Monday, 24 July 2017

My Bestest Vegan Mate


Apologises for this soppy post.  It's not like me but hey, whatever, I don't care!

You see, I am so very lucky.  Today, 18 years ago, I met Phil on a beach in Newquay, after answering his advert in the personal column of The Vegan Society's magazine.  He was 6ft 2 of lush vegan surfyness and my eyes nearly popped out of my head when I first saw him. I was so nervous I couldn't stop talking and, well, as he is a man of few words most of the time anyway, he couldn't get a word in edge ways!  Luckily that didn't put him off, and despite living at the time 50 miles apart, our relationship blossomed, grew and developed.  I truly believe vegan love runs deep.  That understanding of being vegan adds that unspoken 'knowing' and love.

I can't imagine life without my vegan soul mate.  I love him as much today, if not more, than ever.  He puts up with my madness, I so with him, but most of all we stand side by side in love and belief.  Despite growing old(er) together, we remain kids at heart.

We are not big on anniversaries or anything soppy like that, and he doesn't know I am writing this blogpost.  Normally we just verbally acknowledge the fact that it is our anniversary and that's it. However, it has been such a crazy horrible year for multiple reasons, I just wanted to say to him how much I loved him and how much I have appreciated him being there totally all the way.  I love you Phil.

So, as music is such a big part of our lives, and having not long ago discovered the lovely Ouroboros album from Ray LaMontagne, I include the song below.  We've been singing some of the lyrics to each other recently when it comes on - 

When I am with you
When I am with you
I'm right where I belong
And I'm
Right where I belong....

and so this evening (Cornish weather permitting) we will be;

Sat in the grass 'neath the evening sky

....no doubt toasting the sunset over the beach with a lovely glass of vegan vino (not a Ray LaMontagne lyric I might add)!




Friday, 21 July 2017

Shall I Or Chanterelle I?


We've been rummaging around in woodlands again recently; like you do.  The reason is that Phil is a keen mushroom hound.  The Chanterelle mushroom is however one that has evaded him for a while, but that is more my fault than his. You see he has in the past had a glimmer of doubt about identifying them, and this has made me encourage him to err on the side of caution.  Many years ago I had a bad experience with mushrooms (let's not talk about that though eh, as I was young and that was a whole other story), and I am a little nervous of any type of intoxication resulting from the consumption of any type of mushroom, whether that be for culinary or recreational purposes.  Phil however would still quite happily pick all sorts of mushrooms, as long as he was sure of their identity, and they were in the correct set and setting.

Credit to Phil though, he has been doing his research and, credit to me, I very much trust Phil's judgement.  It took him 3 seasons of doubting whether the patch of mushrooms that appeared every year in the same place were Chanterelles, but this was put to bed with just a few good Youtube clips, and looking again at the guidebooks with this enhanced knowledge.  Now there is no doubt in his mind about identifying them, and he wonders what he was thinking for even doubting that they were Chanterelles. I guess you don't know until you 'know'.  I still don't know, but am more than happy for Phil to take charge of all things mushroomy!

As we were out and about in Miles the camper van when we found these, we wanted to put these to use immediately with the few supplies we had on board.  We had some lovely fresh wild garlic and herb bread from the market in Totnes, we had some onions, herbs and spices, and some Oatly creamy oat cream.  This would be the basis of our Chanterelles in cream sauce recipe, served with the garlic and herb bread.  The idea was to let the flavour of the Chanterelles take centre stage, and so to limit adding in too many other seasonings. It was simple and quick to make, and made perfect use of our woodland harvest.  It also packed an intense mushroom flavour, but one that was subtly different from any that we had sampled before.

Chanterelles in Cream Sauce

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion
1/4 tsp each salt, black pepper, vegan bouillon powder
A good harvest or punnet of mushrooms sliced
1/4 tsp dried Herbs de Provence
1 carton Oatly Cream

Dice the onion and saute in the oil until soft, and then add in the salt and pepper.  Let cook for a few seconds and then add in the mushrooms.  Saute for 4-5 mins.  Add in the stock powder, the herbs, and the oat cream and simmer for 2-3 mins.  Serve with some nice 'artisan' type bread of your choice.

Enjoy if you dare! *

* Please do not pick and consume wild mushrooms if you are in any way unsure about their identity.  The consumption of some wild mushrooms can be fatal.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Caring Colleagues and Cakey Contributions


It's been a challenging few months and my colleagues have been massively supportive on many many levels.  Sure we don't hang around with each other much outside of work but when you know you can go to work and laugh, cry, rant, hug, talk to and generally be yourself, you know that you are on the right side of lucky and that the term 'colleagues' really means 'mates'.  

Being vegan in a predominantly non vegan work environment can, on occasions, be challenging, more than some people realise.  I'm lucky on this front too as, although I am very much outnumbered as a vegan, my colleagues are understanding, non confrontational and even vegan curious on occasions.  It went a step further however this week when they presented me with a plethora of amazing vegan cakes that they had researched, sought out and bought for me as a birthday gift.  Now I would say at this point that the normal tradition is that we do make sure that each member of our team gets a birthday card from the rest of us and a gift on special birthdays, but mine wasn't a special birthday and a card would have been more than lovely.  They ignored that and decided to treat me regardless.  I was blown away more and more with each box of cake that I pulled out of the bag.  How many people can boast such loveliness from their non vegan colleagues?

The other surprise for me is that they had sourced these vegan wonders from somewhere that had slipped off our vegan radar; The Organic Coffee House in Redruth.  They had therefore by default, presented me with a blogging opportunity too. So as soon as I got these cakey delights home, before the devourer of cakes (aka Phil) returned from work, and with a watchful gaze skywards for our ever present gulls, I took the opportunity of unboxing them and getting a sunlit shot in the garden. This was the last time these cakes were going to be together and, shortly after I cut up and shared three of them out between Phil, mum, and I.  Lots of oohs and aahs filled the room as we each compared notes.  

The aim of The Organic Coffee House is to offer organic, fair trade, rainforest alliance coffee and organic wholesome vegetarian food at a reasonable and competitive price.  They offer vegan, gluten and dairy free options daily and source as many of their ingredients as locally as possible.  We were aware of The Organic Coffee House, being that it is next door to Country Store Health Foods in Redruth.  However, we had never managed to be around when it was open, nor is it in an area that we visit frequently.  We were however totally unaware of the amount of homemade vegan cakes they offered.  Well worth more frequent visits it seems.  

And more about the cakes.......well we have so far devoured the Truffle Cake, Millionaire's Shortbread, Chocolate Pot, Jaffa Cake, and Salted Caramel Cake.  Still to scoff is the Orange Polenta Cake, Lemon Curd Cake, and the Raspberry and Coconut Cake.  I imagine they won't be around by the end of the day!

If unlike me, you don't have such lovely work mates, get along to The Organic Coffee House to check out the delights for yourself.

Organic Coffee House, Redruth, Cornwall

Friday, 30 June 2017

Gifts From Alaska


Verena, my sister, set me off on my vegan pathway 30 years ago.  Basically, I went to California to visit her and came back a vegan. She now lives in Alaska and keeps her ear to the ground about all things vegan as she knows we love our food so much. With great effort to keep the refrigerated goods cool, she brought us some wonderful vegan offerings on a recent visit.  Wow, what a treat it was too.

You might have the image of Alaska as being frigid, the back of beyond, a wild expanse of wilderness, a vegan nightmare of hunting and fishing.  That is what the TV series'  frequently repeated over here would have us believe.  This is certainly not the case in Anchorage where Verena lives.  Vegan wonders abound.  Cornwall may be a little bit warmer in the winter (surprisingly not always in the summer!) but it's a wilderness when it comes to experiencing the vegan wonders my sister brought us.

The first of these lovely products we sampled was the Kite Hill Cream Cheese Style Chive Spread.  The ingredients list for this almond milk based cultured cheese spread is reassuringly short.  The creamy delight of tangy cheese balanced beautifully against the oniony bite of chive.  Spread deliciously and decadently on freshly toasted bread, the generous 8oz package stood no chance of making it to even halfway towards the 'use within 7 days of opening' date.  

Next up was the Field Roast Italian Sausages; seitan and vegetable based chunky sausages with a firm, filling texture from the Seattle based Field Roast Grain Wheat Company.  With such few ready made seitan options on the market in the UK, it was nice to give these a go.  The full rich flavour of these Italian style sausages, which incorporates aubergine, fennel, red wine, garlic and sweet peppers, is more than satisfying served on their own as part of a meal, or they would hold their own in a hearty stew.

Miyoko's Creamery European Style Vegan Butter now came under our scrutiny.  It is so good to see a palm oil free vegan butter on the market; this one being a coconut oil and cashew based cultured butter.  The firm texture, which was more slice-able than spreadable, was quite unlike the usual selection available over here.  It has a pleasant enough mild buttery taste, and melted delightfully on hot toast, but I actually preferred the taste of my homemade options.  That said, if readily available in this country, no doubt I would buy it if I was feeling lazy enough to forego the effort of making my own. In fairness, we didn't end up cooking or baking with it either and, as it states that it 'melts, cooks, bakes and spreads like butter', I feel that this one would have the edge on mine as the virgin olive oil in mine could be overbearing in some sweet bakes.

Two more Miyoko's Creamery Products were saved until last.  We had a feeling about these cheesy spreads, and this was mostly based on the fact that Miyoko is also the author of Artisan Vegan Cheese; a book I have owned and 'cooked' from for a few years now.  I've had some great successes with some of the recipes, but I was more than interested to taste 'the real deal'.  It didn't disappoint.  These rich and creamy cashew based cultured spreads delivered a tangy sharp flavour punch that led to both of our packets; Classic Double Cream Chive and Double Cream Sun Dried Tomato Garlic, disappearing pretty swiftly once opened. We just couldn't help ourselves!  These two spreads, particularly the Sun Dried Tomato one were definitely top of the list from my sister's gifts.  They certainly had me reaching for the Artisan Vegan Cheese book again and, after finding the Sun Dried Tomato and Garlic recipe in there, no doubt a cheese spread making session is imminent.

Thank you Sis for sending me on the vegan pathway and also for the lovely gifts. XX

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Vegan Roasted Sesame Seed Chocolate

We recently hopped across to Brittany for a much needed break in Miles The Camper Van. As ever our travels led us not only to beautiful landscapes and surfing opportunities but also naturally to search out food wonders. 

The reputation for France is that of not being terribly vegan friendly, but not so from our experience.  The story may be slightly different if we were eating out (although vegetarian and vegan eating establishments do seem to be on the rise over there) but with a kitchen on board, we tend to park our own 'restaurant' wherever the best views are.  

One of our sweeter discoveries on this trip was this wonderful chocolate from a company called Grain De Sail. This Bretagne company produces chocolate and coffee products, with an emphasis on organic and sustainability. 

The aim of the company is to reduce their carbon footprint by transporting their raw ingredients by transatlantic sailing boat.  Not all their products are vegan but, apart from the usual factory manufacturing warning, the dark (noir) chocolate ones we found are.  The roasted hazelnut and sesame seed flavours were a massive hit with us; the latter being our favourite.  Remember Sesame Snaps?  The chocolate covered sesame snacks are pretty nice but always leave you wanting for more chocolate.  Well the Noir Sesame Grain de Sail chocolate reverses that chocolate/sesame balance in just the most perfect way. Unfortunately, the bars we brought back with us are long eaten (those are empty packets pictured above) but it got me thinking.  Why not make our own?  At least we could sustain ourselves until we return again to Brittany!

I worked on a recipe based on raw chocolate but of course, with roasted sesame seeds involved, it couldn't be completely raw.  Roasting the seeds seems to really bring out their flavour, and this chocolate just wouldn't be as tasty with raw seeds.  I surprised myself with the results as, first time I pretty much nailed a decent sesame chocolate!  I think next time the only thing I would do differently is reduce the sweetener a touch which is actually even more of a healthy bonus. Let us not forget that sesame seeds are packed full of calcium too. This is therefore a chocolate you don't have to feel naughty about snorkelling.  

Vegan Roasted Sesame Seed Chocolate

This makes four 4" x 3" chocolate bars (two of which are pictured above)

3oz cocoa butter
1oz brazil nuts
3 tablespoons cocoa powder (I used raw)
3oz agave syrup (I will try 1oz less next time I think)
Pink of Himilayan pink salt
6 tablespoons sesame seeds

1.  Melt the cocoa butter in a bowl over warm water.
2.  Meanwhile grind up the brazil nuts until fine (I use a coffee/spice grinder).
3.  Add the brazil nuts, cocoa powder, agave syrup and salt to the cocoa butter.
4.  Stir well until well incorporated.
5.  Roast/toast the sesame seeds until fragrant and slightly browned.
6.  Allow to cool slightly before adding to the main mix and incorporating well.
7.  Pour into silicon molds of your liking and allow to fully set in the fridge.
8.  Unmold, try not to eat in one go, and store in the fridge.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Figlets Abound


I might be edging towards 50 years old but that doesn't in the least bit minimise my childlike excitement at the wonder of growing plants from saved seeds or cuttings.  I find it actually hard to understand why anyone doesn't find it exciting too (you weirdos).  Sure I admit I do buy seeds now and then.  That's because we've got carried away eating too many of the growing plants and not allowed some to go to seed or I've been seduced by plant catalogues or unknown varieties on our travels.  However nothing is quite as satisfying as seeing the green shoots of that seed you saved last year poking up above the earth.

I've also grown plants from seeds from shop bought fruit and veg; apples, apricots, avocados and squashes being some examples.  Agave seeds have been collected from plants in Portugal and I have even successfully grown my own Moreton Bay Fig from seed collected from fallen fruits from the historically famous one in Santa Barbara, California.

Not quite as exotic but equally lovely is seeing signs of new growth from a cutting that you took from an existing plant from the garden. About twice a year I have to trim our ever growing fig (the Mediterranean one not the aforementioned Moreton Bay Fig).  I actually hate having to hack it back but saving our phone line from being 'figotaged' or ensuring the postman can deliver Phil's Surfers Journal are factors that contribute to this necessity.  The saving grace is that I will save as many of the cuttings as possible to try and encourage them into little fig trees; or figlets as I like to call them.  I kind of feel like a plant midwife!  I won't  go into the history of this fig as I have covered that in a previous post.  However, such has been the request from various people for a cutting of my fig that I've never managed to reach my target every year of 'growing to sell'.  I end up giving the cuttings I've grown away! Not this year though as I've ensured an ample supply for free gifts for friends and neighbours and also spares for potential sales (for charity I might add).

I have no regrets at all about where my final spare from last year's cuttings went though. We recently planted it in the middle of my dad's potato patch in his garden in Kent.  My dad, Robin, passed away in April and with mum unable herself to continue to grow the bare patch, we felt it was symbolic to plant something to green the area more long term.  For me a cutting from my much loved fig from home seemed perfect.  As we planted it a robin landed nearby to inspect our work.  I took that as approval of not only the positioning of the fig but also general approval from my plant loving dad of my plant producing ways.

If you are ever in doubt of the wonder of the cycle of life, save that apple seed from the apple you just ate, save those shiny wonders inside that overgrown bean pod from this summer's harvest, save those cuttings destined for the compost bin.  Stick them all in the good brown soil that Mother Earth provides.  It won't cost you or the Earth a penny and might just put a big smile on your face (and perhaps many others if you pass on the plant love).

Friday, 2 June 2017

Compassion At The Castle in Exeter


For various reasons, the Driftwood Vegans household has not been very busy on the blog front. However, the vegan world has been busy 'doing its thing' around us, particularly so recently with the Vegan Festival of Britain

We only reported last week about the wonderful Vegan Spring Fete in Plymouth; one such event that was organised in conjunction with the Animal Aid led three week long vegan festival.  Well, in a week's time the grand finale to the festival takes place, again in neighbouring Devon.

Compassion at the Castle is jointly organised with Exeter Friends for Animals and takes place on Saturday 10th June at Exeter Castle, in the heart of the city.  

Touted as being 'a vegan twist on a traditional English summer fete', with proceedings starting at 11am but then continuing into the evening with a barbecue, great music, and a bar featuring a special Vegan Festival of Britain real ale, it sounds more like a mini festival than a simple fete!

Day time offerings include a vegan market featuring over 40 stalls (there is even a vegan barber for anyone requiring a trim!).  Retail and personal care needs aside, for those seeking a more educational perspective, there are various talks and demonstrations available, including one about how to make your own soft cheese. 

A vegan event would not be complete (in fact it would be a complete failure!) if food wasn't involved and at this event, that seems to have been more than covered.  There is a vegan cafe (with a plentiful supply of cakes no doubt), catering from Indian food specialists from London, Shambhu's, and local favourites Fairfoods, alongside unusual Ethiopian offerings and the more usual burgers and hot dogs for the less adventurous.  For the damn right greedy among you (yep, I admit that would be me too), there are even vegan cream teas available.  Well, it is the West Country after all, (the cream better be on top though or it might upset the Cornish contingent!).  Do leave space for that evening barbecue though!

And if anyone is worried about the predictable British Summer weather playing a hand, never fear, as the whole event can be under cover if necessary, so no need to bring your festival wellies!

For up to the date details on this event please do visit the Facebook Event Page and you can check general details on the Vegan Festival of Britain website.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Vegan Spring Fete in Plymouth

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Animal Aid is 40 years old this year and to celebrate this wonderful fact, they have initiated the three week Vegan Festival of Britain.  This isn't just about one event, this is about getting the vegan community to celebrate everything vegan by organizing a series of events during the three week festival, which runs from 20th May to the 10th June.

One such event is taking place this Saturday 27th May just over the Devon border in Plymouth. The Naturally Vegan Plot have organised an Animal Aid sponsored Spring Fete with stalls from a wide range of vegan businesses, animal rights groups and causes, information stalls, and of course lots of vegan food, pasties, and cakes.  Arts and crafts also feature, and please do check out the most beautiful wood turning creations by our mate Andy too. There are even massage tasters on offer and vegan photography to peruse, whilst there is also delicious vegan organic produce on sale from the hosts The Naturally Vegan Plot, so take your shopping baskets with you.

The Fete kicks off at 11am on Saturday at Abbey Hall which is at the rear of St Andrew's Church, Catherine's Street in Plymouth (just off of Royal Parade).  It runs until 5pm but to get in on the vegan cake act, I'd plan to arrive early (we know what you vegans are like with your cake!).

For more information check out The Celebration of Animal Aid - Vegan Spring Fete Facebook Event Page.   There is also more information available on The Naturally Vegan Plot too.

If you really can't get down to these parts (we are after all quite 'out there'!), do check out The Vegan Festival of Britain website for further details of all events taking place all over the country during the next three weeks.  Let's celebrate the very essence of veganism and the hard work that Animal Aid have done over the last 40 years to get us to this vegan turning point.

Friday, 19 May 2017

It's a Wrap


Whoever I.R. in Bollington, UK is, I salute you.  I'm also fairly disgraced by the fact that I didn't think about starting a petition about this very subject; the unnecessary plastic packaging that supermarkets feel the need to wrap around their fruit and vegetables. However, I.R. did, so most importantly, before I go in to my own personal rant about the subject, please do SIGN THIS PETITION if this gets under your skin too. 

So on to the rant.  Yes, we should all grow our own.  Yes, we should be buying from farmers markets, local produce stalls, the bloke (or lady bloke) down the road that grows their own, or order veg boxes. However, realistically we all pop in to the odd Sinsburys, Assda or Tosscos every now and then.  I purposefully try and avoid anything packaged in plastic but infuriatingly most of the organic produce, which I also prefer to choose, is more packaged it seems than the rest of the stuff.  Why should I have to choose between the environmental impact of plastic and the more healthful impact of organic produce?  It winds me up; which can't be good for my health.  Quite often I take so much offence at the amount of packaging on the organic produce that I end up choosing the non-organic.  

Reusable Produce Bags
Regardless of the organic/non-organic packaging dilemma, why the hell does any of it need packaging up so much anyway? It's actually obscene.  As I.R. pointed out, what is wrong with cardboard packaging if it really cannot bear to be sold without some form of excess packaging support?  Or what is wrong with a simple paper bag? Personally we use Onya Produce Bags for produce that really needs keeping together, but quite often we just bung it in the basket as if we were foraging in the forest (we can kid ourselves right?).  

There have also been various campaigns to encourage customers to leave excess packaging at the supermarkets. Doing a search will reveal a few examples, including the Women's Institute.  However, we quite like this one from The Book of Rubbish Ideas.  Much like the idea back in the 80's of emptying bags of McDonald's rubbish back on their own premises (preferably on the food serving counters), this might have quite an impact (obviously our issue wasn't just about packaging). It was pretty good fun too as really it was just returning their own property in a mischievous manner; but I digress.  Of course, none of this would be necessary if the packaging wasn't there in the first place.

Anyway, rant over.  Sign, sign, sign is what we say and let's get behind this petition big time. Campaigning worked for getting rid of the single use carrier bag right?  Meanwhile, if you are in the area and fancy some rocket or fresh herbs (bit early for everything else), we have a profusion in our garden but be warned, there will be trouble if you turn up with a plastic bag!  If your hands aren't good enough, get some Onya bags!

Saturday, 6 May 2017

The Cornish Vegan Pasty Company


The Cornish Vegan Pasty CompanyWe finally treated ourselves to a couple of proper vegan pasties from The Cornish Vegan Pasty Company today whilst on a visit to our local health food store, Sprout in Newquay.  

Now a vegan pasty is actually reasonably easy to find in Cornwall these days, but the pasties made by The Cornish Vegan Pasty Company are, being palm oil free, that vegan step further.  They are also a step further in taste.  

The two pasties on offer today at Sprout were the Vegan Cheese and Onion Pasty and The Mountain Chilli Pasty, which is also gluten free.  The more traditional Cornish Vegan Pasty, which contains seitan, had unsurprisingly sold out when we arrived on the scene.  We were however not disappointed by our options by any means.  The Cheese and Onion Pasty delivered a creamy cheesy punch with a delicate, non overpowering onion undertone.  The Mountain Chilli Pasty had a delicate and savoury pastry which was more than satisfying for us non gluten intolerant folk.  Some gluten free products can under perform for those that don't need to partake in curbing the gluten, but this was one pastry that certainly didn't. If you have ever had the mountain chilli from Good2Go in Perranporth, the lovely people behind these vegan pasties, you will know what to expect with the filling of this pasty.  It is wholesome, not overbearing in spice heat and satisfyingly filling.  

Now these are not cheap pasties and we admit, the cost had slightly put us off when we first saw them for sale; £4.50 for one pasty is a fair whack.  However, there are two things that counter the price; they are quality flavoursome products, and they are massive!  Indeed if you compare them to pasties made by non vegan companies, it is easy to see the price is more than fair when it comes to quality and size.

In Cornwall, The Cornish Vegan Pasties are available to buy from Good2Go in Perranporth, Sprout in Newquay,  and at both the Truro and Penzance branches of Archie Browns. If you are outside of Cornwall however, never fear, as there are places where you can get yourself a Cornish Vegan Pasty in Devon, Dorset, Wales, Birmingham, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire.  There is a full list of stockists on the website (which is bound to increase over the coming months) and you can even get your pasties by post; prepared, packaged, and posted by the Pasty Pixies themselves.

The Cornish Vegan Pasty Company

44 St Pirans Road
Perranporth
Cornwall
TR6 0BJ

Email: pastypixies@thecornishveganpastycompany.com
Phone: 07392 921983

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Great Vegan Hummus (Shortage) 2017


A strange set of events converged last week, that led to one of the most serious plant based news items of the year so far. Stunned shoppers stood aghast in the chiller aisles of various supermarkets and wondered where all the hummus had gone.  Some were even moved to mutter "oh bother".  Yes it really was that serious; or so various news media would have us believe!

In fact it was all due to a product recall, as some customers had complained of a metallic taste in their hummus.  But why was it withdrawn from so many different supermarkets? Surely it doesn't all come from the same place does it?  Well, it turns out it does.  So, your Moroccan hummus hasn't been mailed from anywhere near Morocco, and your Piri Piri hummus hasn't been posted from Portugal either.

If you haven't already had a go yourself, this could be the ideal time to start making your own.  It really is very easy, and you won't be using a whole load of packaging either.  Start with a basic recipe (any recipe) and experiment to tweak it to your own taste.  You can keep it relatively simple and healthy like the recipe below (leaving out the seaweed), or make it a bit more luxurious and worldly with the addition of various ingredients.  Toasted pumpkin oil and fresh oregano perhaps?  What about Thai green curry hummus?  How about ginger, tamari, and toasted sesame oil hummus?  

Get creative, and see what fantastic flavours you can come up with.  Feel free to let us know the good ones!

Nori Seaweed Hummus

1 x 380g pack organic chickpeas, drained (save the liquid/aquafaba)
3 tablespoons tahini
1 clove garlic
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon Clearspring Green Nori Flakes
Pinch of Himalayan salt

Add drained chickpeas to your blender of choice (we used our Nutribullet).  Add enough liquid/aquafaba to just cover.  Add in all the other ingredients and blend to your desired consistency; chunky style, or smooth and creamy.

Enjoy!

Monday, 24 April 2017

Solkiki Chocolate

Solkiki Chocolate, vegan chocolate, bean to bar chocolate, artisan chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, award winning chocolate,  single estate chocolate, best chocolate,

This post has been a long time coming, and is well overdue.  Maybe some things in life are worth a little more time and effort to get right?  We first met Iris and Bob from Solkiki Chocolate at the South West Christmas Without Cruelty Festival in Exeter back in 2015. We were immediately impressed by their passion for and knowledge about chocolate, and the choice of flavours they had on offer.  As we slowly worked our way through their extensive range of samples (this chocolate is not to be rushed), we went from impressed to awed.

As Bob gave us the rundown on the complex tastes and flavour profiles of the varieties of beans used, and the myriad combinations of flavours that can be detected from such few ingredients, I wondered if he was using some kind of NLP/Derren Brown-like mind control suggestions to convince me that all of the incredibly complex tastes I was experiencing were really there... in some cases from chocolate with only two ingredients!  I can now assure you that they really are.

As regular readers of our Blog may have gathered, I (Phil) do like the odd bit of chocolate 'now and then', and actively seek out new and interesting chocolate to try at every opportunity.  Solkiki Chocolate took me on a wonderful journey that day, and they have since been on quite a journey themselves, winning multiple awards for their outstanding 'next level' chocolate.  When I saw that they were going to be at this years Cornwall Vegan Festival, it was just one more good reason to attend this inspiring gathering of plant based movers and shakers.

Considering that I had only met Bob once before at Exeter, it was a nice touch that he recognised me as I approached their stall and we struck up a conversation.  Was this due to the brain-boosting memory enhancing effects of the cacao bean perhaps, or was he just thinking, "Oh no, this guy's going to eat all my samples again"?!  Bob once again took me on another chocolate journey, a smooth subtle transportation to more tropical climes, drifting through flavours like 'Tahitian Nougat', 'Salted Caramel Dark Mylk', 'Aji Limon Chilli Egyptian Mint', and my personal favourite of those on offer, the 'Maranon 68'.  There were many more varieties on offer, but these were the standouts for me and my taste buds.

Aji Limon Chilli and Egyptian Mint White Chocolate

Some people are happy with a boring bland Kit Kat or a Mars bar (not vegans obviously), but others like to experiment and explore new flavours, tastes, and experiences from around the world. Now world travel isn't cheap these days, and neither is Solkiki Chocolate, but I can assure you that you absolutely get what you pay for.  As Bob says, "Champagne is more expensive than Cider", a curious statement from a 10 year teetotaler, and lost on me also as when I did drink I'd much rather have Cider!  It does however get the point across that quality, rarity, and provenance all add to the cost; as does the fact that these chocolate magicians conjure all these varieties from bean to bar themselves, with minimal processing (working off grid with renewable energy), and using only the essential ingredients necessary to create each flavourful bar. They also buy the cacao beans directly from the growers, thereby supporting the growers (paying them much more than 'Fairtrade' rates), and in some cases keeping rare heirloom varieties from extinction.  All this supports biodiversity; a win/win situation for us all.

If you get the chance to meet Iris and Bob at one of the chocolate or food events they attend, you will be assured of a taste experience like no other, and inevitably some of their enthusiasm and passion for their products will inspire you to maybe pick up a bar or two... or five!  If not, then check out their website, explore their world of flavour, and prepare to be amazed.  This is, without a doubt, the best chocolate that I have ever tasted.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Cornwall Vegan Festival 2017



This Saturday sees the premier event of the Cornish vegan calendar.  This year the Cornwall Vegan Festival, which also coincides with Earth Day Celebration, takes place for the first time outside of Truro at the wonderful Mount Pleasant Eco Park at Porthtowan. With wonderful wide open spaces, the venue also has the advantage of being dog and family friendly and even offers the opportunity of camping (contact the venue direct for details).  Fingers are therefore crossed for a spot of lovely Spring sunshine, but with plenty of covered areas too, there will be assured vegan sunshine regardless.

The festival is sponsored by Animal Aid, The Cornish Vegan Pasty Company and supported by Cornwall Animal Action. Admission and parking are completely free which is great as you will no doubt be parting with plenty of your ethical pounds when you see the variety of vegan goodies on offer inside.  Obviously a bountiful supply of food will be available so the issue will be choosing what you can fit in your belly before the end of the festival.  Clothing, arts and crafts also feature alongside ethical businesses and charities, animal rescue and animal rights stalls.  There is a full range of demonstrations, workshops and talks.  The talks range in subject from vegan nutrition, environmentalism and veganism, evolutionary biology and animal rights, vegan feminism and mindfulness.  For vegans and non vegans alike the Veganers Question Time may however be the main attraction when it comes to the educational side of things.  A take on Gardeners Question Time, this will give members of the public the chance to ask the panel of experts about all aspects of veganism.

For full details on the festival, check out the Cornwall Vegans website.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Vegan Masala Dosas in Cornwall

There are several things that can cheer a Cornish spring up no end.  One is a spot of lovely sunshine, which we have recently enjoyed.  Another are the fields upon fields of daffodils swaying in the wind like rippling waves under a golden sunset. One thing that particularly put a smile on our faces this spring was the discovery and sampling of a masala dosa in Cornwall.  Not the usual Cornish fare admittedly, being a traditional Southern Indian dish, but one that sits among our favorite foods ever!  

A dosa is basically a pancake or crepe that is made from a fermented batter of rice and black gram (urad dal).  This can be stuffed with various fillings, but a masala dosa, the most popular, is one that is stuffed with a spicy potato filling.  It is often served with a coconut chutney and a little side dish of sambar (vegetable stew) and is more often a traditional breakfast dish.  We've had plenty of these in India but sadly they are not that easy to find in the UK. Veggie Perrins, just across the border in Plymouth, have served them on special nights, and even further afield they are a main feature on Krishnas Inn menu in Bristol. Imagine our delight therefore to have them available not only in Cornwall but at my very place of work!  It also happens to be on a day when Phil works half day so he too can partake of these delights (and makes the trip over from Truro after work to do so).

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Achar, formerly known as The Salvador Thali Cafe, is an Indian street food stall, and the brainchild of chef extraordinaire Terry McClintock.  It brings the full flavour of vegetarian Indian food to the heart of Cornwall, with vegan choices always on offer, including the aforementioned masala dosa.   Achar makes regular stops on Fridays at the Falmouth University Penryn Campus (by the way, the first hour of parking at Penryn Campus is free so plenty of time to nip in for a treat if you are passing).  You will find Terry's colourful stall just outside The Stannary (main refectory area) in the heart of the campus. 

Achar also pops up regularly at various venues in the Falmouth area.  You can check for updates of where and when to find them on the Achar Facebook page or alternatively give Terry a call or text on 07946 555632 (I did the other day and he got right back to me super quick!).

By the way, despite their generous size, we still can't seem to resist going back for masala dosa seconds!  Basically we thoroughly recommend them. Terry and his side kick are also a blast to chat to as you watch, with salivating wonder, the skillful preparation of your dosas. Go check them out.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Comedy of Carnage

Comedians are masters of searching out and observing the hypocrisy and irony in life; turning it back on society in a more digestible and entertaining manner.  Given the surge in veganism in recent years, it is therefore no surprise that there is currently a ripple of veganism surging through the comedy industry. 

Vegetarianism and veganism has had its fair share of being negatively mocked in the comedic sense, but it seems the tide may be turning.  Not only have vegans (Sarah Pascoe, Romesh Ranganathan and Simon Amstell included) joined the ranks of the mainstay of British comedy performers, bringing with them their own more positive and thought provoking comedic observations of being a vegan, but the industry as a whole seems to be sitting up and paying attention.  I did think however that we were still a way off of hearing anything beyond the odd comment or discussion on a comedy game show, or a story in a stand up show.  Then came along Simon Amstell's film, Carnage.

A short film on mainstream TV, looking at veganism, would have been amazing enough.  An hour long mockumentary, with well known actors and celebrities produced by the BBC is nothing short of astonishing.  Okay so they haven't been brave enough to put it on anything but the BBC iPlayer yet, but they have at least advertised it on the main BBC channels. 

Carnage looks at a world 50 years into the future; a world turned vegan and horrified at its carnist past.  This is however, no run of the mill, usually brutal exploration into the reasons why the masses should turn to veganism.  Simon Amstell has still honoured the very essence of veganism but wrapped it up extremely well in layer upon layer of humour, entertainment, and fascinating facts for both vegans and non vegans alike.  He is like a child who has very skillfully hidden his vegetables under the meat on the dinner plate; or in this case, should it be the other way round?

We had laugh out loud moments (yes us vegans do have a sense of humour!) mixed in with moments of being pulled along in wild imaginings that such a world could eventually exist.  I was also delighted, as cringe worthy as some of it was, to see the inclusion of the historical aspect to veganism.  I also felt a sense of pride and hope; pride in that veganism has come so very far in the 30 years Phil and I have been vegan, and hope that Carnage represents and accelerates the more recent surge in vegan interest into even more of an awakening.

It is easy for us vegans to wax (soya not beeswax!) lyrical about something that hits the vegan nail on the head, especially if it does it in a ground breaking, entertaining, and accessible way; but will it work?  After all, it must have been the intention of Simon Amstell, as a vegan himself, to go way beyond the entertainment level and send out those far reaching vegan ripples.  I find it extremely hard to believe that it won't reach out to the non vegan viewer and at least plant a seed.  In fact I would be astonished if it doesn't but then I am already astonished how people will very easily deny the facts that are already in front of many (take for instance the man in the film who said that cows would explode if they weren't milked; whether that was staged for the film or not I have personally heard someone say this!).  I will read the reviews and listen to the feedback with much interest and hope.

Carnage is available now on BBC iPlayer and remains so for over a year apparently.  If you would like a non vegan's review then check out Mark Kermode's take on Carnage. 


Tuesday, 14 March 2017

A Shock to the Health System

I've been very quiet on the blogging front as I've had other priorities; pretty massive ones. You see both of my parents are really sick.  Mum has been dealing with pancreatic and liver cancer for the past four years and dad was recently diagnosed with leukemia and was rushed to hospital in an extremely serious and life threatening state.  I've just returned from Kent, where they live, and despite a few days of rest at home I am still feeling relatively shell shocked.  The worry, multiple hospital and medical visits, helping them work out every day practicalities and putting support services in place have played their part in the mental exhaustion and stress, but there is more to it than that.  I'm in shock about how all this could have happened.

When you are young you don't really think much about your parents not being around, and in fact it hadn't really hit me until relatively recently.  Mum will be 75 this year and despite her long struggle with cancer, it wasn't that long ago that she was still out walking along the cliff tops of Cornwall or in their local woodlands at a fair pace.  The fact that she is still with us four years on from diagnosis and major surgery is a credit to her.  Most people last about 18 months with her diagnosis.  As for dad, who will be 81 this year, he's not long stopped getting on the house roof to adjust tiles and climbing trees with chain saws.  To see and try to come to terms with both of them in their current state is the most upsetting and exhausting thing of all.  None of us expected this.

Whilst I was in Kent, the newest film from the creators of the award-winning documentary Cowspiracy was pre-released. What The Health exposes the collusion and corruption in government and big business that is costing us trillions, and keeping us sick.  As contributors to the crowd funding of this film, we got access to see the pre-release for free. Having witnessed my parents being pumped full of prescription drugs and being at the mercy of the medical profession, the timing of What The Health couldn't have been any more apt, shocking, moving, and personally influential at the same time.

Now I am by no means knocking the 'on the ground' NHS or medical profession in this country (we are very very fortunate to have such a system).  In terms of the care my parents have received, it has been extremely good. Neither am I holding my parents responsible for how things have turned out, or for continuing along the pathway of medical care they are currently on.  It is what it is and, despite offering various suggestions for potential improvements, their generation is unquestioningly dedicated to and trusting in the medical industry.  Most of us ultimately are to a certain extent, as much as some of us try and resist it

But I'm confused and I'm angry.  I'm angry that the world over we have a medical industry that seems to put profit before health, that teaches and promotes treatment over prevention, that prescribes drugs to combat the ill effects of other drugs and that is sponsored by profit seeking companies.  I'm confused by the way that many health care professionals go along with what the medical industry dictates.  I'm confused by the way that many medical charities concentrate their efforts on treatments and seemingly ignore prevention.  I'm scared by the amount of people, young and old, I've seen in the oncology departments I have had the displeasure of passing through recently. And I'm scared that these people have so much trust in what is being done to them without question.  Blind fear and denial has many of us sleep walking to our deaths.  Sure a lot of health advances have been made, but that doesn't mean that there is not something uncomfortably wrong with the 'following the money' course the mainstream medical industry seems to be increasingly deluded on.  

Part of the reason for being vegan is to do the best I can to try and prevent harm to myself as much as to other beings and the environment.  Prevention; surely we all want that right?  Well no actually, an awful lot of people don't seem to, or rather are taught not to.  Instead we are taught that your only chance is to take this expensive drug or give money to that charity who will then use that money to try and research a drug which will 'wave a magic wand' and cure the evil of disease.  Well, I feel a lot of dis-ease about the two 'elephants' called 'Prevention' and 'Nutrition' that sit in the room of the medical industry and charities but still continue to be ignored.  What The Health puts a spot light on those 'elephants' and more importantly the industry that chooses to ignore them.

Seeing my parents as they now are, and seeing What the Health has not only enforced my reasons for being vegan, but it has also made me think even more about whether I am doing enough to keep myself as healthy as possible.  Ask yourself why we have a health system that is neither teaching or encouraging people to take responsibility for themselves? How can that be happening on any level let alone on such a massive scale?  Nobody is completely immune from health issues but I'm determined to do my level best to stay out of a system whose end game is profit.  Even if I do end up in the system, I want to make damn sure I keep my eyes wide open to make sure my end game is not their profit. There may well be alternatives out there that are ignored purely because there is no profit to be made.

Please, if you get the chance, vegan or not, take a look at What The Health.  Ask yourself, who has the biggest stake in your continued good health and who gets to profit the most out of a sick population?  At the very least think about the issues being tackled here.  It is surely food for thought right?


Saturday, 11 February 2017

Foxy Cake and Bake Sale

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Original artwork by Agusta L Downs
If like me, the dark, dank and cold days of winter are driving you to become more than obsessed with cakes, there is just the right event for you taking place tomorrow. It not only supports your need for cake but most importantly, supports a great cause.

Cornwall Vegans are hosting a cake and bake sale to raise funds for the Kernow Sabs, Monitors and Animal Rights Team who have been made particularly busy just recently. This takes place at The Cornish Vegan in Truro from 1pm with drinks being sold by The Cornish Vegan and all proceeds of the sale of cakes and bakes going to the fund.

If you are a vegan cake baker then your delicious creations would be very much welcome to aid this event and you are invited to arrive with them from 12 noon.  Likewise if you are the 'crafty type' then any creations you can spare to sell for this fund raising event would be most appreciated.

For more details on this event or if you have any questions, please do visit the Facebook Event page - Foxy Cake and Bake Sale.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Cakey Delights from Sprout Health Foods


As our last post detailed, we are continuing our period of alcohol abstinence and part of our success has been in treating ourselves in other ways.  This time from Sprout Health Foods in Newquay we sampled the cakey sweet delights on offer.

Occasionally Claire and Bast from Sprout do make their own gluten free and vegan cakes to sell.  They also source sweet treats from a couple of other producers, including local chef and baker Vivienne Levick and also Cornish based mother and daughter fronted clean food company Je Tam.  However the majority of their delights are supplied by husband and wife team, Charlotte and Graeme at Pura Pressed. Pura Pressed are known for their cold pressed juices but have also gained an increasingly appreciative market for their raw, vegan and gluten free cakes which are also free from palm oil, refined sugar and preservatives.  As well as being available at Sprout you can delve into these delightful desserts at Archie Browns or The Cornish Vegan, both in Truro.  Alternatively you could catch up with Pura Pressed at their regular stall at Truro Farmers Market or order direct online from the Pura Pressed website.

The first of the two Pura Pressed delights from Sprout we scoffed was a carrot cake. Chewy and creamy in equal measure this carrot packed slice has a wonderful lemon zing coupled with a sweet cinnamon kick.  It's filling though, and sharing the slice enabled us to move onto the second treat we'd bought, which was a chocolate peppermint slice.  As good as the carrot cake was, the 'biscuity' base colliding with the fresh burst of minty filling and chocolate topping just pipped the post for me.  It was like a big hug from a vegan After Eight mint (but so much better).  

It seems that when it comes to a vegan healthy treat, Sprout has it covered and, with so many local producers of vegan goodies around, there are plenty more to enjoy on future shopping trips!