Aug 13, 2011

Mayo Dips! Vegan Mayo on the shelves.

Ever since I went vegan, mayonnaise went off my list. I wasn't a big fan, so I didn't miss it much. I did try Vegenaise in the US, but the taste was too close to mayonnaise for me, it made me sick.

While shopping at some supermarket, I suddenly saw that we now have at least 20 different types of Mayonnaise available and they all are local brands. So I just picked some and started reading their ingredients. To my surprise I found 4 vegan flavours. The first one I tried was Dr Oetker Fun Foods Eggless Diet Mayonnaise. It's really good and has the perfect amount of sweet and salt. Also all of Kissan's Creamy Spreads are vegan. They have plain, tomato and garlic flavours. The problem with Kissan's is that it is way to sweet to be Mayonnaise. Even when I made some spicy dip, I could still taste the sugar in it. The one from Fun Foods on the other hand is perfect for dips and even in sandwiches. It's just like mayonnaise without the eggy flavour.

Dips are perfect for small gatherings and you really can't tell the difference between the vegan and non vegan mayo. They can be served with chips, breads, nachos, sticks of raw vegetables. It's best to serve the dip cold so you can make it a few hours in advance and chill it before serving.

Here are a few ideas that I tried and loved.

The 4C DIP :
Cucumber, grated fine
Chillies, cut fine
Capsicum, cut fine
Coriander leaves, cut fine
Vegan Mayo

Mix and Serve!

Roasted Pepper Dip:
Capsicum of any colour, roasted on open flame till black. Put it in an air tight container for about 10 minutes immediately. Remove, peel, chop.

Mix with salt, red chilli flakes, mayo. Serve.

Dill Dip:
Dill is a very strange herb. It's really strong and I think it has a concentrated flavour of grass. Many people don't like it, but I love it. For this dip, be sure to use only a few leaves because you don't want the dill to over power the dip.

Few Dill leaves chopped fine.
Green Chillies
Half an onion chopped fine

Fresh Dill (also known as Suva)

Caramelized Onion Celery Dip:
Sauté a finely chopped onion in very little or no oil till it's light brown. Add some freshly chopped celery and garlic to it and cook for two more minutes. Mix with some chilli, coriander powder, salt and mayo. Chill and serve.

Spring Onion Dip:
Chop up one or two spring onions depending on how much you are making. Chop up the leaves and the bulb. Add some chillies, coriander, salt and squeeze in very little lemon juice. Serve Chilled.

The possibilities are endless. You can omit a few ingredients, replace them, add more. You can add the mayo to some Guacamole, add some fresh or dried herbs to flavour them, use carrots for some colour, make a green spinach dip with some cooked spinach puree, make a pumpkin dip after mashing some steamed pumpkin and so much more.


Most of the dips I make are dictated by what I find in my vegetable drawer. Store bought vegan mayonnaise is probably not healthy. But once in a while it doesn't hurt specially if you run an extra km on the treadmill the next day.

Travelling Vegan - Venezia, Italia

Venice as romantic as it sounds and has been made out to be in fairy tales and history books is quite a charmer. You will overlook the fact that there's an open almost-sewage flowing through the city (mind you a sewage in Europe is very different from a sewage in Bombay), and will be awestruck at how someone probably just stopped the clock in Venice. She just doesn't seem to have moved beyond the 1950s, at least from the outside. From the inside, Venice is warm, loving and will invite you to lose yourself. You don't want to trust anyone but yourself in Venice, she has mischief flowing through her veins, in the narrow alleys and graffiti-ed back lanes.

Venice was the most alive city we stopped at. At any given time there will be people, drunk or not so drunk. Venice is a lot like what Bombay is now, just replace the pot holes with waterways and the rickshaws with water taxis. The only thing you can drive in Venice is a boat. We even saw packages on a DHL Express boat sailing by at a not so express speed, a water ambulance and policemen zooming by on police boats. It's quite a sight.

Once we got past all the water, tourists, canals and restaurants by the canals we got to the food. Sometimes the weather smells fishy, other times there is a cool sea breeze blowing through the air. Our first meal was dinner in Venice and we were worried we wouldn't get anything to eat since we only got there after 10pm. Venice is alive and kicking all through the night, we learned. The food is not very different from the other cities and mainly sticks to the basics for the tourists. We also saw a very interesting Japanese restaurant near the Grand Canal. The only difference in Venice is that the condiment tray comes with Red Wine Vinegar and Not Balsamic Vinegar.

The best Bruschetta ever! EVER!
Pizza with Black Olives
Got me some flavoured Soy Yogurt.
Gelaterias are aplenty and many of them had the frulatis or what we call sorbettos here. One Gelateria on all the vegan lists was Gelateria Il Doge. Il Doge has a few gelatis made with rice milk. It's much more lighter than a frulati or a gelati made with soy milk, but it was good none the less.

Il Doge - looks run down because it poured on us that day

Chocolate Gelati made with Rice Milk
Strawberry Frulati
If I had a kitchenette, I would've cooked my way through Venice. The vegetable markets were full of huge peppers, zucchini, egg plant, salad leaves, artichoke hearts, beans. All the markets have small boards naming the produce, price and the origin of each produce - peppers and egg plant from Sicily, Zucchini from St Erasmo, assorted salad leaves sourced locally.

Summer Berries
Zucchini with flowers intact
Check out those peppers! HUGE!
Salad, anyone?
Venice has many bakeries with their products displayed in their windows. Everything looked beautiful and I managed to find something vegan -brittle(Italian chikki) made with different nuts. My favourite was hazelnut. Brittle is usually just nuts and caramalized sugar cut into flat pieces and sold by weight.

Hazelnut Brittle

Giant Pizza
Breads with faces
Since Venice was our last stop, I shopped till I dropped. I bought every imaginable pasta thats not so common here, organic Italian tomatoes, Arborio rice for risottos, olive oil, vinegars, porcini mushrooms, olives. I found quite a few specialty shops selling mostly vegan goodies. They had mock meats, vegan cheese, gluten free pastas, sea weeds, flavoured tofu, rice cream and so many other interesting things. Something about shopping for food and kitchen related goodies gives me a high. My refrigerator right now looks like I'm stocking up for the end of the world, hopefully I'll start using everything soon!

Italy is amazing, not only for whats there to see but also for what you can eat. Vegan or not, Italy has a lot to offer and I hope someday I can go back and devour the country.

Aug 3, 2011

Travelling Vegan- Positano, Italia

The (Postcard) view of Positano from the sea

Positano to Italy is what the Nicobar Islands are to India. It's absolutely stunning, not too many Italians can afford to go there and all the locals are in the tourism business. (I myself have never been to Nicobar and of course Positano has no indigenous tribes that live there)

Wikipedia has the right description for Positano:

"... a relatively poor fishing village during the first half of the 20th century. It began to attract large numbers of tourists in the 1950s, especially after John Steinbeck published his essay about Positano in Harper's Bazaar in May, 1953: "Positano bites deep", Steinbeck wrote. "It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone."

I can vouch for that!

Positano is a picture perfect town by the Amalfi Coast. The towns on the Amalfi Coastline are known for their Lemons and they are full of them. Everywhere you go you see Lemons either growing by the hills, on pottery as designs, hanging by store fronts, displayed proudly outside with other produce and also as table settings in restaurants. It's everywhere and they are so proud of it. They should be! Those lemons are absolutely stunning. There is a whiff of it's scent in the air whenever you're close to one and I was always found myself singing 'Lemon Tree' by Fool's Garden.

Hoping just one would fall as we rode by!

Slopes and slopes of lemon plantations

Lemons that are bigger than Oranges!

Lemons that are bigger than Pineapples!!

Pottery from Amalfi

After stuffing myself in Rome, I didn't have much to expect from a sea side coastal town. I knew I'd come across a lot of sea food. And there is also the Limoncello (lemon gelati) made from local lemons. I also read about Almond milk sold locally in a small shop en route to the beach. It was very intense, too sweet for my liking but I drank it nevertheless.

Spaghetti al Pomodoro

Pizza with Tomatoes and Arugula

Aglio Olio

Pizza with Mushrooms and Oregano

Spaghetti with Tomatoes, Black Olives and Basil

Pizza Margherita

Vegetable Soup

Almond Milk

Positano is full of slopes and narrow lanes with walls lined with beautiful Bouganvilleas and lovely Jasmine shrubs. There are pots of tiny blue flowers and you will find lemons and oranges as if they were fallen leaves. By night, Positano turns into a Bond film - everyone puts on their best dresses and dinner coats and steps out of their hotels for dinner. Travelling musicians pull up in their cars, get off and serenade you with Italian songs (and at least two versions of Volare / Nel blu dipinto di blu). One night, to celebrate Positano, we made our own dinner (open sandwiches) using local ingredients and sat by the gorgeous view from our pretty balcony. We got the local lemons, cherry tomatoes, red peppers with some bread from a bakery, mushrooms in olive oil, a piquant black olive pate, acidic red wine vinegar with some mustard. It was a melee of flavours and it all came together wonderfully with some champagne, the silent sea, and faint music playing somewhere below.

Bouganvilleas - pretty in pink!
(Did you know Jasmine and Olives are from the same plant family!)

Prepping Dinner

Nothing beats the views that Positano, Ravello, Amalfi and Capri have to offer and the food is not going to be topmost on your mind when you are here. The coast takes the cake.

Capri's Faraglioni -
that have a species of lizards that are only found on these isolated rocks and no where else in the world!

Positano sizzles and shivers by the night light

A Perfect ending on our last night in Positano
(This picture has not been edited!)

Next stop : Venezia!
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