Monday, 31 July 2017

The Vegan Iced Coffee Thang

Unlike my team at work, who seem to function solely on the stuff, I'm not a coffee fiend. However I do like a tipple every now and then and recently my attention has been peaked by discovering a carton of vegan iced coffee in the chiller section of Morrisons.  I don't venture into Morrisons that much (especially the Newquay one which is said to be busiest one in the country during the summer holiday season) and wasn't even looking for this sort of thing but it caught my attention.  It was called Cafe Soy and was in the chilled 'Free From' section.  My mum was due for a visit and, as well as wanting to try it myself, I thought it would be a nice treat for her so I grabbed a carton.  Needless to say, we both loved it and have run the gauntlet of Morrisons Newquay since to get more.  I apologise to any local vegans as I actually cleared them out of the last remaining 4 cartons yesterday so I had enough to take to my mum on an upcoming visit!

Then I was looking in the Free From chiller section at Sainsburys (grabbing some Gary along the way) when I noticed two more vegan iced coffee offerings.  The first one was Jimmy's Iced Coffee Dairy Free and the other next to it was Califia Farms Black and White Cold Brewed Coffee.  Being that the former Jimmy's one was a family owned made in Britain product rather than imported all the way from California, I chose Jimmy's.  It was also made wih oats and that was another environmental plus.  Lovely it was too.   I may try the other Californian one at some point but would rather stick closer to home with things, especially if they taste as good as they do.  Thing is, I now seem to be a bit of an iced coffee fiend!  It might be a seasonal thing but, yep, I love the stuff.

Being that, at least to me, iced coffee is a relatively new thing, I had a bit of an investigate on this subject and confirm that yes, I was definitely behind the times.  There are many many alternatives out there but many of these are still just in the USA.  Of course, let's state the obvious here too, you could make your own.  It's pretty easy after all; make coffee and chill it!  However, there were some pretty obvious things that I hadn't thought of before in the whole iced coffee making thing.  For instance, how about freezing in ice cubes any left over coffee and then using that to add to plant milk to make iced coffee?  A no brainer right?  I hadn't thought about that and there are plenty of times when the coffee maker at work has a little bit left in the bottom that has gone cold.  The idea of sneaking in an ice tube tray was suddenly a very good one.

However, my point of this blog post isn't just to bring these products to the attention of those that may not know about them (at this point I imagine any up country vegan folks are saying "wow you guys are so behind the times"!).  I think it is amazing that a product that hasn't really been around that long in non vegan terms, is actually out there very readily on the shelfs for us vegans already. How things have changed eh?

Friday, 28 July 2017

Random Rhubarb Ramifications...and Roger

It all started when my boss walked into the office saying "Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb".  As he used to work as a sound editor for the BBC, I just thought he was making some random reference to what film extras say to each other repeatedly to look like they are having a conversation in the background.  Random references and comments are far from uncommon among my colleagues, so the actual realisation that he had a large bag of home grown rhubarb for me was the less obvious but very welcome thing he was referring to.

That evening, wanting to take an offering back to work as a way of sharing the generous rhubarb donation (that is how much we love each other), I searched for recipes beyond the usual and 'not so easy to slice up like a cake' rhubarb crumble.  I found some likely candidates and settled on one for rhubarb cake slices (handy that), with the plan to make them the following evening.  The ingredients were regular stock cupboard supplies so I was all set and didn't think anymore about it.  

The following evening I spoke to my mum on the phone and she asked me what I was up to. When I told her about my rhubarb cooking plans, she requested I make her a crumble to take up to her on our next visit.  There was more than enough rhubarb so I happily added it to the list.   Phil then piped up and said what about a crumble for him, and another small one was added to the list for pudding.  The 'rhubarb dessert train' was starting to gain more passengers.  So after a pleasant catch up with a colleague who had dropped around to pick up a spare car key attached to a brick that my boss wanted me to pass on (I'm not joking by the way.  This is exhibit B in the randomness of my work colleagues), I got going with juggling dinner and getting the rhubarb dessert/cake train on track.

Dinner progressed in a whirlwind of smoky aubergine dip, falafels, roasted baby potato salad, cashew celery and apple salad, tahini beetroot salad and various green salad offerings on the side.  I got the rhubarb stewing in preparation for the crumbles and all was going well in an adrenaline (okay alright, and beer) fuelled cooking frenzy; until the rhubarb train got derailed as I started to get the ingredients together for the cake slices and crumble toppings.  It seemed those regular stock cupboard supplies that are always regularly in supply in our regular stock cupboard were no longer in our regular stock cupboard supplies. That never happens and any of my work colleagues reading this right now will confirm my organisational (bordering on the anal/autistic at times) ability to have everything I need when I need it.  The 'Stock Cupboard Supply' pixie (aka me, Scooby) normally has a total handle on such things.  Nope, not this time.  If there had been a crowd witnessing this they would have been saying 'rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb' in whispered shock in the background.  The cake slices were off the menu for my work colleagues.  I could hear my colleague Roger laughing in the background.   When I had originally mentioned about my rhubarb cooking plans, he had said he would prefer doughnuts.

The rhubarb that was stewing on the stove top spluttered and spitted away reminding me that the cake slices were half the issue right now.  Crumble needed other ingredients beside just the rhubarb.  The 'Stock Cupboard Supply' pixie had left me a pittance of plain flour to work with, along with some homemade vegan margarine; but it wasn't enough for the promised maternal crumble let alone the one that Phil had conned me out of in the latter stages of planning.  Before anyone else says, "just bloody go down the shops", let me remind you that a) we live in Cornwall and the shops are not open 24 hours; b) It is summer season and it is quite frankly an ordeal to perform such a simple errand if you have to run the gauntlet of tourist traffic (particularly those who don't want to get within 5 metres of the hedges that line our road out of the village) and c) I really couldn't be arsed.

The bloody pixie hadn't left many porridge oats to save the day either.  However by now the pixie was quite tipsy so seeds, nuts, and the rest of our supply of muesli went into the mix.  I was quite pleased about the latter actually as, to be fair, muesli is pretty boring stuff anyway and it had been hanging around for a while.  Somehow the crumbles made it through and got made.  

The next morning the rhubarb hangover hit as I did my early morning swimming spin before work.  The crumbles may have survived but I simply couldn't turn up empty handed after my rhubarb cake slice promise to my colleagues.  I cut my swim slightly short and headed to the nearest Co-op with a view to their vegan doughnuts being my saviour.  Truro Co-op is an interesting place at 7.30am; far busier than you would expect.  Interesting characters too. One elderly male customer commented to me that he would like to "do his hair like you next time".  I have long hair down to my waist. He was bald.  I laughed and he said "what's so funny?" (with a pure Cornish glint in his eye) before moving on to his next victim.  To most this might appear random.  In Cornwall, this is a lovely wholesome verbal breakfast.

In the end Roger got his doughnuts and everybody else said they had actually forgotten about my rhubarb cake promise anyway.  

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 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