Saturday, 31 December 2011

2011 - A Round Up!

It's been a funny old year and has felt like a shorter than usual year as I got ill in April and didn't really start getting back to normal until September and had to put quite a bit of stuff on hold. I've never done a yearly round up before but I wanted to focus on the positive things that 2011 has brought! So, in no particular order.......

We started the Cake Liberation Front at the end of 2010 and it has continued to go from strength to strength with groups springing up in other corners of the world including Adelaide, Australia which I've enjoyed reading about it on Sally Kitten's blog. We even took a stall to a pre-match event at local football club FC United and CLF were also represented at the Manchester Cakes for Japan event. The bi-monthly meet ups continue with the next one on Sunday January 29. If you're interested in starting a group/ holding an event check out our website for posters/ graphics you can use to promote it.

I didn't get any holidays abroad this year but managed a week in London in August, which started with  stepping off a bus literally right into the middle of the riots in Hackney Central! It was a week of hanging out, catching up, visiting museums and galleries and having my first Ms Cupcake cupcakes! Pictured is the amazing Ferrero Rocher flavour. It's great to see places like VX and Ms Cupcake doing so well. Let's make sure we all keep supporting them in 2012.

More locally there were a few weekend trips to The Bear in Todmorden and The Globe in Glossop for yummy and very reasonably priced vegan food.

Also, very excitingly Manchester started it's own weekly Meat Free Monday night at the Lass O Gowrie pub in the city centre. It's run by Martin the Mod, ex of Cafe Pop and also currently at the Thirsty Scholar (lunchtimes). It's brilliant value for £4.50 you get a choice of 3 from 6 dishes with rice from a hot buffet and Lynnmarie from Manchester Vegan Society also sells cakes with funds going to Tameside Animal Sanctuary. Mod and Lynnmarie also organised a great event at the pub earlier in the year combining a Northern Soul and Ska All Dayer with vintage stalls and a vegan bake sale.

In February it was my turn to host the Come Dine With Me evening for work friends. It was a fab night and even got videoed and turned into a little film by Richard which included people rumaging through my wardrobe and trying stuff on in true Come Dine style. I did an Eastern inspired menu including these Rosewater and Pistachio cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World.

I also had a little cocktail party in July which included an alcoholic cupcake bar. Flavours were absinthe and cardamom, margarita and rum and raisin!

My favourite birthday cake to make this year was this carrot cake for Nick, my sister's partner (aka Marzipan Man). It's inspired by this famous one from Cake Wrecks, although I couldn't find any mohawked babies in the UK so they've got more of a Beatles style mop top!

Hopefully 2012 will bring much more cake sharing and opportunities to support both veggie run businesses and also those more mainstream that are making an effort to cater for vegans too. Excitingly in November one of my very best friends became a partner in Bakerie, a new bar/ restaurant with great vegan food and drink options who will also be opening a tasting store in the new year.

Hope you all have a good New Year and wishing everyone all the best for 2012 x

Monday, 19 December 2011

Sticky BBQ Tofu

I adore BBQ tofu. I love the recipe with mushrooms from Get It Ripe and also the one with pomegranate molasses from Vegan With A Vengeance. With this in mind I wasn't expecting too much from this bottle that I picked up for 39p from Home Bargains/ Quality Save.

I have to say though that the ingredients label had no hidden nasties, just the ingredients you'd expect to see when making your own and it made a perfectly respectable and very quick version of this dish. I pre-heated the oven to 220C then cooked chopped onion, red pepper and tofu in olive oil and soy sauce for 15 mins. Then I added the sauce and cooked for another 15 minutes. During the last 10 minutes I did some basmati rice and steamed broccoli. Enough left for lunch too and to get lots of envious looks at work!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Flavoured latte or dirty prosecco?

I'm not usually a fan of flavoured coffee but I do like the odd gingerbread soya latte during the festive season. Having one the other day reminded me of other uses for these syrups. For years my friends Jan and Dave used to have a party on Christmas Eve and I used to be in charge of the Christmas Eve Cocktail. We had some strange and wonderful connoctions during that time. Most memorable were Ginger Imps which were whisky and chilli based and a Christmas Pudding Martini which involved soaking chunks of pud in sambuca and then setting it alight (and almost the table too!) One of the easiest and most popular I remember was just putting a shot of gingerbread coffee syrup into a glass of prosecco.

I got this one from Nigella and googling this to check found that she got the idea from an Italian tradition of adding campari to prosecco for Prosecco Sporco which translates as dirty prosecco. At the moment branches of Costa Coffee are selling sets of 5 x 50ml bottles of syrups for £5.95. They make good Christmas presents or Secret Santa gifts. Flavours are caramel, vanilla, hazelnut, gingerbread and cinnamon and I'm sure lots of fun could be had with them in cocktails as well as coffee.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Manchester Vegan Society

When I decided 5 years ago that I wanted to try being vegan I was pleased through the power of Google to discover that there was a Manchester Vegan Group. They meet the last Saturday of every month at the Thirsty Scholar pub from 1.30pm. I've made some good friends through the group and had some great laughs. Meetings are not formal events, it's basically a bunch of people sitting in the pub having a fry up who are as likely to be talking about music or football as they are about veganism. Non-vegans are always very welcome we just ask that they don't order non vegan food during the meet ups. I've taken non veggie friends along and they've all enjoyed them.

Last Sunday was our Christmas feast. We started with non-prawn cocktails, closely followed by tomato and garlic soup.

Next was a mammoth traditional Christmas dinner. You can't even see the mock turkey it's so hidden beneath the rest.

Finally to finish there was Christmas pud with white or brandy sauce. The pub also labelled all the draught and bottled beers that were vegan as well for us. I was very full but very happy! Has anyone else been out for a vegan Christmas dinner yet?

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Amsterdam Rum Chocolate

A group of my friends and I used to have a thing where we saved £30 a month. When it got to September we'd book cheap flights to a European city for New Year and there'd be money left over for accommodation and some spends. We did this for 10 New Years and had some amazing holidays in Dublin, Barcelona, Paris, Prague, Brussels and Amsterdam, visiting some places more than once. The first time we did this we went to Amsterdam in 1996 when it was one of the coldest winters in years and all the canals froze over. It was magical seeing people skating up and down on them!

It was also blooming cold and we all had to visit C&A and stock up on extra layers and hot water bottles. We stayed in a dodgy hotel in the Red Light district which had ice on the inside of the windows and there was much popping into Brown Cafes during the day to get hot drinks to keep warm. On the second or so day the proprietor recommended chocolate milk that was warmed up and spiked with a shot of rum. This is such a good combination and many more were consumed during the rest of the stay!

I'd forgotten all about this until Provamel send a huge selection of samples of their products to give out at CLF meet ups. Seriously, get hold of some of their small cartons of chocolate soya milk, warm it up and add a shot of good rum. It's as delicious as I remember the Amsterdam ones being!

Friday, 2 December 2011

Adult Only Cornflake Cakes

Tomorrow my friend Sara is holding an open day for her newly formed business Bohemia Holistics. If you live in the Manchester area, check out her website. The day will be a drop in event with taster treatments such as massage, Indian Head massage and reflexology. A few crafty friends are also selling jewellery and my contribution is cakes. Sara recently got diagnosed with coeliac disease and so all contributions from refreshment sales are going to the charity Coeliac UK.

It's been a good exercise to help me to expand the range of vegan and gluten free things I make for bake sales. I've made the Chocolate Chip Banana Bread from Babycakes NYC, the Cake Liberation Front Pirate Bread and Blueberry and Ginger Cormeal Muffins which are based on this recipe from the Urban Vegan. I've also done a more grown up version of that childhood favourite, Chocoalte Cornflake Cakes. These guys are made with Dove's Farm gluten free cornflakes, melted 70% dark chocolate, glace ginger, cranberries and flaked almonds. So, so good!