Thursday, 11 August 2016

Friends, family and a food haul

It's felt like a really busy few weeks with the time flying by! We had a lovely visit from Jojo of Vegan in Brighton blog and her partner, Nick a few weekends ago. We loved having them to stay and it was amazing hearing about their travels and plans for the future. We managed to fit in taking them to the Globe, our town's vegan pub and whilst they were here I also knocked up a 'carb buffet' or as Nick renamed it a 'beige banquet'. As well as burgers there was mac and cheese made using my favourite Oh She Glows recipe that uses roasted butternut squash which is topped with toasted pumpkin seeds.

I also made one of my favourite pizzas. I can take no credit for this as it used to be on the menu at Odder in Manchester a few years back but I would urge you to give it as try. The base is covered with hoisin sauce then topped with sliced par boiled potatoes and slices of red onion. Simple and delicious.

I made some more ice cream this week with my recently purchased Aldi ice cream maker and the 20p cans of coconut milk from last week's Netto closing down sale. I was really pleased with how this came out. I used this recipe for Coconut, Almond, Choc Chip which is based on Ben and Jerry's Coconut, Almond Fudge. I never had the Ben and Jerry's when it was available to make a comparison but this was really good, especially served in Aldi's chocolate dipped waffle cones.

We had my nephew and niece to stay on their first sleepover at our house. It was a lot of fun and I got them to make dessert. They had fun choosing from my cookie cutter collection to make these lemon shortbread biscuits and I introduced them to a tradition I remember from being a kid of using the last bit of dough to make your initial that also acts as a 'tester' biscuit.

We also had a bit of a science lesson and observed what happens to chocolate when it is heated and cooled. It was the first time they had tried honeycomb and they loved it. The honeycomb is a traditional English sweet which doesn't contain honey at all. I picked up a bag for 65p from Home Bargains the other week which was even labelled as suitable for vegans.

Last Saturday Matt and I had a shopping trip to Ashton, home of many great bargain stores. We popped into B and M's, Fultons and our favourite vegetarian Asian Supermarket - ASM. We came away with a great haul and have a well stocked pantry again.

These noodles were labelled as vegetarian and there was nothing I noticed in the ingredients to suggest that they weren't vegan. For 50p they've been a nice snack/ easy lunch.

We can't go to ASM without picking up some Cofresh Cheese and Onion curls. We also found these pressels (39p) and almonds (69p) in B and M's. I love Smokehouse Almonds and am excited to try the Wasabi and Soy flavour which I've never seen before.

The noodles were from Fultons and we stocked up on some bargain teas there too. I am really enjoying the Vital Rooibos and Honeybush which are also organic. All five boxes came to a total of £1. The beige box on the left is some darjeeling from Bellevue Tea Company and is lovely too and a bargain at 39p!

Another thing I was pleased to pick up from B and M's was this Vita Coco coconut oil at £2 less than the usual price. Since reading about how monkeys are used in coconut farming I'm trying to be more aware of which brands are ok and this is a make that I'd spotted on an ok list.

Our big exciting news in our little town is that a new artisan bakery has just opened called Grains Bakehouse. We finished up the last of our Vegan Egg on some of their sourdough and it was wonderful bread.

In even more exciting news this is also about to open! Can't wait to see what the Pie Parlour will be selling. I'll be sure to report back. Have a great weekend everyone.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Weekly baking round up

There's been lots of baking going on in my house this week! After making 100 cakes for the LRM launch last Saturday I did a lot more baking for work. My lovely work colleagues donated money for baked goods and raised another $95 towards Hillary's Go Fund Me to get her rehoused and her cats back. If you've not donated yet and can spare a few quid to help a vegan blogger friend then please, please pop on over to the site and also please share it. She could do with one last boost to get to the target and the money will greatly help with getting her and the animals resettled.

The Golden Vanilla Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World are always a winner and are a recipe that works really well to double up on to make a big batch.

The Chocolate, Orange, Walnut brownies are the same ones that I made when I won the Bake-Off competition at work last year. They are the vegan brownie recipe I've found that tastes most like a non-vegan brownie with a perfectly crunchy top and gooey middle. I had half a bag of walnuts left over from the brownies so I made the Maple, Walnut Cookies from Vegan With A Vengeance. I'd not made these for years and had forgotten how delicious they are and so quick to make too. Perfect if you like a chewy kind of cookie.

I work three days a week and my workplace allowed me to bring in stuff for each of those days last week. On the final day I made muffins. Pictured are my favourite muffins ever - the Mocha, Choc Chip muffins again from Vegan With A Vengeance. It might be one the first vegan cookery books I bought over ten years ago but I still use it loads. A true classic. I also made some Orange and Raisin muffins which were based on an Orange and Cranberry muffin recipe from the much missed Urban Vegan blog.

Heron Foods has had Jus Rol breakfast stuff in a tin a few times recently so we've been enjoying croissant and also these pan au chocolat. I love these and think I improved them even further by adding a bit of maple pecan butter to them before rolling and baking. Yum!

And finally I've been getting back into making stone baked pizza again recently. This is the Cowboy Pizza from Vegan Pizza. The sauce is BBQ instead of tomato and it's then topped with smoked Violife cheese, brocolli and some BBQ soy curls (or in my case I used Soja Schnetzel pieces).

If you read this blog regularly you know I am an avid bargain hunter especially when it comes to food. We had a store open in our town called Netto about a year ago. It was a brand that was around years back which Sainsburys recently bought the name of and opened 12 branches around England. It's along the lines of Aldi and Lidl but with not as much range. It's a bit out of town for us so we hadn't visited too much but we'd got some good things when we had. Sadly Sainsburys have decided to close all the stores. We were passing yesterday on the way back from my hospital appointment and we noticed that they were having an 80% off 'Everything Must Go' sale. There wasn't much left but we picked up a case of tomato pasta sauce (which I'll use for pizza) and a case of coconut milk (which I'll use for icecream making) for 20p per item. I worked out that we will be able to have a treat dinner once a week of pizza and icecream for 3 months for less than a fiver! Champagne lifestyle on a lemonade budget, that's us!

Sunday, 24 July 2016


I've been thinking a lot this week about community and what that means. In these times of political uncertainty when the media is bombarding us with bad news after bad news and the cost of living is shooting up it's easy just to want to become a hermit and not leave the house unless you have too! I have to admit, I've been feeling really affected but a couple of things have happened in the last week that have made me want to fight back against feeling like that.

First of all we went to The Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival. Matt did his new Battle for the Ballot show on the first night and we got to spend a weekend in the sun catching up with lovely friends listening to inspiring music and speeches including a visit from Jeremy Corbyn.

We've also both been involved with an exhibition organised by The Loiterer's Resistance Movement  I love what the LRM manifesto says - 'We can't agree on what psychogeography means but we all like plants growing out of the sides of buildings, looking at things from new angles, radical history, drinking tea and getting lost, having fun and feeling like a tourist in your home town. Gentrification, advertising, surveillance and blandness makes us sad. We believe there is magic in the Mancunian rain. Our city is made for more than shopping. We want to reclaim it for play and revolutionary fun.'

This amazing drawing is from the exhibition and is by artist and animal rights activist Jane Samuels. It is simply stunning and my iPhone photo does not do it justice in any what. There is so much more detail in real life! 

Myself, Lynnmarie from Manchester Vegan Society and some other vegan bakers baked hundreds of cupcakes for the launch party to create the cake map of Manchester. Each cake was topped with a building and people will asked to leave us their stories and connections to these places resulting in a wonderful wall of colourful post its and shared memories and tales.

Matt also has an artwork in the show, a song played on a old tape recorded and an accompanying artwork. We had a really great day ending in an after party with live music that was a lot of fun. Yesterday made me reflect how one small action trying to reach out to meet like minded people has led me to this point in my life. When I first became vegan 10 years ago I did not know any other vegans, not even online. I went along to a Manchester Vegetarian and Vegan Group meeting. I won't lie, I was very nervous about doing this but I am so glad I did. From going to this group and then Manchester Vegan Society meet ups I met Morag the person behind the Loiterer's Resistance Movement. A few years later, through Morag I met my partner Matt.

In these uncertain times, we need to look out for each other. In the last week it's been wonderful to see support from friends and solidarity from the vegan community and vegan blogging network in supporting the Go Fund Me Campaign by my blogger friend Hillary. I blogged about it in more detail here The response has been fantastic and she is almost two thirds there. If you haven't taken a look, please do and if you can make a small donation that would be so much appreciated. She is hoping to be able to start putting out searches for a new place to rent this week. Here is the Go Fund Me page.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

PLEASE READ - Let's Help Hillary and Her Cats

A few years ago I asked friends both online and in real life for help after my friend Jan was badly injured in an accident on holiday in Uganda and an insurance loophole meant that we had to fund raise to pay for a medically assisted flight home. I was so proud when so many people I know stepped up and made it happen. I am asking for help again. Can you spare the price of a coffee, a beer, a bottle of wine? Can you spread the word of this campaign on your blog or social media platform?

Vegan bloggers you may well know Hillary. She often comments under the name Vegan Peace and she writes the blog My Cat Loves Daiya. Hillary lives in Seattle and has had a run of bad luck. She moved to Seattle a year ago but then unfortunately experienced a relationship breakdown and loss of work. She was left with a twelve month lease on an apartment which she lost a week ago. She is homeless and has had to put her family of cats into a shelter. Anyone who has read her blog knows what characters these cats are and how much they mean to her. I'm not going to go into all the details of her background as I don't think that's my place but she has no family back up and no friends in a position to help other than to offer a temporary floor to sleep on at present.

She is a fighter though and she has managed despite being emotionally battered by this situation to get back into work. She is furiously trying to save to get money together to enable her to lease a new place and get her animals back. As the animals are in a shelter, time is of the essence and I know this has been very hard for her to do but she is relying on the kindness of strangers and fellow bloggers.

Please, please, do what you can to help. Here is a link to her Go Fund Me Campaign. Thank you for reading. x

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Bowls, biscuits and bargains

The other week I had the house to myself as Matt was away recording the songs he's written as songwriter in residence at the People's History Museum. He's even been doing a blog about it here. I picked meals that were easy to put together and that I didn't mind eating more than once!

This deceptively simple salad was so tasty. It took minutes to throw together and came from one of my Carol Vorderman Detox books. It's onion, cooked puy lentils, cherry tomatoes, fresh parsley and mint and toasted walnuts with a simple dressing made from red wine vinegar and olive oil. The herbs and the salad leaves were all 'free' from the yard as an added bonus. Also, not pictured I made a millet salad from the Candle Cafe book.

I'd decided to dig out my copy of Candle Cafe and try out some new to me recipes as I always seem to do the same ones from it. Above is a Ginger, Miso Stir Fry I had with basmati rice noodles made by King Soba. I love King Soba noodles and I hadn't seen this type before. I baked the tofu first in some coconut oil and it was super filling.

I picked up these Soja Schnetzel pieces in V Revolution a few weeks ago. I dream of the day when we can get soy curls in the UK and these turned out to be a pretty decent substitute. Like curls you need to rehydrate them for ten minutes first in some stock and then you cook them. I made the Mongolian BBQ recipe from Chloes Kitchen which was great and I've since also tried them in a satay sauce we had lurking in the pantry. The bag cost £3 and I've still got over half of it left after making four meals so it's much better value than Quorn.

I'd spotted this new popcorn flavour on social media and thought it sounded interesting. I found some at the station when I was early for a train and gave it a whirl. To be honest I wasn't blown away. It was nice enough but my heart lies with Ten Acre, now if only I could find their new strawberry flavour and cappuccino flavour anywhere. Has anyone spotted them yet?

These guys however are our new favourite crisp. Whilst the taste was great what made them even more fun was that you could pop one on the end of your finger and then keep adding more and more to have a competition to see who could get the longest witchy looking finger. Or you could just eat them of course.

I'd never heard of The Natural Biscuit Co before but when I saw them in Heron last week on 3 boxes for £1 last week and there were 5 packets in a box they seemed worth a punt. I got one box of each flavour - banana, strawberry and raspberry. They seem to be marketing themselves as a healthier biscuit choice for kids lunch boxes and my niece and nephew certainly gave them the thumbs up as well as Matt and I.

Our local Co-Op supermarket seemed to be clearing a lot of old lines the other week with some good discounts. Sadly it looked like some of the things I buy regularly from there like the Merchant Gourmet and Jamie Oliver ready cooked pouches range might have gone for good. I managed to pick up some cartons of Beetroot juice for 85p reduced from £3 and several packets of Urban Fruit which were well discounted to 70p. I'm a big fan of Urban Fruit and love them for overnight oats recipes.

The garden has been continuing to give us some salad leaves. The frisee lettuce hasn't faired well with the slugs and has pretty much disappeared but the rocket, mizuna and spinach are going strong. At the back of the yard we have a raised bed planted up with some lavender bushes, a mini rhodedendrum and various things from cuttings from Matt's mum's garden. The weather has been so bad we've not had a day where we've been free to weed it when it's not been pouring down so it's got a bit overgrown. We will sort it out but in the meantime we've been enjoying the wild flowers that have popped up. The blue flowers are Love in the Mist from seeds we put down and the yellow poppies are everywhere you look round here. Since I took the picture there's been loads more pink flowers and a different type of yellow flower and it's really nice to look out of the kitchen window and see so much colour.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Kitchen, garden and restaurant news

I've had a bit of a blogging break, a combination of illness, a bereavement and just not having the energy or enthusiasm in the last few weeks. To be honest with what's been going on both personally and in the country in general food blogging has seemed a bit trivial but it's what I do and what I love so I'm back. First of all here's a couple of mini bakes. As there is only two of us in the household I've taken to baking half recipes of baked goods. I'll quite often chuck a couple of things from a bake in the freezer too then there's always something if we fancy a treat. Pictured are the mango and coconut muffins from Vegan Brunch. A friend gave me a bag of dried mango and apart from snacking on it and using it in these muffins I've also been loving it in overnight oats. The brownies are the recipe from Vegan Diner. I didn't realise until we tucked in that I'd accidentally used peppermint instead of almond extract but it turned out to be a good mistake!

I have Jessica Nadel's Greens 24/7 and was pleased to see her new book Superfoods 24/7 when I visited the library last week.

So far I've just made the Golden Turmeric Milk and this Superfood Hot Chocolate which I will definitely be making again. It feels like there's a bit of a backlash against superfoods at the moment. I don't think they are an essential part of a healthy diet but at the same time I love to eat a big variety of foods and am a bit of a fan. I watched a tv programme the other day and the main argument seemed to be cost. Whilst I agree that products can be costly I've also found that it is possible to pick stuff up at a reasonable price if you shop around. For example I get chia seeds for £1.79 a bag from Home Bargains and I've picked up organic raw cacao and gojis for a really good price in Grapetree (used to be Julian Graves) so it is possible to have 'superfood' supplements on a budget. I had everything in for this and it was delicious and felt like a real treat. It's flavoured with maca, cinnamon, chilli, ginger, sea salt and coconut oil.

I won a fun competition on Twitter with Oatly. The prize was some plectrums which Matt has taken, some temporary tattoos which I've given to my niece and nephew and a voucher. You had to come up with puns for songs which reference the product in the title. Our winning effort was 'Night Oat to Cairo' by Madness.

We've not had much bargain shopping recently but Heron did come up with marzipan Ritter Sport for 59p.

They also had this Alpro Fusion last week for 39p or 3 for £1. I wasn't even aware of this product!

We tried the coconut, pineapple and lemongrass flavour. I really liked it on it's own and also in a smoothie. It felt lighter and more grown up than drinking a chocolate milk for example.

We've been meaning to check out Angkorsoul for a while which is in the town of Marple and about 20 minutes drive from us. It's a combined vinyl record shop and a cafe/restaurant selling Cambodian and South East Asian food. We went at lunch time and went with our waitresses recommendation of these deep fried spring rolls filled with avocado and sun dried tomato and served with a sweet chilli dipping sauce.

I've only had deep fried, battered avocado once in a restaurant and I hated it so I was a bit wary and we got these to share. I needn't have worried as they were excellent and have erased all memories of the previous experience!

I was a bit nervous about ordering as I am sensitive to fresh chillis. They are one of the triggers for my cough reflex issue. I was really pleasantly surprised though to discover that most of the food on the menu wasn't hot and spicy and our waitress was able to advise. There are a good amount of clearly labelled vegan options on both the lunch and early evening menus. I needed comfort food that day so I went for a 'bowl' dish. The Sanskrit bowl is made up of brown rice, marinated kale, sweetcorn, carrots and Asian style Black beans with a ginger, peanut sauce.

Matt picked cabbage salad with tofu, noodles, onions, cucumber, mint, carrots, roasted peanuts, crispy shallots and a sweet, tart house dressing. We were really impressed by all the food which was so fresh and full of flavours. The cafe was busy and had a nice atmosphere and we hope to get back there for an evening meal. The cost for a shared starter, two mains and drinks was just under £20.

In other news I've invested in an ice cream maker. They were £15 in Aldi and I figured that seeing as all the icecream/ frozen yoghurt brands I like costs £5-8 it should soon pay for itself. This is my first attempt which was made from Provamel almond milk (I picked this brand as it seems much thicker and creamier than other almond milks and has a higher almond content) and has most of a bar of Maya Gold chocolate in it. My next request is for a cherry and chocolate chunk ice cream so I'm searching around the internet for a good recipe for that.

Do you remember my little garden prize from a few weeks ago? I can report that it is doing pretty well. The chip forks in the soil idea has worked at keeping the neighbourhood cats off it and they are also useful for removing slugs and snails when I go out on 'slug patrol' twice a day. It's three weeks in and we have started to harvest the lettuce leaves and the difference in taste between these fresh leaves and those you get out of a plastic supermarket bag is remarkable!

The beetroots and dwarf beans are a way off yet but seem to be doing ok too. It seems that the constant rain in June has at least been good for the plants!

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Salad Days

Do you remember a few weeks ago when I mentioned that I'd won a garden? Well it arrived last Friday. I got home very late due to a broken down train so I'm afraid I didn't open immediately and unpack as instructed. The instructions said to do this within 24 hours though so I was up at 7am on Saturday morning and on it!

The prize was one of these Window Box Gardens from Rocket Gardens and the plants arrive packed in damp straw.

It was like an exciting lucky dip going through the box and discovering the different layers.

The first task was to lay everything out, identify the plants and give the roots a dunk in a water bath.

The beetroot, dwarf beans and herbs (chives, parsley and basil) have all gone into pots whilst the leafy greens have their own bed.

There's rocket, various types of lettuces, mizuna and spinach. I posted a picture on Facebook and said how I was worried that the local cats might be tempted to use it as a litter tray like they have done on occasion with our raised flower bed. My friend Tams posted back a picture of her solution to the issue which was strategically placed chippy forks. A trip to the Pound Shop later and we had the same effect. I mentioned that I thought it looked like an art installation and I had to laugh when she called it Forks Over Knives'!

Yoga Kitchen finally went back to the library this week after I'd renewed it once. I made a few things before it was returned though. This mushroom ragu served on a baked sweet potato was one of the first things I'd bookmarked and it was really tasty. The mushrooms are cooked in coconut oil and the sauce is made from stock, tomato puree, fresh thyme and a small amount of raw cacao. I will definitely be making this again. The leftovers were great stirred through pasta the next day with some added spinach.

I made it for my sister when she came for a sleepover. Matt was away in Scotland all week and it was lovely to have her company. Dessert was also from the book and was Avocado and Lime Mousse topped with chopped pistachios. This was really easy to make with everything just going in a blender and then left to set for a couple of hours in the fridge.

We enjoyed the dessert with this vegan friendly and Fairtraided Moscato Rose from the Co-Op. It was only around 5% abv and cost £3.49. I don't drink much these days though I do like the odd glass of wine. I also like finding things that are lower in alcohol like this but still taste good!

This last dish from Yoga Kitchen was a masala dahl which took a bit longer to make as you make your own curry paste. It was served on a bed of brown rice and rocket and topped with Coconut Collaborative plain yoghurt and some homegrown alfalfa. I was especially glad to have leftovers of this the night of the train breakdown.

The curry theme continued over the weekend as I made a couple more to welcome Matt back from his week away. These were both from an Indian book I picked up in a charity shop recently that has some good veggie curry recipes in it. It's the first time I've tried any of them and I picked out this mushroom, pea and cashew nut one.

Alongside it was this fried spiced potato dish which was finished with fresh pomegranate seeds and chopped coriander. I'd really like to get some more good vegan curry recipes. Has anyone got the Vegan Richa book? I'm thinking of getting it.

As soon as he got back Matt cracked open the Follow Your Heart vegan egg for this breakfast bagel. We are planning to have it again soon with an attempt at rice paper bacon. That's if I can track the rice paper wrappers down. I tried everywhere in China Town today with no luck.

Finally I got a lovely gift from Scotland. It's lemongrass bath salts and a matching candle and they smell gorgeous. Matt found this company called Purdies of Argyll and all their products are suitable for vegans. Check them out, it all sounds lovely and they do mail order too.