How to Make Clever Food Swaps

2017BETTINALike most of the people I know, I started this year with a long list of New Year’s resolutions. Drink less booze; eat more healthily; exercise more; save money. Oh, and I also promised to drink more water and always to take my make-up off before I go to bed.

It’s pretty pathetic, but the one thing I managed to stick to is eating more veggies and staying clear of gluten, with which I know I have a big issue. Whether you are going plant based or have a newly discovered allergen, finding and sussing out food swaps can be hard work to begin with. With so many products out there right now and so much choice it’s a food jungle!

I am going to talk you through some great swaps that you can do with the usual suspects and supply you with a couple of recipes to try. Let’s go!

Clever swaps

Milk - Nut milks (almond, cashew, walnut hemp) or soy, coconut, rice and oat milk to name a few.

Butter - Olive oil, coconut butter.

Eggs - chia & flax (works as a great egg replacement) mashed bananas, sweet potato puree, apple puree.

Cream - lots of options: coconut, soy or vegetable cream.

Ice cream - frozen blended bananas (add other fruits for flavour).

Scrambled eggs - tofu scramble.

Chicken or beef – tempeh.

Yeast - use bicarbonate of soda instead.

Gluten-free flour options - buckwheat, rice, teff, corn, tapioca, potato flour.

egg whites - aqua faba, chickpea water that you whip (it works, trust me).

Mince - lentils, walnuts, black beans.

Yogurt - coconut yogurt, almond yogurt, oat yogurt.

To make it easier here are some of my favourite recipes:

Homemade Coconut Yogurt

ingredients

2 Cups (120 grams) fresh coconut meat.

½ Cup (60 grams) cashews, soaked.

1 capsule probiotics.

Water to blend, if needed.

Method

Blend coconut meat, cashews and water until smooth. Add probiotic and blend until just combined. Place in a bowl (covered by a muslin cloth), in a dehydrator at 105° Fahrenheit, for eight to 10 hours or, if you don't have a dehydrator, keep in a warm place for eight to 10 hours or overnight.

The yogurt needs to be in a warm place, but with a good airflow. Once fermented, stir well. The yogurt will develop a crust, which is still edible. You can scrape it off if you choose, but it does stir in well. When your yogurt is ready, you can flavour it with anything you want. I love using maple syrup and vanilla! Add and stir in.

Almond Milk

ingredients

1 part pre-soaked almonds. 

2 parts water (I like my almond milk milky, you can use more water if you like).

1 tsp. of agave.

1 pinch of salt (Himalayan).

1 tsp. of coconut oil.

Half a vanilla pod (the leftover stalk I put in a jar of porridge oats or anything else that might benefit from the delicious smell).

Method

Blend nuts and water in a blender until you start getting a milky texture. Use a sieve to separate the pulp from the milk. Put the milk back in the blender and add agave, salt, vanilla and coconut oil and give it another whizz.

I like using a glass jar or bottle to store the milk, as it’s better than plastic and keeps for longer in the fridge.

What do you do with the pulp? I dehydrate mine to make almond flour, use in a cake or make little chocolate balls covered in sesame seeds!

You can make so many different milks, so don’t limit yourself to almonds.

There is hazelnut, sunflower and Brazil nut to name just a few of my favourites.

Great shops in Marbella to get alternative products

  1. Health shop in Montehalcones
  2. Miadel - Swedish supermarket with many vegan/veggie options
  3. Skandi - Another Swedish shop at the La Campana roundabout.
  4. Leo´s La Campana - Great for bulk shopping nuts, seeds, flours and lots of gluten free options.
  5. Small health shop near the Passion Café – A small shop with a substantial selection.
 
Vovem: An Asador with Va-Va-Voom!

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We are already dedicated fans of the Vovem Asador in Nueva Andalucía, so were obviously keen as mustard to test drive the team’s other establishment in Marbella’s Paseo Maritimo. Since its opening in June it has become a popular venue for discerning carnivores, with its range of top quality steaks and meat.

The location could scarcely be better, as Vovem’s Marbella branch stands on Avenida de Ahumada, directly opposite the Puerto Deportivo which, with its lovely terrace, makes it the perfect venue for enjoying a cocktail or two as the sun sets over the Mediterranean.

Inside wood and chesterfield sofas dominate, the cosy but elegant décor inviting diners to relax and enjoy an evening spent in the company of a team completely obsessed by providing customers with the best produce available on the Coast. To ensure that they stock only the best meat, Head Chef Enzo and the team use the services of 10 suppliers and say that some of the meats are hung for 90 days before being deemed sufficiently full of flavour.

Of course, no five-star meal would be complete without a good wine and Vovem scores points here too, with a well-equipped bodega and staff members who can offer recommendations if necessary.
Offering diners a warm welcome without overwhelming them is a skill that many restaurants would do well to master – even here on the Coast, where service is generally of the highest standard – but the Vovem team has this down pat. Chef Enzo and his team offered us the benefit of their knowledge without overcomplicating the process of ordering our food.

Every dish that we tasted was a real declaration of intent from an establishment dedicated to serving the best meat on the Coast: the Wagyu Black Pudding Cannelloni with Oporto Gelatine and Caramel tasted as spectacular as it sounded (consider this a SOCIETY favourite), while we also adored the Suckling Pig with Homemade Sweet Potato Sauce.

If you aren’t quite so carnivorous and plan to visit Vovem with friends, don’t panic – there are some dishes that will suit you. We can wholeheartedly recommend the Avocado Cannelloni filled with Prawns and Carabineros, which is presented in a way that makes it look like a leaf – not at all what you might expect from a meat restaurant. Another dish that is superbly tasty yet suitable for non-meat eaters is the Caramelised Cod, which is a treat for the most discerning pescetarian.

However, you will find that it is very often Marbella’s steak lovers who are beating a path to both Vovem venues to enjoy the best food in town. If you are one of them do make sure that you arrive in a state of advanced hunger and order the Rib-Eye Steak. We were told that this had been imported from the Netherlands and aged for 45 days before being cooked and served at our table. The customer can choose how the steak is cooked and select a range of delicious accompaniments, which include black or lemon salt or salt with spices. We opted for the Pepper Sauce, which was the perfect foil for the deep richness of the meat.

If, like us, your evenings out involve sharing plates of food then Vovem is a wonderful place to go, because this is actively encouraged. Discover the flavours on your neighbour’s plate and – you never know – it’s possible that you will find yourself ordering the dish that they have chosen next time you visit and, believe us, you will most definitely want to return.

There was one final treat for our sweet-toothed party at the end of the evening. The Brazil Voyage consisted of a Caipirinha served with Lemon Mousse, Sorbet and Vanilla Jelly and contained the perfect hit of citrus to contrast with the previous dishes.

Whether you are a resident or a visitor hoping to find a venue specialising in traditional Spanish cuisine, you cannot beat Vovem. This imaginative reboot of the classic asador looks well placed to be one of the culinary revelations of the year.

 
48 Hours in the Coast's Best Kept Secret

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I can scarcely believe I am about to do this but, here goes - I am about to share the best kept secret on the Coast. When asking the question about which location would be ideal for a romantic getaway that doesn't involve air travel and is less than two hours from Marbella, the name Vejer de la Frontera kept popping up.

Therefore I decided to visit and investigate what all the fuss is about. When you approach the town it is perfectly manicured and downright gorgeous. Located in  Cádiz province, Vejer de la Frontera is one of the area's most spectacular sites, thanks to its geographical location, not to mention its history.

Visiting this special place is like taking a trip back to the past of southern Spanish society. The historic centre consists of characterful cobblestone streets and is virtually free of cars, with the sole exception of the local residents who will sometimes be seen driving their vehicles through the streets in a slightly erratic manner, so beware.

I would recommend that you park your car as you arrive in the town or you might end up in a narrow cul-de-sac from which it can be difficult to extract yourself. We managed to find a suitable space and wheeled our luggage through the winding cobbled streets to Hotel V, which is small luxury boutique hotel that has been beautifully restored from a 17th century manor house and is located in the town centre. As soon as you enter you can sense a rich history, teamed with some modern twists.

Keen to see more of the town we left our luggage and started exploring.

Our first stop was Las Delicias, a refurbished theatre with the funkiest of vibes. Upcycled crates used as décor, vertical plant walls and hanging light bulbs, cool background music playing. Why had we not visited before? After a glass of wine and a starter we decided to try another place that was recommended by the hotel.

Vina Y Mar was tiny and quaint, with one of the smallest kitchens I have ever seen, but with the biggest wine and sherry selection from the region. Ramón, who served us enthusiastically and knowledgeably, described the daily specials and recommended the local sherries with a particular passion. This place is definitely worth a visit if if you are into interesting menus with a twist. Beetroot bread anyone? Exhausted from the drive we decided to have an early night as we had a full day of exploration ahead.

Our morning started with a 9am yoga session conducted by the lovely Jana Doss and, as it was so windy, this was held in the reservoir, 20 meters below ground. On arriving back at our room, breakfast was served and consisted of tasty local produce and a well deserved cup of tea.

As we began to explore the town, I couldn't help but notice all the amazing, tiny speciality shops. Ajonjoli sold olive oils, authentic home baked breads, Spanish cookies and some very interesting selected products.

Eclectica Deco was a small décor shop with cool home accessories, including pink flamingoes, cactuses, ceramics and more. This turned out to be heaven for a foodie and props addict like me! Kombucheria sold artisanal, local and organic products, including kombucha. What was all of this doing here? And why, in my 10 years of living in Spain, had I never been? It was as is these places had ripped a page out of the style magazine, Wallpaper and decided to create the most amazing little spaces that ooze cool and are usually found only in big cities.

I received an insider tip that a restaurant had opened only two weeks previously, and was run by two sisters who had spent a lot of time in Mexico. As major lover of Mexican food this place had to be put to the test. Again, the décor was cool, the menu small but perfectly formed and everything that we ate was out of this world. I will be day dreaming about the Patatas Bravas for years to come, as they were the best I have ever tasted.

After a full day of walking we headed back to the hotel, where an ayurvedic massage was awaiting. Pacci was fantastic and I must say it is the first time I have had my whole face massaged - plus places on my body I scarcely knew existed! All in all, just what the doctor ordered after a long day.

Invigorated and rested, it was time for dinner and we decided to try out Jardin de Califa - a Moroccan inspired restaurant that has been included in the Michelin Guide for a number of years running. Priding itself on local produce, seasonality and choosing organic products whenever possible, this place did not disappoint. It also had many vegetarian and vegan options, even gluten free bread.

One common denominator stood out over the weekend and that was how proud every single vendor was of their produce and their method for sourcing it whether it be a 30 year-old sherry, a specific dish or even the colourful tiles that covered the floors of most places we visited.

If you are looking for an authentic culinary experience combined with history and a sprinkle of funk, with an über cool vibe, then Fronter de La Vejer is the place to go. It's perfect for a romantic getaway, but equally suitable as a family friendly destination.

 
Wine & Cheese Moments

201711-WINEThough pairing wine and cheese is a centuries-old tradition it can still be a challenging and difficult task. The best thing to do is to follow some simple principles to achieve an exquisite experience. Generally hard cheeses are better with reds, soft cheeses with whites and blue cheeses with sweet wines. With this concept in mind you should be able to make cheese and wine pairing less complicated and more enjoyable.

D Wine Advice

Suggested Pairings for Spanish Wine Styles

Light bodied whites like Verdejo, Sauvignon Blanc, Light Godello should ideally be paired with goats’ cheese and fresh cheeses.

Medium-bodied whites and dessert wines like Rioja and Priorat Whites and Navarra´s Chardonnay pair well with goats’ cheese, alpine cheeses and aged Goudas.

Medium reds like Ronda´s Pinot Noir, Rioja, Syrah, Grenache, and Tempranillo should be paired with Cheddar, younger Goudas and washed rind cheeses.

Bold Tannic Reds like Jumilla´s Cabernet Sauvignon Blends, aged Tempranillo vines from Rioja and Ribera and Consistent Castille y Leon Syrah pair fabulously with full-flavored mixed milk cheeses, hard Cheeses and sheep milk cheese.

Sweet and Off-Dry Whites and Reds like Malaga´s Muscat, Sweet Monastrell from the South, Cream Sherry, Fondillon and PX from Montilla go well with blue cheese.

Some Ideal Cheese & Wine Matches

Camemberg & Champagne

San Simon & Albariño

Brie & Chardonnay

Crabs & Godello

Oysters & Chablis

Chevre & Pinot Gris

Apenzeller & Viognier

Gruyere & Sauvignon Blanc

Pont L’Eveque & Riesling

Feta & Beaujolais

Manchego & Rioja

Parmesan & Brunello

Truffle Pecorino & Barolo

Cheddar & Bordeaux

Roquefort & Sauternes

Stilton & Port

Finally, if you are going to attempt multiple pairings at a dinner or event, order the tastes from lightest and lowest alcohol content, to heaviest and highest alcohol content. In other words, begin with the lightest, from left to right on a cheese board and work your way to the heaviest and most complex.

And remember -  you can find a great selection of all Spanish and International cheese at D-Wine. Let us do the pairing for you, just come along for an unique experience.

 
Seduced by Volnay

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Volnay is a village in the Cote de Beaune sub-region of Burgundy, renowned for making some of the smoothest, most delicate red wines of the southern Cote d'Or. Located between Pommard (famous for its powerful reds) and Meursault (the home of rich whites), Volnay is fortunate to have a winning USP to distinguish it from its more-prestigious neighbours. In general the wines from Volnay are lighter, more elegant and graceful than most other red Burgundies.

Over the centuries, the wines of Pommard and Volnay have alternately shared popularity, according to the fashions of the age. When powerful, full-bodied wines are in favour (as in the current global market), Pommard enjoys the limelight. But when silkier, smoother wines are in demand (mainly during the summer), Volnay takes centre stage. The appellation's wines are often referred to as being the most 'feminine' of Burgundian reds with prevalent aromas of violet, gooseberry, cherry and spices, game nuances and cooked prunes.

Volnay can deliver an irresistible hit in its flush of youth, giving pleasure and offering more sensual, fruit-driven, softer, rounder Pinot Noir. Maybe it doesn't possess the breeding of Vosne or the complexity of Gevrey, but your viewpoint will depend on whether you seek to be impressed by Burgundy Cote de Nuits or seduced by the sensuality of Volnay.

Santenots, Clos de Ducs, Les Caillerets and Clos de Chenes are the most famous Premier Cru climats of the Volnay appellation in the Cote de Baune.

D-Wine Advice

Coq au Vin is the perfect match for Volnay, but you can also try Chicken, Turkey, Duck, Goose and Game Birds .

Top Five Volnay at D-Wine

Volnay PC Santenots Jacques Prieur
Volnay PC Caillerets Michel Lafargue
Volnay PC En Chevrets Henri Boillots
Volnay PC Santenots Pierre Morey
Volnay Dominique Lafon

 
Olivia's: Paradise By the Sea

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One thing you cannot help noticing when living on the Coast - or even merely holidaying - is that there are some venues that just have to be visited during the summer months. Olivia's is one such place that is excellent all year round but really comes into its own at this time of year.

During one particularly warm day recently we considered all our favourite places to visit on such a beautifully sunny day and thoughts of Olivia's terrace sprang to mind. So off we went to La Cala to experience one of the finest examples of beach dining on the Costa del Sol.

Famously the brain child of TOWIE star Elliott Wright and named after his daughter, this seaside venue could quite easily have opened its doors and waited for fans of the reality show to arrive but, since its 2015 launch, Elliott has shown that he is very serious about running an establishment that is as famous for its food and service as it is for its proprietor.

On the day that we visited the place was already buzzing by the time we arrived at two o'clock, but we managed to find a table on the terrace with a fantastic view of the Mediterranean. We agreed that, living on the Coast, we don't spend enough time enjoying all of its benefits and this is a great excuse to kick back and enjoy the sun and sea breeze.

Olivia's prides itself on its superior customer service and this was evident from the moment we arrived. Staff members have perfected the art of being attentive without overwhelming you with unwanted attention and are very patient – as they need to be when waiting for customers to choose from such an extensive menu. Elliott and his kitchen team have cleverly succeeded in assembling a tempting array of dishes that represent the best of Spanish cuisine (we were very tempted by the Conejo en Salsa de Tomate con Ajo in the Flavour of Málaga section) along with some favourites from around the world, from Italy's Pappardelle Bolognese to Australian Kingfish Carpaccio. We have some excellent restaurants on this Coast, but you would be hard pressed to find one with a more proudly international menu.

Not wanting to ruin our appetite for our main courses we ordered some starters to share: the Smokey Baba Ghanoush with Za'tar Flatbread was delicious, as were the Spicy Endame Beans. We also decided to add a local touch with the Boquerones en Vinagre, a true taste of summer.

Elliott has helpfully indicated his favourite dishes on the menu, so we decided to try the Crispy Thai Beef Salad with Wild Mesclun Leaves, Soya Beans, Coriander and Fried Vermicelli and had to agree. Authentic flavours coupled with the finest beef made this a salad worth remembering. The other members of the party decided to stay in the Far East and opted for a Mixed Sushi Platter For Three, which we were all delighted to 'help' her eat. As expected, the fish was fresh and all of the components were absolutely delicious. If you're a keen carnivore then you must sample the Wagyu Mini Burgers: served with melted Cheddar Cheese, Pickled Gherkin, Tomato, Lettuce, Tamarind Relish, Homemade Chips and Onion Rings, this was the tastiest burger we have ever been served. Although purists might think it sacrilegious to mince Wagyu beef, we are so pleased that the Olivia's team did!

Asked whether we wanted to see the dessert menu we only intended to look, but in the end were tempted by what was on offer and ordered a Mon Chèri, which was described as White Chocolate Mousse, Cherry Gelee, Coconut Dacqouise with Maraschino and Chilli Sorbet and was one of the most striking desserts we have ever encountered. We also ordered a Belle Hélène, a French classic that consisted of Pâte à Choux, Pear and Marzipan Mousse, Rum Infused Pear and Dark Chocolate Ice Cream and also couldn't resist trying the Banoffee Delight, a combination of Peanut-Feuilletine, Flamed Banana Cream, Salty Caramel-Coated Peanuts and Butterscotch Sauce. We were especially impressed by the care and attention paid to producing a range of desserts that really are something out of the ordinary; even the Pear Belle Hélène, which is a famously old school dish, had been given a contemporary twist.

All in all it's not difficult to define Oiivia's appeal. It's reasonable to assume that some punters will be lured in by the possibility of catching a glimpse of Elliott Wright but, once there, will find plenty to enjoy with a fabulous location and the attention of a team that places customer service at the top of its agenda. Most importantly, the sheer range of the menu and the excellence of the food will ensure that most visitors to Olivia's become repeat customers.  

This is one experience that you must do your best to enjoy this summer.

 
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