The Ballad of Narayama film posterOn Wednesday I made my first bento in almost two months… I had a movie date in Amsterdam with my friend Loes. We went to a special viewing of the classic 1983 Palm d’Or winner The Ballad of Narayama (Narayama bushikô), a film by Shohei Imamura. Last week was the Dutch première -yes, after 30 years!- and there are only a handful of screenings.

The film tells the story of Orin, a 69 year old woman in a rural hamlet of late-1900s Japan. It’s tradition, or rather law, that inhabitants reaching the age of 70 go to the top of the mountain (Narayama) to commit obasute: death by starvation, to limit the amount of mouths to feed. The eldest son is supposed to carry his mother on his back to her resting place. But Orin is still very strong and healthy…

The Ballad of Narayama is an unusual movie: at the same time pretty much “in your face” as well as burlesque — the latter possibly to soften the hardships of life that are shown. But it’s also something I’ve come across before in Japanese cinema. Isn’t the sometimes caricatural play not reminiscent of kyōgen theatre and kabuki? Anyway, I enjoyed myself regardless of the slow pace. The many images of nature are gorgeous and it’s interesting to witness how life in a poor Japanese country village may have been in another age. I was touched by the way Orin’s son was torn between his unwillingness to let his mom go, and not wanting to shame her by refusing to go along. His difficult journey into the mountains felt like a period of mourning and Orin’s first-born carrying her to her death mirrored the process of her giving birth to him. The cycle of life.

Title roll Ballad of NarayamaThe title of the film refers to a song about Orin’s life stage made up by her grandson in the beginning of the story (wintertime), recurring several times until The End, on the threshold of another winter.

Contemplating this I seem to have a theme going in my life at the moment. My current book is Wild by Cheryl Strayed, relating of her experiences hiking the Pacific Trail Crest (PCT) in her early twenties, a few years after her mother died. I’m totally absorbed in the story and can’t wait to read on.

But first it’s time to get back to the subject of this post. I was travelling to the cinema at dinner time so I’d eaten a hearty lunch earlier that day and made myself a simple dinner bento to have on the train.

Ballad of Narayama Bento (06-03-2013)

From top to bottom

  • Aubergine caviar with corn kernels, Italian crackers and walnut spread.
  • Lemon macadamia cupcake with lemon frosting (recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World), more crackers, dried apricot and baby fig.
  • Cucumber salad with mini plum tomatoes, olives, radishes, chives, a cheezy dressing (recipe from Bryanna Clarke) and hemp seeds sprinkled over.

It was GOOOOD! I hope to have more bentos and nights like this. :)

Submitted to What’s for Lunch Wednesday #145 and Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking.

Modern Moroccan Cinnamon-scented Chickpea & Lentil Soup

After keeping myself on a leash for a while I finally joined Swap-bot late last year. I already told you about some food-related swaps in my previous Weekend Cooking post. Today I want to talk about another one: the Cookbook Challenge #1, hosted by Carmen of the Gastronomery Group. Like many of us she has several under-used cookbooks and she wants to tackle them with the help of fellow swappers. She made the challenge vegan-friendly so of course I had to join — never mind that I have a pile of books of my own… ;)

For this first ‘cookalong’ Carmen chose some recipes out of Modern Moroccan by Ghillie Basan and posted them on the group blog. The idea was for us to choose one recipe, test it, document it and send the (virtual) results to our swap partners; in my case our hostess herself. So Carmen, here’s my pick!

Cinnamon-scented chickpea and lentil soup

Serves 4-5.

Ingredients

Preparing Modern Moroccan Cinnamon-scented Chickpea & Lentil Soup

Don’t let the long list scare you: it’s not as much as it seems and most of these ingredients are fairly common in a foodie household. If you look at the preparations you’ll see this recipe is a breeze!

  • 1.5-2 tbsp olive oil (see my tweak among the modifications below)
  • 1 onion, halved and sliced
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger (djahé)
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric (kunjit)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of saffron threads
  • 400 gr can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp sugar (I used raw cane sugar)
  • 80 gr brown or green lentils, washed (I used Puy lentils)
  • 950 ml vegetable stock or boiling water & 2 bouillon cubes
  • 400 gr can cooked chickpeas (265 gr drained)
  • 150 gr cooked broad beans (I used 175 gr frozen peas)
  • small bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • small bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • salt ‘n pepper to taste

Preparation

Chopping cilantro & flatleaf parsley for Modern Moroccan Cinnamon-scented Chickpea & Lentil Soup

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onions until soft.
  2. Stir in the spices (ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, saffron), tomatoes and sugar.
  3. Add the lentils and pour in the vegetable stock or water and stock cubes.
  4. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for about 25 minutes or until the lentils are tender (check the instructions on the package).
  5. Stir in the cooked chickpeas and beans and bring back to boil, cover again and simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
  6. Mix in the fresh herbs and season to taste.

Serve hot!

Modern Moroccan Cinnamon-scented Chickpea & Lentil Soup

Mr Gnoe and me enjoyed this soup on a cold February night accompanied by (store-bought) bake-off buns and couscous salad.

Couscous Salad

The result?

I only made half of the original recipe on the Gastronomery Cookbook Challenge #1 page and that was amply sufficient for four diners. Especially served with accompaniments like ours. This soup is already plant-based (and chock-full of proteins!) so no veganizing was needed, but still the recipe got slightly tweaked.

  • I took the easy route and used a 400 grams can of chickpeas (= 265 grams drained) instead of dried beans that would have needed to be soaked overnight.
  • Dried broad beans are not commonly available over here (although it’s not impossible to get them in a city like Utrecht) so I had wanted to use frozen but forgot to add them to my grocery list. So I took 175 grams garden peas from my freezer stash instead. Together with the chickpeas that roughly summed up the 400 grams of cooked beans I needed.
  • I made vegetable stock with one bouillon cube instead of two and spiced it up with salt and pepper at the end. I’m still not sure whether I’d use two cubes anyway next time… (if there is a next time?)
  • I didn’t use olive oil for frying the onions but used leftover sunflower oil from a jar of sundried tomatoes in oil.
  • The original recipe said to fry the onions for about 15 minutes… It took me 2-3 to get them soft. ;) If you’re supposed to caramelize the onions then 10-15 minutes would be right but it just says “until soft” so I believe the time publicized to be an errata.
  • I added one celery stalk, just because it was lying around in the fridge. Not necessary at all.

Has the Jury reached its verdict?

This chickpea-lentil soup is certainly a hearty dish, but it didn’t tickle my taste buds. I’ve had bean and lentil soups before, some of which were much more special.

I couldn’t discern a specific Moroccan flavour and I don’t think using broad beans would’ve changed that. Do you? Maybe adding a spice blend like ras el hanout would be a good idea; there’s a recipe for that in the book -and on the Gastronomery blog- as well. But I also just can’t appreciate the combination of multiple legumes: lentils and chickpeas and peas. I do like vegan harira (Moroccan/Algerian chickpea-lentil soup), but this modern version is too much of a mismatch mishmash for me.

So. If you’ve had these kinds of soups before, this recipe is not very exciting. But if you haven’t – this is a good place to start! Common ingredients and little work bring a filling winter stew to the table.

Further ruminations

Blogging pal Uniflame also participated in Cookbook Challenge #1 and got me for a swap partner. She tried the Casablancan couscous with roasted summer veggies and shared her version of the recipe on She Likes Bento. In winter I regularly make oven-roasted root vegetables but I always forget to do something alike in summer. Gotta remember!

February has been a super busy month so I didn’t get around to cooking two other recipes from Modern Moroccan that I like. So there are still a vegan version of grilled sweet zucchini with spices and harissa on the menu.

Now if you feel like trying another Moroccan soup, how about this sesame soup recipe I posted before?

- – - – -

Join Beth Fish’s weekend cooking with a food-related post!

Beth Fish Weekend Cooking logo

Beth Fish Weekend Cooking logoThis Weekend Cooking post is a hotchpot of food-related topics that have been left stewing the past weeks. I’m focussing on bentos and swaps.

Bentos

Bento making has gotten a bit neglected lately; the following, hastily filled boxes are the only lunches I have to share.

Buckwheat Pancake Bento #205

Buckwheat Pancake Bento #205

Rabbit food:

  • buckwheat pancakes from Vega Dutchie (which I found too gritty, even more when eaten cold like this)
  • cranberries
  • Lithuanian dried plum “cake”
  • treacle for pancakes in the small container
  • cucumber
  • corncob
  • carrot-cabbage salad with walnuts


MiL Bento #206

MiL Bento #206

The brown rice with ratatouille in the round blue thermos is a leftover from dinner at my mother-in-law’s the night before. The small lock & lock box contains red cabbage coleslaw with apple, raisins and an orange dressing. Two sandwiches in the butterfly bag and clementines for dessert.

Swap-botting

I’ve recently discovered swap-bot. What I don’t like about that other random mail-exchange ‘program’ Postcrossing is that I often put a lot of thought in what I write on a card, but get the shortest messages in return. Also, although I receive awesome postcards every once in a while, many people send free ad cards or touristy multi-views, both of which don’t interest me. On Swap-bot on the other hand there’s themes you can choose — and people that really like to write! A trip down memory lane as I was a fervent penpal when I was young. So thanks to Uniflame for reacquainting me with S-B! :)

Now what does this have to do with food? I hear you think. Well, the first two swaps I joined are food ‘n drink-centered.

Tea For You And Tea For Me, What’s Your Resolution?

Tea for You and Tea for Me, What's Your Resolution? swap

For the easy Tea For You And Tea For Me, What’s Your Resolution? trade we had to send three bags of tea to our partner plus a note revealing our resolutions for 2013. I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, but I have things that I’d like to achieve this year concerning my health. So I shared those.

Tea for You and Tea for Me, What's Your Resolution? swap

Now the assignment may originally have been quick and easy, it wasn’t as simple as it seemed… My partner Barsook likes green teas — how was I supposed to choose only three??? So I sent her a whole bunch. :)

Tea for You and Tea for Me, What's Your Resolution? swap

Myself, I was pampered with five teas in a lovely decorated envelope: pure rooibos red tea, earthy vanilla scented rooibos, Tulsi sweet rose, apricot vanilla crème and jasmine green. But I won’t tell what JessicaLynn1978‘s resolution is!

Tea for You and Tea for Me, What's Your Resolution? swap

Lovely Vegan Dinner Recipe Swap

Recipe cards seem to be common in the States, but not here in Holland. I very much like the concept though! So I joined the Lovely Vegan Dinner Recipe Swap in which I had to share a virtual meal via recipes for a starter, main course and dessert. All animal-free. Luckily it was okay to make your own recipe cards as long as they had the standard format of approximately A5. So these are the ones I made for lob.

Recipe cards for Vegan Dinner Recipe swap

The recipes that travelled on these are:

Vegan Dinner Recipe swap

Now I got the most AWESOME package from long-time veggie Seaglass! She put a lot of effort in making my parcel extra special — she’s the sweetest!

Vegan Dinner Recipe Swap package from seaglass

There’s recipes for:

  • vegan ‘blue cheese’ dressing
  • potato, sorrel & watercress soup
  • quinoa salad with tofu
  • tofu with snow peas and lemon lime vinaigrette
  • spicy polenta with chili paste
  • Lisa’s vegan zucchini carrot muffins
  • chocolate upside down pudding cake

I have no idea where to start! :D I guess it won’t be the soup though since I have to find out first where to get sorrel (zuring). Any ideas, Dutchies? Should I just go and pick some in the fields? I’m a little afraid of catching tetanus from dog or fox pee… :\

Seaglass also included some empty recipe cards for me to use and a load mouthwatering vegan candy bars — those are hard to get over here! And a packet of California powdered chili for me to compare to its Dutch counterpart: American recipes containing chili somehow always get too hot; even though I can usually handle heat.

I LOVE the paper Lisa (Seaglass) wrote her letter on: it has a heron! So cute!

That’s it for me now. Do you have some foodie news to share for Weekend Cooking?

I did some extra cleaning for the turn of the year, but that’s not what this post is about.

Maybe you noticed I haven’t been writing much lately; I even stopped (b)logging my weekly vegetable haul. Furthermore, I failed to make photos since December. O_o I guess I fell into some sort of winter slump.

CSA season ended the week before Christmas but there are still many greens left in the fridge… Not that fresh any more. :\ So now that the new year has begun I’m resolved to take up menu planning again — and actually started a few days ago. The pantry and refrigerator need to be emptied of 2012′s remains!

November 2012 CSA vegetables

November 2012 CSA vegetables (week 45-48)

In stock

Veggies

  • Pumpkin
  • Parsnip
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Leek
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Red cabbage
  • Savoy cabbage
  • Sunchokes
  • Avocados
  • 1/3 courgette
  • Thyme

Leftovers

  • Chilli-tomato sauce
  • Stewed pears (Yogi kookschrift: Bord 1-5)

Other

  • Pickled Seaweed
  • Blue Sheese
  • Tempeh
  • Tofu
  • Open package of silken tofu
  • Open package of soy cream
  • Open package of oat cream

Once we’ve depleted this surplus we’ll get organic Odin vegetables till our local veggies return in May.

Menu plan December 30th 2012 – Januari 2nd 2013

  • Roasted parsnip & carrot salad with thyme (Ecofabulous 151), mashed potatoes with celeriac, Asian “lemon chicken” and stewed pears, red grapefruit for dessert [Sunday]
    Red winter dinner 30-12-2012
  • Tomato soup (freezer stash) and pita bread with bean-corn-avocado salad with leftover chilli-tomato sauce, homemade oliebollen (Ecofabulous 167): traditional New Year’s fritters [Monday]
    Homemade oliebollen on New Year's Eve
  • Spicy red cabbage with tofu and gingerbread… (Ecofabulous 138), mashed potatoes and salad [Tuesday]
  • Microwave teriyaki, yuzu scented winter vegetable tsukemono and Brussels sprouts with sesame [Wednesday]

Further planning will follow on Thursday. Now I’m hopping into the kitchen to cook dinner!

Homemade vegan oliebollen with apple & cranberries for New Year's Eve!

There’s a first time for everything. I’m 42 but today I made oliebollen for the first time in my life. I used a vegan recipe from Lisette Kreischer’s cookbook Ecofabulous (which I was recently able to obtain as e-book), and replaced the raisins with cranberries — I’m still in a Wadden Island mood, where we spent Christmas!

We’re toasting here with blueberry wine while Juno is waiting for her chance to ‘catch’ a fritter. Can’t blame her, because they are yummy! :)

Wishing you all a very happy, compassionate and animal-friendly 2013!

Special thoughts tonight for my friend muizz who recently lost her father, and for WM who’s dad is also terminally ill. It’s hard to celebrate a new year when you know your loved one won’t be there to enjoy it with you. :(

Origami Christmas Trees 2012

Wishing all my (cyber) friends

a VERY MERRY X-MAS
&
WONDERFUL NEW YEAR!!!


A quick share of my most recent bento. It contained leftovers from our “yogi dinner” the previous night: recipes from the cookbook Yogifood1 by Jet Eikelboom and Seth Jansen.

Yogi lentil salad with hazelnuts, parsley, red cabbage, corn lettuce and a maple-balsamic dressing, mini plum tomatoes, cucumber, carrot, and more tomato with almond butter dip from my Lithuanian Foodie Penpal, yogi potato mash with thyme and a sea-buckthorn candy from my visit to Vlieland.

On the side: 2 clementines, santana apple and 3 sandwiches (apple-pear butter & houmous).

Local/CSA: corn lettuce, cabbage, carrot, potato, thyme, apple.

Office lunch on Thursday 13-12-2012.

Vita Bento #203

On Thursday I enjoyed an office lunch with several of the Lithuanian goodies I got from my November Foodie Penpal Vita.

The box up front contains both the kūčiukai and cookie rings (yay, cookies to add carbs to my bento ;) a freeze dried strawberry and candied radishes.

The middle ‘meat & veg’ tier holds some onion-leek-garlic-pepper (yellow & green) stir-fry, slices of Healthy Planet “chicken” fillet, a fresh radish, mini Brussels’ sprouts and a skewer of sliced raja potato and gherkin, all on a bed of corn salad. I also brought a small container of tomato ketchup for the faux meat but forgot to include it in the picture.

Dessert comes last of course: apple & clementine.

I didn’t mean to cross the bento-200 line so silently… Alas, I lacked the time to post numbers 200-202 but plan to make up for that later this month!

- – - – -

Join us with a food related post in Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking!

Weekend Cooking @ Beth Fish Reads

November 2012 Foodie Penpal!

YESH! It’s Foodie Penpal Reveal Day!

It was my first time participating but I’m SO happy that I overcame my hesitation and joined. Vita spoiled me with a big box of vegan goodies from Lithuania. Thank you so much!!!

November Foodie Penpals postcard

She enclosed a lovely card in fall colours (and glitter — I love sparkly stuff!), explaining the contents of the parcel and her choices. So nice! And handy, since I can’t read Lithuanian labels. :) Are you curious??? Here’s what I got!

November 2012 Foodie Penpal!

Up front is my biggest treasure: Vita’s home-made almond butter with a Dutch label. Vita studied my language for a shortwhile in the past! Wow. I haven’t tried the spread yet because I want to cherish it a little while longer and I didn’t want to open everything at once. I expect it will be awesome on some hot toast… So I’ve taken the necessary steps to finally get a new toaster – ours has been broken for two years! I can’t wait till the morning when I’ll be slathering this fluid gold on my first toast for ages. Mmmmm.

Speaking of gold, you should taste some of the pine bud syrup from the bottle at the back! OMG it’s delicious! I crowned it as my new favourite sweetener, leaving agave syrup far behind. I guess I’ll be booking shopping trips to Lithuania soon! ;)

But for now Vita appropriately sent me Lithuanian Vitamins, to get through winter. These freeze-dried strawberries melt in your mouth and have the full taste of fresh ones, though a bit more sour than I expected. Lovely! Perfect for breakfast, bento, or on the road. I bet Mr Gnoe is going to appreciate these a lot, but I haven’t let him taste any yet. I secretly enjoyed them on my own first. :)

I also got two kinds of cookies, the sweet-ish taste of which slightly reminds me of the Liga bars from my childhood. My mother never bought those, but I got them at a friends house. ;) The poppy seed balls are called kūčiukai, Lithuanian traditional pastries for Christmas Eve. You’re supposed to eat them with poppy seed milk, but as I had no idea what that is and the recipe is pretty time-consuming, I just had them with roasted cauliflower soup. A good combination! Though probably sacrilege. ;) The cookie rings in the green bag are organic wheat “Javine crisps”; Javinés traškučiai.

Roasted cauliflower soup with Lithuanian Kuciukai

Now whát are those bright green and pink chips in a bag almost at the back??? Candied radishes! Sounds scary, I know, but they’re quite good. I cannot explain what they taste like, more than “candied radishes”, which doesn’t do them justice. ;)

Last but not least there’s Vita’s favourite nutty buckwheat pasta left to try, and a slice of plum cheese. I’m particularly curious about the latter, which I’ll be having at tea-time or dessert. Maybe after a dinner of buckwheat macaroni with a creamy mushroom sauce and almond topping. :) That brings us to a full circle!

Foodie Penpal logo

I thoroughly enjoyed this first Foodie Penpal exchange. I hope Vita did too, as well as Sara, the recipient of my parcel in London. She’ll be writing a guest post on Graasland! But for now, please check out some other Foodie Penpal revelations from the link-up.

- – - – -

Join us with a food related post in Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking!

Weekend Cooking @ Beth Fish Reads

So. VeganMoFo has ended and I didn’t meet my goal of 20+ posts… I got to 19! Not bad for a newbie, I think. Especially considering I’d planned to write some in advance but didn’t have the time. I also didn’t live up to the promises I made about travel-friendly recipes and how I survived my holiday in France as a vegan. Don’t worry, I still mean to make good on them! But now it’s back to normal with my weekly veggies and menu plan.

For some, CSA season has already ended. Not here though: our local organic vegetables will continue until the week before Christmas. Lucky me. :)

Here’s this week’s fall haul.

Amelishof organic CSA week 43, 2012

  • Kale
  • White cabbage
  • Tomatoes
  • Garlic
  • Celeriac
  • Radicchio

Menu plan Wednesday October 31st – Wednesday November 7th

Including veggies we didn’t manage to eat up yet (green cabbage, fennel, leek, sweet dumpling pumpkins) the following will arrive on our dinner table.

  • Wednesday: Nigel Slater’s peppers & chickpeas with harissa (adapted) with Sarah Kramer’s cumin spice quick bread (freezer stash) and fennel-tomato-olive salad with fresh basil (Groentegerechten p.32).
  • Thursday: stuffed mini pumpkins with rice and gyro style roasted lemon olive seitan with dill sauce (Vegan Eats World p.54, 253); radicchio Caesar salad.
  • Saturday: dinner @ my aunt’s!
  • Sunday: kale-celeriac-potato mash with leftover veggie dogs & chorizo tempeh (VEW promo card), cabbage salad with coriander-mayo dressing left over from Sarah’s spiced potato salad.
  • Monday/Tuesday: Nigel’s spicy stuffend pittas and soup (probably freezer stash or pantry).
  • Monday/Tuesday: leftovers or improvising.
  • Wednesday (when @variomatic is joining us for dinner): Chloe Cascarelli’s pasta ‘Alfredo’ & salad.
  • Possibles: apples from the oven with chocolate sauce (still have some left!) and Chloe’s cinnamon-espresso chocolate chip cookies..!

Bon appétit!

Gnoe goes ExtraVeganza!

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