Saturday, 27 November 2010

Food for thought...

The Aardvark Manifesto 2010

I can't believe December is almost upon us. Edinburgh has gone Christmas mad with fake snow being blown along George Street, garlands decking all the hotels and mulled wine being sold in mid-November. I am not ready!

Thinking of present ideas has become a welcome distraction from studying. They need to be personal, local, hopefully made with love and sustainable. Last week I stumbled across a gorgeous cookbook made by three friends in Australia. They are called 'The Hungry Girls' and have made two cookbooks of their favourite recipes. I think they are wonderful! What do you think of these images?

All images are taken from The Hungry Girls Cookbook

They are bound in thick recycled card with doodles and notes scattered across the pages. We have more than enough recipes that we cook day in day out - as do our friends (Julia/Hannah/Chloe - this means you!) - and I was hoping we could compile a cookbook of our own. What do you think?

Ideally, we could all choose two of our favourite recipes - pudding, snacks, main courses, vegetarian or gluten free, soups or salads.... and write out a simple recipe, take a photograph or two and add a little love and soul from each of us. This could be a quote, a book recommendation or just a little sketch.

I am happy to put them together and get them printed. I know it might be a mountain of a task to achieve before Christmas but maybe, just maybe, we could just do them anyway? I miss having you all around and I would love to know I am just that little bit closer to you as I cook your recipes.

Who knows where our cookbook may lead....

The Guardian are running a food photography competition at the moment and have put some tips on how to take good photographs. From our experience, light and love of what you have made are all you need!

Love from snowy Edinburgh,

Charlotte x

Friday, 5 November 2010

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Friday, 17 September 2010

Monday, 13 September 2010

Getting to work in 2010: Our new plans...

Getting to work in 2010: Our new plans...

I am attending the rally at Columbia through Oxfam America. Spread the word! Let's all be there, or if you cannot find your event at the 350. org website, they are happening globally. Get on it!

Rooftop Garden Deluxe

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Charlotte's work: A Culture of Sexual Harrassment

A Culture of Sexual Harassment

“You’re so beautiful”, “wow”, “baby” – are these words offensive to you? What about when the phrases reference sexual acts and use obscene language? Sexual harassment is not always physical but the effects are the same; a woman left feeling violated, offended and dirty.

On the street, in taxis and services, within the walls of universities, drinking in a cafe or even in the confines of some women’s homes, none of these places are free from sexual harassment. These incidences are rarely reported which allows the perpetrators to continue to treat women with no respect. Society condones these men and their actions when it does not stand up for the women who suffer from unwanted attention and contact.

Women leered at when they sit alone; boys on bicycles riding past and grabbing a woman’s body; wandering hands on buses; taxi drivers reaching round to grope legs; abuse on the street. Men undress women with their eyes as they walk down streets or ride buses and see women as their property if left in a room together. It starts as a girl becomes a teenager and then continues throughout her life. These examples of sexual harassment have affected both Syrian and Western women, veiled or unveiled, in a country which strives to champion its multi-cultural tolerance.

There has been a sad demise in the respect afforded to women, particularly those travelling. Not respected for being independent, adventurous or strong, they are increasingly wearing fake wedding rings, talking about fake children and travelling in groups with other foreigners in order to avoid the hassle and unwanted attention from local men. One of the first things many foreign women buy in Syria is a hairdryer. The reality that some people believe a woman with wet hair is a prostitute or has recently had sex is upsetting and shocking. No one would like to be so culturally misunderstood, yet they have to battle with the stereotype that they are easy, loose, and available for any man who is interested, a message perpetuated through selected films, magazines and television shows.

Inquisitive staring is another large cultural shock experienced by foreigners in Syria. However, one soon realises that this attention is not towards foreign women exclusively but directed at women in general. There is a point when this staring becomes uncomfortable and inappropriate. Once the novelty of a two week tourist trip has faded and living in Syria becomes a reality, awareness of sexual harassment increases dramatically.

One of the saddest aspects of sexual harassment in Syria is seeing other women around you when it happens. If a woman does not step in and help when they witness harassment occurring, especially in the street, she is condoning that man’s behaviour. Women need to help women; speak up and make a scene if a case of sexual harassment occurs to you or near you.

This is the sad reality for women today; however it is certainly not the message any government would want publicised. Sexual harassment has become normalised across society due to frequent throw-away comments that are never challenged; only the most obscene and offensive acts are still able to shock. Educating society about women’s rights and striving to change negative stereotypes is crucial. But first, sexual harassment needs to be talked about; we need to recognise that there is a problem.

Al-Thara will be launching a campaign against Sexual Harassment in Syria over the coming months. Please watch the website for details. If you are interested in or affected by the issues raised in this article, please get in touch via the contact details section on this page.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Lemon and Mint Thirst Quencher - بولو

It is getting hot hot hot over here in Syria and there are not many things which can cool me down. My flat feels like a green house and I am on an endless search for cool drinks and cool places. I am hoping I can persuade J to post her ice latte tips....

Polo (pronounced bolo) manages to be tasty, tart and terrifically thirst quenching all at once. I love that you can buy it from a street corner or a smart restaurant and there is never any doubt what you will get - a green flecked drink which feels like a welcome oasis.

I have had endless horrified looks from the juice makers when I ask for no sugar - I really like the tart-factor although there are some days when I wish they had come across agave!

There is lots of room for creativity here - do you like your drinks a little sweeter? Add some honey or agave. Hoping for an icy blast? Blend some ice cubes up with your juice. Not a huge fan of mint? Just enjoy lemon sunshine in your glass. Add as much water to suit your taste buds...leave it in the fridge for extra chilliness or drink swiftly if you are in danger of over heating!

Makes 2 glasses

Health warning: You might get addicted


8 lemons

One big handful of fresh mint

500ml cool water

Halve the lemons and squeeze the juice out of them using a juicer. Pour lemon juice and mint leaves into a blender and blitz until smooth. Add ice to make a smoothie consistency or dilute with water. Blend.

If you don't have a blender, juice the lemons and mix with water. Add the mint leaves whole and let the juice stew for a while in the sunshine. I like to roughly chop them but the blender gives a smoother drink.

Garnish with whole mint leaves. Best drank in some shade. Enjoy!

Syrian recipes coming soon!


Charlotte xx

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Polenta Honey Apricot cake: perfect Summer Birthday treat

I have been experimenting (might I say pretty well) a lot lately. From homemade rye bread (gluten-free of course), to double red quinoa and bean salad, to oatmeal choc-o-cookies to this last fabulous invention. All my other treats have literally disappeared before I have had a chance to snap a pic...and I think they are not quite perfect enough to share yet. Note: I thought (an still kind of do) that xanthum gum has a weird taste, so I try an bake without it. However, I whipped up some fat-free banana - fig muffins this morning and used brown rice flour and a bit of Bob's Red Mills AP mix. Now don't get me wrong I love Bob's stuff, but I think the Garbanzo bean flour in his mix (the others do not seem as offensive: sorghum, tapioca, potato) seems to bake up with a weird after taste. I just cannot get over it! Please anyone else doing GF baking tell me if you agree. I love chickpeas to death, but could it be that bean flours have a weird taste? So far I love brown rice four, teff and amaranth. Of course oat flour is a must (taste good in everything) and still to try quinoa flour. I think I am going to make quinoa bread soon...

But getting to the good stuff...the stuff that needs no adjustment, because it came out so heavenly.

This cake - Polenta Honey Apricot Cake- is just divine. Not too sweet, and delicate but definitely a thing of character with the crunch of the cornmeal and honey jam of the melted apricots. It was my wee brother's birthday on Friday! He is not so wee and did not think a cake with candles was necessary, but I did of course. He is mad for chocolate but he loved this, everyone at the table dipped in for seconds. I think that says something of a cake made with no chocolate. For all summer birthdays this is a beautifully light (and pretty healthy) treat. I love you Jay! Happy Birthday!

Polenta Honey Apricot Cake

prep and cook time: 1 hour +

3/4 cup ground almonds
½ cup yellow cornmeal
¼ cup rice flour
3 whites and 2 egg yolks (from large to extra large eggs)
½ cup agave/honey blend
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 tablespoons fats/fat replacement ( I did (3) coconut oil, (2) olive oil and (2) applesauce)
8-10 apricot halves with honey

Preheat the oven to 350 F. The cake will take 40-45 minutes to bake, and if made into muffins they would take 20 minutes. (NB: I was going to do muffin cakes but I did not know if the apricots would stick to the bottom of the muffin trays, now thinking back you could probably make a parchment paper design/sleeve.)

Cut a circular piece of parchment paper to line the bottom of your 9 inch cake pan. This can be done be tracing the bottom and then cutting the traced circle out. Insert the circular parchment paper in the pan. Then grease the rim and the bottom over the parchment paper.

Mix the flours, baking powder and salt together. In another bowl mix the honey, melted oils, applesauce, two egg yolks and vanilla. Mix the wet slowly into the dry. Whip the three egg whites into peaks and slowly (1/3 at a time) fold them in. The batter should be pretty wet. Arrange the apricot halves "belly" up in the pan. Dollop honey in each belly and then pour the batter over them. Even the batter out. Pop in the oven. Keep in the oven for at least 40 min or until finito. Let the cake cool and garnish with organic powdered sugar. I know I avoided sugar in the recipe (intentionally) but it really made the cake pretty and added a good bite when sprinkled on top. NB: Cake even better next morning for breakfast!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

celiac relapse, simplifying my food, wild berry and seed salad

A week or so ago, something triggered what felt like a horrible Celiac relapse. I was in bed for days. I went over everything I could have eaten and nothing seemed to have wheat. I think either my gut needs some detoxing love or there is yet another thing I must steer clear of.

I am trying an elimination diet where I cut out certain foods and then slowly bring them back in on at a time to test what it is. I'll spare you the list (because it seems infinite) of what I cannot eat; however, I'll be posting lots of vegan, soy free, sugar free food without you even noticing ;) Well that's what I hoping, especially with Pete, who has to eat all the recipes, as he goes on a de-facto gluten-free, dairy free lifestyle change with me. He is such a sport.

* * *

Spending, what seems like all, my money at the farmer's market these past months is due to all the new produce that tempts me at each stand. Like the gooseberries and black raspberries that just had to be bought. I swear, like some people spend all their money on clothes without control, I go to the farmers market and cannot resist a beautiful fresh piece of produce, especially when the farmer tells you he or she picked it that dawn!

Wild Berry and Seed Salad

2 handfuls of fresh wild greens (mix of anything you like)
small handful of watercress
fresh slices of cucumber
handful of black raspberries
handful of gooseberries (or any too berries you prefer)
small handful of lightly toasted pumpkin seeds
lemon and olive oil dressing

Keep it simple and raw in the summer, enjoy the unadulterated taste of fresh produce!

p.s sending Charlotte extra love

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Farmer's Fresh Summer Zucchini and Herb soup

(picture of soup coming soon, camera acting up again- enjoy the basil)

It is official summer in New York City, for any one that was doubting otherwise! It has been in the 90's and the humidity feels like water just floating in the air. This weather has actually made me kind of lose my appetite. So all day I find myself running around (letting me blood sugar get too low) and then I get home at night and I am starving! This soup is nice and light and hopefully something you can have in the middle of the day. It was inspired by Halfdan, but I have made it summer-y by cooling down, so it has a gazpacho feel (which by the way is my new task to perfect). It is farmer's fresh because all the ingredients can be found at the farmer's market (bar the lemon if are not in California, the Med or North Africa ;)

I have been doing almost all of Pete and my shopping at the Farmer's Market and like Charlotte described in her last post, it totally changes the way you shop (umm, brings some joy into it instead of crowded lines and dread) and it makes you invent your own dishes because frankly you cannot go there knowing you will find everything you need. You have got to roll with the seasons and the produce. People freak out at this prospect, but trust me; take a deep breath, and just shop. You'll never know the wonderful things you could make without a recipe until you try.

This is a rough (estimated recipe), you know I do not like to be too strict about amounts anyway...

Farmer's Fresh Summer Zucchini and Herb Soup

serves plenty: probably 8 comfortably
cooking time: one hour + and chilling time


4 oversized zucchini or 6 medium to smaller ones (give or take)
1 white onion
5-6 cloves of fresh garlic
peperoncino flakes
1 organic vegetable broth cube or homemade vegetable stock
a huge bunch of fresh basil
a huge bunch of fresh Italian parsley
lemon and and sea salt to garnish

* Need a hand-held blender

** Also I think it would fun to experiment with other summer squashes, like yellow.


In a nice sturdy (cast iron- Le Crueset I prefer) pot cook down the chopped onion and garlic cloves until they are soft, translucent and golden (approximately 20 minutes). I added the pinch of peperoncino with the onions and garlic, so that the heat cooked off a bit. If you do not prefer any spice just leave it out. Remember it's your recipe.

Then add the chopped zucchini (you can chop them roughly because they will be blended). Salt and pepper the zucchini and then put the lid on the pot. This cooks the zucchini down a bit faster. They will take approximately 30 minutes to cook all the way through. You want them a little golden and not too mushy, so remember to take the cover off and mix them up occasionally.

When you believe they are done, add the vegetable stock and a few cups off water. Blend the mixture up, check the consistency to your liking before you add any more liquid. Wither add more liquid or not depending on preference. Then add chopped herbs. Blend again. Refrigerate to cool ( or have it hot).

Garnish with lemon and sea salt before serving.

Enjoy, of course!
peace and love

Hello from Syria!

If someone had told me a year and a half ago that I would be living in Damascus for 4 months and studying intermediate Arabic, I am not sure whether I would have believed them but here I am, typing in the heat of the day, hoping that I can upload this without too many problems!

One month of my course is now finished and I am moving up in the world to level 5 at the University of Damascus– scary stuff. I have just come back from a much needed getaway to Beirut, Lebanon. Only 3 and a half hours away from Damascus yet poles apart in other ways. Noisy and humid, this glass urban jungle is a hybrid of New York meets Paris meets Dubai yet it has managed to retain its integrity and brought many of the positive aspects of these destinations into reality. Modern skyscrapers juxtapose old shuttered townhouses, local bistros and coffee houses attract the same diverse clientele as the street vendors and 5* restaurants, mosques stand harmoniously with churches, lots of pedestrian areas who promote the cafe atmosphere, roman ruins acting as gardens for government buildings...I heart Beirut.

Some of the highlights include walking around the campus of American University Beirut that stretched down to the Mediterranean, singing away a few hours at a legendary jazz club and bumped into someone who gave us a lecture last year on the Middle East, criss-crossing Beirut’s food and shopping districts and sampling most of what was on offer, eating in the seaside restaurant of a sleepy harbour town who counted Bridget Bardot as a regular in the 60’s, watching Algeria take on England in the World Cup with the Imam from the Mosque chanting the night time call to prayer, and Souq al-Tayeb.

I had not realised that the amount of falafels I can eat is finite – I am in falafel overkill – but Beirut was a foodie dream. Without doubt the best food I have eaten since arriving here this summer – dandelion leaves with almonds and onions, runner beans with tomatoes and garlic, halloumi and apricots.....yum yum yum. Last summer J and I went to the Union Square Farmer’s Market in NYC – local, seasonal and wholesome is what we like! I found a little slice of goodness whilst in Beirut and I will definitely be back for more...

Souq al-Tayeb is a local organic market set up by farmers, cooperatives and small producers who wanted to celebrate Lebanese produce. Every Saturday between 9-2pm, the Saifi district car park hosts this unique venture in the Middle East and transforms itself into a haven of little stalls selling the good and the great. Juice stalls, vegetables, cold soups and bread, cheeses, fruit and wraps, honey and jam and baking. 100% Local Lebanese. Don’t you think you can smell goodness? The tomatoes tasted like what I imagine Italian tomatoes do – sunshine, earth and sweet juicy redness. I want to do my shopping there every week! We treated ourselves to some sugar free jam made from strawberries, grape molasses and a drop of agave. I had no idea that I would stumble across so many like-minded people in Beirut. There is a small but beautiful food revolution coming to the Middle East and I really hope they jump on the bandwagon with as much enthusiasm as we have.

Hooray for getting back to blogging!

Hooray for food!

And the biggest HOORAY for friends!

Salaam, Charlotte xx

P.S....I have spent 2 hours trying to upload some photos but the system keeps shutting down....Sorry! Xx

Friday, 28 May 2010

I don't even what to title this post...maybe that's when I realized I have so much to say, but really nothing to say. Does that make any sense? We have not blogged in forever. I miss writing - A L OT! I miss Charlotte, I actually miss a lot of the life I had been so pining to leave back in Scotland.

I just read read Hannah's post and it was brilliant- you know what- it made me realize that this has been an absolute insane year. The least I could do would reflect on it more. My life feels like it has turned upside down, about 100 different times this year. I miss writing to you -my friends- knowing that you can read about it and feel closer to me. Sometimes staying in touch as best you should is hard.

I got this comment from Aron and Ashley from Hither and Thither on my last post and 1) it was so lovey and kind 2) it made me realize I miss writing to reach out to new people and share recipes, experiences and life.

SCHOOL IS OUT! Officially! As of more posts to come and more time to cook up yummy summer recipes. Also I am running the NYC ING Marathon and training for that. Trying to eat healthy etc...but want to share with you the most amazing gluten-free brownies I have tried yet. (Yes not exactly the best running food, but everyone needs a brownies sometimes.) Let me tell you I have been doing my fair share of tasting gluten- free desserts.

Leila, one of my best friends for almost a decade now, has been leaving little GF treaties on my desk since I got diagnoses (by the way its such a nice thing to do for someone). These brownies started at me from 8am until 1pm until I finally cracked. Then I shared them with Pete and his parents for dinner- needless to say there are not many left now. They are "DA BOMB" even for those of you who would never dream of optionally eating anything gluten free. The trick: they are based in almond flour instead of all these funky, as my friend Allie says, "sandpaper-tasting" flours.

Behold Tate's!

Also in the Fall I start my Masters in Health Education at Teacher's College, Columbia. Besides being really nervous to take out loans, I am very excited. Speak soon! Glad to be back!

Live in Life with Love

Saturday, 27 March 2010

a new direction...a NEW me...

Hello! I have some it could be looked at as a big bummer but I am going to take it in good stride because we all knew it was coming...

After blood tests, an upper endoscopy, being looped out on drugs, and well suffering from intense digestive and emotional problems for...hmmm...what feels like forever now, I can finally say that I have Celiacs disease. It is an autoimmune disease that stops my from processing gluten. And did you know that untreated it can cause cancer of the bowel, schizophrenia, depression and anxiety, besides the obvious digestives issues? My doctor also believes that I am lactose intolerant, which I kind of figured. So here we go, I am going to do this now, I am going to go gluten and casein free. Once and for all and strictly may I add. Ah-Oh don't get scared, I promise I am still going to whip up amazing masterpieces. Things you would never even realize are gluten and diary free. I have already found a great gluten free pasta that Pete says taste (virtually) the same as durum wheat pasta.

I have to admit I have not decided yet if I will create a new blog to be the sister blog of this cute one. I don't want to change this blog too much and I also want to be true to gluten and casein free readers. However, I am currently internet-less at home (and probably will be until Time Warner sorts its act out) so I thought I should start documenting the healing right here.

But let me just be clear there cannot be any farting around here. I mean, no more dabbling with Spelt! Like gluten-free girl I want people suffering with Celiac or any gluten or dairy intolerance to know they can bake something up that I have suggested and be free of ANY pain. I mean physical and emotional.

I hope I have all your support here. Don't worry I am not down with Tofutti cream cheese and loads of xanthum gum in recipes. I hope to bake up lovely treats much like our Ultimate Feel-Good Cookie- things you forget are gluten and dairy free!

Here goes...join never know you might feel better too...

with peace and love

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Gone but never forgotten....

Sometimes, the best thing you can do is just pick up the phone and say hello. It doesn't matter how far apart you are, how crazy your life is or how long it has been. Good friends can pick up from where they left off the last time. I know that most of my friends are not in the same city as me, let alone on the same time zone, but just hearing a familiar voice can make you SMILE all day long!

I just wanted to say hello and let you know I haven't forgotten about you. I will be back with photos and food and fun for 2010. Wishing you all love and peace this year.

Three cheers for skype and friends!
Love Charlotte xxx
Image: Nouvelle Images

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Fig Newtons for the New Year

AHH Happy New Year! What is this blog-posting and then disappearing for a month action ? Apology accepted?

Before New Year resolutions start, I want to share something with you: I went to yoga the other day and Annie (the yoga instructor) said in preparation for New Years please do not make a resolution. Stick on your path. Keep on your journey. Continue the self-growth. But please don't sign yourself up for tasks that make you feel bad when you slip a little. Life is not black and white yo! It is a constant road to be traveled. Yes corny but that is what I have learned this year (well last year) more than any other.

Lets start the year of with love and peace in the air...oh and some fig newtons. Fig newtons (at least these ones) feel like dessert but are really so healthy! I amended Sprouted Kitchen's recipe a bit. They are so good! Borrowing their picture because I still am not down with my new (recycled) camera.

p.s replace the one egg in here and this is a great vegan dessert (no one will know)!

Spelt and Oat Fig Newtons
1 ¼ Cups Spelt Flour
1 ¾ Cups Oatmeal
1 tbsp. Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1 tsp Baking Soda
½ tsp Salt
1 Large Egg
1 tsp. Real Vanilla Extract
1/3 Cup Agave Nectar (could use a little more if you like)
½ Cup Applesauce
2 tbsp. Coconut oil (to ensure a crisp crumble topping)
A handful (about 1 Cup) chopped Almonds
1 ¼ Cups Fig Preserves (I made my own)

Homemade Fig Preserves
1/2 Cup wine soaked prune juice
1/4 Cup meyer lemon juice
1 Cup ginger tea (ginger infused water)
a couple shavings of ginger
a cinnamon stick
1 Cup wine soaked prunes
1 Cup chopped fig (back mission + other varieties)
1/4 Cup Apricots

(Really use any dried fruit you would like!)

Homemade Preserve:
I had soaked prunes in wines a couple days before (for the prunes and wine soaked prune juice), but if you have not just use red wine, or prune juice or a mixture of both.

Simmer all ingredients for an hour, drain off extra liquid (making sure to leave a few tablespoons in) and mash, chop or blend up. If you like chunky jam, don't over blend.

Put jam in freezer to cool while you make the dough.

Dough or Newton:
Preheat your oven to 350'.

Food process 1 1/4 cup of the oatmeal until it looks roughly chopped and a bit flour-ish.

Mix together all dry ingredients (spelt, oats, chopped oats, slat, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda).

In another bowl mix together agave, egg, vanilla, applesauce.

Mix the wet into the dry, it will look like cookie batter. Put the batter in the freezer for 20 minutes.

Line an 8x8 baking try with parchment and a little melted coconut oil.

Spread half the dough (or a tiny bit more if needed) on the bottom of the pan.

Add 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cup of preserve over the bottom layer of Newton. I had extra jam, and I was tempted to use it but saved it instead. Good call.

Now add the chopped almonds to the remaining batter. Mix that well.

Try and spread (really you will be dropping) the remaining dough on top of the preserves.

Chop up the coconut oil and sprinkle over the top to make a nice crust.

Bake for around 30 minutes. But watch it either way depending on your oven.

Let them cool a bit before cutting. (No really)

Eat. Eat. Eat.

peace and love in the New Year