Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Tea and Workshops

Bit of a tea related post today and news of some workshops I've been doing. First off, kombucha. For those not familiar with it, Kombucha is a fermented tea drink which is good for getting pro-biotics. I've been brewing my own green tea kombucha at home for around a year and have just started to try a few shop bought flavoured ones. V Revolution sometimes stock it and I picked up this maple flavoured booch the other week. It was delicious, lovely and fizzy with a smokey maple taste.

In other beverage news, we got a new kettle. I've never had a stove top kettle before but when I spotted this for £3.50 in a charity shop I couldn't resist it. The make is OXO and I love their kitchen equipment. It's a delight to use and I think I've been drinking more tea than ever. Especially after I won an Organic September competition in which the prize was Whole Earth cereals and peanut butter, Kallo rice cake products and a whole load of lovely Clipper Teas. Oh and a wheel barrow. I hadn't realised when I entered that the prize actually included the wheel barrow in the picture holding the food until a super duper wheel barrow turned up too.

A few weeks ago I had a little trip to London to see some things that were part of London Design Festival. I got to spend the Friday hanging out with my dear friend Helen. On the way to a design fair at Old Trueman Brewery we were sucked into the amazing T2 tea shop in Shoreditch and spent a good half hour sampling teas including some made with veggies!

Helen bought a great tea flask and I was sorely tempted but couldn't afford one just then. To my delight I managed to snap up the same one I'd been eyeing up in the shop a week later for a bargain price on eBay. This sparkly beauty definitely brightens up my morning commute.

Recently I've been trying to make the five ways to well being part of my day to day life. Specifically I've been tying to focus on the Keep Learning bit as it was an area that had become stagnant in my life.

I've been signing up for some free creative courses. Manchester Art Gallery hold a free workshop after work the first Thursday of every month. I went along with a couple of friends to the October one and loved it. We worked with artist Daksha Patel who is interested in using light in her practice. The picture below is by my friend Debbie. It started off as a simple line drawing. We then used a drawing pin to make pin pricks along the lines we'd made and then we put our pieces of paper onto an overhead projector and this is what they looked like projected large scale on the wall. It was such a fun thing to do and  I'm really looking forward to the other workshops. I used to do loads of creative things and I've realised how much I miss that sort of activity and how much I need to do it.

I've also done a little craft workshop at my local library and most excitingly a cake decorating course!

I saw this on the Vegan Manchester facebook group and decided I had to do it. I've always been at a loss on how to do proper piping and always just end up spreading frosting on with a knife and then covering the top with sprinkles so it was fantastic to learn how to make my cakes look prettier.

The course was run by Georgina of the Cake Creamery who was a great teacher. Over two hours we learned how to do frosting roses and hyacinths, create fondant leaves and butterflies, use colour in different ways and how to assemble the cakes into a cupcake bouquet. Georgina had made vegan cupcakes and vegan buttercream frosting in advance so all we had to do was concentrate on the decorating techniques. It was an excellent afternoon and I felt a real sense of accomplishment by the end. If you live in the area and are interested in improving your decorating skills I'd definitely recommend you getting in touch to see when the next vegan course is running.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

It's Chocolate Week!

Yep, that's right. It's UK Chocolate Week from 10-16 October 2016. Now, every week is chocolate week in my house but saying that there are still vegan chocs I've yet to try there is such a huge range available now. In the ten years that I have been vegan I have tried lots though and am always up for sampling new ones. Here are my favourites that I've discovered so far broken down into categories by style.

Dark Chocolate

I came across this bar when I was the vegan reviewer for Can I Eat It? App and I got sent a range of Seed and Bean chocolate for review purposes. Vegan chocolate is very well represented in their range and the bars are great quality, Fairtrade, Organic and widely available. I fell in love this Cornish Sea Salt bar where the crunchiness of the salt pairs brilliantly with the malty flavours of the chocolate.

White Chocolate

I don't eat a huge amount of white chocolate but I do fancy a bit now and again. Organica was one of the first brands I came across in my local health food shop when I was newly vegan and I was so glad they existed! They make a milk bar that is a pretty good pass for a Galaxy style choc but my favourite is their white chocolate, generously flecked with vanilla seeds.

I've actually gone for a joint first place for white chocolate as although I remain loyal to Organica I also recently discovered this White Nougat Crisp proving that vegan white choc can be done in different style. Like the Organica bar with this one there is something about white chocolate that is seriously moreish and a bar doesn't hang around for long!

Milk Chocolate

Probably the style I eat the least of is vegan milk chocolate. I think that would change though if Ethico oat milk chocolate was in my local shops! Although it's not that widely available luckily you can buy it online and sometimes at vegan fairs. I was delighted to receive some samples when they first started out and I found their oat milk bars seriously mind blowing! Here's a link to the review I did back then and check out their website as there are some other amazing sounding flavours on there.

Raw Chocolate

Now, onto raw chocolate. I've long been a fan of raw chocolate and it's been fascinating to see the different brands develop over the years. One company that I come back to over and over again is the Raw Chocolate Company. I love everything they do from their bars which manage to create the snappy texture of non-raw chocolate to my favourite little treats which are these raw chocolate covered mulberries. I find mulberries on their own can be a little sharp tasting but wonderful things happen when they are coated in this signature raw chocolate.

Caramac Style

And finally onto something that I'm not sure is familiar to people outside of the UK. According to Wikipedia Caramac bars were temporarily available in Canada in the 1960s and 70s but remain primarily a UK product. I loved them when I was a kid and always looked forward to a Caramac Easter Egg even though they didn't have anything inside them! Imagine a caramel flavour white chocolate and you're sort of there though technically I don't think Caramacs actually qualify as chocolate they have the look and texture of a chocolate bar. Well, the Raw Chocolate Company's Vanoffee bars remind me a bit of how I remember Caramacs tasting and I love them and as they do qualify as chocolate I'm including them here.

What's your favourite vegan chocolate treat. I'd love to know!

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Quorn Soup Review

We've sampled the new Quorn Soups with vegan pieces over the last week. I'd heard about these but hadn't spotted them anywhere but when they cropped up in Heron Foods for 89p I grabbed a tub of each. Thankfully ours were not from the dodgy batch that accidentally had the non-vegan pieces added but if you've bought some recently check that it isn't dated October 14 or 16. It's a long, long time since I've had Quorn. Funnily enough I was probably one of the first people in the world to sample it. Quorn has been available on the retail market since 1993 but when I worked as a cashier and food server in British Home Stores cafes in Chester and Newcastle (1989-90) we had a couple of vegetarian dishes that included this new myco-protein that was yes, you've guessed it - Quorn! BHS, probably one of the last places you'd expect to be ground breaking with regards to veggie food but there you go!

So, onto the soups. I have to admit I love making soups and don't often buy ready made and to be honest my hopes for these weren't that high but I was very pleasantly surprised. There's a Moroccan soup and a Red Thai Soup. Both are nicely flavoured but not over the top heat wise. There are really generous amounts of Quorn pieces and lentils (Moroccan) and rice noodles (Red Thai). Often with tins of soup where it says 2 servings I eat the whole thing but these did give 2 decent sized servings. They do come in plastic containers but they do say they are recyclable and I've actually saved them to put homemade soups in for the freezer. I'm not about to give up making my own soup but I would buy these again. We've also got hold of some of the Quorn fillets so I'll be digging out my old pan fried chicken book for ideas on how to cook those. First the new Linda McCartney range and now Quorn starting a vegan range, change is definitely in the air! I can imagine that all these products will be especially great for people starting to experiment with a vegan diet. Have you tried any of the vegan Quorn range yet?

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Trying Out Linda McCartney New Pulled Chicken

The new range of Linda McCartney frozen products was launched the other week. We managed to get our hands on a bag of the pulled chicken and put it to good use last weekend.

I decided to team it up with a jar of this free-from Bechamel sauce from Tesco. I always make my own sauces for lasagne and wasn't expecting much but it was ok and I would use it again. I definitely think I would take a jar of it on holiday for ease.

One of my favourite lasagnas in my pre-vegan days involved chicken mince which made me come up with a chicken, mushroom and spinach lasagne. I fried an onion then added the bag of pulled chicken and some white wine. I also added a punnet of sliced white mushrooms and some homemade tomato pasta sauce that we had leftover. It was probably the equivalent of a jar of shop bought sauce. I simmered it for about 20 minutes and seasoned with salt, black pepper and a little dried tarragon.

I layered up with the chicken mixture and the bechamel. On the middle layer of bechamel I also added about a quarter of a cup of finely grated Violife Prosociano (I used a microplane for all the cheese in the recipe as it helps it melt really well). To the top layer of white sauce I added about half a cup of Violife original grated from the block and then another quarter of a cup of grated Violife Prosociano.

I was really pleased with how it turned out. The finished lasagne made four servings. I would have made a bigger one but didn't have many lasagne sheets. There was leftover filling that we had in an oven baked quesadilla with some added cheese and slices of tomato. I will definitely have to try it in BBQ sauce in a sandwich next with a side of coleslaw. The other new products are chorizo and red pepper sausages, shredded hoisin duck and beef burrito. Have you managed to try any of them yet?

Monday, 26 September 2016

Glossop Goings On!

A few weeks ago I posted this picture in a blog post. We'd been mourning the loss of One 17 Bakery and it's fantastic vegan baked goods and were pleased to see that this new venture was also going to feature them.

Glossop already has a reputation as a vegan friendly town with it's pub, The Globe, which has an all vegan food menu and some vegan drinks. There is also a vegan menu at Pico Lounge and some great vegan options at Ayubowan Sri Lankan restaurant. The People's Kitchen event every month at Glossop Labour Club also provides a budget friendly vegan community meal and we have a great health food shop in Peak of Health.

 I'm pleased to report that the Pie Parlour has been an amazing addition to the town. Pictured above are a few of the cakes we have sampled. There's an oreo cupcake and the slices are chocolate and mango cakes which are gluten free too. I do find vegan, gluten free baking can be hit and miss but Dianne the owner of the bakery really knows what she is doing with both vegan and GF baking. I have been hugely impressed with everything that I have sampled and also that she is constantly trying out new things.

This plate of pies we shared was a Homity Pie and a Caramalised Onion pie topped with a tofu lid. We've also sampled an amazing cheese and onion pie. This had gf pastry which blew my mind, it was so perfectly crisp. The bread in the picture is a GF french stick and the one in the picture below is GF focaccia with green and black olives and the new Scheese Feta. This was excellent for dunking in soup.

I was in London last week and Matt treated himself to a Foragers Pie which was made with mushrooms and wait for it...........a Mac and Cheese pie! As you can imagine this got lots of likes on the What Fat Vegans Eat Facebook group. If you're not on this group it's great and you see some amazing meals.

It's great to see the Pie Parlour teaming up with another small business too by selling chocolate by Cocoa-Nut Grove Cakes. Think big thick slabs of handmade chocolate studded with goodies and you get the picture.

In other exciting Glossop based news check out this graphic novel with an animal rights theme. Animus will be the second book published by Invisible Six; a new small publishing company, based in Glossop. Animus is a moving, gripping and sometimes humorous graphic novel with a strong theme of animal rights and respect for nature. It's written by SM Worsey and illustrated in striking black and white by Brian Gorman, whose other works include Everyman - The Story of Patrick McGoohan, and Borderliners: True Realities.

SM Worsey has completed the script and Brian is drawing a page a day. They need funding to finish the project and cover the print bill. There's a variety of perks available for funders, and they'll have the satisfaction of knowing they've helped get an exciting and ethically-motivated book out into the world.

Animus is a moving, gripping and sometimes humorous graphic novel about animals fighting back. A book full of love, rage and stunning art. Animus tells the story of a tough, determined female badger, who assembles a skilled team of animals in order to liberate other animals, save lives and exact revenge on cruel humans. The main characters include a fox, a beagle, a rabbit, a cat, an ex-racehorse and a raven. Animus don't seem like much, against the might of modern human society. But Animus isn’t in our society, they exist alongside it, with all the skills, determination and instinct they can muster. Animus is an exciting and moving story of love, teamwork and revenge."

Here's a link to the Crowdfunder page. Incentives range from invites to the launch party which I believe will be at the new V Revolution, copies of original artwork and even a chance to have an animal of your choosing included in the book. I know the writer of the book and they are a really inspiring, creative person who has done a lot for veganism and animals over the years. Please check out the crowdfunder and spread the word!

Wednesday, 14 September 2016


Hello! I am back blogging after an absence of over a month! I'm afraid I've been laid low with back to back viruses. The first one caused acute sinusitis and the second a throat infection. Having the chronic cough condition and a type of bronchitis anyway means that getting anything on top of those is pretty bad. For the first week and a half I struggled to watch telly or read and even get out of bed. It really wiped me out but I'm feeling a lot better this week. It's a bit of a sparse round up for a whole month but here's some vegan finds we've been enjoying.

First up is Grassmere Gingerbread. I started first feeling unwell on the weekend of a wedding of some dear friends of ours but luckily the full lurgy held off til the Monday and I was able to attend the wedding celebrations on the Friday and Saturday. They got married in a really beautiful place on the edge of Lake Windermere. As a lifelong fan of Grassmere gingerbread we stopped off on the way home to purchase some. You buy it from a tiny gingerbread shop where it is made daily and which smells amazing.

It comes in a lovely waxed packet and is like no other gingerbread. I've tried to show the inside where you can see pieces of candied ginger. It manages to be soft and chewy with a crunchy topping and tastes seriously amazing! The company that make it say that it is vegan. Amazingly they don't list the ingredients anywhere on the wrapping. I'm not really sure how they get away with this with the new allergy laws. I guess they maybe have a list of ingredients available to view in the shop if you ask but I didn't think to. I want to know the ingredients so I can make it at home. There are various recipes on the internet but it is hard to know if any are authentic and none of the ones I've found are actually vegan although some you could sub margarine for butter and they would be. Apparently the recipe they use is kept in a sealed bank vault!

One of the days I was sick, Matt brought me a bag of these home as a surprise after spotting them in WH Smiths in the train station. They also seem to be available in Starbucks and Boots too.

I was really excited as on first glance I thought they were going to be like Wotsits, a much missed crisp from pregan days. However, the texture is very different and is hard and crunchy. I liked these but found them more like croutons and ended up using them in that way to top a salad. Joey on Flicking the V's has included them on a recent vegan snack round up and after reading her review I am tempted to seek out the other flavours to try.

We got some free vouchers to try the new Alpro Go-On yoghurts and we also bought some as they were on offer for 50p in Tescos so we've managed to try all the flavours. My favourite is definitely the passion fruit one. I'm not really a big yoghurt person but I liked the set texture of these and I found myself actually craving one the other day so they must be doing something right!

Matt did all the cooking the first week I was ill including a lovely tofu and brown rice noodle soup one night. Later on this cropped up on Facebook - apparently whilst the tofu was baking the noodles were doing a Donald Trump's hair impression!

I don't usually look at Kellogg's cereals as a lot of them are fortified with non vegan Vitamin D but I spotted boxes of this in Heron for 69p and was curious about what it was made from. It's just organic wholegrain maize, organic dried sugar cane syrup, salt and organic molasses and I really like it.

For the same price they also had bags of this ancient grains museli again without any pesky non vegan added vitamins. The stuff is so cheap as it's usually coming up to it's best before date but there is a month left on each of these so we'll have no problem getting through them. The Pastinos are crisps made from pasta and were in the specials at Aldi. There are a few flavours in the range that are vegan but not all of them. I was really pleased to see these as we loved them when we found them on holiday a few years ago and I've never seen them anywhere since!

This Belgium chocolate with caramelised cacao nibs was also in the Aldi specials and was good value for 99p. Definitely worth popping a bar in your basket if you spot it.

Whilst I was on my sick bed when my eyes were up to using the computer I entered a few competitions as I like to do every month. Natural Balance foods who make Nak'd and Trek products run these competitions every month and I was delighted when I got an email from them saying that I had won the Feed Your Office For Free prize for that month! We got an amazing parcel of Nak'd bars, Nak'd crunch bars, bags of Nak'd bits. Trek bars, Trek Protein flapjacks and Nak'd flavoured raisins. The boxes all contained mixed flavours so there was so much choice and they went down really well with my work colleagues.

Finally I'll leave you with a picture of the Derbyshire hills. For a couple of weeks in August the heather covered hills turn purple. Such a gorgeous sight.

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.