Saturday, 31 December 2016

A Seitanistic Year

I'm not a fan of new year to be honest; although I don't think there will be many of us that don't look back at 2016 and think, 'hell what an amazing year that was and what a shame it's over'.  Some weird shit happened, both on a global and a personal level.  For that reason 2016 can bog off.  However, as hellish as it has been, seitan has been most welcome in the Driftwood Vegans household over the past year.  

I'm always experimenting with seitan and 2016 has been a particularly good year for such experiments.  About a couple of months ago I accidentally created a seitan recipe that I've found hard not to make quite a few times since; each time becoming slightly different.  It was about time I shared it....well the one I have currently settled on that is!

It all started with a lack of gram (chick pea) flour.  I found a recipe that called for a mix of gram flour and vital wheat gluten. I've used this combination before and it has turned out pretty good but on this occasion we didn't have any gram flour in the stock cupboard.  I did however have a whole load of coconut flour that had been kicking around for a while, along with a half bag of soya flour that I think I had used once for a long lost recipe and never since. With this adaptation came quite a few more, and very soon, and over a few different occasions, the recipe had pretty much changed completely with what we had in the cupboard.  I also added a crumb coating.  So here I offer you my crispy crumb coated seitan burgers which I positively encourage you to try, fiddle with, adapt and have fun with yourself! 

Crispy Crumb Coated Seitan Burgers
Makes about 12 small burgers or any shape/size you like!

80g coconut flour
50g soya flour
Sprinkle of dried parsley, chives and oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

250ml boiling water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon tomato puree

1 litre boiling water
30ml tamari

2 tablespoons masa harina or polenta
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon oregano
Few grinds of black pepper

Don't let the slightly big list of ingredients put you off.  It's pretty quick to put together and most of the time is spent with it cooking itself!

Mix all the dry ingredients in the first section of the ingredients list in a bowl.

Mix all the wet ingredients in the next section in a jug until well incorporated.

Mix the above wet with the above dry.  Get your hands in there and give it a knead.  It should be well incorporated and all in a big lovely doughy lump now. 

Let the above rest for a bit whilst you heat the water, bouillon and tamari in a pan. Make sure this pan is big enough to fit all the gluten with a bit of expansion too.

Roll out and mold the seitan dough into whatever shape you desire.  I cut out 12 small burger shapes with a cookie cutter.

Drop the burgers/whatever shape you chose into the now simmering pan of stock and let gently simmer away for 1 hour.  Be gentle and don't boil the hell out of it otherwise it will all break up.

Remove the seitan from the pan and allow to drain.  Keep the stock for another use (we have used it tonight to make a sausage casserole).

The seitan is now ready to cook in whatever form you would like.  

From here I mixed the last section of dry ingredients together and coated the burgers in it before then baking in the oven at 200 degrees C for 1 hour (turning once half way through).

You could freeze the seitan either after the boiling or the oven baking.

So here's to the New Year and may it be more gentle, less traumatic but just as seitanic!


Saturday, 24 December 2016

We Wish You a Gentle Christmas

I recently found this little note on my desk at work, along with a packet of Ombar Coco Mylk Buttons.  I was so touched, and it really is the loveliest Christmas present.

Veganism means so much to me, and likewise to Phil.  Most people who know us don't actually realise quite how much. We don't tend to shout about it.  That's not to say that I haven't shouted about a lot of other things in the past. I'm not renowned for being the gentlest person.  For example, in my 'former life' if you put me between the fox and hunter well, my ferocious determination would do its level best to make sure that the ginger dog came out on top; even under the threat of attack or arrest.  So I was surprised in some ways to have the word 'gentle' applied to anything about me by my friend and work colleague Antonia.  I'm just not used to it.

Recently though, through a series of events that I will not delve into here, I have been exploring my gentler side and, along with Antonia's note, I realised that it has indeed been hidden in my veganism all these years!  For almost 30 years, both Phil and I have just 'been' when it comes to veganism and 'gentle' definitely goes a long way.  In that time, both of us have seen people we know turn to veganism; whether under our influence is neither clear or important but many have asked questions, sought advice, and been curious.  Some have remained vegan, others not.  To judge those who don't is 'throwing up fences' across their possible continuing journey.

Everybody has their own pathways to follow, and the journey into veganism should be one of self discovery rather than a guided package tour.  Some people respond to seeing horrific videos of animal abuse, some to reports of health benefits, or have their interest peaked by news of yet another celebrity or athlete turning to a plant based diet; whilst others may have watched Cowspiracy and made the environmental connection.   Some just sit on the sidelines and quietly watch. All these influences are valid and important as they reach people in all the myriad ways that people work.  A good counselor will gently lead the person to make their own conclusions. 

For me to have received this note from Antonia is a gift and a gentle reminder......literally.  It has reminded me that the gentle vegan approach is very relevant, as well as reinforcing that my own recent journey of gentle rediscovery has already been the start of another 'trip of a lifetime'.  

Antonia, I've always got my backpack on, and both Phil and I are here for you if you want to meet up at any point along the road.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Vegan Quality Street

Back in the 70's when I was a nipper, and at least a decade before I entered the world of vegan, Christmas wasn't Christmas without a big tin of Quality Street to gorge on whilst watching the annual repeat of Wizard of Oz, Mary Poppins, or other such obligatory festive film wonders.  My grandmother would, without fail, arrive with the very obvious but still wrapped up tin and place it under the tree.  It was as predictable as knowing that the golden wrapped hard toffees would be swimming away all on their lonesome at the bottom of the tin once all other options had been devoured.  I must admit I really loved the childish wonder of these tins and the excited anticipation and thought that went into choosing your next treat, whilst Dorothy clicked her ruby red slippers together.

Over the past 40 years, and every Christmas, long since my grandmother departed this world, I have had little flashbacks and longings to repeat this wonderful memory.  I have yearned for a vegan version of Quality Street.  This is rubbed in further by the fact that at this time of year at work a well meaning soul has often dropped in a tin of Quality Street or Roses for our team.  My reward, unable to enjoy the contents, is the tin or box which, rather than add to the landfill, I normally reserve for some use or another.

Well in a moment of magical wonder, and whilst clicking my vegan boots together and saying 'there is no such place as home', I thought why don't I make my own memories come alive and create my own Vequality Street?  With a discarded Roses 'tin'  (sorry not your favoured Quality Street Grannie) I set about embellishing it with garish 70's style blues and oranges (in your honour Grannie!). Next came the contents.  Well, it might not be as varied in the amount of choices but the quality and vegan kindness far outweighs this in my version.  There are four types of Pernigotti chocolates in there, along with Jameson's Raspberry Ruffles, and Choices Dairy Free Caramels.

I am genuinely excited about finally having my own vegan version of Quality Street. After all these years Vequality Street adds some equality and quality back into my childhood memories without compromising my ethics. The chocolate devouring Phil has been suitably warned off touching this 'family heirloom' until Christmas.  Once Christmas starts however and the echoes of Mary Poppins and  'a spoonful of sugar' start reverberating around the Driftwood household, no doubt we will revert to the old family tradition of squabbling over the contents.

Choices Dairy Free Caramel Choices x12 125gPernigotti Mini Nocciolato Hazelnut Pralines

Sunday, 11 December 2016

The Green Woman Fit Pit Deodorant

Anyone who is concerned about their health should consider the products they put on their skin as seriously as what they take in through their diet.  On this note, back in 2015 I wrote about my search for a natural deodorant that actually worked for me. I had tried various natural ones but found they either didn't work that well or, despite their supposed naturalness, left stains on my clothing.

My friend Jane came up trumps when she found and bought me a pot of CoCho deodorant, after my attempts to make my own didn't exactly go to plan!  It's great stuff but I'm afraid I have discovered a new favourite; Fit Pit from The Green Woman.  I bought a jar of this quite a few months back and meant to blog about it then, but never quite got around to it. When I recently got to the bottom of this jar, I not only went into a slight panic that I needed to find some more soon, but also wanted to spread the word about what a fantastic product it is.  

I had discovered and bought the first jar from the Viva! catalogue but Fit Pit was sold out on their website so I went to direct.  The 100ml jars may seem expensive at £8.00 each but I can tell you that it is a bargain for this beautiful and kind product as it actually lasts for months.  The smell of the 100% organic Fit Pit woman is a gorgeous woody, earthy combination of rosemary and bergamot.  The deodorant is in cream form and you only need a pea sized amount to rub in with your fingertips.  Not only does it smell nice but it actually works without compromising my health. The re-usable/recyclable packaging also ensures that the planet's health has been considered too.  For the more sensitive or the male of the species among us (or both!), never fear there are also versions available just for you, as well as mini jars should you wish to try before you 'go large'.

For more information about why you should be concerned about what cosmetics and personal care products you use, and specifically when it comes to deodorants, take a look at the Breast Cancer UK website.  There is a really useful little guide to cosmetics and personal care products available for download on their website. This charity, set up in 1999, campaigns for a preventative approach to breast cancer, raises awareness about the links between the exposure to harmful chemicals and breast cancer, as well as supporting scientific research into this area. Breast Cancer UK does not conduct or fund animal research.  

So, if you are aren't already using a kinder (to the animals, the planet and yourself) alternative to the mass marketed deodorants out there, I urge you to take a look at the products that you are using and have a think about choosing healthier alternatives.  In my opinion, you can't get much better than giving Fit Pit a go.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Superfood Chocolates

I hadn't made chocolate for a while and, with Christmas poking its gluttonous head around the next corner, the thought of seasonal treats seeped into my head very easily.  We'd also met our friend Paul for dinner recently and, as is so often the case, all three of us soon started talking food and specifically chocolate.  I'd been promising to make both Phil and Paul some chocolate so I wanted their ideas on interesting flavours and tastes.  Whether influenced by the amazing Indian food we were enjoying at Veggie Perrins or the preceding talk of superfoods, the idea of turmeric in chocolate came up.  There had been a recent trend in turmeric hot chocolates so why not actually in chocolate bars? The seed was sown and the experiment on.

Whilst the cocoa butter and coconut oil melted, Phil and I circled the bowl deliberating what ingredients came next and in what amounts. Phil settled on 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric for now.  It can be a powerful taste so we didn't want it to dominate.  Black pepper was added as it helps the body absorb the benefits of the turmeric more.

I dug out some yacon syrup we had in the cupboard to sweeten the chocolate.  This has a toffee caramel taste and is favoured by some raw foodists but it can be expensive.  If we hadn't had any I would have used either agave or maple syrup instead. In fact I might try maple syrup next time as its smoky sweetness may add a different flavour dimension.

Phil was adamant maca should be in the mix, along with spirulina.  Whilst Phil also added a pinch of Himalayan pink salt, I was digging around for some hulled hemp seeds.  Sadly we didn't have any, but I did discover we had some milled chia seeds.  These would add some protein but also some texture.  Finally and obviously, some raw cocoa powder went in.

These firm but slightly melty and gooey wonders were the chocolatey superfood result.  Phil and I both told each other they were horrible..............that's our code for 'wow this is amazing'.  Our 'make it up as we go along' experiment was indeed a success, and we were loath to share it with each other!  In fact, unless Paul hurries down he won't get to try this batch.  We do promise there will be a special box of them from Superfood Santa for his next visit though.

Superfood Chocolates

3 tablespoons yacon syrup (you could use agave or maple syrup)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
A grind of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon maca powder
1/2 teaspoon spirulina powder
1 tablespoon milled chia seeds
3 heaped tablespoons cocoa powder

Melt the cocoa butter and coconut oil in a glass bowl over a saucepan of hot water. When fully melted, stir in all the other ingredients and whisk until thoroughly mixed in and all the powders are dissolved.  Pour into moulds of your choice (we use silicon moulds for ease of unmoulding) and place in the freezer until firm.  Unmould and store in the fridge.  Enjoy!

For the health benefits of the ingredients we chose, click on the links in the ingredients list above.  There is so much information out there though, that we urge you to research superfoods for yourselves.