that all of my parts, my mouth, my stomach and my mind, are really working together get the most out of the experience. 

There's definitely something to eating more raw foods. Without going to extremes, it makes sense to add into our diets more live foods that contain enzymes (which are killed in the cooking process) and that are high in nutrients. 

Thank you, Daniw, for another amazing raw food experience! Thank you Bahay Kalipay! 

This last trip, Bahay Kalipay, was actually the first step to a 3-week long stay. In Bahay Kalipay, I would enjoy the ingenuity of the raw kitchen, helped along with a dehydrator and a high powered blender. After just 3 days, I would be launched into Maia, where sacred simplicity amounts to eating coconuts or at the very most simply prepared hand-made raw food. More to follow on Maia, another food-altering experience...

Here are some of the amazing dishes at Bahay Kalipay this time around. One dish that I wish I had a photo of was with amazing kelp noodles:

Spaghetti anyone? Cucumber pasta with fresh tomatoes blended with garlic and spices. 

There's always desert at BK: chocolate mouse.

To left: fresh pineapple with paprika. Raw noodles
made of hicama, carots and sprouts.

Cabbage salad with seaweed pesto.

Curried veg on top of flax seed crackers.

Green Speckled Lentils

Though the lentils pictured above are not Puy Lentils, from the Le Puy region of France, they are still pretty darn tasty and peppery as their French counter-parts. For me, these legumes are in heavy rotation these days. I love them, making it pretty much in the same way, only varying the grains and steamed vegetables that I cook with them. I also sometimes add different seasonings. Though at times I forget completely, which is no problem with the vegetable stock giving it so much flavor already!

I'm not a nutritionist, but I feel fully sated when I have such a dish. There's plenty of protein in the lentils, fiber and over nutrients in the steamed veg, and carbs with the grain.

Green speckled lentils (if possible, Puy lentils), cooked in vegetable stock. Not a lot of stock, just enough to cover the lentils some. Season as desired. I like to add paprika, a couple of bay leafs, and ground cumin. You want the lentils to be served a little al dente. So add the vegetables on top to steam over lentils, just when they are starting to soften. Again, you can season the vegetables. I like to add dill and more paprika, along with a drizzle of olive oil.

I actually like crabs, so I like to have lentils and vegetables with a nice hearty brown rice or for a lighter nuttier mean, quinoa. In the photo above, lentils are covering a sustaining millet grain. Buckwheat groats is also another option.  

Cooks really easy. I like to make a large pot so I have enough for a meal for the following day. Keeps nicely.

Christmas Fruit Cake

"I'll be home for Christmas.." croons Bing Crosby as I wait for my 8pm yoga class here at Urban Ashram at Fort High Street. They have a pretty funky song list going on, Bing shares the sound-light with the likes of his contemporaries Sinatra along with a wild array of R&B songstresses and various pop acts, all in the yuletide spirit.

Mid-November and it's all about Christmas here in Manila. The lights are up. Christmas sales and bazaars are on all over the city. Manger scenes everywhere. In fairness, I got a head start this year. First inkling of the happy holidays started at the end of October when I learned to make traditionally English Christmas Fruit Cake, from Mr. Trevor Boag, a master of the craft, whose been making this holiday delight since 1974. He patiently took me through the cake-making process step-by-step, resulting in my first baked cake from scratch (no help from Betty Crocker here), pictured above. 

The cake, which traveled across England, over Europe, all the way to the Philippines in Southeast Asia, was iced in Manila at the start of December, and served on Christmas Eve with my family.

Again, food is what brings us together, across continents and oceans, crossing boundaries and cultures.                                            

Dec 28, 2012
In India now. Cake was cut Dec 24. My family loved it. It was a beautiful way to contribute to the Christmas festivities, sharing something made by hand, made with love. It also made me feel connected not only with my own family, but with the Boag family, who I'd spent so many wonderful times with over the summer, all the way in England. I knew they would be cutting into their cake too. Despite the distance, there was the spirit of cake and Christmas between us.

Here's a bit of the cake evolution:

Creaming the butter and adding brown sugar.

Brown sugar mixed in.

Eggs added and folded in.

Into the cake tin with all the dried fruit, candied cherries
and rum!

Out of the oven.

Iced with marzipan layer, topped with white fondant.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

chocolate is love

Mini pans of homemade chocolate. Three varieties.
Right most: plain dark choco topped with toasted sesame seeds
and desiccated coconut.

I was just about to go home but still had my some ingredients from the Philippines: virgin coconut oil, cacao butter and raw cacao nips. Three and a half months I had put off my special project. Much inspired by the homemade chocolates given to me by my friend Clara, I had intended to spend some of my time visiting with friends exploring the union of two loves: cooking and chocolate (which mostly comprises of eating it).

So in my final days, I decided to make use of the perfect cool temperature for solidifying chocolate, do a bit of research and just get on with it--plus, I wanted to make sure I felt I'd made the best of my long-distance schlep.

Dark chocolate with hazelnuts, almonds and dried figs.
And the truth is I was feeling a lot of love. I felt so much gratitude for this amazingly peculiar journey. Making chocolate seemed to be the best way to express it!

In the end, I was amazed at how easy it all was and shocked at the quality of the chocolate. Why had I waited? Or had I simply left the best for last?

Real chocolate. No refined sugars. No preservatives.

I've a new appreciation for chocolate. Divine but so simply accessible. I wonder why we bother to buy super-market line chocolates at all!

Dark chocolate with pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds,
desiccated coconut,  cacao nibs,  goji berries. Topped with
pumpkin seeds and desiccated coconut.
Melting the cocoa butter. Virgin coconut oil added.
Homemade Chocolate:

- 1/3 fair-trade cocoa
- 1/3 virgin coconut oil
- 1/3 cocoa butter
- sweetened with coconut nectar to taste

all melted together in a glass bowl surrounded by hot water (you can use agave nectar alternatively)

set in cool temperature. In the UK, that was room temp. in the Philippines, I think you'll have to put it in ref or freezer...

And now the cocoa powder...Nice dark chocolate.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Healthy Chocolate Snowballs

Up close: my second foray into making homemade chocolate meets energy balls.

As one of my final "projects" in England, I decided to make chocolate goodies. One of the treats I experimented with earlier this summer was making energy balls. This version uses homemade chocolate to bring all the energetic goodness together. Tried my best to use mostly raw ingredients. Rolled it by hand and then rolled the balls in desiccated coconut before it set into its chocolatey goodness! So easy to make, and turns out so tasty and healthy at the same time!

Practically anything that was on hand in terms of nuts, seeds, and dried goodies...
* desiccated coconut
* flax seeds
* sunflower seeds
* pumpkin seeds
* goji berries
* 70% dark chocolate 
* raw cacao nibs

Binding it all together:
* homemade chocolate
- 1/3 fair-trade cocoa
- 1/3 virgin coconut oil
- 1/3 cocoa butter
all melted together in a glass bowl surrounded by hot water
- sweetened with coconut nectar to taste
(you can use agave nectar alternatively)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hearty Home-cooked Veg Brunch in Hackney

Our host with the most, Richard Walker, beside the amazing spread of hearty food.
Brunch between my friend Richard, Tom and myself is nothing unusual. Except that it's usually for some Indian breakfast in Mysore, where we three met two years ago, studying yoga. Last Monday, Richard invited us over to his for a proper home-cooked brunch at his home in Hackney. And while the recipes, the ingredients, the attention and love with which the meal was made were all very different from having a dosa at Sri Durga Bhavan, one of the favorite "stand-up" (traditionally called so because there are no seats) breakfast spots, brunch took on the unique Mysore flavor, there was a lot of yoga talk and the eating/conversing ambled on through the afternoon.

Fresh from the oven:
Sourdough bread, chelsea buns with currants,
pastry with coconut. All delish!
Richard, creative and diligent (he patiently taught me to crochet) I knew, would take hosting brunch seriously. I didn't understand, however, the treat I was in for, until I walked through the door of Rich and Ed's flat, which felt like such a sanctuary from the gray autumn day. It was warm, smelling of fresh baked bread and pastries. The air was spiced with the chili and garlic, with which Rich had cooked the freshly cut kale, some from his own garden allotment, which you can see from his window.

On the menu: fresh baked sourdough, chelsea buns with black currants, coconut pastry, mashed-up butter beans swimming in olive oil and topped with toasted sunflower seeds and sesame seeds, kale in garlic and chili (I love anyone who will feed me kale in the morning!)

There were two bottles of preserved jelly: crab apple and rose-hip, also made and bottled by Richard. He also laid out some butter and cheese, probably the only food product he didn't make with his own two hands.

One of the best things about being in England/
Europe this summer is the kale.
And by looking at this picture,
maybe you can understand why.

Between Richard and Tom, who is a chef himself, I really enjoyed hearing food tips, though, admittedly, some were over my head. About the only really thing that properly registered was that Grapeseed oil was good for frying...

Like many of the food experiences I've been having lately, the brunch reminded me of a way of living/eating that I want to explore some more. Nothing beats fresh made food and greens grown next door.

Since our last meeting, Rich has made some amazing inspiring changes in his life. Quitting work that he was unhappy with, he's now switching gears towards his new passion, urban gardening.

He is also learning to live more simply, spending less, growing more of his own produce, producing as much of his own food, making his own clothes.

I've decided that I want to be like Richard when I grow up--whenever that might be! (Soon, I hope!) Grow my food, make my preserves. I'm not sure about making my own clothes, I might look a bit like a ragamuffin.


My round 1. I don't know how many I had in the end,
I lost count after the third cup of tea...
Richard giving Tom and I the tour of his urban garden.

I heart Kale!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Last of the Summer Fruits

The understated yet delectable conference pear...

Visiting England and Europe, I have enjoyed the fruits of the summer. Had some amazing doughnut peaches, figs and green melon in Spain. The most apple-y apples in Koln. The juiciest grapes in Romania. A bevy of wild blackberries off the side of the road in the Pyranees. And in England, I've picked raspberries off the bush and have never enjoyed pears more in my entire life. 

The clocks go back this weekend, marking the end of the summer. It will get darker earlier in these parts. And soon most of the fruits will be imports from warmer climes. Food-wise, I feel so utterly grateful to have had such a naturally sweet summer!

Blackberries, which I've seen nearly everywhere this summer.
This juicy lot picked from the side of the road in the Spanish Pyranees.

Raspberry picking early in the English summer. The sun is setting behind my take...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Girlfriends and Guilty Pleasures

Homemade drop scones pancakes that my uni friend Lisia whipped up after last
Saturday's practice at the Clapham Yoga Shala.  Pancakes topped with butter and
Creme de Marron (French almond paste) and lemon and a sprinkle of white sugar.

What is it about seeing fabulous favorite girlfriends that makes one crave sweet treats? Or is it just me and my particular set of friends?

A departure from the raw treats that I've been posting, I've been indulging on some sweetness with friends over tea and long long sessions of catching up, which reminds me about the key role food plays in our social interactions. We share, along with our stories, our victories and our heartbreaks, a love of food.

Since I've been in London, the days have been filled with sweet and warming comfort food, just like the friends I've been sharing them with. And on such days, I don't mind feeding my sweet-tooth, so long as I have good friends to share the guilt with.

Not vegan: drop scones in the pan with butter.
Recipe at

Lovely Lisia, a.k.a. domestic goddess...

Very English: Victoria Sponge baked by Lisia.
A slice of the sponge cake up close.

Five years since I've seen my Warwick University roommates...
The packaging of the Creme de Marron, Almond Paste that was on the pancakes...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Austrian Home(UN)cooking

Dehydrated veggie burgers made of sprouted quinuoa, nuts
and other raw goodies, fresh salad, raw ketchup,
cooked short grain brown rice and wild rice.

Everywhere around the world, I am meeting people who are eating differently. They are experimenting, researching, looking for new ways to nourish themselves. For Boris and Renee Georgiev, of Yogazentrum Ganesha in Vienna, it started with the birth of their daughter Kaiya, which inspired them to delve into the raw.

Breastfeeding mom, Renee thought carefully about what kind of nutrition she wanted to be passing on to Kaiya. So she started to eat more and more live, fresh food. With Kaiya in mind, going raw was very natural. 

On our last day in Vienna, Renee and Boris invited my friend James and I over to their home, treating us with a mostly raw meal. Fresh salad, veggie burgers (made of sprouted quinuoa, nuts and other goodies) that was dehydrated in a Sedona--my first encounter with the first class dehydrator. So far, I've only seen the Excalibur in use in Asia--paired with cooked brown and wild rice. Our hosts, I think, knew of our love for cooked grain.

Flax seed crackers (made with flax/linseed, salt, and water)
was made in a Sedona Dehydrator.
Renee also made some tasty linseed (or flax seed, they are one and the same) crackers via the Sedona. And fresh ketchup with the Vitamix blender. Anyone "raw" will have these two must-have kitchen items: a dehydrator and a Vitamix, which breaks down all sorts of food with its 4-horsepower engine.

After lunch, Renee whipped up some fresh almond milk with the Vitamix, which was just sublime mixed in with energizing bowls of Japanese matcha green tea. 

Our happy lunch party: James, Natalia, Mirka, Boris, Renee--
the days raw alchemist holding baby Kaiya.
With raw food you can't help but taste its goodness. You can feel its effects on the body almost immediately, feel how light and revitalizing it is.

Our final meal in Europe was evidence of fine hospitality: good food, great company--Slovakian Natalia and Mirka, also as lovely as Boris and Renee, joined our lunch party, and we were all on the same page, so to speak, starting the meal with Sanskrit meal prayer "bramha panam," which we all knew and could chant seamlessly in unison. And the meal was beautifully harmonic throughout.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Vegetarian Vienna: Vegirant

Trip to Austria would not be complete without this staple:
Apple Strudel with Vanilla Sauce.
For someone like myself, who associates vegetarianism with young, hip, stylish cafes and bistros (perhaps due to my own limited experience), the decor in Vegirant was somewhat jarring. In keeping with the name, old fashioned floral curtains, matching the peach and light wood tones of the establishment, intimate booth style seating that reminded me of old diners--but a subdued European version--seemed wholly in contrast with my concept of vegetarian restaurant. 
Yummy paprika soup was light but warmed the belly.
The restaurant, long established (since 1999) for its healthy vegetarian food, offers a set menu for each day of the week, along with an extensive array of a la carte dishes. The set menu comes with soup or appetizer, main course and dessert. 

The menu itself shows how the establishment understands the needs of the discerning eater. Vegan, Vegetarian, and gluten-free dishes are labeled meticulously.

The food was tasty and healthy, though, I would have to say perhaps not so sustaining for someone with a deep belly like myself. I really enjoy hearty food. We ate on a Thursday, the menu for which was paprika soup, zucchini and polenta, and apple strudel. 
Main course: zucchini, polenta with leek.
Started with the apple strudel, which was perfect for my first bite of Vienna. Been experimenting with taking sweets at the start of the meal, (Since sugar digests faster than other foods, eating it first means better digestion. When you eat sweets after the meal, the sweets ferment on top of the food that takes longer to digest) which our waitress seemed to be very impressed with. We even got a thumbs up from her.     

Währinger Straße 57, Vienna, Austria 1090

The adjoining bio shop, Natur & Reform, has all sorts of organic food and products: