Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Cornish Vegan Piskies Hit the Shops

It seems that it is indeed true; Cornish piskies do exist. What is also amazing to learn is that they all seem to be vegan and whilst we imagine they very rarely roam from their mist clad moorland stone circles, barrows and cliff tops, it has recently come to light that they actually do enjoy a good shopping trip here and there.  From supermarket shelves to hobby stores (or should that be hobbit stores?), the vegan piskies are up to harmless vegan inspired mischief spreading the gentle message as they go.  

Roll over Banksy too as, it also appears, the vegan mischief has taken to the streets 'Pisky' style.  Mysterious chalk messages are appearing on pavements and structures all over the place as piskies and pixies of the world unite in spreading the magical vegan message. The pixies just across the border in Devon indeed invite you to partake in such mischief and magic this coming Saturday.  Check out the Plymouth Vegan Chalk Bomb Challenge for details.  

If you can't make it this Saturday then create your own magic in a shop or on a pavement near you soon. According to the official advertising agency 'Especially Subliminal Piskies' (ESP for short), advertising really does work.  So go forth and be pisky!  

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Coconut Collaborative Rice Pudding

Photo from The Coconut Collaborative's Facebook page
Rice pudding is one of those things that we really should make more often.  In the heat of the summer a chilled, creamy, ricey wonder is delicious and equally, a warm spicy rice pudding in the depths of winter is more than enough to chase away the darkness.  Indeed at Christmas, when my parents come to stay, my coconut rice pudding is a regular request from my not so vegan dad.

For years making your own vegan rice pudding has been the only option if you fancied such a treat.  Back in the 80's there was a tinned rice pudding available from Plamil.  It was delicious and very popular within the vegan circles both Phil and I moved in back then, but despite this it then sadly disappeared off the face of the vegan earth, leaving a lazy, convenient vegan rice pudding 'dessert desert'.  No more though.  For those moments when rice pudding desire strikes there is now a delicious vegan solution.

The Coconut Collaborative have deliciously charged into the vegan market with their frozen Snowconut Yogurt and chilled coconut milk yogurts.  However, the recent discovery of a two pack of coconut rice pudding from them had me snatching it off the shelf with unnerving zeal.  An equally enthusiastic reaction ensued from Phil when I showed him.  It really was such a childish reaction to such a simple food but yep, we openly admit it; we were kids about it.  The consumption of said rice pudding stood up to the anticipation too.  It was delicious.

Now if the whole idea of a 'convenient treat' doesn't sit comfortably with you, there are a few facts that might ease the guilt. First off, come on, The Coconut Collaborative have made the vegan effort and even made sure they proudly display The Vegan Society mark. Secondly, the ingredients are pretty good too.  A rice pudding containing coconut is full of fatty acids with beneficial properties especially in terms of an energy boost.  Coconuts also contain zero cholesterol.  The rice pudding is also free of gluten and soya.

If that wasn't enough The Coconut Collaborative also have a tree planting project with their friends at Pur Project.  The resulting little piece of jungle in South East Asia will regenerate soil and provide wildlife habitat and income for local communities.  For news of the project and all the other goodies The Coconut Collaborative make, check out their website or Facebook page.  

Did we mention that the rice pudding tasted extremely good too?..........yum.

Friday, 23 September 2016

It's a Wrap

We were out of bread and I really couldn't be bothered to either go and get any or bake some.  We did however need something for lunch the following day and the fridge and cupboards seemed fairly devoid of useful options. Unusually we didn't even have enough leftovers to dispense with the whole sandwich idea altogether. With garden supplies, there were things we could put in a sandwich but where was the bread?

This whole lazy issue led to an experiment I should have tried a long time ago; I would make some flat breads/wraps/tortillas or whatever you want to call them.  It can't be that hard or long winded surely and I had plenty of flour in the stock cupboard? As it turns out it was really easy. So why haven't I made them before and more to the point, why would you want to buy them if you can get purer, cheaper ones by making them yourselves?  I offer no real answer to that because for a first attempt it was pretty tasty and further refinement can only lead to tastier attempts I'm sure.  

So here I offer you my first attempt which made four 8" breads; more than sufficient for both of us for lunch.  I used sun dried tomatoes because, well we had some and to be honest the idea of just a flour and water mix seemed almost too simple. That's a daft concept from me really as that is exactly what flat breads are made from, but I also wanted them to pack a punch with flavour too, which sun dried tomatoes certainly do.  Oh, I also sneaked in some dried oregano for an additional Mediterranean vibe.

I used a food processor to mix it; nothing fancy, just my 25 year old trusty friend of a food processor.  I'm sure hand mixing would be fine too but I was in no mood for this to take a load of time or effort!

Quick 4 Ingredient Wraps

200g flour (I used half buckwheat and half strong white bread flour)
100g sun dried tomatoes (I used jarred ones so they did have a little oil on them)
1 tablespoon of dried oregano

Whizz up the tomatoes until broken up, then add the flour and oregano until incorporated.  With the processor running add water through the top until the mixture comes together into a ball.  Turn this mixture out on to a floured surface and give it a bit of a knead until it feels pliable and smooth (I did this in less than 5 minutes). Divide the mixture into 4 equal balls and then roll each ball into a thin round that will fit into a frying pan. Cook each bread in a heated dry frying pan until browned on each side.

Now I will mention again that these were my first attempt and improvements can definitely be made.  For a start they were a little stiff once cooked but they still did the job in wrapping, all be it with the help of a cocktail stick to keep them wrapped!  It certainly has led me to want to experiment more with different combinations of flours and flavourings and I even have in mind, for a wet winters weekend, that I will have a flat bread making session and freeze a load for future use.

If you are wondering what we used inside our wrap in the photo; there was homemade cashew cheese (I'm always experimenting with that but here is at least one version I make), coconut bacon, a slightly tweaked version of our creamy leek, mushroom and broad bean pasta (without the pasta) and tomatoes and rocket from the garden.

Anyway, it's a wrap.  Enjoy!

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Finally a Fig!

Our fig tree in the front garden is a legend in many ways apart from the most useful one.  I planted a fig tree in my garden when I lived in Devon back in 1992, then when I moved to Cornwall I took cuttings from this tree and planted one of these cuttings in our now front garden.  So all in all, it is about 24 years old.  It is a beautiful tree that fits perfectly among the herbs, and the birds love to sit in its now tall branches.  With its vividly green leaves reaching up towards a deep blue summer sky, it is evocative of warmer Mediterranean climes.  Its amazing looks have inspired requests from friends and family for cuttings which are now growing in various locations around the country. This is where the legend ends though, as in all those 24 years it hasn't bothered to give us any edible figs.....that is until now!

The aesthetics of the fig tree have been mostly lost on Phil, especially in light of the lack of edible rewards and he had only just recently been suggesting that the large space could be better used.  I have despairingly watched each year as the new figs load the tree only for them to either not ripen or be blown off in our strong coastal winds. My excuses to keep it there had pretty much run out and then as if by magic, 'figgy' suddenly comes through. 

There sat right in the middle of the deep foliage was a big fig.  Each night when I went to put out my 'badger, please leave our veg alone offering' I would have a squeeze, daring not to mention too soon to Phil that I think finally we had a winner. Then a couple of evenings ago I took him out there to show him, and this evening we finally tasted it.  Magic is the word that springs to mind.  It was delicious.  We are not sure what has been different this year and why 'figgy' decided to finally grow this fruity offering, but let's just say he will thankfully be remaining and we have every hope that this may be just the beginning of even more figgy delights in years to come.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Excalibur Cafe Glastonbury

Now if there is anything you could say about the town of Glastonbury it is that you are guaranteed to find good wholesome vegan food, while away many happy hours hunting for good books, and enjoy interesting and random conversations here and there.  All of these things we enjoy and hence why we try and visit a few times a year.  We've become quite familiar with the shops and eateries along the high street and so on a recent visit we were surprised to see a new cafe had arrived in town since our last visit.

The clean and crisp frontage of Excalibur Cafe, along with what appeared to be quite a minimalist interior (from peering through the window) actually had us confused at first.  It had quite an air of  'up market' about it which sat a little 'off centre' to the down to earth wholesomeness of the Glastonbury we were more used to.  The minimalist menu on display in the window, at first glance, also had us wondering whether this was one of those establishments that you'd leave with a still empty tummy but with a lighter wallet.  We were slightly suspicious.  However, this was Glastonbury and the sign outside used words like natural, organic, wildcrafted and buffet.  It also called itself a cafe instead of a restaurant. That was a good sign for us down to earth foodies.  We were definitely curious and so we stepped inside.  We are very glad we did.

Rather than stuffy poshness, the interior was instantly light, airy, vibrant, and relaxing, and the staff happy and welcoming. I was inwardly feeling embarrassed about my clear preconception of Excalibur but the proof would be in the eating.  The Pendragon Burger caught our attention and upon checking whether it was all vegan, we were told that it was all vegan and, with a mischievous glint in her eye, the lady followed that by telling us that it did however contain dragons!  There was also a self service buffet on offer which was sold by weight (£2.00 per 100g).  We might have just stuck with the burger, but when we took a look at the buffet some weird magic happened whereby we couldn't resist, and subconsciously served ourselves a plateful of tasty morsels to share and try.  

The drinks took a while to peruse and choose, such were the interesting and tasty choices. In the end Phil opted for the Pine Power Smoothie; described as a creamy, energy boosting smoothie with fresh almond milk, coconut meat, dates, lucuma, pine pollen, maca, vanilla and sea salt. I meant to opt for the Love Potion Hot Chocolate which included ashwagandha, cacao, chaga, cinnamon, maca, mesquite, pine pollen, vanilla and cayenne pepper, but I think I was so in awe of the choices I somehow just ordered the less intensely interesting hot chocolate on offer.  This was still very satisfying but I did end up staring more lovingly at Phil's Pine Power Smoothie with a tinge of envy.  I had been allowed a sample and just enough to realise I would definitely order the smoothie next time!  

The service was very quick and we hadn't managed to polish off much of our sample buffet and drinks before the burgers arrived.  As it was placed in front of us any notion that this was a 'minimalist food' establishment exploded.  It was not only a thing of beauty but it was 'love at first bite'.  The Pendragon Burger involved mushrooms, activated walnuts, raw olives, dulse and sun-dried tomatoes, served on a homemade sourdough ciabatta bun.  The burger itself was intensely flavoured; a real 'wow' moment.  The sourdough bun surrounding it was really good too and an ideal additional accompaniment to the plateful of lovely buffet items we had indulged in, such as the 'Creamy Cheese' dip.  The size of the bun was extremely generous and had it not been for the additional buffet dips we may have struggled to have balanced that against the size of the wonderful burger.  There was a raw version of the Pendragon Burger on offer too which was served on homemade raw crackers.  I might try that next time.  At the end of the meal we were well and truly satisfied. Ironically, in a 'grass is always greener' moment we wished we'd had more space to sample the desserts on offer.  So much for worrying about it being a minimalist menu!  

So if you are in Glastonbury, do look out for Excalibur.  It certainly offers something a little bit different from the norm.  The menu identifies vegan, vegetarian, raw, gluten free, nut free and even Sattvic options.  All alcohol is also labelled as 100% organic and vegan (although we noted that Pennards Organic Mead was included on the menu so honey avoiding vegans should avoid this; aka actual vegans!).

The General Manager and Executive Chef, Sarmado Sibley, sounds like quite a dude too. Not only has he trained in Michelin starred kitchens and worked with some of Europe's top chefs, but he has also founded an innovative holistic food company in London and is a renowned raw food coach.  However, there is much more to Excalibur beyond the food. They have also installed a full spectrum EMF defence system in the cafe, all their water passes through a state of the art filtration and energising system and even the cafe ceiling is coated with a special paint that neutralises pollutants in the air.  We can hear the laughter now from some of you but when we became vegan 30 years ago we heard the same laughter, so it might be time to open up to fact that there are multiple factors in the modern day world that may affect our health.  It really is up to you but it is good to know that some establishments are thinking about the 'wider picture' for their customers just in case.  50 years ahead of time is better than not at all, and perhaps our open appreciation of such issues will mean that we can look back with gratitude on their efforts.

For further information on Excalibur, including their menu, please do check out their website or their Facebook page for social media updates.

  • Excalibur Glastonbury Ltd
  • 22 High Street
  • Glastonbury, Somerset
  • BA6 9DU, United Kingdom
  • +44 1458 258301
  • info@excaliburcafe.net

Friday, 9 September 2016

Rooting For Those Vegan Vibes


As a sustainable community space in the heart of Cornwall, there is always something interesting going on at the Mount Pleasant Eco Park in Porthtowan.  One such example is their Roots Culture Markets which run on various Sundays throughout the year.  If the stalls in the covered outdoor artisan market selling local produce, crafts, up-cycled goodies, plants, cakes (including vegan ones from our experience), records, and other unusual gifts wasn't a draw enough, how about indulging in some fabulous tasty food whilst Latin, African, and Reggae musical vibes float tropically through the air?

I'm sure that has caught your imagination already but word is that this Sunday the already legendary specialist vegetarian Cantina Cafe (normally they always provide luscious vegan options) is for the first time offering a full vegan food menu. Phil's eyes lit up even more when he noticed that the food on offer for Sunday was also an 'Indian Summer Feast'.  I remember the sights, smells and resulting culinary delights that emanated from the home kitchen of Paul, the now Cantina Cafe chef, many many years ago back in our Devon pasts, especially on curry night.  The word legendary has to be used again here.

So it may be a windy old Indian Summer down here in Cornwall this weekend but you could do worse than to head over to the Roots Culture Market this coming Sunday 11th September for a big old Tropical hug.  Check out the poster above or visit the Mount Pleasant Eco Park website for further details on this and all the other great stuff that goes on there.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Sign of the Times

As much as us vegans find it hard to believe, there are still plenty of people out there who are still totally unaware of what impact eating meat, let alone dairy and eggs, has for not only the animals concerned but our health and the environment too.  They are still yet to make that connection.  Although mainstream media is starting to catch on, it is still very much up to the 'grassroots' to help more people to connect the compassionate and ethical 'dots'.

It is with this in mind that Cornwall Vegans have launched a campaign of informative outreach and peaceful local activism. Part of this campaign involves displaying thought provoking posters in bus stops in the Truro area.  The first of these posters, a beautiful photo of a mother cow and her calf, was revealed and highlighted by Cornwall Vegans on 31st August, causing traffic to slow and prompting positive responses from people passing by.  A commuter commented on Twitter that "I saw it on the drive home.  I wasn't looking for it, but it caught my eye".  With this particular poster raising the question as to why we suppose it is natural and normal to drink the milk from another species, especially when there are so many alternatives to be found, it is hoped that it will catch the eyes and the minds of many such passers by.  Further posters featuring a piglet, a rescued sheep, a goat and a hen are also planned to run up to Christmas and towards the next Cornwall Vegan Festival in early 2017, hopefully swelling the numbers of people wanting to learn even more about taking the positive step towards a more compassionate and healthy lifestyle.

Cornwall Vegans are appealing for donations to keep these posters visible within the city so if you have any spare pennies please do give them a shout on cornwallveganfestival@gmail.com  or send contributions via Paypal using cornwallanimalaction@riseup.net   All donations received will go directly to this campaign. In the meantime, please do share the poster image and if you see it be sure to  let them know  #MyBabyMyMilk

Another part of Cornwall Vegans current outreach work is holding Earthling Experience events. For anybody not familiar with these peaceful events, the public are invited to enter into the world of farmed animals via hard hitting video footage. One such event has already been held in Truro and the response was very positive, with many people engaging with the film, some visibly disturbed by what they saw.  It was the theme throughout the day that people were in general unaware of practices, and were, in many cases, highly misinformed about the meaning behind different food labeling.  One viewer said "I was aware that obviously factory farming is wrong but I thought things like free-range and RSPCA Assured meant they lived outside and had good lives.  It's opened my eyes to what goes into producing that piece of meat on my plate and I'm definitely doing to go away and think hard about it."  The next Earthlings event takes place this Saturday 10th September in St Austell. Please check out the St Austell Earthlings Event Facebook page for details if you would like to become more involved.

Alongside the outreach events other Cornwall Vegan members have been door-to-door leafleting in towns and villages around the county, bringing the peaceful vegan message direct to many homes.  Over the last two months hundreds of leaflets have been distributed with many more planned to be in coming months.

If you would like to get more involved in the lively Cornish vegan community do join them on the Cornwall Vegans Facebook group or at one of the many social and publicity events taking place around the county throughout the year.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Super Quick Tasty Baked Courgette

We recently returned home from a week away to find the home produce in the garden had got on with 'doing it's own thing' wonderfully.  Courgettes were among the produce hiding away in the thick undergrowth currently breaking it's way out of our fencing and forcing it's way into next doors garden.  Luckily our neighbour is very laid back about such things, especially so as we quite happily take care of his cat when he has to work away.

I know that some people struggle with a glut of courgettes but I would never complain if we had more.  This is especially since discovering the wonders of baking them.  I have previously blogged about a particular recipe I love, a simple baked courgette, but there is another offering Phil slung together more recently.  I think this one is even quicker and just as delicious.  

Even Quicker Tasty Baked Courgette

Top and tail your courgettes before cutting them lengthwise in two.  Take your favourite miso (we used Clearspring Brown Rice Miso) and spread it on the cut sides of each half.  Then drizzle over some balsamic glaze (we used Biona Organic Balsamic Glaze).  Be sure to check whatever glaze you use is vegan as the process for vinegar is very similar to wine for clarifying - the Biona one is definitely okay.  We then baked the courgettes at 200 degrees C for about 30 minutes but keep an eye on them and if they are soft and browning slightly they are ready to devour!


Sunday, 4 September 2016

The Cornish Vegan

The Cornish Vegan

This September heralds the opening of Cornwall's second pure vegan restaurant, and this time it is in Truro; a mere 12 miles from Driftwood Vegans headquarters.  The Cornish Vegan is situated opposite Archie Browns health store on Kenwyn Street.  It opens on Tuesday 13th September and aims to offer a local, seasonal, organic, and ethically sourced menu.

Paul and Dawn are at the helm of this venture and their journey to The Cornish Vegan began with a transatlantic love story.  They met in 1996 as pen pals; Paul from the UK and Dawn from the USA.  They fell in love, married, ran businesses in Florida and then London, before feeling the draw of the West country and quitting their jobs to move to Cornwall. They both became vegetarian in 2011 and then vegan in 2013 and their move to Cornwall from London highlighted to them the lack of purely vegan options within the county.  It was from that point that The Cornish Vegan was born.

Initially The Cornish Vegan will be opening Tuesday to Sunday from 10am - 4pm but once they settle in Friday and Saturday evenings will be offered.  Paul and Dawn have put a lot of thought into the kind of food they want The Cornish Vegan to offer and they even ran a survey to determine what their customers would most like (still available on the feedback page on their website).  If you have been following their Facebook page you would have been teased with kitchen experiments that ranged from home style favourites to worldwide delights.  Vegan fish and chips, French onion soup, sushi, BBQ pulled jack fruit, Cuban black bean soup, paella, lasagna, raw pad Thai salad and chocolate torte have all featured as a taster.  Thought has also gone into the basics.  They plan to make their own butter to avoid the use of palm oil and also homemade tomato ketchup to accompany their meals.

Careful consideration of the ambiance of the restaurant has also been made.  This city centre location belies the peaceful garden setting at the back of the restaurant.  Animal friendly commissioned art work from Sophie Poore adorns the walls and dog carers will be delighted to learn that their four legged friends can bring their humans too.

So it is with much anticipation that we await the opening of The Cornish Vegan on the 13th September.  Knowing the vegan community in Cornwall, it will be very much supported and celebrated.  Take a look for yourself at 15 Kenwyn Street, Truro, TR1 3BU and it may be wise during the initial few days of opening to book a table in which case ring them on 01872 271540.  You can also check out their full story on their website thecornishvegan.com and their progress on The Cornish Vegan Facebook page.