Sunday, 20 August 2017

Berry Good Dog

The blackberries are darkening and swelling on the brambles and the apples are bowing down the branches of their mother trees. My mind always turns at this time of year to one of my best buddies; Kizzy, our family dog.  Sadly Kizzy died a few years ago now and not a day goes by when I don't think about her warm furry snout and deep searching eyes. We even named a dune on the beach after her as she would launch herself down it on her frequent trips to the beach with such a frenzy of salty dog excitement .  However, at this time of year in particular I cannot look at a blackberry or an apple without thinking of her. She was addicted to both.

Kizzy going equipped for blackberry picking!
Every night before bed she would ask for an apple. We might forget but she wouldn't and she would sit down in front of you with 'that look' to make you go and get her one. Trips through apple orchards were sheer joy for her as she grazed either from the windfalls or from lower slung branches.  Meanwhile, woodland or hedgerow walks would entail frequent stops by blackberry bushes and any we picked would be naturally shared on a 50/50 basis.  Many a time blackberry foragers, unaware of Kizzy's enforcement of a 'blackberry tax' on her 'patch', would be perplexed at the purple snout stained dog sidling up and sitting down next to them as they picked. Her tactics usually worked after our explaination of her blackberry love.  Getting her to move on was the only issue.

She loved other vegetables and fruit, and would often wander out to the kitchen at the sound of knife on chopping board to see what she could obtain. She also used to sneak off up dad's garden in order to steal a strawberry or two from his patch.  However, blackberries and apples were her definite favourites. Perhaps she was aware of their healthy qualities, particularly of the anti-cancer vitamin B17 present in the seeds of apples, blackberries (particularly wild grown), and other non citrus fruits, but more about that in another post. More likely she just absolutely loved the taste!

One year I even made a wine in her honour.  I called it Kizzy's Tipple.  It was drinkable and got you merry but beyond that it was more fun creating it than drinking it.  I'm sure Kizzy would have preferred to have eaten the apples and blackberries I used for it herself.

So, as I scramble through the brambles this year I am sure to still feel that hopeful gaze of my furry buddy as I pick away. I admit, I even throw her the odd one here and there and I'm sure I hear the satisfied snapping of that velvety snout upon interception.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Milking the Saffron Mushrooms

The surf was flat and it was a rainy grey day. In spite of this we decided to pack our boots and waterproofs in the car, and brave the post Boardmasters Festival and tourist traffic.  We were searching out the darkest and dampest reaches of pine woodland with the aim of finding some fungi treats.

We knew we'd find at least some wild mushrooms in this area as we had visited it many times before.  What we hadn't counted on was finding a profusion of Saffron Milk Caps.  We may have seen these before and passed them by, but in the dark gloom of the woods today, as the pines sheltered us from the worst of the rain, the orange glow of saffron drew us closer. The sheer brightness of them initially made us cautious, but after scrutinising both of our guide books for various distinguishing features, we knew the identification was right and that they were not only edible but quite sought after. Although they may not look that pretty or appetising in the photo above, this was after we had poked and prodded them, they had sat in a plastic bag for the journey home, and a natural discolouration had taken place.  In fact this green bruising is one of the distinguishing features for identification, along with the gills exuding an orange 'sap' when broken.

We also found 3 other types of edible fungi on this foray, but decided to stick to cooking our evening meal using just the milk caps, curious as to what they would taste like.  The recipe we chose to add these to was a recent 'quick meal' creation, discovered when we were out and about in Miles the camper van and using up what was to hand.  It is simple, quick, filling, and tasty, with today's choice of mushroom adding a 'meaty' texture. Just what you need after a long walk, surf, or fungi foray. 

Although we had not consciously sought out these fungi today, after we had returned home, cooked and eaten our meal, and were thinking of how to start this blog post, Phil suddenly had the thought that he'd seen these fungi somewhere recently.  He shot off into the lounge, and came back smiling, and holding a copy of Roger Phillips' book 'Wild Food'. There on page 114 was a full page photo of Saffron Milk Caps, and for reasons that are now a mystery to me, I had left the book open at this page about 4 weeks ago!  

Phil's Creamy Olive Wild Mushroom Pasta

250g dried pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium leek, sliced thinly
8-10 large mushrooms, sliced
1 100g jar green olive tapenade (we used Sainsburys)
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen broad beans
1 carton Oatly oat cream
1/2 tsp vegan stock powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Get the pasta cooking according to the packet instructions.  Meanwhile, in a large saucepan saute the leek in the olive oil until soft.  Add the sliced mushrooms and saute for 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the olive tapenade followed by the broad beans, oat cream and the stock powder, and stir to mix well.  Bring back to a simmer. Continue to simmer for 6-8 minutes and add salt and pepper to taste.  Drain the pasta, mix into the sauce and serve.


*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.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

New Wave Seaweed Revolution

We love seaweed and use it a fair amount.  We use it to mulch our garden and feed our plants (using excess piles that have washed up on the beach we might add), we wash our hair with seaweed shampoo, and we eat seaweed, whether that be responsibly foraged from our local beaches or ethically sourced purchased products.  

It's tasty stuff and in fact, as vegans, pretty important nutritionally too.  However many vegans don't seem to include seaweed in their diets; some even choosing to avoid it.  A couple of years back Phil wrote a blogpost called 'Seaweed is not Evil' in response to a Youtube video that was circulating in regards to veganism and seaweed.  The video seems to have long been taken down (hence the broken video link on the post now) but his article still makes some good points in terms of some misconceptions in regards to seaweed.  

Seaweed isn't something you run into frequently on the supermarket shelves and this could account for it still being a relatively unexplored product, but we've noticed over the last couple of years or so that the tide seems to be starting to change on that front.  Celtic nations have always had a huge tradition of collecting and using seaweed; the proximity to wild Atlantic shores being an obvious reason.  Indeed our travels in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany over the years have led us to discover certain seaweed products that we have not found elsewhere.  In our own Celtic nation of Cornwall also, seaweed is very much more noticeable than elsewhere in the country.  However, seaweed has definitely gained popularity in more recent years on a wider scale.

We are fortunate enough to have an ethical seaweed supplier right here in Cornwall who've been at the forefront of the new wave seaweed revolution.  The Cornish Seaweed Company started sustainably hand harvesting local edible seaweeds in 2012.  Their website is a great source of information about seaweed and even includes a page of information specifically for vegans.  Check out their lovely video below too.

With over 1500 species of seaweed in Cornwall, if foraging is your thing, you're in the right place for sure.  The majority are edible but not all.  Many are tasty and contain lots of nutrition but again, not all.  If you want to hit the beach or go diving for your supper, you'll need to do at least a little bit of research.  A great resource specific to our local shores is wrapped up in Rachel Lambert's book Seaweed Foraging in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.  It's straightforward format  includes not only the crucial identification notes, along with clear colour photos, but also nutritional guidelines, seasonal notes and recipes.  Not all the recipes are vegan or even vegetarian but the majority are, or indeed can be easily adapted.  Do read the guidelines on responsible foraging first though before venturing out to collect your supplies.

If this post has peaked your appetite for seaweed, we encourage you to explore for yourselves this super food that nature has freely provided on our beautiful coastline as well as keep an eye on the ever increasing seaweed products that are appearing in our shops.  The Cornish Seaweed Company online shop has a range of seaweed and seaweed products available and their range is popping up in shops all over the county, and even further afield.  On the Cornish market too (and available online) is this organic and palm oil free Cornish Seaweed Soap
LogoOur taste buds were particularly excited by products that we found on a recent visit to our Celtic cousins in Brittany. They were all made by Bretagne based company Marinoe and all were marked with the official Vegan Society mark.  Their website seems understated in a typically Breton way, and doesn't truly demonstrate the wonders of their products but wow, we really have to visit this company when we are there next. First off we found  their range of seaweed tartares. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.  Brav, brav, brav (respecting the Breton language). Then we bumped into Taramalg, a take on taramasalata, traditionally made from fish roe but more sensitively made from seaweed in the Marinoe version. To be honest neither of us had ever had taramasalata but this product really peaked our interest.  It was so good that it lead to us tracking down a Bretagne health food store that stocked it so we could check that the first taste of it hadn't been a one off magical experience!  It was wonderful and we very much look forward to seeing this kind of product being available Kernow Side.  

In terms of our own cooking with seaweed, Phil adds it into Japanese style stews and miso soups a fair amount.  He also adds it into his own home made hummus which is absolutely delicious, as well as making sushi rolls from sheets of nori.  I have experimented with using it in a seitan recipe which I called Seitan of the Sea but one of my favourite recipes is the Sea Fruit Strudel from "Vegan", a great little recipe book from Tony Weston and Yvonne Bishop.  The recipe is also available on the Foods For Life Website.

I end this blogpost in a nod to tradition; both to seaweed and song.  Dulaman is Irish for seaweed and this traditional folk song, below in the Clannad version of the 70's, talks of seaweed gathering and courting.