Warning: Use of undefined constant wp_112369055_ - assumed 'wp_112369055_' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /home/customer/www/cookthebeans.com/public_html/wp-config.php on line 66
Blog • Cook the Beans

Blog

Uplistsikhe Cave Town

The ancient and now abandoned rock-hewn town of Uplistsikhe is located in Eastern Georgia and is a must to any trip to Georgia. Uplistsikhe is on the UNESCO list and means “the fortress of the Lord”.

Uplistsikhe does slightly reminds Cappadocia (Turkey) and Northern Iran. The Cave Town-Fortress is situated on a rocky massif 10 km from Gori and has stunning views over Mtkvari Valley.

Uplistsikhe-  the Ancient cave town in Georgia

The Uplistsikhe site dates back to as early as the second millennium BC, witnessing key events and playing an important role in Georgian history.  Being for centuries one of the most important political and religious centres of pre-Christianity.

When Christianity arrived in the country the city lost importance for Mtskheta and TbilisiIn the 13th century, during the Mongol conquest, Uplistsikhe faced a rapid decline and large parts of the city were destroyed. 

The Uplistsikhe complex

The complex is divided into 3 main parts all connected by tunnels. Some of those tunnels also had the purpose of an emergency escape route. The Lower, central and upper area.

There are numerous temples related to the sun goddess. Most of the rock-cut structures, don’t show any decorative elements, aside from some of the larger structures.

The area has a Christian stone basilica from the 10th century and also pagan places of sacrifice, dwellings, a pharmacy, a bakery, a prison, a theatre and even an amphitheatre.

The views from the cliff over the village and the Mtkvari river are spectacular.

How to get to Uplistsikhe

You can either travel by train or marshrutka from Tbilisi to Gori (1.5 hours). When in Gori you have 3 options.

Go on a bike trip, take a taxi (just remember to negotiate the rate), or by bus from Gori. The only problem is that the bused are not frequent and you have to walk around 1 km from the village to the cave town. 

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Prometheus cave

The Prometheus Cave is located 20km northwest of Kutaisi, one of the most important historical and economic centers in the western Georgia.

The Prometheus Cave, also known as Kumistavi Cave, is about 11 km, but only 1.4km are open to visitors. The cave is truly impressive and well worth of a visit.

You will be walking along six large chambers followed by a 400m-long underground lake, illuminated by coloured lighting and classical music. the scenery is decorated with amazing stalactites and stalagmites, like you are inside a magic fairy world.

You can’t visit on your own. When you buy the ticket they will be putting you in a group with a guide and you walk along a concrete path from where you can see a wonderful array of curtains of stalactites, stalagmites, petrified waterfalls, cave pearls, underground rivers, and lakes.

There is also the option of a boat tour on one of the underground rivers.

The temperature inside is a constant +14°С, while humidity varies from 96% to 98%.

How to get there:

Take a bus from the main station to Tskaltubo, from there you have buses to the cave. It costs 1 GEL.

Entrance fee is 23GEL with an extra of 17 GEL if you want a boat trip. More info here.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Simple homemade Kombucha

Step-by-step guide to make Kombucha

The SCOBY (mother) is a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast that we use to make the magic.

The cheapest method to get one is to ask a friends that makes kombucha, as they’re likely to have new scobys that they can donate to you.

what do you need for the First Fermentation
  • 3 litres of  water
  • 200g white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp (green or black) loose leaf (or 8 individual bags)
  • 1 SCOBY
  • 450 ml unflavoured kombucha (from previous batch or store-bought kombucha)
  • A large glass/ceramic container
  • 1 Piece of clean muslin (or coffee filters, paper towels, napkin,..)
  • 1 Rubber band or string
First Fermentation Instructions:
  1. Bring 1/4 of the water to a boil in a clean saucepan. Remove from heat, dissolve the sugar into it and add the tea.
  2. Add the remaining water and let it cool down to room temperature (above 35°C will harm the scoby)
  3. Pour the tea into your large jar, gently place the SCOBY and the starter kombucha liquid inside.
  4. Cover with a cloth and secure with a rubber band or a string.
  5. Put the jar in a dark place at room temperature, for 6 to 10 days. The warmer the air temperature, the faster the kombucha will ferment.

note: Reserve 2 cups from this batch to use as starter kombucha for your next batch.

Second Fermentation

At this stage the kombucha will end the fermentation in a bottle and you can add different flavours, but it’s ready for drinking from this point.

Herbs and spices, fruits and vegetables can be added either fresh, in pieces, from frozen, dried or in juice form.

The kombucha will get more fizzy the longer it is stored. To slow down the process you can put the bottle in the fridge.

Vegan focaccia bread

This vegan Focaccia recipe is absolutely delicious, soft and pillowy infused with sea salt, olive oil, garlic, and herbs.

  • 1 sachet active dry yeast (7g)
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • ~ 1 tsp salt
  • Toppings to taste (tomatoes, zucchini, pesto, pine nuts, sliced lemons, olives, mushrooms, artichokes, …)
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • Herbs to taste: thyme, rosemary, basil, oregano, …
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Vegan Focaccia – how to make it

In a large bowl, add the yeast and the water and let it sit for about 5-10 minutes. Then add the olive oil and 1 1/2 cups of flour. Let rest for 5 minutes. 

Add the rest of the flour (1 cup) and the salt.

Knead the dough on a lightly oiled non-porous work surface until it comes together. It will seem really sticky at first but keep kneading until it becomes smooth and elastic.

Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and let rise for about an hour, or until doubled in size.

Oil generously a baking sheet and spread the dough out. Dent the dough with your fingertips and let rise again for about 20 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix some extra olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and all the herbs and toppings you want to use.

Heat the oven to 220ºC.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Enjoy!!

Vegan focaccia bread

Here are two more super simple recipes that you should give a try: Vegan gluten-free flatbread or Vegan Chapati

PT: Focaccia

Esta receita de Focaccia vegana é absolutamente deliciosa, macia e almofadada com sal marinho, azeite, alho e ervas.

  • 1 saqueta de fermento seco ativo (7g)
  • 1 caneca de água morna
  • 2 1/2 canecas de farinha
  • 1/4 caneca de azeite
  • ~ 1 colher de chá de sal
  • Para pôr por cima (tomates, courgetes, pesto, pinhões, limões fatiados, azeitonas, cogumelos, alcachofras, …)
  • 4-5 dentes de alho picados
  • Ervas aromáticas a gosto: tomilho, alecrim, manjericão, orégãos, …
  • Sal e pimenta a gosto

Numa tigela grande, adicionar o fermento e a água e deixar descansar por cerca de 5-10 minutos. De seguida, adicionar o azeite e 1 caneca e 1/2  de farinha. Deixe descansar por 5 minutos.

Adicione o resto da farinha (1 caneca) e o sal.

Amassar a massa numa superfície de trabalho não porosa levemente untada com óleo até que esteja bem unida. Vai parecer muito pegajoso no início, mas continua a amassar até que fique lisa e elástica.

Colocar a massa numa tigela levemente untada com óleo, cubrir com um pano e deixar crescer a massa por cerca de uma hora ou até dobrar de tamanho.

Untar generozamente um tabuleiro com azeite colocar a massa no tabuleiro. fazer covinhas na massa com as pontas dos dedos e deixar crescer novamente por cerca de 20 minutos.

Numa tigela  misturar um pouco de azeite,  alho, sal e pimenta e todas as ervas e coberturas que queres usar.

Aquecer o forno a 220ºC. Assar por 15-20 minutos ou até ficar dourada.

Travel vegan in Cuba

Someone I met while travelling in Cuba told me “we are not here to eat” when I was complaining about the food, and lack of options…. and sadly for someone like me that likes food, its true… because travelling as a vegan in Cuba can be difficult.

But on a positive note, food it’s ridiculously cheap and they have the most delicious fruit.

Just keep in mind that restaurants aimed at tourists have prices in CUC. Restaurants aimed at Cubans also called peso restaurants, have prices in CUP. more about it here

The cheapest options are at street-side stores. They normally have sandwiches, pizza, rice with beans, pasta, natural fruit juice and coffee, but not all the options at the same time.

If you’re planning to travel to Cuba here is everything you need to know to travel on a budget

Where to eat

In Cuba, there are two types of places to eat like a local, the state-run restaurants and the particulares (private restaurant).

Being the particulares a bit more expensive than the state-run restaurants but not by much. It’s like instead of paying 1 dollar for your meal you will pay 2.

Cooking your own food it’s not an option here, but you can do what we did, that was adding fruit and/or veggies to your meals like avocado, mango, tomato and ask at the restaurants to cut it for you.

Fresh juices are amazing and very cheap. The best option is to have an empty water bottle with you and ask them to refill it with juice (1,2,3.. cups). This is very common between locals.

Being Vegan in Cuba

Being vegan in Cuba can be very hard when you are travelling on your own, on a budget and off the beaten path.

Both state-run restaurants and the particulares are not abundant and have a very limited offer of 1 to 2 dishes.

Eating at the casas particulares, is always an option as well. The hosts will happily cook something for you but will be no different from the things you can eat outside.

How to survive as a vegan in Cuba

Fresh fruit is by far one of the top foods you can eat in Cuba. The most common are guavas, papayas, pineapples, bananas, mangoes, avocados, mamoncillo and coconuts.

Carrying a knife is truly a lifesaver because you can just eat fruits and some veggies when you want.

The morning is the best time to buy seasonal fruit and vegetables. Cubans sell them on street carts near the road or on the markets.

Vegan options in Cuba

Here is a list of the most common ingredients/dishes, that you should know if you don’t speak Spanish. Knowing some basic Spanish its essential when travelling through non-tourist places.

  • arroz (rice)
  • ensalada (salad)
  • frijoles (beans)
  • arroz morro or moros y cristianos  (black beans + rice)
  • fruta (fruit)
  • maduros (fried sweet plantains)
  • tostones (fried green plantains)
  • Yuca frita or cassava (a root vegetable)
  • pan (bread)
  • papas (potatoes)
  • Batido (milkshake)  *not vegan
  • jugo natural (natural fruit juice)
  • Cucurucho (desert with coconut and pineapple)
  • Pasteles dulces (bakery)
  • mani (peanuts)

Veganism in the big cities

More touristic places, like Havana, Trinidad or Viñales will have better options than the rest of the country because they have some touristic infrastructures and some vegan-friendly restaurants.

Cuba was one of the hardest countries to eat well as a vegan. You will definitely not going to starve but you will get fed up to eat the same food every day, especially if you are travelling like me for a long period of time.

I’ve read that the Vegan Movement is starting to appear in Cuba especially in Havana so things might change in the future.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Read – Part 1 for information about money and prices.

Read – Part 2 for information about transports, internet, scams, packing, entertainment and when to visit Havana.

Vegan Chapati (pão indiano)

A vegan recipe for an easy to make and delicious Chapati.

Chapatti is an Indian flatbread made with very few basic ingredients. It is quick and easy to make and it’s quite cheap too.

This recipe makes approx. 6 chapattis

  • 1 + 1/2 cup wheat flour (or rice flour)
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • optional: spices, herbs and/or seeds

Put all the ingredients in a bowl, mix and knead with your hands until a smooth dough forms.

Divide the dough into 6 smaller balls and roll them out on a floured surface.
Heat a flat pan and place one chapati at a time. Let it cook for about 1 minute on each side.

PT: Chapatti 

Chapatti é um pãozinho de origem indiana feito com pouquíssimos ingredientes. É rápido e fácil de fazer e fica bastante barato também. 

Esta receita faz aprox. 6 chapattis  

  • 1 + 1/2 caneca farinha trigo (ou farinha arroz)
  • Sal a gosto
  • 4 colheres sopa azeite
  • 1/2 caneca de água
  • opcional: especiarias, ervas aromáticas e/ou sememtes

Misturar bem todos os ingredientes até que fiquem numa bola.
Faz bolinhas pequenas e abre a massa com um rolo numa superfície enfarinhada.
Aquecer uma frigideira e colocar os pãezinhos um a um. Deixar cozinhar cerca de 1 minuto de cada lado.

Mtskheta Georgia’s spiritual heart

The small city of Mtskheta was once the ancient capital of the Eastern Georgian Kingdom. Nowadays is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the oldest cities of Georgia. A perfect stop to any trip to Georgia.

The city is a 40-minute drive from the capital Tbilisi. Making Mtskheta an easy and enjoyable day trip from the capital.

There are several historical monuments which together make up the world heritage site.

Must-see Places in Mtskheta
Svetitskhoveli Cathedral

Svetitskhoveli is the biggest cathedral in the country, dates back to the 11th-century and is a UNESCO World Heritage listing.

Samtavro Church

A large church now part of a nunnery.

Armaztsikhe-Bagineti

An archaeological site of the residence of Iverian rulers.

Jvari Monastery

The 6th Century “ Monastery of the Cross” is the oldest Christian Monasteries in the country

Located on a mountaintop with a great view of the meeting between the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers as well as the city of Mtskheta.

Jvari Monastery is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Bebris Tsikhe

A castle located on a mountaintop in northern Mtskheta with great views, seven minutes drive from the town.

How to get to Mtskheta

You can either travel by marshrutka or train, both options are affordable

Marshrutkas depart regularly from Didube Bus Station which is located right next to the Didube Metro Station.

Mtskheta lies on the Tbilisi-Kutaisi railway and all trains connecting these cities stop at Mtskheta.

The train station lies 2 km from the city centre. It’s possible to walk, or you can take a marshrutka from the station to the centre.

Have you ever been to Mtskheta or other places in the Mtianeti region?

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Gori Travel

Gori is a small town on the confluence of the Kura and the Liakhi in the picturesque Kartlia valley, 80km west of Tbilisi.

A day trip to Gori from Tbilisi is easy and cheap but is better to stay overnight to visit the ancient cave city of Uplistsikhe that is located about 10 km from Gori.

Gori is a quiet town where you can wander through the streets and have a great chillout time eating out at one of the many restaurant terraces. 

Top sights
Stalin Museum

The town is best known for being the birthplace of Stalin the former Soviet leader. While he is not exactly a hero by any means, the town preserves memories of his life and displays them in the Stalin Museum.

The town has two other smaller museums. The War Museum and the Ethnographic Museum.

Goristsikhe fortress

The Fortress is free and offers some nice views the town and surrounding hills, especially during sunset. This oval citadel stands at the heart of Gori on top of a hill.

Churches

There are a few churches to be found around Gori. Mary’s Church is quite impressive.

Stalin Avenue

The main street is called Stalin Avenue. I don’t know how I feel about Gory having so many tributes to Stalin.. but … I believe (and hope) they don’t see him as a national hero but a local famous historic figure.

At the top end of the avenue you have the Stalin museum and the gardens. There is some impressive architecture along the street including the city hall.

How to get to Gori from Tbilisi

From Tbilisi, you can either take a train from the main station or a marshrutka (minibus).

To go bt marshrutka head to Didube bus station and look around for a van labelled ‘Gori’, they leave when full usually every 20-30mins. The journey takes around 1.5 hours.

All trains from Tbilisi going to Kutaisi and/or Batumi stop at Gori. 

How to Get from Gori to Uplistsikhe

At the bus station, you can find a minivan heading to Uplistsikhe. The journey takes around 25 minutes.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Oat vegan Cheese (queijo de aveia)

This recipe is super simple and cheap to make. It can be used as vegan spreadable cheese or even as a sauce.

  • Oat milk (in the blender put 1 cup oats + 1 litre of water, then pass through a very fine sieve)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • 1/2 Lemon juice
  • garlic powder (to taste)
  • optional – spices, herbs and/or liquid smoke

Put all the ingredients (except the lemon juice) in a pan over medium-low heat and stir until thick and creamy. Add the lemon juice at the end.

Place the cheese in glass containers, let it cool and place it in the fridge for 2 hours.

This vegan oatmeal cheese is very creamy when heated, so it’s perfect for sauces.

Oat vegan Cheese
PT: queijo vegano de Aveia

Esta receita é super simples e barata de fazer. Pode ser usado como queijo vegano de barrar ou mesmo como molho.

  • Leite de aveia (na liquidificadora 1caneca de aveia + 1litro de água, depois passar por uma peneira bem fina)
  • Sal (a gosto)
  • sumo de 1/2 Limão
  • alho em pó (a gosto)
  • opcional – especiarias e ervas a gosto

Colocar numa panela todos os ingredientes (menos o sumo de limão) e ir mexendo até engrossar. Adicionar o sumo de limão no fim.

Colocar o queijo em recipientes de vidro, deixar arrefecer e colocar no frigorifico por 2 horas.

Este creme de aveia fica muito cremoso quando aquecido, por isso é perfeito para molhos ou então frio com pão!

Vegan in Mozambique

Mozambique is an extraordinarily beautiful country, that amazes with its stunning beaches, reefs and sea life, landscapes, national parks, nice welcoming people, lively atmosphere filled with music and dance, colonial architecture and art. But if you’re travelling in Mozambique as a vegan don’t expect much.

Vegan food is not a thing in Mozambique and even in the capital Maputo, you can only find one vegetarian restaurant called KRU.

Vegan MozambiqueAs you know they have a famous cuisine and are one of the best countries in Africa foodwise, but is all about tiger prawns, seafood, fresh fish and chicken.

I travelled from north to south only by public transports and through lots of rural areas, where there isn’t any infrastructures, restaurants, cafes, food stalls, or even many street markets. So you are asking the same question I did. Where and what am I going to eat?

If you are in a rural area, you need to rely on the local people and on what they can do for you, but communication can be a big problem if they don’t speak Portuguese.

Where to eat vegan in Mozambique?

Maputo is the exception, has some good options, and it’s easy to find your way around. There are also a few places around the country mostly linked with accommodation or some kind of recreative activity that also cater in some way for vegans.

A great example is a vegetarian place in Tofo, called happi located in the Liquid Dive Center.

Another great option is the Turtle Cove, that during their Yoga Retreats provide an array of vegetarian and vegan dishes.

Mozambique was colonized by Portugal in 1505, their cuisine has been deeply influenced by the Portuguese. One of the most eaten dishes is ncima a thick porridge made with ground maize and water, in my opinion just serves the propose of giving you energy… it’s tasteless, but vegan 🙂

Here is a list of some traditional  vegan dishes:
  • Mucapata– rice with coconut, absolutely delicious, very common in the Mozambique Island.
  • Xiguinha – Made with cassava and cacana leaves, common in Inhambane province.
  • Pão – white bread rolls, you can find it in any market baked in wood-fired ovens in villages.
  • Matapa – made from stewed cassava leaves, ground peanuts, garlic and coconut milk, more likely to get it if you end up staying with locals.
  • Collard Greens in Oil – it’s a sauté of onions and collard greens.
  • Chamusas – triangle shaped pastries, asked for the potato ones.
  • Cassava with Red Sauce – a sauce made with fresh tomatoes, green peppers, onions, garlic and  oil
  • Rice and Beans – it’s a very common dish.
  • Mucuane – with boiled cassava leaves, tomatoes, coconut milk, ask if is made with shrimp or Cashews.
  • Quiabo a Zambiana  Okra
  • fresh sugarcane juice
  • pão de sura – it’s a coconut sweet bread more typical in the Inhambane province
  • Cashews  – they have nut trees growing all over the place. You’ll see people selling bags of cashews on the side of the road and on the beach. they sell while plain, roasted piri-piri, roasted salt.
  • Fruits and vegetables– fruit and veggies are available at markets and on the sides of roads all over the country, depending on the season you can find good papayas, coconuts, mangoes. Avocados, okra and collard greens are also seasonal. Tomatoes, cassava or beans, are available year-round. Green peppers, onions, and bananas seem to go through recurring phases.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

? If you are planning to visit Mozambique, or if you are just curious.. check this post – Mozambique.. it’s maningue nice 

SaveSave