I returned from Lanzarote recently where we usually go around my birthday to catch a bit of winter sun. And only a fortnight beforehand I had visited a dear friend in Moscow. While we had lovely 25 degrees on the volcanic islands and sunbathing, in Russia it was staggering -36 degrees on my last day. Sort of polar opposites…
Both trips were really special and they deserve separate posts. It was loads of fun, packed with sports, good food, wine and exploring local gems. For obvious reasons, I got back inspired and full of beans to finally start writing on Riyuu. So here it goes – the very first post! *gulps*
WHAT RUSSIAN ATHLETES EAT. Culturally and gastronomically, the destinations couldn’t be more different – what made the experience on these back-to-back trips even more interesting. Russia was, let’s say, very familiar. As I grew up in Serbia where the influence of the Soviet states was rather prominent – it was fairly easy to relate to the mentality, culture and food especially. The food was ah-mazing and we needed a lot of it, nutrients-dense foods, owing to the harsh weather and us being very active, training and exploring non-stop. Usually after travelling somewhere, I experiment with the foods and dishes typical for places I visited and that I would discover. And one of the staples on this trip (like in their cuisine) were buckwheat dishes – hence the recipe in this post. Over there you can have buckwheat (grechka) in so many forms and I’ve been using it lately right, left and centre in my pre-workout bowls and breakfasts ever since I got back. Can’t go wrong with it and it’s ridiculously versatile.
MOJO ROJO OF LANZAROTE. A bit further south, in Canary Islands, another staple that appears on literally every table is Mojo – a succulent sauce that goes so well with a plethora of savoury dishes. I have been making canarian version of mojo since the first time I went over and discovered it. This time round, I got my hands on a very special mojo recipe from a random bodega in Lanzarote. We went to a bodega that we randomly chose on Google maps and we had one of the best dining experiences in the small village of Uga. What a treat that was! The bodega doesn’t have a menu as such – yet they prepare whatever is fresh in their kitchen on the day and just serve you sharing plates of the most beautiful food one after another. And that goes well with their wines. From fresh salads with seasonal veg, over stunningly prepared seafood to camel’s milk cheesecake (yes – brilliant), to finish us off. All locally sourced, just liked the wines. And right there in Uga, I got the best recipe for mojo rojo which is a part of today’s recipe.
#NEVERNOTRUNNING. On a different note, but still in Lanzarote, I have started my marathon training that weekend as I’m finally running the London marathon this year (I reckon there will be quite a few posts on this topic). Apart from running being one of the best way to explore the island, it was just so enjoyable to run along the ocean coast for miles. And kick off with the training.
Today I need to go for a long run (so I better carb up). Here’s one neat pre-workout bowl combo to keep you going whether you go running, gymming or whatever you do that for endurance training. I have added some socca to the recipe – a sumptuous chickpeas flatbread, packed with protein. So easy to make, yet so flavoursome and wholesome. Voila and enjoy!
- MOJO ROJO
- 2 diced (medium) red bell peppers
- 6 garlic cloves
- 2 tsp of slivered almonds
- 2 tbsp cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp paprika (smoked preferably)
- cayenne pepper to taste - if you like it spicy, go for it
- 1/2 tsp of salt
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp oregano (dried will do the trick)
- BUCKWHEAT BOWL
- (for 4 bowls)
- 1 cup/ 200gr buckwheat
- 2 cup/ 500 ml water
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 4 tsp mojo rojo (see part 1 of the recipe)
- 1 handful of baby kale or spinach
- Juice from 1/2 lemon
- 1 bunch asparagus (15-20 spears)
- 2 avocados
- 4 eggs (I used duck eggs)
- A few pieces of socca (recipe below)
- 1 tsp black sesame seeds
- Firstly, blend garlic, cumin, oregano and olive oil in a high speed blender.
- Add peppers and almonds to the mixutre and pulse until smooth. Or your preferred texture - i like to leave a few al dente bits of pepper.
- Lastly, add the rest - cider vinegar, cayenne pepper and salt until well combined. If the sauce is slightly on the thicker side, a bit of water to it until preferred viscosity. (one tbsp at the time). Done!
- Rinse the buckwheat with cold water. Bring water to boil in a saucepan, add the buckwheat and simmer for 7-10 minutes. Add salt, stir, remove from heat and leave it in the water until tender (probably extra ten minutes). Drain the excess water and let it cool for five minutes or so. Then stir in the mojo rojo, mix with baby kale leaves, add half of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil and season to taste if needed.
- Then heat a griddle pan and dry grill the asparagus spears. You want them to be nice and smokey but not burned. Also soft but still al dente. If your socca is cold, use the griddle pan to warm it up a bit. Cut the asparagus into smaller pieces and season with the rest of lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil and a half of sesame seeds.
- In each bowl, place a handful of buckwheat mix, some asparagus, a tbsp of mojo rojo, a few avocado slices and socca pieces around the centre of the bowl. Top it with a soft boiled egg and garnish with the rest of black sesame seeds.
It has many names: socca (in Cote d’Azur), cecina and torta di ceci in Tuscany, farinata in Liguria where this beauty originally comes from. Socca could be loosely described as sort of a chickpeas crêpe, slightly thicker and absolutely delicious. You can have it on its own with no toppings. But I tend to use it as a base for so many baked dishes, and with all sorts of toppings. Especially if there is any home-made pesto alla genovese (that originates from Liguria too) around. It’s made entirely of chickpeas flour so it’s gluten free. The only way I haven’t tried to have socca is the Livorno way – where socca is served in between two slices of bread or like in Pisa, where it is stuffed into small facaccias. It’s one of these very italian things – rustic, couldn’t be more simple to make nor more delicious at the same time.
- 1 cup chickpeas flour
- 1 cup water
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- pinch of ground black pepper
- Whisk the flour, water and olive oil until you have thick batter. Add salt, thyme and rosemary. Whisk to combine well. Let the batter rest at least a couple of hours, so the flour can absorb the water.
- Heat a pan on medium to high and drizzle with olive oil (I only oil the pan for the first socca, the oil in the batter will suffice for the rest).
- Remove from the hob when well heated and pour some batter with a ladle in the middle and tilt the pan continuously so the batter covers the pan evenly and form a socca approx. 3-4mm thick. Fry the socca until it starts to bubble and the edges begin to brown. Then flip it and fry the other side for a couple of minutes. You want your socca crispy on the outside (maybe even quite brown) but still soft on the inside. Then repeat.