Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Van Into Tiny Cabin

It took us two years to find our camper van Miles and we love him to bits.  This camper van however is on a completely different level but then anything is possible with the patience, time and talent that this guy seems to have.

For more information and photographs on this amazing project see here Tiny House Talk

Friday, 26 December 2014

Seal Tracks at Christmas

I can't think of a better way of getting away from the hype of Christmas than taking off along the coast path near to where we live.  So that's what we did; a six mile round trip door to door.  We were accompanied by rainbows in the distance and out to sea and, although a stiff coastal breeze was blowing, a spot of sunshine warmed our spirits extensively.  

We were hoping to see seals, particularly so as it was a very low tide.  We did see a few bobbing around and frolicking in the surf but the rocks around the usual colony were unusually quiet.  We did however spot these tracks in the sand on the little beach where we had previously seen mating seals; but with no sign of the seals that made them.  It looked like there had been a fair amount of to-ing and fro-ing though.

We turned for home around about 3pm with thoughts of opening presents, getting the Christmas dinner going (I still had to make the seitan roast yet!) and the fire roaring in the hearth.

After a beautiful spot of sunshine and fresh sea air, it was time to 'cozy in' with some warmth and good food.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Driftwood Christmas Tree

We don't normally have a Christmas tree being the bah humbug vegans we are (and because we hate the idea of digging up/cutting down a beautiful tree just for Jesus). My friend Jane from work however gifted me this wonderful tree the other day with a little note on it saying 'a driftwood Christmas tree for the Driftwood Vegans'.  A friend of hers had made it after collecting the driftwood off of the surrounding beaches.  We love it.

So finally today, sparked along by the little driftwood tree, I got a little more in the festive spirit, wrapped up all my presents (with all the wrapping left over from last year - some of which has been in our family for years!) and broke out our, again gifted, sample of decorations to dress the tree in a typical Driftwood Vegans way.

Happy Winter Solstice everyone!

For others who also hate sacrificing Christmas trees, here is another alternative; a rosemary chili tree I made in a previous year.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Building Development We Approve Of!

Now this is what we call cave art!  What this guy creates is absolutely amazing.  We'd start work on the caves down on the beach in this style if they weren't granite and flooded twice a day with the tide!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Teese Cheese and More

After a few heavy and busy days we were both in the mood for an easy dinner at home but also one that was a real treat.  Enter a packet of Bionita Gluten Free Spinach Gnocchi, Vegusto Mushroom and No Moo Cheese Burgers and a packet of Teese Creamy Cheddar Sauce. 
Phil whipped up a leek and mushroom cheesy sauce with the Teese which he served on top of some homemade ravioli we already had tucked away in the freezer.  With the addition of some lovely grilled tomatoes, steamed sprouting broccoli and a few olives we had a meal that got the 'comfort food' ummms and ahhhs going. 
Even better; I hadn't (apart from originally making the ravioli) got involved preparing this comfort food treat.  I was busy not only printing and packaging up homemade Christmas cards to sell in the village shop but was also still nursing the effects of  my second only ever hangover.  I was struggling a little.
This plate of food therefore, when it was put in front of me, was 'everything' at that moment.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Weather Bomb Hits Britain

Well it was pretty wild last night here in Cornwall but not quite so bad as further up north.  The cause apparently is a 'weather bomb'  or a deep low pressure hitting Britain. 
17,000 houses are without power due to 80mph winds which are also doing a good job of whipping up predicted 40ft waves.  It also brings plunging temperatures as snow starts to hit too.
This looks like the beginning of winter proper then.  On a positive side we hope everybody stays safe and it whips up some surf-able waves for Phil!

Read the BBC News report here.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Stuffed Seitan Roast

The usual challenge of Christmas/Winter Solstice dinner approaches.  My parents are visiting.  My mum is practically vegan but isn't that keen on nuts.  My dad eats meat (not in our house though) but doesn't like soya. Phil will eat anything vegan but would like something a bit different.  I would rather make something than buy it ready made and most of all, I want to keep everyone happy.  

Seitan to the rescue!  We've been continuing to experiment with wheat gluten recipes recently and happened upon the rather excellent Chick Pea Cutlets from the large delicious pages of the Veganomicon recipe book.  Using this as a base, I wanted to create a stuffed roast. I adapted the seasonings, ingredients and measurements slightly and then threw in the idea of a stuffing rolled up inside the seitan mix.  At the last minute I remembered a jar of rosemary jelly I had 'loitering with intent' at the back of our store cupboard.  That might add some 'zig-a-zig-ah' so in it went on top of the stuffing snuggly rolled up within the seitan.

The result was pretty tasty, textural and tempting and got a few mmm's from Phil's corner during our experimental Sunday roast.  I think it will make it on this years festive table but much is the way with me, I will continue to tweak the recipe here and there in the meantime. Just sat here typing this now I'm thinking 'why didn't I use a bit of yeast extract in the water/stock' and 'hey, how about using cranberry sauce instead of rosemary jelly?'.  As Phil always says, I never use the same recipe twice so here (for the moment) I give you my current offering.  Try, change, experiment and if you come up with a winner, feel free to pitch in with an improvement.  I'd love to hear from you. Just make sure it's before the Winter Solstice!

Stuffed Seitan Roast

1 (400g) tin chickpeas
1 cup breadcrumbs (I blended 1 big slice of bread for this)
3/4 cup vital wheat gluten
2 teaspoons mixed herbs
1 clove garlic minced
2 tablespoons soya sauce
1 teaspoon mustard
2 tablespoons rapeseed (or other nice) oil
1/2 cup water or stock

1 packet (85g) stuffing mix (I used a basic sage and onion that didn't have palm oil)
Few spoonfuls to taste of Rosemary Jelly (I used one from Bay Tree)

Make up the stuffing mix according to the packet instructions and set aside.

Blend the chickpeas in a food processor until blitzed.  Add the breadcrumbs, wheat gluten, herbs and garlic and give it all another blitz to mix.

Add in the soya sauce, mustard (psst.......don't tell Phil I used mustard as he says he doesn't like it but actually I use it a lot and he never knows) and oil and give it another blitz to mix. 

Finally add the water or broth for a final good old blitz and mix.  After a little while you should notice that the mixture starts to 'ball' up like a proper dough.  At this point turn the mixture out into a bowl and give it some human loving in the way of a little kneading.  You should notice the 'strings and strands' of the gluten at this point. That means life is all good in the world of seitan.

Grease up a baking tray and then roll the seitan dough to about an A4 size of paper (I did this directly onto the baking tray).  Add a 'sausage' of the stuffing mix down the middle of the seitan and then dollop on spoonfuls of the rosemary jelly here and there; as much or as little as your instinct deals you will taste good.

Roll the seitan edges together into a roll to tuck in the stuffing well, sealing the edges by pressing together.  Turn the roll carefully over so that the seam is on the bottom (makes it look more purdy!) and then cut some slits in the top of the roll.  Coat the top with a little oil if you wish.

Bake it at around 200 degrees C for about 30 minutes.  Our oven is ancient so best just keep an eye on the roll to make sure it browns but doesn't go too crispy.

Enjoy and experiment!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Strawberry Goji Muffins

I'm not normally that prone to winter blues but I must admit that recently I've been feeling it a bit more.  With the race towards Christmas and all its materialistic trappings, I've been feeling far from festive and more in the mood to hide away and await the return of lighter warmer days.  

Cake helps and what better way of summoning up the summer gods than making them out of this summers stock of strawberries squirrelled away in the freezer.  With goji berries for making the cakes into a super food naughty treat and the rest of the ingredients already in the supplies cupboard, the sun suddenly seeped back into the kitchen.  

The recipe for these lovely muffins comes from Dreena Burton's Let Them Eat Vegan; a book that I had blogged about wanting a while back and shortly after bought.  It has been a delight to work my way through these recipes and this one is bound to be a regular; especially with another couple of bags of home grown strawberries in the freezer.

Strawberry Goji Muffins (by Dreena Burton) 

The following is my own shortened version of making these (so not word for word). I urge you to buy Dreena's Let Them Eat Vegan for more tasty and healthy vegan loveliness!

1 cup oat flour (I just blended up oat flakes for this)
1 cup spelt flour
1/3 cup of sugar (I used rapadura sugar)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (or cinnamon)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 cup frozen strawberries
1/2 cup soya (or other non-dairy) milk
1/4 cup dried goji berries
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
2 tablespoons rape seed oil

Bit of rapadura sugar for the tops.

Bung all the dry ingredients (apart from the arrowroot powder and goji berries) into a large bowl and mix well.

In a food processor place all the remaining ingredients (apart from the sugar topping) and allow to sit for a few minutes for the gojis to soak and the frozen strawberries to just defrost a little.  

Whilst this is happening prepare a muffin tin.  This mixture made 10 quite large muffins.

Blend all the wet ingredients until smooth and then add all this to the dry mixture. Mix until all incorporated and then fill the muffin inserts/liners.  Sprinkle a little bit of sugar on top of each muffin before popping into a pre-heated oven at about 200 degrees C.  My muffins took about 25 minutes at this temperature but to make sure they are cooked stick the usual toothpick or knife into one and if it comes out clean, all is good.

Allow to cool then enjoy your little bit of summer!

Saturday, 6 December 2014

From Scrap Wood to Surfboard Art

For sheer enjoyment value alone, can there be a better way to re-purpose scrap wood than this?  It's something that I have often wanted to try myself as I have chopped up old pallets for kindling.  The results would be nowhere near the artistic or functional level of this craftsman though.  This little film is a superb 'how to' for turning scrap wood into a beautiful surfboard.  If you think that it looks a little misshapen then you are partly right.  This chap specialises in asymmetric surfboard designs that might look a little odd, but make sense in terms of human anatomy and function.  A lot of work goes into making a surfboard in this way, but the results speak for themselves.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Long Walks by the Sea

There are many advantages to living where we do but one of the best is that we have a large amount of open space around us.  Straight from our door we can walk and be in view of the sea within minutes and we can walk beside it for hours.  Neither of us can bear to be away from the sea very long so we feel very privileged and happy to live where we do.
Today we took off for a three hour walk over common land, two headlands and three beaches; all under a mixture of sunshine and dark clouds.  We saw mating seals, birds of prey, swooping gulls and many a mushroom whilst enjoying the sound of the surging sea, feeling the nip of the slight wind and exchanging greetings with fellow walkers.
My only regret was not having taken a camera with me (beyond the one on my phone) with a good lens to capture the drama of the mating seals rolling around in the sand at the edge of the surf.  I did however discover a panoramic setting on the camera of my new phone which was a bit of a novelty!

Thursday, 27 November 2014

A Letter to Jamie Oliver

Dear Jamie,

You’re busy so we will make this a quick(ish) read!

We’ve been vegan over 27 years but only in the last 5 years have we seen veganism become truly recognised and certainly a lot more understood.  It’s a hugely expanding market there is no doubt about that; with many a celebrity now ‘coming out’ as a vegan!  If you want to know how popular and amazing people think vegan food is just pop into Wildebeest in little old Falmouth in the depths of Cornwall (you might want to book first though!). 

Out of all the respected chefs we think that you are the most respected among the vegan community; due to your no nonsense, direct, no bullshit approach with your cuisine and your community projects.  It has been noted that you have embraced vegan cuisine among your recipes (hell, your Chilli Con Veggie recipe is a blinder – best one we’ve ever tasted).

So here’s the thing; there is only one man for the job.  We think you should make a vegan cookery TV show.  We are not talking about necessarily from the animal cruelty perspective (the public would find that hard to swallow and watch no doubt), or even the environmental/feed the world perspective (watch the film ‘Cowspiracy’ if you want to blow your mind with that one -  No, we are talking from the healthy, damn good tasting food perspective.  Let’s face it, you are bloody good at that and you are also pretty good at doing projects that are different, ‘out there’ and that challenge and interest people.  The fact is people love you and nobody has made a mainstream vegan TV show as far as we know (not in this country anyway).  That is a winning combination surely?

Despite our suggestion of a vegan TV show being on the top spot on Food Network suggestions for over a year nothing has happened there ( so perhaps a kick from you would do the trick?  In fact we’d rather you did it than Food Network anyway.

So what do you think Jamie? 

If you would like to discuss this further pop in for a cuppa (soya milk only) when you are next at Fifteen at Watergate (we are only about 5 miles west).  Despite our ‘up front’ letter above we are actually very quiet, unassuming people so I’m sure you can cope with us.  Or better still, we’ll treat you to a meal at Wildebeest.  If only you knew how hard that was to resist?

Scooby Gill and Phil Chapman


Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Truffles

My friend and colleague Jane told me about this sweet and simple treat.  She had read it somewhere but couldn't remember where but the idea is so simple I am surprised I've not stumbled into making it on one of my random creation cooking days.  It is just three ingredients; all of which we pretty much always have in stock.

Take a banana and slice it into half inch rounds.  Sandwich two rounds together with a bit of peanut butter then place these carefully on a plate and pop it in the freezer.  Once they are nicely frozen, melt some chocolate and give the sandwiches a good dipping.  The chocolate actually starts freezing onto the truffles whilst you are doing this.  They don't look like works of art but who cares; your going to eat them not look at them!

Eat them there and then (that's what Jane said she normally did!) or be good and place them back in the freezer to take out and eat when the moment takes your fancy.  I really like them straight from the freezer but Phil prefers them just from the fridge; but then he's a bit weird like that as he also likes his bananas really ripe and turning brown whilst I like mine fresh and almost green!!

Either way, enjoy!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Seal Sniffing

If you've ever been anywhere near a seal colony, then you know that they aren't exactly the sweetest smelling creatures.  We're lucky enough to have one about a mile away, and always check to see how many there are lounging on the rocks when we walk past on the coast path.  However, this isn't the type of sniffing I am referring to.

I was out surfing recently and had just paddled out past the breaking waves and decided to sit up on my board for a short rest.  I sat facing out to sea, getting my breath back and looking for my next wave.  Suddenly a grey seal pup popped up just a few feet away from me!  He was about 3 feet long, and evidently healthy and well fed.  It is not unusual to see seals while out surfing, but they normally keep a safe distance away.  Not this one.  He was a very curious little chap.  He made eye contact, and just floated a few feet off the front of my board, having a good sniff of the air.  I just sat there looking at him and smiling.

After a minute or so of this he came nearer, and actually started touching and sniffing the nose of my surfboard with his.  Maybe he was trying to figure out what it was, or what I was for that matter?  He must have decided I needed further investigation, as he then dived underneath me, and floated very still just underneath my board.  The water was very clear, and I could see exactly where he was.  I did wonder if he might give my toes a nip to check them out, but he didn't, and surfaced at the tail end of my board and again had a good sniff. This was starting to get a bit comical,  and I started to grin.

Just as quickly as he'd appeared the first time, he dived and went out of view.  I didn't see him for a few seconds and then he popped up again, just off the front of my board.  I figured we'd come to some kind of understanding by this time, so I made a slight fist and reached out my hand to him, just to see what he would do (I was still wondering if he'd bite, and thought he'd be less likely to bite my fist!).  He wasn't phased in the slightest by this, and actually came right up to me and sniffed my hand, making contact with his nose!  I thought I'd try my luck at this point, and went to touch the top of his head, but he ducked out of the way.  Not far, just enough to avoid contact.  He then went back to sniffing my fist!  By now I was struggling to suppress laughter.

Maybe I got lucky with this encounter, or maybe he was picking up on something that told him I was safe to approach?  There were other surfers out that day, but I didn't see him approach anyone else. Whatever was going through his mind he 'hung out' with me for about 5 minutes in total, until my next wave came along.  I saw him briefly a few times after that, but from a distance.  I would like to think he went back to his mates and family later and said something like, "Hey, some of those humans are okay you know.  They do smell a bit funny, but the one I met today was friendly".

Monday, 17 November 2014

Beer and Boards

On Saturday I was on the trail of a new surf board from a like minded surfer friend. "How many boards is that now Phil?", I hear Scooby say; but the trick of frequently moving similar looking boards around the house means that I never have to reveal this classified information to her! For the new acquisition in question we crossed over the border heading north east across Devon, almost to Somerset. Scooby came along for the ride (or as she puts it "to be shown pretty things"), which is always a pleasure in Miles our camper van.  The sky was filled with dark foreboding clouds, bursts of golden sunshine and rainbows galore.  With the surfboard deal completed, and the days surfing analysed and suitably dissected with the surfboard seller, we headed for a place where we knew we could peruse a good range of foodie treats.  

We usually buy a few bottles of ale from this place, as they have an excellent selection of vegan brews on offer.  Today we happened to turn up while the lovely people from Gyle 59 were doing a tasting.  They were busy with happy samplers when we first spotted them, and so we walked past and had a crafty look at some of their bottles on the shelves, just in case they were labelled up as being suitable for us.  Indeed they were, and when we returned to sample their wares it was a very pleasant surprise to find out that ALL of their products are unfined and therefore suitable for vegans, including their cask ales!  As Jon (the founder) said, "Well, if we make them vegan then everyone can have them".  We thanked them profusely for their clear labelling and brewing ethos, and were soon sampling everything they had to offer, along with a fascinating commentary about how each brew is made.

Such are the vegan friendly credentials of the company, that their next promotional opportunity was doing a vegan food/beer matching event in Kent.  We've got to admit, the idea of expertly matching beers to foods is not our area of expertise.  We like what we like, and tend not to think about it much further than that. However, after talking to co-owners Jon and Amanda it is certainly something we are going to be paying a lot more attention to in future. Their knowledge and passion was contagious, without a hint of any 'hard sell'.  For us this was the best sales tactic they could possibly employ.

Taste is a very personal thing, and trying to gauge which beers were 'the best tasting' was further complicated for us by the fact that they had such varied and interesting styles on offer.  Our efforts to choose a few favourites was made even harder by the fact that they were all really good!  In fact, the only way we could narrow it down was to try and discern which ones we liked slightly less than the others.  This also proved quite difficult, especially after sampling the 7 or 8 beers they had to try.  Indeed, if we didn't have to drive for nearly 2 hours to get home, an awful lot more 'sampling' could have been done!  The conclusion we finally came to is that they make some of the best beer we've ever tasted.  Obviously we left with a good selection, to investigate and 'taste test' at our leisure on our return home.

Maybe it is the pure spring water, or the quality and variety of ingredients, or the masterful alchemy that takes place under their careful hands, but whatever it is, these are fantastic beers.  We encourage you to have a look at their website (where they also do on-line sales) or get in touch by email to find your nearest stockist.  Here's hoping if we all spread the word enough we might one day be able to buy Gyle 59 ales in our local pubs, shops or wherever quality beer is sold! 


Saturday, 15 November 2014

The Challenge of Caring

This week has been particularly challenging.

My parents rang us with the news that Kenai, our little family dog, had died suddenly in the night.  We had our own distress to deal with in regards to this news as well as totally feeling the distress of my parents.  Kenai was after all their little baby of 14 years and nothing you can say, absolutely nothing, can make the situation feel any better. They rang us in the early hours because they needed to tell us and they knew we would understand.  Phil and I had known her pretty much all her life and had on many occasions looked after her as my parents would never had gone abroad to visit my sister without us personally caring for her.

The thing is that not everybody would understand this loss;  and I mean really understand; not just a 'I'm really sorry to hear that' but an almost unspoken look that truly says 'I cannot express it but I feel your pain'.  For these little creatures that we share our homes with are truly members of the family that leave a jaw clenching, head dulling, lung emptying, limb weakening, sore eyed effect when they leave us.  You can tell yourself as much as you like that they had an amazing life with our family, that they were rescued from the streets and were pampered and loved beyond what most people might have done but it still leaves the essentially selfish feeling of grief that they are no longer there to share our lives.

So at work I sought solace from the few that I felt would truly understand, told a few others to counteract my resulting behaviour throughout the day and hid and kept silent from the rest for fear of being misunderstood.   The day ticked along.

However another event was hanging over my grief this week.  The work's Christmas 'party' event was being planned.   The list of names had been put on the noticeboard to assess attendance and, in fairness to my boss, he had included any dietary requirements that needed to be considered within the planning for our meal.   I was warmed by the fact that out of a team of twenty five, four of us had written down 'vegan'.  That was the positive bit. Unfortunately, despite the fact that it did not necessitate it, someone had decided to write 'carnivore' and then shortly after another member of our team decided to write 'murder'. Like 'sheep to the slaughter' other members of the team randomly decided to write 'meat'. Perhaps the fact that if they didn't write down anything related to meat, they might end up with some form of lettuce leaf, led them to such a weird reactive measure.  Perhaps they felt they had to belong to some random non vegan club.  

I'd had enough.  I think the majority of my team had underestimated the strength of my beliefs and how upsetting it was to me to join in with 'team events' at times like this.  Maybe I should just not join in but then what message does that send out?  After the day I'd already had I decided to 'take a step back' and tackle it the following day when I was feeling a bit more level headed.  

It seems however that the person who had put 'murder' on the list had been tipped off about how pissed off I was about the situation.  In his defence he then came to speak to me and in private I explained in no uncertain terms how it had made me feel.  After all this was bordering on abuse and discrimination.  He apologised and I accepted it as such but only hope that he left with a broader understanding and sensitivity.  He said he did.  The fact of the matter though is I am not convinced people do generally understand.  I get it quite a lot where people will eat meat in front of me, apologise but with a bit of a laugh thrown in for good measure.  Whether that is nerves, defence or a weird form of understanding is unclear.  Maybe they just don't really think about it and maybe I over think it.

All I do know is that it has indeed been a challenging week where having a sense of caring and compassion felt like an alien concept on an uncaring planet.

Monday, 10 November 2014

The Salad Days of Autumn

Well, that's our lunches sorted out for tomorrow then!  

I got home from work as the rain and wind lashed the window from a darkened outside. With more of the same forecast for tomorrow I had the urge to make a massive, colourful, healthy salad style creation that will brighten up my lunch break and my day generally.  Phil heard of my plans and jumped on board (even though he doesn't have to go to work tomorrow!).  Two lunches it was then.

It doesn't look that attractive;  but come on how do you expect me to plate that amount of food into a lunch box and win Masterchef for the effort?  And okay, I didn't make everything from scratch but give me a break, I've been organised enough to prepare it the night before!  So we have salad leaves, raw carrot, celery and beetroot in there along with aubergine imam, a spelt and sun dried tomato mix, some beany salad, a good dollop of caramelised houmous, a sprinkling of hemp seeds and a mere dash of mayo (roasted garlic for me and chipotle for Phil).  Oh and olives; nearly forgot them.

For afters, if there is any room, there is a pot each of vanilla cashew yoghurt which has the addition of an apricot puree in the bottom and yes, this is homemade so there!  My yoghurt may end up as my breakfast rather than lunch but I think when it comes to food for the day, I might indeed have it covered!

I nearly ate it all there and then but luckily Phil had tonight's food offerings sorted; miso soup followed by vegetable satay with buckwheat noodles and spring rolls with a ginger soy dip. That more than did the trick in distracting me away from the salad and the lunch boxes made it safely in to the fridge ready for tomorrow.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

The Smells and Light of Autumn

Let's face it, Autumn does have an air of sadness about it.  After all we've had to let go of the much loved Summer. However, if you set your mind to it you can truly embrace Autumn; especially if you appreciate the magic of smells and light. 

For me the smell of wood smoke around the village adds a tinge of excitement to the air; a chance to 'cozy down' and catch up on all those indoor tasks that the Summer sunshine distracted you from doing. 

Between the Autumnal rain showers there is however still a chance to enjoy all that the outdoors offers, especially as it is an unusually warm season so far.  

The smell of damp leaves and mushroomy promise is fantastic. What could sum up a British Autumn more fantastically than newly emerged mushrooms against a backdrop of an English Oak?  These mushrooms looked so beautiful we didn't have the heart to nab them for supper.

The light in the Autumn is just beautiful.  Dark heavy clouds allowing just a sneak of teasing sunshine through  is just one of the things I love about  the 'interesting weather' you often get at this time of year. One of the results of such an occurrence is the painting of rainbows across the sky. 

Here in our own 'backyard' today the rainbow we saw very definitely reminded us that the 'pot of gold' that sits at the end of it is our fortune in living in such a beautiful place.

In the darker stormier days and nights of the coming months we should never forget to embrace all that Autumn and Winter offers us.  Let's face it, it's not all bad sat in front of an open fire with a glass of vino tinto in your hand either!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Go Back!

Thanks to Bruce Hocking for this one.  This is totally classic and so true!  

Nuff said.

Wildebeest Food - Now You See It Now You Don't

Well we couldn't exactly say go to Wildebeest to everyone in our last post without following our own advice!  So when Phil came home from his morning surf, off we went. We don't really need an excuse but the fact that they were having the 'support Viva! day' today meant we couldn't really resist.

I had the Homemade Squash Ravioli with Sauteed Mushrooms, Kale and a Pickled Apple and Hazelnut Salad. Phil had the Thai Green Curry Broth with Rice Noodles, Broccoli, Char-grilled Courgettes and Pea Tendrils.  We of course managed to fit in some desserts.  After all we'd driven 25 miles to get there so you've got to make the most of it!  I had the Wholemeal Mixed Berry and Coconut Cake with the addition of a scoop of Roasted Banana and Blueberry Ice Cream on the side.  Phil went for the Raw Lime Coconut Cheesecake.  Phwoah!  Lovely!

Let's just say neither the photos above, nor the descriptions of the dishes do justice to the food at Wildebeest. Whatever your imagination dreams it up to be like, I can tell you it will be even better than that.

It was totally packed out today and we were very fortunate to even get seated.  This is not only heartening from a vegan point of view; to see so many people enjoying purely vegan fare, but also a clear indication of the standard of food that they serve.  They work so hard and we can honestly say we don't know how they keep up the pace six days a week.  It is no wonder they are ranked #4 out of 165 Falmouth restaurants on TripAdvisor.

Whether you are vegan or not, it's a sin if you come to Cornwall without visiting Wildebeest!


World Vegan Day at Wildebeest

How lovely of Wildebeest!  If you get the chance go and eat, drink and be merry in the fact that not only are you getting scrumptious lovely food but that, thanks to Wildebeests generosity, all proceeds are going to Viva!

Wildebeest is in Falmouth.

Badgers Use Remote Controls and Watches

Although it appears, from the lack of blog posts about them recently, that our badgers have not been visiting this is far from the case.  Our Banditos (as I affectionately call them now) appear every night pretty much without fail.  In fact for the past month I had been trying to catch on camera how they manage to get into our fenced off vegetable patch but without success.  It was almost as if they had a remote control for the camera which would switch off just at the moment of discovery only to then switch on again once they were inside the boundaries.  Some nights the camera would fail to work at all for no technical reason only for us to discover definite evidence of badger ingress in the form of a big hole with badger poo in it.  This is why I now call them Black and White Banditos; that and all the other wonderful forms of mischief they have revealed to us over the last couple of years (for more examples of this you only have to search for badger posts on our blog).

With the failed attempts at discovering the weak spot in the fence and the time for planting an overwintering crop in our veg patch passed, I gave up on filming them and decided to instead open up a section of the fence and let them into our veg patch.  After all, if they wanted to be there, I might as well make it easier for them.  I was also rather hoping they would at least dig over the ground for us as well as bring them closer to our front window and allow us a closer look at them.  They are after all far more entertaining to watch than TV on these dark nights.

So without fail, the female Bandito arrived, found the gap in the fence and sniffed out the handful of peanuts I had left her.  She happily chomped away for a while and then got spooked when she heard voices along the road.  She made a break for it, not through the already opened gap, but under a pile of jasmine cuttings where we thought she was momentarily hiding until she popped up on the other side of the fence having effortlessly squeezed her furry frame underneath it.  And there was me thinking my homemade beach scavenged fishing net fence was thoroughly fixed down.  It might have been designed for catching fish but clearly not my Banditos.  The wonderful irony was that we had to let them into the 'out of bounds' area in order to discover how they had been getting in in the first place!  Technology had failed to reveal the answer but removing the boundaries had!  That could be a really good lesson in life.

So for the last few nights we have been watching the wonders of our Banditos close up and personal right under the window.  Their timing has been impeccable.  After the clocks changed I expected them to turn up an hour earlier than usual; I mean after all they don't wear they?  You see that's the thing, they didn't show up early.  They showed up at the usual clock time and have continued to do so ever since.  So you tell me, how do they tell the time?

Those clever Banditos!

Tofu Steaks

Right so, third time lucky, finally I've managed to take a photo of these tofu steaks before we consumed them. Apologies for the really slapdash 'snap' of them but we were ready to eat and I had been sampling a rather nice French vino tinto (La Patrie Cotes de Bordeaux 2012 Merlot for the record - currently available in 'Sinsburys'). That's my excuse anyway.

The speed of taking the photo does however rather match the speed of preparation for these satisfying savouries. They are just so quick and easy and take just five ingredients; hence we have sampled them about three times in as many weeks.  

I was originally inspired to make these because we had a block of tofu and very little else in the fridge but I didn't want to go shopping.  Besides, I thought, surely tofu deserves to be made the 'main star' of a meal sometimes rather than cut up and hidden in the likes of a stir fry? The challenge was to make the rather subdued taste of tofu into something with a flavoursome punch quickly and with very little other ingredients.  My usual kitchen tactic of a good old rummage in the cupboards and fridge bore dividends.  Some caramelized onion humous and a jar of sun dried tomato paste got the ball rolling.  

After a bit of a gentle pressing to extract some of the water, I sliced the block of tofu carefully into four thin slabs. Placing two of these on a greased baking tray, I generously spread the humous on top of both.  Subconsciously I then reached for some dried oregano and gave both slices a good old sprinkle on top of the humous before sandwiching them with the top slice of tofu. Out came the jar of sun dried tomato paste and I wasn't shy in slathering it on top, right to the edges.  Then I faltered.  It needed something else.  I did think breadcrumbs but that wasn't exciting enough.  Then I thought nuts.  Like the vegan squirrels we are, we always keep a good stock of nuts and among said stock we had pistachios.  Perfect.  Taking a couple of small handfuls I blitzed them in our spice grinder before spooning the resulting powder on top of the tomato paste.  The steaks were baked at 200 degrees C for about 30 minutes until nicely browned and slightly crispy on top. Last night we had ours with baked sweet potatoes and salad leaves, avocado and lentil sprouts on the side.

Tofu, humous, oregano, sun-dried tomato paste and pistachios; it really is that simple.  I also think there are many more variations on this to try too.  How about using vegan cream cheese or miso instead of the humous, chili sauce or tahini and other nuts or sesame seeds on top. Experimentation is called for and I'd love to hear from anyone with a good combo. 

By the way, tofu that has been frozen first, then thawed and pressed also works a treat with this recipe. 


Thursday, 30 October 2014

Vegan Lounging Around

Work took me away from home for two days at the beginning of this week.  My first day was spent visiting Bournemouth University but before I started my meeting I wanted to grab a spot of lunch.  

Research is everything when you are vegan and before I left I checked out Happy Cow to see what was near the campus.  It paid off as I happened upon a small but ever growing chain of restaurant bars called Loungers.  How had we missed out on this chain in the past? Even more shocking is that a few moments ago, when checking out their website before writing this post, I happened to discover there is actually one of them in Truro, a mere 20 minutes drive from us!

So what attracted me to the Loungers chain?  Well let's just say how many non-veggie/vegan restaurants or chains offer a whole vegan menu? Now we aren't talking about a few items hidden away with a little V+ written next to them; we are talking about a whole menu that is very happily presented to you upon asking.....a whole separate menu just for you! Wowzers, how special does that make you feel?!  Get this; they even do vegan wine.  See, there it is in the photo and if you don't believe me, here's a link from their website  - Loungers Vegan Menu.

I had the Panini which was delicious and a rather lovely cup of Lapsang Souchong tea, obviously with soya milk.  I think another visit may be in order, but this time to Truro so I can report on the rest of their menu!  Phil would very much like the chance to sample their wares too next time!

So check them out.  The Truro branch is at 12 Princes Street, Truro, TR1 2ES.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Cowspiracy - A Rave Review

As vegans of 27 years we are aware of the environmental benefits of adopting such a diet; it's one of the many reasons we are vegan.  So we went along to the Cornish Premiere of Cowspiracy more out of interest and also to support the screening.  What we didn't quite expect was to be shocked, better informed and generally blown away by this groundbreaking and brave film.   Even for long term vegans this film is a wake up call.

The facts presented in this film about the environmental impact of animal agriculture are, quite frankly, shocking and a world away from the facts that as a 17 year old new vegan activist I enthusiastically shared with anyone that would listen all those years ago.  The world has moved on and the facts surrounding the livestock industry have moved on too; with even more destructive force.  I felt like the 17 year old me again; shocked, indignant and utterly confused about how such things can happen in the world.  This is a very strange feeling to have given that, unlike the 17 year old me back then,  I have already been vegan for so long.  This film reinforces your decision to be vegan for sure but any smug feeling you might have is dissolved in the sheer stupidity, frustration and cataclysm of the situation.

The environmental facts were shocking enough but the attitude of the environmental organisations featured brought a whole different level of disbelief.  This was at times amusing in the bizarre denial of the fact that animal agriculture is the world's biggest cause of environmental destruction.  It was also shocking both for the lack of knowledge displayed by some organisations, and for others their unwillingness to admit to these facts in public.

A person who follows a vegan diet uses 50% less carbon dioxide, 1/11th oil, 1/13th water, and 1/18th land compared to a meat-eater.

Greenpeace were among the organisations tackled by the film makers and also the most uncooperative, with even the hint of possibility of funding ties with the livestock industry. I've never been a huge supporter of Greenpeace, preferring Sea Shepherds more honest and direct approach to campaigns, but I do have a Cooperative bank credit card that is linked to Greenpeace.  Now may be the time to reassess that decision.  That is what I mean about this film, it makes you question things deeper and deeper.  Another such example is that of the subsidisation of the livestock industry.  The realisation that, without any choice in the matter, it is the hard earned cash of you and I that go towards this, was horrifying; a kick in the teeth basically and a resounding feeling of naivety on my behalf .  How can we extract ourselves from this situation?  

As someone who comes from a film making background, the message aside, I felt this was a really well made film. The on screen graphical facts, the animations, the injection of humour and the choice of interviewees all struck the right balance; the heaviness of the subject matter lightened by this thoughtful approach.  Little moments of subtext had Phil and I glancing knowingly at each other with a wry smile; the only wide shot during an interview being that of the expansive frame of a representative of the livestock industry was one such example.  

It was however the journey that Kip Andersen took whilst making this film that added even more authenticity. He didn't start out as a vegan but as an environmentalist searching for ways to further lessen his impact on the world. His journey of discovery is the real story as it is a road that most environmental organisations seem intent on not giving you directions towards.  In his sharing of this journey publicly he has made his road a very bumpy and precarious one; a road on which other campaigners have lost their lives on whilst speaking out against the impact of animal agriculture; yet another shocking fact revealed in the film.

The show of hands at the end of the screening is the true indication of the importance of this film.  About 10% of the audience said they would make changes to their diet, with the majority of the audience already being vegan or vegetarian.  The biggest difference we can now make as vegans is to support that 10% wholeheartedly.  We would like to extend that support personally to anyone reading this post who is just about to undertake the vegan journey; please feel free to contact us.  That way the legacy of the film will continue for many years to come.

There is so much more we could write about this film; this is just the tip of the iceberg, but it is knowing when to stop.  All we can say is if you haven't already seen Cowspiracy, we urge you, vegan or not, to seek it out, support it and spread the word.  It will literally change your world.  

Thanks go to Cornwall Animal Action and Sam Grady for organising and funding the screening.  It was very much appreciated.