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).

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.

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


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).


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!