Monday, 22 September 2014

Vegan TV Snacks #2

Ahh.....popcorn; the old but now 're-trending' snack,  if the supermarket shelves are to be believed.  You seem to be able to get any manner of different flavours in the pre-made packed popcorn market these days.  

However, just opening a packet in front of the TV doesn't quite cause as much satisfaction as the pop, pop, pop........pop of making it yourself.  Besides the supermarket stuff seems full of unnecessary and often non-vegan stuff.

Make it yourself and you get all the drama and all the wonders of creating your own flavours.  Here is one idea I tried last night.

Chai Coconut Popcorn

Melt some coconut oil to cover the base of a pan that is big enough to handle your full grown popcorn.  Add in some chai type spices (if you can't find it ready made then experiment with ground cardamon, ground cloves, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, black pepper, etc).  Add in a little sugar if you like (but I held off on that this time).  Then add in your un-popped corn and give it a real good coating before putting the lid back on and waiting for the popping drama.  Give it a good shake from time to time.  Wait for the popping to stop (I dare you to take the lid off before hand!) and there you go; lovely warm and coconut chai spicy popcorn.

I think when I make it next time I will go a bit heavier on the spicing and the coconut and try it with a little sprinkle of sugar.  Experimentation is the way forward!


Sunday, 21 September 2014

Vegan Cheesy Sauce

Ironically after posting yesterday about the Polenta Veggie Bake I fancied making another one today and this time it was with polenta from scratch, but then I had a little more time to stand over the stove stirring it.  This time I again used a courgette, but on top of this added leek and mushroom, sun dried tomatoes and vegan cheesy sauce with a few slices of vegan cheese on top.   

With the above recipe in mind, it had occurred to me that I had never posted about making vegan cheesy sauce.  As with all my cooking, the recipe varies most of the time according to what we have in the cupboard and what taste I'm 'feeling' on that particular day.  What better time therefore to make another cheese sauce and this time write down how I made it!

Below is a photo of the resulting sauce on top of today's polenta bake before it went in the oven.  Today I decided to make it with cashews hence the slightly textured look of it.  This sauce (in it's different guises) has many and varied uses beyond the polenta bake.  I use it with lasagna or pasta in general or on top of bakes spuds just to name a few.

 Hemp Miso

Today's Vegan Cheesy Sauce

1 cup cashews
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon dried shallots or onions
2 teaspoons miso (I like Source Foods Hemp Miso - see photo above)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 cup water

Blend the cashews, nutritional yeast and dried shallots until fine.  Add in the miso and give it a quick whizz before add in the lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce and given it yet another spin.  Finally add the water and give it a major whizz until smooth.


Saturday, 20 September 2014

Sunita Polenta Veggie Bake

Making polenta from scratch really isn't terribly hard at all and so I very rarely buy it ready made.  However, for some reason the other day I felt compelled to buy some and I'm so glad I did as it turned into a really quick, tasty and cheap meal.  The packet of Sunita Organic Polenta I bought even had a recipe on the back which resembled what I had in mind to make that night.  So all I had to do was follow it (with a few adjustments along the way like I do!).  Even easier!

Veggie Polenta Bake

Add a glug of olive oil in the bottom of a baking dish and then slice and lay the polenta in the bottom of the dish covering as much as you can.

Coarsely grate a large courgette (of which we had plenty in the garden!) and spread over the top of the polenta layer.   Add a pinch of salt if you fancy.

Chop onion, peppers, basil and olives and spread evenly over the courgette layer. You could of course put any vegetables you fancy on top according to what you have at hand.  The recipe on the package suggested artichokes but we didn't have any.

Add a good glug of tomato passata or sauce of your choice on top of all of the above. I then used some home made cashew miso cheese sauce we had left over, mixed with a bit of caramelised homous and put this on top of the passata swirling to mix in slightly. It wasn't in the recipe but I just fancied it.  On top of this I then dotted around halved cherry tomatoes and a sprinkle of homemade vegan parmesan (again not in the original recipe but I just can't help myself!).

Back to the original recipe!  Then bung the whole thing in the oven and bake till golden brown and sizzling (I cooked it for about 40 mins on 200 degrees C).

Relax and leave cooking whilst you wander off and do something else.


Friday, 19 September 2014

Real Vegan Cheese?

Real Vegan Cheese
Hmmm, I'm really not sure about this. Biohackers in California are engineering bakers yeast to become 'real vegan cheese'.

It all sounds very scientific.  They are managing to engineer real milk proteins (caseins) in processes using synthetic biology, genetic sequencing and DNA blueprinting. These milk proteins are then combined with water, vegan sugar and oil to make a kind of milk which is then made into vegan cheese in the same way that traditional animal milk cheese is made.

I must admit when I was sent this information by a non vegan friend I thought it was an early April Fools joke.  If you scan through the information on Indiegogo (Crowd Funding site) some of it seems a little kookie (especially the perks offered including the Curd Nerd Jewelry) but no, read between the lines and it seems these guys are serious about this project.

I do applaud their ethos as far as the ethical, environmental and health responsibility to discontinue the use of animals in the manufacture of cheese but I'm just not sure I'm convinced by the laboratory approach to growing food. For me veganism is all of the above reasons and more, including going back to nature as a food source. Sure, I'm far from perfect when it comes to just using unrefined food stuff and I'm sure there may be stuff I eat that perhaps originated somewhere along the line in a lab but I'd rather try and best avoid it if I can.  When it comes to producing food, Mother Nature knows best and I think this concept of 'real vegan cheese' may be a step too far; for me at least.  Besides, what really defines 'real vegan cheese'?  Is it the fact that it comes from an animal at source that makes it real, or can you also get 'real vegan cheese' by fermenting various other plant based sources of protein such as in the book Artisan Vegan Cheese?

That said, I am also a believer in people making their own choices and if this project takes off and provides an alternative that people consume instead of real dairy cheese then who am I to argue against the benefits to the animals at least.

Read all about the project  at Real Vegan Cheese! or watch the video below.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Cheerful Cornish Choughs and Distant Dolphins

For atmospheric purposes - have a listen to this whilst reading! 

With the crowds of tourists pretty much returning up country now is the time to really enjoy the quiet beauty of Cornwall. It is an added bonus that, despite summer being officially over, the summer weather seems to have not realised that and we continue to be blessed with warm, dry weather.  With this in mind we didn't falter in taking advantage and headed off west in Miles the camper van at the end of work on Friday.

We ended up in West Penwith; a mere pasty's throw away from Lands End.  We had two amazing TV free, phone free, internet free, news free evenings nestled in a parking spot in a beautiful valley right next to the beach. Each night, governed by the fading light, we were lulled into sleep with the lapping waves (okay the wine we sampled also helped!).  However, the serenity was just one beautiful part of our Stay-in-Cornwall-Cation. Taking off along the beautiful cliffs and valleys we saw many wonders along the way; dodder (an alien looking parasitic plant growing on the surrounding coconut scented gorse), deliciously flavoured blackberries (many of which we sampled), the ancient beauty of moss and lichen, the majesty of towering cliffs, the momentary sculptured wonder of waves, the mystery of distant lighthouses and so much more that is beyond description if you are fully open to every sense that nature offers.

However, when it comes to wonder nothing competes in my mind with the sight of a rare Cornish bird and the wonder of dolphins. Wonderfully and magically that is exactly what happened within a 10 minute time span of walking along the Cornish coast.  Three Cornish Choughs flew past, in their wonderfully squawky clumsiness, in one direction swiftly followed by a graceful school of dolphins in the other (sorry but no photographic evidence as too far away). The choughs even graced us with their presence the next morning with an alarm call in the very cove we slept in.  How very very wonderful. 

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Garden Zanzibar Curry

Phil hit the kitchen this evening for some of his curry magic.  When it comes to spice boxes, Phil's is extensive and varied but it wasn't just the spicing that caused a culinary stir this evening. It was also the vegetables he used as they all came from our garden; squash, tomatoes, aubergines, French beans, broad beans, courgette and peppers.  What a delight!

Garden Zanzibar Curry

2 tbsp oil
1 onion
2 tsp Seasoned Pioneers Zanzibar Curry Powder
1 medium aubergine
1 medium courgette
1 pepper (red/green)
1 cup French beans
1/2 cup broad beans
2 cups squash (ours was Uchiki Kuri) chopped
1 tin coconut milk
Splash of water
1 cup small tomatoes halved
1/4 cup chopped coriander

Fry the onion until soft then add the spices and fry for a minute.  Add all the rest of the vegetables and saute for a few minutes.  Add the coconut milk and a little splash of water and continue to cook for 20 minutes.  Add the chopped tomatoes and coriander and stir, then let sit for a few minutes before serving.  We served ours on rice with fried shallots and nori seaweed sprinkle on top.


Tuesday, 9 September 2014

A Well Travelled Spider

As we approach late summer and early autumn we also approach what I refer to as 'spider season'; a season that puts me on edge slightly.  Don't get me wrong I love spiders; they're amazing creatures and an essential part of our world.  I am however stupidly nervous of them, or in the case of the ones that scurry across the floor wearing clogs, I turn into a girly squealing mess that requires 'rescuing' by Phil, who has no such problems in scooping them up gently and re-homing them. 

There are exceptions to my inappropriate behaviour; 'kitchen corner of the window' spiders and 'car' spiders (both of which tend to be on the smaller size).  Pretty much ever since we have owned Miles, our camper van, he has held residence to a car spider, whom I have affectionately named Winston.  

Everybody has a car spider, clinging inexplicably to the outside recesses; the wing mirrors being a favourite location.  You become strangely protective and affectionate towards them in their fast moving world of survival.  This is very much the case with me and Winston as he has travelled quite a number of miles with us in the last couple of months.  He has accompanied us on trips to Dartmoor, Totnes, Glastonbury, Salisbury Plain and most recently up to the Lake District.  He clearly makes a good living from his location and it seems to offer him good protection from driving wind and rain (literally!).  To ensure his continued survival we just have to remember to avoid washing that section of the van.

We are rather hoping he survives the winter and joins us on our annual trip to Spain and Portugal in the spring.  In the meantime I am also hoping that the annual influx of large house spiders try and refrain from displaying their presence too often whilst I am around to witness it!  

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Lancaster Brewery

Hats off to Lancaster Brewery, a recent discovery of ours on a trip up north being their excellent Lancaster Black English Stout.  

It is not only a tasty tipple but they have also chosen to make it vegan and display the fact clearly on the bottle.  The same goes for their Amber Bitter, Blonde Beer and Red Bitter.  Of course we only know this of the bottle variety and it may not be so with the cask, as is the case with most ales.  We will write to them to not only thank them for their wonderful bottled beers but also to enquire in regards to their casks.

Just a shame we've never it seen it down our way but then keeping it regional and not being able to get your hands on something all the time often makes it more of a treat.  

It certainly was a very welcome treat after our ascent and rather wobbly legged descent of Helvellyn and Striding Edge up in the Lake District.  Just the job!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Vegan TV Snacks #1

Sometimes you just want something 'snacky'.  You know the moment; it's about 9pm and you're watching crap on TV ('cabbaging') and you just want 'a little something' to fill the small gap in your tummy and your brain.  It's all too easy to reach for crap snacks (as well as the TV remote to try and find something decent to watch).  There are plenty of mainstream crisps on the market that are vegan for sure but with a tiny bit more thought you can prepare a more nutritious (and probably a whole lot more tasty) snack for such moments.

Here is just one example that we've enjoyed recently.  Only one problem; they don't last very long. One episode of Qi and they are gone!

Curried Cashew and Raisin Snack

1 cup of cashews
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3/4 teaspoon mild curry powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 tablespoon soya sauce
1/2 cup raisins

1.  Toast the cashews in a dry frying pan (or if the oven is on bung them in on a baking tray) until lightly browned.

2.  Add the sesame oil to the frying pan followed by the spices and seeds.  Mix until well coated.

3.  Add the soya sauce and again stir to coat well.

4.  Finally add the raisins and stir to coat before taking off the heat.

5.  Cool, enjoy and try not to eat before the end of the programme!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Bean Amazing!

It's been the most amazing year for our climbing beans, especially those that we have planted in last year's grow bags on the pavement outside our garden gate.  There are so many still growing after we picked this bunch that it wouldn't matter if anyone did poach some here and there.  So our attempts at 'greening up' the grey public pavement outside our gate have rewarded us well and looks like it will continue to reward us for some time yet.  This big handful is destined for the freezer for us to enjoy our homegrown produce beyond the growing season.