Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Nowzad Dogs - One Dog at a Time

When we were at the Animal Aid Cruelty Free Fair in Exeter in November I bought a book from a stall for Nowzad Dogs, a charity that rescues stray and abandoned animals in Afghanistan.  I thought it looked like an interesting book for my brother in law, an ex US marine who served in Afghanistan who is also very fond of his extended family of dogs.  Between him and my sister they have four dogs at their home in Alaska, one of which was a stray that my sister rescued whilst on a business trip to South Korea. 

Naturally I wanted to read the book first to make sure it was a good recommendation!  I wasn't disappointed.  It was a gripping read and one that will remain in my mind for some time yet on many different levels.  It is far from an easy read with your heart being wrenched in empathy for Pen Farthing's desperate attempts to make a difference, both with canine and human souls caught up in the conflict.  Your feelings regarding conflict aside, it is a real insight into the everyday world of soldiers slap bang in the middle of it all and the different ways that they find to deal with the stress.  The lengths Pen, his colleagues, family and friends went to in order to rescue the original strays that adopted him as their guardian is determination personified.  It laid the groundwork for any soldier stationed over there to not have to go through the same torment in trying to find a better life for stray animals that have adopted them as well as making huge steps in improving the general welfare of animals over there. 

Nowzad Dogs also quite rightly go to great lengths to stress that there are plenty of four legged friends requiring loving homes over here too.  On the eve of Christmas Day this is a particularly apt moment for such thoughts given the amount of animals abandoned at this time of year.  However, there is no doubt that the work that Nowzad Dogs does in Afghanistan reaches another level of compassion by at least providing the one and only reliable rescue in the country.

I will be passing on 'One Dog at a Time' to my brother in law but in the meantime I will be ordering  the sequel for myself.  I truly want to follow the continuing story and work of the resulting official charity.  I implore you to look them up, read the story for yourself and be inspired and heartened by the compassion and dedication show by Pen and his crew.


Monday, 16 December 2013

Quorn is NOT Vegan!


Quorn came on to the market long after I went vegan.  It's not vegan due to its prolific use of eggs and sometimes milk.  I have therefore never eaten Quorn; that is until some idiot in a restaurant decided that he would serve me some. 
 
I was on a night out with my colleagues from work and we have gone to the same Caribbean restaurant that we had the year before where the food had been very good.  As usual a request had been made in advance for all my food to be vegan.  I made the mistake of trusting a reputable restaurant to know the food products they are serving and in fact did not expect to be served with something premade anyway as part of a restaurant cooked meal. 
 
The main course arrived with a lump of something on top that I actually presumed to be plantain, which I love.  However after slicing off a small section and tasting it I was confused.  I had never tasted anything like that before so I asked the waitress who very casually told me it was Quorn.  The damage had been done by then as I really didn't have trust in any of the food that would be served me that night.  I resorted to alcoholic refreshment (which was the second mistake of the evening as I discovered the following morning!).
 
It amazes me that a business that is dealing with food was so unaware of a food item and its contents, especially when a special request of a vegan meal had been made.  Ironically the owner also seems to come from a culture not too far away from Rastafari roots.  The Rasta way of living (livity) is generally referred to as Ital, a pure approach to life and energy and Ital normally follows a vegan diet....but perhaps that's me making unfair assumptions on the culture front (not the food business front though) as it seems that most people seem to think that Quorn is vegan! 
 
I blame the fact that Quorn has a massive dominance over the vegetarian market, not really even giving an inch to other potentially vegan products on the supermarket shelves.  A sea of orange confronts you as you try and dig around for an alternative on those nights that you really cannot be bothered to 'make from scratch'.  It really annoys me and even more so now that I have been unwittingly fed the stuff!
 
So the moral of the story is...........scorn the Quorn and never trust a restaurant to exactly know what it is serving you.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

All It Takes is a Celebrity!

If Jay-Z and his wife, BeyoncĂ© are now vegan then surely that makes us vegans all totally cool!?  Right?  Well that surely means that Phil and I were the original Jay-Z and BeyoncĂ© many years ago....er maybe not (although my bottom does seem to be expanding just a touch in the latter years!). Good luck to them and I really hope that they totally benefit from their sensible decision with the added bonus of spreading the vegan message to all those who strive to live their lives via those of the celebrity.
 
Veganism does seem to be more and more in the news these days though which is totally amazing given the 'hippy weirdo' image that both Phil and I were labelled with 25 years ago.  It has become more acceptable.  I normally don't enjoy being acceptable, as it is far more fun not to be, but because veganism is a great idea, I'll go along with that!
 
Here is the latest offering in the mainstream media from the Independent which was also reviewed on BBC Radio 4 this morning.
 
 
Interesting the original article goofed up and said that Quorn was vegan but after many comments pointing this out, this has since been corrected!
 

Cheesy Spring Onion Chilli Bread Swirls


We made pizza last night using our steadfast dough recipe (although we didn't have any spelt flour so had to use all white).  Having some dough left over we fancied a little experiment.  So we rolled out the dough, spread some of Scooby's Scotch Sauce all over it, added some grated vegan cheese and a sprinkle of finely chopped spring onions (from our own garden) and then roll 'em, roll 'em, roll 'em'd the dough up.  We then baked the resulting sausage shapes at 200 degrees C for about 25 minutes until golden brown on top.
 
Hmmmmmm, not bad.
 
Enjoy!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Vegan Shops in Devon

We recently went to the South West Christmas Without Cruelty Festival and as usual met up with old friends whilst enjoying the wonder of being surrounded by like minded people.  If you didn't go....well you missed out!
 
A couple of friends, we were delighted to hear, have been very busy with new businesses over the border in Devon and we were even more pleased to hear that both businesses are trading in ethical, vegan products.
 
We wish them all the success in their new ventures and will certainly make the effort to visit them when next in the area.  In the meantime, we thought we'd help spread the word so if you are in Plymouth or Newton Abbot please do visit and support Fairport and Mim's Emporium in the knowledge that they are both businesses with their vegan hearts and minds in the right place.
 
 
Fairport
Stalls 99 and 100
Plymouth City Market
Plymouth
Devon
PL1 1PS
Open Monday to Saturday 9.30am - 4.30pm (3.30pm Wednesdays)
 
 
Mim's Emporium
Stall 5
Market Food Hall
Market Street
Newton Abbot
Devon
TQ12 2RJ

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Curried Chickpea Slice

 
Every time we go to Penzance we always have a quick look in The Granary health food store.  They have a good selection of take out snacks both sweet and savoury.  If we get there early enough in the day then Phil will always buy at least one portion of their curried chickpea slice before it sells out.  Scooby hadn't tried one of these before, but on Saturday when we were down that way, she tried it for the first time and realised what all the fuss was about.   Between us we devoured a slice in a couple of minutes.  When we got home we realised we had all the ingredients to make our own version, attempting to make it as much like the original as we could, as we are not sure that can be improved upon. 
 
It is quite quick to make so we put some in the oven whilst we had it on.  We were very pleased with the results; so much so that we made another batch last night for our lunch boxes.  The pastry isn't exactly the same as the original, being shop bought, but it is still very nice indeed.  I can see us making this every couple of days for a while and with more time on our hands, there would be no excuse not to use homemade shortcrust pastry. 
 
Curried Chickpea Slice
 
3 tbsp oil
2 medium red onions chopped into 1/2" chunks
A few grinds of black pepper
2 tsp medium Madras curry powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp tomato puree
1 400g tin of chickpeas rinsed and drained well
1/2 cup water
1 pack of Jusrol Shortcrust Pastry (500g)
 
1.  Heat the oil in the pan and add the chopped onions.  Fry gently for 8-10 minutes.  It's worth taking the time to cook the onions slowly like this.
 
2.  Add the black pepper, all the spices and the salt and continue to fry gently for a minute on a low heat.
 
3.  Add the tomato puree and mix into the onions and spices keeping the pan on the heat. 
 
4.  Add the chickpeas and mix well to coat them, then start adding the water.  You might not need it all, just enough to stop the mixture sticking on the bottom of the pan.  Simmer for a couple of minutes until the mixture is looking dryish.  No water should be visible in the bottom of the pan.  Then take the pan off the heat.
 
5.  Divide the pastry in half and roll each half out thinly (about 5mm).  Place one half on a greased baking tray and spoon the chickpea mixture on top, spreading evenly across the whole surface.  Cover with the other half of the pastry and pinch together at the edges just to stop any chickpeas from doing a runner. 
 
6.  Bake at about 200 degrees C until golden brown (about 20-25 minutes).
 
Enjoy!
 



Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Light in the Darkness

So, on Sunday morning we were laying around in bed, just woken up and not really fully awake yet. Then the phone goes, waking us up properly with concerned thoughts about who might be calling us this early on a Sunday morning. It turns out to not be quite as early as we thought and it's my surf buddy 'Big E' giving me the heads up that there might be a fun little wave, in his own inimitable way. He's what you might call a proper character. Covered in Tattoos and with a "biker goatee" beard, he looks like he could do some damage, until he breaks out his trademark smile, which he does very often. 'Big E' isn't his real name, but he prefers to keep a low profile. From a sketchy past as a member of a certain biker gang, and an avid consumer of illicit substances, he has turned his life around......from the brink of destruction......and now teaches Tai Chi, Chi Gong, mindfulness meditation, and counsels those who are struggling with issues around addiction. These days he's still addicted....but only to surfing now (a much healthier addiction). Not too shabby considering he's pushing sixty. I've learnt a lot from him these past few years, and hopefully given him a few tips to improve his surfing in return.

The surf has been poor for most of the month, so this chance to go for a wave is very welcome. By the time I have had a cup of tea and slice of toast, he's giving me a live run down of the conditions from the top of the dunes. Ten minutes later, and we are both fully covered in neoprene (first time into winter suits, gloves and hoods this season) and heading out to the waves. The conditions weren't epic by any standards, but for most of the session it was just three of us out there picking off the choice waves in the weak winter sunshine. The waves were small, around waist to chest high, but perfect for longboarding on this unusually calm day. I ended up getting out after three hours, when the chill had penetrated to the core.

Later in the day the sea was again calling, and I went surfing once more in the last hour before sunset. The waves were even smaller, but peeling well along a good sandbank. Just being out in the sea as the light changed from full sun, to golden light shimmering on the glassy surface of the sea, to dull oranges and pinks in the sky as the sun dipped, was a magical experience. Insulated from the cold by my wetsuit, between waves I relaxed and took it all in until the only light left was from the few houses and the pub that overlook the southern end of the beach. Catching one final wave in, more by feel than by sight, I remembered how fortunate I am to be able to experience this way of life, and the fleeting rewards that it brings.
 
 

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Cold, Warm, Dark, Light


This time of year can be quite confusing. 
 
We woke up the past couple of mornings with the surprise of frost, the first of the year.  It even made us a little late to work due to the extra time needed to scrape it from the car windscreen.  Then later in the day you can be greeted with such warmth that Phil can be working in the garden with his t-shirt off. 
 
Likewise the light.  Dark mornings can have you crawling from your bed, bleary eyed and none too pleased about the interruption to your Zzzz time,  only to be brightened by the most amazing sunrises that even the summer would be proud of. 
 
There is something beautiful about the light at this time of year; it feels like precious crystal.  Perhaps it is the fact that you appreciate it all the more for the warmth and relief it brings from the long dark nights.
 
Yesterday we went west with no particular plan other than to enjoy being somewhere in the sunshine.  We ended up at St Michael's Mount and sat on the harbour wall sucking in the peace, warmth and light.  The light was playing with all that was around it; throwing the Mount into striking silhouette, dancing in the rock pools, flowing through and around the cotton ball clouds, touching the under wings of seagulls as they soared above us.
 
All too soon though it was time to head home before our warmth and light 'bank' we had built up started to be depleted again by the impending move towards sunset.

Being Nutty is Good For You!

On driving to work on Friday I heard a story on our local radio station about a study in America which appears to show that people who regularly eat nuts may live longer.  To me the findings sounded obvious but it is always good to hear a plant based food being recognised officially for its obvious health benefits.
 
Read the BBC's version of the breaking story here Eating Nuts 'May Prolong Life'

Multi-Purpose Bread Dough

Although bread is one of those things that in years gone by would have been made every day without thinking, much in the way that we make a cuppa in the morning, there are not many people I imagine these days that would be able to just make a loaf without reaching for a recipe.  That aspect of it has become a dying art, thanks to the ease and readiness that it can be lifted off of a supermarket shelf.  But there is something warm and fluffy about making it yourself and it also fills the house with a beautiful aroma.

Un-risen dough
I don't make bread all the time, perhaps a few times a month, but when I do I have a recipe that is now pretty much ingrained in my head and therefore simple! 
 
Making pizza is normally the incentive as the dough that I make I tend to employ for loaves, rolls, focaccia and pizza bases.  After making a pizza base there is normally enough to mould a small loaf or a few rolls too.  I'm a great fan of 'two for the price of one' and making good use of the oven being on so it always makes sense to multi- purpose the dough.
 
Multi-Purpose Bread Dough
 
250g strong white bread flour
250g spelt flour
7g dried active yeast (you can get these already in 7g sachets)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 pint warm water
 
Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix the oil in with the warm water in a jug.  Add the wet to the dry and mix initially with a wooden spoon. Then get in there with your hands and knead, adding in just a sparse amount of flour to prevent sticking.  I do all this in the bowl as it makes less mess but you could do this on a floured surface if you find it easier (and that is the way all the books say to do it!). 

After about five minutes you should have a nice smooth but pliable dough.  Lift the dough gently and add a little olive oil to the bowl to grease it before putting the dough back in again.  Cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place for a couple of hours.  Sometimes I forget about it until hours later and it has always been fine, having normally at least doubled in size. 
 
Mould it and bake according to whatever you are making.  After topping, pizza normally takes about 30 minutes at 200 degrees C whilst a loaf of bread just a touch longer.  If in doubt with the bread, give it a tap on the bottom and it should sound hollow.
 
Enjoy!
 

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Vegan Chocolate Marzipan Brazil Nuts

Chocolate, marzipan and Brazil nuts; a match made in vegan heaven especially for Phil as all three of these are some of his favourite things individually let alone when combined! 

Special vegan chocolates can be expensive to buy so try this for a cheaper, simple and yumski alternative.
 
Melt down some vegan chocolate in a bowl placed over a saucepan of hot water.  Mould shop bought vegan marzipan around each Brazil nut and then dip in the melted chocolate. 
 
Place on a plate and pop in the freezer for about 20 minutes or so until firm.  Bag them up trying not to eat them all in one go!  Enjoy!

Dried Mushrooms

It's taken a few days but the foraged mushrooms that we put on the radiators and in front of our open fire have finally dried out. We are just 'finishing' them off in our airing cupboard before we put them in air tight jars to store away for use in soups and stews.  
 
It is quite amazing how they have maintained and even intensified their earthy mushroomy smell so they will hopefully really add depth and flavour to any dish we use them in.
 


Friday, 15 November 2013

Cacti Abstract

Sometimes simple things can get your attention. 
 
To be honest I am easily distracted by shape, form, texture and light.  I even spent the early part of my life, before the more vegan form of digital photography took off, seeing in black and white.  Honestly I did.  This was due to my use as a photographer of predominantly black and white film.
 
So here I am sitting in our office and I turned around to see William, my faithful cacti friend of about 20 years, creating an amazing lighting abstract behind me.  He has got a bit of a bend at the moment which I am mindful of.  After all me and him have spent many a year together and hopefully have many more years to come, so I wouldn't want to lose him.  I have turned him around to give a little support against the wall in the hope that he will know what to do for the best.  A re-potting in the spring may be necessary which will be interesting as William stands taller than Phil's strapping 6' 2".  He is reaching for the stars at around 6' 6"! 
 
Either way, I treat my plants as my faithful friends.  Call me a hippie if you like, I simply don't care!

South West Christmas Without Cruelty Festival

THIS JUST IN FROM ANIMAL AID.  WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS EVENT.  SEE YOU THERE!


Dear Friends,

I hope that you’ll consider joining us at this year’s South West Christmas Without Cruelty Festival. It will be held, as always, at Exeter Corn Exchange, Market Street, Exeter EX1 1BW on
 Saturday 30 November, 10am-4.15pm. Free admission.
We think we’ve put together our most exciting show to date!

As well as all the usual features, we have Christmas cookery demonstrations - including everything for the holiday from sweets and snacks (such as chocolate and brandy truffle hearts) to main courses and desserts, plus some great new stalls. The demos – by VIVA’s Jane Easton – will be at around 12.30pm and 2.30pm. The first will follow a 30-minute performance by our excellent World Music Choir, a firm Festival favourite.

Our stallholders combine the very best of local and national charities and ethical traders. We have cakes galore, including the famous creations from Ms Cupcake, proprietor of London’s first completely vegan bakery, and Devon’s wonderful Fairfoods company. For those who like their burgers and sausages, Beanies will be there, with their unrivalled Fry’s range of convenience foods. There’ll be Fairtrade clothing and vegetarian shoes, special vegan ice creams in winter flavours, a range of cruelty-free cosmetics and make-up, handmade chocolates, local crafts, animal-free dog treats, a variety of Christmas cards, photographs and much, much, more.

Included on the menu at our ever-popular restaurant are 
artichoke, butterbean and tomato filo pie; spinach, courgette and pesto lasagne; pumpkin peanut butter cheesecake and vegan cream teas – all at a very reasonable price, so make sure you allow time for lunch and afternoon tea!

After his visit in 2011, Benjamin Zephaniah described our South West Festival as ‘very special’ and ‘the best event of its kind’. And this year it’s even better!

In addition to free entry, we offer the first 50 visitors a free Christmas gift, kindly donated by Lush Cosmetics.

Christmas Without Cruelty offers a great day out and an ideal way to do all your Christmas shopping safe in the knowledge that all your money is going to good causes and ethical companies. 

I hope to see you there.

With best wishes,

Mark Gold

If you want to learn more, please listen to this radio interview featuring Benjamin Zephaniah in conversation with Animal Aid -
 

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Vegan Carob, Cherry and Raisin Cup Cakes


One of the questions I get asked quite a lot by non-vegans is 'how do you make cakes?', to which I answer 'very easily'!  Given that most standard recipe books, magazines or cookery shows seem to be addicted to eggs when it comes to cake recipes, it is an understandable misconception that you cannot make cakes without eggs.
 
I normally like to follow up my explanation of ease by making some cakes and letting people sample them. I do this at work every now and then resulting in a 'bun fight' amongst my non-vegan colleagues to get at them; further countering the other popular misconception that vegan cakes must taste terrible without the use of eggs!

Recently I wanted to make a cupcake that said 'evening comfort food' but without the chocolate that is renowned for keeping Phil from snoozing at night. So I came up with this little combo - Carob, Cherry and Raisin - and it worked well with just the right level of naughty but nice.......particularly with a splash of vegan custard on top!
 
Carob, Cherry and Raisin Cup Cakes

240ml soya (or rice) milk
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
220g plain flour
2 tablespoons corn flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
100g mix of raisins and dried cherries
100g carob flakes or drops (broken up a bit)
75ml rapeseed oil (gives cakes lovely colour)
150g caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla paste or essence
1 teaspoon almond essence (if you like it)

1. Whisk the vinegar into the milk and then leave it alone for about 5 minutes whilst you weigh out all the other ingredients.

2. Mix all the dry ingredients (except the sugar) in a bowl.  Stir in the fruit and carob.

3. Add the oil, sugar and essences to the soya milk mixture and give it a good old mix up.

4. Add the wet mixture into the dry ingredients in the bowl and mix well, giving it a little whisk to add air.  Check there is no sneaky flour on the very bottom of the bowl!

5. Fill cupcake liners (about 3/4 full) or a greased muffin tin and then bake for about 20 minutes at 200 degrees C. A knife inserted into the centre of one will tell you they are ready if it comes out clean.

This recipe makes about 7 big boys or 11 to 12 smaller ones. It even works well put in a shallow baking pan as a 'tray bake' (with a little extra baking time).

Enjoy!
 

Mushroom Forage


So further to our Cornish Cliff Safari at the weekend, Phil did in fact go searching for a good crop of mushrooms out on the cliff top grassland a couple of miles from home. 

He wasn't disappointed and with appropriate containers to house the harvest, he was able to bring home more than enough big juicy field mushrooms for dinner.  There were many that had just 'gone over' and were no good and a fair few more which weren't quite ready for picking yet, but nature had still provided today's ripe and ready crop.
 
On my return from work Phil was busy making plans for the use of the mushrooms with everything from inclusion in a miso soup to making some form of mushroom gratin. 

He also wanted to experiment with drying some of them but without a dehydrator or the desire to leave the oven on for a not very environmental amount of time, it was likely that the radiators in the house were looking the best candidates for this task.
 
It was sure going to be an interesting experiment and one that no doubt we will be reporting on at some point in the future.

In the meantime, I was looking forward to the foray of dishes coming my way this evening.
Mushrooms drying on an upside down baguette baking tray on our radiator
 

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Cornish Cliff Safari

It had been a while since we had stomped around our own territory and with miles of National Trust coastline on our doorstep, that was shameful.  So Saturday afternoon saw us taking off seaward despite dark clouds constantly threatening.
 
Before we reached the sea we noticed a huge amount of hairy brown caterpillars on the surrounding grassland.  It seemed like every step we took, we had to take great care to not step on one.  They all seemed to be heading in the same direction too.  I had seen these caterpillars before around this area but never in such great numbers.  We found out later they were Fox Moth caterpillars and should really be hibernating in leaf litter between September to March, so maybe they had all been out partying and realised they were late and were migrating back to their favourite hibernation spot.
 
As we reached the sea and took to the cliff top the migrating Fox Moth caterpillars continued in profusion but we were joined by faster moving creatures on the seaward side.  Pairs of eyes followed our procession and when we stopped to sit on a rock to watch them, they moved closer to come and stare at these crazy creatures called humans.  These were the Polly Joke seals and you would be very unlucky if you didn't even catch a glimpse of them along this stretch as they have a colony just around the corner.  Unfortunately I didn't have a long lens with me so I didn't manage to capture their curious bright eyes to their full potential.
 


With dark clouds looming and a few drops of rain sporadically falling, we left the gaze of the watery dogs below and continued around the coastline.  Here we started noticing the remnants of various species of mushrooms scattered amongst the short tufted grass.  Then we spotted the clean white tops of fresh field mushrooms and cursed ourselves for not bringing a bag or container to carry home what could have been dinner for that evening.  There were plenty more on the way though so a day trip perhaps in a couple of days for Phil may result in a larger harvest.
 

It was time to turn back inland and across the common.  Sadly we had failed to see any foxes or choughs, as we had on previous occasions.  We had once even caught a scant glimpse of a mysterious creature in deep undergrowth on a small stream that we could only surmise must have been an otter. 

However, our walk still had a random surprise for us in the form of a donkey.  Not terribly exciting you might argue but this donkey was hanging out with the herd of cows that frequent this part of coastal common land.  It was quite happily part of the gang and hey, donkeys also have that special way of making you smile, especially when they let you vigorously rub their over exaggerated ears.

Friday, 8 November 2013

November is Vegan Month!

If you have happened to read our blog and you are not vegan, then thank you for being interested and curious as everyone is welcome in our world as long as you are open minded! 
 
What would really make us love you even more is if you gave veganism a go.  It is really easy - after all we have both been vegan for over 25 years and we are pretty lazy!  We guarantee you will eventually feel healthier, happier, love food even more and be perhaps just a touch smugger (given that you will be contributing less to animal cruelty, environmental destruction  and the demise of your own health). 
 
November is Vegan Month apparently.  Any month is good enough for us when it comes to deciding to make your life healthier and happier but hell, if November is the official month, then all is good, and it's three weeks better than Vegan Week!
 
So if you are up for it then come on.  Give it a go.  There are lots of resources here from  Animal Aid or just ask us. 
 
Vegan Month

A Distraction of Late Autumn Light

 
Photo taken by Mother Nature
 
From the darkness of nights 'drawing in' comes light.  A late afternoon/early evening sunset throws a temporary canvas of light against the office wall above the computer.  Despite being a photographer, I am not into the 'arty interpretation' of photos and light; I just enjoy what is put in front of me by nature and this scene was most certainly put in front of me. 
 
I sat enjoying it for a while, knowing it wouldn't last much longer.  Then, with my camera sat right next to the desk, I couldn't resist it any longer.  I had to capture what nature had gifted me.  Is there such a thing as plagiarising nature or is simply sharing what nature provides okay?

Monday, 4 November 2013

Roast Dinner

 
When dark descends outside on a windy, rainy evening all you need to brighten things up is culinary sunshine on your plate.
 
Last night we enjoyed our own style of Sunday roast dinner; Japanese Style Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cashews, Stuffed Aubergines (sun dried tomatoes, pine nuts, courgette, onion and Vegusto cheese), Mushroom Paprikash (a kind of mushroom paprika style stew), winter coleslaw (fennel, red cabbage, carrots in Tofutti Sour Cream and balsamic vinegar) and a green salad.  It did the job and the leftovers were very much enjoyed as lunch today.
 
These recipes were adapted from Cook Vegetarian magazine or Vegetarian Times (an American mag I subscribed to for a while).  I made up the winter slaw.
 
Whilst I busied myself in the kitchen preparing this I also made use of the last of the stored pears we had and made Pear and Ginger Jam as well as baking some Half Spelt Bread.
 
By the time I sat down for my Sunday dinner I felt I had earned it!

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Happy Allantide (Nos Calan Gwaf)

Well it's Halloween and tonight no doubt the door will be knocking to the tune of kids on a sweet hunting rampage. These days I have taken to hiding away with the curtains pulled, much in the same way that I hide from most over commercialised excuses of celebration. 
 
A few years ago I did offer apples to kids who came knocking, to the visible disappointment of said kids that I was not filling their baskets with chemically loaded sugary offerings instead. I think this says a lot about how the true meaning of seasonal celebrations has been pretty much forgotten. An apple, although no longer a tempting and appreciated gift to the modern day kid, could not be more appropriate on Halloween.

Allantide (or Nos Calan Gwaf  in Cornish) is a Cornish festival that was traditionally celebrated on 31st October, in other words the present day Halloween. It has pre-Christian/Pagan roots linked to the Celtic harvest festival and possibly also to St Allen (Arlan), a little-known mysterious Cornish Saint (I can't see to find much out about him though).  The festival basically drew a line between the autumn and winter.
 
Like many Celtic traditions, this part of the year was seen as hugely important. On the eve of the first day of Winter, Allantide celebrated the good harvest that would see them through to the Spring. As part of the celebrations, large highly polished apples (known as Allan Apples) were given as gifts to each member of the family as a token of good luck and hopefully to keep the bad winter spirits away. Young maidens would take their apples and put them under their pillows, much in the same way that kids do so with their lost teeth, and make a wish about who they would like to marry one day. 
 
Traditional Cornish 'Jack-o'-Lanterns' were made from turnips, with the now well know pumpkins or squashes being more of an American addition to the modern day Halloween celebrations.

Although Halloween has certainly been hijacked by the scary movie and trick or treating gang,  I on the other hand prefer to keep it a bit more traditional. 

Tonight I celebrate our good harvest in the garden by making use of our stocks of squash and chard and cooking a lasagne, topped with the last of our tomatoes.  Luckily our harvest continues and the proper Cornish winter doesn't normally tend to kick off till January so on the Allantide, I am indeed hoping that the bad winter spirits will stay away until at least then!

I shall be keeping our apples to ourselves though.....seeing as the kids no longer appreciate them!

 Nos Calan Gwaf!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Petite Polenta Peppers


We love polenta, corn maize, masa harina.......whatever.  We use it in various guises.  It's all good.  Last weekend I made these little masa harina and corn maize stuffed peppers and they were very much appreciated from the 'Phil Culinary Corner'. 
 
The time before I used a mixture of polenta and corn maize but this time it was corn maize and masa harina - it depends on what I have left in the cupboard at the time but I find they all basically give similar results.  I have also stuffed large peppers or mushrooms with this basic mixture before and any left over mixture I just put in greased ramekins and pop in the oven with a slice of vegan cheese on top to bake at the same time as the stuffed vegetables.
 
Petite Polenta Peppers
 
2 pints of water
8 sun dried tomatoes
20 little sweet peppers
1 onion
Bit of garlic to taste
Herbs, spices and flavours to taste (see recipe for what I used this time)
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil (or your preferred oil)
1 1/2 tsp salt
200g polenta/corn maize/masa harina
Cheese for topping if you wish
 
1.  Roughly chop the sun dried tomatoes then pop into a heatproof bowl with one pint of the water (boiled).  Let them sit soaking whilst you continue to measure out and prepare everything else.
 
2.  Cut the top of each pepper off and remove the seeds as carefully as you can whilst leaving the pepper intact.  Set aside.
 
3.  Finely chop the onion and fry with the garlic in a little oil.  Add in any flavourings at this stage you wish.  I used oregano, parsley, mint, fenugreek and a touch of chilli sauce this time.  Set aside once softened.
 
4.  Drain the sun dried tomatoes and set aside, reserving the soaking liquid.  Put this liquid in a pan with the remaining pint of water, rapeseed oil and salt and bring this to a boil.
 
5.  Once the liquid is boiling gradually whisk in the polenta/corn maize/masa harina vigorously over a low to medium heat for approximately 5 minutes.  Do not allow it to stick to the bottom of the pan so you may have to employ some muscle action here.   It will stiffen up and start coming away from the sides of the pan when it is ready. 
 
6.  Stir in the sun dried tomatoes and onion mixture until incorporated well.
 
7.  Fill the peppers and then place on an oiled tray.  Brush with a little oil then roast for about 30 minutes or until the peppers are soft and slightly browned. 
 
8.  If you have any polenta mixture left over fill greased ramekins and pop in the oven at the same time with a slice of cheese on top.
 
Enjoy!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

My Natural Heroes


Sometimes, just sometimes, all the worlds align at the perfect time.  Yesterday was a wonderful example. 
 
Picture this; it is Monday evening and I was wondering how I had managed to survive the day at work, my calf muscles were being particularly difficult after my Monday lunchtime 5K run and all I had to look forward to was mine and Phil's random question answering competition during this week's edition of 'University Challenge' (what the hell are some of those questions about anyway?). 
 
I was getting changed into my comfy evening ware, contemplating all this, when there was a knock on the door.  Phil answered the door to find Lynne, our neighbour from across the way.  She had taken a parcel for us from the postie today (part of the delight of living in a small village is that the postman will pretty much leave a parcel with anyone and everyone to deliver later!).  It was a mysterious parcel for me.  I wasn't expecting anything.  I stopped short of massaging my magnesium spray onto my tired old calf muscles to go and investigate.  Imagine my wonder and delight to discover a parcel of goodies from Natural Hero which I had won from entering a Viva! competition. 
 
So there I was stood with throbbing muscles with a pack of wonderful vegan products with words like 'recharge tired muscles'  and 'super powered recovery'.  What is not to like about this situation?  Without further ado this required immediate and further investigation and the 'Hot Ginger Muscle Rub' was employed post haste and forthwith to said naughty muscles.  Whether it was the vigorous rubbing, the product itself or a combination I simply didn't care; it bloody worked.  I had tried vigorous rubbing and other products on various other occasions to no avail so things were looking up for my new best friend and Natural Hero!
 
98% NATURAL INGREDIENTS
It is a lunchtime spinning class tomorrow and another 5K on Friday lunchtime so further investigation into the enclosed 'Cool Peppermint Muscle Spray' and the 'Hot Ginger Muscle Soak' were sure to follow later in the week!
 
running woman
Thank you Natural Hero and Viva!.  What a surprise and delight.....and what timing!

http://www.naturalhero.co.uk/
 

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Zorba's Reef - A Rare Sight


The Goose is the rock that sits a quarter of a mile out to sea from the beach (at high tide).  The waves normally start breaking well after they pass The Goose, even at low tide.  Not today though.  The winds are building and the swell is increasing and as a result we are seeing the rare sight of waves breaking before the island of rock that is The Goose.  This is a 'mysto' (mythical) big wave surfing spot called Zorba's Reef and the few nutters who are willing to ride it are waiting for that rare day when all the conditions align.  Today, although it showed its hand,  the wind was far too strong and from the wrong direction to even contemplate trying to ride it.  It might not look like it but the wave you see in the distance is higher than a three storey house.
 
It is not a day to be out surfing on the main beaches but that didn't stop Phil from trying to find somewhere with enough shelter and size to make it worthwhile.  A trip to the south coast found waves that were either too small or too messy in Phil's normal 'go to' places in these stormy conditions.  In this age of information technology sometimes you still have to travel to the 'off-line' out of the way places to try and find the treasures you seek and to know for sure.  On this occasion he was not successful but it's only the start of the Autumn and Winter swells and many more trips will be made.

Having a Blast!























Cornwall is pretty windy at the best of times.  It is no surprise really given the fact that our pointy little neck of a peninsula reaches out into the Atlantic.  It's part of what makes the Cornish autumn and winter nights cosy, sat inside in front of the open fire, whilst outside all hell breaks loose.  It's also the reason we very rarely clean our windows as the regular blasting of salt and sand heavy wind and rain make it pretty much a useless exercise (or that's our excuse anyway).

However, it does seem that there is a high possibility that the usual strong winds might be out classed this evening and overnight as the already weather obsessed British media work themselves into a frenzy over news of a 'super storm' approaching; possibly the worst in decades.  There is concern about possible heavy rain, falling trees, building damage and gusts of up to 80 mph, or possibly higher on exposed coasts.  We of course live on top of a hill on an exposed coast so potentially our Sunday night could be interesting.

About four years ago we had a practice run with this kind of weather which claimed part of the flat roof on our house.  I must admit, despite the fact that I am relatively used to and unfazed by strong winds (I slept through both the Fastnet Gales whilst in a caravan in the 1979 and the 'Great Storm' of 1987), losing the roof has made me a little more respectfully concerned in the more powerful onsets of windy weather.

So, it's 'batten down the hatches' and 'fingers crossed' this evening that the predictions are far from true and we are just in for the usual Cornish wind blasting instead.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

The Queen of Hot Sauce


The chilli phase still continues in the Driftwood Vegan household and the latest episode involved Phil and I having a chilli sauce 'cook off'.  To be honest I didn't think I was in with a chance. When it comes to anything hot and spicy, Phil is King.  However, to be fair, and for that reason, I rarely even try to cook anything that way inclined.  So I thought I'd give it a go and I even startled myself with the result. 
 
It was to be a chilli sauce war of two sides; taste versus heat.  That isn't to say that I was going to shy away from heat; I just wanted to make sure that the taste wasn't drowned out by the sound of swearing.  I wanted a sauce that I was brave enough to dollop on the side of my plate and get stuck into. 
 
My weapons of choice from our collection of Dom's chillies were the Hot Scotch chillies; 2 of them.  Phil commented that this might still produce quite a hot sauce but then chose the Orange Habanero chillies as his preferred weapon.  As Hot Scotch measure 55,000 on the Scoville index and Orange Habanero are significantly more at 250,000 I failed to see the relevance of Phil's comments.  It turns out neither did Phil as he had actually misread the details Dom had sent us and thought he was dealing with 100,000 heat instead.  He only discovered this after tasting his resulting sauce and wondering why it seemed warmer than expected.  'All is fair in love and sauce', were my thoughts as I watched a little sweat break out on his brow. 
 
Of course I was bound by the terms of agreement to taste his creation as well, otherwise we wouldn't be able to make a fair decision on who reigned 'supremo chilliano' in the sauce department on this particular day.  A slight profanity expelled from me as I tasted and then searched for the 'taste of orange heat' he was describing to me.  We were looking at a Stage 8 situation on the Scoobville Scale here so I was struggling with this just a little.  It wasn't my favourite he had made; that remained his test sauce, but through the heat I could still detect and appreciate the complexities of this particular creation.
 
Then it was on to tasting my first chilli sauce effort.  I let Phil at it first and watched in wonder as a surprised sound and expression emanated from him.  He liked it, he liked it a lot but would it feature high on the Scoobville Scale and disappoint my taste buds?  I apprehensively went in for a tasting.  There was heat but there was also a whole load of taste.  It was about Stage 4 on the Scoobville.  I was happy with that, especially as Phil had to concede that today, I surprisingly reigned as the Queen of Hot Sauce.

Scooby's Scotch Sauce
(Makes about a ketchup bottle's worth)

1 cooking apple (peeled, cored and diced)
1 small onion (diced)
2 Scotch Bonnet chillis (de-seeded and diced)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon of Dijon Mustard (mine had Herbs De Provence in it)
75ml apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon tomato puree
150ml water

Put all the ingredients in a small pan and bring to the boil.  Simmer until soft and mushy then blend and bottle.

Phil's Orange Habanero Sauce
(Makes about a ketchup bottle's worth)

2 medium sized Orange Habanero chillis
2 medium carrots diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
150ml apple cider vinegar
150ml water

Roast the chillis in the oven for 15 minutes at 200 degrees C then remove the pith, stalk and seeds.  Boil the diced carrots in the 150ml of water with the salt and garlic for about 15 minutes or until soft and the water is well reduced.  Blend the chilli, carrot and vinegar together and bottle.

Judge for yourselves and enjoy!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Love for the Hoopoe

We love Hoopoe; that is the bird and the wine. 
The bird is a wonderfully colourful character that we see on the campsite we frequent in Southern Portugal.  He makes a game out of avoiding my camera lens but this year I did finally manage to capture him (see photo below). 
The wine (the red ones anyway) are tasty and full bodied and I could be terribly pretentious and carry on giving various wine related adjectives for them, but basically they taste bloody good.  Not so set on the whites but then we are full bodied red wine loving vegans so just that way inclined.
We don't find it that often (Bristol and Totnes) but when we do we splash out a little.  It is apparently an own-label range by Vintage Roots (according to various press releases) but we failed to find it on the Vintage Roots website which was a little confusing.
I do have an air of mischief about me though
Basically what we are trying to say is it is worth looking out for.  It's organic (obviously), it's vegan (again obviously otherwise we wouldn't be recommending it), it's tasty (obviously but then again, you are entitled to your own opinion) and it has an air of mischief about it just like the real bird (but that obviously could be just the wine speaking!).

Monday, 14 October 2013

Banksy's 'Sirens of the Lambs'

Whatever Banksy's exact message is here (I've seen some on-line debate about it being everything from a loss of childhood innocence to the more obvious statement about the meat industry), it is far from fluffy. 

It is extremely clever, hard hitting, ironic and is bound to enrage the meat eaters amongst our population into a froth of defensive ludicrous comment.  Better still, perhaps it will knock the Disney loving sentimentalists among our population into the real world and get them to question where that plastic wrapped stuff they call meat in the supermarket actually materialises from. 

The message is in the art and the art is in the message. 



Ecotricity - The Frack Free Promise

100 percent Green Electricity for all our customers
 
Ecotricity is a pretty cool company and one that I am proud to be part of. It's a rare thing to say that about a company that you have to pay utility bills to but really, if you have to pay bills, at least make sure the money is going back into something sound. For a start the founder, Dale Vince, is vegan. Nothing wrong and everything right about that. Secondly Dale and his team have built up Ecotricity into a company that is going from strength to strength in supplying green energy.

We get emailed newsletters from them from time to time and the most recent one really made me sit up and take note more than usual. They are now offering just one simple tariff for electricity but importantly this is now 100% green. Even better, the price of this tariff undercuts the standard tariffs of the Big Six energy companies in the UK. Put simply, they are supplying green electricity for less than the price of brown!

We don't have gas in our village but if we did we would also source this from Ecotricity. They have one simple tariff for this too and this is price matched to British Gas' standard tariff. Even at two per cent green it's still the greenest gas in the country and I was delighted to hear that their Green Gas tariff is
frack-free and always will be.
 
 
We'll only supply Frack Free Gas
 

Ecotricity are the 'leading light' for green energy in the UK and I can't imagine it will be long before the other Big Six are running to keep up. The difference is the Big Six will be worried about their profits whilst Ecotricity are more worried about giving the consumers the ability to tick all the right ethical boxes at a fair price.

This is beginning to sound like an advertisement but I know who we will be paying our bills to over the coming years.  Veganism isn't just about the things you eat, it's also about the choices you make in life.