Friday, 16 March 2018

Dehydrator Experiments of a Sausage Kind

We've been wanting to get a dehydrator for years.  A steady stream of vegan recipes requiring one, gluts of home produce and foraged items crying out for being squirrelled away for the winter months, and the ability to enjoy cheap, homemade, and unpackaged crisp kale chips had tormented us.  We finally took the financial leap of faith and bought one.  We are so glad we did.

Kale chips alone have made it worth it. Oven dried ones are one thing but dehydrated ones beat them hands down. Zucchini Flax Wraps from The Art of Raw Living Food were a total winner too.  Then there has been our little experiment to create our own version of Rawsage, a powerfully flavoured beast of a raw vegan sausage made by Lifefood, a company based in the Czech Republic.  The nearest place we can find them is over the border in Devon so we thought we'd give it a go and make our own version based on the ingredients list.  It turns out flavour wise we seem to have nailed it.  A little more work may be needed on the texture to replicate them authentically but that hasn't stopped us from woofing them down far too quickly.  These beauties will go on the list for 'snacks to take on hikes' for sure.

If you don't have a dehydrator we thoroughly recommend you seek out a Rawsage or few.  We've found them in Ethica in Plymouth (100% vegan store which also offers online shopping) and also Greenlife in Totnes.  You can order them online direct from Life Food too.  If you do have a dehydrator and want to give our version a go, well here you go....

Driftwood Vegans Raw Sausage Snacks
Made 8 big sausages or could have made 16 normal size ones of 25g each (might try that next time!)

160g Brazil nuts
1 clove garlic chopped
1 small shallot chopped
82g raisins 
40g hulled hemp seeds
6g caraway seeds 
4g dried oregano 
Pinch chilli powder
91g sun dried tomatoes (soak in warm water for at least 10 minutes)

Finely chop up the Brazil nuts in a food processor then add the garlic, shallot, raisins and hemp seeds and process more until quite fine and well mixed.  Tip out into a bowl.  You'll use the processor again in a minute so don't wash it yet.

Grind the caraway seeds, oregano and chilli powder until fine.  Add to the mix in the bowl.

Drain the sun dried tomatoes (keep the soaking water) and chop finely in the food processor.  I made the mistake of not doing this separately and there were some big chunks of tomatoes left in the mixture, so I would definitely ensure they were more finely chopped next time.  Once chopped, add to the mixture in the bowl and stir thoroughly together.

If the mixture doesn't look like it will stick together, add some of the tomato soaking water spoonful by spoonful until it does, but don't overdo this.  Basically you want to shape the mixture into sausages (or whatever shape you like).

Dehydrate at the living foods setting (105F/40C) until firm.  Ours took at least 36 hours.


Sunday, 11 March 2018

Taparty Vegan Paella Class

Rice and vegetables.  Feeding the world since, well, forever really.  You can't really go wrong with rice and vegetables, whether your taste preference is for Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, Italian, Indian, French, or in this case Spanish cuisine.  Eaten and loved the world over, rice has been the staple food of many and varied countries for thousands of years, and will continue to be so hopefully.  Red, white, black, brown, wild, or highly polished, rice crosses borders and forges cross-overs between cuisines, countries, and people.  In this spirit, you may want to check out the above vegan paella class with Taparty at Devoran (near Truro) village hall.  

Taparty Spanish Food Services, led by Madrid native Ana Lozar, is a traditional Spanish food business based in Cornwall.  Although not a completely vegan business Ana has certainly been strongly supportive of the vegan community in Cornwall and has catered for vegan events at Mount Pleasant Eco Park.

This paella class is the first vegan one Ana has offered and will involve cooking two different vegan paellas; one with smoked grilled vegetables and the other with pulses and boiled vegetables.  Tickets for this three hour class are £18 plus a small booking fee. Details on how to book are available via the Facebook events page or alternatively give Ana a shout direct with the phone number or email address in the photo at the top.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Head Over Heels in Love with Kevin Keegan

Pie.  We love pie.  We love this pie.  In Bristol they'd say 'Gert Lush'.  In Devon they'd say 'Proper Job' but down here in Cornwall we'd say 'E's some boy'.  End of post.  Nuff said.  Oh okay then I guess we should really write more to explain.  

First there was Gary and now there is Kevin.  We got our hands on Kevin at the weekend and can confirm that 'e's some boy'.  Kevin is the first vegan pie from Bristol based family bakers Pieminister.  We'd actually never heard of Pieminister but obviously when they started making vegan pies, they fell onto our radar.  If this is their first attempt they would be amiss not to continue on the vegan pie making front.  Drop the other stuff guys and make more Kevin's, Dave's, Fred's and Harry's'.  We returned to try and buy more Kevin's today only to find that all the vegan ones were gone and all the meaty ones were still there.  That is surely enough proof right?  Go with the Vegan Revolution.

By now you might be asking why the hell is a pie called Kevin?  Well it makes slightly more sense than Gary and is just as funny.  Kevin Keegan, vegan.  I'm originally from the south east so a bit of Cockney rhyming slang is never lost on me.  If you don't know who Kevin Keegan is; well you lucky young thing.  

Accredited by the Vegan Society, Kevin's pastry is flaky yet crisp and perfectly encases the tasty offerings inside.  Ethically sourced, the ingredients list also contains items that you actually recognise rather than a list of things you have to try and work out.  The filling is a ragu style combination of British chestnut mushrooms, tomato and red wine with baby onions, red quinoa and thyme.  Perfect for a winter's night after a hard day at work.  

Available in the chiller section of Waitrose stores, Kevin retails at £3.70 each or, until 20th March, there is a 2 for £6 offer.  For us mostly 'cook from scratch' vegans that might seem quite a lot.  However, for those evenings after work when you just want an easy life, these hefty offerings are worth their weight in pie gold.  You can also order boxes of pies online direct from the Pieminister website. In addition, Pieminister have a series of restaurants, cafes and pubs that serve their full pie menu.  Details are on the website.

Whilst we might be head over heels in love with Kevin the pie, we aren't quite as sure about the real Kevin Keegan's proclamation of love back in 1979; unless of course he had a premonition and is singing about Kevin the Vegan Pie!  Either way, nice flares Kevin, but even better pie.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Driftwood Vegans Go Dutch

Birthday treats saw us country bumpkins taking the unusual step of booking a city break. This is not our natural environment, but we figured that the vegan hunting and gathering may present a very different experience to what we are used to.  Our chosen destination was Amsterdam.  Scooby had come here 30 years ago on an art college trip (nuff said) and with memories fond but hazy had been curious to return to explore as a discerning adult. Phil was happy to tag along as a willing victim, curious about the seemingly prevalent vegan food options and free-wheeling open minded Dutch attitude.  With a short hop across the Devon border to Exeter, we were on a flight to The Dam.

Our holidays normally revolve around Miles Davis, our camper van, parked up in an isolated spot.  We are creatures of quiet reflection and the biggest party animal we'd encountered on our trips so far had been a wild boar in Portugal.  Therefore finding accommodation in Amsterdam, party capital of Europe, could have been a challenge.  However, we hit on city centre gold.  Situated in the Western Dock (Westerdok) area, a short stroll past resident canal boats to the city centre, we found the Studio Apartment to be astonishingly quiet, warm and comfortable.  The host, Judith de Klerk seemed to have everything covered. Helpful travel suggestions were sent beforehand, keys handed over without fuss and with a strict no smoking policy, environmentally friendly cleaning products in evidence throughout, thoughtful shopping bags provided and suggestions of nearby health food stores, it seems that had delivered more than normally expected. In a secure residential block, the open plan and high ceilinged apartment included a really useful kitchenette and fridge that meant that any bought vegan products could also be explored and cooked up too if necessary; an option not available in a standard hotel room.  Thoughtful supplies of oils, herbs, spices, sugar and teas, along with other staples had also been provided.  Best of all there were no party animals in the room next door or the street outside; an inevitable consequence of most other accommodation options we looked at.  We would thoroughly recommend this accommodation and it really did make our trip to Amsterdam.

After a 4.30am wake up call to catch our early flight we were quite relieved to find our travel from the airport to the accommodation was amazingly easy.  In fact, it has to be said that Amsterdam is a joy to travel to and within.  The public transport system is easy to work out, reliable and cheap.  Judith had also very kindly agreed to let us check in early in order to drop our bags off so the rest of the afternoon was ours to explore. 

The Dutch Weed BurgerWith general amblings around to get the ambiance in the near locale, including a recommended open air market, we then resolved to walk the longer distance and search out our first of one of the recommended vegan food offerings; The Dutch Weed Burger Joint. This had come up consistently as a place to visit on the Vegan Amsterdam Facebook group that we joined prior to our visit.  Before anyone starts putting the words Dutch, Weed, and Joint together and coming up with High, I would like to point out that this establishment deals purely in the weed of the sea variety.  As lovers of seaweed (any coastal dwelling vegan would be amiss not to be), this was our first choice to explore of the many and varied vegan eating options available in Amsterdam.  I went for the Wish 'N Chips which were protein rich soya bean bites fried in chlorella batter served alongside chips, caramelised lime slices and Weed sauce with capers.  Phil went for the Seawharma; grilled seitan flavoured with Dutch seaweed and Arabic spices wrapped in a flat bread with various vegetables, garlic Weed sauce and tahini sauce.  Both were very tasty with my option winning our taste test comparison on this occasion.  

This was certainly food we had not tasted before and for this reason we would recommend a visit.  Our only criticisms were the portions were small and we'd have preferred our drinks before we ate (we had to even remind them that we had ordered drinks when the food order arrived).  The smaller than expected portions however did have a slight advantage in that we had room for dessert.  Phil chose a Strawberry Cheesecake whilst I settled on the interesting looking Tompouce (picture left).  I was told it was a veganised version of a traditional Dutch dessert.  I was sold.  So was Phil who wished he had gone for my option once again.  It was a decadent glory of a vegan cream slice that I would willingly indulge in again and I was far too generous with sharing it with Phil (but it was his birthday trip after all).  The food had gone down very well and the (if not belated) drinks were starting to take effect.  In the fading light outside I was sure I had seen green parrots in the trees.  I'd only had one glass of wine and Phil a very veritable BioZisch Matcha so I did wonder. However, after some window gazing observation, it was confirmed there were indeed green parrots flying around in the trees outside.  Who knew?  We walked home through the icy streets taking a small diversion to visit Ekoplaza, a chain of organic supermarkets in Amsterdam just to see what vegan offerings were around.  Many of the brands were ones already available in the UK but we did find a few different things.

The next day we had hoped to visit another highly recommended vegan restaurant called Mr and Mrs Watson for our evening meal.  However, after looking online we discovered that they were heavily booked with only slots available later than we would have liked to have eaten (after 8.30pm).  They were also closed on Mondays so a trip there tomorrow was out too.  We had a couple of alternatives up our sleeve for later and so proceeded to continue to amble around taking in the sights and sounds, whilst trying to avoid being run over by bicycles. 

We'd been lured to the De Pijp area having read that it was a slightly more alternative area and outside of the more touristy city centre stronghold.  Sunday wasn't a great day to choose though as many things, including the Albert Cuypmarkt there, were closed.  We did however happen upon Veg-out, an Indian vegetarian takeout (with seating inside too) as a candidate for a spot of lunch.  With the lure of masala dosas and vegan lassi, we ventured in.  Unfortunately, there were no dosas on offer and the options were fairly limited today.  In addition we both needed the toilet and Veg-out didn't have such facilities, so we moved on.  Down the road slightly was the large HSB Vegetarian Indian Restaurant, a chain we had not heard of before.  The menu looked really good and we ventured in here too.  However, it was so crowded that, despite the wonderful aroma of Southern Indian cuisine, we turned tail and left.  Along the same road our eye was caught by the words 'healthy, vegan, and pastry'.  The window of Luza's Caffeine Club was adorned with tasty looking cakes.  It looked like a chilled out vibe within too.  We settled into seats, and the attentive and cheerful guys working there soon offered us the vegan choices for today.  We started with a couple of chai lattes made with coconut milk, and for food Phil chose the homely, tasty and warming Broccoli and Celeriac soup whilst I was honoured with being the first to try the new menu option of a  Roasted Vegetable sandwich.  I must admit I had expected just standard roasted vegetables between a couple of slices of bread but what I got far surpassed that. This was an unexpected but beautifully dressed and seasoned combination of aubergine, carrot and cucumber atop a toasted bun.  It was beautiful, simple and tasty.  There were two vegan cake options on offer; a cinnamon cake and a lemon cake (which was more like a cheesecake).  We had to have one of each of course and both were delicious.  We have to say that Luza's Caffeine Club is not an exclusive vegan or even vegetarian establishment but the vegan options they do offer were excellent.  In addition, out of all the places we ate in Amsterdam, Luza's wins hands down on the friendliness of the staff and the welcome we received.  Warmed with full bellies and full smiles, we continued our exploration of Amsterdam's chilly streets.

Amsterdam is well known for its open minded attitude towards cannabis.  It has numerous 'coffee shops' that offer two menus; one for food and drink and one for a selection of herbal smoking materials.  As non smokers these coffee shops offered no attraction within their dark, smoky, and crowded depths.  That said we are still both very much open minded about the benefits of sensible cannabis use and a visit to the Hash, Marijuana and Hemp Museum was a fascinating insight into this amazingly versatile and unfairly demonised plant.  For any non smoking vegans wishing to explore further, head to the light, airy and friendly Greendayz.  Here a healthy lifestyle is encouraged, and sensible, considered advice given.  Alongside tasty smoothies, juices and hot drinks, we noticed vegan hemp ice cream and for the more adventurous, vegan brownies and cookies which offered an edible option for exploring cannabis in its more mentally stimulating form.  Greendayz was the only place that we saw these kind of vegan products on offer, which was surprising for a place such as Amsterdam.  We had heard of a place called Mumu to the Moon that offered 100% vegan chocolate, as well as vegan 'edibles' but sadly we were unable to experience their chocolaty delights as we were not able to catch them when they were open during our visit.

Image may contain: 1 person, textAs early evening approached we settled on a trip to Men Impossible for our evening meal. A fully vegan establishment, Men Impossible offers a set menu including freshly made ramen noodles and soup.  

Despite looking back at the information available about this place and now clearly seeing, we had failed to notice at the time that it was reservation only.  After a short search we found the rather unassuming frontage of Men Impossible and then saw the 'Reservation Only' sign on the door.  Undeterred and with a little bit of staring through the window we went in just to check if this really was the case. Luckily for us (not so much for Men Impossible though), a party that had booked had failed to show up so we secured seats at the one long table.  After initial confusion about how to order we soon had tasty starters in front of us from the lovely Atsushi.  Although fairly proficient chopstick users, luckily they slowed us down a little from engulfing the food at an unacceptable speed.  The same with the main event.  It was all such tasty stuff and perfectly rounded off by a spot of green tea.  Again, and as was the case with the Dutch Weed Burger Joint, we found the portions to be rather small.  Perhaps we are just greedy vegans?!  Regardless, it had been a very tasty experience and one that we had both enjoyed.  With lovely tastes still in our mouths, we strolled through the now darkened streets back to our cosy apartment.

Our last day was a Monday and we found that some of our choices were limited by Monday closing, not something we had expected to happen in a big city.  After a slightly lazy start, partly due to extracting ourselves out of our lovely warm apartment and into the icy air outside, we had a plan for hunting down today's food experiences.  TerraZen was fairly close by and had decent reviews on HappyCow and with the promise of a combination of Caribbean and Japanese tastes, we were keen to give it a go.   We entered and found the room empty until a guy came from behind the counter and said that the chef hadn't arrived yet.  However, she then walked through the door and we ordered from the chalk board by the counter.  We chose the Vegan Plate and the Jamaican Plate and at €16 each we expected a fair amount of food.  Sadly we were disappointed. Some of the food was really quite tasty but the rice was either microwave cooked or (hopefully not) reheated.  The matcha lattes we had were the worst we had ever encountered.  We felt this place had real potential, but with staff seemingly disinterested, we were left to feel neither the food or the ambiance were something we would like to repeat. This was yet another establishment where toilets were unavailable, a fairly incomprehensible thing really for a sit down restaurant!  Upon revisiting HappyCow reviews it seems that since our visit, things have been pretty much as we found it at TerraZen.  Such a shame.  

Still hungry we headed for Vegabond, which is a vegan store and cafe a short hop around the corner.  We had high hopes with the promise of vegan doughnuts, a warm comforting drink and the use of toilets.  Although we are sure that a nice drink might have been available, the lack of toilets or any doughnuts meant we had a quick look around the vegan items available in the inclusive shop before we hot footed it out of there in search of that elusive thing in Amsterdam called a toilet.  We found relief by basically bustling into larger restaurants and either just confidently heading straight for the toilets before anyone had the chance to stop us, or asking if the latter was too boisterous!  Some places charge for the privilege which always 'gets our goat'.  Sorry but finding somewhere to have a wee should be easy and free in our world! 

With our day largely disappointed with vegan food we settled on adding a little culture to the afternoon.  Phil had expressed an interest in visiting the Van Gogh Museum.  A very easy and warm tram ride away, we found ourselves in a long queue in the freezing cold just to buy tickets.  This queue was potentially at least an hour long wait and then once you have tickets, the queue to get in the door didn't look that quick either.  We hadn't expected this but perhaps our country bumpkin naivety was creeping in again.  We decided against queueing in the cold.  We headed back into town, wandered around for a final time before grabbing some supplies, including some beers from a supermarket, and returning to our cosy apartment to cook up our own vegan feast.

We admit to being slightly disappointed in the vegan food options not necessarily in regards to taste but more in terms of portion sizes and price but we are not used to city prices so that might not come as a surprise to others.  We were also surprised by the need to make reservations (at vegan establishments I guess that is a good thing as it shows the popularity) and the closure of some places on Mondays and Tuesdays; something to consider with the timing of your visit.

Another thing to be prewarned about is that many places we visited didn't accept cash.  We took cash with us to use as every time we use our cards abroad we get charged a fee so this was definitely something that had we known beforehand we would have looked into and got a prepaid card of some sort.  One place that did accept cash then refused small coins! Apparently the Dutch government had decided that smaller euro coins would not be used nationwide!  Finally, prepare for having a little search for a toilet when you are out and about and don't assume that the restaurants will have one you can use!

Our short city break in Amsterdam was certainly enjoyable and took us outside of our usual holiday experiences.  The main thing we learnt was that, with a little more research beforehand, we could have had a slightly better experience and that is the main thing we would like to pass on to other visitors to the city.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Snow, Shiny Sweets and Steaming Seitan

Well the snow finally reached us here in Cornwall and threw the whole county into its usual panic. Even I, once a Dartmoor dwelling snow driving demon, get a bit freaked out now by the white stuff.  Too many times caught out on the main roads of Cornwall before even reaching the small lanes to home, have made me soft.  Luckily for me, my workplace made the sensible decision this time to close.  I was able to make it home through the chaos that preceded the main chaos and watch it all unfold from beside the fire and in a warm kitchen.

I haven't had a whole load of time recently for culinary experimentation (hence the lack of blog posts with recipes).  There have been some work things to consider and deal with from home during these past few snowbound days but on the whole it did open up some unexpected time to hole up in the kitchen.  

Whilst others cleared the supermarket shelves in panic of a couple of snowy days, I opened our pantry door and basked in the glory of knowing that our stocks would probably last us through the whole winter.  It is in moments like these that our love of food shopping and well stocked cupboards come into their own.  Pretty much everything that others are rushing out to buy, we could make with our supplies.  That includes chocolate.  The idea of being trapped in the house didn't bother me but the idea of being trapped in the house with Phil when our chocolate supplies ran out did.  To him, chocolate is essential and I couldn't chance a chocolate withdrawal situation.  With that in mind, the first thing I made was chocolate.  Our recent discovery and making of pistachio ice cream led me to the idea of making pistachio chocolates.  What could possibly go wrong with that combo?  Nothing it seems, apart from if I hadn't managed to take a photo before Phil woofed them.

Pistachio Chocolates

Makes about 18 to 20 chocolates depending on what molds you use.  You could also make into a flat slab of chocolate too.  Be creative!  If I'd had any pistachio nuts I might have added some to the mix for chunky nuttiness.

Melt 60g of cacao butter in a bowl over a saucepan of warm water.  Once melted add 3 tablespoons of cacao powder, 2 tablespoons of pistachio butter, 1 tablespoon of lucuma powder, 30g liquid sweetener (I used yacon syrup because I had some left but would have used maple syrup if not) and some vanilla essence or powder (I used a sprinkling of vanilla powder).  Mix well ensuring all the pistachio loveliness is well incorporated.  Pour into your molds and put in the freezer (if you are impatient) or the fridge to set.  Unmold then store in the fridge.  Hide from Phil if you want some for yourself.  Enjoy!

Next up, I wanted to make some vegan meaty staples to last a few days so it was on to the seitan.  I'm always experimenting with seitan. One day I will kidnap Dawn and Paul from the Cornish Vegan and make them tell me their secret chick'n seitan recipe, but in the meantime I continue to try lots of different recipes (from cook books and from overnight rambling thoughts).  This time I had the idea of using a mixture of sun dried tomatoes and mushrooms for an Italian sausage theme.  I mixed up the vital wheat gluten flour with some self raising flour this time too (I often mix it with varying flours).  Baking (the big sausage in the photo) and also steaming then baking (the smaller sausages) were also used as different methods.  Some of the results may have looked (ahem) a little like dog turds but they were tasty and it is definitely a flavour combo I will use again.

Sun Dried Tomato and Mushroom Seitan Sausage

We have used the sausages so far in an Italian style bean stew and still have loads left over for other creative culinary uses.

80g dried sun dried tomatoes
A handful of dried mushrooms
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder (I used quite mild stuff but adjust to taste)
2 teaspoons dried Mediterranean herbs (mixed dried herbs would be fine too)
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
2 tablespoons soya sauce
2 cups vital wheat gluten flour
1 cup self raising flour

Put the tomatoes and mushrooms in a bowl and add boiling water to cover.  Throw in all the rest of the ingredients except the two flours, mix and then let it soak for at least 20 minutes.  

Tip the whole soaking mixture, water as well, into a blender.  I used a Nutribullet.  Whizz it all up.  I then made the mixture up to 1 pint with water just to give some precision with measurements (and I couldn't have fitted any more liquid in the Nutribullet before whizzing anyway!).

Put the two flours into a large bowl and then add in the wet mixture.  Stir it all up and then get your hands in and give it a bit of a kneading.  The mixture was wetter than I had been used to before but I went with that (part of the experimenting!).  

Cut bits of greaseproof paper and foil to size (depending on the size of sausages you want).  Roughly shape each sausage on top of the greaseproof paper and wrap up tightly before then wrapping tightly in foil.  

I steamed the small sausages for about 30 minutes before then unwrapping and baking for a further 30 minutes in the oven at 200 degrees C.  The larger sausage I left wrapped and baked for about an hour at the same temperature.  The larger one was slightly doughy still so I cut off slices and baked a little while longer to crisp up a little more.  

Both versions of cooking worked well.  Next time I might try the same recipe but simmer unwrapped first before then cooking further in whatever recipe we are then making it for.

Enjoy and experiment!

As I finish this post, the snow has now been consumed by rain; the more usual Cornish winter weather!  The chocolate has all been consumed too; the more usual Driftwood Vegans household situation.  We do however still have seitan supplies for another meal.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Electro Tropical Beats and Vegan Tapas

Get your Cornish dancing clogs on this Saturday 24th February for a night of Latin American infused food and grooves at Mount Pleasant Eco Park at Porthtowan.  

This extremely vibrant venue (and now the annual home for the Cornwall Vegan Festival), is playing host to electro tropical band Camo Clave who combine traditional Latin American rhythms and synthesisers, effects and processors.  This lively Bristol band look like they will add a very much needed blast of tropical warmth to a predicted chilly February night.  

Tickets for the gig only are £8 but you would be a fool if you didn't get yourself an advanced combined supper and gig ticket for a very reasonable £18, as the Latin American infused music is complemented and preceded by a delicious vegan tapas supper.

Taparty Spanish Food Services, a new and traditional Spanish food business based in Cornwall, is providing a selection of tapas, pinchos and other traditional Spanish dishes, each one distinctive of the different regions of Spain.  Ana Lozar, owner of Taparty, was born and raised in Madrid so you can be sure this menu will offer true authenticity.  I couldn't find details of the vegan menu on the website but according to the email I have just been sent it is as follows.

The Menu will consist of :

Pisto - Vegetable Stew
Buñuelos de Patata - Deep fried potato balls with garlic and parsley
Berenjenas con sésamo tostado - Deep fried aubergine with toasted sesame seeds
Patatas Revolconas - Boiled potatoes fried with onions, garlic & paprika
Champiñones al Ajillo - Garlic Mushrooms

To get your tickets for either the gig or the combined supper and gig, and for further details, get yourself on to the website quick.  At the time of writing there only appear to be 30 tickets left!

Monday, 19 February 2018

The Game Changers

We've said it before, but this really is an amazing and game changing time for the vegan movement.  It seems like every day there is a new film out, or another vegan being given time on mainstream television or radio, even if we still have to fight all the old cliches and say the same things, over and over again.  It really is starting to pay off though.  So many people have woken up to the lies they have been brought up on, pushed by the mainstream media, big agribusiness, and the pharmaceutical industry.  Supermarkets are falling over themselves thinking of ways to sell more plant based dishes, even if they are sometimes barking up the wrong tree, like trying to sell Cauliflower 'steaks' and Mushroom 'mince' for ridiculous prices.  A few are bringing out their own vegan ranges, and all are expanding shelf space for vegan friendly products.  The times really are a changing.  

The massive impact that the films Cowspiracy and What The Health had, and are still having, on this movement is probably the greatest single contributing factor towards this unprecedented growth in plant based eating.  Yes there have been plenty of others, but these two films seem to have found the 'magic formula' for converting so many people to plant based diets and the vegan cause.  As truthful and harrowing as some of the other more graphic films are, they can turn some people off due to the fact that those people just don't want to face up to the reality of their food and clothing choices, and will point blank refuse to watch scenes of animal abuse and slaughter, as they 'love animals' and hate seeing them hurt.  Cognitive dissonance is the technical term for this hypocrisy.  

There will soon be another film out; one that has the potential to hopefully have even more impact than the 'big two' mentioned above.  It will, as the saying goes, be a game changer.  So much so that they decided to call it that.  The Game Changers has already premiered to rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival, and is getting its European premiere soon in Germany.  From what we have seen so far, it is going to be huge.  Executive directed by James Cameron (yes, he of Avatar and Titanic fame), and directed by Louie Psihoyos (The Cove and Racing Extinction), it tells the story of James Wilks, an elite special forces trainer and winner of 'The Ultimate Fighter', as he travels the world to find the truth behind the protein myth; that we supposedly need animal protein to survive. The trailer was only released yesterday, so do check it out below.

Some of the characters featured in the film will perhaps be familiar if you have seen Cowspiracy and What The Health, but there are plenty more newer faces on the ever expanding vegan scene, telling their stories and setting inspiring examples that show that a plant based diet is no hindrance to peak physical performance; in fact it is just the opposite.

Check out The Game Changers website, and sign up for updates to find out more.  This film is going to be huge!  We can't wait to see the full movie.  

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

V Kids

Isn't it weird how the traditional fairy tales most of us were brought up on are full of violence, crime and generally horrible stuff?  Parents quite happily read Little Red Riding Hood to their little ones whilst not really stopping to think about the murder of the grandmother!  What about Hansel and Gretel with its child abduction or the bullying in Cinderella?

Buddy the loveable pigletThese stories are so well ingrained into our society that few people question it.  Those that do may well argue that it is all part of slowly introducing our children to the real world and to learn morals.  That's fair enough I suppose but then it is an even funnier world in which we live if parents settle down at bedtime to read The Three Little Pigs to their kids having just served them up a sausage supper.  Animal agriculture is no fairy tale, but should it be represented as such given the subject matter of many traditional stories?  The plain truth is whilst some subject matters are cloaked within children's stories, the abuse of animals is largely ignored (apart from the seemingly accepted abuse of the big bad wolf).

We don't have kids but I do have nieces who are both being brought up vegetarian in Alaska.  They also love books so I am always on the look out for inspiring books to send them that break the normally misrepresented values in society.  I was delighted therefore to hear of a Cornish vegan author who is doing just that.

Chloe the stroppy teenage sheepV Kids are a series of vegan story books and pre-school stories that focus on and aim to open the eyes of children to the relationship between humans and animals.  Although ultimately enjoyable and positive these books are not afraid to tackle the sensitive subject of how animals are used to supply the meat and dairy industry in an honest but considerate way.  It's an important balance to strike when it comes to kids and also, let's face it some adults too.  If you make things too harrowing, however truthful, people of all ages will more than often turn off and go into denial.

The V Kids Animal Sanctuary series is aimed at 8-13 year olds and follows the adventures of Lou Lou and Lawrie as their contact with a  piglet called Buddy leads them to embark on an ambitious plan to set up their very own animal sanctuary.  So far there are five books written in the series with each book seeing the young animal campaigners rescuing a new animal each time; from a stroppy teenage sheep to a chicken with a sense of style.  There is also an accompanying vegan recipe book inspired by the characters in the stories.

For younger readers, and available for pre-order soon, are the pre-school V Kids books.  These are written in humorous rhyme with colourful illustrations to accompany, and are aimed at 18 months to 6 years.  With a slightly less direct approach they still aim to encourage questions about the relationship between humans and animals.

Lisa Hart is the author and founder of V Kids.  Lisa is a former primary school teacher who also studied children's literature at university.  As a vegan herself she was inspired to write the books for her own 9 year old daughter who is a pescatarian.  She wanted to find a gentle way to inspire her daughter to become vegan through her own choice rather than feeling like she should because her mother is.

The books are self published by Lisa and available for pre-ordering currently.  She aims to release one book per month so any pre-orders will be sent out at the end of each month.  For more details on, or to order the V Kids books please do check out the V Kids website.  The website also includes details on pre-school clubs that V Kids are currently busy setting up too.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

It's Nuts To Eat Ice Cream In This Weather!

It is the weather for voolly (vegan woolly) hats and gloves, inside out umbrellas and ducks at the moment.  It is certainly not the weather for ice cream; unless you're us of course.  We are not ones to stick to seasonal food dictates, so when I picked up an old copy of Veganlife magazine from August 2017 and happened upon a recipe for pistachio ice cream there was no way the pounding hail against the window was going to put me off making it.

I nearly got put off making it however when I saw the price of pistachio nut butter;  one of the defining ingredients in the recipe.  It was £7 for a small jar!  However with only 3 tablespoons of the nut butter needed for just one tub, and one jar able to make 3 tubs, it works out cheaper than shop bought vegan ice cream offerings out there.  

Taste wise too; well we are just about to make our third tub so that should answer that one!  Hmmm, I feel an addiction coming on, as well as an empty jar of pistachio nut butter!

The recipe is a simple mix of soya milk (I used hemp though), soya cream (I used Oatly), the aforementioned pistachio butter and sugar (I used coconut sugar), with a sprinkling of chopped pistachios added whilst churning it.  It is more than the sum of its parts believe me; proving that you don't have to include a massive amount of ingredients to achieve tasty results.

Unfortunately it's not my recipe so I am not about to breach copyright and share it in its entirety.  If you have the August 2017 edition of Veganlife magazine though, break it out and have a gander on page 94 and there you will find it. 

Failing that the good news is that the original recipe is from a rather interesting book called 'The Best Homemade Vegan Cheese and Ice Cream Recipes'.   Even the compiling of just cheese and ice cream recipes in one book is an unusual concept and to see it includes such recipes as kombucha cheese is peaking my interest even more, and I may end up grabbing a copy myself.  

Ice cream weather it might not be but we will be eating this pistachio ice cream every day given the choice.  We might just have to save up for another pot of pistachio nut butter first though (or start making our own)!

Friday, 2 February 2018

Vegan - Fad or Lifetime Commitment?

Poll from The VegFest Express Online Magazine Poll 

With Veganuary now over the question will be how many participants will remain vegan and how many will return to their old way of living?  We know from previous Veganuary’s and also a recent poll by The VegFest Express Online Magazine, that quite a few people do continue as vegans and of those that don’t many end up at least making changes to their old way of eating and living.  The latter is the case with a colleague.  

He was an unlikely candidate for Veganuary so I was pleasantly surprised when he told me he was trying it.  I was delighted too with the way he threw himself into it and we’ve had many good conversations over the past month.  He made me a vegan cake as a thank you for my help and support and I shared the fact that I was proud of him for trying it.

Here’s the thing though.  It kills me that he’s not a ‘remainer’.  I’m not going to give him a hard time about it as I truly believe everyone has to find their own path.  I am pleased he at least tried it and will be a ‘reducer’.  I don’t get it though.  I really don’t get it.  Once you have successfully tried and survived on a plant based diet; once you have opened your eyes to the environmental advantages and once you have discovered the horrors of the animal industry, how can you go backwards?  That is the biggest kicker for me; how can you unlearn those things?

I have long term friends who were staunch vegans but are no longer.  I have a mental block in understanding, comprehending and analysing how they could have been so heavily absorbed in the reasons for being vegan but then have so easily ‘unlearnt’ that or ignored it years later.  I am by no means having a ‘pop’ at my colleague, my friends or any ‘non-remainer’ who took part in Veganuary.  After all any attempts to look into and try a vegan diet should be applauded.  I am merely expressing and trying to come to terms with something that for me seems to belong to another planet. 

I love Phil deeply for many reasons but one of them is that I know he totally gets what I mean and we discuss this frequently.  There is no way on this earth, or any other for that matter, that us two long term vegans would be anything but vegan.  For both of us we knew that the moment we went vegan.  The harsh realities that set us on that vegan path, which back 30 years ago were more centred on the sheer cruelty involved, couldn’t ever be forgotten or unlearnt.  All the other positive reasons to follow a plant based diet, including health, environmental and humanitarian, were wonderful bonuses discovered along that early journey.  Films such as Cowspiracy and What the Health have certainly highlighted the environmental and health reasons in the modern vegan world.  Many people have connected with this and become vegan as a result but are these then the vegans that stray from the path?  After all even the healthiest health freak indulges in that naughty cake every now and then, and the staunchest of environmentalists may buy a 5p plastic bag on the occasional unexpected shopping trip when the bags for life were forgotten.

What of the vegan that has truly, deeply, desperately and heartbreakingly connected with the mind of the animal in its final moments of its short life before it becomes another part of a packaged part of flesh?  Possibly that deeply embedded and shared pain is what sorts out the temporary vegan from the life vegan?  Surely once you’ve opened your heart to that and had it broken you would never be anything but vegan?  

Veganuary is an amazing gateway.  The sheer increase in the amount of interest in Veganuary the media has shown this year has certainly propelled veganism into the mainstream and the consciousness of many more people.  That is the important part as that leads to exploration and education into plant based living with people then connecting with it on various levels; and one level leads to others.  Which level however may possibly be the deciding factor as to whether they remain vegan in the long term or not.  It is the difference between a fad and a deep and compassionate understanding of the true impact that a plant based diet can have on your own life as well as many many other sentient beings.  Either way, I will continue to encourage and support anyone that shows an interest in a plant based diet, be delighted by anyone that remains a life vegan and no doubt continue to be perplexed by those that don't.