Baganspiration

BAGAN ON TOUR WITH FAT BUDDHA YOGA

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In May Lucy and I packed up crates of kitchen utensils, spices, powders, potions and crispy fried garlic and set off to Moliets-et-Maa in southwest France. It was time to take the Bagan dining experience to a yoga and surf camp hosted by the brilliant Fat Buddha Yoga. This was not only our first time taking Bagan on tour but also our first experience catering on a retreat so we were super excited albeit slightly nervous. A 5 day cook off in the heart of a forest in a tent at high temperatures was going to be interesting.

Run by DJ, yoga junkie and Nike trainer Jessica Skye, FBY takes a modern approach to the ancient art and science of yoga running pop-up classes in everything from sunny rooftops to nightclub basements around London. The classes are accessible and fun, centered around great beats with tailor made mixes and playlists to suit every class. FBY like Bagan has a focus on creating good vibes, open minds and playing sick beats so working with them felt natural and in tune with our ethos.

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After a short flight to Bordeaux followed by a drive we arrived at our camp of hippie chic bell tents. It was nestled in the most beautiful and idyllic forest of tall trees and sandy floors a short walk from the beach, centred around a huge wooden decking built for yoga classes and our supper clubs. Lanterns hung from the trees and twinkled as the night drew in. The boys of Star Surf Camps worked into the night to finish the build whilst myself, Jessica and photographer Stephanie tucked into crusty bread, cheese and wine. It was the calm before the storm.Tomorrow was going to be a busy day and our kitchen was still being built so all we could do for now was relax.

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The following day we started early. First on the cards was a MASSIVE shop where we filled 4 trolleys. Later we settled in to our kitchen in the heart of the forest. Feeling connected with nature and slightly out of our comfort zone we pulled out the Bagan folder of schedules and recipes, turned up the tunes...ready, steady cook.

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The emphasis on the food was to be healthy, conscious and nutritious. We wanted to provide food that was delicious, nourishing and contained enough energy to support their action packed days of surfing, yoga and beach vibes. However it was important for us produce yoga food with an edge, injecting our Burmese spice and fragrance into the dishes taking them to new heights.. We supplied a two course breakfast, a smoothie and energy ball snack then a two course supper every evening. Here is a selection of some our most favourite dishes.

Mushroom and herb frittata with garam masala, mashed avocado

Mushroom and herb frittata with garam masala, mashed avocado

Burmese Dal, poached chicken or eggs, crispy garlic, chilli flakes, spring onions, brown rice, tomato and red onion salsa

Burmese Dal, poached chicken or eggs, crispy garlic, chilli flakes, spring onions, brown rice, tomato and red onion salsa

Acai bowls topped with toasted coconut, flaked almonds, chia seeds, goji berries and cacao nibs. Build your own breakfast bruschetta with avocado pea and mint puree, Lucy’s banging hummus with toasted cumin seeds, chargrilled vegetables.

Acai bowls topped with toasted coconut, flaked almonds, chia seeds, goji berries and cacao nibs. Build your own breakfast bruschetta with avocado pea and mint puree, Lucy’s banging hummus with toasted cumin seeds, chargrilled vegetables.

Vegan chocolate orange mousse with cacao nibs

Vegan chocolate orange mousse with cacao nibs

Vegan lemon cheesecake, raspberry coulis

Vegan lemon cheesecake, raspberry coulis

Chocolate tahini energy balls

Chocolate tahini energy balls

Raw walnut and date cookies

Raw walnut and date cookies

Raw chocolate cheesecake with cherry coulis

Raw chocolate cheesecake with cherry coulis

After nearly a week of living in nature with like minded people away from the hustle and bustle of London, its pollution and relentlessness, I was ready to buy a campervan, leave London and become a hippie. Our days were long and although we left covered in burns, cuts and bruises our hearts  left open and full of love, our minds inspired and energised by an ability to finally breath. It’s so easy to get caught up in London life, feeling like you spend your time running. This trip to France made me feel present again, fully connected with myself and the planet.

Thank you Jessica Skye for having us, putting on a yoga retreat that was beautifully created with such attention to detail and full of good vibes. Thank you to the yogi crew for being such lovely guests and all their kind words about our food. Also a huge thank you to Stephanie Sian Smith for amazing photography and for being such a wicked energy to be around, uplifting and funny. It was a strong girl crew. We loved every minute. Can't wait to be back next year.

Cordelia x

Baganspiratioon

The Bagan Storm

Everybody likes a dark and stormy right? Well here's our version that Lucy created for our May event. It's strong, it's spicy and it goes down a treat.

Ingredients

50 mls of dark rum (we use Goslings)

25 mls fresh lime juice

100g fresh root ginger to get 50mls of ginger juice

100g caster sugar

Soda water to taste

2 dashes of Angostura bitters

Wedge of lime and ice to serve

Serves 1

Method

To make the ginger syrup put the ginger through a juicer. You should get roughly 50mls of ginger juice per 100g of fresh ginger. Mix 50mls of ginger juice with the caster sugar until it's well dissolved.

Take 30 mls of the ginger syrup and place in a tall glass. Add the rum and mix well. Add ice. Top with soda water to taste and mix well again.

Finish with two dashes of Angostura bitters and a wedge of lime.

Enjoy in good company with good vibes.

Baganspiration

PROSPECT BURMA

I was first introduced to Prospect Burma in October 2016 when my parents invited me to a dinner that they had won in a charity auction a few months before. They had attended an event for the charity and, inspired by a recent trip to Burma and the charity’s work, were supporting them in their fundraising.

Prospect Burma was set up in 1989 following a period of student-led pro-democracy demonstrations which were violently quashed by the Burmese military regime, often with large numbers of people killed. Universities and schools were closed and martial law was imposed and young Burmese people fled in thousands.

Supporters from all over the world started to send provisions and Prospect Burma was born, initially raising funds for books and classes in refugee schools and awarding one annual scholarship for an exiled Burmese student to attend university. It’s scholarship programme was started in 1992 with support from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nobel Peace Prize funds, and the charity has since awarded over 1300 scholarships to students studying all over the world.

The dinner was to be cooked by Min Min, an asylum seeker from Burma, now studying Politics with International Relations at York University. My parents knew I was getting involved in Burmese pop ups with Cordelia and Lucy and thought I might like to come along and meet Min Min and Robert Gordon, Chairman of the Prospect Burma and previous British Ambassador to Burma, 1995 - 1999.

As plans progressed for my trip to Hampshire for the dinner, I was asked if I could go and help Min Min prep during the day. I think everyone involved in the dinner was worried that Min Min would be stuck with the ‘oldies’ all day and someone his own age might be a bit of welcome relief.

I was more than happy to get involved - cooking is one of life’s greatest pleasures and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to learn some authentic Burmese recipes.

Min Min turned out not only to be a total dude who had me creasing up all afternoon, but also one of the most inspirational people I have ever met. As we cooked (and when I say ‘we’, I really mean ‘he’ as he had everything completely under control, so my job was, er, stirring) he told me how he had learned to cook and how he ended up in the UK.

Min Min and I about to tuck in to his Burmese feast

Min Min and I about to tuck in to his Burmese feast

In 2000 he was studying at Bago university and set up a kind of student union promoting the arts, music, literature and political freedom with his friends. The government saw this as a revolutionary act and he was arrested, along with his friends, and imprisoned. Some of his friends were sentenced to death but Min Min was sentenced to 8 years in prison.

He explained how it was impossible to stay alive eating the food provided by the prison, and his family would smuggle food in for him. It was here that he learned to cook as a means of survival. He, as many other prisoners did, built makeshift stoves in their cells and burned balled-up plastic bags to cook the food. The burning plastic bags caused long-term nasal problems and Min Min now has what seems like a permanent cold.

He was released from prison three years early but 6 months later was detained twice again because of political activities that had nothing to do with him. As he explained, once you’ve been a political prisoner, they will often detain again you on a whim. When released, his mother begged him to leave the country as she couldn’t bear to see him go to prison again, or worse, receive a harsher sentence. She risked her life to smuggle him out of the country to Thailand where he then set up a school for refugee kids. He later travelled to Sweden for a 3 month internship and ended up in the UK after a completing a 6 month course in Defending Human Rights at the University of York.

Min Min told me how he entered a period of depression - in Thailand he had a purpose and the work he had done with the school had benefitted many children. He felt he needed to apply himself to something. It was during this time that he met Aung San Suu Kyi for the second time and told her of his plans to to go back to Burma. She had said he should use his time in the UK to develop a skill that would benefit the people of Burma, so he decided to study Politics and International relations and return to Burma one day to become a politician. He received a scholarship from Prospect Burma and is now studying the University of York.

I found Min Min’s incredible resilience and proactive attitude to life an absolute inspiration. To go through something like that and come out fighting is something many of us would find unachievable.

We have decided to donate £2 of every ticket* sale to Prospect Burma to support their work and enable people like Min Min to return to Burma with skills that will aid the development of the country.

Find out more at prospectburma.org or donate here

Author: Emma

Baganspiration

Tomato red onion and herb salsa

This is a great little side dish that’s takes minutes to make and goes with a multitude of dishes. I originally created it as something easy to serve alongside a curry as it’s fresh and light with zing, and when mint is used this also creates a cooling effect. It also goes nicely with a piece of meat or fish. When made with coriander it goes particularly well with a simple dal and as already mentioned, mint is great if serving with a spicy curry.. Omit the garlic oil and replace with extra virgin olive oil if you’ve got a hot date or important meeting the following day.

1 small red onion (100-150g)

250g cherry tomatoes (I like using the plum type)

20g herbs either coriander (leave plus stalk) or mint leaves

2 tbsp garlic oil (I like this one)

Juice of 1 lime

½ tsp salt

Serves 4 as a side dish

Peel the onion, chop it in half then cut very thin slices so you have nice semi-circular pieces of onion. Use a mandolin if you can’t slice it thin enough. The thinner the better.

Soak the onion in a bowl of cold water for 15 minutes. This helps get rid of that overbearing raw onion taste

Chop the cherry tomatoes into halves or quarters, place in a your desired serving dish

If using coriander, pick the leaves from the coriander stalk and chop medium to fine, then chop the coriander stalk finely. If using mint, chop the mint leaves to a medium dice, too fine and I find you loose the mint essence. Add chopped herb to the tomatoes

Drain the onions and add to the tomatoes and herbs

Add garlic oil, lime juice and salt. Stir and let it sit for 10 minutes before serving. The acid in the lime juice start to break down the tomatoes almost cooking them slightly. The resultant juice is delicious.

Serve at room temperature. Make sure you mix it well before serving.

Cordelia x

 

Baganspiration

My Grandmother's Dal Curry

Mercia Valerie Ganda (1908-1979)

Mercia Valerie Ganda (1908-1979)

I love a good dal, there’s nothing quite like that warming feeling it brings to your belly on a cold wintery day. For many years it was my go to meal especially when I was a broke student since it is inexpensive and highly nutritious, packed with complex carbohydrate, protein and most importantly flavour. This is why dal is such an important dish to people in Burma (Myanmar) who can’t afford to eat meat on a regular basis.

I have many dal recipes and a signature one I am proud of however I thought I would start by sharing with you one from an ancient cookbook of my Burmese Grandmother, Mercia. The book might be falling apart but the text still stands strong. It’s a very simple recipe with few ingredients yet still produces  a lovely fragrant dish. So if you are in need of a warm hug give this recipe a go.

1 cup of yellow split peas

3 small onions

4 green chillies

½ tsp turmeric powder

30g butter

1 lemon

Serves two

Rinse the yellow split peas under the tap and place in a pan of cold water making sure they are well covered and bring to the boil. Cook until soft. Keep checking them and add more water if necessary but the resulting mixture should be quite thick.

Cooks tip: Never add salt to lentils before they are cooked as this may prevent them from softening.

Slice the onions thinly and chop the chillies. Remove the seeds for less heat but I would recommend you keep them in.

Fry the onions and chilli in the butter over a low-medium heat in a heavy-based pan or frying pan.

Once the onions are soft and lightly browned add the turmeric and cook for another 30 seconds or so stirring. Make sure the turmeric doesn't burn so keep stirring.

Add the onion mixture to the cooked yellow split peas once they are softened and at the desired consistency. I give the lentils a bit of a mash with a potato masher as I like this consistency this brings but you don’t need to and my Grandmother doesn’t in this recipe.

Add salt to taste.

Just before serving I like to add the juice of ½-1 lemon too, it brings the flavours alive.

Serve with Rice or chapatis.

This is the first of a sequence of dal recipes that I will be posting so keep your eyes peeled for my signature Bagan dal recipe coming soon.

With love,

Cordelia x

Baganspiration

An introduction to Burmese cuisine

Me and Mai Mai (Mummy) 

Me and Mai Mai (Mummy) 

Min-ga-la-ba (hello)! Welcome to Baganspiration. I’m excited to be sharing with you all foody things that get me going including recipes and restaurant experiences. I hope you enjoy the read. I thought I should start by introducing you to Burmese cuisine.

Burmese cusine has unfortunately not been given the attention it deserves in the UK when compared with other Asian cuisines. This maybe due to the isolation the country experienced for many years whilst under military dictatorship but knowing its huge popularity in places like San Francisco where my Burmese Uncle Rodney lives along with four generations of our family, I think the lack of Burmese restaurants in London definitely has something to do with it.  In San Francisco Burmese food is booming with many Burmese restaurants concentrated in the Bay Area. Unfortunately London offers just one Burmese restaurant which I don’t think does this wonderful food justice, so I am excited to be bringing a Burmese dining experience to the London’s thriving food scene.

I think what makes Burmese food so wonderful is the fact it reflects the coming together of a myriad of ethnic groups that makes up Burma’s (Myanmar) population, who through combining aspects of their individual cuisines have created the uniquely tasting and delicious food of Burma. It is also heavily influenced by its geographical location and bordering countries India, Bangladesh, Thailand, China and Laos.

When I asked my Mum to sum up Burmese food she describes the five most important ingredients being onion, garlic, ginger, chilli and fish sauce. These ingredients give any meat, fish, poultry or vegetables a very distinct and aromatic taste she explains. Once you’ve eaten and smelt it you won’t forget it. Add fresh lemongrass also commonly used in Burmese recipes and its fragrance is elevated further. As you can already see Burmese food combines all the best aspects of the food of it's neighbouring countries like the spice of India and the fragrance of Thailand without being too oily. 

This is just a brief introduction. Over the course of these blogs I will be sharing with you traditional Burmese recipes including those of my family and more contemporary recipes that I have created with my own twist. If you have been to Burma and want to get in touch to share your food and travel experiences then please do, I would love to hear from you (eatbagan@gmail.com).

I hope to see you soon at one of our Burmese banquets.

Bhinebhine (Goodbye),

Cordelia x