Monday, 20 May 2019

Vegan Night Market in Newquay

If you are heading to the North Shore of Kernowfornia this bank holiday weekend and are looking for a vegan evening adventure then the Vegan Night Market in Newquay has been especially put on for you. 

Organised by Vegan Events Cornwall, the event is hosted and based at Sprout Health Foods in the heart of Newquay.  It's also supported by Dynamite Valley Brewing Co and Whiskers, the bar and live music venue (voted TripAdvisor's No 1 night out in Cornwall) just a cat's whiskers away from Sprout, and where the party will move on to after the market (with a drinks promo thrown in for good measure). 

There will be plenty of food at the market to ensure you are fuelled up and have your dancing shoes on for the after party.  Sprout Health Foods are planning their delicious SproutPots of loveliness whilst Sloth and Sparrow are in town to heat us up with their colourful range of Mexican street food.  For the sweet toothed amongst you Renaissance Cakery  and Lemon Thyme Patisserie will be there with a double dose of vegan naughty treats.  You can wash it all down with some fine craft beers from the very local Atlantic Brewery or sponsors Dynamite Valley Brewing Co.(free tasters apparently when you arrive too!).

Once you have stuffed yourself full of vegan goodies, there is still plenty to take in with Newquay based vegan company Generation V selling their sustainable, organic and hand-drawn street wear, local artist, illustrator and author Maia Walczak promoting her new book WylderReWilding Books providing their amazing stall of books that appeal to the more open minded readers among us, and floating nicely into the scene ARBO Surfboards with their hollow wooden surfboards and schedule of surfboard building workshops.

Phew, all that remains to tell you is to be there!  It's on Saturday (25th May) evening from 7pm - 9.30pm at Sprout Health Foods with the party moving on to Whiskers after.  For more information check out the Facebook Vegan Events Cornwall page.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Make It Up As You Go Along and Do It Right Now Nectarine Pudding

I made a delicious 'make it up as I go along and do it right now' pudding the other day.  I had bought some cheap nectarines at a supermarket, you know the ones that have been priced down because they have gone past their so called 'sell by' date even though they are still too firm to actually eat yet.  Well they suddenly all got ripe at once and after a few morning smoothies there were some left and I then did need to use them up.  I was also in one of those moods when savoury meets sweet and there are certain ingredients that you really fancy.  On this day it was pumpkin seeds and balsamic. 

Phil will tell you that despite the mountain of vegan cook books I have, often I will just go into some weird trance and start making something without really thinking too hard about it.  I don't believe it has ever ended in anything inedible, which is lucky, but when I really hit a 'gold star' moment with something I have cooked it is annoying when I can't remember how I actually got to that point.  This recipe could have been one of those moments had it not involved very few ingredients and I had not rushed to scribble down what I remembered of this simple concoction after I had tasted it.  I told Phil it was terrible (sshhhh..) as I wanted it all to myself.  Here's what happened.....

Make It Up As You Go Along and Do It Right Now Nectarine Pudding

Nectarines (or peaches would be good too, maybe figs, or hang on, apricots too and hmmm, what else.......?)
Bit of vegan margarine
Vegan Honea (love this stuff)
Pumpkin seeds
Balsamic glaze (make sure vegan)
Yoghurt of your choice to serve

1. Slice your nectarines in two, removing the stone.
2. Place in a greased baking dish cut side up.
3. Put a small knob of margarine in the stone indent of each half.
4. Drizzle with Vegan Honea.
5. Scatter over some breadcrumbs and pumpkin seeds.
6. Drizzle over some balsamic glaze.
7. Bake in the oven at about 200 degrees C until soft (reckon it was about 25 minutes)
8. Let cool a little (or totally) and serve with yoghurt and drizzled with more honey.

Scoff, enjoy, don't tell Phil.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

The Eco Collective Opens The Doors

EC logo no background.pngMay is my favourite month of the year.  Not only do you get two bank holiday weekends to enjoy but the Cornish countryside really kicks into full green mode in preparation for the summer ahead.  Everybody and everything suddenly springs into increased activity and there seems to be a plethora of interesting vegan events, places to eat and visit and cooking inspiration to explore.  It is difficult trying to fit it all in and particularly so writing about it all!

Kicking May off for us was a visit to the newly opened Eco Collective shop on the north coast.  Just down the road from the already well established eco, music and veggie/vegan food venue of Mount Pleasant Eco Park, the Eco Collective sits nestled in the steep sided coastal village of Porthtowan, making this area now a double destination adventure for any curious and hungry vegan.

The Eco Collective is easy to find.  Just take the one road into the village and towards the beach and you will see it just behind the post box on the left, and opposite ample parking.  

There are handy benches just outside on which to devour the vegan goodies you have just purchased before heading back in for more.  There are plenty of filling, virtuous and naughty options to choose from including pasties from The Cornish Vegan Pasty Company (tasty fillings and no palm oil here), irresistible savoury and sweet treats from Nature’s Treats (again palm oil free and refined sugar free) and for a totally needed naughty blast, grab a Velicious Vegan Doughnut  to devour or a cooling Booja Booja or Coconuts ice cream from the driftwood decorated freezer.  

The display cases may be full of ready to eat wonders but there is also a selection of food and household staples, including a refill section for washing up, laundry, cleaning and bathroom supplies. 

If it’s a special gift for someone eco or vegan minded you are after then The Eco Collective has plenty on offer here too.  A row of eye catching t-shirts from Newquay based Generation-V line one wall whilst the display of stone craft, pottery, illustration and photographic work in the window and further inside the shop offer colourful, original and creative ideas from local like minded individuals and businesses.

The Eco Collective strives to bring small sustainable focused businesses together under one roof.  It only opened its doors on Wednesday and already the stock reflects what talent, both from a creative and a culinary point of view, there is within Cornwall.  Its stock is set to grow even further as more and more vegan and sustainable businesses open and come forward to be part of this exciting  new venture in the heart of Cornwall.

For more information on the Eco Collective and the talented individuals involved please visit the Eco Collective Facebook group or website.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Wild Nettle Wonders

The hedgerows are full of wonder at the moment.  How the hell people choose to go to the likes of Morrisons when there is so much out there for free is beyond me.  I choose Morrisons to pick on merely because the Newquay branch nearest to us is said to be the busiest one in the whole of the UK in the holiday season and is 'hell on earth' to even venture anywhere near (even though they do stock Frys Burgers!).  I'd rather flog myself with nettles.  Speaking of which, nettles are magic and JUST EVERYWHERE at the moment.  What stops people, beyond a good pair of gloves and laziness, from exploring this really tasty and nutritious resource?  

Something that does such a good job of keeping you away from it by virtue of its itch inducing sting would not be something that naturally enamours itself as being culinarily delicious and nutritionally beneficial.  I guess if nettles didn't have such a 'sting in the tail' they would have long been devoured by humans to oblivion, much to the detriment of the likes of butterflies who vitally depend on nettles for the growth of their larvae.  Luckily for us humans who do brave the initial and sustainable cut of the nettle, the sting is long gone once cooked or dried.  

The tender tops of the nettles are the best, from a culinary and nutritious point of view.  I personally love the taste of a good nettle soup so the nutritional benefits are a very happy side effect.  Centuries of use are seemingly backed up by the more modern scientific based health claims of the nettle.  The iron and vitamin C content of nettles are fairly obvious benefits but, with the fairly recently revealed benefit of plant sources of calcium, this is indeed another wonder of this populous 'weed'.  A not so known trace mineral called boron is evident in nettles and it is this that helps maintain calcium content in bones.  Chuck in anti-inflammatory and detoxifying properties, digestive and circulatory benefits and that is a good start for a plant so hated during those childhood summers.  

Our favourite thing to do with nettles is a simple soup and I include the recipe for Phil's Super Simple Nettle Soup below.  We also make tea occasionally and once I even made nettle beer but that is an explosive story for another time!  We have however also happened across a fascinating article called 'Taking the Sting out of Nettles' which was in a copy of Edible Alaska, a magazine brought across by my sister a couple of years ago for us to read.  The article itself was a great read but it also includes some lovely simple and more unusual recipes for nettles including Nettle Pesto, Roasted Nettle Chips and Alaskan Gomashio.  I only just refound the article again recently so we are yet to try them but as Spring progresses and the nettles grow higher, I will definitely have a go at all of these.  In addition I recently found a recipe for Nettle Flapjacks and that too is going on the list to make (replace the honey in the recipe for a vegan alternative).  I implore anyone that hasn't tried nettles to give them a go.  Just make sure you leave plenty for the wildlife too.

Phil's Super Simple Nettle Soup
Quantities not included as, well it is that simple you can work that out I'm sure!  Just go with the flow but bear in mind that the nettles cook down much like spinach so be generous with the quantity.

Onions chopped
Olive oil
Potatoes diced
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Nettle leaves

Fry the onions in the oil until slightly browned and then add the potatoes.  Add enough water to cover by an inch.  Add seasoning.  Cook on a boil for 10 minutes.  Add the nettles and cook for another 10 minutes.  Blend.  Done!


Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Beats and Roots Cafe

Any older vegans out there who remember how vegan food was intricately mixed up with alternative life and musical vibes will appreciated a new food venture opened this last week in Cornwall.  Beats and Roots opened its doors fully on Wednesday in the heart of Cornwall; Redruth.  There are so many interesting aspects of Beats and Roots to explore; and all involve heart and soul, great musical vibes and lots of lovely food.  

For a start, as already mentioned, veggie and vegan food has always been the mainstay of the alternative movement/music scene, but in my era, the 80's and 90's, no hunt sab benefit gig was complete without the obligatory veggie burger offering.  It was served up with punk rock flair and rib sticking finesse.  It was grassroots royalty.  As much as it is wonderful that veganism is becoming a mainstay, I sometime miss that down to earth vibe.  What I don't miss however is slipping around on a greasy floor serving up dry veggie burgers to drunken punks and wannabe rastas (anyone remember Roots on Union Street in Plymouth?) .  

In terms of vegan food however, things have thankfully moved on and, although Beats and Roots still maintain an air of desirable grassroots about their venture, their food really does go way beyond the old skool definition of that.  Whilst many establishments try and replicate that need for junk food alternatives, Beats and Roots break that mould and take a fresher approach with their veggie and vegan offerings.  There is no deep fryer involved in the food that Beats and Roots provide.  It's fresh, vibrant, and full of seasonal flavour.  

We took the time on Saturday to drop in on Paul and Ben, the heart and soul behind Beats and Roots, and sample some of their foodie wonders.  The menu is all veggie, with a large section of the menu vegan.  We chose from the specials board, which had a Mediterranean flair to it, and enjoyed a generous portion of the paella; an unctuous hearty dish which involved fresh broad beans, artichoke hearts, fennel and sweet pepper.  It was topped off with a good supply of house slaw with a basil dressing which at first I thought was an odd addition only to realise what a crunchy and wonderful contrasting texture and flavour it was to the main event underneath. Genius. We also savoured the pistou soup which was jam packed with vegetables, chickpeas, and flavour.  The obligatory topping of vegan pesto on top spiked it further with zesty appeal, whilst the big hunk of granary bread with vegan spread did wonders in soaking up any juices.  After a round of teas (several different plant milks supplied), we topped off our scoffing session with some toasted coconut chocolate slices.  

Image may contain: dog and outdoor
The food was a delight, and the ambiance, helped along by the  ensuing Spring Market, was also vibrant in an unfussy, down to earth vibe.  Beats and Roots is based in The Buttermarket in Redruth, just off the main high street.  It is in a cosy suntrap of a courtyard where people congregate to enjoy a chat, a look at any additional stalls or activities spilling out from the main market, and now Beats and Roots with its range of hot and cold beverages and veggie food ranging from breakfasts, lunch and snacks. Should the weather not afford the suntrap affect, fear not as there is a large undercover area to watch any uncosy propur Cornish rain from, and you would never be cold with the warming food offerings available.  Another wonderful advantage to the location of Beats and Roots is that your doggy companions are more than welcome in this open environment and the two dogs there when we were seemed particularly content with that arrangement.

Beats and Roots regular hours are Wednesday to Saturday 8am - 4pm.   The early opening is to offer the chance for any early birds to grab the opportunity of a wholesome breakfast (I'm told their various forms of vegan porridge rock) on the way to work, particularly via the nearby train station.  

No photo description available.However, aside from the regular hours, there are some interesting plans from Beats and Roots.  Music is as equally important to the lives of Paul and Ben, hence the name of this new cafe. Just to demonstrate this fact, the accompanying tunes emanating from Beats and Roots kitchen were as groovy as the food;  (was that Ebo Taylor I heard on Saturday? - love it!).  As the name suggests there are some plans to further infuse the two best things in life; music and food.  If you too live for such things, it may be that Beats and Roots may become the go to destination for your evening entertainment.  They have already done a few evening events (we are gutted we missed the Indian Street Food event) but many more are planned with live musical entertainment involved.

Redruth is much maligned by some, and totally missed by many visiting Cornwall.  It could therefore be seen as a strange destination for such a venture involving veggie/vegan food and an alternative music scene. However, if you want the real Cornwall, away from the entrapment of gentrified tourist destinations, then you need to look to places like Redruth.  It is the heart and soul (and by the way it has a great 'stacked to the rafters with amazing bargains' K9 Crusaders Charity Shop and who cannot love the dog sculptures made of welly boots in the High Street) of Cornwall.  The 'Roots' part of Beats and Roots could find no better home that Redruth for this very reason.  

We totally recommend Beats and Roots for a down to earth, fresh, vibrant and totally groovy vegan vibe.  Somehow it manages to blend old time roots nostalgia with an up to date freshness that is thoroughly enjoyable.  Go check them out during their regular opening hours and further watch out for any awesome evening events they have planned in the future by following them on Facebook.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Roots Culture Vegan Market

No photo description available.

You know summer has arrived when the Roots Culture Summer Markets start up again. Well, let's ignore the fact that not only has Spring only just got going and it practically snowed this morning (a hail and sleet whiteout anyway!), but hey it was very summery last week and the Roots Culture Markets always add a touch of sunshine to any Sunday.  

The Roots Culture Markets have been a stronghold of the Mount Pleasant Eco Park for a few years now and always draw in a crowd of appreciating punters to enjoy the local products, crafts, and food.  It offers a laid back vibe, all the more added to by The Tropical Pressure Sound System playing some choice tunes in the background.  

The Markets always provide for the hungry vegan, with various food trucks in attendance alongside the Cabana Kitchen and Cafe, the plot to plate kitchen and cornerstone of the Eco Park.  However, we were delighted to learn that the first Summer Market of the year, this coming Sunday 7th April, is to be a completely vegan affair.  Vegan food vendors, vegan lifestyle stalls, coffee, cakes, treats, local ale and ciders; it sounds like an ideal day for a bit of a vegan pamper and damn good scoff.

Should the weather not treat us well, there is plenty of undercover space under the oak atrium and inside the timber barn.  Should it be a true representation of the Summer we are all hanging on for, there is a huge amount of beautiful lawn and grounds to release the kids and dogs into barefoot and fancy free.  There is even a campsite with glamping options if you want to take that step towards summer even further.

It's a free event, even the parking is free, so what is there to lose (apart from some pocket money on vegan treats!)? It runs from 11am - 4pm but as ever, it's probably best to arrive early before all the treats get snapped up!  For more details, check out the Roots Culture Vegan Market Facebook events page.

Monday, 1 April 2019

Dust - A New Form of Protein?

The age old question posed to vegans is that of 'where do you get your protein'?  Well,  research released today from DVR Inc. suggests a completely new and unexplored source of protein that until today has been swept under the carpet.  

Where do gorillas and rhinos get their protein from?  Well, yes of course they both eat a plant based diet and we vegans know that this is perfectly efficient for our needs*.  However, they also live amongst quite a lot of dust, and this is the focus of the new research by DVR Inc.  Spokesperson for DVR Inc. DSc.** Chapman said "Before you pick up the hoover, just think about the benefits of what you might be sucking up, and also contributing to the landfill problem".  He added; "There are many benefits to just leaving the cleaning to another day".  DSc. Chapman has found that dust has a protein content of at least 23g PHB***, which is nothing to be sniffed at.  In fact, vegan dust has been found to be of a higher protein content than non-vegan dust.

There are some contradicting sources even from within DVR Inc. however.  DSc.**** Gill is more reserved.  "We are just at the beginning of our studies and although there has been some health benefits, namely mental ones, to ignoring the build up of dust within the living environment, we still need to explore whether this is actually an excuse for not cleaning and just going for a surf instead".  

* This is actually true!
** DSc - Doctor of Surf Competence
*** PHB - Per Hoover Bag - Not that he would know!
**** DSc - Doctor of Surface Cleaning

Friday, 29 March 2019

Boulangerie de Phil Meets Bacon Seitan

Phil's bread making goes from strength to strength.  I can even put requests in now for various forms of bread I fancy as long as it's sourdough based.  During the week we have to get up at 6am, so we don't really have time to sit down and have breakfast before we leave for work.  At the weekend we make up for that by enjoying various forms of naughty vegan brunching options (after a good reading and tea session in bed).  

Recently I had an urge for a good old simple vegan bacon roll so a request was lodged with the 'Boulangerie de Phil' for some sourdough rolls to make my Saturday morning brunch dream come true.  He delivered in such a way that made me truly appreciate why, after almost 20 years together, he is definitely a keeper (there are plenty of other reasons too I might add!).

Upton's Naturals Bacon SeitanI do normally make my own seitan, including a bacon version.  However, I just simply hadn't had time recently so with a new shop bought bacon alternative easily plucked from the shelves we did succumb. Upton's Naturals Bacon Seitan happens to be available in Sainsbury's and somehow found its way into our shopping basket just prior to my bacon roll weekend request.  I'm not unhappy about that as the ingredients are really refreshingly simple and good.  It might have even been responsible for my bacon roll brunch request.

The combination of des petits pains de Phil and Upton's Bacon Seitan really hit the spot.  In fact Phil, Phil, Phil, oi, where are you... you know you asked me whether I had any plans for Sunday?... get some of your hot buns on the go please!

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Vegan Rising - Cornwall Vegans Poster Appeal

There can be absolutely no doubt that veganism is on the rise; and at an astonishing pace.  Now more than ever is the time for outreach work, something that Cornwall Vegans do very well.  Over the past couple of years or so they have launched poster campaigns across Cornwall, and this Spring sees the release of the Vegan Rising 2019 poster campaign.

Most vegans seem tuned in to spotting the word 'vegan', and I am no exception to that, but I am not so tuned in to advertising and often times will not even notice billboards.  

Cornwall Vegans posters though I do notice, and that is without looking for them.  I saw one last night at a bus stop on my drive home through Truro.  As I was driving, it was only a fleeting glimpse of the starling one at the top of the page but it caught my attention.  It was only when I caught up on the Cornwall Vegans Facebook page last night that I saw it and put two and two together.  Anyone standing at that bus stop or walking past couldn't fail to see it.

The wonderful Starling design poster, which is gearing up towards the March for Animals on 10th August, can be seen in Truro at the moment.  The Robin design is currently in St Ives and Looe, and the Sheep design in Newquay and Falmouth.  The more posters the better to get the message out there, so Cornwall Vegans are looking for donations to buy more advertising space and spread them further afield throughout Cornwall.

Please donate if you can.  Every pound counts and will help further this great campaign.  If you can afford it please Paypal your donation (under the friends and family setting) to 

One glance, one read, one thought; that could be one more vegan in the offing.  


Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Valhalla at Falhalla

Word has come to the North Shore (of Cornwall that is, not Oahu) that down in Falifornia (that's Falmouth to the uninitiated) there is a new vegan venture in the offing.  If everyday seems like a Nordic-scale battle at the moment and you dream of your own personal Valhalla, then you should treat yourself and head over to Falhalla this Sunday for the opening day of their new pop up vegan fast food joint.

Falhalla is based at Stones Bakery, slap bang in the heart of the vibrant High Street in Falmouth and it is Pete Wright, one of the bakers at Stones, that is at the forefront of this new vegan eatery.  Back in 2016, whilst in Toronto, Pete visited a place called Cosmic Treats where he was introduced to a world of veganism he didn't know existed.  Pete likes his fast food and fell head over heels in love with the Kentucky style fried 'chicken' and 'beef' burgers offered at Cosmic Treats.  On arriving back in Falmouth last year, he was left wanting for the same kind of vegan options and finding little on offer, he took it upon himself to create his own.  

Pete has spent time refining his recipes, a task helped considerably with his experience and use of the equipment at the bakery.  He is particularly proud of his vegan brioche style buns and his seitan 'meat', along with the fact that he makes it all fresh each day.  The only exception to this is his homemade cashew ice cream, which does take a little more preparation, but after being blown away by the version he experienced in Toronto he couldn't live without producing his own supply and sharing it with the vegan community over here.

On the opening day on Sunday there will be Seitan Cheek'n Burgers, Seitan Beefy Quarter Pounders, Seitan Ribwich Burgers, and Mac n' Cheez on offer, all of which come with fries.  For dessert there is that much loved Cashew Ice Cream served on Hot Belgian Waffles.  Soft drinks are on offer, alongside a vegan pale ale from The Wild Beer Co (another establishment Pete has had some experience at).  Opening is from 12-8pm so plenty of opportunity for lunch, dinner or both!

For further details give Pete a shout on the email or phone number above.  Better still, drop in to support this new vegan venture, enjoy his homemade treats, and find out more about Falhalla.  Hopefully Falhalla will become the vegan heaven in Falmouth that its name aspires to.

Monday, 18 March 2019

An Analogue Musical Adventure

Here in the Driftwood Vegan household not everything revolves around veganism and, although it is so important in our lives, we like to discuss other important things too; like music for instance.  Music is a major influence in our lives and, as much as I couldn't have had a soul mate who isn't vegan, he also had to love music.  Luckily Phil does and over the years we have introduced each other to so much music, as well as discovered even more together.  A life without music is not worth living.

My musical entertainment has been even more of a journey recently.  I took it upon myself to sort through and listen to every single cassette tape I have.  Our beloved, ageing and 261,000 mile Peugeot 306 with its onboard cassette deck has provided the perfect listening vessel on my way to and from work.  It's been amazing; a blast from the past with moments of rediscovery, moments of blushing over forgotten memories and eras, moments of sheer joy and moments of 'what the hell'!  It just goes to show how much music is along for the ride in your journey through life.

The deal with my cassettes has been that if I think it holds enough of a musical wonder and I don't already have it on CD, it gets an entry into my 'little blue book'.  Every month on payday I treat myself to a few of the entries available on the second hand market as CDs.  I have scored a few in charity shops recently too but the more obscure have to be sought out.  The defunct cassettes then wend their way to my colleague and fellow music lover Charlie, who has a penchant for collecting such analogue wonders en masse.  I'm so fortunate that not only are my cassettes not ending up in landfill but that I have Charlie, almost 20 years my junior, to pass on my music and perhaps discover some gems from a different era (as well as have a laugh over the more random ones!).

This brings me neatly on to a recent conversation I had with Phil about musical inheritance.  In this current digital download era, what is going to become of some of the old music?  I was fortunate that my parents passed on their vinyl to me; Beatles, Elvis and an amazing Lee Perry oldster included.  I cherish them and do play them, stylus fuzz and all.  What of these and my vinyls in the future?  I know that vinyl is making a bit of a comeback but realistically are my nieces going to have a record deck to enjoy these on when my time comes?  Phil has even more of a collection of vinyls and between us our CD collection is fairly extensive.  Then there are the digital music files; an increasingly popular format for storing music but one that is not going to be easy or even possible to physically pass on.  What happens therefore to our musical wonders from the past?  Sod the cash inheritance; what about the musical inheritance?

I might be getting old but most (not all) music these days is shit; a diluted media-popularised mix of dull tripe.  Most of our 'new' musical discoveries consist of reaching backwards through time to discover music we had yet to find.  Less and less are our new discoveries actually new and that saddens me.  Unless the new generation take on the same 'backwards' stance, and with less and less music being enjoyed in an analogue format and passed on to future generations, what hope is there for any magical musical inheritance?  I can't even comprehend how sad that could be.  

Perhaps I am being too dramatic or as old fashioned as the generations before me.  I'm a bit of an old folkie and am fully aware of the importance that folk music had in passing down the old stories, especially in the days of illiteracy.  Perhaps back then there was the same kind of panic.  Once the recording of music was possible we had the magic of passing on our musical stories and journeys; vinyl, cassette, CD's; treasured musical history.   Are we going backwards now in this world of en masse information where everything is available in a fleeting instance?  How do we know, treasure and share those creative musical moments that journey along with us and our loved ones?

About four years ago or so I made my parents a musical CD compilation for Christmas.  I included tracks from way before my time; ones that were important to my parents and also ones from growing up.  Summertime Blues, Johnny B Goode, Memphis Tennessee, Hey Jude, Maggie May, Imagine and various Abba songs were all included; the latter being embarrassing to admit but important no less in our family's history and all allowing memories to flood back in.  It ended with Meet on the Ledge by Fairport Convention; a particular evening with my parents spent at Cropredy Festival the reason I included it.  They got me drunk on cider and I loved it.   The delight from my parents that Christmas when we played it was evident; a sharing of the importance of music in our lives from before I was born to my life as an adult recognised by all.  My mum and dad found it touching that I cried as it played.  Its importance was emphasised further when my dad was in hospital during his final few days.  I played the CD to him again.  He was pretty much past talking but we noticed his feet were moving in time; from somewhere a past memory was creating joy.  He then muttered to play it again.  Through tears I pressed pay once more and sat back holding his hand whilst he danced.  Music is indeed magic.

Between us let us not forget the importance of communication and how music is very much an unspoken form of love, history and shared journeys.  Enthuse your children's lives with music in the same way that you do with love and light.  I honestly feel that people who really feel music have a heightened sense of compassion too.  It's about beyond just hearing music.  It's about absorbing, seeing it, feeling it.  It's also about passing that on to whoever you can and not letting it be lost into the digital ether.

Here is an old 'new' discovery to pass on.  I heard it playing in a book shop in Glastonbury and asked who it was.  I now own the full album on CD.

Monday, 11 March 2019

Returning To The Kitchen With An Epic Lasagne Session

I've always loved cooking but over the last couple of years have suffered from a severe lack of time and motivation to do so.  I've had the odd session here and there but for the most part, if it hadn't been for Phil stepping in and feeding us, there might not have been much left of me.  As I slowly climb out of a long period of grief and stress my interest is returning and my groaning shelves of recipe books and folders of collected recipes are looking a little less dusty and neglected.  Basically Phil will be relieved to know I am working on it!

The weekend saw me undertaking a recipe picked up from watching an episode of Jamie and Jimmy's Friday Night Feast quite a while back now.  It was a fully vegan episode and featured the vegan comedian Romesh Ranganathan being cooked his ultimate choice of dish - a vegan lasagne.  I love lasagne too and normally just freestyle it without the need for a recipe but this one did look potentially epic.  It was even called Romesh Ranganathan's Epic Veg Lasagne.  As it also used homemade pasta, it would encourage me to 'dust off' our pasta rolling machine too.  

We dutifully shopped for the few specific ingredients required outside of our pretty epic store cupboard supplies (everybody round to ours if Brexit causes more havoc than it already has!) and started early on the multiple step recipe.  Despite the traditional accompanying tunes to dance to and glass of wine to sup, I in no way slacked off in my concentrated approach to this recipe.  I got on with it, even preparing parts of the recipe earlier on in the process than indicated to try and save time.  The pasta making part was actually very quick, but even so the whole process was extremely long.  I think it goes to show how effective editing can be on the television!  It was gone 9pm before we sat down to eat.

That said, and in fairness, the recipe intro does mention it is a labour of love.  It was really tasty and filling too and a recipe that no doubt would get quicker each time you make it.  I halved the recipe but I must say I wish, given the time it did take, I'd made the full amount and then frozen the other half for a tasty homemade, no fuss mid week dinner.  The only deviation I made was by adding more cheese.  I just couldn't help myself.  The amount in the recipe just seemed too little amongst the other bold flavours and I have to say I am glad I did as it turned out a nice balance.  We used Koko Cheddar Cheese by the way.  It doesn't say in the recipe itself but both further investigation on social media, and indeed the comments at the bottom of the recipe, indicated that was the one he used so we wanted to stick to that.  It isn't our favourite cheese but it worked well in this recipe and our favourite, Vegusto, is now difficult to get hold of and really expensive.

So was it worth it?  Yes, is the answer.  It was worth it on a few levels.  Firstly, yes, it was pretty tasty.  Even if I didn't commit to the time for the full recipe I would definitely take elements of it when I next freestyle my own, such as blending mushrooms with the white sauce and adding a cheese, sage and breadcrumb topping.  In addition it got me making fresh pasta again, and I had forgotten how simple, quick and far more tasty it is.  Most of all though, it got me back in the kitchen, slowing down to appreciate the creativity that is the kitchen, and cooking for my wonderful and much appreciated fella that is Phil.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Kombucha Krazy

If you've been to a vegan fair recently or perused the chilled drinks section in a health food store you would doubtless have seen kombucha.  Even some supermarkets are selling it now.  This healthy ancient beverage has really taken off, particularly in the last two years or so.

Kombucha is simply fermented sweet tea. To some that may not necessarily sound that appealing and even less so when you see the scoby; the jelly like pancake shaped culture that is responsible for the fermentation.  Without going into the science behind this (whole books have been written on this) the scoby, which stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast, works its magic on the sweetened tea and the result is a surprisingly tasty and refreshing drink.  Less tea like and less sweet than the sweetened  tea ingredients would lead you to believe, kombucha is more apple/cider like, perhaps with a hint of champagne, in its base form. In addition, the multitude of different flavouring options possible can lead it into even more tasty and interesting directions.

It's not just taste that makes kombucha an increasingly popular drink in our modern world.  It promises health boosting qualities too, and is therefore a good alternative to the usual line up of shop bought sugary drinks (the sugar used to make kombucha is eaten up by the bacteria leaving only trace amounts).  Courtesy of the bacteria, kombucha is a rich source of probiotics so great for digestion and maintaining healthy intestinal flora.  This also goes a long way, coupled with the high levels of antioxidants and vitamin C, in boosting immunity.  Energy can also be enhanced by all of the above and the presence of a good amount of vitamins; predominantly a range of B vitamins.  In fact vitamin B12, supposedly elusive to vegans, makes an appearance in kombucha.  B12 isn't just purely available in animal sources, contrary to the 'propaganda'.  It is produced by bacteria and as fermented foods like kombucha are all about bacteria, it follows B12 and kombucha are good bed fellows.  

I could go on about the reported health benefits; including its aid to natural sleep and weight loss, and helping ease the symptoms of high blood pressure, but I'm not one for science so it's best to do the proper research yourself.  What I do know is that during Dry January kombucha was very much a welcome and enjoyed alternative.  It had been suggested by a member of our family, also on Dry January, that we were cheating as, being as it is a fermented drink it does indeed have an alcoholic content.  This however is at such low levels (less than 0.5% generally in shop bought varieties but it can be a little more in home brewed creations), that a good chow down on rum enhanced Booja Booja truffles would probably give you more of a hit.

It might not have totally reached the masses yet but shop bought kombuchas are definitely on the increase.  On a recent trip to Somerset we saw two more brands we hadn't before.  I need at least two hands to count the different companies now providing for the UK market.  That wasn't the case even a few years ago.  This 2000 year old ancient beverage, with its roots in China, Korea, Japan and Russia (there are varying accounts of its definitive age and origin), was difficult to purchase.  We remember only one brand, Gavin's Kombucha, from the Totnes area, over 15 years ago.  That is one of the reasons we started making it ourselves, with the encouragement and a scoby kindly provided by Gavin himself.  We kept our brew going for some time but periods abroad and then my move to join Phil in Cornwall kind of broke the routine.  Now we are back to it.  Kombucha is really easy to make but routine (in our case weekly) is the key.  Sometimes Phil's sourdough starter routine and my kombucha routine coincide but it's no biggy.  Each process is just as simple as the other and take very little time.

In the case of kombucha you just brew up some sweetened tea (any black or green), let it cool and then let it get acquainted with the scoby. After about a week of the scoby floating around on the top, it is generally ready for drinking and bottling up.  You just repeat the process each time (using the same scoby) and you are assured of a constant stream of delicious kombucha.  The shop bought varieties are definitely very welcome and tasty and we encourage you to try them, but we have very much acquired a taste for making our own.  It's a lot easier on the pocket and resources too.  

If you fancy having a go at making it yourself, apart from water, sugar and tea, the only other thing you need to get your hands on is a good scoby.  You can buy these from the Internet but do make sure it is from a reputable source to ensure the best quality.  The tradition however, as with sourdough starters, is that you pass on scobys to other people.  All you need initially is one scoby and it grows and grows, generally in layers which you eventually separate.  It is these layers that you can pass on.  Our newest scoby came from a friend and ex-colleague from the Lake District.  She sent several scobys to a group of us at work and now we have a little Kombucha Klub going where we all bring in our latest brews for each other to sample and compare.  The difference in tastes and styles goes to show the diversity kombucha has.

If you live locally I would be more than happy to pass on any available scobys if you want to start making it yourself; along with basic instructions.  For anyone else out there that can get hold of a scoby, my basic recipe is below.  I started off making this is in a bucket and indeed you can make it in lots of different vessels.  Glass is best but metal can react so it is best avoided.  Now I use my special kombucha jar which was a very welcome Christmas present from Phil.

Scooby's Scoby Basic Bucket Kombucha Recipe
You don't definitely need the 1 cup of kombucha but it will take longer before it is ready if you don't.  You can buy small bottles of kombucha in most health food stores and Waitrose supermarkets.

1 cup kombucha
9 cups filtered boiled water
3/4 of a cup of white sugar
3 black teabags (or equivalent loose tea of any type you like - even green tea)

Ensure everything is all kept clean and that way you won't get any unwanted moulds.

Simply brew up the tea (either directly in the bucket if using bags or using some of the cups of water in a cafetiere if using loose).  Add the sugar and stir to dissolve.  Let completely cool down (otherwise you could kill the scoby).  It can be brewed strong but again, it is all about experimentation too.  

Remove tea bags and then gently float the scoby on the surface.  The scoby has a smoother side and I always thought this was best to put upwards but having read more these days, it appears it isn't totally necessary. Don't worry if the scoby sinks, that is natural.  Cover it with a clean cloth like a tea towel. This allows air to get to it, essential for the fermentation, but keeps out unwanted dust or flies. 

Leave it for a week then give it a taste (using a straw gently pushed past the scoby is a good way of doing this if you are not using a vessel with a tap).  It should have a hint of sharpness to it but still maintain a little sweetness.  Basically, if you like the taste, all is good!

Most of the fun of making kombucha is in the experimentation.  I am still learning so much each time I make up a new batch.  I am also learning how some flavourings work great (adding strawberries or blackcurrants to the bottles after the first fermentation is a winner!) and others not so good (redbush tea really didn't work that well).  

I've also been slowly dipping into the wealth of knowledge that is The Big Book of Kombucha along the way and have been discovering where else I could take my experimentations, along with discovering what I had been doing wrong.  I'd recommend getting a copy (I was fortunate to get mine for £2 in a charity shop!).  

Whether you decide to try a shop bought kombucha for the first time or you decide you want to give making it yourself a go; enjoy!

Sunday, 3 February 2019

The Cornish Vegan For The Win

If we've had a great vegan experience we like to write about it.  If we've had a bad one, we don't. That's generally our Driftwood Vegans rule. There's an exception to this rule however.  For a couple of years now we've been keeping quiet about something really close to home; The Cornish Vegan.  

In the early excitement of The Cornish Vegan opening in September 2016, we did write about it, but the fact of the matter is we felt we needed to then keep quiet about it; much in the same way that Phil refuses to write about his favourite Cornish surf spots for fear of overcrowding.  The Cornish Vegan doesn't really need more people extolling its wonders; it needs crowd control! (or let's say in a less dramatic fashion; it's best to ring ahead and book a table if you don't want to run the chance of missing out"!).  

We are extremely fortunate that Paul and Dawn decided to set up such an amazing vegan eating experience in Cornwall. The food they offer is addictively tasty, generously portioned, value for money and creative.  The menu sensitively balances the palates for those wanting a naughty treat to those seeking a more healthy indulgence.  For Dawn and Paul it isn't just about selling food that fills vegan bellies.  They put a lot of thought into creating dishes that go beyond the standard vegan fayre or what you would create for yourself at home; so much thought in fact that not even a holiday or the much anticipated glass of wine at the end of a long working day can switch their minds off from inventing new culinary creations.  

It's not all about the food though at The Cornish Vegan.  The service is second to none. Whether you are regulars or not, the welcome is immensely warm (Dawn gives great hugs too!) and attentive.  Details will not be missed here.  Then there is the speed of service.  The ambiance may be homely and cosy but the service is fast and slick.  It just goes to demonstrate further the hard work and thought that has gone into The Cornish Vegan.  It represents what Dawn and Paul would want as customers themselves; and likewise what we always look for.  That's why we love it so much and why we now use it as a benchmark for anywhere else we eat.  Let's just say it's pretty unbeatable.

So why have we broken our Cornish Vegan silence and not just kept this one to ourselves?  After all they certainly don't need any recommendations from us or anyone else for that matter; they've done it all themselves and their customer base is already huge.  Well we are proud of them; that's why.
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In November The Cornish Vegan stormed the Cornwall Tourism Awards 2018/2019 bringing home the Gold Award for Best Cafe/Tearoom of the Year.  Let's be clear here, this is the best of the whole of Cornwall not just in the vegan sense of the word.  This needs to be shouted from the rooftops.  Cornwall is rammed full of cafes and tearooms and I'm sure many of these would have been left saying "wasson?" about this.  

Image may contain: text that says "Featured by lonely planet 2019/2020 Great Britain"This achievement was then very quickly followed by news that The Cornish Vegan had landed an entry into the next edition of the globe trotting bible that is the Lonely Planet for Great Britain.  

Next up are the South West England Tourism Excellence Awards 2018/2019 which takes place this coming Thursday in Bristol.  The Cornish Vegan is a finalist for Best Cafe/Tearoom and is guaranteed bronze, silver or gold.  Again, let's be clear, the competition includes all cafes and tearooms across the whole of the South West of England, not just veggie or vegan establishments.  In our vegan world of course that is natural but for the rest of society to recognise this; well that is so amazing for Paul and Dawn to have achieved both for them and for veganism.  Vegans and Cornwall as a whole should be so proud.  

We wish them luck for Thursday and most of all we hope they have a lovely evening and break from all their hard work. What they express through their food and the service they provide does so much for the whole vegan ethos.  For this we love you and thank you so much.  They say an army marches on its stomach.  If The Cornish Vegan is feeding that army, we feel that their vegan campaign will continue to march way beyond the South West.  

Please note that The Cornish Vegan is closed on Thursday and Friday this week for Paul and Dawn to attend the awards ceremony.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Trending Vending and Depending

Our Christmas was a quiet, subdued affair. We really are not big on it anyway but the absence of both my parents in our lives certainly made it a thoughtful time of year for me.  I was in no mood to put pen to paper; hence the lack of blogging recently.  Instead I've been sitting back and taking in all the vegan news and offerings available from the ever increasing and widening sources.  

The World of Vegan has grown immensely over the last few years for sure but the run up to Christmas and Veganuary has seen a veritable volcano in such a few short weeks; more so I think than at any other time in the 30 odd years we have been vegan.  To us it is just unbelievable and way beyond what our earlier vegan selves would have ever hoped or imagined. Veganism is certainly 'trending' big style and there is a warm, cosy feeling in being trendsetters and now extremely trendy in our middle age!  That doesn't happen much these days.  Now we are no longer the aliens society once perceived us to be (remember people accusing you of just going through a fad?), we will have to find something else to be controversial about.

In one week alone we watched three programmes on mainstream television with a vegan theme.  Although Channel 4's Dispatches - The Truth About Vegans, wasn't exactly, in my humble opinion, a very well researched piece (since when do vegans "need more iron than meat eaters"? And insinuating Viva! and founder Juliet Gellatley fall into the extremist category wasn't the brightest move), it did put veganism in the spotlight in the mainstream media, especially as the presenter led us to believe that he was convinced enough to give veganism a go.

Dispatches was closely followed by a vegan edition of Jamie and Jimmy's Friday Night Feast.  Another Channel 4 offering, this was a more positive view of good, tasty vegan food delivered in an entertaining fashion.  The recipes were amazing and have made it into our 'food file' to cook up at some point soon.  If only Jamie had responded to our letter a few years ago, he would have been ahead of the game (as would the Food Network if they had listened to the viewers comments we offered back in 2013).  I guess everything has its time and veganism can hardly be ignored now.

A man that has definitely taken the 'rescued bull by the horns' is a certain Mathew Pritchard with his very entertaining Dirty Vegan series currently viewing on BBC Wales.  For such a tearaway nutter during his Dirty Sanchez years, Mathew offers a remarkably gentle approach to veganism with a hint of bubbling enthusiasm and mischief.  If you aren't in reach of BBC Wales you can catch up on BBC iplayer.  It's a fun and informative watch for newbies and oldies alike, with a wonderfully subtle way of busting myths about veganism without being preachy in any way.

It isn't just in the media that veganism has breached the mainstream walls of society.  The supermarkets, who had already started to 'walk the walk', have suddenly gone to running full steam ahead in the vegan million dollar race to grab their piece of the action.  The chiller sections are filling up, with whole sections marked vegan or currently Veganuary. There is also a noticeable increase in the frozen sections, recently vacated by Christmas turkeys.  There have been times when it has been difficult to squeeze in for a look and it is quite an interesting place to hang out for a little while to listen to conversations between clearly new vegans or vegan curious customers.  I've even found myself offering advice and sparking up conversations.  Yes, it certainly is a different vegan world when it comes to shopping now.

However, as much as all this is wonderfully encouraging, and indeed I wouldn't want to change this march towards a more vegan world, there is a danger of losing sight of other important considerations.  Shiny new vegan products available at all the supermarkets do I'm sure make the transition to veganism possibly easier and more 'the norm', but we really wouldn't want to hold these up as the mainstay of a good quality vegan diet.  I enjoy trying these products for sure, and yes buying them as an occasional quick dinner, but as an 'oldie' vegan thrown into the earlier less convenient days of vegan shopping, I damn well learnt how to cook from scratch very quickly; as did most vegans of earlier generations, out of necessity.  It would be a real shame if this generation of vegans grew up lacking basic cooking skills (an issue that already exists with some omnivores in our modern society I feel).  Plus, at a time when we are trying to reduce plastics, packaging and food miles, it would be a shame for those vegans concerned with the environment to fully depend on such products.  As I was having this exact thought when exploring ideas for this blogpost, this very subject came up for discussion on the  Cornwall Vegans Facebook group.  We have so many good Cornish vegan producers and providers, we should be looking to support them and reduce our food miles and fancy supermarket packaging as much as we can.

Of course, we embrace the trending of veganism, as long as the trend continues in an upwards direction and ultimately leads to a more positive outcome for animals, people and the environment.  We also embrace the vending, and all the new and exciting vegan products that seem to appear more and more frequently.  However, what we wouldn't embrace is depending on such products and their multinational corporate clutches.  In your heart and in your home is where your journey to veganism should have its main base. Veganism is also about more freedom for yourself and less reliance on others.