Sunday, 30 August 2015

Oh Eck Chilli Sauce

The weather may not be super hot outside but it's getting super hot indoors! It's chili sauce making season here in the Driftwood Vegans kitchen.  Earlier in the year a neighbour had given us a chili plant and now it is bearing the fruits of heat.  He told us that he thought the variety was Olivek but we cannot find any reference to such a variety on line so we are really a little in the dark about where this particular chili sits on the Scoobville Scale. Regardless, I decided to venture forth and get saucy with it, particularly so as we have a friend visiting soon who is a particular fan of chili sauce.  He is bringing us some of his amazing lime pickle so it is only fair we do a foodie exchange.

I've called today's particular chili sauce creation 'Oh Eck Chili Sauce' due to the uncertainty surrounding the heat factor.  It is based on my Chili Sauce Cook Off success but slightly tweaked by adding a clove of garlic, a bay leaf, a tablespoon of maple syrup and 50ml more water.....oh and of course a different variety of chili!!  I'm really not sure why I deviated from the original recipe apart from the fact that I am renowned for never cooking the same thing twice.  I just couldn't help myself.  The resulting two bottles of chili sauce have some heat, that is for sure, but Phil thinks it is only 5 on the Scoobville.  I'm erring on the side of a 6.  

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Porridge Power

I was planning a good attempt at working in the front garden today.  After all it wasn't raining and there was no point trying to drive anywhere on a bank holiday Saturday in Cornwall so I was all out of excuses for not getting on with it.  I needed fortification of a healthy kind first though.

I remembered a porridge recipe I had seen in the July/August edition of Vegan Life magazine.  It was for Banana Bread Porridge.  It just so happened we had an overripe banana itching to be used so I thought I'd give this recipe a go.  It was just the thing.  The almond butter  and banana added a creaminess to it beyond your usual bowl of porridge and the maca, well hopefully that would give me the boost to take on the jungle out front. We were all out of goji berries but had the suggested pumpkin seeds.  I did take the liberty of slightly dry frying those before sprinkling on top though as I thought it added a little extra nuttiness.  Oh and we did drizzle some Bee Free Honee over the top too and an additional slurp of almond milk too. 

So after my lovely breakfast I did go out in the garden and remained there for the rest of the day, accompanied by Phil between surfs and a little baby robin between worms.  I certainly must have been super powered by the porridge as I lost all track of time.

The original recipe comes from Joe Jackson ( and I happened to find this Banana Bread Porridge recipe on his website for all to see (his recipe has bee pollen in it though which wasn't mentioned obviously when it was reprinted in Vegan Life).  It is well worth a try especially as it takes less that 10 minutes to put together and tastes pretty damn good.

Friday, 28 August 2015

The Amazing Things You See In and Around Rockpools

Beautiful things rock pools. Luckily there are plenty of them in Cornwall to explore.  I can easily spend hours sat beside them watching the underwater world float, sway, whizz and ripple by.  Wow, how many varieties of seaweed are there too?

The thing is you don't just have to stare into the depths to see lots of interesting things. Sometimes  taking a few moments to sit and reflect on the world around you can literally reflect that world back at you in surprising and beautiful ways.

The other thing about this situation is that it really makes you appreciate just how interconnected our environment is.    "As above, so below" as the old Hermetic saying goes.

By the way, I haven't altered these photographs at all. They are what they are and exactly what I saw as I spent those few moments of 'reflection' next to the rock pool. Phil said he thought the top photo looked like a cross between a Monet and a Klimt.

As you can see, Phil was concentrating on the world above and the warmth that Mother Nature was providing, as well as stretching out his shoulders post surf.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Vegan Caramel Truffle Messy Things

I make no apologies for either the quickly snapped photo above or the messiness of these little delights.  I wanted to eat them, not mess around with them to make them look pretty. I'm no Masterchef contestant after all.  Whatever they looked like, they tasted horrible.......horrible in the sense that I was willing to tell anyone else that was the case so that I could eat them all myself.  Don't make them you will get fat and whoever wrote the recipe (I don't know who as I'd obviously scribbled it down from somewhere in a frenzy and bunged it in my recipe folder) you are a very naughty person....and thank you.

The recipe I had didn't include details of the chocolate covering so I made that bit up.  You could keep it completely raw by making a raw chocolate covering instead of cheating like I did and just melting a bar of ready made.  Lucuma is available in the raw food section of health stores.  It is a little pricey but a little goes a long way and I do use it a fair amount in smoothies, raw chocolate and messy stuff like this.  It is only in the last few years that this super food has become available in the UK but I remember about 15 years ago enjoying vegan lucuma flavoured soya ice cream from a little shop in the hill town of Kandy in Sri Lanka.

Vegan Caramel Truffles
100g dates (soaked overnight)
50g coconut butter
2 tablespoons lucuma powder
2 tablespoons desiccated coconut
1/2 bar vegan chocolate (about 75g) of your choice
Dash of maple syrup
Dash of plant milk of your choice if required

Blend the dates, coconut butter and lucuma powder until it comes together enough for you to roll teaspoon sized dollops into balls.  

Roll them lovingly in the desiccated coconut and freeze your balls..ahem....

Melt your chocolate of choice in a bowl over a pan of hot water.  Add a dash of maple syrup and the dash of milk if it is required to loosen the mixture enough to dunk your balls.  Once coated in chocolate, pop them back in the freezer to set.  Putting them on some greaseproof or silicon to freeze them might have helped mine not fall apart upon separating from the plate I used but hey ho!

Either keep them in the freezer and just defrost slightly before consuming or store in the fridge for a more readily available but slightly more messy effect!


Wednesday, 26 August 2015

You Can't Beet It

Despite the unseasonably horrible weather I was unwilling to give way to Autumn yet, so salads went on the menu during the second day of my wet weather cooking weekend.

I love beetroot and we currently have a fair amount growing away in the garden so to use some of them was an obvious choice.  I normally use it grated but fancied a change.  The result turned from 'just a little side dish' to my favourite dish on the whole plate.  I wish I had made more now but I will surely rectify that over the coming days. 

You Can't Beet It Beetroot Salad
Peel and cube four large beetroots before steaming until slightly soft.  Place in a bowl and add one tablespoon each of tahini and balsamic vinegar, 1/2 tablespoon of tamari, and 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast. Stir it all together until the beetroot is well coated.  Serve warm or chilled; both taste good!

Another dish I decided to make, to add in a good dose of protein, was a 'mock tuna' salad made with chickpeas.  This is a hearty mush which uses chickpeas in a more unusual way. It is also very quick to make and also adjust to your personal taste.

Mock Tuna Salad
Drain and empty one standard can of chickpeas into a bowl and mash, mash, mash into a mush.  Finely chop up 1 small red onion and 1 stick of celery and add to the bowl.  Chuck in a generous sprinkling of dried dill (or fresh if you have it but I don't seem to be able to grow the damn stuff so dried it was!).  Add a bit of salt and pepper if you like. Now at this point I debated whether to add in some seaweed sprinkles but as I was already making another seaweed dish I decided against that.  I might try it next time though. Give everything a good mixing up before adding a dollop of vegan mayo and a teaspoon of cider vinegar to your taste and giving it a final mix up. There, it's ready. Chill before serving if you like.

On to some carbo stuff.  Phil loves rice but, as I'm sure I have mentioned in previous posts, I am really not very good at cooking rice; oh apart from rice pudding, I'm okay at that.  I don't know what it is but when I cook rice in a pan it just never seems to taste as good as when Phil does it. I'm sure there is this little 'thing' he does that I don't know about but it's true and that is why I normally leave rice cooking to him.  However, I really wanted to try and cook rice for him in some form and I found, scribbled away in my recipe folder, a recipe from somewhere of a baked rice dish.  It was a very plain and simple recipe, in fact I think it might have been from a kid's recipe book I sent to my niece.  I took the basics of this recipe and added in a bunch of other stuff to jazz it up a little.  It turned out really nice and we had tons left over for lunch the next day.  Again, it was quick to prepare as you just bung everything in the oven dish, stir and cook.

Baked Rice, Lentil and Vegetables
Add all the following ingredients into a large oven dish with a lid - 

1 tablespoon oil
1 1/2 cups brown basmati rice (give it a good rinsing first)
1/2 cup dried brown lentils (again, give a good rinse first)
1 chunked courgette
2 chunked carrots
A few cherry tomatoes halved
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup cashews
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 tablespoon veg bouillon powder
Juice of one lemon
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon curry powder (or to taste as I used a hot one!)

Stir it all together in the oven dish then bake for one hour at about 200 degrees C. Keep an eye on it and make sure it doesn't burn on the bottom.  It'll be ready when all is softened and all the water has absorbed from the bottom.

The final salad was just some freshly harvested salad leaves from the garden but what about the 'main event'?  

Well, I made a dish that I haven't made for ages; the Sea Fruit Strudel from 'Vegan', a great little book by Tony Weston and Yvonne Bishop.  This a tasty way to incorporate a bit of seaweed in to your diet, along with lots of other tasty bits and pieces.  

As ever I improvised a little as we didn't have any dried apricots (and have you seen the price of them recently?!).  I used sun dried tomatoes instead and this worked fine. Likewise we didn't have avocado oil so olive oil was fine and I didn't use orange rind at all. It all worked out lovely and it reminded me that I should really not leave this quite so long before I make it again.

Check out the recipe on Foods For Life website or buy the book to enjoy this along with all the other tasty recipes inside.


Monday, 24 August 2015

Sunshine and Limes

After days of endless rain the sun finally came out yesterday afternoon whilst I was busy in the kitchen.  It was just at the moment I cut this lime in half and I couldn't help stare in awe at the simple beauty of it as it glinted in the very welcome sunshine pouring in through the window.  Suddenly it felt like summer hadn't quite deserted us yet.  In celebration of that fact, I whipped up a few salad dishes (more about these in my next post) before heading down to the beach to make the most of it.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Pandora Chocolate and Almond Bars

Earlier in the summer I went to our work's 'Away Day' at a pub. Yes it really was an all day work meeting but having it out of the work environment and at a beautifully located pub really does help....honest!  That pub was the 13th Century Pandora Inn on Restronguet Creek, near Falmouth.  It is beautifully located and well worth a visit for that fact alone.  

Part of the day involved us all having lunch together.  Believe it or not out of the twenty of us there, two of us are vegan and three more chose to eat vegan so we requested this beforehand.  The landlady, Catherine, was amazing (and indeed has been in previous years we have been there too).  Not only were we provided with the most amazing vegan tapas boards to share between our vegan table but, not wanting us vegans to be left out of the sweet treats, she had ordered us specially made Chocolate and Almond Bars.  They were to die for and, lucky old me, seeing as I was the last of us vegans to leave at the end of the day, I got to take away what the others had foolishly left behind!  Phil therefore got a little taster too and has been badgering me ever since to make some.

The bars were merely labelled up with a hand written list of ingredients (obviously no amounts though) which was at least helpful in my efforts to replicate these wonders (couldn't wait until next Away Day to try them again!). I've had a couple of attempts now. The first was very edible indeed and very similar but not quite there.  I made the mistake of deciding that the mixture was a little too dry and so added in a little coconut oil, which was not on the list of original ingredients. Yesterday, during my rainy day cooking session and after another request for these from Phil, I had my second attempt and this time stuck to the original list.  The result has been much better and I am not entirely sure I will actually get much myself once Phil discovers them in the fridge.

So below is my attempt at these wonderful bars which from now on in our minds we will refer to as those Pandora Chocolate and Almond Bars.  By the way, I was so impressed with the service and atmosphere at the Pandora that I have since taken my whole family there for my parent's 50th wedding anniversary meal.  This time Catherine arranged for a wonderful vegan lemon cake to be made.  When a lovely member of  staff came in with a box to pack up any remains of the cake for us to take with us, he discovered that there were no remains.  My family had finished it off in one fell swoop!

The Pandora Inn may not be a fully vegetarian or vegan establishment but, with notice, they are more than happy and capable of catering for vegans.  The atmosphere, setting and customer service is unbeatable and it is definitely a good choice for those occasions when the vegans are in the minority of a group of diners.  

Pandora Chocolate and Almond Bars (Scooby's Take!)
6 dates (soaked for at least 30 minutes beforehand)
1 cup oats
1/2 cup almond butter
1/4 cup pistachios
1/2 cup walnuts
1 bar vegan chocolate (I used a 150g bar of Vivani Rice Cooking Chocolate)
1 tablespoon maple syrup

Drain the dates and add with all the ingredients except the chocolate and maple syrup into a blender.  Whizz, whizz, whizz until the mixture comes together.  Press this mixture into a sandwich box or other container of around 8" x 5". Pop in the fridge whilst you make the topping.  Break up the chocolate and place in a glass bowl with the maple syrup.  Place the bowl over a saucepan of water on a hob and gently melt it.  Once it is sufficiently fluid (I must admit I did add a splash of hemp milk to loosen it a little) pour the chocolate over the base and smooth down. Pop back in the fridge to set fully before slicing.  Keep in the fridge during those odd moments when it isn't being consumed!


Saturday, 22 August 2015

The Humble Onion

It's done nothing but rain all day so the opportunity to 'play' outside didn't really show itself. Therefore it was time to hide inside and play in the kitchen instead. To be honest it's something I haven't really had the opportunity to do for some time now so the rain did a good job of pointing that out to me. 

I was feeling a slight tinge of Autumn and so decided to make one of my favourite hearty dishes; seitan with mushroom and red wine sauce.  I also had the desire for potatoes but, feeling experimental, chose a recipe I found in The China Study Cookbook rather than just cook up bog standard boiled, baked or roasted spuds.  All the recipes in this vegan delight are super healthy and don't use oil so vegan broth is used to cook many of the savoury dishes.  That might not sound very inspiring and just a bit too saintly but actually I am always surprised at the tastiness of the results.  

The recipe I chose was Tasty Potatoes and Kale on page 237 and it was indeed very tasty. I used some of the black kale from our garden (although got more than a little rained on in the process of harvesting it).  The only thing I deviated with was to put the finished dish in the oven for a few minutes just because the other dishes weren't quite ready yet.  I think that added a bit more crispiness and intensified the flavour a little so I didn't regret that move at all!   Go get the book if you want to try some tasty but sinless vegan recipes but if you want to 'try before you buy' I did notice that the ladies at Nuts About Greens have published this particular recipe on their blog (among lots of other lovely recipes).

So finally on to the subject of this particular post; the humble onion.  It occurred to me that many things we cook start off with an onion; sometimes even when I start cooking but still don't know what I am actually going to cook!  So I thought for a change I would make the onion the star of a dish in its own right.  

Roasting really intensifies flavours so I popped a few small sized whole peeled onions into a roasting dish, added some fresh rosemary from the garden (that was another dash out into the rain), a generous grinding of black pepper along with a glug of nice olive oil and a dash of balsamic vinegar.  I then snuck in a few cloves of peeled garlic whilst Phil wasn't watching and popped it all in the oven for a good 45 minutes at 200 degrees C.  

The resulting onions were sweet and rich and definitely able to hold their own against the other two dishes.  It really make me think that sometimes we 'hide' ingredients and over complicate dishes when making one ingredient the star of a dish can often yield not only tasty but also very easy little alternatives.  I really should try out this theory more often.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Very Cornish Problems

I pretty much agree with most of this article from the West Briton newspaper which explores a day in the life of those living in Cornwall.  Click on the photo below to read it in full.  

Obviously it's vegan pasties all the way and I couldn't possibly comment on the bit about surfers being that 50% of the household does actually surf!  As for the poor seagulls, well they get a bad rap considering it's the stupid householders putting out their exposed rubbish that actually cause the problem.  Although at 5am when the little darlings 'dance' on our roof I do sometimes have a sense of humour failure!.  In fact that is more apt as one of the 'very Cornish problems' but hey they were here a long time before we were so I'll let them off.

Welcome to a day in the life of those living in Cornwall

However, tractors on my morning commute from north to south coast is definitely a regular feature in my day.  Oh and sand in our shoes, car, bed, and generally all over the house; yep that does actually happen somehow!  In fact, that reminds me, I must clean the car out at some point.  Oh hang on, there is absolutely no point.  It'll be clean for about two days.

Another weird thing that happens is when you strike up a conversation with a visitor and they ask you "so where have you travelled from?"  and when you answer "Er, we live here", they look startled as if Cornwall is some kind of weird rural theme park where everyone here is just 'visiting'!  Phil says this happens in the sea regularly.

I've been selling my cards recently to the tourists when they are vulnerably happy, fresh off the beach.  Some of the cards I am selling are actually Christmas cards (well you have to think ahead don't you).  These cards feature snow on the beach here (the proof is in my photo below).  Well what a shocker that has proved to be!  The amount of 'wows' I get from people when they see snow is amazing.  I point out that it does happen occasionally.  After all we don't live in the tropics and the rain over the last few days should prove that fact!

Despite these 'problems' we're not sure we would want to live anywhere else in the world to be honest!

Thursday, 20 August 2015

A Small Harvest

I must admit it's been a funny year in the garden.  Vegetables that have grown well in previous years have failed to produce this year.  The tomatoes have failed to grow and have very few tomatoes clinging to them and of those that have formed, we are yet to see any turn red enough to enjoy.  Carrots, of which we had a profusion of last year, were eaten into oblivion by slugs this year with very few seedlings making it through to any real size yet.  I couldn't get any black kale to seed this year either.  The potatoes suffered a few digging ups from our local black and white bandito (aka the badger) and that was despite us building another fence to protect our harvest and leaving her nightly offerings of peanuts outside the veg plot boundary.  Even the chard has struggled.

After an initial battle with slugs eating off the first seedlings that came up, the French beans made it through the second sowing and have once more performed well, giving us enough to eat regularly and also to freeze for coming months.  The leeks and spring onions have also been reliable once more with, all be it quite slow growth, the promise of a good crop extending into the autumn and winter.  The courgettes and squashes are looking okay too but we have lost a few to end rot.  The broad beans were a nice surprise.  Phil saved some seed last year and I planted them up in a small space not really holding out much hope but up they came.  Despite the usual attack by black fly followed by the ants, we've had a few meals here and there from the big fat pods.  For some reason I have never really had amazing results with beetroot but I have to say that this year it looks like I finally managed to break that spell with the good sized burgundy balls providing us with lovely raw salads.  We've had a few good lots of lettuce and the wild rocket once more has sprung up in bunches all over the garden of its own accord which of course we have no problem with as it quietly does its own thing without any effort on our behalf.  The raspberries, blackcurrants and strawberries did pretty well too.

So this year has had its ups and downs in the garden but part of the joy of growing veg is the unpredictability of it.  For every failure there is a great surprise which perfectly demonstrates the wonderful fact that you really can't control Mother Nature.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Good Hemp Coconut Milk

Gone are the days when the only plant milk available was just soya.  The market is becoming more and more diverse, demonstrating perfectly the rise of the power of the  vegan shopper in today's society.

One of our favourites and the one that we predominantly use now is Good Hemp milk.  It not only tastes good for tea and cereal but works a treat in cooking too.  Even better is the fact that the food miles on it are really low for us down in Cornwall as it is made just across the border in North Devon.

The Good Hemp news continues when you consider the healthful facts about hemp milk.  A single 250ml serving gives you a whopping 50% RDA of omega 3 and 33% of omega 6. Hemp seeds contain all the essential amino acids and so are a complete protein.  In fact there is so much good stuff about Good Hemp that it is hard to fit it all in here.  Go buy yourself some, open it and enjoy whilst you ooh and aah at all the wonderful facts and figures about hemp and the good values of the company.  Or have a read of their website 

So just when we though it couldn't get any better we discovered a new flavour (it doesn't even seem to be on their website yet!) - Hemp Coconut Milk (pictured above).  No added sugar in this one either (there is only grape juice extract in the original one).  It might be our new best friend in the plant milk world.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

A Difficult Story to Tell

About 30 years ago I heard a horrible story that has stuck in my head ever since.  It is not easy to tell.  It involves a female who was raped.  The police showed no interest,  no statements were taken and no witnesses were prepared to come forward.  In fact nobody seemed to care.  She became pregnant and her mothering instincts kicked in.  When she gave birth this single mother was able to provide all her child required to grow fit and strong and she loved him so dearly.
Unfortunately the story takes another tragic turn.  When her child was less than two days old he was taken away from her despite the fact that there was no better mother for that child. You might feel that this horrific story couldn't get any worse but sadly it does as this child was then murdered by his kidnappers.  The mother was then repeatedly raped and continued to be so throughout her short tragic life; each time her children were again snatched from her and either killed or made to endure a life of slavery like their mother.
Thirty years ago this story ripped my heart out and it continues to do so day in and day out, for although it was all those years ago, it is a still a reality that continues to happen to some mothers every single day of the year the world over.  How could this possibly be allowed to happen?  Well there is one simple reason; milk.  For that mother and all the other mothers in this story are actually cows, forced into pregnancy and giving birth purely so their resulting milk can be taken, not to provide for their own children, but for consumption by humans. Meanwhile their sons are 'surplus to requirements' and murdered at a young age whilst their daughters continue the tragic circle of milk slavery, never able to experience the joys of natural motherhood.  
All those years ago I was shocked by this story and, despite not being a mother myself, I could no longer fail to act.  I became vegan and wanted no part of this abuse.  I share this story because I am aware of what is happening whilst many others, like my teenage self back then, are not. It is my witness statement and I present this to you purely to judge for yourself whether it is right or wrong.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Mind Surfing Brittany

On our recent trip to Brittany the waves were not exactly epic, but I had a few surfs on the more exposed beaches that made the most of any available summer swell.  What was lacking in wave quality was made up for by the beautiful backdrop of the dunes, beaches, and cliffs.  The waves were actually perfect for relaxed sessions on a longboard.  There were only a few other surfers out, which means plenty of waves for everyone, and laid back 'vibes' in the water. In short... good times!

In surfing, just as in skateboarding and other board sports, you have a preferred stance; with either your left or right foot forward, which makes you either a 'natural foot' or a 'goofy foot' respectively.  If the waves aren't too challenging it can be fun to 'switch' things up a bit, by surfing with the opposite stance. This can feel really weird and uncomfortable at first (and you will fall off), but if you persevere it can start to feel just as normal as your usual stance, and may even have some handy added health benefits.

"Make your learning fun".  That's what I say.  In fact it turns out that the whole right/left brain model is way too simplistic for the many and varied ways our brains work.

Despite our lazy habits of thinking in simple up/down/left/right/black/white ways we can grow new brain cells at any age; can learn new tasks at any age, including learning to surf, or even to surf with the 'wrong foot' forward.  All we need is to want to do it, and to believe we can do it.  In the photos above I am surfing with my 'wrong' foot forward, and yet it now feels just as good as surfing with my right foot forward... goofy footer that I am.  Sometimes it's fun to mix things up and keep yourself on your toes!  

For me just going to France was a little bit outside of my comfort zone, due to my preconceived ideas about what I thought it 'would' be like.  Okay, I admit it now, Scooby was right and France is a beautiful country, especially the bits that are just like Cornwall!  

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Vegan Eccles Cakes

A visit from my family, most of whom live overseas, had us making excursions to various Cornish sights and towns over the last couple of weeks.  So I took to browsing through the very helpful 'Vegan Cornwall - A Guide to Where to Eat Vegan in Cornwall' recently for vegan alternatives to suit the whole gang wherever we ended up on our travels.  

We were already aware of and have written about the amazing Pengenna Pasties before. However until I'd read the Vegan Cornwall Guide I was unaware that they also made several other sweet vegan treats including Eccles cakes, apple turnovers, flapjacks, and scones.  So when my family decided a pasty was in order as we sat on the seafront at St Ives, I immediately directed them to Pengenna's to investigate.

A quick enquiry confirmed that indeed there were the aforementioned vegan choices on offer so after ordering the necessary pasty, an Eccles cake was added to the order.  For those unfamiliar with Eccles cakes, they are round flaky pastry 'cakes' filled with currants, candied peel, and nutmeg and topped off with sugar.  Invented in 1793 in the town of Eccles near Manchester they are indeed a British icon.  However, they are most definitely not health food but a sticky delight of naughtiness that is good for the vegan sweet soul every now and then.  I actually don't remember having one since I was a kid so this was a sweet blast from the past!

A few days later we found ourselves in Tintagel, another location of Pengenna's.  This time we took the opportunity to sample the apple turnovers.  I can confirm they are equally as good and equally as sweet.  Naughty but nice!