Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Figlets Abound


I might be edging towards 50 years old but that doesn't in the least bit minimise my childlike excitement at the wonder of growing plants from saved seeds or cuttings.  I find it actually hard to understand why anyone doesn't find it exciting too (you weirdos).  Sure I admit I do buy seeds now and then.  That's because we've got carried away eating too many of the growing plants and not allowed some to go to seed or I've been seduced by plant catalogues or unknown varieties on our travels.  However nothing is quite as satisfying as seeing the green shoots of that seed you saved last year poking up above the earth.

I've also grown plants from seeds from shop bought fruit and veg; apples, apricots, avocados and squashes being some examples.  Agave seeds have been collected from plants in Portugal and I have even successfully grown my own Moreton Bay Fig from seed collected from fallen fruits from the historically famous one in Santa Barbara, California.

Not quite as exotic but equally lovely is seeing signs of new growth from a cutting that you took from an existing plant from the garden. About twice a year I have to trim our ever growing fig (the Mediterranean one not the aforementioned Moreton Bay Fig).  I actually hate having to hack it back but saving our phone line from being 'figotaged' or ensuring the postman can deliver Phil's Surfers Journal are factors that contribute to this necessity.  The saving grace is that I will save as many of the cuttings as possible to try and encourage them into little fig trees; or figlets as I like to call them.  I kind of feel like a plant midwife!  I won't  go into the history of this fig as I have covered that in a previous post.  However, such has been the request from various people for a cutting of my fig that I've never managed to reach my target every year of 'growing to sell'.  I end up giving the cuttings I've grown away! Not this year though as I've ensured an ample supply for free gifts for friends and neighbours and also spares for potential sales (for charity I might add).

I have no regrets at all about where my final spare from last year's cuttings went though. We recently planted it in the middle of my dad's potato patch in his garden in Kent.  My dad, Robin, passed away in April and with mum unable herself to continue to grow the bare patch, we felt it was symbolic to plant something to green the area more long term.  For me a cutting from my much loved fig from home seemed perfect.  As we planted it a robin landed nearby to inspect our work.  I took that as approval of not only the positioning of the fig but also general approval from my plant loving dad of my plant producing ways.

If you are ever in doubt of the wonder of the cycle of life, save that apple seed from the apple you just ate, save those shiny wonders inside that overgrown bean pod from this summer's harvest, save those cuttings destined for the compost bin.  Stick them all in the good brown soil that Mother Earth provides.  It won't cost you or the Earth a penny and might just put a big smile on your face (and perhaps many others if you pass on the plant love).

Friday, 2 June 2017

Compassion At The Castle in Exeter


For various reasons, the Driftwood Vegans household has not been very busy on the blog front. However, the vegan world has been busy 'doing its thing' around us, particularly so recently with the Vegan Festival of Britain

We only reported last week about the wonderful Vegan Spring Fete in Plymouth; one such event that was organised in conjunction with the Animal Aid led three week long vegan festival.  Well, in a week's time the grand finale to the festival takes place, again in neighbouring Devon.

Compassion at the Castle is jointly organised with Exeter Friends for Animals and takes place on Saturday 10th June at Exeter Castle, in the heart of the city.  

Touted as being 'a vegan twist on a traditional English summer fete', with proceedings starting at 11am but then continuing into the evening with a barbecue, great music, and a bar featuring a special Vegan Festival of Britain real ale, it sounds more like a mini festival than a simple fete!

Day time offerings include a vegan market featuring over 40 stalls (there is even a vegan barber for anyone requiring a trim!).  Retail and personal care needs aside, for those seeking a more educational perspective, there are various talks and demonstrations available, including one about how to make your own soft cheese. 

A vegan event would not be complete (in fact it would be a complete failure!) if food wasn't involved and at this event, that seems to have been more than covered.  There is a vegan cafe (with a plentiful supply of cakes no doubt), catering from Indian food specialists from London, Shambhu's, and local favourites Fairfoods, alongside unusual Ethiopian offerings and the more usual burgers and hot dogs for the less adventurous.  For the damn right greedy among you (yep, I admit that would be me too), there are even vegan cream teas available.  Well, it is the West Country after all, (the cream better be on top though or it might upset the Cornish contingent!).  Do leave space for that evening barbecue though!

And if anyone is worried about the predictable British Summer weather playing a hand, never fear, as the whole event can be under cover if necessary, so no need to bring your festival wellies!

For up to the date details on this event please do visit the Facebook Event Page and you can check general details on the Vegan Festival of Britain website.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Vegan Spring Fete in Plymouth

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Animal Aid is 40 years old this year and to celebrate this wonderful fact, they have initiated the three week Vegan Festival of Britain.  This isn't just about one event, this is about getting the vegan community to celebrate everything vegan by organizing a series of events during the three week festival, which runs from 20th May to the 10th June.

One such event is taking place this Saturday 27th May just over the Devon border in Plymouth. The Naturally Vegan Plot have organised an Animal Aid sponsored Spring Fete with stalls from a wide range of vegan businesses, animal rights groups and causes, information stalls, and of course lots of vegan food, pasties, and cakes.  Arts and crafts also feature, and please do check out the most beautiful wood turning creations by our mate Andy too. There are even massage tasters on offer and vegan photography to peruse, whilst there is also delicious vegan organic produce on sale from the hosts The Naturally Vegan Plot, so take your shopping baskets with you.

The Fete kicks off at 11am on Saturday at Abbey Hall which is at the rear of St Andrew's Church, Catherine's Street in Plymouth (just off of Royal Parade).  It runs until 5pm but to get in on the vegan cake act, I'd plan to arrive early (we know what you vegans are like with your cake!).

For more information check out The Celebration of Animal Aid - Vegan Spring Fete Facebook Event Page.   There is also more information available on The Naturally Vegan Plot too.

If you really can't get down to these parts (we are after all quite 'out there'!), do check out The Vegan Festival of Britain website for further details of all events taking place all over the country during the next three weeks.  Let's celebrate the very essence of veganism and the hard work that Animal Aid have done over the last 40 years to get us to this vegan turning point.

Friday, 19 May 2017

It's a Wrap


Whoever I.R. in Bollington, UK is, I salute you.  I'm also fairly disgraced by the fact that I didn't think about starting a petition about this very subject; the unnecessary plastic packaging that supermarkets feel the need to wrap around their fruit and vegetables. However, I.R. did, so most importantly, before I go in to my own personal rant about the subject, please do SIGN THIS PETITION if this gets under your skin too. 

So on to the rant.  Yes, we should all grow our own.  Yes, we should be buying from farmers markets, local produce stalls, the bloke (or lady bloke) down the road that grows their own, or order veg boxes. However, realistically we all pop in to the odd Sinsburys, Assda or Tosscos every now and then.  I purposefully try and avoid anything packaged in plastic but infuriatingly most of the organic produce, which I also prefer to choose, is more packaged it seems than the rest of the stuff.  Why should I have to choose between the environmental impact of plastic and the more healthful impact of organic produce?  It winds me up; which can't be good for my health.  Quite often I take so much offence at the amount of packaging on the organic produce that I end up choosing the non-organic.  

Reusable Produce Bags
Regardless of the organic/non-organic packaging dilemma, why the hell does any of it need packaging up so much anyway? It's actually obscene.  As I.R. pointed out, what is wrong with cardboard packaging if it really cannot bear to be sold without some form of excess packaging support?  Or what is wrong with a simple paper bag? Personally we use Onya Produce Bags for produce that really needs keeping together, but quite often we just bung it in the basket as if we were foraging in the forest (we can kid ourselves right?).  

There have also been various campaigns to encourage customers to leave excess packaging at the supermarkets. Doing a search will reveal a few examples, including the Women's Institute.  However, we quite like this one from The Book of Rubbish Ideas.  Much like the idea back in the 80's of emptying bags of McDonald's rubbish back on their own premises (preferably on the food serving counters), this might have quite an impact (obviously our issue wasn't just about packaging). It was pretty good fun too as really it was just returning their own property in a mischievous manner; but I digress.  Of course, none of this would be necessary if the packaging wasn't there in the first place.

Anyway, rant over.  Sign, sign, sign is what we say and let's get behind this petition big time. Campaigning worked for getting rid of the single use carrier bag right?  Meanwhile, if you are in the area and fancy some rocket or fresh herbs (bit early for everything else), we have a profusion in our garden but be warned, there will be trouble if you turn up with a plastic bag!  If your hands aren't good enough, get some Onya bags!

Saturday, 6 May 2017

The Cornish Vegan Pasty Company


The Cornish Vegan Pasty CompanyWe finally treated ourselves to a couple of proper vegan pasties from The Cornish Vegan Pasty Company today whilst on a visit to our local health food store, Sprout in Newquay.  

Now a vegan pasty is actually reasonably easy to find in Cornwall these days, but the pasties made by The Cornish Vegan Pasty Company are, being palm oil free, that vegan step further.  They are also a step further in taste.  

The two pasties on offer today at Sprout were the Vegan Cheese and Onion Pasty and The Mountain Chilli Pasty, which is also gluten free.  The more traditional Cornish Vegan Pasty, which contains seitan, had unsurprisingly sold out when we arrived on the scene.  We were however not disappointed by our options by any means.  The Cheese and Onion Pasty delivered a creamy cheesy punch with a delicate, non overpowering onion undertone.  The Mountain Chilli Pasty had a delicate and savoury pastry which was more than satisfying for us non gluten intolerant folk.  Some gluten free products can under perform for those that don't need to partake in curbing the gluten, but this was one pastry that certainly didn't. If you have ever had the mountain chilli from Good2Go in Perranporth, the lovely people behind these vegan pasties, you will know what to expect with the filling of this pasty.  It is wholesome, not overbearing in spice heat and satisfyingly filling.  

Now these are not cheap pasties and we admit, the cost had slightly put us off when we first saw them for sale; £4.50 for one pasty is a fair whack.  However, there are two things that counter the price; they are quality flavoursome products, and they are massive!  Indeed if you compare them to pasties made by non vegan companies, it is easy to see the price is more than fair when it comes to quality and size.

In Cornwall, The Cornish Vegan Pasties are available to buy from Good2Go in Perranporth, Sprout in Newquay,  and at both the Truro and Penzance branches of Archie Browns. If you are outside of Cornwall however, never fear, as there are places where you can get yourself a Cornish Vegan Pasty in Devon, Dorset, Wales, Birmingham, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire.  There is a full list of stockists on the website (which is bound to increase over the coming months) and you can even get your pasties by post; prepared, packaged, and posted by the Pasty Pixies themselves.

The Cornish Vegan Pasty Company

44 St Pirans Road
Perranporth
Cornwall
TR6 0BJ

Email: pastypixies@thecornishveganpastycompany.com
Phone: 07392 921983

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Great Vegan Hummus (Shortage) 2017


A strange set of events converged last week, that led to one of the most serious plant based news items of the year so far. Stunned shoppers stood aghast in the chiller aisles of various supermarkets and wondered where all the hummus had gone.  Some were even moved to mutter "oh bother".  Yes it really was that serious; or so various news media would have us believe!

In fact it was all due to a product recall, as some customers had complained of a metallic taste in their hummus.  But why was it withdrawn from so many different supermarkets? Surely it doesn't all come from the same place does it?  Well, it turns out it does.  So, your Moroccan hummus hasn't been mailed from anywhere near Morocco, and your Piri Piri hummus hasn't been posted from Portugal either.

If you haven't already had a go yourself, this could be the ideal time to start making your own.  It really is very easy, and you won't be using a whole load of packaging either.  Start with a basic recipe (any recipe) and experiment to tweak it to your own taste.  You can keep it relatively simple and healthy like the recipe below (leaving out the seaweed), or make it a bit more luxurious and worldly with the addition of various ingredients.  Toasted pumpkin oil and fresh oregano perhaps?  What about Thai green curry hummus?  How about ginger, tamari, and toasted sesame oil hummus?  

Get creative, and see what fantastic flavours you can come up with.  Feel free to let us know the good ones!

Nori Seaweed Hummus

1 x 380g pack organic chickpeas, drained (save the liquid/aquafaba)
3 tablespoons tahini
1 clove garlic
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon Clearspring Green Nori Flakes
Pinch of Himalayan salt

Add drained chickpeas to your blender of choice (we used our Nutribullet).  Add enough liquid/aquafaba to just cover.  Add in all the other ingredients and blend to your desired consistency; chunky style, or smooth and creamy.

Enjoy!

Monday, 24 April 2017

Solkiki Chocolate

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This post has been a long time coming, and is well overdue.  Maybe some things in life are worth a little more time and effort to get right?  We first met Iris and Bob from Solkiki Chocolate at the South West Christmas Without Cruelty Festival in Exeter back in 2015. We were immediately impressed by their passion for and knowledge about chocolate, and the choice of flavours they had on offer.  As we slowly worked our way through their extensive range of samples (this chocolate is not to be rushed), we went from impressed to awed.

As Bob gave us the rundown on the complex tastes and flavour profiles of the varieties of beans used, and the myriad combinations of flavours that can be detected from such few ingredients, I wondered if he was using some kind of NLP/Derren Brown-like mind control suggestions to convince me that all of the incredibly complex tastes I was experiencing were really there... in some cases from chocolate with only two ingredients!  I can now assure you that they really are.

As regular readers of our Blog may have gathered, I (Phil) do like the odd bit of chocolate 'now and then', and actively seek out new and interesting chocolate to try at every opportunity.  Solkiki Chocolate took me on a wonderful journey that day, and they have since been on quite a journey themselves, winning multiple awards for their outstanding 'next level' chocolate.  When I saw that they were going to be at this years Cornwall Vegan Festival, it was just one more good reason to attend this inspiring gathering of plant based movers and shakers.

Considering that I had only met Bob once before at Exeter, it was a nice touch that he recognised me as I approached their stall and we struck up a conversation.  Was this due to the brain-boosting memory enhancing effects of the cacao bean perhaps, or was he just thinking, "Oh no, this guy's going to eat all my samples again"?!  Bob once again took me on another chocolate journey, a smooth subtle transportation to more tropical climes, drifting through flavours like 'Tahitian Nougat', 'Salted Caramel Dark Mylk', 'Aji Limon Chilli Egyptian Mint', and my personal favourite of those on offer, the 'Maranon 68'.  There were many more varieties on offer, but these were the standouts for me and my taste buds.

Aji Limon Chilli and Egyptian Mint White Chocolate

Some people are happy with a boring bland Kit Kat or a Mars bar (not vegans obviously), but others like to experiment and explore new flavours, tastes, and experiences from around the world. Now world travel isn't cheap these days, and neither is Solkiki Chocolate, but I can assure you that you absolutely get what you pay for.  As Bob says, "Champagne is more expensive than Cider", a curious statement from a 10 year teetotaler, and lost on me also as when I did drink I'd much rather have Cider!  It does however get the point across that quality, rarity, and provenance all add to the cost; as does the fact that these chocolate magicians conjure all these varieties from bean to bar themselves, with minimal processing (working off grid with renewable energy), and using only the essential ingredients necessary to create each flavourful bar. They also buy the cacao beans directly from the growers, thereby supporting the growers (paying them much more than 'Fairtrade' rates), and in some cases keeping rare heirloom varieties from extinction.  All this supports biodiversity; a win/win situation for us all.

If you get the chance to meet Iris and Bob at one of the chocolate or food events they attend, you will be assured of a taste experience like no other, and inevitably some of their enthusiasm and passion for their products will inspire you to maybe pick up a bar or two... or five!  If not, then check out their website, explore their world of flavour, and prepare to be amazed.  This is, without a doubt, the best chocolate that I have ever tasted.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Cornwall Vegan Festival 2017



This Saturday sees the premier event of the Cornish vegan calendar.  This year the Cornwall Vegan Festival, which also coincides with Earth Day Celebration, takes place for the first time outside of Truro at the wonderful Mount Pleasant Eco Park at Porthtowan. With wonderful wide open spaces, the venue also has the advantage of being dog and family friendly and even offers the opportunity of camping (contact the venue direct for details).  Fingers are therefore crossed for a spot of lovely Spring sunshine, but with plenty of covered areas too, there will be assured vegan sunshine regardless.

The festival is sponsored by Animal Aid, The Cornish Vegan Pasty Company and supported by Cornwall Animal Action. Admission and parking are completely free which is great as you will no doubt be parting with plenty of your ethical pounds when you see the variety of vegan goodies on offer inside.  Obviously a bountiful supply of food will be available so the issue will be choosing what you can fit in your belly before the end of the festival.  Clothing, arts and crafts also feature alongside ethical businesses and charities, animal rescue and animal rights stalls.  There is a full range of demonstrations, workshops and talks.  The talks range in subject from vegan nutrition, environmentalism and veganism, evolutionary biology and animal rights, vegan feminism and mindfulness.  For vegans and non vegans alike the Veganers Question Time may however be the main attraction when it comes to the educational side of things.  A take on Gardeners Question Time, this will give members of the public the chance to ask the panel of experts about all aspects of veganism.

For full details on the festival, check out the Cornwall Vegans website.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Vegan Masala Dosas in Cornwall

There are several things that can cheer a Cornish spring up no end.  One is a spot of lovely sunshine, which we have recently enjoyed.  Another are the fields upon fields of daffodils swaying in the wind like rippling waves under a golden sunset. One thing that particularly put a smile on our faces this spring was the discovery and sampling of a masala dosa in Cornwall.  Not the usual Cornish fare admittedly, being a traditional Southern Indian dish, but one that sits among our favorite foods ever!  

A dosa is basically a pancake or crepe that is made from a fermented batter of rice and black gram (urad dal).  This can be stuffed with various fillings, but a masala dosa, the most popular, is one that is stuffed with a spicy potato filling.  It is often served with a coconut chutney and a little side dish of sambar (vegetable stew) and is more often a traditional breakfast dish.  We've had plenty of these in India but sadly they are not that easy to find in the UK. Veggie Perrins, just across the border in Plymouth, have served them on special nights, and even further afield they are a main feature on Krishnas Inn menu in Bristol. Imagine our delight therefore to have them available not only in Cornwall but at my very place of work!  It also happens to be on a day when Phil works half day so he too can partake of these delights (and makes the trip over from Truro after work to do so).

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Achar, formerly known as The Salvador Thali Cafe, is an Indian street food stall, and the brainchild of chef extraordinaire Terry McClintock.  It brings the full flavour of vegetarian Indian food to the heart of Cornwall, with vegan choices always on offer, including the aforementioned masala dosa.   Achar makes regular stops on Fridays at the Falmouth University Penryn Campus (by the way, the first hour of parking at Penryn Campus is free so plenty of time to nip in for a treat if you are passing).  You will find Terry's colourful stall just outside The Stannary (main refectory area) in the heart of the campus. 

Achar also pops up regularly at various venues in the Falmouth area.  You can check for updates of where and when to find them on the Achar Facebook page or alternatively give Terry a call or text on 07946 555632 (I did the other day and he got right back to me super quick!).

By the way, despite their generous size, we still can't seem to resist going back for masala dosa seconds!  Basically we thoroughly recommend them. Terry and his side kick are also a blast to chat to as you watch, with salivating wonder, the skillful preparation of your dosas. Go check them out.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Comedy of Carnage

Comedians are masters of searching out and observing the hypocrisy and irony in life; turning it back on society in a more digestible and entertaining manner.  Given the surge in veganism in recent years, it is therefore no surprise that there is currently a ripple of veganism surging through the comedy industry. 

Vegetarianism and veganism has had its fair share of being negatively mocked in the comedic sense, but it seems the tide may be turning.  Not only have vegans (Sarah Pascoe, Romesh Ranganathan and Simon Amstell included) joined the ranks of the mainstay of British comedy performers, bringing with them their own more positive and thought provoking comedic observations of being a vegan, but the industry as a whole seems to be sitting up and paying attention.  I did think however that we were still a way off of hearing anything beyond the odd comment or discussion on a comedy game show, or a story in a stand up show.  Then came along Simon Amstell's film, Carnage.

A short film on mainstream TV, looking at veganism, would have been amazing enough.  An hour long mockumentary, with well known actors and celebrities produced by the BBC is nothing short of astonishing.  Okay so they haven't been brave enough to put it on anything but the BBC iPlayer yet, but they have at least advertised it on the main BBC channels. 

Carnage looks at a world 50 years into the future; a world turned vegan and horrified at its carnist past.  This is however, no run of the mill, usually brutal exploration into the reasons why the masses should turn to veganism.  Simon Amstell has still honoured the very essence of veganism but wrapped it up extremely well in layer upon layer of humour, entertainment, and fascinating facts for both vegans and non vegans alike.  He is like a child who has very skillfully hidden his vegetables under the meat on the dinner plate; or in this case, should it be the other way round?

We had laugh out loud moments (yes us vegans do have a sense of humour!) mixed in with moments of being pulled along in wild imaginings that such a world could eventually exist.  I was also delighted, as cringe worthy as some of it was, to see the inclusion of the historical aspect to veganism.  I also felt a sense of pride and hope; pride in that veganism has come so very far in the 30 years Phil and I have been vegan, and hope that Carnage represents and accelerates the more recent surge in vegan interest into even more of an awakening.

It is easy for us vegans to wax (soya not beeswax!) lyrical about something that hits the vegan nail on the head, especially if it does it in a ground breaking, entertaining, and accessible way; but will it work?  After all, it must have been the intention of Simon Amstell, as a vegan himself, to go way beyond the entertainment level and send out those far reaching vegan ripples.  I find it extremely hard to believe that it won't reach out to the non vegan viewer and at least plant a seed.  In fact I would be astonished if it doesn't but then I am already astonished how people will very easily deny the facts that are already in front of many (take for instance the man in the film who said that cows would explode if they weren't milked; whether that was staged for the film or not I have personally heard someone say this!).  I will read the reviews and listen to the feedback with much interest and hope.

Carnage is available now on BBC iPlayer and remains so for over a year apparently.  If you would like a non vegan's review then check out Mark Kermode's take on Carnage.