Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Vegan Dog Biscuits for Vegan Humans

So my friend Jane has a lovely dog called Tilly and I thought I'd make her (Tilly that is not Jane) some vegan biscuits.  

I was really pleased to hear that Tilly loved them and was throwing 'high fives' as a result (thanks for the photos Jane!). Jane being Jane, I knew she would have a nibble herself but she told me not to 'tell' anyone that she had effectively eaten 'dog food' so I thought I'd write a blog post instead (I can't help it; sorry Jane).  If it makes Jane feel any better the recipe is at the bottom so she can make them for Tilly (and herself) and nobody need know about her secret vegan dog biscuit cravings.

In addition, being that I am a good vegan friend, I have made some 'human' biscuits this evening (proof in the photo below) and will be taking them in to work tomorrow for Jane and my other friend Antonia who complained bitterly that I hadn't made any human ones.  Sorry but I couldn't resist using the dog biscuit cutter but the advantage is that the weird non-vegans probably won't be able to get their head around them so will leave more for us vegans (even though they are good old shortbread biscuits)!

All in all, whether you make biscuits for vegan humans or vegan dogs, it goes to show that you can share and share alike!  

Tilly (and Jane) Biscuits

2 cups wholemeal flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup non-dairy milk
Bit of chopped parsley

Mix the dry stuff together then add the wet stuff. Mix and knead together until well incorporated. Roll out on a floured surface until dog biscuit thickness (they don't really rise that much). Cut up appropriately (cutter or knife) and then bake at 200 degrees or so for about 20 minutes until nicely brown. Let cool, listen for the sound of Tilly claws on bare floorboards and serve.


Monday, 23 February 2015

Biggest Waves in the World to Hit Cornwall

"Biggest waves in the world to hit Cornwall tomorrow; http://www.westbriton.co.uk/Biggest-waves-world-hit-Cornwall-tomorrow/story-26068792-detail/story.html"
According to the West Briton newspaper the biggest waves in the world are forecast to hit Cornwall tomorrow (Tuesday February 24).  Surf forecast web site www.stormsurf.com has predicted swell between 34 and 40 feet to batter the coast, which could generate waves of up to 25 feet in Sennen.

According to the website’s forecast, these will be the largest waves recorded on the face of the Earth at that time with usual big wave spots such as Australia, Hawaii and Fiji falling short.  The swell tomorrow will also be accompanied by a larger than average six to seven metre tide on Cornwall’s North coast, rounding off the latest spring ‘supertide’ – which saw the lowest tide in 20 years throughout Cornwall.

Friday, 20 February 2015

A Seagull's View

We love living in Cornwall and particularly so on the north coast.  I saw this little video recently and it reminded me of how very lucky we are.  I've spent ages watching the seagulls swoop and glide over 'our beach', wondering what it must look like from up there and now I know.

It's a wonderful thing when you can look at where you live and think you wouldn't want to be anywhere else. 

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Seitan of the Sea

Those that have read our blog before will know that I have experimented with making my own seitan for some time now.  Most of the recipes you find veer towards the sausage type flavours but this time I wanted to try something completely different.  Inspired by the recent debate about seaweed on the Cornwall Vegans Facebook group I decided to experiment with making a fish substitute seitan.  I also wanted to be brave and, without looking for recipes in any books or on-line, just 'make it up as I went along'.  What could possibly go wrong?!  Well it turns out, to my delight, not much.  Phil has already demanded I make it again very soon.  Luckily, for once, I had actually written down how I had made it so here it is not only to share, but also as a reference for me when I make it again!

* A note about the seaweed I used - We actually had a 70g tin of pre-prepared wakame we had picked up on our travels in Spain so that is what I used.  If you start with 70g of wakame and then soak it yourself you will have a massive amount which will be far in excess of what you need.  You may only need to soak 10g of seaweed to get the desired amount but I would say just use your common sense and add in enough to your taste.  To be honest, next time I think I would go with more seaweed but it definitely had a lovely taste as it was. You don't have to use wakame either; which is kind of a medium tasting seaweed.  You could go with any type you fancy.

Basically what I am saying is experiment!

Scooby's Seitan of the Sea

1 cup vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup soya flour (I think that gram flour would work too)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1 pack (349g) silken tofu (I used a pack of Mori-Nu Firm)
70g wakame seaweed * (read above about this first!)
2 tablespoons rapeseed oil
1 tablespoon soya sauce

In a large bowl mix together the wheat gluten, soya flour, nutritional yeast flakes and dill.

Blend together the tofu, seaweed, oil and soya sauce.

Mix the wet stuff into the dry stuff and give it a good kneading for about 5 minutes until it gets a little 'stringy'.

I then formed this into a flattish sausage shape and wrapped it in greased foil before popping in the oven at about 200 degrees C and baking for 45 minutes to 1 hour (check part way through to see how it looks - if it is browning on the outside it should be good to rock and roll).  I think I might experiment with steaming this too in foil at some point.

Serve immediately as is or allow to cool before storing in the fridge (you could probably freeze it too).  We had some a few days later grilled and it was lush.  


Monday, 16 February 2015

Short Movie by Laura Marling

Every now and then we like to write about music; being that it is as much a part of our life as being vegan.   I've written about Laura Marling in the past as I really love her music so when Phil told me this weekend that he had heard that she had a new album out I was really excited.  It's not out till 23rd March so a bit of a wait yet but I did find a couple of tracks to have a sneak listen to, including the title track 'Short Movie' with its beautiful animation.

It is easy to get carried away talking about music as if everybody else should 'get it' like you do.  I understand that is not always the case and indeed, have been at the other end of someone passionately expressing their love of a piece of music that just sounded like everything else to me. Music is an emotion and everybody has their own way of expressing and understanding emotions; it's all so individual.  

So all I can do is to say that Laura Marling's music is what I call 'music to write to' and indeed when I am writing in a creative way, I normally reach for one of her albums.  I'm not sure I can express it better than that and I know that there are people out there that will 'get that'.  I will also say that for me, Laura's music grew on me; it wasn't love at first listening.  I like it when music does that as it means that each time you listen to it you add a little more to the 'jigsaw'.  I can't wait to get going on the next one.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Homemade Hemp Seed Chocolate

I have made quite a lot of raw chocolate now but had always followed a recipe.  None of the recipes seemed to use coconut oil or coconut butter but I noticed that shop bought ones did sometimes list that on the ingredients.  As substituting some of cacao butter with coconut butter would be less expensive, I thought it was worth a go.  I also thought it was about time I was brave enough to make up my own recipe completely.

So beyond the cacao butter, coconut butter and cacao powder that would be the backbone of the recipe, I had to decide what else to put in it.  Firstly the sweetener.  In previous recipes I had used agave or yacon syrup but had noticed coconut nectar blossom being used in shop bought ones.  I had some coconut sugar so, although not strictly raw, I thought I'd give that a go.  

I thought I would also mix things up a bit and use some carob powder alongside the cacao powder. Carob is up to 8% protein and contains vitamins A, B, B2, B3 and D. It is also high in calcium, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium and contains iron, manganese, barium, copper and nickel. So all in all, carob is good to get in there and does add a little sweet roasted taste as an added advantage.

When it comes to protein you can't get much better than hemp seeds. They contain all of the essential amino acids, which makes them a complete source of protein. If that wasn't enough they also contain perfectly balanced omega oils and essential fatty acids in an easily digestible format. How could you resist that? So in they went. One tablespoon seemed to go a long way and you can see these little superfood seeds just sat below the surface of the chocolate in the photo.

Flavour wise I wanted to keep it simple; after all the coconut sugar, carob and cacao powders are pretty flavoursome anyway. A little bit of vanilla went in but also some maca powder. Maca has a subtle but noticeable taste which has a little vanilla, nutty or even butterscotch flavour. Maca powder comes from a root vegetable that is mainly grown in Peru and is a rich source of the B, C and E vitamins and has abundant levels of zinc, calcium, iron and potassium. It is one of the few vegetables that has all of the essential amino acids so, like hemp seeds, make it a complete protein. It is also said to improve, among other things, energy levels, mood swings, depression, anxiety, stress and menstrual issues. You wouldn't think that chocolate could make you feel even better than it does, so in the maca went as well!

I was 'taking a punt' when I made up this recipe but the proof was in the eating. I did manage to get a couple of squares and very much enjoyed it but then mysteriously the next time I went to have some, it had all disappeared! I guess that must mean Phil likes it huh?

Homemade Hemp Seed Chocolate

2 oz cacao butter
1 oz coconut butter
1 tablespoon coconut sugar
1 tablespoon cacao powder
1 tablespoon shelled hemp seeds
1/2 tablespoon maca powder
1/2 tablespoon carob powder
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or essence

Completely melt the cacao butter and coconut butter in a glass dish over warm water. Once melted stir in the coconut sugar whilst it is still warm to dissolve fully.  Add in the rest of the ingredients and stir until well incorporated.  Pour in to the mould of your choice. I have a chocolate bar mould and the recipe above (more by chance than judgement) made exactly two bars of about 4" x 2.5".  Pop in the fridge or freezer until completely set.  Remove from the mould and store in the fridge or keep cool.  Hide from Phil otherwise by the time you go to get some it will all be gone!

Enjoy and experiment!

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Cornish Winter Sunshine and Waves

Phil got in to the surf early this morning; whilst there was still frost on the ground.  By the time I surfaced from bed the sun was streaming through the kitchen window and I settled in for a couple of hours of culinary experimentation (more about that in posts over the coming days).  

When Phil arrived home I was just about ready to go and enjoy the sunshine and top up on some good Cornish fresh air and vitamin D.  Despite coming home with a silly wet suit tan (the winter sun can still be very strong!), Phil was up for more time in the sun.  

Naturally we headed for the beach and we weren't the only ones.  As we sat on top of the dunes I counted over 70 people on the beach but, at low tide, the sand offers enough space to dissolve any chance of a crowd.

Moving on through the dunes we discovered an interesting little area where there were 'rivers of sand' coursing down in between the scrubby plants.  We couldn't help but cause a little wave ourselves as we watched with fascination the riverlets descending.

We continued around the coast but every now and then, breaking our walk, we just enjoyed sitting (or laying!) in the sunshine listening to the waves below.  As cold as it was first thing this morning, the afternoon made spring seem not that far away after all.


Saturday, 7 February 2015

Mediterranean Aubergine Soup with Cheesy Pitta Wedges

Now here's a winter warmer.  It is from a book I have blogged about before; Nava Atlas's Vegetarian Soups for All Seasons.  Not all the recipes in it are vegan but the majority are and those that aren't can be easily adapted.  It is actually from the Spring section of the book but I think this flavoursome soupy stew packs a punch at any time of the year.  One of the serving suggestions was with Parmesan Pitta Wedges (one of the non vegan recipes in the book) so I took that idea and veganised it myself with what I had in the cupboard and fridge.  It was a lovely combo and definitely one that I will be making again.  In the meantime, I cannot recommend this book highly enough for one pot wonders!

Mediterranean Aubergine Soup (Nava Atlas)
Written in my usual summarised style!

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion chopped
2 cloves garlic minced (I actually only used one due to Phil's dislike of it!)
2 large celery stalks finely diced
5 cups water
2 medium aubergines peeled and cut into 1/2" dice (I didn't peel it though!)
2 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
2 teaspoons Italian Herb Mix (I used just oregano)
1 cup uncooked pasta shapes (smallish ones)
1/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Fry the onion, garlic and celery in the oil until golden.
Add the water, aubergine, tomatoes and herbs and simmer for about 45 minutes or until the aubergine is soft.
Meanwhile cook the pasta and once done, drain it and set aside.
Stir the pasta into the cooked aubergine mix along with the parsley, salt and pepper and allow to cook very gently for another 15 minutes before serving with the pitta wedges on the side.

Cheesy Pitta Wedges

Pitta breads
Nutritional yeast
Any other vegan cheese you fancy!

The measurements are not exact/non existent because a) I really can't remember what they were and b) it's easy to work it out for yourself!

Take pitta breads and cut them into wedges of your preferred size.  I sliced mine and inserted a little slice of vegan cheese inside because I was feeling decadent!  Place the wedges on a baking sheet.

Grind up a handful of cashews in a blender as fine or as chunky as you like.  Mix in a good spoonful or two of nutritional yeast, salt to taste and herbs if you wish. Sprinkle this mixture over the pitta wedges and then drizzle over a little olive oil. Bake at about 200 degrees C for about 10 minutes but do keep an eye on them to make sure they don't get too crispy.


Saturday, 31 January 2015

Gifts from the East

We recently met up with some foodie friends for a meal at Wildebeest, some of whom are from the eastern exotic lands of Plymouth.  Now that might not sound very exotic if you know Plymouth, but these friends came bearing gifts from even further east; namely Thailand.  This was a really lovely surprise, and over the course of the next week we experimented with quite a few dishes based around these ingredients; Thai red chillies, galangal, lemongrass, pea aubergines, and krachai.  Of these, we had never used the pea aubergines or the krachai before, so were quite excited to see what we could come up with. 

A quick internet search gave us some ideas for the kind of dishes that would suit.  For example, krachai is commonly used in stir fries and fish dishes, so searching our stores we found a suitable replacement for the fish in a tin of 'mock abalone' from a Chinese supermarket.  The rest of the ingredients would go perfectly in a coconut curry, so that's what we made.  There were enough chillies to make a few bottles of Thai red chilli sauce as well. On the plate below we have mock abalone and krachai stir fry with noodles, green thai coconut curry with pea aubergines, and brown basmati rice.

In the making of these dishes we managed to learn a few new things, which is always good. Some of these things I (Phil) really should know already; like I learnt again that if you are de-seeding and chopping 25 hot red chillies it is a good idea to wear gloves!  I didn't, and for the next three days I had a weird 'heat sensitivity' in the fingers of my left hand.  So much so that even lukewarm water felt hot and painful to my 'chilli injured' fingers, and I couldn't even hold a mug of tea by the handle, as it felt like the heat from it was burning my hand!  Lesson learnt, again.  We both learnt that pea aubergines have a very bitter taste when you first bite into them, which quickly mellows into a nicer more perfumed taste (not sure we'd be rushing out to buy them though).  We learnt that we really like krachai, which is kind of like ginger, but not.  It went really well with the mock abalone in the stir fry.  Gorgeous!

Krachai and 'Abalone' Stir Fry

For this I fried an onion in some peanut oil until starting to brown.  While this was frying I washed and chopped 3 'fingers' of the krachai finely.  I then broke it down further with a small amount of water in a pestle and mortar.  I chopped one red chilli and a few mushrooms and added them to the onion, stir fried for a minute or so and then added the krachai and 'juice'.  Then came the sliced red pepper and broccoli, and the contents of the tin of mock abalone, plus a dash of good quality (Clearspring) shoyu soya sauce.  I let this simmer down for a few minutes while I cooked some quality quick noodles, and then added them in to the dish, and mixed them in well to pick up all the flavours.

Green Thai Coconut Curry with Pea Aubergines

I started by frying a small onion in coconut oil, and then adding slices of galangal (I used a whole root), 2 finely chopped red chillies, and one stalk of finely sliced lemongrass.  Stir and let cook for a few minutes.  I then added a tablespoon of Nam Jai vegetarian tom yum paste.  This is the best one we have found, containing no MSG or other dodgy ingredients.  After frying this for a minute or so I added some sliced red pepper and a chopped sweet potato.  I can't remember where but I heard once that if you add potato, sweet potato or squash to dishes with coconut milk, the starch from these prevents the coconut milk from curdling.  It seems to work.  This was stirred for a minute, and then I added a tin of coconut milk and a dash of shoyu soya sauce and simmered it for 10 minutes. I then added some chopped broccoli and simmered for a further 5 minutes. This was finished with some coriander leaf.

Brown basmati rice

Really, do you need to know how to cook it?  Okay, it seems that some people struggle with rice (Scooby included for some reason!).  Here's what I do with all the different varieties I cook.  I start by washing/rinsing well in the pan with plenty of water.  At least three rinses. Then it's a simple equation of 1 cup rice to 2 cups water (1 cup of dry rice should be enough for 2 people).  After you have drained the last of the rinse water, add 2 cups of boiling water and a pinch of salt, and bring it up to a rolling boil.  Once it's boiling turn it right down, nearly as low as your cooker will go, and still be 'on'. Cover with a lid.  For white basmati it takes 10-12 mins, 30 mins for brown basmati, and 45 mins for short grain brown rice.  After this cooking time, just have a peek at the bottom of the pan.  It should be dry, with no liquid left. Leave it alone for another 5 minutes with the lid on, and then serve.  If it's not right after that, it's your fault... you did something wrong!