Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Vegan MoFo - Final Day!

Wow. I can't believe I'm already writing the last MoFo post of the year already. It's been a fun month! I now remember how difficult it is to find the time to post something every day - I must have blocked it out after last year. It has been good though, and I'm a little sad to see it end. (Although I am looking forward to getting my evenings back!)

My favourite blogs this year have been Hasta La Vegan (some crazy recipe choices to veganize) and vegan.in.brighton (making me hungry with every post). Both have been a pleasure to read. I hope you have all enjoyed the month too! Which have been your top blogs?


And now as we say goodbye to MoFo for another year, I'm going to post a recipe that is looking forward. Dare I use the big C word? That's right... this recipe might come in handy for CHRISTMAS!

Now I must admit, it's been ages since I've had marzipan. So I'm not sure how authentic the taste/texture of this recipe is - and Mr Hatter doesn't like the stuff so he wouldn't even try a tiny piece! But I can tell you that it tastes fantastic and you should make it right now.

Marzipan is usually made with egg whites - it seems that this weekend has been a whole weekend of replacing eggs in egg-based recipes! Maybe that should be next year's theme... although I think that might drive me crazy...

Marzipan

250g ground almonds
250g icing sugar
80g Sweet Freedom
zest of half a lemon
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp rose water
2 1/2 tsp water

1. Combine the almonds and icing sugar in a bowl, and mix together.

2. Drizzle in the Sweet Freedom, lemon zest and extracts. and stir. The mixture should start to clump together.

3. Add water 1/2 tsp at a time and mix until a dough forms - you may need more or less than the amount stated, so just add a little at a time as once it's in there you can't take it back! Knead lightly until a soft dough forms but try not to overwork it.

4. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate overnight.

5, Remove from the fridge and use - you could shape it and dip into melted chocolate (which I did), use it to cover a cake, or just eat it as it is!




Monday, 29 September 2014

Meringue Mix Adventures

Whilst experimenting with the many many meringues that have come through my kitchen this weekend, I ended up with the jar of white goopy stuff pictured below.


Halfway through one batch of meringues, I decided that I was only going to cook half the mixture to see if having two trays in the oven affected the way they cooked. (It affected it marginally but not enough to worry about cooking two trays at once.) But that meant I was left with half a batch of meringue mix with no home.

After getting it all of my hands and tasting it (because why wouldn't I? There's no egg!), it turned out it tasted quite a lot like marshmallows! According to Mr Hatter, it tastes like vegan marshmallows - not "real" ones. Anyway, I added a bit more icing sugar and a little cornflour to thicken it up and scooped it into a jar. It's yummy! The plan is to try come back to the recipe at some point and try to make a version of marshmallow fluff. This stuff tasted great but the texture is very goopy - I want something light and spreadable for an oh-so-unhealthy spread for toast. Mmmmm...

Sunday, 28 September 2014

The MoFo Meringue Saga

At the beginning of Vegan MoFo, I asked if anyone had any requests. One request came from Hasta La Vegan - vegan meringue.

I tried to make meringues when I first turned vegan, using the recipe from the back of an egg-replacer packet. They came out very flat, with the taste and texture of cardboard. I'm not really surprised - meringue is comprised mainly of egg whites, so I wasn't really expecting to be able to recreate it.

So when I got a request for meringues, there was an inward groan of this-isn't-possible, mixed with a spike of excitement for a new challenge. And it has definitely been a challenge.

I use flax as an egg-replacer a lot of the time in my baking, and I've read that you can use chia seeds as a replacement too. I had both of these in the cupboard so did a little test using ground flax seeds in one bowl and chia seeds in the other. Nope. Next.

This time, I did a bit of research and found that you can apparently make a good soft meringue by cooking up some flax seeds in water and straining off the goop, which you can then whip up into meringue. Everyone in the comments on this post where I found the recipe raves about it. I tried three times and couldn't get it to whip up at all, despite standing there for 15+ minutes with my hand beaters. The best I got was this bowl of glue-like stuff which looks very suspicious:


Next.

After a bit more research, I found that a few people had had success using soya protein in their meringue mixes. I had initially avoided these recipes due to the cost of soya protein and the fact that I wanted something a bit more "natural" to make my meringues with. After my failures I really wanted a win, so I went out and bought a bag of Pulsin' Soya Protein, which states that it is suitable for vegans. Be careful when buying it though as some brands add things like whey to their soya protein.


Using the recipes at Lucy's Friendly Foods and veganbaking.net as inspiration, I set about trying to create some meringues. Check out the veganbaking.net link for an explanation into the hows and whys of meringues - it was a really intereating read.

My initial recipe created a very white mixture which produced meringues with a good, crisp shell - but they had a very strange taste, which I think was due to the cornflour I added.


I decided just to follow one of the recipes completely and see where that got me. The one at Lucy's Friendly Foods used more cupboard-friendly ingredients, so I gave that a go and got a few nice crispy meringues. However, not all the based crisped up properly and I ended up with a few hollow meringues. Plus, I wanted to put my own spin on it. But this mini-success had given me the hope I needed to carry on.

The recipe I ended up with creates some great-tasting meringues, which Mr Hatter agreed were very similar to egg-based meringues - YAY!!!! They are a bit more fragile than the meringues I was used to as a child, and you can see that they have more air bubbles near the surface than they probably should, but they have the crispy shell and the gooey centre and that's good enough for me! (At least until I have time to properly play with the recipe again.)




I'm going to give you the recipe as it currently is, as I really wanted to be able to give you this as part of my MoFo but I will be playing around with it to try to get a sturdier meringue. I'm thinking adding cream of tartar is going to be a good place to start, but we're both a bit meringued-out after all the experiments this week, so it might be a little while before I try again!

Anyway, here you go...

Vegan Meringues

100ml water
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp + 1 tsp soya protein (separated)
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
100g icing sugar

1. Pre-heat the oven to 120C.

2. On low speed, beat together the water, vinegar, vanilla extract and 2 tbsp soya protein for 2 minutes until fluffy:


3. Add 1/4 tsp xanthan gum and beat on high speed for 2 minutes.

4. Add 1 tsp soya protein and beat on high for 3-4 minutes until you get peaks in the mixture. This will be more like the soft peak stage of traditional meringue making - you won't get the stiff peaks you do with egg whites:


5. Add the icing sugar in two batches and beat until combined - this should only take about 20 seconds per addition. Try not to overmix.

6. Spoon or pipe onto baking trays lined with parchment paper. (I got two trays of meringues from this recipe.) Please note that this mixture is not stiff enough for the piped mixture to hold its shape - this is something I will be working on in my amendments to the recipe. Also - the smaller ones work the best, so I would recommend making lots of little meringues instead of a few big ones. If you are wanting to make big meringues you will need to increase the baking time.


7. Bake for 30 min at 120C on a low oven shelf, then reduce the temperature to 100C for a further hour. When cooked, the meringues should look crispy and the bottoms should be solid. I removed these from the oven straight away and cooled  them on a cooling rack, however I would be intrigued to see whether they were a bit firmer if left in the oven while it cools down, as with traditional meringues. I just didn't have time to try this this week.




Feel free to play with the recipe and let me know if you find any good changes! The world needs more vegan meringue!

Saturday, 27 September 2014

A Little Teaser...

I have a very short blog post today, which is just a teaser of something to expect on the blog soon.

This was a random accident while working on a recipe that I will hopefully be able to share with you tomorrow. I'll then also share more details about this teaser too. I don't want to give too much away in case it spoils the surprise!

The contents of this jar taste like oopy-goopy liquid marshmallows... yum!

Can you guess what I've been making? (It's not marshmallows...)


Friday, 26 September 2014

"Cheesy" Broccoli-Stuffed Harlequin Squash

When I went to Lidl the other day, this little beauty was staring at me from the "seasonal squash" basket. It was so pretty and only £1 - I couldn't resist! I did a bit of Googling and it turns out that this is a Harlequin squash. I decided I was going to stuff it, as it was such a cute shape and would be the perfect serving size for two once cut in half and stuffed.


Originally, I wanted to stuff it with vegan mac 'n' cheese. There has been so much mac 'n' cheese love around during this year's MoFo, and I wanted in on the action. However, there was nowhere that I pass on the way home that would sell macaroni. So instead I opted for a "cheesy" broccoli stuffing as we had all the ingredients in already - like cauliflower cheese but with broccoli instead.

This was pretty easy to throw together, and tasted great. Obviously not as good as it would have been with mac 'n' cheese but I'd say this was a pretty good substitute.

"Cheesy" Broccoli-Stuffed Harlequin Squash

1 Harlequin squash (you can use a different squash but you may have to adjust your cooking time)
1 small head of broccoli
1/2 pint soya milk
2 tbsp plain flour
4 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp dijon mustard
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
liquid aminos spray or 1/8 tsp soy sauce
seasoning

1. Preheat the oven to 200C and make two foil boats (see photo below). This will make it easier to clean up if any of the filling spills out during cooking.


2. Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds (reserving them for later) and place in the foil boats. Set aside while the oven heats up.

3. Chop the broccoli into bite-sized florets. Blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes until bright green. Drain and rinse in cold water.

4. Once the oven has heated to the correct temperature, pop the squash halves on a baking tray and put in the oven for 15 min. Prepare the filling while the squash cooks.

5. In a small saucepan, whisk together the soya milk, flour and nutritional yeast. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly with a wire whisk, then reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture begins to thicken. Stir in the mustard, lemon juice, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. Continue to cook over a low heat until all the ingredients have combined and the mixture looks nice and thick. Stir in the broccoli.

6. Make another foil boat for your squash seeds. Get rid of any remaining squash flesh and spread the seeds out on the foil in a single layer.

7. By now your 15 minutes cooking time for the squash should be up. Carefully spoon the broccoli mixture into the holes in the squash. You can let the mixture spill out onto the top of the squash as well but be careful not to overfill it too much or all your filling will end up on the baking tray!

8. Put the stuffed squash back into the oven, along with the seeds, and cook for another 20 minutes - or until the squash feels tender when pressed and the filling has started to brown.

9. Remove the squash and the seeds from the oven. Mix the seeds with a couple of sprays of liquid aminos (or a tiny amount of soya sauce) and seasoning of your choice (I used Nando's chip salt). Dish up your squash and sprinkle with the cooked seeds - they should be crunchy.

We had our stuffed squash surrounded by a bed of roast potatoes but it would also be great alongside a salad or some crisp stir-fried vegetables. (You can see the fork mark on the squash where I tested for done-ness...)




In other news, one of our cats (the biggest) has been testing new beds:

Bed no. 1

Bed no. 2

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Liebster Award and Random Mofo

Kate over at Odd Little Vegan popped up on my comments the other day and nominated me for the "Liebster Award" - Thanks Kate!


I've scouted the web for some information on this, and it seems that there are many and varied mutations from the original, including rule changes etc, so I'm just going to stick with the rules that Kate has posted up on her blog. It's basically a chain-blog which allows you to get to know your fellow bloggers a bit better, and meet new bloggers. I think the original idea was the help introduce new bloggers to the world of blogging. So, in honour of Vegan MoFo, I'm going to use Random MoFo to find new blogs to nominate.

The rules are...

1. Answer the questions given and then come up with 10 new ones to ask your nominees.

2. Nominate 8 other blogs, let them know you have nominated them and put a link to their blog in your post.

3. No tag backs.

4. Nominees must have under 200 followers on any platform.

5. You must tell all the blogs that you nominate that you have nominated them.

My questions from Kate:

1. Are you a morning person?
Yep, I'm a morning person - I'm generally up before 7 even at the weekends. But I'm also a night-time person. I don't sleep much! It's kinda good sometimes but can also be really frustrating when all you want is to catch up on some sleep...

2. What's your favourite way to relax?
At the moment, it's probably playing games. I like to play World of Warcraft when I have the money (and the time), but at the moment I'm playing a lot of Hearthstone which is a free online card game provided by Blizzard (who also produce WoW). I also have games on my phone which I play on the train when I can't be bothered (read: am too tired... see above point) to read my book. And I love getting together with other people and playing games - whether they are board games, card games, or RPGs. I know it's not the most relaxing way to relax but I don't really do "doing nothing". Like even when we're watching a DVD I'm generally doing something else at the same time. For example, right now I'm playing Hearthstone in the background as I write this blog. Did someone say relax??

3. Are you a tea drinker, or a coffee drinker?
I don't drink tea or coffee! I've never liked either of them. I do sometimes wish I liked coffee but I just can't get over the taste. My drink of choice is straight up tap water. I am known to have a glass of almond milk when we have it in the fridge, or a Starbucks hot chocolate every now and then. (Yes, yes I know big corporate companies are evil but at least they do vegan options!) Oh and there's the occasional Relentless-fuelled day when I need to wake up and/or get things done.

4. Who is your all-time favourite fictional character (book, TV, or movie)?
Jeez, this is a hard one. I don't really do favourites and I have that many books, movies and TV shows that I love I'm not sure I could pick 10 favourite characters, let alone one! Nope, really can't think of an answer for this one.

5. What's the last thing you do before you go to sleep at night?
The very last thing I do before I go to sleep is snuggle up to my husband and hope it's not going to take me hours to get to sleep (again, see question 1). The last thing before I turn the light out though is usually checking Facebook or playing on my phone, no matter how many times I tell myself I should read before bed rather than playing on my phone.

6. What was the first concert you ever went to?
My first proper "concert" (I mean a big one rather than just a gig) was Muse when I was about 15/16. I've been going to folk gigs since I was tiny though, as my mum is a folk musician so we were always going to gigs, festivals, etc.

7. What's your least favourite word in the English language?
Favourites again... Hmmmmm... Nothing springs to mind. I suppose the obvious derogatory slurs are pretty awful words due to the context they were used in. But as for disliking a particular word... words are just words and it is all down to how you use them and perceive them. I like language, and I like interesting words. I can't think of anything I have a particular dislike for though.

8. If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
The middle of nowhere with a superfast broadband connection. Of course, we would have to be able to not go to work (or be able to work from home... the dream...), so this is once we've retired from the super-highly-paid-jobs we're obviously destined to get / won the lottery / embraced a life of crime.

9. Hypothetical: you're stuck on a deserted island - which 5 movies and/or TV box-sets do you bring?
In no particular order:
The Nightmare Before Christmas
The Studio Ghibli Collection (box set)
Invader Zim (box set)
The Matrix (box set)
Hannibal (the complete TV box set once they finish all the seasons...)

10. What's something that you're excited about or looking forward to right now?
Right now I have a lot to be excited about. There are quite a few gigs that we have planned in the months leading up to Christmas, as well as a trip to see War Of The Worlds. Baking-wise, I recently booked a table at The Great Yorkshire Vegan Festival which is happening in Leeds in June, so that's pretty exciting!

The 8 blogs that I nominate (a combination of blogs I already follow and blogs I've found through Random MoFo!) are:
vegan.in.brighton
Hasta La Vegan
Vegan Eats And Treats
Kale Crusaders
Soy Division
My Darling Vegan
Vegan Insanity
Self Sufficient Cafe

And the 10 questions I pose to those bloggers:
1. What made you decide to take part in Vegan MoFo?
2. What is the weirdest vegan meal you've been served?
3. If you could visit any country in the world, where would you go and why?
4. What did you want to be when you were a child?
5. What are you now?
6. Do you have any animal friends at your house? Tell me about them!
7. What has been your favourite album of the year so far?
8. Which festive season (if any) do you look forward to the most?
9. Can you recommend a good book?
10. Tell me a secret? (Or a random fact if you don't want to share your secrets!)

If you don't want to join in, that's fine - it just seems like a nice way to get to know each other. Also, if I've nominated you and you have a ton of followers, please don't be offended. I know this is intended for new/small blogs but I've sort of ignored that as I wanted to include some of the people I already follow as well as discovering some new blogs... I hope no one minds!

Wow this blog took a long time to put together. I hope you enjoyed it!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Strawberry Kisses Overnight Oats

Okay, so there are no kisses in these oats - but there should be! (Or I just wanted a more interesting name than "Strawberry Overnight Oats"...)

I know I've posted a few overnight oats recipes during this year's Vegan MoFo but that's because they are just so great for breakfasts. We have three rescued cats, and in the morning it is my job to monitor breakfast time, clean out our multitude of litter boxes, and other such wonderful tasks - especially at the moment, as our smallest has decided that the doormat is her favourite litter box. Joy. Anyway, as I have to do all this before I even think about getting myself ready for work - which means having a breakfast that I can just grab out of the fridge and eat straight away is fantastic. Mr Hatter has even been known to take his to work when he gets up late.

Shinji, Rei, Asuka - bonus points if you can guess where the names came from!
I think this is the first overnight oats recipe I've posted without chia seeds, but they have a tendency to clump  together sometimes and I get fed up of picking out the lumps of seeds. Also, I don't think this one really needs them.


Strawberry Kisses Overnight Oats

1/3 cup oats
1 tbsp coconut sugar
2/3 cup non-dairy milk
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/3 - 1/2 cup sliced strawberries

1. Put the oats and coconut sugar into your jar and give it a little shake.

2. Add the non-dairy milk and vanilla. Screw the lid on and give it a good firm shake to get everything mixed up together.

3. Unscrew the lid and top up with strawberries until nearly full - you can see from the photo above how full I filled my jar.

4. Screw the lid back on and give a gentle shake if you like. I gave mine a little shake to distribute the strawberries evenly, but you could just leave them sitting on the top to sink overnight if you prefer.

5. Pop in the fridge overnight, and enjoy in the morning!


Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Tempeh Taco Salad Bowl (Salad Samurai)

New recipe of the week time!

Today I made the Tempeh Taco Salad Bowl from Terry Hope Romero's book Salad Samurai. This salad was immense. It was a huge salad topped with warm tempeh, encase in a crispy bowl made out of a tortilla. Immense, no?

I know the photo is a bit lousy. I'm sorry. I just wanted to eat it soooo much...
I enjoy tempeh but we don't have it very often as Mr Hatter isn't really a fan. However, he said he liked this one! This book is definitely a huge win for us.

Quick cooking times? Check
Healthy meals? Check
More importantly... Tasty meals? CHECK!

I'm so glad I bought this book and can't recommend it enough to anyone who like a huge plate of hearty salad.

And you know what else? That huge blob of dressing was made with avocado. And I ate it all - and liked it! I've decided it's the texture of avocado rather than the taste that I have a problem with...

Monday, 22 September 2014

The Vegan Kind - Box 11

Following on from my post the other day, it's finally time for me to show you what was in this month's box from The Vegan Kind!


It was another cracking box, with a lot of things I haven't tried before:

Ombar Organic Coco Mylk Bar
Hoots Snacks Pickled Onion Flavour
Bear Paws (Assorted Flavours)
Taste Spice Magic BBQ Dust
Skin Likes Natural Deodorant
Creative Nature Blissful Berry Snack Bar
Nothing But Fruit Strawberry and Banana

The only thing I had actually tried before was the Ombar, and that was just as a sample at last year's VegFest. I had also previously tried different flavours of the Creative Nature bars and the Nothing But snacks, but not these specific ones.

Ombar Organic Coco Mylk Bar


As I said, I had previously sampled Ombar but it was nearly a year ago now (gosh that has flown by!). Ombar use raw, organic cacao from Ecuador and sustainably sourced coconut palm sugar from Java. It is also made using coconut milk, which gives it a lovely smooth consistency very similar to milk chocolate made with dairy. I'm usually not a big fan of vegan "milk" chocolate, as I find it can taste quite artificial and not really like chocolate. However, this stuff is AMAZING! I must not have been paying attention when I tried it last year, as this has quickly catapulted up my list of good vegan chocolate. I will definitely be eating more of this. (And by the way, you get one more square than is shown in the photo... I was impatient.)

Hoots Snacks Pickled Onion Flavour


These multigrain snacks remind me of the boxes of "french toast" or "melba toast" that I used to get when I was younger but much, much tastier. They have that lovely crunchy toasty texture and the flavour is just how I remember Monster Munch to taste (although it's been a while since I had any Monster Munch so don't quote me on that...). I will be keeping my eye out for these, as they would be a fantastic healthier stand in when I have a craving for crisps.

Bear Paws (Assorted Flavours)


As you can see, I got the raspberry and blueberry flavoured paws, and they were lovely. They are made from pure fruit and although I was a bit wary of what the texture would be like, they were actually very nice. Apparently you can find them in the baby and toddler aisle of the supermarket but you can definitely enjoy them as an adult as well!

Taste Spice Magic BBQ Dust

This spice pot smells amazing and added some lovely flavour to my scrambled tofu this evening! I think it would be brilliant paired with a nice hearty piece of seitan to be thrown on the BBQ.

Skin Likes Natural Deodorant

This deodorant uses a blend of plant-based oils, with no synthetic ingredients. It has a pleasant smell, was kind to my armpits, and kept odour at bay - so it seems to be a winner all around!

Creative Nature Blissful Berry Snack Bar

I haven't eaten my snack bar yet as I forgot to take it to work today, but I imagine it will be tasty as Creative Nature generally is. This bar is naturally sweet, with no added sugars or preservatives. It is also wheat, GMO and dairy free.

Nothing But Fruit Strawberry and Banana

Now... The info sheet states Strawberry and Banana but I actually received Pineapple and Grape - which is probably better as I'm not a fan of banana in dried form. It is all-natural, as it is literally just freeze-dried fruit! I'm not sure how I feel about freeze-dried fruit and veg, as it has a texture I don't really get on with. Rather than open the packet and decide I don't like it, I'm going to wait and put it in some granola or maybe see if I can bake it into something.


The charity of the month is Serbia's Forgotten Paws, who aim to improve the welfare of cats and dogs in Serbia. 10p from each box sold will be donated to the charity by The Vegan Kind.


This month's recipe card features "The Vegan Kind's Fajita Mix with Homemade Sides" and looks yummy. Mr Hatter usually handles the fajitas in our house, but I think next time I will be trying to make my own sour cream and guacamole (still trying to conquer my avocado aversion).


If you like what you've seen, you can subscribe to your own monthly box here for a cost of £10 per month plus shipping.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

New Recipe Test - Lemon Bars

So, as part of me trying to use my cookbooks more, I tried a whopping one new recipe this week! Woo!

We had Mr Hatter's grandma over for dinner last night, so I thought I would try a new dessert recipe to give to her. Enter my favourite recipe book for entertaining - Veganomicon. I've looked at the lemon bars recipe before but as I've never had one, I didn't know what they were supposed to be like and have previously avoided it. But not this week!

The recipe seemed pretty simple, and the execution wasn't too hard. My tin was slightly bigger than the one specified in the recipe though, so they came out a little flatter than I think they are supposed to be. They were still very tasty though!

The texture was strange - a bit like a very firm jelly. They were lovely and lemony though, and when we fed some of the leftovers to Mother-in-law Hatter today, she said that it reminded her of lemon meringue pie. Which again is something I've never had but there we go!


Saturday, 20 September 2014

Wharf Chambers Beer Festival

Last night, Mr Hatter and I visited Wharf Chambers in Leeds to try out their all-vegan beer festival. It was open to all (whereas you usually have to be a member to go), and was £4 entry which included a souvenir glass and free half pint of your choice. What a bargain! The drinks were paid for on a ticketing basis, with a ticket getting you one half-pint, at a cost of £1.50.

"Wharf Chambers is a member's club run by a workers' co-operative. This means the members get a say in how it is run, the staff have equal say and it is not tied into any large pub chain or brewery. Since opening, it has become a leading light for the alternative scene in Leeds, hosting many unique nights and specialist events."

This is me with one of my ciders, just so you can see how truly dinky the free glasses were. I love them!


I'm not a beer drinker but The Real Cider Company were representing us apple-lovers with a selection of ciders that I wanted to try.

(I'm going to apologise now for the quality of some of the photos in this article - the lighting was funny, and getting a decent picture was tough depending on where we were sitting!)

The first cider I tried was called Fanny's Bramble, from Sandfords Orchard in Devon - "4.0%, a fine apple and blackberry cider; sweet." I had picked this out from the list on the website before we arrived as one I definitely wanted to try and I was not disappointed. I love fruity ciders but it seems to hard to determine whether or not they are vegan these days. This one was lovely and fruity, and I would definitely choose it again. You can't really see the colour in this pretty candle-light but it was a very nice shade!


Next on my list was a perry called Oliver's Perry, from Olivers in Hertfordshire - "6.5%, medium dry perry - rich feel but easy to quaff; made with pears in it." This was definitely easy to quaff! Nice and light, I would choose this again as it was another loverly cider! You can see it pictured here with some food, which I will speak about later...


Next I tried Fusion from Pure North in Yorkshire - "6.5%, a blend of medium & dry ciders for a distinctive, clean, crisp cider with a deep apple flavour." I enjoyed the first few sips of this one but then decided I didn't really like it after all. I think the taste was a bit too full-on and bitter for me, but I'm not sure if that's because this was the first drink we had after our food. Here's a blurry photo of our dinky glasses, with one of Mr Hatter's beers behind mine.


Last up was Janet's Jungle Juice from Westcrofts in Somerset - "6.0%, said to be an ideal choice for those just starting to understand what ciders can be; rounded & fruity". This one was okay but not one of my favourites. I think that because I adored the first two I had, the last two just really couldn't live up to them unfortunately. Here you can actually see the design on the free glass...


Onto the food...

The posters advertised that hot food would be available on both the Friday and Saturday, and I saw mention of burgers and hot dogs online, so we were looking forward to a yummy vegan tea and went straight there after work. However, the girl behind the bar just looked at me blankly when I asked about hot food and said that they were only doing burgers on the Saturday and they just had some snacks for the Friday:


We were really looking for something substantial so we each ordered the "4 for £4" deal, not really knowing what to expect. We got a lot for our £4! I must admit though, I'm not entirely sure which piece was which. The bread pakora is that huge triangle and was basically a deep-fried spicy sandwich. I didn't really understand it and ended up giving half to Mr Hatter as it just did not compute. The samosa was obvious, and had very tasty pastry. As for the veg cutlet and aloo tikki, I'm really not sure which was which. At a guess I would say that the large pale round snack was the aloo tikki but I don't really know. It seemed like a lot of the fillings were very similar, and I was a little disappointed with the range of flavours. Also, the snacks were sort of lukewarm rather than hot as advertised. I imagine if we had ordered much later, they would have already been cold. They were also rather greasy. Maybe I'm just being picky because I was already disgruntled about not getting a burger/hot dog and having no other real choice in what I ate, but I wasn't overly thrilled by my dinner.


All in all though, it was a great evening and if they decide to do another all-vegan beer festival next year I will come back and sample the cider - but maybe I'll eat before I come next time.

Friday, 19 September 2014

2014 - Year Of The Vegan Box

I've said it before and I'll say it again - 2014 is a good year to be vegan. There seem to be lots of new products on the market; veganism seems to be gaining more recognition and understanding; it's so much easier to get hold of vegan food now; even a lot of restaurants are understanding the concept of veganism - and that it doesn't just mean you want a pile of lettuce.

One of my favourite things to have come from the vegan scene in the last few years is the rise of the vegan subscription box. I think it's a fantastic way to discover new products, and a great marketing tool for vegan businesses. If you're a new vegan, it can help your transition by providing you with things you may not be able to find (or even know to look for), and if you're a more established vegan it is nice to know that you can still be surprised by new things every now and then.

Also, I just love getting things through the post and getting a subscription box is like a little piece of Christmas every month!

I'm going to give you a run down of the vegan subscription packages (in the UK) that I am aware of. I imagine there are more, so if I've missed your favourite please let me know in the comments so I can give it a try!

(Be prepared - this post is a little on the long side, as I wanted to give a good enough description to each box that I have mentioned. Feel free to skip through the things you don't want to read!)

The Vegan Kind



The Vegan Kind (TVK) is a monthly "lifestyle" box, which you subscribe to.

This is my go-to subscription box. I've been a subscriber since box 1 and have never looked back. If you've read much of my blog, you will have seen the excitement with which I greet my monthly box from these lovely people. I have discovered many tasty snacks, cleaning products, and toiletries from these boxes - plus much more! There is a recipe card included in each box, and every month they donate 10p per box sold to a charity which is chosen by the subscribers. At £10 per month plus p&p for 5-8 items, I think it's a bargain! They also now offer an occasional beauty box, however I didn't try this as I don't use make up very often.

scrummybox


Scrummybox is a monthly snack box, which you buy each month before the set deadline.

I recently tried a "mystery box" from scrummybox, and was delighted with the contents. I like the idea of scrummybox being one that you buy each month rather than a subscription, as it means you can decide whether or not you want a box of snacks that month. As with TVK, it is £10 per month plu p&p for 6-8 items. It is purely food, so if you don't want to discover new lifestyle products (e.g. cleaning products, toiletries, etc), then it might be an idea to try this one. The emphasis is on healthier, natural products - but that doesn't mean there aren't some tasty treats in there too! I received a box of AMAZING marshmallows in my mystery box. Excuse me while I drool over the keyboard as I think about them...

Vegan Tuck Box

Vegan Tuck Box is a monthly snack box, which you subscribe to or buy single boxes.

The emphasis here is on snacks and treats - so expect things like chocolate, biscuits, sweets, snack bars, crisps and savoury snacks. They state that they try to provide hard-to-find vegan treats, which is a nice touch. I saw the Vegan Tuck Box stand at VegFest last year, but I haven't tried a box yet. They offer a range of boxes: Vegan Starter Box (£17.50 one-off), Mini Vegan Tuck Box (5-6 items, £10 subscription / £11 one-off), Subscription Box (10-12 items £20 p/month / £57 for 3 months / £108 for 6 months), Single Vegan Tuck Box (10-12 items, £22 one-off).

EDIT: I had previously stated that the prices for Vegan Tuck Box excluded p&p but I have since been informed that the p&p is free! This puts it on par with The Vegan Kind box in terms of price and yummy treats. All the photos of past boxes look yummy so I think I will get my hands on one of these one day!

Consider It Chocolate



Consider It is a chocolate company who provide a monthly chocolate box, which you subscribe to.

Having tried a couple of Consider It's chocolate bars, it is a huge test of my will power to not have signed up to this box yet. Their chocolate is some of the best vegan chocolate I've tasted (seriously, if you've not tried one of their caramel bars, stop reading and go find one now), but I'm trying to shift a few pounds at the moment and can't justify eating a boxful of chocolate every month. Maybe once I reach my target weight, I'll ease up and give myself this monthly treat. Each monthly box contains a variety of their creations for just £9.95 per month plus p&p. I am so tempted to order one right now...

Flowbox

Flowbox is a monthly lifestyle box with a vegan option, which you subscribe to.

Flowbox aim to deliver organic, natural, eco-friendly products which can include food, beauty and household goods. While not a vegan company, they do offer a vegan box option - the other options being Classic or Gluten-Frre. A mini vegan box is £9.95 for 5-6 items and a maxi vegan box is £17.95 for 8-10 items (plus p&p). I've not heard much about Flowbox other than the name so can't really comment, but the selections in their previous boxes look pretty good.

1066 Cake Stand


1066 Cake Stand is a cake company in Hastings who provide a monthly cake box, which you subscribe to.

You can subscribe to "Cake Club" for 6, 9, or 12 months, and you will receive 4 portions of cake (or muffins, cookies, pie, etc) per month for £8.40 plus p&p. At £2 per portion it sounds like a bargain! I've not tried one of these but after tasting their vegan honeycomb in a TVK box, I imagine their baked goods would be just as tasty. My only skepticism about this one would be that Royal Mail will deliver on time, as these are freshly baked cakes and my experiences with Royal Mail have not always been too good.

Vegan Package Swap


Vegan Package Swap is a monthly package swap service, which you opt into on the months you wish to join.

This one is a little different to the other boxes I've mentioned here, which is why I've saved it until last. The Vegan Package Swap connects vegans around the world. You pay €2.99 to be paired up each month with someone in your country or abroad (depending on what you specify), spend €15 on goodies for that person, and send it off. You will receive a box of equivalent value from the other person. You can communicate within the pairs and request specific items if you wish, or just give your partner a general idea. I have participated in a number of swaps over the past year, however I have put this on hold for now. I found that the postage was costing me nearly as much as the box contents each month and I kept being partnered with people from Poland, which meant I often received very similar boxes. (Not that there was anything wrong with what was in the boxes, I was just hoping for more variety in the countries I was paired with.) This is a service that I would like to rejoin once I have a bit more available money each month, as it is a lovely way to discover what vegans eat in other countries.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Ghetto Hummus - Recipe

So after yesterday's ridiculously unhealthy dinner, I wanted something actually nutritious for my lunch today. Enter an old favourite, and regular lunchtime hit for me and Mr Hatter - "Ghetto Hummus".

I'm not sure who came up with the name but basically there was a day when I was going to make hummus for lunch but couldn't be bothered dirtying the food processor, so I just threw all the ingredients in a bowl and mixed them up. It's so quick to make, and it is open to pretty much any flavour combo you want to try!

We just had ours over a mixed salad, but you could have it with whatever you like - cous cous, baked potato, a spoon! (I did warn you about my relationship with chickpeas...)


Ghetto Hummus
Serves 2

400g tin chickpeas
2 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
spice mix to taste (see below)
salt (optional)

1. Drain and rinse the chickpeas, and put in a bowl.

2. Add the tahini, lemon juice and olive oil and mix until well combined - you don't want any tahini clumps. You may need to add more liquid to get it to mix properly, so add a little at a time and stir well between each addition. You can use lemon juice, oil, or even just a bit of water - depending on your preference.

3. Add the spice mix. I always do this once everything else is the consistency I want it to be, to make sure there are no clumps of spices hidden away. At the moment I am using a harissa spice mix from a previous The Vegan Kind box but you can use anything you fancy. A combination of cumin, coriander and paprika gives a nice hummusy taste. Or you could try a combination of herbs such as basil and oregano. Again, the amount you use is dependent on your tastes - I add a decent amount of the harissa spice because it's a blend we both really like (and we don't mind a bit of heat).

4. Once you have seasoned enough, taste to check whether you want to add any salt to bring out the flavours. It may not need salt so check before adding! If you want to, you could also add some minced garlic but I don't usually bother as it adds on prep time, and I like to make this because it's quick!


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Dirty Food For Dirty Vegans

Most of the time, I like to eat healthily. (Yes, cake can be healthy...) However, there are times - like tonight - when I can't really be bothered cooking when I get home (shock horror!). Perhaps it's because I've had a rubbish day at work, perhaps it's because I'm home late (like today), or perhaps it's just because of no real reason... Either way, sometime I just want a big bowl of easy, not particularly healthy food.

I was going to blog about the "Moreish Meze" meal from Starbucks, as I has planned to buy one to try on the way home, as I knew I would be home late. No such luck - they had none left!

So then I was going to give you a recipe for the healthy lunch I'm throwing together to take to work tomorrow. But I don't feel like doing that today (you can have it tomorrow) - today, I feel like showing you some vegan junk food and dispelling the myth that everything vegan is healthy. This most certainly wasn't.


Yup, that's a huge pile of suitable-for-vegans instant noodles, sprayed with liquid aminos, topped with vegan "cheese" (mozzarella style by Sheeze... I was pretty disappointed with it and wouldn't recommend it), vegan mayo (YUM!) and a couple of jarred jalapenos to, you know, add a bit of veg (?).

To be fair, everything else I've eaten today has been super healthy and I did a workout at lunch time so if there's a time when I'm allowed to eat junk, I think this is it!

What's your favourite vegan junk food? (Or guilty pleasure?)

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Humpit

We didn't have time to go grocery shopping this weekend, so when looking at our lunchtime options last night there wasn't much to inspire us. Instead, we decided that we would buy our lunch today.

I usually stick to the same couple of places for lunch because they're easy and I know that they do nice lunchtime food. However, today there was somewhere new that I wanted to try...

I'm going to make a confession first.

I love hummus. Like, eat-it-from-the-pot-with-a-spoon kind of love. You might say I have a bit of a chickpea problem.

Anyway, a little while ago I saw someone mention a place called Humpit which had recently opened in Leeds Corn Exchange. Humpit is a contraction of "hummus & pita", so you can imagine my excitement...

I finally (a) - remembered and (b) - managed to get to Humpit for my lunch today.


Oh my.

Firstly - EVERYTHING is vegan. Yay!

Secondly - The portions are huge. Seriously. Huge.

Thirdly - CHICKPEAS!! Am I right??

Ahem.

As I wanted to try everything, I opted for "The Humpit Classic" with an added topping of "Falafel, Pine Nuts & Tahina". Basically, this was a big bowl of hummus topped with whole chickpeas, olive oil, parsley and paprika, plus my chosen toppings. Clocking in at a mighty £6 it cost more than I would usually spend on my lunch but it was well worth it. Just look at the size of this thing...


Okay, maybe there is nothing in that picture to judge the scale but it was a sort of dinner plate sized bowl. Trust me, it was big.

The hummus was beautifully creamy, the falafels were lovely and flavourful and the pita was a great texture. The tahini and pine nuts also really finished the dish off well. It was also ever so filling - all those lovely tasty chickpeas kept me full right through until tea time. My only complaint would be that it would have been nice to have a bit of salad to break it up - but that's my own fault for being greedy and choosing all the chickpea/carb based items!

I think next time, I would try either the hummus or falafel in pita, as that comes with salad and pickles - and is only £3.50. Or maybe if I asked nicely, they would do me a bowl like this but with salad instead of pita... oh the possibilities...

They also make their own lemonade, which I would like to try if eating in - or maybe just if getting a cheaper lunch. So hopefully I'll try that on my next trip too, as I love homemade lemonade.

I was hoping to ask the guys a few questions so I could put a bit more info about them in this post but just as I had finished placing my order some of their friends arrived and I didn't want to be rude. So maybe next time I will be able to give you some more background on this business!

Here is a (rather shiny) photo of their flyer so you can check out the full menu for yourselves. When you order, you have the option to eat in (although there were only a few tables) or take-away (which is what I did). There is no discount for take-away though, and it was a pleasant little shop so there would be nothing wrong with eating in - Leeds Corn Exchange is a beautiful building. I will definitely be going back - Mr Hatter saw the photo of my lunch and said he wanted to go!

That shiny bit says "...was only for spreading or snacking..."

Monday, 15 September 2014

More Cake! Hearthstone Cake!

Tonight I'm bringing you another post full of cake photos!

This was the cake I made Mr Hatter for his birthday this year, I just never got around to sharing it at the time.

If there are any gamers among my readers, you might be familiar with a game called Hearthstone? For those that aren't familiar, it's an online card game made by Blizzard, and is free to play. It's a lot of fun.

(In fact - guilty secret - I often write my posts while playing Hearthstone in the background. Multitasking!)

The cake itself was a lemon cake, with homemade lemon curd on top (as I sandwiched it together before putting it in the middle - doh! - and didn't want to waste it). Everything on the cake is vegan and edible, except the plastic picks and wire that held the cards up. (I wouldn't recommend eating the cards though, as they were made from flower paste which isn't very tasty...) I did end up adding a spray of gold food paint to the base of the cake but decided on this after I'd taken the photos...


The idea behind the cake is that it is the screen where you can open a pack of cards which you may have won or bought. If they are legendary (the best you can get), they have an orange glow when you open them.





Hmm now I really want to make a fancy decorated cake again - looking at the photos has reminded me how much fun it from planning the concept to finishing the cake. Maybe I'll get my project hat on again soon...