Sunday, 31 August 2014

Lancaster Brewery

Hats off to Lancaster Brewery, a recent discovery of ours on a trip up north being their excellent Lancaster Black English Stout.  

It is not only a tasty tipple but they have also chosen to make it vegan and display the fact clearly on the bottle.  The same goes for their Amber Bitter, Blonde Beer and Red Bitter.  Of course we only know this of the bottle variety and it may not be so with the cask, as is the case with most ales.  We will write to them to not only thank them for their wonderful bottled beers but also to enquire in regards to their casks.

Just a shame we've never it seen it down our way but then keeping it regional and not being able to get your hands on something all the time often makes it more of a treat.  

It certainly was a very welcome treat after our ascent and rather wobbly legged descent of Helvellyn and Striding Edge up in the Lake District.  Just the job!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Vegan TV Snacks #1

Sometimes you just want something 'snacky'.  You know the moment; it's about 9pm and you're watching crap on TV ('cabbaging') and you just want 'a little something' to fill the small gap in your tummy and your brain.  It's all too easy to reach for crap snacks (as well as the TV remote to try and find something decent to watch).  There are plenty of mainstream crisps on the market that are vegan for sure but with a tiny bit more thought you can prepare a more nutritious (and probably a whole lot more tasty) snack for such moments.

Here is just one example that we've enjoyed recently.  Only one problem; they don't last very long. One episode of Qi and they are gone!

Curried Cashew and Raisin Snack

1 cup of cashews
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3/4 teaspoon mild curry powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 tablespoon soya sauce
1/2 cup raisins

1.  Toast the cashews in a dry frying pan (or if the oven is on bung them in on a baking tray) until lightly browned.

2.  Add the sesame oil to the frying pan followed by the spices and seeds.  Mix until well coated.

3.  Add the soya sauce and again stir to coat well.

4.  Finally add the raisins and stir to coat before taking off the heat.

5.  Cool, enjoy and try not to eat before the end of the programme!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Bean Amazing!

It's been the most amazing year for our climbing beans, especially those that we have planted in last year's grow bags on the pavement outside our garden gate.  There are so many still growing after we picked this bunch that it wouldn't matter if anyone did poach some here and there.  So our attempts at 'greening up' the grey public pavement outside our gate have rewarded us well and looks like it will continue to reward us for some time yet.  This big handful is destined for the freezer for us to enjoy our homegrown produce beyond the growing season.

Yep, Raw Chai Bars Damn Good!

I mentioned earlier this week in a post that I was going to make these bars.  Well I just did and I love them.  

I used Tiana Spreadable (which by the way is amazing stuff so go get some!) for the coconut butter bit of the frosting recipe and it seemed to work great.  Only thing is that the coconut butter/oil starts to melt in the heat so the ones I made are best straight out the fridge.  

Check out the recipe on Dreena Burton's Plant-Powered Kitchen.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Quorn Foods Finally Seeing Sense?

Rice Up Wholefoods Cooperative Ltd
Quorn is not vegan - fact.  It contains egg and in some cases milk too.  Quorn came on the market after I was vegan so I've never had it and, as it seems to dominate the supermarket vegetarian option aisles, it has always been a huge frustration that Quorn Foods have never engaged with trying to cater for vegans.  News is coming through though of a change with that.  Apparently they’ve been working on a vegan version for the last three years, but have struggled to get the taste and texture right. They’ve recently however had a breakthrough using potato protein, amongst other things, to replace the egg and milk.

For the full low down have a look at what Rice Up Wholefoods posted as a result of an email from Solent Vegetarians and Vegans. It's a bit late now for the tastings that they mention but I guess watch that space for more details.

Incidentally Rice Up Wholefoods is a Southampton based independent wholefood grocery store and it looks pretty groovy so worth a check if you are in the area.  We certainly would if we were out east.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Grasshopper Friend?

Just spotted this little fella in the garden.  Not a very vegan thing to say but I rather hope he is feasting on the cabbage white caterpillars that are currently feasting on our kale!

Actually I have since been informed by colleagues and students at work that it is a male Speckled Bush Cricket!

Vanilla Cashew Yoghurt

Wowzers!  I've just made this Vanilla Cashew Yoghurt and I'm amazed any has made it into this jar before all being eaten!

A friend had pointed me in the direction of Dreena Burton's Plant-Powered Kitchen website and I had a little look and found this curious recipe among many other must try delights.  We were out of cashews, which is a sin in our house anyway, so after restocking I immediately set about trying out this cashew based yoghurt.  It was a great decision and, with two thirds of a jar of the required applesauce still left, I shall be repeating it as quickly as you can say 'soak them cashews'!

Next on the hit list from this amazing site are the Raw Chai Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting.   I noted that both these recipes are from Dreena's book 'Let Them Eat Vegan' so suddenly I have another excuse to buy yet more vegan cook books.  In fact all her books look amazing so I imagine quite a few of them may make their way onto Santa's list this year (Phil take note!).

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Dirty Feet Are Happy Feet

This summer has offered a perfect opportunity to kick off your shoes and pad around on the shoes that nature intended; bare feet.  

My mother is horrified by the state of our dirty feet but quite frankly the health benefits of a bit of dirt on bare feet outweigh the parental disapproval! What could be more natural than walking barefoot on the ground? Yet we shield our feet year round in boots, shoes, sandals and flip flops.  Okay this is fair enough in winter, but now the warm weather is here isn't it about time your feet got deep down and dirty?

Modern life has created a product for everything, from cleaning products that kill '99% of all known germs' (both beneficial and harmful) to so called 'barefoot' shoes.  In natural health circles much is made of being 'grounded' and connected to the earth, and yet how often do people actually kick off their shoes and walk around in the mud? 

Even in Tai Chi the emphasis is on 'being grounded' and yet they all wear cheap plastic soled slippers!  Now you can buy yoga socks with individual toes and a grip on the sole and Nike even make a yoga shoe!.  Really, go figure?

Instinctively we all know what's right for us deep down inside, but sometimes we need a little reminder to jolt us out of our modern day thinking.  For us this came with a free viewing of the film 'Grounded'.  Unfortunately we cannot provide a free link to the full film, but it really is something you should investigate.  It is one of those things like 'organic food' that is just really obvious, as at one time all food was 'organic'.  At one time we were all barefoot too. Ironically modern day society seems to prefer to have scientific proof to feel safe about such things and this film certainly provides some convincing arguments about the distinct benefits of reconnecting with the earth.  Go outside, take your shoes off and stand or sit on the bare earth for 15 minutes, and then tell me you don't feel more relaxed, connected and at peace.  There's a reason why walking out on dewy grass first thing in the morning feels delightful; makes you feel alive.  Why save that for special moments and not make it part of your everyday life?

If scientific proof is what you are after though, take a look at the 'Grounded' film.  There is also a sequel that is due out later on this year called 'The Grounded 2'.

Alternatively, just go walk outside barefoot (wo)man!  For those who would like a more formal introduction to going barefoot in Cornwall, there is a special barefoot trail on the south coast created by the National Trust but for us, it all starts in the garden! 

And even the Eagles say they get a 'Peaceful, Easy Feeling' because they are already standing on the ground!  

You can view the full 'The Grounded 2' movie on until 8th August.

Mori-Nu Tofu Cheese

I hadn't made any cheese for a while so fancied a bit of an experimental cheese restocking session.  

We were out of cashews but rummaging around the cupboard I found an ever reliant pack of Mori-Nu Firm Silken Tofu.  As this tofu doesn't have to be kept in the fridge we always keep a packet or two handy in the cupboard.  It's great for camping too for the same reason. 

Another rummage around and I had agar flakes for firming up the cheese, lemons for giving a tang and miso for the umami cheesiness.  

Basically with the addition of a bit of oil, water and salt I was ready to give it a go.

Mori- Nu Tofu Cheese

1 packet of Firm Mori-Nu Silken Tofu (349g tetra pack)
30ml olive oil (this gave a nice taste but you could use any nice oil really)
30ml water
1 teaspoon salt (less if you prefer but cheese should be a little salty right?)
4 tablespoons of agar flakes (you could probably use Vegeset too)
1 tablespoon of miso (I used brown rice miso) 
Juice of 1 lemon

Blend up the tofu, oil, water, salt and agar flakes until smooth and well incorporated. Scrape this mixture into a saucepan and heat up gently stirring constantly until the mixture starts to boil and spit at you and becomes slightly thinner (about 5 minutes). Watch it at this stage because it is vicious!!   Take it off the heat and thoroughly beat in the miso and lemon juice before spooning into a container to set. When cool enough pop it in the fridge.  I've no idea how long it lasts but I imagine it will be eaten before we find that out!

This cheese is quite soft but slices well.  I imagine it is a bit feta like.  However, in my pre-vegan days I was brought up in a house where anything beyond Cheddar was deemed exotic so I've no experience of such things!  

I have put a certain amount of it in the freezer to see whether that changes the texture in any way (like freezing tofu does).  I will comment on this once I know the answer.



Smokey Cheesy Potato Soup Mix

Product Details
My mate H is due to give birth very soon and I wanted to make a vegan comfort food item for those moments when she fancies something quick and easy to munch on. After all she is going to be pretty busy!  I've also been meaning to try out the recipe for a cheesy potato soup mix in Vegan Food Gifts that Phil gave me for Christmas. Me being me, I gave the recipe a big of a jigger and came up with my own version with what I had to hand and  just to make it extra cheesy with a touch of smokiness.   Here is my spin - 

Smokey Cheesy Potato Soup Mix
Makes enough for about 5 individual servings

150g of powdered mashed potato flakes
(I used 1 whole pack of Bauck Hof Kartoffel Puree)
30g of Free and Easy Dairy Free Cheese Sauce Mix
(available in supermarket Free From sections)
20g nutritional yeast flakes
1 tablespoon vegetable bouillon powder
2 tablespoons dried chives
2 teaspoons mustard powder
1 teaspoon (scant) smoked paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Few grinds of black pepper
Pinch of turmeric (for colour)

Mix this all up in a bowl and then bag or jar it.  To make the soup, follow the instructions on the packet in the photo!  H, let me know how it is!

UPDATE ON THIS - When Phil went to actually make the soup he discovered that it needed half a cup more water.  He also told me that you need to add the dry mix to the wet in a slow steady stream and keep whisking to avoid lumps.  It was really very lovely though!