Shakti Stays: Ashburnham Estate

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The cool, mountain ranges, jungles and rivers of Sri Lanka’s heart have always held a special fascination for me. From the day I arrived here, I’ve felt an overmwhelming sense of Deju Vu – an eerie sensation that I have been here before, visited this place in my dreams or perhaps in a past life. Somehow, when the light hits the horizon just right, you can almost transcend time and space. All part of Sri Lanka’s strange, beautiful energy, I guess. 

So, when I had the chance to return to my favourite place in Sri Lanka, I was understandably ecstatic! For the duration of a 7 day wellness reatreat (more on that later!) I’d be staying at the stunning Ashburnham Estate, nestled high up in the tea fields of Elkaduwa, far, far away from the rumbling chaos of Colombo. I couldn’t wait to throw my bags on that bus and get away from it all! Planning for the trip, I dreamt of long, solitary walks with nature, heavenly sleeps, brilliant sunset meditations and misty morning yoga sessions. When I arrived at the estate, those dreams (and more!) came true!

Ashburnham is a beautiful boutique hotel set in its own 100-acre tea estate, around an hour north-east of Kandy, in the heart of Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle. The estate boasts stunning waterfalls and far reaching views up to and across the Knuckles Mountains, not to mention around 60 acres of lush tea fields, plucked each day.

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The rooms are decorated beautifully, retaining their 1930s charm with hints of French Provincial and Mid Century Design, scattered with exotic plants and well-loved books. Dreamy, four poster beds with mosquito nets and numerous fluffy pillows invite a blissful night’s sleep (Elkaduwa is one of the few places in Sri Lanka where you can cosy up under a blanket, by the way) and you’ll be delighted to find a personal greeting and gift on your pillow on arrival. 

The central lounge has possibly the most comfortable collection of sofas I have EVER encountered, where you can cuddle up with a book and a glass of wine in front of a crackling log fire. And, then there’s the glorious varandah with sweeping views out across the valley, through the branches of giant Mara trees, leaves fluttering gently in the breeze.

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The staff at Ashburnham Estate deserve a special mention too – they were all just amazing! The talented chefs, who went to the trouble of making fresh coconut milk for us each day, and even making one of my very own raw vegan cake recipes for dessert, completely spoiled us. Vegan? No problem. These chefs can make plant-based magic! The managers and front-of-house staff were so very welcoming and made us feel like nothing was too much trouble, always smiling and telling me little jokes. You know you’ve experienced true hospitality when you feel like you’re waving goodbye to family on the day you leave.

For me, Ashburnham Estate was the perfect combination of homely creature comfort and peaceful natural surroundings. A place where I could really unwind and get back in touch with the source. But perhaps the most magical place on the estate is the enchanting waterfall. I was lucky enough to return with Mr. Jungle Shakti on a bright, sunny day where we could swim in the rock pools under the spray and lounge about on the rocks in the sun. Time flew by as we watched butterflies and dragonflies dancing in the mist, and even spotted our own personal rainbow –truly magical! So much beautiful energy in that place. I really didn’t want to leave! What finally dragged us away were our grumbling tummies and the promise of lunch... but secretly, I knew we’d be back one day soon.

take me there...

Ashburnham Estate
Elkaduwa Road (B 461),
Kandy, Kandy Province 21012

Shakti Eats: Café Secret Alley

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When we first moved to Sri Lanka, we headed straight for the jungle. Finding ourselves in a little jungalow on the outskirts of Kandy was a bit of a shock. I’m not gonna lie, leaving my fancy little seaside suburban life with all the convenience of about 15 vegan-friendly coffee shops and whole food stores all within walking distance was rough. I mean, I could see avocado, coconut and banana trees EVERYWHERE in Kandy but no juice bars, no avo toast and... ummm, no coconut milk lattes! My precious coconut lattes! The horror!

As it turns out, just 10 months later, I discovered all this and more in Kandy... hiding down a secret alley! Not far from Kandy’s famous Temple of the Tooth and just around the corner from Odel, you’ll find this quirky little café doing it’s very best to bring that cool, conscious, healthy vibe I've been longing for to Sri Lanka’s ancient city. With brightly painted walls, cheery yellow coffee cups, pineapple decorations and a chalkboard menu, Secret Alley is a feel-good hippie hangout with some familiar favourites. 

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Serving up smoothie bowls, shakes and peanut butter or avocado toast, as well as solid coffee (with coconut milk option... yay!), vegans and vege-lovers can enjoy a little time-out from curries, lentils and rice. It’s also a great little escape from the hustle and bustle of Kandy town and a handy meeting point for travellers. 

take me there...

Café Secret Alley
5 E L Senanayake Veediya, 
Kandy 20000
+94 77 303 2933

Mango & Passionfruit Parfait with Vegan Yoghurt & Granola

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Hello sunshine! Have I got a treat for you today – a super simple breakfast idea with lots of goodness! The healthy fats and probiotics in the coconut yoghurt, the vitamins and minerals in the fruits (so much vitamin C!), and the fibre and minerals (magnesium and zinc, to name a few!) in the oats – all the things! Something to make those tummies sing, that's for sure!

The best part, Ceylon Coconut Company have started making coconut yoghurt right here in Sri Lanka – that's a first for this island! It's big news and I'm so excited that I don't have to make it from scratch anymore. It's all natural, vegan and with no added sugar. Hooray! You can get it from the Good Market shop and Saturday Market. Maybe now I can finally repopulate my gut with some healthy bacteria and start smashing those gym workouts again! Hmmm... except that Mr. Jungle Shakti keeps eating it all!!

Another note, for this recipe I have used chocolate and walnut granola (you simply switch the peanut butter in this recipe with cacao spread and swap the cashews and coconut for walnuts). But, I actually feel like the tropical flavours in the original granola would have been better. So try that first, I reckon.

Ingredients

2-3 ripe cavendish bananas, sliced and frozen overnight
2 tbsp coconut milk
pulp of 2 passionfruit
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut yoghurt
1/4 cup fresh mango, roughly cubed
3-4 tbsp of Peanut Butter, Treacle & Toasted Coconut Granola

Method

Start by making the banana icecream. Simple blend the frozen banana and coconut milk in a high powered blender (I use a Nutribullet) until a soft serve consistency is reached. Add half the passionfruit pulp and pulse quickly to combine.

Next, simply spoon half the yoghurt into a parfait glass or mason jar, then alternating layers of mango, passionfruit and granola until you reach the top. Scoop over the banana icecream and sprinkle with a little more granola. Serve immediately!

Shakti Stories: So Freakin Vegan

 
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Hey all! Meet Carrie AKA So Freaking Vegan, one of my plant-loving friends on the other side of the world. Going vegan saved her life, and now, she's spreading the word through her awesomely funny Youtube channel. To me, she's the perfect example of the energy and spirit of veganism, making me laugh, making me think, and motivating me every day. I'm all for anyone that makes compassionate living look this fun! That smile though, am I right?

Tell us about the day you went vegan - what changed?

For most of my life, I was an omnivore. I ate a SAD (Standard American Diet) full of meat and cheese at every meal. When I went to graduate school in 2011, one of my roommates was a vegetarian. I was interested in the lifestyle, and she helped me get started cutting out meat. I was a vegetarian (meat-free, but continued consuming lots of dairy and eggs) for about four years, until I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). I was prescribed multiple medications to help manage my horrendous symptoms. The side effects from the drugs actually caused me to feel worse. I not only felt physically ill, but also emotionally ill - struggling with the fact that I had an incurable disease. I began researching PCOS and found overwhelming information on the negative effects of dairy on women’s bodies and the healing benefits of raw fruits and veggies. Right then, I decided to go vegan.

Within a few weeks of living on a raw vegan diet, every single PCOS symptom vanished. My energy skyrocketed. Issues were clearing up that I never even realized I had my whole life. And I no longer had any need for my prescription drugs. I began learning more about how a whole foods vegan diet can prevent and even reverse many of the leading killers in our communities (heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes)! I realized that I had the power to take control of my own health.

After being vegan solely for health reasons for a few months, I came across a film called Earthlings on YouTube, which opened my eyes to the realities of how humans use and abuse animals for profit. Never before had I made the connection that as a meat eater and as a vegetarian, I was contributing to such violence towards animals. The animals weren’t just willingly giving their bodies to us. They were innocent beings who wanted to live, just like you and me. At this point veganism became bigger than just myself. I knew I would never again be a willing participant in their abuse and exploitation. I was vegan for life!

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Can you remember your first vegan meal?

My first vegan meal was a vegan pizza! I remember going to a pizza restaurant, new to the lifestyle, and being so worried I would mess up and order something non-vegan! When the waitress came to take my order, I remember asking her so many questions: Are there eggs in the crust? Is this made with milk? What’s in the sauce? Is the cheese dairy-free? My super patient waitress eventually stopped and asked, “Are you vegan?” I told her yes, and that today was my very first day. She told me she was vegan too, and had been vegan since she was 11 years old! She convinced me not to worry. She would order me something she always gets, and it would most definitely be 100% vegan! I was so thankful she was my waitress, and thankful to meet another vegan in my city on DAY ONE of my vegan journey! My waitress Charis, and I actually kept in touch after that day, and although we live hundreds of miles apart now, she continues to be one of my greatest, closest friends! By the way, I ended up ordering a gluten-free pizza with vegan cheese, loaded with veggies! Delicious!

What's up with the fruit challenge? Tell me more!

I hosted a 31-Day Fruit Challenge in July and a 30-Day Fruit Challenge in September for detoxification. For those entire months, we feasted on nothing but sweet, juicy, delicious fruit! This 100% fruit detox was so wonderful for my body – a month full of self-love, self-respect, and detoxification! I had been doing research on how humans are natural frugivores. Our bodies are designed to thrive on mainly fruit. Fruit is nature's most perfect gift that we crave exactly as nature prepared it... in its raw, natural, ripe state.

These were the challenge rules:
1. Eat raw, high-water, sweet FRUITS
2. No high fats like nuts, seeds, avocados, coconuts
3. No botanical fruits like tomatoes, zucchini, or squash
4. Stay hydrated with water or coconut water.
5. Eat when hungry. Stop when satisfied. No calorie counting.
6. Don't forget to exercise
7. Post daily using #30dayfruitchallenge or #31dayfruitchallenge

From doing the challenge, I experienced amazing digestion, clearer skin, increased energy, and fat loss. I plan to host another fruit challenge next year!

What's your favourite fruit?

My favorite fruit would probably be jackfruit. It is so incredible sweet, delicious, versatile, and massive! They are incredibly hard to find (and expensive) where I live, so having one is such an amazing treat!

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Your youtube channel and vegan paraodies present veganism in a fun, entertaining way. Do you think people respond better to that kind of playfulness and positivity?

Thank you so much for saying that! I started the So Freakin’ Vegan YouTube channel in March 2016 to bring awareness to veganism – the lifestyle that saved my life. Through parody music videos, discussions, and of course food, I want people to know that veganism can be simple, healthy, satisfying, accessible, and a lot of fun! My goal is to help people help themselves, while making this world a better place for future generations.

I do believe people respond better to positivity around the vegan philosophy. When we bring our message to people with kindness and compassion, I’ve noticed that it’s better received. We can be kind, yet firm in our values. And we can be understanding, yet uncompromising. When we talk to people, I believe we should assume each person is a compassionate person, who is just unaware of the violence they are contributing to. And we should speak to the compassion within that person! Everyone has a natural instinct to protect themselves when they feel attacked. Our message can be 100% correct, but if its presented in a way that makes someone feel attacked, they will get defensive and miss the whole message.

I believe that planting seeds is so important, and very powerful. We cannot make people change, but we can present the facts and tell our truth. It may not seem like much at the time, but that person will always carry around with them that seed you planted.

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What's it like being a vegan in your corner of the world?

I live in North Carolina, located in the United States. The vegan movement here is growing. I’m meeting new vegans in my area all the time! I’ve seen more vegan options being added to grocery stories and restaurant menus. There have been a lot of positive changes towards veganism in my community even in just the 2 years I’ve been vegan. However, North Carolina is a leading producer of pork. Right now in North Carolina, there are more pigs than people! We are home to the world’s largest slaughterhouse. Smithfield Processing Plant in Tarheel, NC kills an estimated 33,000 pigs every single day at just that one facility. Although veganism has come a long way in my corner of the world, it’s got a long way to go.

What are your top 3 tips for going vegan for the first time?

My first tip for going vegan for the first time would be to educate yourself. To be successful you must know, and really understand, why you are making the change. You can do this research by reading books, articles, and watching documentaries. When making any major lifestyle change, if your “why” is strong, you will figure out your “how.” Two great books to read are How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger and The Happy Vegan by Russell Simmons. Some amazing films to watch are: What the Health, Forks Over Knives, Earthlings, Cowspiracy, and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.

My second tip is to understand that veganism is not about perfection, but progress! I’ve noticed that many new vegans become intimidated by veganism, thinking that in addition to being vegan, they have to be organic, non-gmo, raw, 80-10-10, gluten-free, sugar-free, non-processed, low-fat, non-hybrid, etc. This can be incredibly overwhelming for a new vegan, or even a long-time vegan! You do not have to be perfect. Just focus on cutting out animal products first, then progress from there. Take it one day at a time.

Lastly, change your mindset. Many people tend to focus on the things they can’t have – the things they’re giving up.  However, your whole perspective will change, if you focus on all that you can have. When we are omnivores, we are looking in only one direction when it comes to our food choices - ignoring the hundreds of amazing plant-based foods behind us. When we give up those foods we were once so used to, we tend to feel like we’re missing out. However, if we change our focus, and just turn around to look in a different direction, we will find so many amazing, new plant-based foods and combinations of foods we have yet to even try! You can choose to have a mindset of deprivation, or a mindset of abundance. What you focus on expands!

find out more...

So Freakin’ Vegan You Tube Channel
instagram.com/sofreakinvegan

 

Spiced Sri Lankan Lentil & Spinach Soup

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Living in Sri Lanka means living a life of spice! There's really nothing quite like a good Sri Lankan curry, with it's rich depth of flavour. Curry just gets under your skin... it soon becomes a craving that no other cuisine can really satisfy. And, if you aren't lucky enough to live with a Sri Lankan aunty, you'll find yourself making excuses to buy rice and curry packs from down the street every second day...

It also means forming a close relationship with daal. There's literally a side of 'Parippu' (lentil daal) with just about every meal here. I mean, even for breakfast. Problem is, it's typically served with a huge helping of rice, string hoppers, milk rice... basically all the carbs. So, I figured out a way to get my daal fix, but on the lighter side – starting with a South Indian Daal Fry recipe, adding a little Sri Lankan twist, then making it into soup. Be gone, rice! I don't need you now!

Don't be afraid by the long list of ingredients here, it's worth the time, and once these spices become pantry staples, you will use them again and again. Also, if you can't find curry leaves where you are, or roasted curry powder – just leave them out. If you can only find one type of lentil, use that – it's a very flexible recipe. Here we go...

Ingredients

1/2 cup red lentils
1/4 cup yellow lentils
3.5 cups water
2/3 cup coconut milk
2 cups vegetable stock

for the curry paste
2 tsp coconut oil
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp black mustard seeds
1 hot green chilli, finely chopped
1 cup spring onion bulbs, diced
5 or more cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 inch of ginger, finely chopped
6-8 fresh curry leaves
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp roasted curry powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp chilli powder
2 large tomatoes, chopped small
1 tsp lemon juice

to serve
2 handfuls of baby spinach
2 handfuls of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Method

Wash the red and yellow lentils, drain. Combine in a large saucepan with water over medium heat. Cook for 18 to 20 minutes or until yellow lentils are tender. Reduce heat to low and simmer.

Next, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the cumin and mustard seeds. Let them start to sizzle and pop (the cumin seeds should change colour and become fragrant). Add the chilli, onion, garlic, ginger, curry leaves and a pinch of salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion becomes translucent.

Add the ground coriander, curry powder, turmeric and chilli powder and mix well. Add the tomatoes, lemon juice and a tbsp of water and mix. Cook until the tomatoes are saucy, mashing the larger pieces. Now, add the contents of the skillet to the saucepan along with the lentils.

Add the coconut milk and vegetable stock and continue to simmer the soup for 3 to 4 minutes or until bubbling. Taste and season accordingly with salt, pepper or a squeeze of extra lemon juice. Finally, add the baby spinach and half the chopped coriander and stir through just before serving. Garnish with coriander and serve with flatbread on the side.

Shakti Stories: A Tale of Love, Compassion & Vegan Nuggets

 
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In this edition of 'Shakti Stories', I was lucky enough to catch up with another of my plant-based heroes, Tammy Fry, from the Fry Family Food Co. Tammy's parents, Wally & Debbie, are true pioneers in the vegan food industry. They began developing meatless protein products way back in 1991 – a time when tasty plant protein was about as mystical as a unicorn! Today, the whole family are working together on the dream, making the tastiest burgers, nuggets, schnitzels, prawns and stir-fry strips you could ever dream of... all from plants! Oh, and ice-cream too! They're a family of angels, if you ask me! Here's what Tammy had to say...

You're the oldest daughter of the Fry family, can you remember when it all began?

I grew up in a humble home... born to a goat farmer dad and a mum who taught at the local village school. I saw day after day as goats were shipped off for slaughter… some with names, some nameless. I have an enquiring mind and even as a young girl, I questioned everything. “A drumstick – you play drums with that – what IS THIS?”.  I was a born vegetarian. Mum, like me, was a born vegetarian. 2 women can be a powerful force!!

Dad left the goat farming trade and starting a construction business, we moved off the farm and into the city. Life took a new turn, and I became familiar with building sites and seesaws made of wooden planks carefully placed over bags of stones, bricks and sand! Then there was one day that changed everything again, forever. Dad walked into the house after taking off his building boots at door and announced that he too was “never going to eat meat again!”. This after inspecting his last building project – a piggery. This was the final straw for him! 

The Fry Family Food Co. range today is really impressive. Did it take a lot of experimentation to get it right?

Our home and family has always had a big heart, strong values and a work ethic to boot! We were a family of vegetarians, in South Africa, and I had folks who believed you should follow your dreams and leave a positive mark in the world. Conversations at the dinner table included the trivial school day report-backs and then morality, ethics, the state of the world, and an update on the latest plant based sausage recipe they managed to crack that day! 

In the beginning, my parents were working on developing a range of high protein, replacements for meat (an unknown concept 25 years ago) mostly just for our own family and a few friends. And, yes, the experimentation phase took 2 years of “tried and fails!”. The first two products that were launched into supermarkets were the Traditional Sausages and Original Burgers! Now we have a whole array of products. I would say my 2 favs are the Gluten Free Rice Protein & Chia Nuggets and the Battered Prawn Style Pieces!

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Tell me more about the family philosophy. What drives your passion for plant-based food?

I think it varies for each member of the family – for Wally, its more about spirituality and the concept of the interconnectedness of all things. For Debbie, it’s primarily compassion. I think once you follow a plant based diet, your reasons for doing it become more and more holistic.  For me, it’s about conscious living – being kind, treading lightly on the earth and looking after my own health.

The Fry family seems to be growing fast! Any tips on plant-based parenting?

It’s tough being a parent in today’s world – my advice would be to follow your heart and intuition, not judge yourself too harshly, perfection (as a parent) is unattainable so go with the flow. Be honest with your children and not overly emotional. Give them the facts. Don’t be prescriptive about their diet especially when in the company of others – we are (more often than not) being judged by other parents, so sometimes a little flexibility is required in order to draw others in and not push them away. Our personal choices make a small impact but our influence over other’s choices can make a much bigger positive impact. 

How do you feel Australia is responding to the vegan movement?

Veganism is definitely on trend, and for all the right reasons. And this trend is happening worldwide. 

find out more...

fryfamilyfood.com
instagram.com/frysfamily

 

Peanut Butter, Treacle & Toasted Coconut Granola

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So I'm a little addicted to granola right now! I kinda can't have my daily smoothie bowl breakfast without it! As per usual, if you want a vegan, refined sugar free version of it – you gotta make it yourself. But, never fear, because it's easy and home-made always tastes better, am I right?

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups rolled oats
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
2 tablespoons kitul treacle, maple syrup or coconut nectar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup cashews or hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup toasted coconut flakes

Preheat oven to 165 degrees celsius. Line a baking tray with parchment paper or spray with oil. Place oats in a large mixing bowl.

In a small bowl combine coconut oil, peanut butter, treacle and vanilla essence and then stirring until completely blended. Stir in salt. Pour this mixture over the oats and mix with your hands to evenly coat the oats. Transfer to the prepared baking tray.

Bake for 15 minutes. Stir in chopped cashews and return to oven. Bake for another 15 minutes, remove from the oven and stir in the coconut flakes. After it has cooled, store in airtight jar.

Vegan Potato Salad with Rosemary Cream Sauce

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Whipped up another awesome lunch today and just had to share it with you! It reminds me of the classic comfort food I used to make with mum – only a better, healthier version that's good for you and the planet (sorry Mum!). It's totally filling, almost fully raw, and tasty as heck and it's ready in minutes. You could almost just eat the rosemary cream sauce with a spoon, it's that good. Okay, I did. I polished off the leftover sauce with a spoon. Lucky it's full of nutritious healthy fats – am I right? Ooh! Maybe you could even use it over pasta or roast pumpkin? Gonna try that too! Okay here goes...

Ingredients

4 medium-sized, brushed potatoes, skin on
1 cup red capsicum, diced
2-3 spring onions, sliced
a handful of freshly parsley leaves, roughly chopped
1 cup raw cashews (soaked overnight)
1/3 cup almond milk
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary
1/4 tsp each sea salt and black pepper, plus more to taste
3-4 cloves garlic, minced

Method

Wash the potatoes and cut into rough cubes (about 3cm square). Add to a large saucepan and cover with room temperature water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Then reduce to a low boil. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until tender and a knife easily slides in and out. Then drain and set aside to cool slightly.

Drain the cahsews well and add to a blender along with the almond milk, olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, rosemary, salt, pepper and garlic. Blend on high, scraping down sides as needed, until texture is creamy and thick but pourable. Add a little more milk or water if necessary. Taste and adjust flavour as needed. At this time, you can also add some hot sauce for added spice.

Add cooked potatoes to a large mixing bowl along with the diced red capsicum. Pour over the creamy sauce and stir to coat. Garnish with parsley and spring onions, a sprinkle of cracked pepper and a dash of paprika (if you like) and serve immediately.