Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Hypocritically Funny

This was on Moozine, The Happy Cow newsletter, and I just had to share it.  People's hypocrisy can be extremely frustrating but it can also be amusing on another level.  Here supermarket shoppers in Brazil are about to get first-hand knowledge (and shock) on sausage making from live piglets.  

Basically if you're gonna eat it, face up to it (literally).

Sunday, 27 April 2014

A Smorgasbord of Sound and Taste

Every now and then I have a real 'session' in the kitchen, normally as a result of a rainy day.  I love buffets and being able to choose a little bit of this and a little bit of that so with some time on my hands I set about the task of creating a tasty and colourful mixture of dishes to titillate the taste buds of Phil 'Eurasia style' when he returned from surfing.

Now of course no kitchen session would be complete without the sounds to go with it.  To create a buffet I feel a certain amount of Afro beat funky jazziness is called for; something to get you grooving between the cooker and the chopping board.  Fela Kuti is good; Ebo Taylor too, but our newest discovery 'The Daktaris' got proceedings off to a funky start on this occasion.

A perfectly cheeky track, 'The Plum Blossom', from Yusef Lateef then helped with the chopping of the vegetables as its understated rhythm glided perfectly between carrots and potatoes. Then just as the more sophisticated pie making got going Yusef's equally cheeky but more grown up 'Blues For the Orient' kicked in.  The rain could thrash against the window as much as it liked.  Inside the kitchen was awash with a sunny smorgasbord of sound and taste.

So on to the dishes I was creating.  The centre piece was a Mushroom and Polenta Pie that I had been meaning to try since Christmas.  The recipe is from 'Pies and Tarts with Heart' which Phil had bought me as a present.  It is meant to include a little bit of booze but I left that out and went 'freestyle' on it but it still turned out really well.  It basically has a polenta base with a creamy mushroom filling.

Superfood salad featured again, being a particular favourite of mine at the moment.  I also had home grown lentil and mung bean sprouts, olives, homous, mayo and home made chilli jam to serve as accompaniments.  A few lovely vine tomatoes were chopped and made into a simple Greek Oregano salad (basically tomatoes, oregano, salt, pepper, olive oil and a tiny bit of balsamic). 

Next was to try and recreate dishes we had enjoyed at Eurasia.  First was Oregano Potatoes.  I steamed the wedged potatoes lightly and then added them into a baking dish with olive oil, salt and oregano and baked until lightly browned.  In hindsight they could have done with a little more crisping up and I think that this dish suits a more waxy potato but they were still very tasty.  

I had tried to recreate the carrot salad last year after we returned from Portugal.  It hadn't been quite right.  This year I asked more about it and the result was pretty much 'bang on'.  Lightly steamed carrot discs are simply dressed with flat leaf parsley, olive oil, a little crushed garlic and a sprinkling of paprika.  I think last year I had tried to over complicate it!

The cabbage and apple salad is also simplicity itself.  I've been wanting to make this since arriving back from Portugal as it had been a favourite flavour discovery at Eurasia this year. Ideally it has more 'punch' colour wise made with red cabbage but I couldn't find any so instead plumped for some organic sweetheart cabbage found in the reduced aisle.  This was grated along with one apple.  To this combo, chopped dill and mint were added along with freshly squeezed orange juice and a touch of olive oil to taste.

The final Eurasia recreation I was aiming for was cinnamon seitan.  Again this had been a dish that we had only encountered this year and had been intrigued by the flavour.  Initially I had thought it was made with five spice so was surprised when we were told it was cinnamon but once we knew this it seemed obvious.  It is funny how your taste buds can fool you if you don't expect a certain flavour combination to be used!  For this dish I first made up some seitan from my Seitan Fix Mix but omitted all the 'chicken' style flavourings and simply added a sprinkle of ground cinnamon instead.  I then made a simple sauce by frying up a sliced onion and a little garlic until softened and slightly browning.  I added a generous sprinkle of ground cinnamon and then finally a good dollop of tomato puree and a bit of water to get it to the desired saucy thickness. The cooked seitan was added to this sauce and allowed to cook further to absorb more of the flavours.  It is an unusual flavour combination but one that I will certainly be making again soon.

Phil came home from surfing to discover me grooving around the kitchen and the table set with the completed smorgasbord.  It wasn't long before the plates were out and filled a few times over. Despite this there was still plenty left for a delightfully varied lunchtime offering the following day.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Nut Loaf Sandwich and Super Food Salad

The cold nut loaf from last nights roast dinner made a perfect brunch sandwich this morning.

Using some lovely sourdough bread from the local farm shop, adding homous and polishing off a jar of roast red peppers we had in our fridge, the sandwich was complete.

A heap of super food salad on the side completed the plate.

As no two nut roasts are the same in our house, instead I offer you the super food salad recipe as a way of summoning up the warmer salad days ahead.  This salad was inspired by one offered at a nearby restaurant/bar we went to on a family dinner last weekend.  It was lovely but they charged £11 for a dinner plate of it which I consider outrageous.  So to feel like I am getting my moneys worth, I feel the need to pass this recipe on for free to others!! Apart from the pomegranate seeds, pumpkin seeds and dressing ingredients we should be able to make this salad from the produce in our garden this summer which sticks a further two fingers up to overpriced restaurants!!

Super food Salad

A couple of handfuls of baby spinach leaves 
A couple of handfuls of rocket leaves
A handful of coriander leaves (roughly torn)
1 large carrot (grated)
A few small sprigs of purple sprouting broccoli (optional)
Half a cup of pomegranate seeds
Half a cup of pumpkin seeds (lightly toasted)
2 tablespoons lovely olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Basically mix it all together in a big old bowl.  Watch out for the carrot, pomegranate and pumpkin seeds that tend to want to hide at the bottom of the bowl!


Sunday, 20 April 2014

Roast, Fire, Wine, Sorted

So the first half of the Easter weekend was spring-like and a great chance to start the veg growing activities but what happened today? Still I guess the rain is good for all those seeds we have just planted.

Now we have reverted back to chilly rain it is time to get a good old roast going.  I raided the store cupboard and only found pecans and peanuts for the nut loaf but with a bit of bulgar wheat, homemade breadcrumbs and a random selection of herbs, mustard, tomato puree and other stuff that, two glasses of wine later, I can no longer remember, somehow we have a loaf of the nut variety to savour with our roast spuddies, parsnip and carrots.  A bit of brocs on the side and we are rocking with the gravy.

What roast would be complete without a roaring open fire and a bottle of vino tinto?  Luckily the store cupboard still revealed wine from our Portuguese trip, in this case a fine Monte Da Casteleja from the Algarve.  It is unfiltered so a fine example of a tasty vegan wine. 

Sorted.  Spring can wait till tomorrow now.

Climbing Badgers


Spring has most definitely sprung in badger world and therefore the general nightly peanut hunting and naughty mayhem has returned with a vengeance to our front garden.  

Despite their best efforts, my new bird feeding pole has managed so far to reasonably prevent the nightly bandit raids of the badgers and ensure there are supplies left for the birds in the morning.  The peanut feeders, placed supposedly out of the reach in the nearby tree, have fared less well.  It seems badgers have climbing among their range of mischief making skill set.

So after our reasonably generous offering of peanuts is hoovered up from the floor, a whole new game of peanut hunting begins.  Badger Cat once more makes an appearance as he watches on at, in his opinion, the far from agile attempts to climb trees.


Friday, 18 April 2014

Don't Be An Asshole

We choose to live in Cornwall for a reason.  We both gave up potentially financially lucrative careers to live in the relative backwaters of the south west as we decided we didn't want to end up becoming like the majority of money and status obsessed people around us; assholes.  We could see it coming and decided to opt out.

We totally get this guy, but could also still learn more from him.  He lives a charmed and magical life.  If you don't "get it" then maybe you should consider if you are an asshole or not.

So meet Dr. John Kitchin.  He quit a medical career to pursue his passion; skating along the boardwalk of San Diego's Pacific Beach.  He calls himself "Slomo".  He could have 'had it all ' and now he does.

It's as simple as that.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Fresh Vegan

Spring 2014 issue free to read on Issuu
A friend of mine bumped into the creators of Fresh Vegan, a new on line vegan food magazine, whilst in Wildebeest vegan cafe in Falmouth.  It seems they are based right here in Cornwall! 

When my friend told me about them, I just had to check it out and I have to say, it looks really interesting; so much so I have just bought the Spring edition on-line this evening.

The Spring 2014 edition is packed full of interviews, features, articles and great recipes and that is just from a quick flick through so far.  

I very much look forward to sitting down and absorbing it fully from page to page.  Although I am very much a real paper reading girl (not having fully embraced the digital book and magazine era yet) I appreciate the environmental reasons for keeping it just on-line at present.  It's about time I 'got with the times' anyway!

So please take a look (you can view a sample of the Spring edition on their web page), support these guys and more importantly give it a go!  It's not just about supporting our fellow vegans for the sake of it;  it seems like it's choc full of good value vegan wisdom and goodies too.

Last Supper in Portugal

So unfortunately our annual trip to Portugal came to an all too sudden end and we have returned to sunny Cornwall (not so bad really though).  We look back with fondness to our clifftop cooking sessions and to one culinary creation in particular - a creamy leek, mushroom and broad bean (fava bean) pasta (with a starter of Padron Peppers).  We loved it so much that we chose to cook it on our last evening before our long 11 hour drive back to Northern Spain and the awaiting ferry home.  

We have made creamy pasta dishes many times before but we have normally gone to the trouble of making the sauce from scratch using a roux as a base.  However, not having flour amongst our camp kitchen supplies to make a roux sauce, we used a carton of almond cream we found in a health food store instead.  It was a very obvious and simple revelation!  Why hadn't we done this before?!  It is so much easier!  We recreated it with oat cream the next time as we couldn't get hold of the almond cream but it was equally as good.  

We really enjoyed the fresh broad beans (fava beans) we could buy so easily in Portugal and also the lovely olive pasta we found in the supermarket. Both of these, along with the almond cream, were the inspiration for this simple and quick dish; perfect for camping and perfect for a quick meal at home too.

Creamy Leek, Mushroom and Broad Bean Pasta

Olive oil
1 leek
2 cups of broad beans
8 medium mushrooms
1 tablespoon oregano
Generous pinch of salt
Pasta for two
Carton oat (or almond) cream

1.  Thinly slice the leek and fry in a touch of olive oil until softened.

2.  Add the broad beans and continue to cook for 5 minutes.

3.  Slice the mushrooms and add to the pan along with the oregano and salt.  Cook for another 10 mins.

4.  Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.

5.  If the veg mixture starts to stick, or just to make the dish saucier, add some pasta cooking water to de-glaze the pan.

6.  Add the carton of oat or almond cream to the veg mix and cook for a further 2 minutes or until it is heated through.

7.  Add the veg mixture to the cooked and drained pasta and stir to thoroughly mix.

Simply enjoy!!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

I Love the Smell of Fresh Herbs in the Morning

A beautiful smell hangs and wafts in the air down here in the Algarve.  Phil even commented that he wanted to bottle it and then 'splash it all over'.  He normally smells pretty good anyway, apart from when he has just taken off his wetsuit, but I concur that it would indeed be a lovely fragrance to enhance his natural 'eau de Phil'.  

The smell is a combination of wild flowers, herbs, pines and eucalyptus.  The fragrance of the herbs alone make your mouth water as you start matching smells to culinary delights.  It is therefore no wonder that herbs, cultivated or wild, form such an integral part of home cooking in Portugal.

However some combinations are surprising partners; quite unlike the traditions set out by English cooking.  For instance we are told that the natural partner to potatoes is rosemary; a herb so prolific here in the wild that we have never seen it in the supermarkets.  We love the combination of potatoes, rosemary, olive oil and a little salt; whether the rosemary is freshly picked from the wild over here or we just trundled into our front garden at home.  However at Eurasia in Albufeira we love how Milla uses oregano with her potatoes instead of rosemary.  It is just as good a match, if not better for its subtlety compared to the powerful punch of rosemary.

Employ rosemary however with tomatoes and the two flavours fight it out to a surprisingly good result; either in a stew type dish or just simply again with the obligatory olive oil and a touch of salt.  Oregano also works in its own subtle culinary aromatherapy in this simple tomato salad instead of rosemary.  Either of these I often prefer to the usual staple of basil when it comes to tomato.

Another beautiful flavour combination brought to us again by Eurasia was a red cabbage and apple salad, sweetened yet sharpened with orange juice (instead of the usual stand by of vinegar) but then heightened to another flavour level by the introduction of mint and dill.  I don't think I would have dreamt up this intriguing recipe myself but it was truly lovely.

It goes to show that, like instruments in an orchestra, there are infinite compositions that can be created and sometimes ignoring the conductor and doing a spot of improvisation can be a good thing.  After all some of the best and well loved music is that which stands out for being different.  

Inspired by the fragrance of Portugal and the culinary creations of Eurasia, I vow to experiment more and search out new and unusual taste combinations.  Of course not only will the kitchen then be full of interesting smells but it will also be full of music as I continue my search for different music sensations at the same time.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Tough Camping and Guardian Angels

Cornwall can be windy and rainy at the best of times.  It is unfortunately one of the down sides.  This winter, as in much of the UK, it was particularly bad.  So we always pin our hopes on our annual March/April camping trip to Portugal to offer us a spot of warmth and respite from the foul UK weather. 

However, every year we seem to forget how windy it is in Portugal and every year we suffer huge downpours and rain generally for a few days running.  Still it will be warm at least right?  Wrong!  We weren’t quite anticipating some of the low temperatures this year though.  A jolly evening at the one night opening of the campsite bar, so that the few people staying here could meet, was followed by a particularly cold night in the tent, 5 degrees C in fact.  Whether it was the later bed time (when we are in the tent we usually turn in at 9pm at least) that intensified the cold or whether it was just a cold night is unsure but it was a reasonably uncomfortable night’s sleep until the sun eventually weakly showed its face. 

Then there was last night.  We’ve never known a thunderstorm to keep going so long; in fact all night and into the morning.  The lightning threw our tent into a glow of white light every minute or so and earth trembling thunder cracked and rumbled away far too near overhead.  It didn’t help that we are camping on top of a hill and spent some time considering what electrically conducting items were above us! 

Still we and the tent survived the heavy downpours and circling storm, if not with a certain degree of sleepiness as a result.  The wet weather is set to continue for a few days, but thankfully not to the same extreme.  However we are pretty tough so were prepared.  That is until a guardian angel came along and took matters into her own hands!

We were sat in the car by the closed campsite reception, utilising the wireless and checking up on the weather.  We were just about thinking of retreating up to our pitch between showers when there was a knock on our window.  It was Andrea, the owner of the campsite whom we have come to know well over the years.  She had been looking for us this morning but we had left earlier to head east for the day.  She said she couldn’t stand it anymore to think of us in the tent and that we must move to one of the apartments free of charge.  We didn’t know what to say, it was such a surprise and a lovely gesture. 
Storm clouds gather above our pitch

.....and the rain soon starts again!
So suddenly we weren’t so 'camping tough' after all as we swiftly retrieved our stuff from our tent to move to the spacious heated gift from Andrea with huge thanks.  We did however resolve to move back to our tent when the weather improves in a few days’ time because we really are outdoor creatures, if not fair weather ones!

In the meantime, we will enjoy our little spell of luxury whilst staring at the trees bending and the rain falling on our pitch in clear view just above our apartment patio area!

Our love and thanks go to Andrea at Quinta dos Carricos for taking pity on these so called tough campers!!

.......and here is hoping that the sunshine will return soon and we can once more enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors and this amazing camp site.  If you are looking for a camp site in Portugal we would challenge you to find a better one!  It is beautifully peaceful at this time of year as long as you are prepared to chance the weather!