Thursday, 30 October 2014

Vegan Lounging Around

Work took me away from home for two days at the beginning of this week.  My first day was spent visiting Bournemouth University but before I started my meeting I wanted to grab a spot of lunch.  

Research is everything when you are vegan and before I left I checked out Happy Cow to see what was near the campus.  It paid off as I happened upon a small but ever growing chain of restaurant bars called Loungers.  How had we missed out on this chain in the past? Even more shocking is that a few moments ago, when checking out their website before writing this post, I happened to discover there is actually one of them in Truro, a mere 20 minutes drive from us!

So what attracted me to the Loungers chain?  Well let's just say how many non-veggie/vegan restaurants or chains offer a whole vegan menu? Now we aren't talking about a few items hidden away with a little V+ written next to them; we are talking about a whole menu that is very happily presented to you upon asking.....a whole separate menu just for you! Wowzers, how special does that make you feel?!  Get this; they even do vegan wine.  See, there it is in the photo and if you don't believe me, here's a link from their website  - Loungers Vegan Menu.

I had the Panini which was delicious and a rather lovely cup of Lapsang Souchong tea, obviously with soya milk.  I think another visit may be in order, but this time to Truro so I can report on the rest of their menu!  Phil would very much like the chance to sample their wares too next time!

So check them out.  The Truro branch is at 12 Princes Street, Truro, TR1 2ES.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Cowspiracy - A Rave Review

As vegans of 27 years we are aware of the environmental benefits of adopting such a diet; it's one of the many reasons we are vegan.  So we went along to the Cornish Premiere of Cowspiracy more out of interest and also to support the screening.  What we didn't quite expect was to be shocked, better informed and generally blown away by this groundbreaking and brave film.   Even for long term vegans this film is a wake up call.

The facts presented in this film about the environmental impact of animal agriculture are, quite frankly, shocking and a world away from the facts that as a 17 year old new vegan activist I enthusiastically shared with anyone that would listen all those years ago.  The world has moved on and the facts surrounding the livestock industry have moved on too; with even more destructive force.  I felt like the 17 year old me again; shocked, indignant and utterly confused about how such things can happen in the world.  This is a very strange feeling to have given that, unlike the 17 year old me back then,  I have already been vegan for so long.  This film reinforces your decision to be vegan for sure but any smug feeling you might have is dissolved in the sheer stupidity, frustration and cataclysm of the situation.

The environmental facts were shocking enough but the attitude of the environmental organisations featured brought a whole different level of disbelief.  This was at times amusing in the bizarre denial of the fact that animal agriculture is the world's biggest cause of environmental destruction.  It was also shocking both for the lack of knowledge displayed by some organisations, and for others their unwillingness to admit to these facts in public.

A person who follows a vegan diet uses 50% less carbon dioxide, 1/11th oil, 1/13th water, and 1/18th land compared to a meat-eater.

Greenpeace were among the organisations tackled by the film makers and also the most uncooperative, with even the hint of possibility of funding ties with the livestock industry. I've never been a huge supporter of Greenpeace, preferring Sea Shepherds more honest and direct approach to campaigns, but I do have a Cooperative bank credit card that is linked to Greenpeace.  Now may be the time to reassess that decision.  That is what I mean about this film, it makes you question things deeper and deeper.  Another such example is that of the subsidisation of the livestock industry.  The realisation that, without any choice in the matter, it is the hard earned cash of you and I that go towards this, was horrifying; a kick in the teeth basically and a resounding feeling of naivety on my behalf .  How can we extract ourselves from this situation?  

As someone who comes from a film making background, the message aside, I felt this was a really well made film. The on screen graphical facts, the animations, the injection of humour and the choice of interviewees all struck the right balance; the heaviness of the subject matter lightened by this thoughtful approach.  Little moments of subtext had Phil and I glancing knowingly at each other with a wry smile; the only wide shot during an interview being that of the expansive frame of a representative of the livestock industry was one such example.  

It was however the journey that Kip Andersen took whilst making this film that added even more authenticity. He didn't start out as a vegan but as an environmentalist searching for ways to further lessen his impact on the world. His journey of discovery is the real story as it is a road that most environmental organisations seem intent on not giving you directions towards.  In his sharing of this journey publicly he has made his road a very bumpy and precarious one; a road on which other campaigners have lost their lives on whilst speaking out against the impact of animal agriculture; yet another shocking fact revealed in the film.

The show of hands at the end of the screening is the true indication of the importance of this film.  About 10% of the audience said they would make changes to their diet, with the majority of the audience already being vegan or vegetarian.  The biggest difference we can now make as vegans is to support that 10% wholeheartedly.  We would like to extend that support personally to anyone reading this post who is just about to undertake the vegan journey; please feel free to contact us.  That way the legacy of the film will continue for many years to come.

There is so much more we could write about this film; this is just the tip of the iceberg, but it is knowing when to stop.  All we can say is if you haven't already seen Cowspiracy, we urge you, vegan or not, to seek it out, support it and spread the word.  It will literally change your world.  

Thanks go to Cornwall Animal Action and Sam Grady for organising and funding the screening.  It was very much appreciated.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Find Your Own Wave

The other day Phil and I were having an after work inspection of the surf from 'our headland'.  A group of surfers were all congregated in the middle of the beach and were indeed catching the odd wave here and there.  There was one guy further over on his own, also catching the odd wave.  It led me to ask Phil as to why most of the guys were just sitting in the same place when other waves were available?  He told me that the waves at this particular point were probably a bit better but that it could also be a classic case of sheep mentality.  The Internet has even become the modern day wave shepherd, herding the flocks to wherever the surf forecast shows to be the best spot on the day.  Phil will often choose 'his spot' only to find that others will surely follow.

We all know the deal; it's the person that comes and pitches their tent right next to you in an empty field, the person that will park right next to you at an empty beauty spot (often leaving their engine running). It's not that we are unsociable but sometimes you just want your own space; your own spot and you wonder at the ability of some to be able to make their own path and choices in life. Perhaps that is what is wrong with society as a whole these days; most people are just following the path that someone else has set out for them, expected of them and the one that most people seem happy to follow.  Thinking outside the box seems to horrify some people.  Anyone that does is often seen as the weirdo; vegans among them.

So okay maybe my analogy of 'finding your own wave' is a bit strong; after all they could have all been mates or guys that were unfamiliar with the set up at this location.  Maybe.....

I however applaud the guy who set off, away from the herd to find his own wave.  I bet he had more fun waves to himself.  

Thinking about it another way, how many of us vegans would complain if more people did come and 'surf the same wave' as us?  Sometimes that can be a good thing too.  The tide just needs to turn a little more first.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Fracking - It Gets Worse

This just in from Greenpeace - please sign the petition.

We already knew that fracking was a bad idea, but this is astonishing.

Just this week, David Cameron’s plan to allow fracking firms to drill under our homes was rubber-stamped by the House of Lords.
But here's where it gets worse: At the last moment, the draft law was updated to allow fracking firms to pump "any substance" under people's homes and property -- and leave it there! [1]
This makes a mockery of the prime minister’s claim that UK fracking regulations are some of the most stringent in the world. And it absolves fracking firms of any responsibility for clearing up the mess they create.
Our MPs are now the last defence before the laws are approved.
Can you sign the petition asking all MPs to vote against Cameron’s plan?
We know fracking won’t help lower energy bills [2]. We know that shale gas won’t help with the battle against climate change [3]. And we know that the global fracking industry has been mired in accidents and mistakes.
In April 2009, cattle were discovered dead near a drill site in Louisiana. An investigation found fracking fluid had leaked from the well pad and run into an adjacent field. And in July 2013, XTO Energy was forced to shell out $100,000 in compensation after a spill of contaminated wastewater in Pennsylvania [4].
Despite claiming that the UK has tough regulations to prevent disasters like this, the government is now rushing to remove obstacles, muddling through laws that will put the interests of shale drillers before the safety of our environment and our climate.
We don’t have long before MPs will get their final say on Cameron’s plan to allow drilling under our homes. If we can show them how unpopular his idea is, they'll think twice before voting it through.
Please ask your MP to take a stand today:
Thank you
Greenpeace UK

Monday, 20 October 2014

How Wolves Change Rivers

This is an amazing story and shows that nature got it right first time.  It all went wrong when humans interfered with the natural order but somebody thankfully saw sense and restored the natural balance.
As a vegan it is easy to think you are in the minority and get down about that.  Here is proof however that the minority can make all the difference.  I even have a T-shirt from a New Zealand Animal Rights group that says 'if you think you are too small to make a difference, you've never been in a room with a mosquito'!  
So my fellow vegan wolves, keep the spirit alive and know that one day our time will come! One day we won't be the minority but instead will be the normality!  Won't that be nice.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Savoury Sesame Polenta Cakes

Anyone who has read our blog before will know that I am quite a fan of polenta.  I was having a 'I don't know what to cook but I guess I'll just make it up as I go along' cooking session yesterday and created these little savoury polenta cakes.  

After tasting them, I immediately ran and got a pen and paper to scribble down how I'd actually made them so I could recreate them.  I think I've remembered it all right but after looking at the photo (thankfully there were four left to take a photo this morning), I'm wondering what the darker specks are (yes, I had been drinking vino tinto when I made them!). Perhaps I put in some oregano too - who knows!!   Next time I make them I will probably end up 'adapting' it again anyway.  However, for now this is how I created these beauties (I think!).

Savoury Sesame Polenta Cakes
Makes 12

5 cups of stock (I used Tomato and Herb stock cube with 5 cups boiled water)
2 tablespoons soya sauce (I put in a glug which I think was about this amount)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder 
2 tablespoons sesame seeds (again I just poured some in but think it was about this)
1 cup polenta

Mix the stock, soya sauce, oil, chilli powder and sesame seeds in a measuring jug.

Put the polenta in a saucepan and pour in the wet ingredients on a medium heat. Bring to a steady simmer and stir frequently to prevent sticking for about 5 minutes or so, until thickened.  Watch out it will spit at you!

Pour the mixture into greased muffin tin holes and allow to set.

Bake in a moderate oven for 30 minutes until nicely browned.


We enjoyed ours with a tofu steak (recipe to follow but we ate it all so no chance to take a photo!), sliced seitan and salad on the side.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Vegan Ravioli

I've been experimenting with making my own pasta.  Now I wouldn't exactly say that it is 'fasta pasta' than the dried stuff you buy in the shops and by no means would I survive a round of Masterchef with my results. However, it's kind of fun, therapeutic and creatively edible!   

I've never had normal shop bought 'fresh' pasta before as that always has eggs in it so the taste of the home made stuff was completely different to the shop bought dried pasta I was used to. The only comparison really is the vegan Biona ravioli that we've had in the past.  This ravioli inspired me to give it a go and make my own, along with some normal tagliatelle style pasta. 

The recipe I used was 'Vegan Homemade Pasta' from the book Nonna's Italian Kitchen (which by the way is a fabulous vegan book). The abbreviated version of the recipe is below. 

I used pasta flour instead of the white or mix of white and whole wheat flour stated in the recipe, merely because I already had some in the cupboard.  For the filling, I had a rummage in the cupboard and the fridge to see what I could come up with.  I found a couple of baked sweet potatoes left over from the evening before in the fridge and a jar of sun-dried tomato paste in the cupboard. Mashing the sweet potatoes with the paste, and with the addition of a few herbs, I had a suitably interesting filling for the ravioli.  All I had to do is make the pasta.  I don't have a pasta roller/maker so out came the rolling pin (and my muscles) and I just used a cookie cutter for the shapes.  I think the pasta was, with hindsight, a little on the thick side but nothing that a bit more rolling out and patience couldn't have fixed!  It still tasted good!  I even had a crack at a couple of tortellini shapes (see my efforts on the left in the above photo)!

Vegan Homemade Pasta for Ravioli
Makes about 1lb of pasta

1 2/3 cups pasta flour
1/2 cup soya flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2/3 cup water
Bit of soya milk

Mix the flours and salt then add the oil. Pour in the water and mix initially with a fork but then get in there with your hands and bring together into a ball of dough. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until smooth.  Pop it in a plastic bag and bung in the fridge for at least 10 minutes (or until you are ready to use). I made my pasta in the morning but then didn't roll it out and make the ravioli until the evening and it seemed okay.

Roll out the pasta as thin as you possibly can without it tearing (I should have done mine thinner) and then cut with a cookie cutter into shapes.  Put a small amount of the filling of your choice (see my suggestion above) in the middle of half these shapes.  Brush the edges of the shapes with soya milk and take the 'unfilled' halves and place on top, pinching the edges together.  I doubly secured them by then using a fork pushed around the edges.

We cooked the ravioli for about 5 minutes in rolling boiling water and all was well. We served it with Meridian Creamy Sundried Tomato Sauce which is lazy of me but also tasty!

I actually doubled the above recipe so we had some left over which I decided to freeze (pre-cooking) for a later date.


Cowspiracy - Cornwall's Premiere Screening

We wrote about Cowspiracy back in May when the makers were still seeking funding to get this important environmental film completed.  We are delighted that it is now finished and even more delighted that Cornwall's premiere screening is being shown at the very place I work. We immediately booked two tickets.

For your chance to see the environmental film that environmental organisations don't want you to see, go to Eventbrite and search for 'Cowspiracy Cornwall'. The tickets are free to book with a suggested donation of £4 (£2 for students, low income, OAP's) on the door.

Cornwall's Premiere Screening
Friday 24th October 2014 - 7pm

Links to find Penryn Campus and a campus map to find the Exchange building above.
The campus operates a Pay and Display car park. 

The organiser of the screening can be contacted at -

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

St Clether Holy Well Chapel

I must admit we don't venture eastwards that much in Cornwall from our central north coast position.  We should do more though as there are unexplored treasures to discover, particularly so in and around Bodmin Moor.  We found one such example recently at St Clether Holy Well Chapel, after a tip off from our friend Vivienne.

Thought to have been built in the 5th Century this Celtic chapel is a short walk from the main church in St Clether.  We spied deer and birds of prey on our approach through this beautiful little valley.  On arriving you instantly feel that any words you utter may upset the equilibrium of natural ambiance that has peacefully settled in and around the small gated grounds of the chapel.  Surrounding trees are adorned with either bird feeders, with accompanying feathered worshippers, or simple manmade offerings of a pagan nature.  A couple of well placed benches offer a moment to contemplate the peace and take in the atmosphere, one of which is inscribed 'Peace is the sound of heaven on earth'.

The sound of running water is unsurprisingly a dominant feature here.  There are two wells.  The Upper Wellhouse is where the water is collected before it then runs through the chapel, under the granite altar, and then into the lower well in the wall of the chapel before continuing down into the River Inny in the valley below. 

The chapel itself, behind its unlocked door,  is a dark yet unimposing place.  A simple bench along one wall welcomes you to sit and take what experience you wish from this calm place.  Whatever your religious belief system, whether you believe in anything at all; the peace, the bird song, the running water, it can tap into a reflective moment for those who enjoy the wonder of such things.  In this day and age of constant barrage of technology, media and all the associated mind numbing attributes of modernity, it is indeed a special moment to sit amongst such uncontaminated peace. 

Take the time to explore this wonder.  Ongoing maintenance is required for this privately owned chapel so please do think about either donating during your visit or visiting the Well Wishers page on the St Clether Holy Well Chapel website.

The website also has lovely photos of the chapel during the Celtic year which starts on Samhain on 31st October (our modern day Halloween). 

St Clether Holy Well Chapel is situated about 1/3 mile walk from St Clether Parish Church which is signposted from the A395.  Grid reference SX202846.  Long and Lat is 50.37.55 and 04.32.40 respectively.

Fly Agaric

It is mushroom season proper now and time to start kicking around in the leaf litter looking for mushroomy delights. 
Easier said than done though and our trip at the weekend offered no such luck in the way of definite and safe 'shrooms' to dine on. 
That is unless we wanted to take a very different trip to the diner at the end of the psychedelic universe as the only very definitely identified mushroom we found was the definitely identifiable Fly Agaric.  Cue elves and goblins  and all those typical images associated with this mushroom.  It is certainly not one for our dining table but is still a beautiful sight at this time of year and a mushroom with a long and interesting history dating back thousands of years in European folklore.  Read more about it on this Mythology and Folklore of the Fly Agaric blog post.
In the meantime, if you do intend to go out there looking for mushrooms;
1.  Don't eat this one.
2.  Only pick and eat ones you definitely know are safe to do so.  It could be a mistake that could make you very unwell, very high or very dead otherwise!