Monday, January 31, 2011

Could you guess? I'm a vegetable lover!

This cartoon is from  Brian Wansink's webpage. Wansink is an economist professor at Cornell University. He is best known for his work on food psychology and eating behaviour, like 'mindless' eating.
He tackles problems like 'Why is America a land of low-calorie food claims yet high-calorie food intake?'.
His articles and books are great food for thought. Worth checking out.

Read 'The Curse of the Chinese Buffet'!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A movie about a 'normal' American guy turning into an animal rights activist

This movie (The witness, 2000) might already be more than ten years old, but sadly it is still of topical interest. This is from the movie synopsis from the official movie site.

At least spend two and a half minutes and watch the trailer. And stop buying fur. For you it's decoration, for the animal it's a question of (miserable) life and death.

"A creature of Manhattan, Eddie is exposed to the fashion industry’s hard-sell of fur as a luxury item, and it troubles him. “I fell in love with a fur bearer,” he reasons, “and I didn’t see any difference between my little fur bearer and another fur bearer traveling the forest.”

Eddie converts one of his work vans into a mobile audio-visual system, an invention he calls “FaunaVision.” When his construction office closes down for the night, he takes to the streets in his van and delivers images of animals on fur farms and trap lines—right to the heart of the city, where the furs are bought and sold. As he pulls over to the curb, crowds gather, people stare..."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

One can't get enough of Turkish food

I looked up my old photos and *gosh* did we make bad photos these days. But then there was no such thing as digital cameras then, and mine was a 'permanent loan' from my father. He got shaky and stopped doing photography, which was a pity, because he did astonishingly well (considering the technology he had to use). Here are two photos from Pamukkale. A photo on Acky's blog reminded me of this beautiful place. We either didn' see the colourful algae, or they were not around yet. All I remember are the beautiful calcite terraces:

But back to the food. I had leftovers from the Turkish feast we had and so I kept on cooking Turkish food, well almost...

Today we had Ispanakli Bulgur Corbasi (lentil-bulgur-spinach-soup). The original version is from Binnur's cookbook. I changed it a bit to accustom it to what I had in stock.

Yes, I know, the cup says tomato soup. But don't be tricked, it contained a wonderful and hearty Turkish soup. Here is the recipe (for 3-4 servings)


1/2 cup red lentils, rinsed
1/2 cup bulgur, cooked
1 small onion
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 clove garlic
olive oil for frying
1 cup tomatoes, chopped (or from a can of polpa di tomato)
1 teaspoon harissa
4 cups vegetable stock
1-2 teaspoon cumin
salt, black pepper
mint (optional)
2 cups fresh spinach (or kale or swiss chard greens), chopped
1 organic lemon (because you want to use the peel)

What do do:

Sauté the onion in olive oil for a couple of minutes. Add the chopped garlic. When it smells nicely add the thyme and lentils, stir until the lentils are covered in oil. Add the crushed tomatoes, the harissa paste, cumin, salt and pepper. Stir well, then add the vegetable broth.
Cook until lentils are nearly done. Add bulgur, spinach and heat up well for about 5 minutes.
Put a lemon wedge on top before serving (don't forget this, as it adds immensely to the flavour).

I added a leek-and-silken-tofu pie which was so yummy (you have to ask me for the recipe, typing one is enough, I get easily bored *hehe*)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A culinary tour around the world - third stop: Turkey

So, Joan from Foodalogue is taking us to Turkey this week. As you can imagine, I'm very happy about this stop. She already posted a lovely vegetarian recipe, Imam Bayildi (literally: the imam fainted), go and have a look at it.

I have been to Turkey once, but this has been ages ago and the dishes I can remember are baklava because it was devastatingly sweet, sickly sweet tea and spinach börek which I just loved. There isn't much else; maybe the police razzia into which we ran because some Turkish guy took us to an illustrous night club made me forget profane things like eating. We were young we didn't need to eat ...
Turkey actually became much more meaningful to me during my later studies at uni. Turkey, being part of the 'Fertile Crescent', is home to many of our domesticated plants. The early domesticates were genetically most similar to wild plants from the Karacadağ region of southeast Turkey. The location for domesticating einkorn for example is placed in this area. Single origins for both tetraploid wheat and barley are also suggested, with wheat definitely from the Karacadağ area, too (Öskan et al. 2002).
Wild einkorn wheat in the Karacadag mountain range
B. Kilian et al.fig. 6. In: M. Glaubrecht (ed.) Evolution in Action 2010, 137-66.

Lev-Yadun et al. 2000

The 'Fertile Crescent'  was not only the origin of einkorn, wheat, emmer, and barley but also of lentils, peas, flax, and chickpeas. Sedentary hunter-gatherers in sites like Hallan Çemi or Çayönü of course also ate wild animals and early domesticated pigs but they intensively used the fore-runners of our cultivated grains and pulses. Finds of querns and handstones, mortars and pestles, suggest an avid use of grasses, pulses, and nuts (esp. almonds).

Before I venture into the origin of religion in this area I want to come back to the reason of this blog post, the coulinary journey to modernTurkey. OK, just one last picture from the famous site of Göbekli Tepe, the mother of all religion, also called the 'Garden Eden'. Look at this impressive monolith, it's 10,000 years old!

Schmidt 2006, fig. 59

Well, where were we? Ah yes, Turkish cuisine ....
I wanted to keep up the spirit of the late hunter-gatherers in ancient Turkey and look for it in modern Turkish cuisine, so it had to be something with wheat and pulses, lots of pulses, because I love lentils and co.

In the end I choose to make some spinach börek, red lentil and bulgur patties, and a green lentil salad (yes, I know, it was a lentil overkill - did I mention that I loooove lentils?)

The börek were based on a recipe from a German site called Turkish Recipes. Since you might not want to read a German recipe and I veganised the filling anyhow, I give you the recipe here:

Spinach börek

1 packet frozen spinach leaves (ca. 300 g), thawed and pressed to remove the water
half a block of tofu (200g) (or use vegetarian feta cheese, instead of lemon marinated tofu)
lemon juice from half a lemon
1 small onion
2 cloves of garlic
herb salt, black pepper, paprika
olive oil for frying
1-2 tablespoons of tomato paste
Italian parsley
8 Yufka pastry sheets (I couldn't get them, so I used vegan phyllo pastry)

What to do

Marinate the crumbled tofu in lemonjuice and herb salt. Meanwhile finely chop the onion and garlic clove. Heat oil and fry onion and garlic until transparent, add the spinach and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the tofu crumbles, fry again. Add tomato paste, seasoning and parsley. This will be the filling.
Put the filliing in the centre of the pastry sheet, moisten the edge of sheets and press together.
Heat Olive oil in frying pan and fry the börek on both sides
Can be eaten warm and cold.

Since yufka pastry doesn't contain fat it is nice to fry in the pan, it was a little on the fatty side with the phyllo. Next time I would bake them in the oven if I can't get yufka.

The green lentil salad (Mercimek Piyazi) came from Chili and Ciabatta.

Petra from Chili and Ciabatta permitted to translate and post her recipe, so here it is:

Green lentil salad (Mercimek Piyazi)


1 cup green lentils, soaked for a couple of hours
1 bunch of green onions, chopped
2 tomatoes, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
1 bunch of flat leave parsley
some twigs of mint
1 and 1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon  paprika (the hot one, Turkish or Hungarian one, if you can't find it use 1/2 a teaspoon cayenne pepper)
4 tablespoons live oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt, black pepper

What to do:

Cook lentils in roughly 1.5 l of water for about 15-30 min until tender. Do try them now and then, you wouldn't want to get them mushy. Strain lentils and put in a big bowl. Add all the other ingredients and mix up well. Let rest for half an hour to let the flavour develop.
Serve with pide bread and if you are not vegan you can fry halloumi cheese, that's what Petra did.

And, last but not least the red lentil and bulgur patties are from

In the end, I added some wonderful blogs about Turkish food to my rss feeds and have lots of recipes and ideas which I will try after this journey. Thank you, Joan, for taking us on this tour and I can't wait to see the round-up. See you in Japan then :)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A culinary tour around the world - second stop: Alaska

photo from Ervin Skalamera's awesome Alaska gallery:

 Did I complain about Panamanian food? I must have been a bit muzzy. How could I, with all the beans and maize and tomatoes and all kind of veggies. Alaska on the other hand is a vegan's nightmare. I looked up the index in a cooking book on called 'Cooking Alaskan' and I found interesting things like skinning, dressing, and cooking beaver....yeah, well....nope not for with salmon, halibut, crabs, moose roast, squirrel fricassee, pickled beaver tail, and lynx steak....again, nope not quite what I want on my plate. Not that I don't like the animals, they are beautiful and awesome .... to watch, but not to eat. Look at them, aren't they majestic and just too wonderful to hunt down and slaughter? How could I ever eat such beauty?

At last I thought maybe a desert, so I looked up Diaxsh  icecream and the Agutuk desert. I don't want to deprive you of their recipes. First the Diaxsh iceream:

"Mix some of the second fall of snow with melted or heated ooligan grease. Beat it up with the hands until it fluffs. Add a bit of sugar to your taste. Pour some blueberries over this and you have Tsimpshean ice cream. This can be frozen and saved for the summer."
So ooligan grease makes it typical Alaskan? What the heck is ooligan grease?? 

Some google time later I found this: 'Ooligan grease is made from a small smelt-like fish that's rich in monounsaturated fat'. Well, a desert doesn't have to be healthy, so monounsaturated fats are survivable, but fish in my ice cream? Thanks, but no thanks, wasabi ice cream is already weird enough for me.

Then just make the Agatuk desert, I thought to myself.

I didn't have to finish reading the recipe, both are btw from Raven's Ruff Stuff And Other Things Native.
"Agutuk or Akutaq or ackutuk or Eskimo ice cream in the past always began with tallow from big game and seal oil as the base for whipping various kinds of berries into a fluffy dessert."

Alaska suddenly became the most undesirable place in the world. Not that I don't like Alaska, maybe I don't like the politics coming from there and the food, but all the rest....just look at the landscape, what is there not to love:
And, probably the most important thing (for me at least) is the absolutely fantastic archaeology. Think only of the recently discovered beautifully preserved artefacts one can find nowadays thanks to Global Warming like this arrowshaft complete with sinew:

Dixon et al. n.d., fig. 6

Or all the problems linked to the migration of the first people into the Americas! We still are not sure when exactly and on which routes America was peopled.

Araujo et al. 2008, fig. 1
Mitochondrial DNA analyses differ as to when and what route it happened. According to some Siberian ancestors who came via Beringia was the only DNA input (Nelson et al. 2008) and to others their were different inputs which happened at different migrating events (Volodko et al. 2008). Investigation of parasitic worms in humans suggested rather coastal routes and, since tropical parasites were present in prehistoric humans, a water route from Asia is very likely (Araujo et al. 2008). A similar study looking at the bacteria Heliobacter pylori which lives in our stomach showed that Southamerican Indians had the South-Asian strain of this bacterium, not the Eurasian one (Yamaoka 2009). Also looking at the artefacts leaves us enough puzzles to keep some generations of archaeologists busy. If the only route to America was via Beringia, clovis artefacts from Alaska should be the oldest. However, artefacts from the Alaskan Mesa site or the newly discovered Beringia site Serpentine Hot Springs only showed younger points so far. The oldest one actually being from Mesoamerica and Southamerica (Waters et al. 2007).

But let me go back to the kitchen before I blissfully drown in early American prehistory.

What did I do in the end? I actually found a completely vegan drink, an easily veganizable salad and desert and a -with some effort- a veganizable main dish.

  • Main dish: Alaska salmon tofu with horseradish, walnuts and herbs
  • Salad: Alaska cole slaw
  • Desert: Blueberry buckle
  • Drink:  Alaska tea
You see, no Palin-names in my recipes, someone else had dips on them *hehe*

To imitate the fishy marine flavour I soaked the tofu in lemon juice and wakame algae:

and here the end result, a totally tasty dish, the sauce alone was worth making this recipe (adapted from a recipe from

Alaska Tofu with Horseradish, Walnuts, and Herbs

1 block of Tofu (ca. 500 g)
lemon juice from 1 lemon for marinating
wakame for marinating
olive oil for frying
horseradish sauce (I made a oat milk bechamel and added grated horseradish)
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon each fresh chives, parsley and tarragon
1 tablespoon good margarine
salt, freshly ground black pepper

Put tofu between a dish towel or kitchen paper and gently squeeze out water. Cut tofu into slices and marinate for a couple of hourse with lemon juice and wakame. Pat dry and turn in cornstarch, then fry in olive oil until tofu becomes a bit crisp.
Meanwhile make a white roux and add horseradish (about 2 -3 inch piece), walnuts, herbs and margarine. Season with salt and pepper. Remove tofu from pan and spread mixture evenly over the tofu fillets.
You can roast it in the oven for a about 5 minutes, but I didn't, it was delicious without this step.

Glenda posted the recipe for an Alaska coleslaw on this webpage and she ate it at a goldmine camp in Alaska, so it has to be authentic. Look at the recipe from that forum. The only difference was that I used fresh cranberries (since I had the opportunity), left out the honey, and used a vegan mayonnaise obviously. For my taste the fresh cranberries were a bit tart, but my husband and son loved them.

The desert was a blueberry buckle. The recipe was based on a recipe from Vegetarian Times. Super yummie, too. This is a photo before it is put in the oven, so you can see the ultimate cinnamon streusel on top of the cake:

and this is after baking, it didn't last long:

The only truely vegan Alaskan recipe, however, was the Alaskan tea. No fish-fats involved and a really recommandable winter drink. You can find the original recipe here.

Alaska Tea

1 cup of dried cranberries
1 cinnamon stick
4 cups of water
juice from 1/2 lemon
juice from 1 orange
1 tablespoon of suger or to taste

Heat up the dried cranberries and the cinnamon stick in the water and let soak for about an hour. Strain and add the lemon and orange juice and the sugar. Reheat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Serve hot.

Makes 4 cups.

I leave you here, and will see you all back in Turkey next week.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Lentils with red pesto

An easy and delicious recipe from veganx: Pasta with red lentil sauce.

 The recipe is in Swedish so here is my version (I hope you don't mind my shamelessly using your recipe, Emmélie):

1 leek
2 cloves of garlic
1 red chilli
2 carrots
4 tomatoes
1 cup red lentils
4-5 cups of vegetable broth
3 tablespoons of vegan red pesto
2 tablespoons of soy cream
150 g frozen spinach
salt, pepper, paprika powder
olive oil for frying

chop the veggies finely and fry in a bit of olive oil. Add lentils and stir till they are covered in oil. Add broth and chopped tomatoes and simmer for about 10 min. Use more water if you need to. Add pesto, seasoning and cream. Add the spinach and let simmer for another 5 min. Serve with any kind of pasta or rice.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Mendoza Zoo

Next we went to explore the zoo. I did a seminar once dealing with zoos and their importance, you know, species conservation and and .... yadda yadda blah blah. Nothing in my opinion justifies keeping animals in constraint and stimuli impoverished conditions. Most of them are going nuts over beeing imprisoned in much to small and bland pens. Have a look at this webpage:
Anyway on rare occasions, especially in other countries, I like to see whether conditions are better or worse than in most German zoos.
So here we were, at the zoo in Mendoza (
At least they had a decent map to find the animals ... NOT:

But we still found some of them. Here is a hungry meerkat:

A shaved camel, it is still cute, isn't it:

With age come saggy bumps (don't worry dear camel, happens to everybody):

The word 'environmental enrichment' for zoo animals never reached Mendoza. Poor ice bear :(

An Indian elephant gone crazy and constantly bumping his head in the wall, yeah, I'm completely sympathizing, a so very social animal like an elephant and all alone and look at the 'enriched' environment, plenty to do ... NOT

A special for J. The hippos looked at least quite content in their water basin:

Can you guess what this is?

Correct, an armadillo lying on it's back and napping until his partner came:

A peacock tried in vain to impress a female:

And of course the promised live nandu:

And do you remember the engraved nandu feet in Tunduqueral?

Tomorrwo we will have exciting archaeology at a museum in Cuyo just outside of Mendoza and first shots from Buenos Aires. And on that bombshell I'll go to bed and leave you alone with your thoughts about the dignity of animals and zoos. See you tomorrow!

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Ok, back to Argentina :)
The next day we rent a car and drove to Uspallata: The final stop would be the Cerro Tunduqueral, a rock art site not far from Uspallata.

(c) 2011 Google Maps
 While we worked our way towards the Andes in a nice comfortable car we could see a group of people  rafting. The river was so full of sediments that it took on the colour of the surrounding mountains:

We came across military areas
passed quiet alleys

encountered curious boulders

looks a bit like an Indian chief in profile, doesn't it? Finally we reached our goal, the Cerro Tunduqueral, a hilly top where we would hopefully find some petroglyphs. There was actually a parking lot and a comfortable short walk to the cerro:

There was even a sign explaining a bit the site. As you can see, Tunduqueral is about 2000 m asl and most of the engraving are supposed to be from the Early Ceramic Period. The sign says from AD 700 - 1000. But they might well be a bit earlier

Just to give you an overview, after all you had your fill in archaeology yesterday ;)

In any case, we had a fantastic view of the Andes and their snow covered passes:

On our way back we stopped shortly at a group of shrines which are very common here:

while some were still accumulating glass bottle-offerings, most had a pile of plastic bottles next to them. Plus all the other 'offerings' including plastic toy figurines, plastic flowers, candles, food remains and cloth preferably red dyed one:

There must have been an active rail road once, but now the tracks are quite deserted:

since it was getting late we rushed home (here you can see our rental, flashing provocatively at the camera):

But the trip wouldn't be complete with a short stop at Lake Potrerillos, an artificial lake formed by a large dam and now a major recreation area for the locals:

But wait, didn't I say something about nandu feet? Of course, and here they are:

If you don't believe me, have a look at an emu track on a salt lake (the emu and the nandu are both ratite birds):

Want to see a live nandu? Then stay tuned in for the next blog post. We are visiting Mendoza zoo....