Thursday, 14 December 2017

Vegan Christmas Cards

It is December so I reckon it is okay to mention the C word now (not that I haven't already).  Besides time is creeping on and if you want to do that whole Christmas card thing, it's about time you got on with it!  

Although I don't go mad with cards, I do like to send some.  However, I do struggle finding ones that fit how I feel about the season.  Not so this year as, with complete delight, I discovered a set of wonderfully bright, bold and very vegan Christmas cards in a shop in Glastonbury.  I've found out more about them since. 

The Seasonal Veggies range of Christmas cards by Go La La (pictured at the top) comes in 8 different designs created by a dedicated vegan.  You can read more about them in the link above, including how to buy them direct from the website and details on how to get your own local retailer to stock them.  Alternatively you can purchase any of the 8 designs from EBay.

There are it seems a few other options for vegan Christmas cards on the market too now.  Spreading the love around, I also chose to buy some from the Viva! website, one of which is pictured on the left.  With the bright colourful typographical vegan messages including 'Avo Merry Vegan Christmas', they were hard to resist. Do check out Viva's entire range from the link above.

I didn't just send these cards to vegans.  Of course I know it will put a smile on the faces of those vegans I did send to. I am also however hoping that these cards will stand out on the mantelpieces of the non-vegans too and just spread a little vegan thought throughout the festive season and beyond.

Here's to a more compassionate season to all creatures over the Festive period and beyond.  

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The Surfer's Oracle

Surfing should be a fun activity.  Above all else, if you're not having fun out there then what's the point?  There are sure to be people reading this who think the idea of climbing into a cold damp wetsuit in a windy car park in a hail shower in December is not their idea of fun in any way whatsoever.  Well, "each to their own" say the surfers, as they try not to think about that too much, and focus instead on getting out to the waves before hypothermia sets in.  All that is instantly forgotten as soon as the first wave is surfed.  Plus, surfing provides an excuse for a nice hot Pasty or two when you are back on dry land.  It's all about balance.

There are many factors that go into making a surf session fun, and one of the most important is timing.  A good days surfing (surfing being a relatively ephemeral activity), is made up of many confluences of natural factors like swell size, swell direction, the conditions of the sand banks (reef breaks being a rarity around these parts), the wind direction, having the right equipment for the conditions, and last but not least; the state of the tide.  Turn up too late, and you will have missed the best of it.  Too early and you'll be forced to wait it out, and bore everyone around you to death loudly making up stories about the last great wave you had.  This is one of surfing's great traditions worldwide.

A beginner surfer might turn up at the beach at random and 'hope for the best' conditions-wise, but a more seasoned surfer will make a study of the many aspects that make for a good surf, and time their surf accordingly.  Some surf spots work best at low tide, some at mid., and some at high tide.  Knowing which is which comes down to timing and experience, which can only really be learnt through putting in the work (play) over the years.  Technology in the form of smart phones and apps can provide some good info (if you can get a signal), but long before the days of checking the conditions or forecast on the Internet, surfers have been relying on the humble tide times for planning surfs.  The familiar yellow jacket of this yearly soon to be well-worn booklet has come to be a must have item for any regular surfer, other ocean user, or beach walker. 

Speaking of which, another very important function of the humble tide timetable is one of safety.  Every year in Cornwall, particularly around the holiday periods, there are stories about people getting cut off by the tide, and needing to be rescued by the emergency services.  Mostly the people do get rescued, but occasionally they do not, and that's easily done if they are exploring caves and cliffs that are off the beaten track.  This makes for some pretty grim news.  If these people had known about and checked the tide times before making their decisions, then they might still be alive today.  Indeed one of the many jobs the lifeguards perform on an incoming tide each summers day, is patrolling the beaches and caves making sure that people are not about to be cut off by the tide.  Having fished a few people out of the sea over the years, if I see someone walking towards a cave when the tide is coming in, I'll always check to see if they know what the tide is doing, and it's not unusual to be asked for this info by random strangers out walking the beaches.  Prevention is better than cure, and all that.  

I can't remember exactly when I first came upon the tide times booklets, but I do remember they were brought to my attention by my fellow vegan surf friend Dave, many many moons ago.  He also came up with the idea of charting his surfs in them, just as a way of counting up each years number of surf sessions, and as a way to compare conditions over the years.  Now I also make a point of noting the number of surfs, the size of the waves, which board I took out, the times when I change from summer to winter wetsuits or vice-versa, or when I put gloves on, etc., as the water temperature changes.  Probably very boring stuff if you don't go in the sea, but it makes for interesting reading if you surf.  Patterns emerge, and you might even think of planning holidays around favourable times of the year, like September, when the waves pick up and the summer crowds go home.  Of all the surfing essentials, this single item may well be both the cheapest and most important item of all, and those two don't go together very often these days.  Whether you live in Cornwall, or come to visit, it's well worth the £1.50 to pick up a copy of this little gem (for the area you are in), and keep it with you when you visit the beach.  It could prove to be a lifesaver.  You can find them for sale in many shops in Cornwall, or buy them HERE.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Cool Grapes and Cool Vibes

Best served chilled before positioning yourself in front of the fire!
We had the pleasure of visiting the Gloucester Vegan Christmas Market last weekend.  We needed some cheering up so thought why not?  It looked a fab event and we could take in the great Saturday Farmers Market in Stroud, a naughty vegan Chinese take-away from Tangtastic (now called Superstar), and a trip to the Wholefoods Market in Cheltenham to stock up on Christmas goodies at the same time.  Sadly we discovered the latter closed down permanently just over a week ago, but all the others certainly made the mini break very much still worthwhile.

It's not often you are delighted to see such a queue to get into an event, but that is what greeted us on Sunday, as we arrived at the opening time of 11am for the Gloucester Vegan Christmas Market.  It added to the anticipation, and what vegan is not delighted about the ever growing interest in the world of vegan?  It didn't take long for us to drop our entry fee and donation for Dean Farm Trust into the buckets at the entrance and get at the vegan goodies inside.  Having foregone breakfast in anticipation of the vegan food offerings inside, we started early and headed straight for Seitan's Grill.  Let's just say it was worth the early morning abstinence and lived up to the catch line of 'tasty as hell'!  We had hoped that starting early we would have had sufficient time (and tummy space) later on to sample more of the many food options on offer from the other food stalls, but sadly the wonderful seitan burger filled the gap more than sufficiently (seitan truly at work there?!).  The queues for food later on however, made us realise we had indeed made the right decision on getting in there early.

The multiple rooms of stalls inside meanwhile were a feast for our eyes in themselves.  It was difficult to know which way to turn such was the choice and variety of vegan delights.  You had to fight your way in order to get a glimpse, which as frustrating as it was, is also a thing of wonder in a vegan world.  

One such stall with a constant crowd of people in front of it was Cool Grapes.  With the stall dominated by a display of Vegan Baileys bottles, shining almost like the gates of heaven, it was no wonder.  Alan Clement, owner of Cool Grapes, gave up his career in IT to specialize in his passion for wines; more specifically organic and bio-dynamic wines (all vegetarian and vegan too).  I would have liked more time to have talked to Alan, as Phil and I do like our wine, but such was the demand on their stall, it was quite a whirlwind.  On returning home I took the chance to visit the Cool Grapes website and find out more about what they have to offer so do check them out if you are partial to a tipple or two of good quality vegan reds, whites, champers, sparkles, and even orange wine (read about this new fashion in the wine world on the website).

We had been fortunate enough to have also been visiting the Cool Grapes stall to claim the prize of a bottle of Prosecco, after I had entered and won the draw on the Gloucester Vegan Christmas Market Facebook page.  Alan gave us a wonderful description of what to expect from this bottle of sparkly vegan wonder, and we assured him it would very much be savored over the Christmas period.  

We also had a chance to sample one of the glasses of Vegan Baileys being sold on the stall.  I hadn't had Baileys since before I was vegan 30 years ago.  I had fond memories of it and had wondered whether I would still like it.  As Phil and I shared the glass we both confirmed that indeed it was creamy nectar of naughtiness and we simply had to purchase some.  We were extremely fortunate enough to be one of the lucky few who were able to purchase one of the bottles that were being sold off at the end of the day.  

All in all, it was a wonderfully successful and tasty weekend away and certainly, with two bottles of Cool Grapes goodies now safely back in Cornwall with us, it will continue to be enjoyed into the Christmas break!

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Make a Date With The Wild West Heroes 2018

Remember those days before computers when we used diaries and calendars to help us navigate our way through the complexities of how to fit too much into too little time?  Well, if like me you get irritated by the inhuman 'bing-bong' of an electronic device telling you what to do and when, you will no doubt be looking for a real calendar to hang upon your wall for next year.  Ahh, the good old days eh?  Apart from the fact that a real paper calendar is quieter, less irritating and nagging, you also get to look at lovely photos.  Make it even more of a win-win by splashing out on a charity calendar.

For anyone that loves calendars, Cornwall or animals, is vegan (or knows someone that is), wants to raise some funds for charity, or any combination of the above, it just so happens that we might know of the perfect solution.  The Cornwall Vegans Charity Calendar "Wild West Heroes" is a one-off design sold to support two wildlife charities in Cornwall; Cornwall Badger Rescue and Brock and Prickles and Paws Hedgehog Rescue.  Both of these charities are run by volunteers, and rescue and rehabilitate all sorts of wild creatures in Cornwall, and by buying this calendar you will be directly supporting their work.

The calendar itself, produced by Cornwall Vegans, features photographs and testimony from 12 vegan men who live in Cornwall and Devon, and explores their own individual natures and journeys.  Local vegans may even recognise some of these characters by face and reputation!  Let's face it ladies, any vegan man is a hero too!

The calendar was printed with solar power and is A4 opening up to A3.  There is plenty of space on it for making your own plans but helpfully a few special Cornish and animal related dates have also been added as well as bank holidays.  The cost of each calendar is £10 plus shipping, so if enough are sold that could be a very much needed financial boost for these two special Cornish animal charities.

To get your hands on your very own copy visit the Wild West Heroes Etsy page.  You can also read more about how the calendar came about on the Cornwall Vegans Calendar page.  And for even more details on the calendar, including more videos, check out the Cornwall Vegans Wild West Heroes Facebook page.  In the meantime, here is a plug from Mr October.....

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Pressing Issues

When it comes to our food we like to keep things as simple as possible.  We prefer to cook from scratch as often as we can.  If we do buy ready made items, the less ingredients the better and we certainly scoff at any ingredients not easily identifiable as natural (and obviously non animal).  This is one of the reasons we have tended to steer away from shop bought tortillas or wraps.  Even most of the supposedly more natural ones have a complicated and long list of ingredients.  For something so simple it is a wonder they manage to fit that many ingredients in them. 

For this reason and for a while now we have been talking about buying a press so that we can easily make our own tortillas and wraps.  Recently we finally got around to it and have to say there is no going back.  You could argue that a rolling pin would do the job just as well but no, this really is the 'kiddy' when it comes to quickly and easily producing a stream of freshly made tortillas.  At the end of a frustrating day at work it is also very therapeutic to press the hell out of something!

For tortillas the key ingredient is masa harina, which is made from corn kernels that are soaked in lime before being ground into a flour.  The wonder of home made tortillas with masa harina is that the only other ingredient you need is water.  Mixed into a dough, it is then pressed into your desired thickness and then dry fried (or cooked in various other ways for differing Mexican dishes).  It really is that simple, and definitely much tastier than the shop brought varieties. 

Maseca Masa Harina for Tortillas 1kGThere are plenty of suppliers of tortilla presses.  Preferring to avoid the aluminium and plastic ones, we recommend the cast iron varieties, but the top of the range ones are big bucks.  However, we managed to find an iron one for around £30.  Masa harina is available for around £4 for 1kg or less from various suppliers online.  

The Cool Chile Company brand can often be found in local health food stores.  Indeed the Cool Chile Company also sell packs of tortillas (found in the chiller or freezer departments of some health food stores) which are the purest on the market.

So if, like us, you prefer making simple, tasty, honest food it could be time for you to invest in a tortilla press and some masa harina.  If you do I'm sure it will soon become a pressing issue with you too!

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

A Night for Vegan Secret Supper Recipes

Vegan Secret Supper: Bold & Elegant Menus from a Rogue Kitchen by [Anderson, Mérida]Boy it's wild out there tonight.  That Cornish wind is thrashing the rain against the window in quite a temper.  The dark nights already have us turning to comfort food with glee but a night like this makes us want to push the boat out even more.

With this in mind we grabbed one of my many cookbooks off the shelf; one that we really hadn't explored as much as we should have done.  Vegan Secret Supper is a plethora of fancy dishes which belie the simplicity of the preparation of many of the recipes.  Even the titles of the recipes don't pretend to be what they aren't but mostly list the main contents of the dish in a mouthwatering and  simplistic manner. Take our first dish of the evening; Blue Corn Empanadas with Pecans, Black Beans, Mole Pipian, Red Cabbage and Avocado.  Okay granted, Mole Pipian sounds a bit fancy but it's really just a Mexican sauce that uses pumpkin seeds or squash seeds instead of chocolate.  Well okay, I have just realised that Empanadas probably sounds fancy but not to us down here in Cornwall (so by default surely it can't be fancy).  Empanadas are just basically Mexican pasties and we know all about pasties down in this neck of the woods.  

Admittedly we did go a bit 'off piste' with the actual recipe and it had nothing to do with the wine (that would be a slightly different spelling of 'off piste').  We didn't have blue cornmeal for the empanadas for a start so they weren't of the blue variety.  However, the results were pretty much totally inspired by the recipe and very nice too. Bizarrely yes we did have tomatillos in the freezer left over from a stock that my lovely and dear departed dad had grown for us.  

Next up was the Peanut Butter Brownie Cheesecake.  It didn't look anything like the photo in the book but really it tasted too good to worry about that.  Artistic licence was used again anyway as we really hadn't had the fore planning to soak our nuts beforehand.  You have to live in the moment after all surely?  Regardless, our store cupboard was sufficiently stocked to get through the list of ingredients with either the exact ingredient or a likely candidate and the results didn't suffer taste wise.  

Obviously we are not going to actually share these recipes as they are not ours to share. Should you however feel like cosying up with some slightly fancy but relatively easy to make food on a wild winters night, we recommend this tantalising tome of recipes.  It has a habit of making you feel all fancy but cosy at the same time!

To learn more about Vegan Secret Supper and Merida Anderson, the author visit the Vegan Secret Supper website.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Poetry in Action

The National Trust has come under huge fire recently for its controversial vote to allow trail hunting to continue on its land.  As an ex-hunt sab of over 20 years I was appalled by the result (as I know that kills still happen 'accidently' under this guise).  It needs to be stopped, full stop.

However, from our local perspective we are truly grateful for the existence of the National Trust. Call us NIMBY's if you like but in terms of preserving the Cornish coastline, the National Trust are pretty good (in fact we wish they would concentrate on that more, over some of the musty old houses they spend fortunes on).  

Having seen in recent years the continuing and seeming over development of the Cornish landscape, it is becoming increasingly important that the National Trust has the funding and campaigning power to preserve as much of our natural environment as possible; for the wildlife if nothing else. 

With this in mind, a recent National Trust project very local to us caught our eye.  It involved a local school, the most important audience to get on board for future-proofing the preservation of our environment and leading more conscious lives.  The students helped clear overgrown areas and were then asked to reflect on their experiences of the coastal habitat with poetry.  These poems were then displayed in intervals along one of our beautiful coastal footpaths for all to read and reflect on.  

The poem in the top photo was particularly poignant given the recent trail hunting vote.  We hope that the National Trust will take note of the powerful voice of our future when they read "We don't need to hunt or kill the environment".  For us, this gives us hope for the future.  These young people were not only inspired by the environment in a beautiful and creative way, but for many there is also an obvious love and need to protect it.  That should be nurtured.  

We should of course let the National Trust know how we feel and indeed money does talk.  However, rather than completely dismissing the National Trust for the dubious and outdated vote to continue trail hunting, we should also be remembering the good things that come out of such a powerful organisation.  Our local chough population after all might not be in such a good place if it didn't have this wild landscape to thrive in.  

So let's not let them off the hook, and let's continue to campaign against things that are wrong, but let's also recognise what is being done right.  It is human nature to complain about things that are not right but how many of us ever make the effort to share when something is done well?  

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

The Cornish wind and rain have started their true onslaught on our windows now.  Still at least it cleans the salt off the windows briefly and makes us feel less guilty about our shoddy lack of window cleaning ourselves throughout the year. It never seems worth it anyway as immediately after, if the salty wind doesn't dirty them again, the local seagulls seem to manage it with stunning regularity.  

Along with the Cornish weather showing its true autumn colours comes the first lighting of our open fire since last winter.  It is one of the saving graces of facing the long winter ahead.  It was the only form of heating we had when we first moved into our house 13 years ago.  Now though, even with central heating fitted, it is still a more cosy and very much important part of us psychologically surviving the winter.  There is a primordial comfort to just sitting in the orange glow of the roaring fire in your living room cave whilst the wind and rain argue it out with each other outside.  Driving back into the village after work, the smell of woodsmoke in the air and the sight of home fire smoke being sent sideways from chimneys by the onshore winds, has you scuttling inside with a certain amount of glee.

Unfortunately our fireplace isn't the sort that you can make use of for cooking, with the exception of chestnuts that is.  Where we live on the north coast of Cornwall, we don't have a proliferation of chestnut trees but in a recent visit to my mum in Kent, where my childhood village is surrounded in forest, fruit trees and hop farms, chestnuts are just one of the many foraged foods available at this time of year.  Phil took full advantage of that and we came home with a bagful just in time for the lighting of our fire.  

Granted the fire has to be just right; not too hot and not too cool, but with the bottom ashes raked aside the chestnuts can be cooked to perfection.  You also have to make sure you have cross slit the tops so that the chestnuts don't explode out of their shells, and this can be quite time consuming.  However, with just a few here and there roasted on an open fire, there is no doubt that the vegan caveman can definitely and deliciously be bought out in you.

Just remember though that too many and the forecast for wind may not be just for the outside weather!

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Vegan Delicatessen Takeaway

Vegan Delicatessen Takeaway

Exciting news has reached us today of a vegan takeaway delivery service and, best of all, it is in our neck of the woods.  

Vegan Takeaway Delicatessen is a 100% vegan takeaway delivery service for the Perranporth, Newquay and Truro areas of Cornwall.  The service will run for six evenings a week (not available Mondays) from Saturday 4th November.

Barbecued 'Pulled Pork' Jack Fruit SliderSeitan Doner KebabThis family run business, led by Lisa and Matt, who have been vegan for 6 months, aims to deliver real home cooked takeaway style comfort food direct to your door; an absolute first in this area from a 100% vegan company.  We could be wrong but we are unaware of any company that are currently providing this service so credit to them for coming up with this obvious but overlooked business opportunity. For those winter nights ahead when work has knocked the stuffing out of any idea of cooking something tasty from scratch, this is a delicious and naughty prospect for us!  

Mozzarella SticksIf this idea wasn't tempting enough, a look at their website will just tip you over the temptation edge.  Barbeque Seitan Ribs, Barbequed 'Pulled Pork' Jack Fruit Sliders, Panko Coated Better Than Chicken Wraps, Seitan Doner Kebabs and Southern Fried Spicy Better Than Chicken Burgers feature as the mains currently on offer, whilst the sides include, amongst Curly Fries and Potato Wedges, the very alluring Mozzarella Sticks.  There are even Chocolate Chip and Pecan Brownies available to top it all off for dessert.

To help their new business get off to a flying start they are offering 10% off your first order of £15 or more for any day if you pre-order on their website before 31st October.  Just take a look at their website and use the code - Pre-Order10%off!

Check out the full range, delivery details and prices at Vegan Takeaway Delicatessen.  They also have a Facebook page if you wish to keep up with the latest news from this deliciously new vegan company.  We wish them all the best in this new venture.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Rustling up Russula Tacos

We've been talking a lot recently about wild mushrooms (did you notice?) and also our last post touched on our love of Mexican food.  Recently we combined both by making some tacos with wild mushrooms as the main theme.  Ideally we would have used our own homemade tortillas to make this recipe but we had a part-used pack of shop bought taco shells to use up so employed these.

Having multinational culinary tendencies, our plates on this occasion crossed borders and continents; and why not?  So along with the Mexican tacos, Phil travelled all the way to Spain and cooked up an Iberian influenced stew before dropping down to the Middle East and creating a Yeminite rice dish with the help of Zhoug spice paste.  

Our friend Dominic, Master of Spicing, Pickles, and Chutneys (among his various other artful skills) had put us onto Zhoug paste a few years ago.  The ingredients can vary, from simple to complex, and can include blends of fresh coriander, parsley, and cloves, with a delicate background of basil, cardamon, cumin, chilli, and Phil's nemesis; garlic.  We never did get around to making it ourselves before we discovered it for sale ready made by Belazu.  Phil has since explored its use in many ways but the simplicity of this rice dish really lets the flavour sing all on its own.

Talking of simplicity, and returning to the centre stage, the tacos here were made predomantly with Yellow Russula mushrooms (among a few others - see the photo left and bottom) we found out whilst foraging but they could be made equally as well with any mushrooms you buy in the shops.

Phil made all these dishes separately but when it comes to serving a taco plate, they could be piled on in any combination, along with lettuce, tomatoes and avocado to your liking. Tacos don't have rules or borders and neither should any plate of food!

Oven Roasted (Yellow Russula) Mushroom Tacos

15-20 Yellow Russula mushrooms (or alternative)
Vegan Worcestershire sauce
Franks Redhot Original Sauce
Cholula Chipotle Hot Sauce
Sprinkle of salt

Slice up the mushrooms quite chunkily and chuck into a baking dish.  Splash on the Worcestershire Sauce, and both hot sauces, along with the sprinkle of salt and a little splash of oil.  Do all this to taste and to coat the mushrooms.  You'll know how much!  Roast in the oven on about 200 degrees C for 30 minutes until nice and golden. Towards the end of the cooking time, put your tacos in the oven to heat up.  Load your mushrooms into your warm tacos either on their own or with whatever feels good.

Add lettuce, tomatoes, and avocado to the plate - that is always good!

Iberian Stew

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion sliced
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon hot paprika
1 large red pepper sliced
1 large yellow pepper sliced
2 tablespoons tomato puree
1 tin of chickpeas
1 teaspoon vegan stock powder
Water to just cover
2 Taifun tofu weiners sliced in 1" chunks
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander

Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion to saute until soft.  Add the 2 types of paprika, and stir in for 30 seconds, then add in the peppers and continue to cook for a further 5 mins.  Add the tomato puree and mix well, then all the other ingredients except the coriander.  Cook for a further 5 mins, and then add the coriander just before serving.

Zhoug Rice

1 1/2 cups white basmati rice, washed well and drained
2 tablespoons Belazu Zhoug Spice Paste
3 cups boiling water

Mix all of the above into a saucepan, bring back to the boil, and then turn down to a slow simmer and cook for 10 minutes.  Then leave to rest for 10 mins.