Monday, 28 December 2015

Christmas Dinner Leftover Salad

Nothing gets wasted in our house.  The roast potatoes and brussel sprouts left over from Christmas dinner were no exception.  

The next day I was making up some salads to have with the left over Tofurky and decided to try something different.  I chopped up the cold roast potatoes and brussel sprouts and added a few cooked chestnuts I had and then finished with some mayo and mixed well. Admittedly it is a bit of a weird combination but I love all those ingredients so what could go wrong with them combined as a salad?  Well it turns out nothing as it was the most popular salad on the table!  It was so popular, I don't even had a photo to post here!!

I think I'll make too many roast spuds and sprouts next time then.....

Saturday, 26 December 2015

National Trust Vegan Treat

Despite the lack of rain, a Boxing Day family walk from home to the beach and coast path wasn't really a great idea today.  The strong winds that have plagued us for days were still very much present and it would have made for a bit of a challenging walk.  So we sought out the quieter sheltered inland reaches of Cornwall and headed for the National Trust property of Lanhydrock. With its wooded valleys and formal garden pathways we were assured of dodging wind and mud as well as taking my parents to an area they had not been to before.    

After a very pleasant walk, where we could hear the wind gusts above our head but thankfully were sheltered from their full force, we headed to the cafe. We knew they could provide a good cup of Earl Grey with soya milk and, in the past, a tasty vegan flapjack but we really did not expect to find the fully labelled vegan treat we did.  For there for all to see on the counter was a Vegan Banoffee Cake.  That'll be two slices then please with our tea!

Well done National Trust for providing such a wonderful treat in full view on the counter.  

For details on Lanhydrock (photo below courtesy of the Lanhydrock National Trust site - it wasn't snowing today I might add but it looks pretty huh?) - click on the photo or the link above.  Be sure to check out the cafe, and should you find a great vegan treat then express your appreciation to them for ensuring us vegans don't miss out. We certainly did!

Snow at Lanhydrock house

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

A Proper Cornish Brew

There is nothing like a lovely cup of tea in front of the roaring fire at this time of year.  For me it could be a nice spicy chai, a zesty earl grey or an oh so smokey lapsang (very rarely do I go for a normal cup of 'British Rail' tea these days).  I also enjoy a beer here and there so imagine my delight and curiosity when I discovered that Atlantic Brewery had recently created a range of tea inspired brews which include the aforementioned favourites.  It makes the decision a little easier when it comes to tea or ale in front of the fire!

We first met Stuart from Atlantic Brewery some years ago during the early days of his flourishing business.  We were fortunate enough to visit him at his amazing 18th century farmhouse near Newquay, where the brewery is based, to sample his ales and have a proper tour.  Since then we have watched Atlantic go from strength to strength with his ales populating the shelves of not only farm shops and independent local retailers but also major national supermarkets and even our local shop!  We hadn't seen Stuart for years though so it was lovely to catch up with him at the Cornwall Vegan Festival recently.

I first discovered the tea inspired range from Atlantic after my boss had very kindly brought in a real ale advent calendar for our whole team.  I noticed the list of bottles it contained included the Earl Grey one from Atlantic and hoped that I would pull that one out when it was my turn on the calendar.  Sadly I didn't but the colleague that did was happy to swap. Upon visiting Stuart's stall at the festival and discovering the others in the tea range, I immediately purchased some of those too. 

I must admit I am yet to sample any of the bottles as I am saving them for the festive period but I know they will be good.  All the Atlantic ales are lovingly crafted, bottle conditioned, organic and vegan.  Right from the beginning Stuart made a point of proudly displaying the vegan label on all his bottles.  I could be wrong but I believe he is the only Cornish brewery to do this.  As an additional bonus, Cornish spring water is used from a spring on site and as many of the ingredients as possible are grown there too including hops, ginger, chilli, blackcurrants and elderflowers.  So what is not to love about these ales, and that is before you have even tried them?! 

The tea inspired ales are yet to be included on the website but do check out all the other delicious brews at Atlantic Brewery.  It might be one of the originals but the Atlantic Blue still remains one of my firm favourites especially as it's darkness perfectly suits an evening in front of the fire with the wind and rain lashing against the window.  Perhaps however I am about to find a new favourite amongst the Earl Grey, Masala Chai or Smokey Green Tea ones currently awaiting the start of the Festive Silly Season?

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Hair Today in Falmouth

Seeing Hair Today at the Cornwall Vegan Festival had reminded me that it was about time I tamed my wild silvering locks.  It had after all been at least three years since I had set foot in the hairdressers.  On Friday, I also found myself in Falmouth for a couple of hours before our staff Christmas party.  All indications were pointing towards a trip to Hair Today; the only place I consider for such treats.

Apart from the fact that hairdressing salons are not my natural environment, the other reason I leave it so long between having haircuts is the fact that it is pretty difficult to find a hairdressers that don't use chemical, animal based/tested products.  In fact as far as I know, Hair Today is the only place that doesn't 'round these parts'.  It is a shame it is all the way down in Falmouth as I would certainly visit more often and my hair would be far less in the state of 'wild woman of the mountains' as a result.

Hair Today is an organic hair salon in Falmouth that use 100% vegan and cruelty-free hair colour and products.  That is the backbone on which their ethos is based and, with the marketplace seemingly saturated with hairdressing salons, it is one that definitely attracts a niche but increasing customer base.  When I started out on my vegan journey almost 30 years ago, it never occurred to me to extend my ethos during visits to the hairdressers.  I think it is one of those things that came along at a later date when all the rest of the vegan changes had settled down.   There were really no alternatives back then either so probably one of the reasons I was so lazy in taking trips to the hairdressers!  I think new vegans these days are so much better informed and so no doubt catch on a little quicker to the changes they need to make.  Thank goodness therefore that places like Hair Today exist to cater for these changes and needs.

With more than a decade each of experience, Emma and Hayley have no shortage of creative knowledge when it comes to your locks.  I literally have no idea of style when it comes to hair but I felt more than relaxed and confident to leave my thick mop in their capable hands (especially after Hayley massaged my head whilst washing my hair!).  They will even make you a cup of tea with soya milk whilst you get pampered!  Needless to say the atmosphere at Hair Today is very laid back.  I am no expert when it comes to hairdressing salon visits but I know that some I have visited in the past have left me squirming from false atmospheres and pungent chemical smells.  Hair Today is a natural environment in more ways than one.  So if you are a vegan, ethical, organic, natural, chemical dodging, wild haired, hairdressing phobic like me (or any of the above), there is only one simple choice in my view - to put yourself in the capable, gentle and kind hands of Emma and Hayley at Hair Today in Falmouth.

To find out more, get in touch or make an appointment ring 01326 210432 or visit the website Hair Today Falmouth.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Vegan Yarn Store

It was about this time of year back in the early 80's when I would be looking forward to getting a new Christmas jumper.  I'm not talking about the ridiculous red and green Christmas themed atrocities that in some inexplicable way unbeknown to me seem to have become so trendy and cool to wear these days (or am I just bah humbug?).  No, I'm talking about the hand knitted wonders that my grandmother used to lovingly make for me.  Every year I would be measured to keep up with my youthful growing spurts.  Then I would discuss the style and colour I would like.  It usually involved different shades of green and brown (I was an earthy kid even back then), and often long and baggy as that is the way I liked them.  The finished article would be presented to me on Christmas day and worn straight away.  Some of those jumpers lasted for years and saw me into my early vegan years too as, given the personal connection I had with them, I couldn't bear to part with them until they had completely worn out.

My grandmother tried to teach me how to knit but my youthful impatience never led me to listen or practice enough to be able to make anything useful.  Then once I became vegan wool was obviously not something I took an interest in anymore.  My grandmother's knitting needles fell silent.  If only the Vegan Yarn Store had been around then or if only my grandmother was still around to knit her wonders.  I'm sure I would be putting in several orders per year and her knitting needles would be working so fast they'd catch fire!

The Vegan Yarn Store is not far off its first anniversary and was created by Oxford based vegan crafter Kelly Ryan.  She quite rightly identified a huge gap in the market when she was unable to find materials for knitting or crocheting that didn't involved animal products.  I met Kelly from the Vegan Yarn Store at the Cornwall Vegan Festival recently.  She had her stall next to mine and the colourful array and diverse range of yarns and products on display that day got me thinking about my grandmother and her jumpers again.  Imagine being able to have a handmade jumper of your choosing from either bamboo, hemp or banana (a few of the many vegan choices out there now)? The banana yarn incidentally (with images of mashed banana I was intrigued to know this) is actually made by scraping the bark from banana trees.

I must admit that my interest in knitting was piqued a little after seeing Kelly's stall.  Realistically I know I won't start knitting masterpieces as, after all, I have a million other tasks and interests lined up that I barely have enough time for (cue dusting off that guitar again!).  However, the idea of being able to make your own clothes is such a sustainable dream and one that has been lost in the ether of modern day living.  Everybody used to do it but very few people do now and with concerns for sustainability, fair trade and sweatshop labour playing on people's minds, isn't it about time that this skill returned as a normal way of life rather than just a hobby?  It's a lovely thought and, with vegans being at the forefront of such concerns, Kelly may well have hit upon the right market in more ways than one.  Vegans are forerunners on many different levels and, who knows, it might not be too long before we see my granny's jumper designs being paraded on the catwalk as the new trend of vegan sustainable jumpers sweeps the fashionista public.  

Failing that, does anyone have a granny I can borrow please?  Some of those colours are just amazing and I'd love a big sloppy striped jumper right now.

Check out Kelly's range of products on the Vegan Yarn Store website, interesting insights on her blog, or keep up to date with the latest on the Facebook page.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Tofurky Ready For Christmas

I had the yearly quandary of what to feed my family for Christmas ahead. It obviously had to be vegan and I am fortunate in the fact that both my parents are very accepting and supportive of that.  They always have been.  There aren't many parents that are totally unfazed by a vegan teenager, let alone one that would regularly ring up to say they had been arrested again or even join them 'out in the field' during the local Boxing Day fox hunting carnage and beyond. During my 28 years of vegan action they have been and always will be special in their support of what I believe in, so when they visit I always want to spoil them with lots of vegan love in return.  

My mum has been veggie for years but my dad still remains a meat eater.  Obviously I wish they were both vegan and my mum has been for a short time here and there but I'm not the aggressive type when it comes to trying to convince my parents.  My dad is after all in his 80th year and my mum not far behind. All I can do is feed them gently during their time with us and my mum, bless her, always feeds us without complaint when we visit.

So back to this year's Christmas quandary.  Dad is not keen on soya and mum has said in the past that she is not keen on nuts cooked in savoury dishes (although I decided to investigate this further and found that she is not too unhappy about nut loafs). They are both not very adventurous with food choices.  I thought the fact that Quorn had finally made something vegan may have been a different approach this year but, despite searching, I could find none of the vegan Quorn choices available down here.  I wasn't too unhappy about that as the mass production of Quorn kind of puts me off a little.  My prayers were answered in a couple of ways during a visit to Country Store Health Foods in Redruth last weekend.  We had heard on the Cornish vegan grapevine that they had Tofurky Roasts in stock.  Phil and I have never had a Tofurky Roast before and better still they are not pure soya but a mixture of wheat gluten so would possibly satisfy the needs of my dad.  Luckily, they still had plenty in stock and excitement about this led me to buy two of them.  

So if you are still a little undecided about what to cook for the Christmas Crazy season, then why not use it as an excuse to treat yourself to an easy option of a Tofurky roast.  I'm really looking forward to trying this roast for the first time.  

Monday, 14 December 2015

A Rambling Sunny Sunday Brunch

We're both keen weather watchers, and Phil keeps a beady eye glued to the surf forecast at all times. So when we woke up on Sunday and saw that it was indeed as nice a day as forecast, we wasted no time in getting up and out there to make the most of it (well, after a bit of a lay in).  When we did get up we went straight into production mode, and soon had a flask of Barleycup (with hemp milk) made, and some tasty cinnamon and raisin bagels filled with almond butter, maple syrup, and sliced bananas.  

A small rucksack was found, and hastily packed with the above items, plus a selection of trail snacks sent over from Scooby's sister in Alaska. We then put on our jackets and headed out the door, only to find that we didn't really need them.  Some people were walking around in T-shirts, and shorts.  In December.  Some of them were even locals.

After walking a few hundred yards and undoing our jackets, we were still not quite willing to accept the fact that it was unseasonably warm, and so carried on walking, getting hotter and hotter, headed for the coast path.  To be fair, once we had the full force of the wind in our faces it wasn't exactly sweltering, but it was still a very pleasant walk headed south to a high point from which we planned to eat our Sunday brunch.  The walk there certainly created a good appetite.  

We started our brunch with the bagels, which went down just a little too easily.  The combination of almond butter, banana, maple syrup and fresh sea air really hit the spot. After pausing for a minute to take in the view and slurp our Barleycup, we had the difficult decision of what to sample out of our Alaskan vegan trail snack package.  The chocolate chip cookie, with its sheer chunky delight, spoke to us first.  It had a creamy vanilla hit and like a lot of the cookies we've had from America, it was a lot softer than our small, 'snap in two' biscuity British versions.  Not the kind of cookie you would want to wave at your cup of tea and expect it to not disintegrate into a mush at the bottom of the cup but regardless this was a real bold, well built, generous character of a cookie; much like the Alaskans themselves.  We had a little more space for another treat and the Super Dark Coconut Ash and Banana chocolate came on to the radar.  Now sticking a load of ash into chocolate wouldn't be the first thing you would think to do.  Don't knock it until you've tried it!  This stuff rocks, with an intense coconut flavour, and a hint of banana, all wrapped up in a smooth well balanced dark chocolate intensity.  Just the way we like it.  The rest of the snacks survived to live another day; perhaps for next weekend's rambling Sunday brunch?

One of the reasons we chose this breakfast spot is that just a short walk further south, we've previously seen choughs. After filling our bellies we went looking for them.  Maybe they were hiding, or maybe we didn't watch for long enough, but today we didn't see any.  I'm sure if we'd gone there with no hopes of seeing them, then they would have appeared.  All the while we were out, Phil was keeping an eye on the surf conditions.  By the time we'd returned home, the tide had pushed in enough to tempt him in for a couple of hours before it got too dark.  The waves were a couple of feet overhead, and had that winter 'oomph'; like a cold wet slap in the face, that gets your attention and sharpens the mind.  As the smell of wood smoke filled the air, and the sun sank below the horizon, a now very tired Phil stumbled home feeling drained but satisfied, and in need of some high energy vegan fuel to refill his tank.  With all the wind and rain we've endured of late, we'd very much like a few more sunny days like Sunday, with light winds and good clean waves.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Cornish Vegan Love

It really has been a busy time (apologies for the lack of posts). The run up to the Cornwall Vegan Festival was busy and this weekend has only just seen the first signs of slowing down just over a week after.  The truth is I meant to do a post straight after the festival but was exhausted so goodness knows what the organisers of this amazing event felt like! Great job Cornwall Animal Action.  I think the queue outside just before opening was very much a reflection of your effort.

It might have been a 'long, busy and on your feet all day' day, but wow was it a great experience.  I heard some inspiring and educational talks (my stall was in the same room as the talks/demos), met many lovely people, had loads of chats with friends old and new, answered loads of interesting questions, swapped recipe ideas (thanks to the lovely couple who encouraged me to make the quiche from Greens 24/7, it was lush!) and generally grinned from ear to ear whilst surrounded by vegan love and the vibe of people genuinely interested in the vegan way.  It was magic.  Over the coming weeks I intend to follow up, share, explore and write about some of the various wonderful people I met during the day so watch this space.

Meanwhile, I am pleased to share that the vegan recipe/cookbook stall (with various other books and mags) I held at the festival raised £100 for Cornwall Animal Action.  The stall started off with the idea of just displaying my collection of cookbooks (in the row at the back of the photo) and other resources to show the huge amount of vegan recipe ideas out there, but then along with very kind donations (Emma you are the best!) and some cheap on-line deals I grabbed, it expanded to selling a load of vegan cookbooks.  I then added a Vegan Love Pot to the mix (a free lucky dip of vegan recipes from our blog).  A highlight of my day was encouraging bemused looking people to have a dip in my Vegan Love Pot!  My lists of vegan blogs and vegan recipe sites also disappeared very quickly too.  Right at the end of the day I saw a young girl scrolling through the Viva! Vegan Recipe Club website I had displayed on a tablet.  She seemed engrossed.  All very encouraging.

I can't say enough thanks to the lovely people at Cornwall Animal Action for organising such a great and popular event. Thanks also to Neil (Veganhead and creator of Vegan Laptop Lunchbox) for the photo of my stall. I would never have got around to taking a photo, so much appreciated.