The Musette: Vegan tahini and date cookies

These thick, chewy cookies have a similar vibe to an oatmeal raisin cookie but  are way more interesting, with the savouriness from the tahini and sweet, sticky dates. One of my favourite things about them is that they don’t require any chilling, meaning they go from bowl to oven to plate in about 30 minutes – almost instant gratification!

Ingredients (makes 12)

  • 100g (3 1/2oz) tahini (sesame butter)
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 4 tbsp neutral flavoured oil
  • 2 tbsp golden (or corn) syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 120g (1/2 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 125g (1 cup) plain (all purpose) flour
  • 75g (1/2 cup) jumbo oats
  • 1 tsp bicarb. (baking) soda
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 130g (3/4 cup) chopped dates (I use Medjol)

Method

1.Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4 and line two large baking trays with greaseproof (parchment) paper.

Lined baking sheet and cookie scoop

2. Put the tahini, water, oil, golden syrup and vanilla in a bowl, and give everything a good mix until smooth. Stir in the sugar.

Cookie dough in a bowl

3. In a separate bowl, mix all the remaining ingredients. Pour in the tahini mixture and stir thoroughly to make a thick dough. Divide the dough into 12, roll into balls, put them on the baking trays and flatten them with your hand – how easy was that?

4. Bake for 14-16 minutes, until browned and the edges are firm but the middle is still a little soft. Leave to cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Tahini and Date Cookies

5. I’ll be honest, these never last the day but I suppose they’d keep a few days in the biscuit tin – or maybe not.

One from the vaults: Double booking

We’re heading way back into the archives today, to January 2014 to be exact. That’s eight years ago! However my beloved still hasn’t gotten out of the habit of double-booking himself despite the limited opportunities currently available. I’ll just say leopards and spots, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

My beloved has double-booked himself again! This happens more times than you might imagine despite him keeping a detailed diary. I can only conclude that he gaily accepts all and any invitations without first checking his agenda. This time he’s told a client he’ll go to an exhibition in Singapore which clashes with our departure for the 2014 Tour of the Basque country. After last year’s horrific weather he did say he wouldn’t be coming this year. However, when I made the hotel bookings last November he affirmed his attendance. We’re now looking into options as to how he can join me in the Basque country.

Weather at last year's Vuelta al Pais Vasco
Weather at 2013’s Vuelta al Pais Vasco

His oversight does however have an upside. Freed from the restrictions of having to fit in with his ever-changing timetable, I can now drive down to the Basque country at my leisure, leaving when I want and stopping en-route where I want. A whole new world of possibilities has just opened up and it’ll also give the recently acquired Tom IV a good run out.

Meanwhile, I’ve been looking at possibilities for my beloved. The best option seems to be a routing via London Heathrow, followed by a day or two working in London, before hopping onto an evening flight to Bilbao from where I can collect him. This means I should have anywhere between 3-5 days flying solo. Time to make plans.

Typically my beloved will arrive back from a business trip several hours before we leave on holiday. This way he just pitches up and everything’s been done for him. Not for nothing is he known as “The man who just turns up“! If he’s flying long-haul, I’m always concerned as to whether or not the flight will be on time. And, if not, whether it’ll dismantle our my plans. This did happen on several occasions when we were living in London, despite our proximity to the Heathrow Express service at Paddington. This has occurred much less often in recent years largely because we live so close to Nice airport and many of our holidays are now undertaken by car.

Nonetheless, I have taken the precaution of checking that my beloved has all the key dates for 2014 writ large in his diary: the last week of the Giro d’Italia, the first week of the Tour de France, the Clasica San Sebastian, the World Championships in Ponferrada. That’s right, pretty much all our holidays revolve around one cycling event or the other. I wouldn’t have it any other way, nor would he. It’s taken us to some marvellous spots, we’ve met tons of interesting people and made some lasting friendships. Vive le cyclisme!

Thursday doors #141

This week I’ve still been talking about our recent visit to Italy and Austria so here’s a few doors from those visits.

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Dan’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

[One more] Postcard from Seefeld

I’ve written so much about our trips to Seefeld over the years that there surely can’t be anything more to wrote about, can there? Unbelievably, there is! Let’s look at the history of the resort.

Seefeld location on the Austria Map

Seefeld in Tirol is an old Austrian farming village, now a major tourist resort, located about 17 km (11 miles) northwest of Innsbruck on a plateau between the Wetterstein mountains and the Karwendel on a historic road from Mittenwald in Germany to Innsbruck that has been important since the Middle Ages.

Modest beginnings

The Seefeld plateau, which was populated as far back as prehistoric times, first attained historical significance through the construction of a Roman military road  – what, another one – which stretched from the Po Basin, over the mountain pass, to Augusta Vindelicorum, today the city of Augsburg. The name of the settlement of Sevelt (Seefeld) was first mentioned in a document in the Wilten Monastery back in 1022.

Seefeld Map - Tyrol, Austria - Mapcarta

The reigning Duke Sigismund, known as Sigismund the Rich, was a benefactor of Seefeld and he assisted the village in investing its revenue in its own parish, rather than paying it to the provincial government. Furthermore, he initiated fish breeding in a lake beside the Seekirchl church that still stands today. Emperor Maximilian I also loved Seefeld and its surroundings and had his favourite hunting grounds in the Karwendel mountain range.

Seefeld began to gain in importance and became a stopping place for traders of all kinds. Its economic development was, for a long time, strongly linked to the tradition of pilgrimage. The Thirty Years’ War (1618 -1648) had economic repercussions with pilgrimage and trade traffic declining. Owing to the subsequent dissolution of almost all monasteries in Austria by Emperor Joseph II, Seefeld’s situation deteriorated even further. With the ensuing Treaty of Pressburg, Tyrol was assigned to the Kingdom of Bavaria. Seefeld’s monastery – today the Klosterbräu hotel where we stayed – was put up for sale and, subsequently, became private property.

Also since 14th century, Tyrolean shale oil has been extracted in the area. Seefeld was a popular holiday resort even before 1900 and, since the 1930s, has been a well known winter sports centre and amongst the more popular tourist resorts in Austria.

Seefeld history - HOLIDAY IN SEEFELD

The municipality, which has been the venue for several Winter Olympics Games, is the home village of Anton Seelos (1911 – 2006).The Austrian ski racer and trainer shaped the sport of alpine skiing like no other of his day. The four-time world champion replaced the standard stem turn with the parallel turn technique. As a professional ski instructor, he was not permitted to take part in the Olympic Games. He was, however, invited as a forerunner and finished six seconds faster that the gold medal winner!

In 1934, Toni Seelos became the trainer of the German ski racer Christl Cranz, helping her to an Olympic gold medal in 1936 and to a total of 12 world championship titles. In 1937, he successfully trained the French national team. Toni Seelos ran the ski school in his hometown of Seefeld until the early 1980s.

Seefeld is however better known for cross-country skiing after hosting the Nordic events at both the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics as well as competitions during the 1933, 1985 and 2019 FIS Nordic Skiing World Championships. The 1963 Biathlon World Championships also took place in Seefeld in Tirol.The alpine skiing area is small and really only appropriate for beginners.

Seefeld is popular with walkers because of its plateau location; there are many attractive walks which don’t depend on climbing up and down mountains. However, the walks into the mountains are beautiful too, especially since the Karwendel is a huge nature reserve. It’s somewhere you can happily visit all year round!

Wordless Wednesday #108

Here’s another photo from one of my many #adventuresdownunder where there is so much wonderful scenery.

Postcard from Bolzano

My beloved who (to be honest) has very little say in where we holiday, expressed a desire to see Bolzano and I obliged by booking an overnight here on the way to Austria for our pre-Xmas vacation. Given its location in southern Tyrol, and proximity to the Austria border, as you might imagine this town has a long and rich history. 

Bolzano location on the Italy map

Ancient times
In prehistoric times the Bolzano area, largely marshland flooded by the three nearby rivers (Adige, Isarco and Talvera), was uninhabitable. Understandably the first human settlements were on much higher ground. In 15 BC. Druso, the adopted son of the Emperor Augusto conquered the Val d’Adige and Val d’Isarco areas and built a bridge (Pons Drusi) and an outlook post in the Bolzano area. Its exact location is unclear, but many claim it must have been near to the old town between the cathedral and the convent of the Cappuccini. The name Bolzano first appeared in 680 in its Latin form of Bauzanum, in the Historia Longobardorum by Paolo Diacono. However the name did not refer to an urban settlement but rather its former Roman landowner, Baudius.

The Early Middle Ages
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the region was invaded several times by the Goths, the French, the Longobards and the Bavarians. In 11th century the Emperor Corrado II gave the fiefdom to the Bishop of Trento who took the area occupied by a vineyard belonging to the monastery of Tegernsee, and promoted the foundation of a small development of what is now the Via Portici, a road full of commercial activity (a central communication point between North and South).

The city with wall and obligatory moat was built between 12th and 13th centuries. In 1222, it was devastated by fire with around 1500 deaths. In 1277, Bolzano came under the control of the Tyrolean counts and passed to the Habsburgs in 1363 who , increased its commercial prospects and expanded the area which is now the old town.

The Asburgo/Hapsburg dynasty
In 1363, Margherita di Maultasch, the last Tyrolian countess, abdicated in favour of the Duke of Austria, Rodolfo d’Asburgo who took care not to damage the commercial aspects of the flourishing city which in 1450 obtained the right to have its own mayor.

At the beginning of 15th century, Federico Habsburg thanked the city for its support during the struggle with the rebellious Tyroleans with the insertion of two Bolzano representatives on the town’s ruling body.

The 19th century
In 1797, Napoleon’s troops invaded the city but were driven back by the Italian and Austrian armies. In 1805, the Tyrol passed into Bavarian hands – then allied with Napoleonic France – and Bolzano was annexed to the Italic kingdom.  In 1814 the Tyrol returned to Austria and in 1919, post-WW1, the southern part of the Tyrol (South Tyrol) was annexed to Italy by the Treaty of Saint Germain, splitting the historic Tyrol area (which stretched from Borghetto, between Trento and Verona, to Kufstein) between the Tyrol and Bavaria) the consequences of which are still felt to this day.

A history of winners and losers

Shortly before the march on Rome (October 1922) fascists arrived in Bolzano and occupied it, removing the syndicate which had governed the city since 1895. Mussolini wanted to ‘Italianise’ the Alto Adige and its capital, Bolzano. The objective was to integrate immigrants coming from all over Italy.

In the 1930s the construction of the city’s industrial area began in earnest, which led to a further influx of workers. Teaching of German was forbidden and punishable, Italian was declared the official language, the use of the name ‘Tyrol’ was banned and the German language was banished from public life.

With the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria, Nazi Germany arrived in Brennero, and it was here that the alliance with Mussolini began. Il Duce obtained solemn declarations on the intangibility of the borders of Brennero, as well as the renunciation of the Reich’s claims on the former Southern Tyrol. In 1939, Italy and Germany signed an agreement for ‘options’: South Tyrol was to decide whether to go back to Germany or remain part of Alto Adige, renouncing all ethnic protection.

The roots of “special autonomy”
After WWII, a group of South Tyroleans founded the Suedtiroler Volkspartei (Popular Party of South Tyrol) in Bolzano requesting the right for self-rule for the German speaking population. In April 1946 the foreign ministers of the four great powers (United States, England, France and the Soviet Union) rejected the Austrians’ requests for a plebiscite for Alto Adige. In September of the same year, the president of the council of Italian ministers and the Austrian foreign minister signed the Treaty of Paris, which assured special measures for the South Tyroleans. It was agreed that primary and secondary schools would provide teaching in the German mother tongue, that both (Italian and German) languages would be used along side each other in the areas of public administration, official documents and place names.

In 1948, the Italian constitution ratified the first Statute of Autonomy whereby the two provinces of Bolzano and Trento would be unified in the Trentino-Alto Adige region. But in 1956 German protests exploded into what would become a long wave of terrorism which continued intermittently until 1988.

The issue was resolved in 1971, when a new statute of autonomy for the smaller, majority German-speaking province Bozen – Südtirol/Bolzano – Alto Adige, which was supported by the German-speaking population of South Tyrol, was granted by Italy. It resulted in a considerable level of self-government and the separatist tensions soon eased. 

Brush with history

We had our own mini-immersion in the city’s historic past when we walked around its streets and famous Christmas market before retiring to a local brewery to sample its brews. In addition, our overnight was spent in Castel Hörtenberg, a 500 year old plus mansion built by Leonard Hiertmair in one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods.

Hiertmair served four terms as the city’s mayor and in 1584 he obtained from the emperor the title of baron changing his family name from Hiertmair to von Hiertenberg and later into “von Hörtenberg”.

In 1862, with no male heirs, the castle was bought by Hieronymus Giovanelli,  who was related to von Hörtenberg family through his wife. The Giovanelli family owned the castle until 20th century when, upon the marriage of Baroness Maria Giovanelli von Hörtenberg  to Baron Ludwig von Fuchs, Castel Hörtenberg becomes part of the von Fuchs estate. Then, a few years ago, the owners sold it to the current owners, Podini family whose background is in real-estate.

The renovation of the mansion was entrusted to the youngest daughter who, together with her father Alex, has overseen every single step of the project. The result is a delightful blend of old and new: a mix of ancient history blended with an urban style and traditional craftsmanship.

The family also own a Tuscan vineyard and an olive grove near Lake Garda which produce an excellent bio-dynamic wine and cold pressed olive oil for the Castel’s guests.

 

 

Musical Monday: Radiohead

I’ve been promoting my favourite artists over the past few months, those that I’ve seen in concert more than once. Today’s the turn of Radiohead

Radiohead are an English rock band formed in 1985 and consisting of Thom Yorke (vocals, guitar, piano, keyboards), brothers Jonny Greenwood (lead guitar, keyboards, other instruments) and Colin Greenwood (bass), Ed O’Brien (guitar, backing vocals) and Philip Selway (drums, percussion). The band’s experimental approach is credited with advancing the sound of alternative rock.

Radiohead released their debut single Creep, in 1992. which became a worldwide hit after the release of their debut album, Pablo Honey (1993). Their popularity and critical standing rose with the release of their second album, The Bends (1995). Radiohead’s third album, OK Computer (1997), brought them international fame and much acclaim. Kid A (2000) marked a dramatic change in style, incorporating influences from electronic music, jazz, classical music and krautrock. It was followed by Amnesiac (2001), recorded in the same sessions.

Hail to the Thief (2003) was Radiohead’s final album for EMI. Their subsequent releases have pioneered alternative release platforms for their subsequent albums. Band members have released solo albums and even debuted a new band.

Radiohead have sold more than 30 million albums worldwide and their many awards include six Grammys and four Ivor Novellos. The magazine Rolling Stone named Radiohead one of the 100 greatest artists of all time, and Rolling Stone readers voted them the second-best artist of the 2000s. Five Radiohead albums have been included in Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time lists, and the band are the most nominated act in Mercury Prize history, with five nominations. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019.

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French Fancies: Galleries Lafayette

Last weekend I wrote about the rebirth of an iconic Parisian store now, here’s another albeit one which is still family-owned which also debuted in Paris. Plus, it’s my local department store at Cap 3000.

Galeries Lafayette is a French department store chain, the largest in Europe. Its flagship store is on Boulevard Haussmann in the 9th arrondissement of Paris but it now operates in a number of other locations in France and other countries, some of which it owns while others are franchised

How it all began

In 1893, two cousins from the Alsace, Théophile Bader and Alphonse Kahn, decided to open a shop selling novelty items in a small haberdashery on the corner of rue La Fayette in Paris.

The remarkable history of Galeries Lafayette • Come to Paris

The shop’s size and internal layout encouraged customers to move along the aisles in straight lines, which led to its name Aux Galeries Lafayette. While the venture was a bit of a gamble, the shop was in the perfect location, near to the Opera and the Grands Boulevards. Crowds of Parisians and visitors from out of town spilled out of the neighbouring Saint-Lazare railway station, attracted by the businesses in the area.

Histoire du magasin

In 1896, the company bought the whole building at number 1, rue La Fayette followed in 1903 by numbers 38, 40 and 42 on Boulevard Haussmann, as well as number 15, rue de la Chaussée d’Antin. The early years of the business were motivated by this bricks and mortar strategy, which resulted in an impressive acquisition of premises. All this was strengthened by its architecture, making it perfectly suited to the needs of commerce.

Bader entrusted the first major refurbishments of Boulevard Haussmann, completed in 1907, to architect Georges Chedanne. It was only really in 1912 that the store began to take on a new dimension and the flagship Galeries Lafayette store was unveiled. Bader had dreamed of creating a luxury bazaar where the sheer abundance and luxury of the merchandise on offer would wow the crowds! Golden light, filtered through the domed roof, would flood the grand hall and set the products aglow. The gamble paid off.

Great artists from the École de Nancy decorated this magnificent building in the style of Paris Art Nouveau. The bannister of the magnificent staircase, inspired by the Paris Opera House, was designed by Louis Majorelle, who is also credited with the ironwork featured on the balconies. The dome soon became the iconic symbol of Galeries Lafayette. Master glass-maker Jacques Gruber was responsible for designing the Neo-byzantine style stained glass windows.

The sales floor had suddenly doubled in size, but the innovations didn’t stop there! A tea room, reading room and smoking room were then added to complement the 96 existing departments. As more department stores began to appear, shopping was turning into a leisure activity. At the very top of the building, the rooftop terrace offered a panoramic view of Paris where the store began organising special events much to the delight of an entertainment-hungry clientèle.

To stand out from his rivals, Théophile Bader wanted to make sure that the latest fashions would be available to all. With this in mind, he set up and acquired production facilities to make clothing exclusively for Galeries Lafayette under its own private label.He was also keenly aware that fashion and customers’ tastes would constantly be changing. The Galeries Director devised an ingenious strategy to make sure the store was always up-to-date. He took himself off to the races and the opera, accompanied by a designer, who would discreetly copy the most stylish outfits designed by the most famous couturiers. Adjustments were made here and there and the outfits put into production as quickly as possible – a strategy now followed by many brands.

The store continued to grow and expand its product range, adding menswear, furniture, toys and tableware departments to its more traditional ranges. Unwavering in their mission to make design accessible to all, Galeries Lafayette extended its already firm commitment to fashion, to the world of applied arts and design. In 1922, it opened arts workshops under the artistic direction of Maurice Dufrêne in order to produce affordable furniture, fabric, carpets, wallpaper, pottery, and other household goods.Despite the recession in 1929, Galeries Lafayette embarked on further expansions on the Boulevard Haussmann. In 1932, the flagship store was renovated by Pierre Patout, in Art Déco style, with the addition of René Lalique bow windows.

Between 1941 and 1944, Galeries Lafayette’s founders were ousted during the Occupation and the business placed under the administration of the Vichy government until the Liberation. In the aftermath of WWII’s bleak years, the business began to stage an economic recovery.

To meet the challenges of the post-war period, Galeries Lafayette underwent a complete makeover. The flagship store kick-started its modernisation by unveiling the highest escalator in Europe, in the Christmas of 1951. Shortly afterwards, the interior halls were phased out of operation and, between 1957 and 1959, the building was raised by two more floors.

Architectural modernisation was accompanied by expansion of its product range, thanks to setting up a design office in 1952, creating the post of Fashion Director, sourcing products from abroad and launching new promotions. This new growth phase also saw the store play host to large international exhibitions such as the “The Best of Italian Manufacturing” and “Faces of India.” The accessibility of design for all remained the company’s key focus and it went on to devise the “Festival of French Design” in 1954.

Other events subsequently proved to be firm favourites with its customers like the classic “3J” promotion. Launched in October 1958, the store organised “A Day like no other”. It was a huge success and from October 1959 onwards, became known as “3J” which continues to this day.

In the early sixties, young designers began launching their ready-to-wear lines, sitting between haute couture and traditional tailoring. Each season Galeries Lafayette would showcase these new talents by providing them with small boutiques or concessions in the store.

In 1969 a new store was opened on the other side of rue de Mogador, initially dedicated to young fashion and christened “Le Club 20 Ans” and brought together several different product ranges (clothing, pharmacy, music) embodying this particular lifestyle.

In 1974, a further new chapter began with the removal of the legendary central staircase and then, a decade on, the central ground floor was reconfigured to make way for high-end boutiques.

In 1980 Galeries Lafayette created its “Fashion Festival” showering Oscars on the best designs created for the store followed in 1984 by the opening of its designer department with its “France has got talent”exhibition.

Recent Developments

At the turn of the century, the brand went even further upmarket and enlisted the services of Jean-Paul Goude to manage its public relations. The photographer would go on to breathe new life into the brand with his nonconformist campaigns, always embodying its core values.

RE)STORE | Department - Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann

In 2004 the Marks and Spencer store on Boulevard Haussmann was transformed into Lafayette Maison, following the company’s purchase of all Marks and Spencer stores in France in 2001. Since then, Galeries Lafayette has proudly enjoyed a triple presence on the Boulevard Haussmann.

In 2001, the Galeries Lafayette group decided to cement its links with contemporary design by creating the Galerie des Galeries, a free-entry art gallery on the first floor of the store, dedicated to exhibiting the cross-over between art, fashion and design.

Galeries Lafayette has remained a family business for five generations. It has transcended time, war and financial crisis to prove its unrivalled capacity for innovation – one of its core values.

In 2008, the management of the Group took the initiative to create a Heritage Department, with the aim of keeping the Group’s rich history alive, encouraging reflection on its true identity and strengthening the bond between the present and future organisation, and its history.

Over time, the Group has built up the international recognition of its iconic brands: Galeries Lafayette, BHV MARAIS, La Redoute, Mauboussin, Eataly Paris Marais, Galeries Lafayette-Royal Quartz Paris, Louis Pion and BazarChic. The Group supports the brands in their asset, digital and creative transformation through Lafayette Anticipations – Galeries Lafayette Corporate Foundation.

One of France’s leading private employers, the Galeries Lafayette group has built its identity on a set of fundamental values. Retailers since day one,  the Group anchors its identity in client service, which is at the heart of its every concern. For this, the Group’s employees reinvent retail, anticipating tomorrow’s evolutions, in order to make the French “Art of Living” always more accessible, in France as well as elsewhere.

(Images courtesy of Galleries Lafayette)

Silent Sunday #88

Another one of my many photographs of France.

The Musette: Kale and white bean korma

This creamy vegetable, protein and fibre-packed recipe only requires about 10 minutes of active cooking time and will simmer to perfection without tying you to the stove. Feel free to add any seasonal vegetables you have lying around — don’t feel constrained by my list of ingredients! This dish is everything you want it to be: hearty, warming, flavourful and healthy without feeling too virtuous. Serve over plain boiled rice, cauliflower rice, quinoa or with a flat bread and some Indian pickles or chutneys.

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 4 fat cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, minced
  • 500g (1lb) sweet potato/butternut squash/carrot, peeled and cubed
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 tbsp curry powder
  • 400g (14 oz) coconut milk
  • 2 handfuls (2 cups) kale/spinach/chard, roughly chopped
  • 425g )15 oz) cooked white beans/chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • I red chilli pepper (optional)

Method

1.Heat oil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion, chilli pepper and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 – 15 minutes, or until the onions are soft and translucent.

2. Stir in the garlic and ginger, then continue stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the sweet potatoes, tomato paste and curry powder and continue stirring for 10 minutes or until the potatoes begin to soften. You may need to add a spot of water if the ingredients start to stick.

3. Add the coconut milk, kale and beans to the pan.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft and completely cooked through.

4. Enjoy or leave in the fridge overnight for the flavours to mingle and re-heat the following day. Dress with a dollop of plant-based yoghurt and coriander.