Living in Portugal, Forest Gardening

I’m a bit behind with this blog! I’ve been spending more time over on Facebook, you can follow me for shorter updates and ‘like’ Funky Raw for raw news. But I do plan to start updating this blog again now, as we’ve finally stopped travelling and found somewhere to live… The article below gives an update to our life, it was originally published in Funky Raw Magazine Issue 26:

If you remember back to 2010 my partner Jolita and I set off on a journey to find a place to live – land where we can grow our own food and run raw retreats and holidays. Well, eight countries and two and a half years later, our travels have come to an end, and our new life starts in Portugal. We’ve purchased 5 hectares of land in a “Parque Natural”, relatively remote and peaceful, with its own spring for drinking water in a reasonable climate – hot summers and mild winters, we still get some frosts in winter but also some lovely sunny days.

Orange TreeThere are lots of olive trees on the land plus a few other fruit and nut trees including figs and kakis and so far we’ve planted apples, pears, figs, cherries, apricots, lemons, almonds, blueberries and raspberries. And we’re looking forward to planting a veg garden in the spring.

Our land

We want to create a forest garden so we read the book Forest Gardening by Robert A de J Hart. It is a wonderful book, although not the one we were hoping for! This book is a general introduction to the forest garden concept, told through the author’s own experience of growing his forest garden, with ideas on how forest gardens can change the world for the better. The book we wanted is a practical guide to creating a forest garden, we’ve now ordered what we hope is the book we need, Creating a Forest Garden by Martin Crawford. We watched a couple of videos on Youtube from Martin, he’s been doing a lot of research on forest gardens whilst growing one in Devon.
The idea behind a forest garden is to try and emulate a natural forest for minimal maintenance and environmental benefits, but with trees and plants which produce food and other useful resources, making use of 7 layers – large canopy trees, small trees & large shrubs, shade tolerant shrubs, perennial plants & herbs, ground cover plants, climbers & vines and root vegetables.

House

We’re happy to report that there are loads of wild greens on the land and lots of wild nature, birds, frogs, and some interesting lizard creatures we’ve never seen before, orange with black spots!

There are two houses on the land which we are in the process of restoring ready for running our retreats, more news soon…

Raw Chocolate Mulberries – in Portugal

I’m not doing a great job of keeping this blog updated with our travels! We’re in Portugal again, been here for about 3 months and quite possibly it is where we will decide to stay.

A couple of days ago I was in a health food shop in Lagos and saw Raw Chocolate covered mulberries and I just had to buy them!

Interestingly the ingredients were just white mulberries, cacao powder and cacao butter; no extra sweetener like there is in the choc mulberries we sell at Funky Raw – those have coconut palm sugar in them.

They were delicious, the only problem was that the chocolate melted fairly quickly as it is still hot here.

The company Iswari have a range of organic superfoods such as acai, wheatgrass, lucuma, goji berries, etc, which we have noticed in several health food shops around Portugal. It seems to be a Portuguese company and according to their website, they also operate in Spain, Ireland and the Czech Republic.

Greece – Photos from our travels

We spent almost 3 months in Greece, from mid Jan to mid April, mostly on the mainland, although we did go to one island, Evia. The most surprising thing was the weather, it was a lot colder than I was expecting! Although we did have some really beautiful weather too.

This was our route (only approximately, you can only have a limited number of points on Google Maps):

We got the ferry from Bari in Italy to Igoumenitsa and then fairly quickly travelled down to the Peloponnese, assuming it would be a little warmer there, although it wasn’t much different. We stayed on a campsite in Gythio for a month over the worst of the winter, the campsite has a large shared room with heating where we could spend our time when it was too cold and wet!

Click on any photo to enlarge, then you can scroll through the large versions.

Hope you like them, please feel free to leave your comments or questions below.

Raw in Athens

Until now, the only “raw food” we’ve had in Greece has been the fresh fruits and vegetables from the markets. It’s been of exceptionally high quality, but sometimes I want some prepared raw food… Synchronistically, I got an email from an American living in Athens about writing for the Funky Raw magazine, perfect timing for us to get some tips for raw food in the capital.

So on Friday night, we went to Nice ‘n’ Easy Bio Cafe, 60 Omirou Street, an organic restaurant which has 3 specifically raw items on the menu. They also have a range of salads which are almost raw. From the raw menu, I ordered a mock tuna dish, which was ok but fairly bland. I also got a green salad which came with goats cheese (not sure if from raw milk but I ate it, was delicious) and sun dried tomatoes, with a wine based dressing (probably not raw), this was really good. We tried to order the raw dessert, but they didn’t have any left – that’s the problem with places where raw food is only a small part of their menu. The website is only in Greek, but the menu was in English and the staff spoke English.

We had more success in the organic shop at 30 Nikis Street (not far from Syntagma metro), I think it is called Emporio Trofimon, but easy to spot next to a vegetarian café called Avocado with a colourful avocado painted on the wall. As well as the usual organic fruit and veg, there was a wide range of raw foods: raw chocolate bars (we got a couple of coconut Om bars), Biscru crackers, raw snack bars and a wide range of superfoods including lucuma, camu camu, acai, raw chocolate ingredients and more. Probably a better range than in most organic shops in the UK!

And now, what you’ve all been waiting for, the obligatory photos of the Acropolis:

Croatia – Photos from our travels

I got a little behind with travel updates – for now I’ve skipped forward to Croatia, which was November – December last year. Croatia is a really beautiful country, and the local food from the markets was of amazing quality.

Click on any photo to enlarge.

Croatia has over 1000 islands, this is a little island called Lošinj, just below Cres island. It was really beautiful here. I was very supprised when I found that Pula has a Roman Amphitheatre, in amazing condition. Plus other Roman buildings.
Near Pula is a wild peninsular called Rt Kamenjak. Wild and beautiful. Pazin is an interesting little village, but the best bit is in the ravine, really beautiful but so cold as not much sunlight.
Pazin ravine. More coastlines on Krk Island
Plitcitce National Park was one of the most beautiful places I have been. A completely unique landscape with lakes and waterfalls, made even more beautiful due to the November frost.
More in Plitvitce.
And more Plitvitce. Waterfalls in Krka National Park.
Forest in Krka National Park We got a ferry from Makarska to Brac island.
An amazing beach which sticks out into the ocean, called Zlatni Rat (Golden Beach) on Brac island. Korcula town on Korcula island, a short ferry trip from Brac island. Dubrovnik is amazing, the old city is surrounded by the castle like walls.
Another view of Dubrovnik We went for a great walk along the coast from Dubrovnik. The sunsets in Croatia were almost always beautiful, the colours this night are amazing.

Real Raw Lemon Cheese Cake Recipe

After a short break in London, we’re back on the road. We’re heading to Croatia, but had a little detour to Slovenia. It’s a beautiful country, loads of forest and wild nature. On Saturday we went to Ljubljana, the capital and found an amazing market. Loads of organic veg stalls, plus we got organic raw milk, raw butter, raw sour cream and raw cheese.

I love cheesecake, and it is actually very easy to make raw cheesecake, assuming you can get some good raw cheese to start with. We got some soft plain curd cheese, it needs to be fairly plain to make into cheesecake.

I didn’t measure the ingredients, but I think this is a recipe where it is hard to go wrong.

Base
brazil nuts
apricots
a few cacao beans (optional)
1 tsp vanilla powder
grated lemon rind

Topping
cheese
lucuma
honey
grated lemon rind

For the base, you want an approximately equal amount of nuts and dried fruit, you can use various combinations of fruits and nuts. I soaked the apricots for a couple of hours so they would process easier, but you don’t want them too wet otherwise the base will be soggy. Put all the ingredients in a food processor until it forms a sticky ball. If you need more liquid you can either add a little lemon juice or water. As you may know, I don’t generally eat dehydrated food as I find it hard to digest, so this base was soft and sticky, but you could probably dehydrate this is you want a more traditional cheesecake.

For the topping, just mix all the ingredients together. The more lucuma you add, the thicker the mixture will become. And of course, the more honey, the sweeter. (The cheese I used was very soft so I only needed to mix it with a spoon, with a firmer cheese you may need to blend.)

I’m sure there are many variations you can make instead of lemon.

Crucina – New raw food restaurant in Madrid

We’re on our way north again, heading back to the UK for a little while. As we were passing near to Madrid we decided to take the opportunity to visit Crucina, probably Spain’s only 100% raw restaurant. Crucina is a combination of two Spanish words – the start of crude meaning raw and cocina meaning kitchen.

Crucina is centrally located in the Malasaña district of Madrid, less than 5 minutes walk from San Bernardo metro startion.

We arrived to a very warm and friendly welcome from Yorgo, one of the co-owners. The ambiance is great, smart and modern, although they do have plans to make the décor more unique and creative. The menu was of course in Spanish, they are planning to have English menus, but for now both owners speak English so they can translate anything you don’t understand. The menu is comprehensive: juices, soups, salads, starters, mains, deserts and drinks.

We started with juices – I had “Purificaverde” – Green Purification with spinach, cucumber, celery and lemon, very refreshing although a little bland (I’m used to much stronger wild green juices!). Jolita had “Anticolesterol” with carrot, ginger, apple and parsley, which was delicious. (We shared all our food, so got to taste twice as much!)

For starters, I had the “Trio de Tartletas”, three little savory tarts, each with a different filling. The ‘pastry’ casing was unfortunately a bit too hard, almost rock solid and I couldn’t eat it, although the fillings were really delicious. Jolita had the “Tabla de Kesos”, the cheese plate. In Spanish, cheese is spelled Queso, so the alternative spelling Keso is to denote vegan cheese! Two different nut based cheeses, some raw jam, and at least 4 types of raw crackers, it was all delicious.

Trio de Tarteletas Cheese Plate

MoussakaI always used to love Moussaka when I ate cooked food, so when I saw it first on the menu, I just had to have it. After reading further it was a toss up between that and the Saag Hindu, but Jolita chose that so all was well. It turns out that Yorgo is originally from Greece, and he wants to include more Greek dishes in the future.

The moussaka was great – aubergine is not always the best thing raw, but they suceeded by cutting it very thinly and dehydrating – it was a bit chewy but good. The ‘meat’ was tasty and the ‘cheese’ and tomato sauces were delicious, overall a great dish, just slightly too salty for me (I don’t usually add salt to my food, so I’m quite sensitive  to too much salt).

Saag HinduSaag Hindu was a spicy Indian dish made with spinach and ‘mango chutney’ (more a mango sauce than chutney) which was served with some spicy coconut based breads. This again was delicious, the spicyness was just right, tasted like food from an Indian restaurant!

I was getting a bit full by now, but the deserts sounded too tempting to pass over. We ordered the tiramisu and the “Pudin de Chia”. The chia pudding was good, but a little bland, although the strawberries and banana it was served with did go well with it.

The tiramisu was amazing! Excellent textures and flavours, definitely among the best raw deserts I have ever eaten.

Chia Pudding Tiramisu

In conclusion, if you are anywhere near Madrid this is well worth a visit. And their plan is to open another restaurant in Barcelona later in the year, so keep listening out for news of that.

Crucina, Divino Pastor, 30, Madrid. Tel: 914453364. Opening hours: Tues – Wed: 13:30 – 16:00, Thurs – Sat: 13:30 – 16:00 and 21:00-24:00, Sun: 13:30 – 16:00

Photos from our travels: Part 5 – Basque Country and Pyrenees

Some beautiful scenery in this part of the world. This is the final part of this section of our trip, from Bagneres de Bigorre we drove through the Pyrenees into Spain, across to the Spanish and then French Basque Country then along the Spanish coast to Santander where we took the 24 hour ferry to Portsmouth – we then spent a month in the UK, mostly in London.

Basque Country - map 5

Ainsa, our first stop in Spain. I have a friend who was staying there and she took us to visit a local lady who was growing all sorts of food plants, we ate some delicious figs and I got to try fresh stevia leaves for the first time (first photo), they are amazing, so sweet! The dragonfly was dead on the ground, but it gave me a good opportunity to take some photos.
The road out of Ainsa towards Jaca was amazingly beautiful. We just kept stopping to take photos! Parque Nacional de Ordesa y Monte Perdido
Parque Nacional de Ordesa y Monte Perdido, in the Pyrenees on the border between Spain and France – well worth a vist, amazing waterfalls.
Back in France, Saint-Jean-de-Luz The Atlantic coast of France here is beautiful. This is Lac Blanc, a little inland from Vieux-Boucau. Bayonne was a very pretty city.
Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao
Bilbao: Outside the Guggenheim Museum were several sculptures, including this dog made out of flowers and giant spider. And of course, the obligatory photo of the Guggenheim Museum!

Photos from our travels: Part 4 – French Pyrenees

This was a beautiful part of France. Châteaux, mountains, hot springs, French markets and lots more, from 17th August to 5th September 2010. Click to enlarge the map or photos.

Carcasonne has an amazing fairy tale Château, and is generally a very pretty place, but once you go inside, you are greeted with tacky souvenir shops.
This is the Château at Peyrepertuse, it’s an amazing old Cathar Castle built in the 11th Century. We’re big fans of hot springs, although at Rennes-les-Bains we only found the warm springs (still beautiful), this photo is nearby.
This is not far from the campsite we stayed on near Foix. In the evening we followed a footpath and went for a great walk, founds lots of wild food and saw wildlife like this butterfly.
In Saint-Lizzier near Saint-Girons, lots of interesting plants, including this kiwi vine. Bagnères-de-Luchon, beautiful place in the Pyrenees. Sunset from campsite at Bagnères-de-Bigorre.
Bagnères-de-Bigorre. We spent a week here, it was a beautiful place and I had some work to catch up on. Lots of walks in the surrounding countryside, some amazing views and wildlife and a great market on Saturday. As well as the amazing mushrooms and spider, we saw a hummingbird moth, which looks a bit like a hummingbird, but it was flapping its wings too fast to be able to take a good photo of it.