Spaghetti Lentilgnese.

DSC_0343I was never a big fan of spaghetti bolognese even before turning to the veg side, and I suppose that is a reason why I have been in no rush attempting to replicate the dish either.

Well, now I have and happily so. It is such a great comfort food, as well as being both inexpensive and easy to make. Win, win, win!

There are two rules of this dish:
1. garlic buds don’t like to be lonely
and
2. be generous with the amount of curry paste added… (Go curry paste or go home!)
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SPAGHETTI LENTILGNESE.

→ 2,5 dl red lentils
→ 1 can (à 400 g) crushed tomatoes
→ onion, at least 1 but why not go for 2
→ garlic, lots of
→ 1 tbsp red curry paste
→ 2,5 dl veg bouillon
→ 2,5 dl oat cream or other plant based cream suitable for cooking
→ salt + pepper, to taste
→ 2 bay leaves
→ 2 shredded carrots (opt.)

For serving: vegan parmesan, fresh basil

Start by sauting the onion(s) until softened, 7-8 minutes. Add in garlic, curry paste and lentils – stir to combine. Add in remaining ingredients and bring to a light simmer. Leave for circa 20 minutes until lentils are cooked. Possibly add some more water if needed as you go along.

Serve with pasta, sprinkling some vegan parmesan and fresh basil on top.
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More pasta suggestions:

Simple Pea + Mint Pasta Sauce.
Mushroom Pasta Veganara.
Cauliflower Mac n’ Yeast

Japan Photo Diary, Day 12-13: About (cherry) bloomin’ time!

Resuming where we left off last post, mid way through the Tuesday in Hakone – we catch the train back to Tokyo. And so our roundtrip has reached its first and final destination once again.


It is late afternoon, aka rush hour, when we arrive at Tokyo Station that seems busier than a bee hive. We lock our bags away in safety boxes there at the station, eager to be on our way to the Ueno Park, as I have spotted some pink flowers on the Instagram-geo tags of said park.
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Hoards of people are getting off at the same stop and in the nearby supermarket aisles long queues are forming amongst shelves emptying rapidly from beer and bento boxes. It seems we have finally hit the jackpot and are about to experience hanami in full throttle.

It is so interesting to see the Tokyoites, who are normally so proper, well-mannered and tidy finally let loose. It is nearing 6 o’clock in the evening and people are smashed off their faces. Rubbish everywhere. Cigarette butts and asahi cans. Workers have left their offices early and built long tables of cardboard boxes stacked next to one another forming long tables which they surround, passing around heaps of foods from nearby take away outlets. People sleep in the park under an open sky to secure a spot for their party the next day.

It is a bit like being at a party (full of teenagers) and not knowing a single person.
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I cannot help but to feel a little melancholic. Last time we were in Tokyo we had everything before us; the train journeys, the unexplored cities, the constant anticipation and waiting for the sakuras to let their buds burst into a beautiful blossom.

And now, on our way home. Everything blooms around us.


DSC_0256DSC_0263Next morning we* have decided to go to the Tsukiji Market. Which is essentially a giant fish market (you can imagine my great excitement, “we” in this case means = a mother wanting fresh sushi.)

A lot of tourist go there in the early morrow (like 2am for an event that starts at 5am-early!!) to ensure getting a spot at the fish auction, as they only let a certain amount of people in.
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Thankfully, we get to keep our beauty rest and even make (yet another) pit stop at the Ueno Park to glimpse the cherry trees once more. (Different light in the morning, duh!)
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After some sushi (where the waitress seemed very unpleased with me for only ordering veggie starters — good news for fellow veg munchers, as they are not considered “proper sushi”, they are so cheap!!) we walk over to the up-scale shopping district of Ginza.
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We only pass by the peculiar and impressive looking high end stores, I have a particular place in mind. Namely, itoya — or stationary heaven if you will!

There are two itoya stores just across the street from one another and one of them towers up 12 storeys. I take my time watching pens, note pads, washi tapes and hand made papers until mum taps my shoulder saying
“I’ll go wait outside, we’ve been in here for 2 hours.” Oops…
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As a last sakura excursion, we went to Aoyama Cemetery (because flowers + tombstones, you cannot deny that is the world’s most beautiful juxtaposition).

Oh, and taxis too apparently.
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On the bucket list we had watching the Tokyo skyline from above at dusk. Of course SkyView is closed on said evening. We quickly take the metro to the Metropolitan Government Buildings that offer a free tour up their observatory. Of course #2, the freebie comes with a queue that stretches around each and every corner and out on the parking lot…
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Whilst already in Shinjuku, we end up at Ain Soph Ripple again. Not realizing until we are right outside the door, it is the very same place we went on our first evening in Japan. The story comes to a full circle!

After downing one of their vegan cheese burgers each; we bring some mason jar tiramisu back to the airbnb, pack our bags and I stress out over not knowing where the fudge I will sleep the following night back in Aberdeen. #curseofthetimeoptimistic


This was part 7/7 and thus the last one of my Japan Photo Diary entires. The previous posts can be found below:

Jetlagged in a rainy Tokyo.
Livin la vida Ryokan & the 1st glimpse of Kyoto.
Bamboo groves, trendy coffees & hidden gems.
Neon lights & deers of might.
A historical hike & a last, lazy day in Kyoto.
The Lost in Translation One & Museum Hopping in Hakone.


Up next I am working on a full 14 day itinerary of the trip (something I found incredibly useful when planning ours!) and a survival guide for vegans in Japan.

Vegan at SAS | & the meat norm of in-flight meals.

bild 3SAS cater to a wide range of dietary requirements on their transatlantic and Asia bound flights. Give them 24 hours notice prior to departure to have a meal free from beef, gluten or even honey. Sounds pretty dreamy, eh?

One roll of bread and three types of condiments later

Now I don’t know if it was just as we were flying out of Copenhagen, a city that is generally quite – pardon my French – crap at providing vegan friendly food but thank goodness I had brought a whole bunch of snacks. What I was served on my near 11-hour flight between the Danish and Japanese capitals was rather ridiculous, particularly seeing as they do claim they cater to special diets and I have paid just as much for my ticket as fellow passengers in economy. Should I not receive the same amount of food?

It seemed all they had really done was to take the food items containing animal by-products and replace them with… jam. In different varieties. I mean, kudos for the effort of providing a poor vegan with the choice of different flavour jams but I am yet a little puzzled how exactly it will make my bread roll more filling? (My breakfast is pictured in photo above; while omni passengers were served filled baguettes, yoghurt with granola and a piece of frittata.)

The exaggerated meat norm should not board

And by no means is this a bash particularly aimed at SAS. (In fact, on my return flight from Tokyo the amount (and taste) of food was definitely improved.) In general it puzzles me how flight companies are thinking when planning their menus. The standard when it comes to in-flight meals on offer seems to be a choice between two. Meaning, as some people refrain from eating beef for a range of reasons, the alternative meal option will be something as far fetched as *drum roll* (or should I say drumstick) CHICKEN!

With a growing vegan population, and in regards to the fact that it is suitable for most religious- and dietary requirements, as well as just a more environmentally friendly way to eat — does it not make sense to provide a vegetable meal? Some grainy salads and for the bread roll opt brie for some tub of hummus. It is by no means original. But then again, neither is meat as an alternative to meat.


Until then, my dear special dieters – I reckon we are best off getting one of those bags Hermione carries in the deathly hallows and stuff it with snacks.

First two are outbound meals, third is return flight dinner from Tokyo.

Creamy Asparagus Quiche.

DSC_0374Literally stumbling over the finish line, here comes a last minute-contribution for Månadens Gröna — this month hosted by Tina (←who has created a jaw-droppingly fantastic looking starter with asparagus and cured carrots!).

The theme of May is Asparagus and so I have cooked (yet another) tofu quiche!
Here is how ↓
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CREAMY ASPARAGUS QUICHE

→ a bundle of asparagus, ends trimmed
→ 1 block tofu
→ 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
→ ½ leek (or opt for regular)
→ 2-3 cloves of garlic
→ ½ lemon, juice of
→ ½ dl soy milk, or similar
→ salt + pepper, to taste
→ a handful fresh herbs (opt.) — think parsley, basil, coriander
→ spices of your liking; I used nutmeg, lemon pepper, garlic- & leek powder, cayenne

For the pie crust I used a ready bought puff pastry (check that it is SFV) but you could always make a regular pie crust or try this chickpea one instead.

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HOW TO

(0). Start by draining the tofu. Wrap it in a kitchen towel and let sit under a heavy weight for at least 30 minutes. A good idea is to prepare the night before.
1. Set oven to 200°C.
Press pie crust out in a heat proof dish. Prick the bottom a few times using a fork. Pre-bake for circa 5-10 minutes.
2. Saute the leek while combining spices, nutritional yeast, garlic & herbs in the food processor. Mix until meal like consistency, then add tofu.
Blend until creamy, if the mixture needs some help — add in soy milk or similar little by little. Once leeks are softened, add into food processor.
3. Lower oven temperature to 175°C. Pour your tofu batter into the pie crust, then decorate with your asparagus on top in an alternating pattern.
Bake for circa 35 minutes. Let cool for at least 15 before attempting to slice.

Bon appetit!
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So this month marks the one year anniversary of this vegetarian cooking challenge. For this occasion, here is 3×3 of what I have created during this time (in a somewhat chronological order)

Rhubarb Mojitos | with Ginger Beer.
Strawberry & Avocado Salsa | with Quinoa, Roasted Black Bean & Sweet Potato Wraps.
Tomato Quiche | with Red Pesto.

Blackberry Pizza Bianco | with Basil & a brilliant vegan cheese mix.
Cauliflower Mac n’ Yeast
Cauliflower Tacos | with Mango + Ginger Salsa.

Apple & Ginger Compote and Vegan Gingerbread Nutella.
Carrot, Ginger & Miso Dressing | with Summer rolls.
Roasted Parsnip & Pear soup.


 

Japan Photo Diary, Day 10-12: The Lost in Translation One & Museum Hopping in Hakone

Koya-San

I put so much effort into planning our route FROM Koyasan, that I seem to believe getting TO Koyasan sure cannot be that difficult. All I know is that we need to take three trains.

Of course, taking rural countryside trains are a bit more of a hassle than the metro that run every 5-or-so minutes with clear signs even foreign eyes can comprehend.
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After catching the first two departures alright, I seem to have a flick on the third and get us off one station too early. We end up seemingly in the Middle of Nowhere, or at least that is what I imagine this train stop would translate to in English. Getting off a station too early is not a big deal. Unless the next train will not arrive for another hour.

This one event seems to be the first in a long row of domino bricks of mistakes. To make a long story short: We leave Kyoto around 7am and arrive on top of Koyasan just after 4pm…
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Getting to Koyasan is a bit of an adventure on its own. (Like, without the extra detour to Nowhereland). For the final bits the train winds its way up the mountain, with its wall on one side and steep valleys on the other. At the final station, you catch a cable car to reach all the way to the top.
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Most people visiting Koyasan will stay in shukubo (aka temple lodgings).
As a) I do everything last minute and b) this is high season, we however spend the night at a capsule style backpackers called Koyasan Guest House Kokuu.

It has a design that brings chapels slash stables to mind along with the best English spoken staff encountered the entire trip. (One has even studied in Scotland and gets muy excited when hearing about me arriving from Granite City!)
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The biggest attraction is undoubtedly Oku-no-in — where the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi resides surrounded by circa 200’000 tombstones and monuments. Kobo Daishi was the founder of the Shingon Buddhism that Koyasan is a pilgrammage for; he was last seen in year 835 and according to legend he is to this day sat in meditation inside his mausoleum awaiting the arrival of Miroku (the Future Buddha).

It is a really atmospheric, almost eerie feel walking about the cemetery as the sun begins to descend. Despite knowing we are most certainly not alone as visitors of the mountain, it sure feels like it as you vanish into the large grounds.

You can also watch the monks do their morning chanting in the early am’s over at Okunoin, as we did the following morning. Brings me back to my week at Doi Suthep in 2014.
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Koyasan has recently gotten a new supermarket that stays open until late, but other than that everything closes early (like 5pm max). Which in this case means I did not have time to try out Shojin-Ryori — a traditional buddhist veggie (vegan actually) cuisine — typical for the region. Alas, the more reason to visit again!

On the bright side, it brings people inside and together — we spend the evening drinking copious amounts of tea at the hostel, chatting to fellow travellers about our Japan feels.

Hakone

DSC_0114DSC_0081Fresh out of the chanting, we hurry off to catch the cable car back down to the train station. With the disastrous logistic failures of the day past, we were on a roll. The perkiest bit was when I realised we could get off the shinkansen already in Odawara, instead of travelling all the way back to Tokyo to swap trains. Ha-le-lu!

It is still quite the bus trip to reach the top of the mountain though. Once we are checked in at our hotel Mount View, we head straight out and into Museum of the Little Prince just up the road. Which must be the most unpredictable of locations to find a museum dedicated to a French childrens tale?
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Apparently the founder was so fond of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s book that she felt a museum was in order. It is a full on experience, with a French style townscape and gallery of St Exupéry’s life doings. (Most of the accompaning captions with the works found in the latter are in either Japanese or French though… Of course I do not really mind just watching photos).
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Back at the hotel (it is so alien to me staying in a hotel that my fingers automatically add an extra s in there) we change into our yukatas to get into the groove. We head downstairs for dinner, then spend the remains of the evening in the public outdoors onsen.

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The following morning I dress up in my most museumy outfit and we take the bus to Hakone Open Air Museum. It is a very hot morning and thus the sun creates some really harsh shadows over the works unfortunately.
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Hakone turns out to be a right mekka for art museums – there seems to be something for every taste, at every other bus stop.

This makes me completely forget what we really came there for – to catch a glimpse of infamous Mount Fuji…
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Unfortunately the installation I am most keen to watch, The Symphonic Sculpture, is having maintenance work made on this very day (what are the odds?!) so there is no entry.

They do host an enchanting photography exhibition by Kishin Shinoyama – a series of portraits of fellow artists, including Yoko Ono, in their right element. That along with the vegan friendly sushi bar down the road makes it a pretty decent excursion anyway.


This was part 6/7 of my Japan Photo Diary, the previous entries can be found below:

Jetlagged in a rainy Tokyo.
Livin la vida Ryokan & the 1st glimpse of Kyoto.
Bamboo groves, trendy coffees & hidden gems.
Neon lights & deers of might.
A historical hike & a last, lazy day in Kyoto.

Why a Shawl is your best Travel Accessory.

Processed with VSCO with g3 presetWhenever going travelling I try to think what I can get maximum use out of, and those are the items that will end up in my packing, often leaving little to no space for accessories. But there is one that always gets to come along on different venturings. The Shawl.

What else can you squeeze into your backpack that takes up so little space, yet get so much use of? Hear me out:

1. Dry shampoo, who?

Whether the hostel you stay has shitty water pressure in the showers, you have to get up in the early am’s to catch a flight or is just a fellow member of the Lazy Gals Club™  — hair washing mightn’t sound so appealing. And this is why we wrap it up! The instant cover up of greasy hair. Dry shampoo, who?

2. Quick Cover up.

So ponder you are out for an evening stroll at your latest destination and by chance you pass by a majestic church or temple that you would just love to have a peek inside? In most places and cases it is considered inappropriate to enter with bare shoulders for instance. Luckily for you, a simple swirl of the scarf over your shoulders and you are good to go! Getting changed quicker than Superman in his phone booths.

3. Lighten up an outfit.

When packing for a shorter trip, I usually end up with an all black wardrobe of items easily mixed and matched between each other. A colourful scarf can easily lighten things up a little, plus you feel kinda fancy like you were on your way to the opera. (No, just me?)

4. Sun Protection.

Heading out for a trek? Protect your head from strong rays and  by wrapping it up in a turban. And don’t forget so bring some water with you!


What are your best useful travel accessories?

3 x Grilled (Cheese) Sandwiches.

DSC_0349Perhaps the epidemic Skam-fever has finally gotten to me too — I mean, I have been having merely sandwiches for lunch the week past. That is like the number one symptom of norwegianness.

Jokes aside, the sandwich toaster sure has kept warm lately and here are some of the fillings I have been experimenting with. (Mainly through the art of good old fashioned fridge cleansing)


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GRILLED CHEESE NACHO SANDWICH

Perhaps I was a stoner in another life, or a mere genius? The crunchy nachos and melted cheese makes this feel kind of like having a nacho platter inside your sandwich. If that does not sound appealing you need to have a serious think about your priorities in life.

• 2 slices bread of your choosing
• vegan cheese
• nachos
• dairy free butter
• red tapenade
• tomato, jalapeños (opt.)


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GRILLED MANGO, T*RKEY & CHEESE SANDWICH

This, in its regular untoasted shape, is one of my best grab-and-go lunches from Grampian Health Store in Aberdeen, mainly because I never buy meat substitutes and it is nice to have the sweet chutney in combo with the smokey t*rkey. Evidentally, it also works in grilled form. Omnivore approved even.

• 2 slices bread of your choosing
• vegan cheese
• 1-2 slices vegan smokey t*rkey or similar
• 1 tbsp mango chutney


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GRILLED BANH MI BAGUETTE

With the left overs of having banh mi the night before, I assembled the whole repetoire in the grill. Needless to say it was a good move, the combination of flavours in banh mi is such a bullet proof one anyway.

• 1 mini baguette, sliced in two
• marinated tofu
• fresh coriander
• pickled vegetables*
• sriracha mayo (or mix sriracha into mayonnaise to taste)

* grate veggies like carrot, cucumber, radish, red onions – place in glass jar, cover with 1-2-3 mixture of 1 part vinegar, 2 parts sugar, 3 parts water that you have brought to a light simmer to let the sugar dissolve. Cover jar and let sit for at least a couple of hours.


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