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

....no 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.

Enjoy!

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