Thursday, 29 March 2018

Cornwall Vegan Spring Festival 2018

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You know the Vegan Spring has arrived when the Cornwall Vegan Festival appears on the Cornish daffodil-hazed horizon.  I unfortunately had to miss it last year but Phil reported back to me what an amazing event it was, and with this year’s event, taking place on Saturday 7th April, promising to be even bigger and better, I am actually struggling to contain my excitement.

Cornwall has really put itself on the vegan map in more recent years.  Gone are the days when you have to travel up country to get your vegan kicks.  Cornwall is now packed full of amazing vegan offerings; many of which are showcased at the festival.  The festival has also attracted the attention of vegan businesses from outside of Cornwall, such as Seitan’s Grill, Sharaf Natural Foods and Ethica, proving that it isn’t just our amazing coastline and countryside that make the journey to Cornwall well worth going the extra mile for!

The festival is free to get in and all are welcome, including naturally your canine family members.  There are a wealth of tasty food stalls (everything from seitan burgers, kebabs, and pizzas to dosas, falafel and decadent raw cakes and desserts are all on offer) for a well earned lunchtime pause and plenty of savoury snacks, sweet treats, and refreshing (or stimulating) drinks to fill in all the gaps in between.

Vegan business, information and charity stalls will be offering tasters, samples and information to stimulate taste buds and minds alike, with the latter being even more sated by the two stages of talks, demonstrations and workshops running throughout the day.  This year also sees the return of the ‘Veganers Question time’, a popular, entertaining and informative event from last year’s festival.

Further entertainment is invited and provided by an open acoustic ‘no-mike’ and meeting area (bring along your musical instruments).  Kids are naturally drawn to music (I’ve seen many a non-self-conscious little one strut their stuff at the front during music events at the Eco Park) but if that isn’t their thing, there are also children’s activities available with I Love Nature.

All this excitement is taking place at Mount Pleasant Eco Park at Porthtowan, perched wonderfully overlooking the beautiful North Cornwall coast.  It kicks off at 11am until 5pm.  For further details check out the Festival Facebook Events page or the main Cornwall Vegan Festival page. 

Sunday, 25 March 2018

The Evolution of the Vegan Police

The vegan world I was 'born' into was quite a different one to today's.  Thirty years ago the reasons for being vegan were still the same but my world was more immersed in anarchic hunt sabbing punky chaos where animal welfare predominated over any of the other reasons; particularly so health.  Picture the scene; 4am and cubbing season had just started.  I jump into a smokey, beer breath infused van pumping out the dulcet tones of Culture Shock.  Everyone is wide eyed, stomachs churning in anticipation of the scenes of death and arrest that may face each and every one of us today.  I remember that feeling well.  It never wore off even after 20 years.  It was all or nothing for the ginger dogs.

Dig out standoff.  Scooby 1991

Back in those days my first few 'sabs' were embarked on as a vegetarian.  It didn't last long though and I was soon fully vegan but not through any form of forceful coercion from my fellow sabs (or my sister who was already vegan).  These people were my 'family' right from the outset.  Exactly as my flesh and blood family were; outside they were a force to be reckoned with; I trusted them with my life.  Inside however, they were gentle, supportive souls who never pre-judged or forced the issue within.  I learnt a lot from that and was left to come to my own conclusions.  I was vegan.  

Roll forward 30 years.  My flesh and blood family are the same; ever supportive.  Even my dear recently departed dad, in his manifestation as a robin, appears every morning to kick my ass into shape if I start questioning myself about this or that.  My mum, tired from her ongoing battle with cancer, still manages to become 'mama bear' when my mood dips, and my sister, oh so many miles away in Alaska does her job as big sis at opportune moments.  Phil, well he is my rock that neither tide nor time can shift. 

What of my old vegan family though?  Well, yes, I still have many old and new vegan compardres but something has definitely changed.  It only occurred to me a few months ago and even then it has taken me this long to reflect on it and get it into words.  So much has been achieved in the world of vegan over more recent years.  It's wonderful, it really is.  I wouldn't want to turn back the years for that very reason.  However, something has shifted.  Go back 30 years ago and sure there was infighting, and the 'vegan police' popped up here and there to check on 'is that vegan?' but everyone was fighting on the same side.  I've noticed a definite division in more recent years.  

Perhaps it is nostalgia, in the same way that summers always seemed longer and hotter back then.  Perhaps it is that I no longer operate in circles where life, both yours and that of the wild creature you fought to protect, were in danger right in front of your face.  Perhaps it is that determination and companionship that is born out of nights spent in police cells fighting for what you damn well know was right.  All I know is that I cringe when I see fellow vegans being attacked ... by fellow vegans. What the hell?

We've all been there.  I know when I was a spingly sparkly 17 year old vegan the world was totally and utterly incomprehensibly mad and wrong.  You know what, it still is; possibly more so.  You know what though, I have converted (for want of a better word) more people to veganism by just 'being'.  No attacking, no prejudgement, just by being me.  Just like the good old days; like my vegan family.  I've had my moments of total bloody wanting to scream out loud but it invariably does not work.  Anyone reading this that is not vegan needs to know that every bloody day I wake up and think 'what the fuck?'.  Gently, gently though.  The revolution has to be gentle/shared/diversified and more importantly accepted.

Vegans attacking vegans takes the revolution backwards; big time.  I have seen totally devoted vegans who work their arses off for the cause be totally attacked just because they weren't 'radical enough' or think in exactly the same way as another vegan.  Nobody, upon nobody, should be criticised for trying.  I know I myself have had moments of expressing disappointment and despair.  However, I have never expressly attacked anyone for trying.  Vegans work on many different levels and in many different areas.  Some vegans want to go out and demonstrate and some vegans just want to be vegan.  Any, upon any, level of change towards ending animal suffering has to be encouraged, not criticised.  When I went out sabbing, got arrested or attacked in the line of 'ginger dog' duty, that was my choice.  Others like League Against Cruel Sports supporters were more comfortable demonstrating with placards or contributing financially.  Different levels, different commitments, different choices, different impacts.  All contributory.  Everyone who is drawn to the vegan world may be attracted to different aspects of it, and what right does someone have to try and tell a fellow vegan exactly what level or area of action they should be engaging with?  Educating someone into an aspect of veganism that they were not previously aware of is one thing, but trying to force a fellow human animal to do something against their will is not very vegan in my book.

What this is leading up to is that recently I have wanted at times to add comments to social media, but have held back for fear of judgemental comments.  I really don't know why as what I have had to say is, in my eyes, totally justified.  Perhaps in today's totally expanded social media audience, it hasn't allowed the confidential benefit of 'family discussion' within the 'sab' van first.   Either way, how weird is it that a vegan of 30 years has not felt the confidence to express something for fear of being slammed down by fellow vegans? 

Put yourself in the shoes of someone, like me 30 years ago, that is just embarking on that vegan journey.   My 'family' were totally supportive and therefore effective.  How about yours?  

Friday, 16 March 2018

Dehydrator Experiments of a Sausage Kind

We've been wanting to get a dehydrator for years.  A steady stream of vegan recipes requiring one, gluts of home produce and foraged items crying out for being squirrelled away for the winter months, and the ability to enjoy cheap, homemade, and unpackaged crisp kale chips had tormented us.  We finally took the financial leap of faith and bought one.  We are so glad we did.

Kale chips alone have made it worth it. Oven dried ones are one thing but dehydrated ones beat them hands down. Zucchini Flax Wraps from The Art of Raw Living Food were a total winner too.  Then there has been our little experiment to create our own version of Rawsage, a powerfully flavoured beast of a raw vegan sausage made by Lifefood, a company based in the Czech Republic.  The nearest place we can find them is over the border in Devon so we thought we'd give it a go and make our own version based on the ingredients list.  It turns out flavour wise we seem to have nailed it.  A little more work may be needed on the texture to replicate them authentically but that hasn't stopped us from woofing them down far too quickly.  These beauties will go on the list for 'snacks to take on hikes' for sure.

If you don't have a dehydrator we thoroughly recommend you seek out a Rawsage or few.  We've found them in Ethica in Plymouth (100% vegan store which also offers online shopping) and also Greenlife in Totnes.  You can order them online direct from Life Food too.  If you do have a dehydrator and want to give our version a go, well here you go....

Driftwood Vegans Raw Sausage Snacks
Made 8 big sausages or could have made 16 normal size ones of 25g each (might try that next time!)

160g Brazil nuts
1 clove garlic chopped
1 small shallot chopped
82g raisins 
40g hulled hemp seeds
6g caraway seeds 
4g dried oregano 
Pinch chilli powder
91g sun dried tomatoes (soak in warm water for at least 10 minutes)

Finely chop up the Brazil nuts in a food processor then add the garlic, shallot, raisins and hemp seeds and process more until quite fine and well mixed.  Tip out into a bowl.  You'll use the processor again in a minute so don't wash it yet.

Grind the caraway seeds, oregano and chilli powder until fine.  Add to the mix in the bowl.

Drain the sun dried tomatoes (keep the soaking water) and chop finely in the food processor.  I made the mistake of not doing this separately and there were some big chunks of tomatoes left in the mixture, so I would definitely ensure they were more finely chopped next time.  Once chopped, add to the mixture in the bowl and stir thoroughly together.

If the mixture doesn't look like it will stick together, add some of the tomato soaking water spoonful by spoonful until it does, but don't overdo this.  Basically you want to shape the mixture into sausages (or whatever shape you like).

Dehydrate at the living foods setting (105F/40C) until firm.  Ours took at least 36 hours.


Sunday, 11 March 2018

Taparty Vegan Paella Class

Rice and vegetables.  Feeding the world since, well, forever really.  You can't really go wrong with rice and vegetables, whether your taste preference is for Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, Italian, Indian, French, or in this case Spanish cuisine.  Eaten and loved the world over, rice has been the staple food of many and varied countries for thousands of years, and will continue to be so hopefully.  Red, white, black, brown, wild, or highly polished, rice crosses borders and forges cross-overs between cuisines, countries, and people.  In this spirit, you may want to check out the above vegan paella class with Taparty at Devoran (near Truro) village hall.  

Taparty Spanish Food Services, led by Madrid native Ana Lozar, is a traditional Spanish food business based in Cornwall.  Although not a completely vegan business Ana has certainly been strongly supportive of the vegan community in Cornwall and has catered for vegan events at Mount Pleasant Eco Park.

This paella class is the first vegan one Ana has offered and will involve cooking two different vegan paellas; one with smoked grilled vegetables and the other with pulses and boiled vegetables.  Tickets for this three hour class are £18 plus a small booking fee. Details on how to book are available via the Facebook events page or alternatively give Ana a shout direct with the phone number or email address in the photo at the top.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Head Over Heels in Love with Kevin Keegan

Pie.  We love pie.  We love this pie.  In Bristol they'd say 'Gert Lush'.  In Devon they'd say 'Proper Job' but down here in Cornwall we'd say 'E's some boy'.  End of post.  Nuff said.  Oh okay then I guess we should really write more to explain.  

First there was Gary and now there is Kevin.  We got our hands on Kevin at the weekend and can confirm that 'e's some boy'.  Kevin is the first vegan pie from Bristol based family bakers Pieminister.  We'd actually never heard of Pieminister but obviously when they started making vegan pies, they fell onto our radar.  If this is their first attempt they would be amiss not to continue on the vegan pie making front.  Drop the other stuff guys and make more Kevin's, Dave's, Fred's and Harry's'.  We returned to try and buy more Kevin's today only to find that all the vegan ones were gone and all the meaty ones were still there.  That is surely enough proof right?  Go with the Vegan Revolution.

By now you might be asking why the hell is a pie called Kevin?  Well it makes slightly more sense than Gary and is just as funny.  Kevin Keegan, vegan.  I'm originally from the south east so a bit of Cockney rhyming slang is never lost on me.  If you don't know who Kevin Keegan is; well you lucky young thing.  

Accredited by the Vegan Society, Kevin's pastry is flaky yet crisp and perfectly encases the tasty offerings inside.  Ethically sourced, the ingredients list also contains items that you actually recognise rather than a list of things you have to try and work out.  The filling is a ragu style combination of British chestnut mushrooms, tomato and red wine with baby onions, red quinoa and thyme.  Perfect for a winter's night after a hard day at work.  

Available in the chiller section of Waitrose stores, Kevin retails at £3.70 each or, until 20th March, there is a 2 for £6 offer.  For us mostly 'cook from scratch' vegans that might seem quite a lot.  However, for those evenings after work when you just want an easy life, these hefty offerings are worth their weight in pie gold.  You can also order boxes of pies online direct from the Pieminister website. In addition, Pieminister have a series of restaurants, cafes and pubs that serve their full pie menu.  Details are on the website.

Whilst we might be head over heels in love with Kevin the pie, we aren't quite as sure about the real Kevin Keegan's proclamation of love back in 1979; unless of course he had a premonition and is singing about Kevin the Vegan Pie!  Either way, nice flares Kevin, but even better pie.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Driftwood Vegans Go Dutch

Birthday treats saw us country bumpkins taking the unusual step of booking a city break. This is not our natural environment, but we figured that the vegan hunting and gathering may present a very different experience to what we are used to.  Our chosen destination was Amsterdam.  Scooby had come here 30 years ago on an art college trip (nuff said) and with memories fond but hazy had been curious to return to explore as a discerning adult. Phil was happy to tag along as a willing victim, curious about the seemingly prevalent vegan food options and free-wheeling open minded Dutch attitude.  With a short hop across the Devon border to Exeter, we were on a flight to The Dam.

Our holidays normally revolve around Miles Davis, our camper van, parked up in an isolated spot.  We are creatures of quiet reflection and the biggest party animal we'd encountered on our trips so far had been a wild boar in Portugal.  Therefore finding accommodation in Amsterdam, party capital of Europe, could have been a challenge.  However, we hit on city centre gold.  Situated in the Western Dock (Westerdok) area, a short stroll past resident canal boats to the city centre, we found the Studio Apartment to be astonishingly quiet, warm and comfortable.  The host, Judith de Klerk seemed to have everything covered. Helpful travel suggestions were sent beforehand, keys handed over without fuss and with a strict no smoking policy, environmentally friendly cleaning products in evidence throughout, thoughtful shopping bags provided and suggestions of nearby health food stores, it seems that had delivered more than normally expected. In a secure residential block, the open plan and high ceilinged apartment included a really useful kitchenette and fridge that meant that any bought vegan products could also be explored and cooked up too if necessary; an option not available in a standard hotel room.  Thoughtful supplies of oils, herbs, spices, sugar and teas, along with other staples had also been provided.  Best of all there were no party animals in the room next door or the street outside; an inevitable consequence of most other accommodation options we looked at.  We would thoroughly recommend this accommodation and it really did make our trip to Amsterdam.

After a 4.30am wake up call to catch our early flight we were quite relieved to find our travel from the airport to the accommodation was amazingly easy.  In fact, it has to be said that Amsterdam is a joy to travel to and within.  The public transport system is easy to work out, reliable and cheap.  Judith had also very kindly agreed to let us check in early in order to drop our bags off so the rest of the afternoon was ours to explore. 

The Dutch Weed BurgerWith general amblings around to get the ambiance in the near locale, including a recommended open air market, we then resolved to walk the longer distance and search out our first of one of the recommended vegan food offerings; The Dutch Weed Burger Joint. This had come up consistently as a place to visit on the Vegan Amsterdam Facebook group that we joined prior to our visit.  Before anyone starts putting the words Dutch, Weed, and Joint together and coming up with High, I would like to point out that this establishment deals purely in the weed of the sea variety.  As lovers of seaweed (any coastal dwelling vegan would be amiss not to be), this was our first choice to explore of the many and varied vegan eating options available in Amsterdam.  I went for the Wish 'N Chips which were protein rich soya bean bites fried in chlorella batter served alongside chips, caramelised lime slices and Weed sauce with capers.  Phil went for the Seawharma; grilled seitan flavoured with Dutch seaweed and Arabic spices wrapped in a flat bread with various vegetables, garlic Weed sauce and tahini sauce.  Both were very tasty with my option winning our taste test comparison on this occasion.  

This was certainly food we had not tasted before and for this reason we would recommend a visit.  Our only criticisms were the portions were small and we'd have preferred our drinks before we ate (we had to even remind them that we had ordered drinks when the food order arrived).  The smaller than expected portions however did have a slight advantage in that we had room for dessert.  Phil chose a Strawberry Cheesecake whilst I settled on the interesting looking Tompouce (picture left).  I was told it was a veganised version of a traditional Dutch dessert.  I was sold.  So was Phil who wished he had gone for my option once again.  It was a decadent glory of a vegan cream slice that I would willingly indulge in again and I was far too generous with sharing it with Phil (but it was his birthday trip after all).  The food had gone down very well and the (if not belated) drinks were starting to take effect.  In the fading light outside I was sure I had seen green parrots in the trees.  I'd only had one glass of wine and Phil a very veritable BioZisch Matcha so I did wonder. However, after some window gazing observation, it was confirmed there were indeed green parrots flying around in the trees outside.  Who knew?  We walked home through the icy streets taking a small diversion to visit Ekoplaza, a chain of organic supermarkets in Amsterdam just to see what vegan offerings were around.  Many of the brands were ones already available in the UK but we did find a few different things.

The next day we had hoped to visit another highly recommended vegan restaurant called Mr and Mrs Watson for our evening meal.  However, after looking online we discovered that they were heavily booked with only slots available later than we would have liked to have eaten (after 8.30pm).  They were also closed on Mondays so a trip there tomorrow was out too.  We had a couple of alternatives up our sleeve for later and so proceeded to continue to amble around taking in the sights and sounds, whilst trying to avoid being run over by bicycles. 

We'd been lured to the De Pijp area having read that it was a slightly more alternative area and outside of the more touristy city centre stronghold.  Sunday wasn't a great day to choose though as many things, including the Albert Cuypmarkt there, were closed.  We did however happen upon Veg-out, an Indian vegetarian takeout (with seating inside too) as a candidate for a spot of lunch.  With the lure of masala dosas and vegan lassi, we ventured in.  Unfortunately, there were no dosas on offer and the options were fairly limited today.  In addition we both needed the toilet and Veg-out didn't have such facilities, so we moved on.  Down the road slightly was the large HSB Vegetarian Indian Restaurant, a chain we had not heard of before.  The menu looked really good and we ventured in here too.  However, it was so crowded that, despite the wonderful aroma of Southern Indian cuisine, we turned tail and left.  Along the same road our eye was caught by the words 'healthy, vegan, and pastry'.  The window of Luza's Caffeine Club was adorned with tasty looking cakes.  It looked like a chilled out vibe within too.  We settled into seats, and the attentive and cheerful guys working there soon offered us the vegan choices for today.  We started with a couple of chai lattes made with coconut milk, and for food Phil chose the homely, tasty and warming Broccoli and Celeriac soup whilst I was honoured with being the first to try the new menu option of a  Roasted Vegetable sandwich.  I must admit I had expected just standard roasted vegetables between a couple of slices of bread but what I got far surpassed that. This was an unexpected but beautifully dressed and seasoned combination of aubergine, carrot and cucumber atop a toasted bun.  It was beautiful, simple and tasty.  There were two vegan cake options on offer; a cinnamon cake and a lemon cake (which was more like a cheesecake).  We had to have one of each of course and both were delicious.  We have to say that Luza's Caffeine Club is not an exclusive vegan or even vegetarian establishment but the vegan options they do offer were excellent.  In addition, out of all the places we ate in Amsterdam, Luza's wins hands down on the friendliness of the staff and the welcome we received.  Warmed with full bellies and full smiles, we continued our exploration of Amsterdam's chilly streets.

Amsterdam is well known for its open minded attitude towards cannabis.  It has numerous 'coffee shops' that offer two menus; one for food and drink and one for a selection of herbal smoking materials.  As non smokers these coffee shops offered no attraction within their dark, smoky, and crowded depths.  That said we are still both very much open minded about the benefits of sensible cannabis use and a visit to the Hash, Marijuana and Hemp Museum was a fascinating insight into this amazingly versatile and unfairly demonised plant.  For any non smoking vegans wishing to explore further, head to the light, airy and friendly Greendayz.  Here a healthy lifestyle is encouraged, and sensible, considered advice given.  Alongside tasty smoothies, juices and hot drinks, we noticed vegan hemp ice cream and for the more adventurous, vegan brownies and cookies which offered an edible option for exploring cannabis in its more mentally stimulating form.  Greendayz was the only place that we saw these kind of vegan products on offer, which was surprising for a place such as Amsterdam.  We had heard of a place called Mumu to the Moon that offered 100% vegan chocolate, as well as vegan 'edibles' but sadly we were unable to experience their chocolaty delights as we were not able to catch them when they were open during our visit.

Image may contain: 1 person, textAs early evening approached we settled on a trip to Men Impossible for our evening meal. A fully vegan establishment, Men Impossible offers a set menu including freshly made ramen noodles and soup.  

Despite looking back at the information available about this place and now clearly seeing, we had failed to notice at the time that it was reservation only.  After a short search we found the rather unassuming frontage of Men Impossible and then saw the 'Reservation Only' sign on the door.  Undeterred and with a little bit of staring through the window we went in just to check if this really was the case. Luckily for us (not so much for Men Impossible though), a party that had booked had failed to show up so we secured seats at the one long table.  After initial confusion about how to order we soon had tasty starters in front of us from the lovely Atsushi.  Although fairly proficient chopstick users, luckily they slowed us down a little from engulfing the food at an unacceptable speed.  The same with the main event.  It was all such tasty stuff and perfectly rounded off by a spot of green tea.  Again, and as was the case with the Dutch Weed Burger Joint, we found the portions to be rather small.  Perhaps we are just greedy vegans?!  Regardless, it had been a very tasty experience and one that we had both enjoyed.  With lovely tastes still in our mouths, we strolled through the now darkened streets back to our cosy apartment.

Our last day was a Monday and we found that some of our choices were limited by Monday closing, not something we had expected to happen in a big city.  After a slightly lazy start, partly due to extracting ourselves out of our lovely warm apartment and into the icy air outside, we had a plan for hunting down today's food experiences.  TerraZen was fairly close by and had decent reviews on HappyCow and with the promise of a combination of Caribbean and Japanese tastes, we were keen to give it a go.   We entered and found the room empty until a guy came from behind the counter and said that the chef hadn't arrived yet.  However, she then walked through the door and we ordered from the chalk board by the counter.  We chose the Vegan Plate and the Jamaican Plate and at €16 each we expected a fair amount of food.  Sadly we were disappointed. Some of the food was really quite tasty but the rice was either microwave cooked or (hopefully not) reheated.  The matcha lattes we had were the worst we had ever encountered.  We felt this place had real potential, but with staff seemingly disinterested, we were left to feel neither the food or the ambiance were something we would like to repeat. This was yet another establishment where toilets were unavailable, a fairly incomprehensible thing really for a sit down restaurant!  Upon revisiting HappyCow reviews it seems that since our visit, things have been pretty much as we found it at TerraZen.  Such a shame.  

Still hungry we headed for Vegabond, which is a vegan store and cafe a short hop around the corner.  We had high hopes with the promise of vegan doughnuts, a warm comforting drink and the use of toilets.  Although we are sure that a nice drink might have been available, the lack of toilets or any doughnuts meant we had a quick look around the vegan items available in the inclusive shop before we hot footed it out of there in search of that elusive thing in Amsterdam called a toilet.  We found relief by basically bustling into larger restaurants and either just confidently heading straight for the toilets before anyone had the chance to stop us, or asking if the latter was too boisterous!  Some places charge for the privilege which always 'gets our goat'.  Sorry but finding somewhere to have a wee should be easy and free in our world! 

With our day largely disappointed with vegan food we settled on adding a little culture to the afternoon.  Phil had expressed an interest in visiting the Van Gogh Museum.  A very easy and warm tram ride away, we found ourselves in a long queue in the freezing cold just to buy tickets.  This queue was potentially at least an hour long wait and then once you have tickets, the queue to get in the door didn't look that quick either.  We hadn't expected this but perhaps our country bumpkin naivety was creeping in again.  We decided against queueing in the cold.  We headed back into town, wandered around for a final time before grabbing some supplies, including some beers from a supermarket, and returning to our cosy apartment to cook up our own vegan feast.

We admit to being slightly disappointed in the vegan food options not necessarily in regards to taste but more in terms of portion sizes and price but we are not used to city prices so that might not come as a surprise to others.  We were also surprised by the need to make reservations (at vegan establishments I guess that is a good thing as it shows the popularity) and the closure of some places on Mondays and Tuesdays; something to consider with the timing of your visit.

Another thing to be prewarned about is that many places we visited didn't accept cash.  We took cash with us to use as every time we use our cards abroad we get charged a fee so this was definitely something that had we known beforehand we would have looked into and got a prepaid card of some sort.  One place that did accept cash then refused small coins! Apparently the Dutch government had decided that smaller euro coins would not be used nationwide!  Finally, prepare for having a little search for a toilet when you are out and about and don't assume that the restaurants will have one you can use!

Our short city break in Amsterdam was certainly enjoyable and took us outside of our usual holiday experiences.  The main thing we learnt was that, with a little more research beforehand, we could have had a slightly better experience and that is the main thing we would like to pass on to other visitors to the city.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Snow, Shiny Sweets and Steaming Seitan

Well the snow finally reached us here in Cornwall and threw the whole county into its usual panic. Even I, once a Dartmoor dwelling snow driving demon, get a bit freaked out now by the white stuff.  Too many times caught out on the main roads of Cornwall before even reaching the small lanes to home, have made me soft.  Luckily for me, my workplace made the sensible decision this time to close.  I was able to make it home through the chaos that preceded the main chaos and watch it all unfold from beside the fire and in a warm kitchen.

I haven't had a whole load of time recently for culinary experimentation (hence the lack of blog posts with recipes).  There have been some work things to consider and deal with from home during these past few snowbound days but on the whole it did open up some unexpected time to hole up in the kitchen.  

Whilst others cleared the supermarket shelves in panic of a couple of snowy days, I opened our pantry door and basked in the glory of knowing that our stocks would probably last us through the whole winter.  It is in moments like these that our love of food shopping and well stocked cupboards come into their own.  Pretty much everything that others are rushing out to buy, we could make with our supplies.  That includes chocolate.  The idea of being trapped in the house didn't bother me but the idea of being trapped in the house with Phil when our chocolate supplies ran out did.  To him, chocolate is essential and I couldn't chance a chocolate withdrawal situation.  With that in mind, the first thing I made was chocolate.  Our recent discovery and making of pistachio ice cream led me to the idea of making pistachio chocolates.  What could possibly go wrong with that combo?  Nothing it seems, apart from if I hadn't managed to take a photo before Phil woofed them.

Pistachio Chocolates

Makes about 18 to 20 chocolates depending on what molds you use.  You could also make into a flat slab of chocolate too.  Be creative!  If I'd had any pistachio nuts I might have added some to the mix for chunky nuttiness.

Melt 60g of cacao butter in a bowl over a saucepan of warm water.  Once melted add 3 tablespoons of cacao powder, 2 tablespoons of pistachio butter, 1 tablespoon of lucuma powder, 30g liquid sweetener (I used yacon syrup because I had some left but would have used maple syrup if not) and some vanilla essence or powder (I used a sprinkling of vanilla powder).  Mix well ensuring all the pistachio loveliness is well incorporated.  Pour into your molds and put in the freezer (if you are impatient) or the fridge to set.  Unmold then store in the fridge.  Hide from Phil if you want some for yourself.  Enjoy!

Next up, I wanted to make some vegan meaty staples to last a few days so it was on to the seitan.  I'm always experimenting with seitan. One day I will kidnap Dawn and Paul from the Cornish Vegan and make them tell me their secret chick'n seitan recipe, but in the meantime I continue to try lots of different recipes (from cook books and from overnight rambling thoughts).  This time I had the idea of using a mixture of sun dried tomatoes and mushrooms for an Italian sausage theme.  I mixed up the vital wheat gluten flour with some self raising flour this time too (I often mix it with varying flours).  Baking (the big sausage in the photo) and also steaming then baking (the smaller sausages) were also used as different methods.  Some of the results may have looked (ahem) a little like dog turds but they were tasty and it is definitely a flavour combo I will use again.

Sun Dried Tomato and Mushroom Seitan Sausage

We have used the sausages so far in an Italian style bean stew and still have loads left over for other creative culinary uses.

80g dried sun dried tomatoes
A handful of dried mushrooms
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder (I used quite mild stuff but adjust to taste)
2 teaspoons dried Mediterranean herbs (mixed dried herbs would be fine too)
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
2 tablespoons soya sauce
2 cups vital wheat gluten flour
1 cup self raising flour

Put the tomatoes and mushrooms in a bowl and add boiling water to cover.  Throw in all the rest of the ingredients except the two flours, mix and then let it soak for at least 20 minutes.  

Tip the whole soaking mixture, water as well, into a blender.  I used a Nutribullet.  Whizz it all up.  I then made the mixture up to 1 pint with water just to give some precision with measurements (and I couldn't have fitted any more liquid in the Nutribullet before whizzing anyway!).

Put the two flours into a large bowl and then add in the wet mixture.  Stir it all up and then get your hands in and give it a bit of a kneading.  The mixture was wetter than I had been used to before but I went with that (part of the experimenting!).  

Cut bits of greaseproof paper and foil to size (depending on the size of sausages you want).  Roughly shape each sausage on top of the greaseproof paper and wrap up tightly before then wrapping tightly in foil.  

I steamed the small sausages for about 30 minutes before then unwrapping and baking for a further 30 minutes in the oven at 200 degrees C.  The larger sausage I left wrapped and baked for about an hour at the same temperature.  The larger one was slightly doughy still so I cut off slices and baked a little while longer to crisp up a little more.  

Both versions of cooking worked well.  Next time I might try the same recipe but simmer unwrapped first before then cooking further in whatever recipe we are then making it for.

Enjoy and experiment!

As I finish this post, the snow has now been consumed by rain; the more usual Cornish winter weather!  The chocolate has all been consumed too; the more usual Driftwood Vegans household situation.  We do however still have seitan supplies for another meal.