Good morning! Today as our VeganMoFo around the world culinary tour continues, we travel to Turkey. There is some debate about whether Turkey is part of Asia or part of Europe, and as Turks would note, it straddles both. In Istanbul there is actually an Asian side and a...Read More
Today we make our last stop in Africa on our VeganMoFo world tour! Morocco, on the continent’s north west, has a bit of a romantic mystique about it. Perhaps it is because of the movie Casablanca, or perhaps it is because life seems to go on there as it has for centuries....Read More
Today on our VeganMoFo world tour we head to West Africa to meander for a while in Ghana. I have only spent a few days in Accra, Ghana’s vibrant capital city, and unfortunately, I got to see very little of it and took almost no photos. But for some reason I decided to choose...Read More
Good morning! Today as our VeganMoFo around the world culinary tour continues, we travel to Turkey.
There is some debate about whether Turkey is part of Asia or part of Europe, and as Turks would note, it straddles both. In Istanbul there is actually an Asian side and a European side. Today it is our entry point into Europe, where we’ll explore the cuisine of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia.
What can I say about Turkey? I think it was the first country I visited where I felt the weight of history.
On my first trip to there I went Antalya. One evening went to see a symphony orchestra perform in at the Aspendos Amphitheatre, just outside of the city, which is thousands of years old and the best-preserve amphitheatre of antiquity. It was stunningly beautiful, sounded amazing, and it hit me that people had been enjoying music and theater in that space for an astoundingly long time.
It was also in Antalya that I discovered I had developed an allergy to peaches. My first couple of days there I ate a delightfully fuzzy and beautifully sweet peach every morning, followed about half an hour later by really annoying itchiness. It took me a while to piece together the fact that the itchiness was in fact hives and the cause was those damned, gorgeous peaches. It breaks my heart to this day that I can’t eat them, or other the other fruit and nuts I subsequently developed allergies to.
Antalya is a lovely little city: gorgeous coastlines, rugged cliffs overlooking, amazingly deep, blue seas.
I enjoyed every minute of it and found it incredibly relaxing and affirming. But I was lucky to be there off-season, and so I imagine it’s not quite so peaceful when it is over run by tourists.
I adore Istanbul. It feels magical to fly into the city and see the silhouettes of mosques dotting the skyline, particularly at dawn or dusk.
When I’m there I feel like I am walking around in a museum.
The blue mosque, which dominates the skyline in the Asian part of the city, is absolutely stunning.
Both the architecture and wall-to-ceiling decorations are gorgeous. It feels like a treasure, and it is.
The Hagia Sofia, which sits across from the Blue Mosque, is an amazing mix of Moorish architecture with Catholic art.
It is really beautiful.
Another must-see is the Basilica Cistern, part of a beautiful, almost haunting, underground water system. Some of the columns have been decorated, a couple with the head of Medusa.
I love to just walk and walk and walk in that city. It feels like around every corner there is something new to marvel at.
Oh, and the food! Hummus, stuffed grape leaves, the endless array of salads with fresh and cooked vegetables! What joy! I can never get enough of the eggplant or the beans or the nuts. And do I need to opine about the joys of Turkish delight (most of which is vegan)? I think not.
Today I’m bringing you a recipe for a Turkish stew that I enjoyed again and again in Istanbul. It was always served in a sizzling cast-iron pot overloaded with vegetables and white beans, with a rich tomato-based sauce.
I have tried again and again to recreate it from memory and I’m not quite sure that my version is quite as good, but it’s pretty close. The best thing about it is that you can use pretty much any vegetables you have on hand.
Wow, we are half way through VeganMoFo and what a journey it has been! My theme is around the world in 20 recipes (though it may end up being more!). Throughout the month I’m taking you on a whirlwind trip around the world, sharing thoughts from my travels and vegan, gluten-free recipes that have been inspired them. Today I’m recapping our adventures so far!
We spent the first week of VeganMofo in Asia. We kicked off our journey in China, where we visited Chengdu, its surrounds, and the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. I shared a recipe for a spicy sichuan eggplant in garlic sauce with beyond meat beef crumbles and kale.
The next stop on our tour was Nepal. Such a magical country and amazing cuisine. Sel roti, our recipe from Nepal, is like a Nepalese donut that is a decadent, but delicious treat.
Our third stop was India! Oh how I love that crazy, complex country. I shared pictures from my travels in Mumbai, Goa, Delhi, Agra and Hyderabad and a delicious and incredibly quick and easy recipe for curried okra and chickpeas.
Then we headed further south to Indonesia, where we all took a collective gasp at the gorgeousness of Bali. I shared a recipe for an unusual crispy tempeh in sweet soy sauce, along with a nut-free gado gado. The crispy tempeh, which is dried before frying, is really something special. A yummy, nutty treat!
On Friday, we went back north to Japan. I shared my love of green tea and to celebrate it a very special recipe for a raw matcha green tea and white chocolate tart. This is one heavenly treat.
Then we veered west to South Korea and I pulled out all the stops, sharing three recipes for spicy, gluten-free gochujang sauce, kimchi and rice cakes sautéed with greens.
For the second week of VeganMoFo we headed to Africa and worked our way up from south to north.
South Africa is one of my favorite countries in the world. The recipe I shared was for Bunny Chow, the ultimate street food: curried beans and sweet potatoes in a hollowed out loaf of bread. This is the definition of comfort food. So so good.
In Mozambique, I provided a raw and vegan take on a traditional dessert, swapping out condensed milk for nice, thick raw coconut cream.
Many traditional foods in Zambia are actually vegan, like the somewhat tweaked versions of the classics I shared: nshima (a thick white cornmeal poltenta), ifisashi (greens in nut sauce), and tomato gravy.
I shared memories from my safari in Kenya and a recipe for a Coupe Mount Kenya, which is essentially mango ice cream with a boozy pineapple sauce. Delicious!
In Ghana I recapped a moment when I ordered something I thought was vegan and got a distinctly fishy dish in return. So I brought you a definitely vegan version of Ghana’s famous red red and added some greens to it, along with a recipe for kelewele, or spiced, fried plantains.
Finally, in Morocco I shared my friend Joana’s beautiful pictures of our travels there and a recipe for a raw tagine with a cashew-jicama couscous.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey with me so far. Tomorrow, we head to Europe!
Today we make our last stop in Africa on our VeganMoFo world tour! Morocco, on the continent’s north west, has a bit of a romantic mystique about it. Perhaps it is because of the movie Casablanca, or perhaps it is because life seems to go on there as it has for centuries. The lively medinas, with their affront of smells, colors and textures; the rituals associated with drinking fresh mint tea; the preparation and sharing of incredibly delicious food are all the same as they have always been. And these things at least, really shouldn’t change.
The photos I’m sharing today were taken by my dear friend Joana, who I traveled with in Morocco. I quite brilliantly forgot to bring my camera along for the ride…
We started our visit in Casablanca, Morocco’s lively capital city. The city is a mix of the modern and the ancient. Gorgeous moorish structures stand out among more functional modern buildings. It’s home to the continent’s largest mosque, which also houses the world’s tallest minaret. It may also be among the world’s most picturesque, perched right on the shores of the ocean. The absolute vastness of the courtyard that surrounded it and the buildings themselves made me feel incredibly small. It was huge and it was beautiful! Only muslims can actually enter the mosque, so I didn’t go inside, but I’m told it is stunning. The beach right next to it is lovely. I spent a good amount of time walking along its shores, taking in the ocean air, listening to the rhythm of the waves breaking against the shore and enjoying every moment of it. I spent lots of evenings eating delicious food with friends, watching some stunning belly dancing, and of course some time in the markets (which quite frankly, weren’t the most exciting of my travels) and had a lovely time. But, if you go to Morocco and all you see is Casablanca, you’ll be missing out, because the real magic of this country lies elsewhere.
The highlight of my trip was the couple of days I spent in Marrakech with my dear friend Joana.
We took the train there from Casablanca and stayed in a beautiful riad.
We spent our time there exploring the winding streets, peeking in nooks and crannies, visiting museums, discovering gorgeous architecture and art, and shopping for stunning jewelry and trinkets.
Of course, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to go to the hamam, even though it was a million degrees outside. We relaxed in the sauna, then had our skin all but scrubbed off us, followed by a relaxing massage. A couple of hours of pure bliss!
Of course, if you go to Marrakech you must spend an evening in Djemma el Fna, the city’s central square, which comes alive at dusk with street performers and stall after stall selling incredibly fresh, delicious food. It was a sensory delight!
I had absolutely no trouble eating great vegan food in Morocco (although I wasn’t gluten free then…). Yummy bread, amazing salads, flavorful tangines and couscous. It’s pretty much a vegan paradise.
There are a million and one traditional Moroccan recipes I could have brought you today, but to keep things interesting I decided to create something a little different. I’ve been trying to incorporate more and more raw foods into my diet (though I haven’t been doing so well this month with Vegan MoFo). So when I was thinking about what recipe to share for Morocco I immediately became intrigued by the idea of bringing you a raw tagine, complete with raw couscous.
And it is as every bit as delicious, if not more so, as more traditional cooked Moroccan stews.
With an array of fresh vegetables, sweet raisins and a flavorful and aromatic sauce, what’s not to love about it?
And the leftovers get even better with time. We had some the next day on a wrap, along with some beyond meat, kale and avo.
The best thing about it? It takes less time to put together than a real tagine! I really hope you enjoy it!
Today on our VeganMoFo world tour we head to West Africa to meander for a while in Ghana. I have only spent a few days in Accra, Ghana’s vibrant capital city, and unfortunately, I got to see very little of it and took almost no photos. But for some reason I decided to choose Ghana over Senegal or Nigeria, because I feel really drawn to it.
Ghana is a bit of an anomaly in West Africa. It is a stable and peaceful democracy with quite strong institutions. For example, it has a taxation system that actually collects revenues, and was one of the first countries in the region to put in place programs to provide universal health insurance coverage (although its reach is not quite universal, yet and much needs to be done to strengthen its health system and workforce). While it has benefited from pretty strong economic growth, over the past few years that has begun to stagnate threatening to forestall some of the progress that Ghana has made.
While I was there I did get to go on some great site visits to learn about the country’s efforts to prevent and treat HIV. The highlight was spending time in a maternity hospital that had really great programs to support women living with HIV give birth to healthy, HIV-free kids and help them stay that way through the completion of breastfeeding.
The midwives and nurses that drove that work were inspiring and woman after woman I spoke to there told me how important, critical and life-changing it was knowing that they had these support mechanisms behind them to keep both them and their children healthy.
The rest of the time I spent being shuttled between my hotel and a hotel on the beach for meetings that were incredibly fraught, long and intense and gave me very little down time. The meetings extended far beyond their scheduled times and I had to run leave before they actually ended. I changed in a bathroom at the airport and boarded my flight back to NY just as news of its outcomes began trickling out. That said, I did get to spend one or two evenings dining with colleagues on the beach.
The first night I was excited to try Ghana’s infamous red red, a stew made with beans and served with fried plantains. It is traditionally vegan, although as I learned, chicken, fish or beef bouillon are often used. I was incredibly disappointed when it arrived and tasted distinctly fishy. I put it aside and ate french fries and a salad instead. Since most of my meals were catered I didn’t have a huge amount of control over what I ate. I remember eating a lot of rice and potatoes, which is a shame, because like many places on the continent vegan food is a core part of the cuisine.
So today, I’m bringing you a definitely vegan version of red red. I’m told that what makes this dish is its use of red palm oil. Without it, it wouldn’t be red red. Luckily, Nutiva makes an organic red palm oil that is harvested sustainably in Ecuador without destruction to the environment, habitats, or communities and I had a jar of it sitting in my cupboard. It is similar to coconut oil in that it solidifies at room temperature. It has a distinct orange-red color that carries over to the food. I’m sure however that you could use a refined or aroma free coconut oil instead and it would be great.
Red red is normally made with black-eyed peas. And although I could have sworn I had a can of those in my cupboard as well, it seems I didn’t. Instead of running to the store, I decided to use great northern beans instead. I’ve lightened this recipe up; traditionally upwards of a quarter-cup of red palm oil is used. And because I can’t help myself, I added some kale!
So now that we’ve covered Southern, East and West Africa, tomorrow we’ll head further north!Read More
We’re going to see lions, only in Kenya!
We’re going to Kenya, we’ve got lions!
We’re going to see tigers, only in Kenya!
Got lions and tigers only in Kenya!
If you haven’t seen the Weebls song, you must. My partner and I were obsessed with it for a time and watched it probably three times a day for weeks. And even though it’s factually wrong (there are of course no tigers in Africa), it was just too catchy and cute to not love. In the lead up to my first trip to Kenya I couldn’t get it out of my head!
I’m so excited to share some of my most loved and cherished memories from Kenya, as our VeganMoFo world tour continues.
Kenya is a country that is buzzing with life and intense energy and one of my favorite places to visit. There is an openness to ideas and innovation in Kenya that is lacking in many of its neighbors. It is a major tech center on the continent and a leader in using technology to drive change.
Like every country on this planet, Kenya is a country rife with contradictions. There is a very well educated elite and middle class who are doing some of the most innovative thinking and work globally, living side by side with millions who lack essential services. On the one hand, it has strong laws and institutions, on the other tribalism remains an undercurrent of Kenyan politics and drives conflict. It has a strong constitution, developed after the 2008 election that enshrines a deep commitment to human rights and strong institutions, including its Constitutional Commission and Court. But its current President is being indicted by the International Criminal Court for his role in fomenting ethnic violence and is leading a backlash against human rights and mechanisms established to ensure accountability globally.
Kenya is a hotbed of creativity. The arts and crafts are among the best in the continent. The Maasai market in Nairobi is a great place to go to pick up brightly colored baskets, beautiful soapstone dishes, jewelry and any number of other goods and a fun way to spend a morning. Just be ready to bargain, and bargain hard, to get a good price.
Of course, one of the most amazing thing about Kenya is its gorgeous lands, seas and animals.
The days I spent on safari in Tsavo East and West national parks were among the most exhilarating three days of my life.
There is nothing at all that can compare to seeing elephants, giraffes, cheetahs, rhinos, and hippos in their natural environment.
And so it is heartbreaking and makes me so incredibly angry to hear about and see the toll that poaching is having on these majestic, beautiful, amazing animals.
When we first got to Tsavo National Park we were beside ourselves with anticipation and excitement.
When the first elephant came into view I could barely contain my sense of awe and wonder and childlike giddiness.
As we learned the names of different animals we would call them and point them out with glee when we saw them. In fact, I think we did that the entire time!
I love elephants.
No, that doesn’t quite describe it. I passionately adore them and have done so from the time I was four years old.
I used to say I wanted an elephant farm when I grew up (I know better now of course), and I would spend hours drawing pictures of elephants in my dad’s journal.
I had a little stuffed elephant that my uncle gave me that I truly loved.
So I was in my element watching the elephants.
I could have been content to do nothing but sit and watch them interact, talk to each other, bathe and dust themselves in the red dirt. Seriously: pure bliss.
I spent my 31st birthday on the coast in Mombasa.
The beaches there are beautiful, the colors so vibrant. That evening we went out on a celebratory cruise, ate delicious Swahili food, and danced on the waves. They even made me a vegan cake, something I thought I’d never, ever have in Kenya. It was sublime.
Now, the food! Like much of the continent meat plays a big role, but there are lots of traditionally vegan dishes. Kenya has a large Indian population and that has had a big influence on the cuisine: delicious pulao, curries and samosas have become staples. Coconut milk and peanuts are commonly used ingredients, along with tomatoes and onions. One of my favorite dishes from the country is an incredibly simple but yummy dish featuring kidney beans in coconut milk. Yum.
But today I’m bringing you my vegan version of a somewhat kitschy dessert that highlights the majesty of Kenya’s fruit: Coupe Mount Kenya. It’s the kind of thing I imagine that they served at fancy resorts in the fifties. But damn, it is really good. So if that was its origin, it’s a testament to its yumminess that it has become a well known and loved Kenyan dessert.
Before we move on, I’ll leave you with this moment of zen…
Oh Kenya!Read More
Today on our Vegan MoFo culinary world tour we move to Zambia. Zambia is a landlocked country in the middle of southern Africa, bordered by Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Botswana.
I’ve traveled to Lusaka several times to work with organizations that work on women’s human rights and with people living with HIV, sex workers and the LGBT community.
Over the years I travelled to Lusaka the city changed enormously. The rapid construction of shopping malls and shiny new buildings was perhaps indicative of the change in Zambia’s status from a low income to lower-middle income country. The economic growth was driven largely by Zambia’s copper mining industry. And with it came a growing educated and skilled middle class.
But the benefits of development are illusive for many and deep and grinding experiences of poverty mark the daily lives of much of the population.
On my first visit there I met some amazing women living with HIV who were working to ensure that others living with HIV in their very poor community had support mechanisms, were taking their medicines (even if it meant that they had to walk an hour to get them), and that their kids got some basic education and at least one good meal a day.
Despite the challenges, many good things are happening in the country and for me one of the most exciting is the government’s prioritization of girls and their rights. Zambia is one country that is really leading the charge in ending child marriage and other harmful practices and making sure that girls are in school and have access to health services. They recognize that without educated and empowered girls and women, the progress they have seen will come to a grinding halt. And it’s so much needed. Although there are an increasing number of women in leadership positions, discrimination against girls is still rampant, and sexual violence is all too common (which, as we know, is not unique to Zambia). One of my most abiding memories of Lusaka is spending time with girls who had experienced sexual violence, usually at the hands of family members, in a safe house run by the YWCA. The girls were there only temporarily while they waited for their perpetrators to be prosecuted, so they could return home. They were the lucky ones; the girls who had managed to escape.
Unlike many countries in the region, there was never really a struggle for independence in Zambia, which has both its benefits and its drawbacks. On the positive side, it has resulted in a fairly stable democracy. But it has also meant a relatively weak civil society and mechanisms for government accountability, because the need to fight for basic rights and fundamental freedoms never really was part of their experience.
Now to the food! For vegans, eating well in Zambia is surprisingly easy. Some of their staple and most-loved dishes are vegan, delicious and incredibly wholesome, like the ones I’m sharing with you today. There is also an increasingly good dining scene, with some surprisingly great fresh, organic food restaurants, as well as great Indian and Italian places, all with pretty good vegan options.
I’ve modified the recipes I’m sharing today very little from their traditional roots, because they really don’t need it. Nshima, or pap as it is known in South Africa, is essentially a very thick polenta made with white cornmeal, water and perhaps a little salt. It’s commonly served with stews and gravies, many of which are already vegan. Onions, tomatoes and garlic are really the stars of Zambian food and are the three basic ingredients for many a dish. And because the fruit and vegetables in Lusaka are mostly grown locally, they are incredibly delicious.
For me, Zambian food has all of the hallmarks of comfort food! Ifisashi is often made with pumpkin leaves or other hardy greens. I use Tuscan kale, which worked beautifully. The key ingredient is peanuts, but since I’ve learned I am allergic to them, I use brazil nuts. This gives this meal a rich, distinctive and somewhat different flavor.
It may not look too pretty, but it is really, really good! I hope you give it a try.Read More
Today on our VeganMoFo world tour we head north west to Mozambique.
I’m not sure why, but I could only find a couple of not so good pictures from my first trip to Mozambique, even though I’m sure I took more then and the last time I visited. Either it’s all in my head, which is a possibility, because the images in my mind of Maputo are so vivid, or I’ve somehow lost them. And for some reason I have no pictures of its stunningly beautiful coastline, which I spent a huge amount of time looking at. Either way, this makes for a much less inspired and inspiring post.
Maputo is one of those African capitals that feels anything but. It still has not fully recovered from its 17 year long civil war and the poverty is extreme. Unlike some places where it felt like I was in a different city every time I visited because of the rapid development and construction, Maputo always seemed exactly the same. Life continues apace, steadily and slowly.
Maputo is endowed with palm-lined beaches with crystal clear waters. The fresh smell of the ocean envelopes much of the city. Its streets are lined with acacia trees and it really is lovely.
But the city itself is not very inspiring. Some beautiful old buildings and Maputo’s imposing Catedral de Nossa Senhora da Coceica stand out, among mostly functional buildings lining streets named for communists and revolutionaries.
The country is home to some the most beautiful art and crafts in the region: very distinctive woodwork, gorgeous paintings full of bright colors, and intricate silver jewelry. And I made sure I supported the local economy!
The cuisine is very seafood heavy, which I suppose is to be expected. And Mozambique is known for its distinctive peri peri hot sauce, which is delicious. Apart from that I can’t say that I have vivid memories of anything I ate. Except the fruit. The fruit is insanely good. The intense flavor of the pineapple, mango, bananas, avocados is unlike anything you would ever have the luxury of tasting in New York… oh my!
Today I’m bringing you a recipe for a simple, but satisfying Mozambican dessert that is usually baked and laden in condensed milk. The original is actually called bananas come leite condensado. The day I decided I was making a vegan version of it, it was insanely hot and there was no way I was turning on the oven. So I decided to put my own mark on it, make it raw and of course, rename it!
You could also bake this, as in the original, and use a nice, thick, sweetened coconut milk. If you do, I recommend you use canned coconut milk, instead of raw coconut cream. Place in a 350 degree Fahrenheit or 180 degree Celsius oven until hot and the coconut on top just begins to brown.
I hope you enjoy it!