Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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This is Day 20 of Veganuary, a 30-day pledge to eat vegan to save the planet. Today, it’s all about swimming and the joys of Japanese cuisine, one of the best vegan cuisines in my book.
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Today is Saturday and what are Saturdays for? They’re for getting up early to cycle to the Serpentine and swim a short chilly race. The water is up to 4C/39F and we meet a member of the South End Rowing Club in San Francisco. He tells me about the rogue sea lion who’s been biting people at Aquatic Park and how swimmers now swim in groups, hoping to deter the aggressive sea lion (who, they suspect, is sick). He also tells me how the SERC building has been renovated and how the women’s changing room is apparently super nice. Combined with the rising interest in open water swimming in the United States, they are getting a lot of new female members. Of course, the spartan changing room of the Serpentine is in sharp contrast with his descriptions but we’ve got wildlife too. Sure, it’s mostly coots, swans and geese and they’re only interested in algae and the odd tourist stale breadcrumbs, but too we live dangerously. Proof. A few swimmers have had close calls when on the trajectory of swans using the Serpentine as a landing pad. Are swans as cool as sea lions? I’m not sure.
Never mind. He seems to enjoy the concept of handicapped races. Back home, after a few straight days of toast for breakfast, I decide to jazz up my plate.
Today, it’s microwave-reheated apple crisp from Day 15. It’s a bit soggy but it’s alright, as far as soggy apple crisps go. It’s a shame that the crust wasn’t more crusty initially, though. There has to be a recipe out there for vegan apple crisp with incredibly crusty topping. It can’t all be about the butter, can it?
Now, looking at the photograph, I’m reminded of a detail. That mug there with the floral design? It ‘s a win from a swim race at the Serpentine. Even when I’m not swimming, swimming’s with me.
Melissa Clark is back on the menu with her cookbook Dinner and we are loving it.
For lunch, my husband cooks up a chickpea and Swiss chard casserole that we serve with parathas, layered flatbreads from India. You can buy them frozen at oriental stores on North End Road and all you need to do is quick-fry them 2 minutes in a pan. It’s genius and really good, as is the veggie casserole that we clean up. No leftovers. This Melissa Clark book is a real gem. You can get Dinner here: US | UK.
For dessert, we have an Italian surprise.
Buongiorno. My husband has been traveling to Bologna recently and returned with this gorgeous Certosino, a Christmas candied fruit cake that resembles panforte terribly. It’s from the famed Bologna restaurant Paolo Atti & Figli and on their website, they describe the certosino as “a traditional Bolognese cake that conceals a surprising feast of flavours, including honey, candied fruit, stewed fruit, jam or fruit pickles, shelled almonds and pine nuts, cocoa powder, dark chocolate and wine syrup. ” Good stuff.
Looking at the label closely, I notice “latte in polvere”. That’s powdered milk, right? Not vegan!
Too late, I already ate my slice (it’s delicious) but I’m holding off for the rest until the end of Veganuary. Sigh. Damn powdered milk. If you’re tempted to make this treat at home, here is a Certosino recipe and I bet you could substitute coconut oil or olive oil for butter to make it vegan.
Mid-afternoon. It’s drizzling and both our girls are outside, at a friend’s party or synchronized swimming. My husband and I bike to Charing Cross Hospital to swim at the Sports Club swimming pool. I didn’t take pictures but it features prominently in this video clip if you want to have a peek.
In case you need an exhausting 90-min swim set (I did 4/5 of it), here it is:
Take a shower and go home. As my lower back hurts, I do a portion of my sets as back instead of freestyle. It seems to help.
Tonight, my husband cooks the whole meal while I play second fiddle, entertainer and cleaner, and the theme is Japanese.
Japanese cooking seems to lend itself very naturally to Veganuary. For one, there’s no concern about dairy products anywhere and Japanese eat a lot of sea vegetables, excellent sources of nutrients. For two, tofu is a common protein source in Japanese meals and can be the star of many a dish, as tonight’s starter.
This is a fried tofu steak with ginger soy sauce and it’s excellent. Even if you think that you don’t like tofu, try it. You will be pleasantly surprised. It comes from my favorite Japanese cookbook. If you only get one Japanese cookbook, it has to be Everyday Harumi (you can get it here: US | UK). Harumi Kurihara is a famous TV chef in Japan and in this cookbook, she makes everyday Japanese food accessible to westerners. You won’t find any sushi or tempura recipes in it. The name says it all, it’s about everyday, and each recipe is really easy to follow. The only trouble might be sourcing ingredients but hopefully, there’s a Japanese section in your local supermarket or even better, a Japanese grocery store.
Part 2 of our Japanese meal is vegan vegetable tempuras, New York Times recipe, served with cold soba and Harumi’s sauce.
Soba are thin buckwheat noodles that are very popular in Japan, cheap and easy to prep (unless you forget to rinse thoroughly after cooking). They are usually gluten-free and can be served cold or hot. Tonight, they’re cold and it works perfectly with the deep-fried baby corn, zucchini, asparagus and celery heads. What a treat.
Saturdays are sweet. However my arms are sore from all that swimming. Sunday’s bound to be more mellow.