Sunday, 28 February 2016

When Odd Becomes GOdd

As long term vegans we know what it is like to be looked upon as a bit odd.  We therefore have a great affinity for anyone who is labelled as odd.  To us that just means that they have possibly discovered something that everyone else has just been stupid enough to miss or understand.  

In the case of Odd Todd, this certainly seems the case.  He has gone beyond odd.  From this film it seems there is a general understanding that he is indeed odd, but there is also a respect, a mysticism, even an envy of him.  It is like people don't fully understand what he is about but are desperately trying to find out.

Good on you Todd for keeping your secrets.  If they don't get it, keep them guessing and keep the legend alive.  

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Really Quick Cheese and Tomato Flans

In case anyone starts thinking we have got an absolute obsession with pies (see the post from last week), I'm going to call these flans instead.  I'm really not sure what the difference between pies and flans is anyway and besides I think my real obsession has been with these little baking dishes I bought recently in a charity shop.  I just can't stop using them; they've kind of become my canvas or frame for food at the moment.  I rummage for ingredients and then see what I can fit in them.

Last night we didn't have much to go on; or so I thought at first.  By the time I put options on the table in a 'Ready Steady Cook' style I had a couple of mushrooms, some little vine tomatoes, half a tub of Bute Island Chives in Creamy Scheese, a few slices of Vegusto Aromatic Cheese and some Jus Rol pastry.  With the addition of a handful of cashews I started formulating a plan.  Here is what happened....and we added roast potatoes and peas for the complete meal.

Really Quick Cheese and Tomato Flans
For four x 4" flan dishes
1 sheet of Jus Rol Puff Pastry
1 handful of cashews
2 medium sized chestnut mushrooms
Splash or two of vegan Worcestershire Sauce
2 tablespoons of Bute Island Chives in Creamy Scheese
A splash of hemp milk
A dozen or so little vine tomatoes
A few slices of Vegusto Aromatic Cheese

Lightly oil the flan dishes and line them with a square of pastry.  Let the corners flop out to the sides for now.

Grab the handful of cashews and bung them into a good blender (I used our Nutribullet).  Add the mushrooms, the Worcestershire Sauce, the Creamy Scheese and the splash of hemp milk.  Blend until it has turned into a thick double cream consistency.  You may need to add some more hemp milk to achieve this.

Spoon the cheesy nutty mushroom mixture into the bottom of each square of pastry equally.  Cut the little vine tomatoes into halves and press into the top of the filling, cut side up until covered.  Add a few slices of Vegusto cheese.  A sprinkling of nutritional yeast would probably be pretty nice too if you don't have any cheese.  Now fold in the corners of the pastry to meet in the middle (they will unfold a bit when they cook but it kind of looks nice!).

Bake in the oven at about 200 degrees C (the temperature I use for pretty much everything in our old oven!) for approximately 30 minutes.  You'll know when they are done as they will be lovely and brown.


Monday, 22 February 2016

Where There is Love....

Now I'm not the soppy type and to demonstrate this fact, I have purposely left writing this post until a sufficiently appropriate time past Valentines Day.  I hate the darn thing; the money making falsity that it is.  That said, after being with Phil for over 16 years, I still love him as much, actually more, than when we first met.  Okay, maybe I am a little bit soppy. There are many things that make us special to each other but one of the most important, and indeed the reason we met, is that we are both vegan.  It really means that much to us.

Mahatma Gandhi once said that 'Where there is love, there is life'.  This has an all embracing perspective but I like to think that it is also a lovely description of vegan life and love. Veganism is such a deep rooted love of life that it was impossible for both of us to consider being with anyone that didn't think on that level.  Hence we went searching and found each other via the Vegan Society magazine all those years ago.  

Recently we had the wonderful experience of bringing two lovely friends, both vegan in the last 3 years or so, together. They had never met before and initially our invitation to dinner was just that; to have some vegan friends around and enjoy each others gentle company.  I know neither of my friends believe me when I say that was my original intention but what the heck because yes, I admit, I then quite quickly started wondering how they might get on together, especially as they are both single.  I am happy to report that they both enjoyed each others company and a proper date followed shortly after.

It was this experience that reminded me again of how important veganism is to Phil and I, and indeed to many vegans. You know that 'look' that couples give each other that says so much without talking?  That's what being in a vegan relationship is like.  It's a connection, an understanding and a love that, because it extends to all sentient creatures, seems deeper, richer and more real.  Now I'm starting to sound like a soppy hippy but I know there will be other vegan couples out there that understand totally where I am coming from.  I also understand that we were lucky to find each other.  It makes everyday life so much easier too; not having to compromise about food, shopping, cooking, restaurant choices, entertainment, etc, etc!

A while back in the Vegan Life magazine there was an article about vegan dating.  It was an interesting and honest piece but it is one that actually made me feel like one of those 'militant' vegans described!  The vegan author is quite happy to date vegetarians, vegans or omnivores; but that wouldn't work for us.  Before I met Phil I had dated guys who weren't vegan or even vegetarian, but it never worked out.  Sure some of them went vegan whilst we were together, which was certainly a very positive thing.  Back in the anarchistic, blunt, and raw days of 80's hunt sabbing (where I cut my 'vegan teeth') this was referred to as 'horizontal conversion'!  However, those guys I dated didn't stay vegan after we split up. Maybe they weren't the right guys for me anyway, or maybe there really was something else missing; that vegan connection?  And of course, in fairness, there were vegans back then I didn't connect with.

For us, the idea of kissing someone who has just consumed an animal is tantamount to kissing someone that has just puked.  It is basically disgusting.  If that labels us as militant, so be it.  I see our preference as gentle rather than militant.  

I respect everyone's choices of partner but from my personal perspective, I'm going to stick with my gentle-man.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

I-Pie With My Vegan Eye

Pies are great.  Pies are packages of winter comfort.  Pies are what you can make when you don't know what else to make. Got a random selection of ingredients you are not sure what to make into?  Sling them in a pie and suddenly you have something pie-tastic. Okay, so pies can be naughty but they can be healthy too.  Pies are what you make them. We like pies.  All of the above are facts and there are not many people out there that would dispute the facts.  

It is indeed pie season in the Driftwood household.  We have been indulging in quite a few Clive's Pies recently; one of the gems of the South West not always readily available up country, and for you vegans not from around these parts, you're missing out!  We even almost had a fight on our hands the other day when someone else was rummaging for Clive's Pies in the Archie Brown's freezer at the same time we arrived on the Creamy Mushroom pie hunt.  It was 'pies at dawn' for a tense moment but luckily (for them and us) their flavour choice turned out to be non-conflicting.

We have been making our own pies as well and all of them have been 'on the fly', in other words; rummage for ingredients, find a random selection of stuff, add in some store cupboard ingredients and think of pie.  So we thought we would share a selection of these random creations with you and if these don't tickle your fancy you could always take some inspiration from one of the books by prolific vegan cookbook writers Moskowitz and Romero; Vegan Pie in the Sky.  There are no exact measurements below because, well they were random pie making moments!

We have two savoury creations and one sweet.  First off a pizza-come-pie creation. Let's call it Polenta Pizza Pie if we must call it something.  If you have read our blog before you will know that I like using polenta and therefore we always have some ready to cook up in the cupboard.  If you want to know how I cooked it up refer to the Pizza Polenta blog I did some time back.  So I made a batch of this up and molded it into some small pie cases.  It doesn't show very well in the photo but I kind of molded it up the sides a bit so there was space in the middle to put the mix.  I then boiled up a couple of carrots until soft and then mashed them up with some sun-dried tomato paste I had and a bit of nutritional yeast.  I then folded in some roasted red peppers from a part used jar in the fridge and then piled this in the middle of the polenta pie cases.  I then buzzed up some cashews in a blender into crumbs and decadently included a small chunk of Violife Prosociano cheese into the blender.  This mixture I then sprinkled on top of the pie cases and popped them in the oven to cook and crisp up for about 20 minutes at 200 degrees C (from memory but you will be able to tell when they are done!).

Next up were little Leek and Mushroom Pies.  I had some shortcrust pastry in the fridge (I know that is super lazy).  I had some of the cashew and cheese mixture left over from the Polenta Pizza Pies, along with leeks and mushrooms.  After lining the pie cases with the pastry I sauteed up some sliced mushrooms and leeks until soft.  I then made a roux cheesy sauce.  If you are not familiar with how to make one of these check out the instructions from our The Flan of Gold at the End of the Rainbow post (which incidentally is another pie offering along similar lines).  Mix the leek and mushroom mix into the sauce mix and pour into the pastry cases.  Sprinkle with the cashew and cheese mix and bung it in the oven until golden and bubbling.

Now on to the sweet stuff; an apple pie.  I had some pastry left over from the Leek and Mushroom (one pie seems to lead to another!) and also a couple of apples that needed using.  The problem was there weren't enough apples just to make a simple apple pie so I needed further filling.  Dates and cashews came to the rescue.  I soaked a handful of dates in boiling water before blending them up (including the soaking water) with a handful of cashews, a bit of vanilla paste, a touch of maple syrup (not too much as the dates are already pretty sweet) and some cinnamon and nutmeg. After lining the large pie case I was using with pastry, I sliced up the apples and arranged them on top.  Then I poured the date mixture over the apples spreading it evenly before slinging it in the oven until golden brown.  

We hope you enjoy our random selection of pie creations.  Remember the only thing holding back your own random pies is your own imagination!


Thursday, 11 February 2016

Roots Reggae Roast and Culture Market

On a stormy Cornish Sunday afternoon what could be better than adding a splash of sunshine into your winter-worn world?  We are heading to the Roots Reggae Roast and Culture Market this Sunday to do exactly that. 
You see we love roots reggae and we also love food.  The reg-tastic tunes will be spinning from top selectors at the Mount Pleasant Eco Park at Porthtowan whilst a 100% vegetarian roast is served.  What a combo!  And to top it off there is also a Roots Culture Market featuring local crafts, arts, food, music and more.  I'll be there in my other guise of Travelling Light Photographic Images selling just a few of my cards and photos (come and say hi!).
Now I know the food will be good as I'm a big fan of the chef.  Paul and I go back over 25 years from back in our Devon years.  Apart from being an all round beautiful bloke mate, he is a wonderful chef and I have experienced many a taste sensation 'back in the day' when I'd turn up to find him in a whirlwind of spicy tastiness in his kitchen.  It was always worth timing a visit to Paul for around dinner time!  His passion and generosity shine in his food.  We lost contact for quite a few years in between so I am very much looking forward to a food 'reminiscence' this Sunday!
This Sunday's menu includes, as a vegan option, a Cashew and Red Pepper Nut Roast En Croute and costs £9 for adults and £5 for kids.  The Roast and Market will run from 12pm - 4pm.  For further details or  to reserve a table either call the Eco Park office on  01209 891500, visit their Facebook page or check out their website.
And if you really can't make it this Sunday, then don't despair as the Roots Reggae Roasts and Culture Markets also run on 28th February and the 13th and 27th March (Easter Sunday).

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

The Naturally Vegan Plot

Veganism grew from a grassroots ethos, and although these days it's roots have gloriously deepened and it's branches spread and beautifully flowered in a global and more mainstream way, it is important to look back at the 'roots' every now and then.  In this age of technology, worldwide access and ease of availability of food and other products, it is all too easy to forget the true and basic ethics of veganism and where exactly our food comes from.  That plastic wrapped vegan cheese may be yummy but it's fairly far removed from 'real food'.  As Joni Mitchell once sang in the 60's hippy anthem 'Woodstock', 'we've got to get ourselves back to the garden'.
Recently we heard of a relatively new project that most certainly could help us 'get back to the garden' and revisit the basics of food production and sustainability.  The Naturally Vegan Plot draws on the two decades of experience and learning of the two vegan founders, Elaine and Jim, with inspiration from their friend, mentor and founder of Plants For The Future, Ken Fern.

The Naturally Vegan Plot, which took root in September of last year, is set on 3.5 acres of land near the Cornwall/Devon border.  Although it's overarching theme is veganic horticulture, it's aims are varied, numerous and exciting.  First off the project strives to 'grow and show' how successful horticulture without the use of animals and animal derived products can be.  Demonstrations, courses, workshops, field trips, research and consultations will take this practical implementation a step further so that it can become a centre of information and education for all those interested in veganism, horticulture, sustainability, learning new skills or re-learning old and basic skills long since forgotten.

The long term plans for the land itself make it sound like a true vegan Eden.  They include a woodland garden, WET systems, a natural swimming pool, edible ponds and bog gardens, demonstration gardens, a market garden and a plant nursery.  Many years ago I used to spend a lot of time searching out and visiting interesting gardens and plant nurseries.  In latter years, with other priorities taking over, it is something that has fallen by the wayside and along with it much of my developing experience.  When reading the description of the Naturally Vegan Plot I felt that old excitement bubbling up again.  Perhaps it is exactly what I need to lead me 'back to the garden' on many levels.

It's early days yet, as the video shows, but the buds are most definitely showing.  There are already courses planned and advertised on their website, all at exceedingly good value I might add.  For instance you can attend a Compost Toilet Course this coming summer at £80 for two full days, and this includes vegan food and accommodation. 

For full details on the project you can visit The Naturally Vegan Plot website or catch up with the latest on their Facebook page.  We will be watching with interest and hopefully will have a chance to go and see how things are coming along later in the year.