Monday, 14 August 2017

Milking the Saffron Mushrooms

The surf was flat and it was a rainy grey day. In spite of this we decided to pack our boots and waterproofs in the car, and brave the post Boardmasters Festival and tourist traffic.  We were searching out the darkest and dampest reaches of pine woodland with the aim of finding some fungi treats.

We knew we'd find at least some wild mushrooms in this area as we had visited it many times before.  What we hadn't counted on was finding a profusion of Saffron Milk Caps.  We may have seen these before and passed them by, but in the dark gloom of the woods today, as the pines sheltered us from the worst of the rain, the orange glow of saffron drew us closer. The sheer brightness of them initially made us cautious, but after scrutinising both of our guide books for various distinguishing features, we knew the identification was right and that they were not only edible but quite sought after. Although they may not look that pretty or appetising in the photo above, this was after we had poked and prodded them, they had sat in a plastic bag for the journey home, and a natural discolouration had taken place.  In fact this green bruising is one of the distinguishing features for identification, along with the gills exuding an orange 'sap' when broken.

We also found 3 other types of edible fungi on this foray, but decided to stick to cooking our evening meal using just the milk caps, curious as to what they would taste like.  The recipe we chose to add these to was a recent 'quick meal' creation, discovered when we were out and about in Miles the camper van and using up what was to hand.  It is simple, quick, filling, and tasty, with today's choice of mushroom adding a 'meaty' texture. Just what you need after a long walk, surf, or fungi foray. 

Although we had not consciously sought out these fungi today, after we had returned home, cooked and eaten our meal, and were thinking of how to start this blog post, Phil suddenly had the thought that he'd seen these fungi somewhere recently.  He shot off into the lounge, and came back smiling, and holding a copy of Roger Phillips' book 'Wild Food'. There on page 114 was a full page photo of Saffron Milk Caps, and for reasons that are now a mystery to me, I had left the book open at this page about 4 weeks ago!  

Phil's Creamy Olive Wild Mushroom Pasta

250g dried pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium leek, sliced thinly
8-10 large mushrooms, sliced
1 100g jar green olive tapenade (we used Sainsburys)
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen broad beans
1 carton Oatly oat cream
1/2 tsp vegan stock powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Get the pasta cooking according to the packet instructions.  Meanwhile, in a large saucepan saute the leek in the olive oil until soft.  Add the sliced mushrooms and saute for 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the olive tapenade followed by the broad beans, oat cream and the stock powder, and stir to mix well.  Bring back to a simmer. Continue to simmer for 6-8 minutes and add salt and pepper to taste.  Drain the pasta, mix into the sauce and serve.


*Please do not pick and consume wild mushrooms if you are in any way unsure about their identity.  The consumption of some wild mushrooms can be fatal.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

New Wave Seaweed Revolution

We love seaweed and use it a fair amount.  We use it to mulch our garden and feed our plants (using excess piles that have washed up on the beach we might add), we wash our hair with seaweed shampoo, and we eat seaweed, whether that be responsibly foraged from our local beaches or ethically sourced purchased products.  

It's tasty stuff and in fact, as vegans, pretty important nutritionally too.  However many vegans don't seem to include seaweed in their diets; some even choosing to avoid it.  A couple of years back Phil wrote a blogpost called 'Seaweed is not Evil' in response to a Youtube video that was circulating in regards to veganism and seaweed.  The video seems to have long been taken down (hence the broken video link on the post now) but his article still makes some good points in terms of some misconceptions in regards to seaweed.  

Seaweed isn't something you run into frequently on the supermarket shelves and this could account for it still being a relatively unexplored product, but we've noticed over the last couple of years or so that the tide seems to be starting to change on that front.  Celtic nations have always had a huge tradition of collecting and using seaweed; the proximity to wild Atlantic shores being an obvious reason.  Indeed our travels in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany over the years have led us to discover certain seaweed products that we have not found elsewhere.  In our own Celtic nation of Cornwall also, seaweed is very much more noticeable than elsewhere in the country.  However, seaweed has definitely gained popularity in more recent years on a wider scale.

We are fortunate enough to have an ethical seaweed supplier right here in Cornwall who've been at the forefront of the new wave seaweed revolution.  The Cornish Seaweed Company started sustainably hand harvesting local edible seaweeds in 2012.  Their website is a great source of information about seaweed and even includes a page of information specifically for vegans.  Check out their lovely video below too.

With over 1500 species of seaweed in Cornwall, if foraging is your thing, you're in the right place for sure.  The majority are edible but not all.  Many are tasty and contain lots of nutrition but again, not all.  If you want to hit the beach or go diving for your supper, you'll need to do at least a little bit of research.  A great resource specific to our local shores is wrapped up in Rachel Lambert's book Seaweed Foraging in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.  It's straightforward format  includes not only the crucial identification notes, along with clear colour photos, but also nutritional guidelines, seasonal notes and recipes.  Not all the recipes are vegan or even vegetarian but the majority are, or indeed can be easily adapted.  Do read the guidelines on responsible foraging first though before venturing out to collect your supplies.

If this post has peaked your appetite for seaweed, we encourage you to explore for yourselves this super food that nature has freely provided on our beautiful coastline as well as keep an eye on the ever increasing seaweed products that are appearing in our shops.  The Cornish Seaweed Company online shop has a range of seaweed and seaweed products available and their range is popping up in shops all over the county, and even further afield.  On the Cornish market too (and available online) is this organic and palm oil free Cornish Seaweed Soap
LogoOur taste buds were particularly excited by products that we found on a recent visit to our Celtic cousins in Brittany. They were all made by Bretagne based company Marinoe and all were marked with the official Vegan Society mark.  Their website seems understated in a typically Breton way, and doesn't truly demonstrate the wonders of their products but wow, we really have to visit this company when we are there next. First off we found  their range of seaweed tartares. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.  Brav, brav, brav (respecting the Breton language). Then we bumped into Taramalg, a take on taramasalata, traditionally made from fish roe but more sensitively made from seaweed in the Marinoe version. To be honest neither of us had ever had taramasalata but this product really peaked our interest.  It was so good that it lead to us tracking down a Bretagne health food store that stocked it so we could check that the first taste of it hadn't been a one off magical experience!  It was wonderful and we very much look forward to seeing this kind of product being available Kernow Side.  

In terms of our own cooking with seaweed, Phil adds it into Japanese style stews and miso soups a fair amount.  He also adds it into his own home made hummus which is absolutely delicious, as well as making sushi rolls from sheets of nori.  I have experimented with using it in a seitan recipe which I called Seitan of the Sea but one of my favourite recipes is the Sea Fruit Strudel from "Vegan", a great little recipe book from Tony Weston and Yvonne Bishop.  The recipe is also available on the Foods For Life Website.

I end this blogpost in a nod to tradition; both to seaweed and song.  Dulaman is Irish for seaweed and this traditional folk song, below in the Clannad version of the 70's, talks of seaweed gathering and courting.  

Monday, 31 July 2017

The Vegan Iced Coffee Thang

Unlike my team at work, who seem to function solely on the stuff, I'm not a coffee fiend. However I do like a tipple every now and then and recently my attention has been peaked by discovering a carton of vegan iced coffee in the chiller section of Morrisons.  I don't venture into Morrisons that much (especially the Newquay one which is said to be busiest one in the country during the summer holiday season) and wasn't even looking for this sort of thing but it caught my attention.  It was called Cafe Soy and was in the chilled 'Free From' section.  My mum was due for a visit and, as well as wanting to try it myself, I thought it would be a nice treat for her so I grabbed a carton.  Needless to say, we both loved it and have run the gauntlet of Morrisons Newquay since to get more.  I apologise to any local vegans as I actually cleared them out of the last remaining 4 cartons yesterday so I had enough to take to my mum on an upcoming visit!

Then I was looking in the Free From chiller section at Sainsburys (grabbing some Gary along the way) when I noticed two more vegan iced coffee offerings.  The first one was Jimmy's Iced Coffee Dairy Free and the other next to it was Califia Farms Black and White Cold Brewed Coffee.  Being that the former Jimmy's one was a family owned made in Britain product rather than imported all the way from California, I chose Jimmy's.  It was also made wih oats and that was another environmental plus.  Lovely it was too.   I may try the other Californian one at some point but would rather stick closer to home with things, especially if they taste as good as they do.  Thing is, I now seem to be a bit of an iced coffee fiend!  It might be a seasonal thing but, yep, I love the stuff.

Being that, at least to me, iced coffee is a relatively new thing, I had a bit of an investigate on this subject and confirm that yes, I was definitely behind the times.  There are many many alternatives out there but many of these are still just in the USA.  Of course, let's state the obvious here too, you could make your own.  It's pretty easy after all; make coffee and chill it!  However, there were some pretty obvious things that I hadn't thought of before in the whole iced coffee making thing.  For instance, how about freezing in ice cubes any left over coffee and then using that to add to plant milk to make iced coffee?  A no brainer right?  I hadn't thought about that and there are plenty of times when the coffee maker at work has a little bit left in the bottom that has gone cold.  The idea of sneaking in an ice tube tray was suddenly a very good one.

However, my point of this blog post isn't just to bring these products to the attention of those that may not know about them (at this point I imagine any up country vegan folks are saying "wow you guys are so behind the times"!).  I think it is amazing that a product that hasn't really been around that long in non vegan terms, is actually out there very readily on the shelfs for us vegans already. How things have changed eh?

Friday, 28 July 2017

Random Rhubarb Ramifications...and Roger

It all started when my boss walked into the office saying "Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb".  As he used to work as a sound editor for the BBC, I just thought he was making some random reference to what film extras say to each other repeatedly to look like they are having a conversation in the background.  Random references and comments are far from uncommon among my colleagues, so the actual realisation that he had a large bag of home grown rhubarb for me was the less obvious but very welcome thing he was referring to.

That evening, wanting to take an offering back to work as a way of sharing the generous rhubarb donation (that is how much we love each other), I searched for recipes beyond the usual and 'not so easy to slice up like a cake' rhubarb crumble.  I found some likely candidates and settled on one for rhubarb cake slices (handy that), with the plan to make them the following evening.  The ingredients were regular stock cupboard supplies so I was all set and didn't think anymore about it.  

The following evening I spoke to my mum on the phone and she asked me what I was up to. When I told her about my rhubarb cooking plans, she requested I make her a crumble to take up to her on our next visit.  There was more than enough rhubarb so I happily added it to the list.   Phil then piped up and said what about a crumble for him, and another small one was added to the list for pudding.  The 'rhubarb dessert train' was starting to gain more passengers.  So after a pleasant catch up with a colleague who had dropped around to pick up a spare car key attached to a brick that my boss wanted me to pass on (I'm not joking by the way.  This is exhibit B in the randomness of my work colleagues), I got going with juggling dinner and getting the rhubarb dessert/cake train on track.

Dinner progressed in a whirlwind of smoky aubergine dip, falafels, roasted baby potato salad, cashew celery and apple salad, tahini beetroot salad and various green salad offerings on the side.  I got the rhubarb stewing in preparation for the crumbles and all was going well in an adrenaline (okay alright, and beer) fuelled cooking frenzy; until the rhubarb train got derailed as I started to get the ingredients together for the cake slices and crumble toppings.  It seemed those regular stock cupboard supplies that are always regularly in supply in our regular stock cupboard were no longer in our regular stock cupboard supplies. That never happens and any of my work colleagues reading this right now will confirm my organisational (bordering on the anal/autistic at times) ability to have everything I need when I need it.  The 'Stock Cupboard Supply' pixie (aka me, Scooby) normally has a total handle on such things.  Nope, not this time.  If there had been a crowd witnessing this they would have been saying 'rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb' in whispered shock in the background.  The cake slices were off the menu for my work colleagues.  I could hear my colleague Roger laughing in the background.   When I had originally mentioned about my rhubarb cooking plans, he had said he would prefer doughnuts.

The rhubarb that was stewing on the stove top spluttered and spitted away reminding me that the cake slices were half the issue right now.  Crumble needed other ingredients beside just the rhubarb.  The 'Stock Cupboard Supply' pixie had left me a pittance of plain flour to work with, along with some homemade vegan margarine; but it wasn't enough for the promised maternal crumble let alone the one that Phil had conned me out of in the latter stages of planning.  Before anyone else says, "just bloody go down the shops", let me remind you that a) we live in Cornwall and the shops are not open 24 hours; b) It is summer season and it is quite frankly an ordeal to perform such a simple errand if you have to run the gauntlet of tourist traffic (particularly those who don't want to get within 5 metres of the hedges that line our road out of the village) and c) I really couldn't be arsed.

The bloody pixie hadn't left many porridge oats to save the day either.  However by now the pixie was quite tipsy so seeds, nuts, and the rest of our supply of muesli went into the mix.  I was quite pleased about the latter actually as, to be fair, muesli is pretty boring stuff anyway and it had been hanging around for a while.  Somehow the crumbles made it through and got made.  

The next morning the rhubarb hangover hit as I did my early morning swimming spin before work.  The crumbles may have survived but I simply couldn't turn up empty handed after my rhubarb cake slice promise to my colleagues.  I cut my swim slightly short and headed to the nearest Co-op with a view to their vegan doughnuts being my saviour.  Truro Co-op is an interesting place at 7.30am; far busier than you would expect.  Interesting characters too. One elderly male customer commented to me that he would like to "do his hair like you next time".  I have long hair down to my waist. He was bald.  I laughed and he said "what's so funny?" (with a pure Cornish glint in his eye) before moving on to his next victim.  To most this might appear random.  In Cornwall, this is a lovely wholesome verbal breakfast.

In the end Roger got his doughnuts and everybody else said they had actually forgotten about my rhubarb cake promise anyway.  

Monday, 24 July 2017

My Bestest Vegan Mate

Apologises for this soppy post.  It's not like me but hey, whatever, I don't care!

You see, I am so very lucky.  Today, 18 years ago, I met Phil on a beach in Newquay, after answering his advert in the personal column of The Vegan Society's magazine.  He was 6ft 2 of lush vegan surfyness and my eyes nearly popped out of my head when I first saw him. I was so nervous I couldn't stop talking and, well, as he is a man of few words most of the time anyway, he couldn't get a word in edge ways!  Luckily that didn't put him off, and despite living at the time 50 miles apart, our relationship blossomed, grew and developed.  I truly believe vegan love runs deep.  That understanding of being vegan adds that unspoken 'knowing' and love.

I can't imagine life without my vegan soul mate.  I love him as much today, if not more, than ever.  He puts up with my madness, I so with him, but most of all we stand side by side in love and belief.  Despite growing old(er) together, we remain kids at heart.

We are not big on anniversaries or anything soppy like that, and he doesn't know I am writing this blogpost.  Normally we just verbally acknowledge the fact that it is our anniversary and that's it. However, it has been such a crazy horrible year for multiple reasons, I just wanted to say to him how much I loved him and how much I have appreciated him being there totally all the way.  I love you Phil.

So, as music is such a big part of our lives, and having not long ago discovered the lovely Ouroboros album from Ray LaMontagne, I include the song below.  We've been singing some of the lyrics to each other recently when it comes on - 

When I am with you
When I am with you
I'm right where I belong
And I'm
Right where I belong....

and so this evening (Cornish weather permitting) we will be;

Sat in the grass 'neath the evening sky doubt toasting the sunset over the beach with a lovely glass of vegan vino (not a Ray LaMontagne lyric I might add)!

Friday, 21 July 2017

Shall I Or Chanterelle I?

We've been rummaging around in woodlands again recently; like you do.  The reason is that Phil is a keen mushroom hound.  The Chanterelle mushroom is however one that has evaded him for a while, but that is more my fault than his. You see he has in the past had a glimmer of doubt about identifying them, and this has made me encourage him to err on the side of caution.  Many years ago I had a bad experience with mushrooms (let's not talk about that though eh, as I was young and that was a whole other story), and I am a little nervous of any type of intoxication resulting from the consumption of any type of mushroom, whether that be for culinary or recreational purposes.  Phil however would still quite happily pick all sorts of mushrooms, as long as he was sure of their identity, and they were in the correct set and setting.

Credit to Phil though, he has been doing his research and, credit to me, I very much trust Phil's judgement.  It took him 3 seasons of doubting whether the patch of mushrooms that appeared every year in the same place were Chanterelles, but this was put to bed with just a few good Youtube clips, and looking again at the guidebooks with this enhanced knowledge.  Now there is no doubt in his mind about identifying them, and he wonders what he was thinking for even doubting that they were Chanterelles. I guess you don't know until you 'know'.  I still don't know, but am more than happy for Phil to take charge of all things mushroomy!

As we were out and about in Miles the camper van when we found these, we wanted to put these to use immediately with the few supplies we had on board.  We had some lovely fresh wild garlic and herb bread from the market in Totnes, we had some onions, herbs and spices, and some Oatly creamy oat cream.  This would be the basis of our Chanterelles in cream sauce recipe, served with the garlic and herb bread.  The idea was to let the flavour of the Chanterelles take centre stage, and so to limit adding in too many other seasonings. It was simple and quick to make, and made perfect use of our woodland harvest.  It also packed an intense mushroom flavour, but one that was subtly different from any that we had sampled before.

Chanterelles in Cream Sauce

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion
1/4 tsp each salt, black pepper, vegan bouillon powder
A good harvest or punnet of mushrooms sliced
1/4 tsp dried Herbs de Provence
1 carton Oatly Cream

Dice the onion and saute in the oil until soft, and then add in the salt and pepper.  Let cook for a few seconds and then add in the mushrooms.  Saute for 4-5 mins.  Add in the stock powder, the herbs, and the oat cream and simmer for 2-3 mins.  Serve with some nice 'artisan' type bread of your choice.

Enjoy if you dare! *

* Please do not pick and consume wild mushrooms if you are in any way unsure about their identity.  The consumption of some wild mushrooms can be fatal.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Caring Colleagues and Cakey Contributions

It's been a challenging few months and my colleagues have been massively supportive on many many levels.  Sure we don't hang around with each other much outside of work but when you know you can go to work and laugh, cry, rant, hug, talk to and generally be yourself, you know that you are on the right side of lucky and that the term 'colleagues' really means 'mates'.  

Being vegan in a predominantly non vegan work environment can, on occasions, be challenging, more than some people realise.  I'm lucky on this front too as, although I am very much outnumbered as a vegan, my colleagues are understanding, non confrontational and even vegan curious on occasions.  It went a step further however this week when they presented me with a plethora of amazing vegan cakes that they had researched, sought out and bought for me as a birthday gift.  Now I would say at this point that the normal tradition is that we do make sure that each member of our team gets a birthday card from the rest of us and a gift on special birthdays, but mine wasn't a special birthday and a card would have been more than lovely.  They ignored that and decided to treat me regardless.  I was blown away more and more with each box of cake that I pulled out of the bag.  How many people can boast such loveliness from their non vegan colleagues?

The other surprise for me is that they had sourced these vegan wonders from somewhere that had slipped off our vegan radar; The Organic Coffee House in Redruth.  They had therefore by default, presented me with a blogging opportunity too. So as soon as I got these cakey delights home, before the devourer of cakes (aka Phil) returned from work, and with a watchful gaze skywards for our ever present gulls, I took the opportunity of unboxing them and getting a sunlit shot in the garden. This was the last time these cakes were going to be together and, shortly after I cut up and shared three of them out between Phil, mum, and I.  Lots of oohs and aahs filled the room as we each compared notes.  

The aim of The Organic Coffee House is to offer organic, fair trade, rainforest alliance coffee and organic wholesome vegetarian food at a reasonable and competitive price.  They offer vegan, gluten and dairy free options daily and source as many of their ingredients as locally as possible.  We were aware of The Organic Coffee House, being that it is next door to Country Store Health Foods in Redruth.  However, we had never managed to be around when it was open, nor is it in an area that we visit frequently.  We were however totally unaware of the amount of homemade vegan cakes they offered.  Well worth more frequent visits it seems.  

And more about the cakes.......well we have so far devoured the Truffle Cake, Millionaire's Shortbread, Chocolate Pot, Jaffa Cake, and Salted Caramel Cake.  Still to scoff is the Orange Polenta Cake, Lemon Curd Cake, and the Raspberry and Coconut Cake.  I imagine they won't be around by the end of the day!

If unlike me, you don't have such lovely work mates, get along to The Organic Coffee House to check out the delights for yourself.

Organic Coffee House, Redruth, Cornwall

Friday, 30 June 2017

Gifts From Alaska

Verena, my sister, set me off on my vegan pathway 30 years ago.  Basically, I went to California to visit her and came back a vegan. She now lives in Alaska and keeps her ear to the ground about all things vegan as she knows we love our food so much. With great effort to keep the refrigerated goods cool, she brought us some wonderful vegan offerings on a recent visit.  Wow, what a treat it was too.

You might have the image of Alaska as being frigid, the back of beyond, a wild expanse of wilderness, a vegan nightmare of hunting and fishing.  That is what the TV series'  frequently repeated over here would have us believe.  This is certainly not the case in Anchorage where Verena lives.  Vegan wonders abound.  Cornwall may be a little bit warmer in the winter (surprisingly not always in the summer!) but it's a wilderness when it comes to experiencing the vegan wonders my sister brought us.

The first of these lovely products we sampled was the Kite Hill Cream Cheese Style Chive Spread.  The ingredients list for this almond milk based cultured cheese spread is reassuringly short.  The creamy delight of tangy cheese balanced beautifully against the oniony bite of chive.  Spread deliciously and decadently on freshly toasted bread, the generous 8oz package stood no chance of making it to even halfway towards the 'use within 7 days of opening' date.  

Next up was the Field Roast Italian Sausages; seitan and vegetable based chunky sausages with a firm, filling texture from the Seattle based Field Roast Grain Wheat Company.  With such few ready made seitan options on the market in the UK, it was nice to give these a go.  The full rich flavour of these Italian style sausages, which incorporates aubergine, fennel, red wine, garlic and sweet peppers, is more than satisfying served on their own as part of a meal, or they would hold their own in a hearty stew.

Miyoko's Creamery European Style Vegan Butter now came under our scrutiny.  It is so good to see a palm oil free vegan butter on the market; this one being a coconut oil and cashew based cultured butter.  The firm texture, which was more slice-able than spreadable, was quite unlike the usual selection available over here.  It has a pleasant enough mild buttery taste, and melted delightfully on hot toast, but I actually preferred the taste of my homemade options.  That said, if readily available in this country, no doubt I would buy it if I was feeling lazy enough to forego the effort of making my own. In fairness, we didn't end up cooking or baking with it either and, as it states that it 'melts, cooks, bakes and spreads like butter', I feel that this one would have the edge on mine as the virgin olive oil in mine could be overbearing in some sweet bakes.

Two more Miyoko's Creamery Products were saved until last.  We had a feeling about these cheesy spreads, and this was mostly based on the fact that Miyoko is also the author of Artisan Vegan Cheese; a book I have owned and 'cooked' from for a few years now.  I've had some great successes with some of the recipes, but I was more than interested to taste 'the real deal'.  It didn't disappoint.  These rich and creamy cashew based cultured spreads delivered a tangy sharp flavour punch that led to both of our packets; Classic Double Cream Chive and Double Cream Sun Dried Tomato Garlic, disappearing pretty swiftly once opened. We just couldn't help ourselves!  These two spreads, particularly the Sun Dried Tomato one were definitely top of the list from my sister's gifts.  They certainly had me reaching for the Artisan Vegan Cheese book again and, after finding the Sun Dried Tomato and Garlic recipe in there, no doubt a cheese spread making session is imminent.

Thank you Sis for sending me on the vegan pathway and also for the lovely gifts. XX

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Vegan Roasted Sesame Seed Chocolate

We recently hopped across to Brittany for a much needed break in Miles The Camper Van. As ever our travels led us not only to beautiful landscapes and surfing opportunities but also naturally to search out food wonders. 

The reputation for France is that of not being terribly vegan friendly, but not so from our experience.  The story may be slightly different if we were eating out (although vegetarian and vegan eating establishments do seem to be on the rise over there) but with a kitchen on board, we tend to park our own 'restaurant' wherever the best views are.  

One of our sweeter discoveries on this trip was this wonderful chocolate from a company called Grain De Sail. This Bretagne company produces chocolate and coffee products, with an emphasis on organic and sustainability. 

The aim of the company is to reduce their carbon footprint by transporting their raw ingredients by transatlantic sailing boat.  Not all their products are vegan but, apart from the usual factory manufacturing warning, the dark (noir) chocolate ones we found are.  The roasted hazelnut and sesame seed flavours were a massive hit with us; the latter being our favourite.  Remember Sesame Snaps?  The chocolate covered sesame snacks are pretty nice but always leave you wanting for more chocolate.  Well the Noir Sesame Grain de Sail chocolate reverses that chocolate/sesame balance in just the most perfect way. Unfortunately, the bars we brought back with us are long eaten (those are empty packets pictured above) but it got me thinking.  Why not make our own?  At least we could sustain ourselves until we return again to Brittany!

I worked on a recipe based on raw chocolate but of course, with roasted sesame seeds involved, it couldn't be completely raw.  Roasting the seeds seems to really bring out their flavour, and this chocolate just wouldn't be as tasty with raw seeds.  I surprised myself with the results as, first time I pretty much nailed a decent sesame chocolate!  I think next time the only thing I would do differently is reduce the sweetener a touch which is actually even more of a healthy bonus. Let us not forget that sesame seeds are packed full of calcium too. This is therefore a chocolate you don't have to feel naughty about snorkelling.  

Vegan Roasted Sesame Seed Chocolate

This makes four 4" x 3" chocolate bars (two of which are pictured above)

3oz cocoa butter
1oz brazil nuts
3 tablespoons cocoa powder (I used raw)
3oz agave syrup (I will try 1oz less next time I think)
Pink of Himilayan pink salt
6 tablespoons sesame seeds

1.  Melt the cocoa butter in a bowl over warm water.
2.  Meanwhile grind up the brazil nuts until fine (I use a coffee/spice grinder).
3.  Add the brazil nuts, cocoa powder, agave syrup and salt to the cocoa butter.
4.  Stir well until well incorporated.
5.  Roast/toast the sesame seeds until fragrant and slightly browned.
6.  Allow to cool slightly before adding to the main mix and incorporating well.
7.  Pour into silicon molds of your liking and allow to fully set in the fridge.
8.  Unmold, try not to eat in one go, and store in the fridge.


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).