Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Derbyshire Christmas - Anandas Foods

This week I am focusing on Derbyshire businesses who are producing beautifully crafted artisan products. Yesterday was the turn of Birdhouse Tea Company and their delightful Peak District tea range. Today I am very excited to bring to you Anandas Foods. I love the story of how their company came about. Ananda and Russell who were both working as professional photographers at the time set about making vegan marshmallows for their children to enjoy with hot chocolate on bonfire night. Vegan marshmallows are a relatively new thing in the UK and these guys have been real pioneers. They then progressed to doing some stalls at local fairs and have slowly grown the company without any bank loans or credit, winning awards along the way. The whole family is involved with their daughter coming up with the Round Ups name and their son hoping to run the company when he is older.


Up to now I'd only really come across Round Ups from their range of products. We are big fans and always buy some for Christmas presents and whenever we see them at Vegan Fairs. I had only tried the original Round Ups and was delighted to discover that they also come in other flavours.


Chocolate and mint is always a winning combination.


Chocolate and orange is such a great flavour for the festive season. They are also got two special flavours for Christmas this year in Rudolph's Cherry and Berry and a Marc de Champagne version!


There is even a gluten free version.


They are based on the Wagon Wheel snack  (but are much, much better and more substantial). The quality of the chocolate they use is excellent and you get a thick layer around the edge of each Round Up and a lovely squiggle of it on one side.


It always makes me smile when I see this on the other side!


Here's a cross section of the limited edition Halloween Round Up that was packed with a thick layer of marshmallow and some blackcurrant jam. There are also some special gift tins available for Christmas so if you have any friends or relatives wondering what to buy you I suggest you give them a nudge in the direction of the website.


They also sent me a range of their hand made marshmallows to try. These included Coconut, Raspberry and Blackcurrant + Liquorice. They come in these beautifully designed gift cubes. I loved all their packaging design and how recyclable it all is. I've saved the boxes to reuse for homemade gifts.


In addition to this there was also some choca mocha mallows with a generous drizzle of dark chocolate.


These peach marshmallows were delightful.


The mini bites were super cute.


Just perfect for two steaming mugs of hot chocolate.


I loved everything about these handmade marshmallows. The texture is excellent and they hold up well in hot chocolate, softening nicely but not dissolving to mush like some other brands I've tried. They toasted well too. I was really impressed with the use of natural and organic ingredients. The colour of the raspberry and blackcurrant + liquorice marshmallows were lovely and vibrant whilst still using natural flavouring and colouring. They use Madagscan vanilla extract and you can taste the quality. I was also impressed by the range of flavours. I was crazy for the blackcurrant + liquorice ones in particular and had to restrain myself from eating the whole box in one go! All in all I can't recommend these products highly enough. They even sell kits to make your own marshmallows and condensed milk too. If you are looking to support vegan run businesses then check them out. You will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Derbyshire Christmas - Birdhouse Teas

I'm featuring some companies this week that are either based in Derbyshire or have links to the area. They are all wonderful artisan producers carefully crafting quality goods that would make perfect vegan friendly gifts. I'm starting today with Birdhouse Tea Company. They are based in Sheffield in Yorkshire but among their many handcrafted tea blends they have a Peak District collection. I came across Birdhouse when we popped into the fantastic, cosy Grasshopper Cafe in Hope, Derbyshire one rainy afternoon. I had a cup of tea that was so mind blowingly good that I had to ask the owners who their tea supplier was. I messaged Birdhouse to find out if they were interested in a blog review and they very kindly sent me the whole* of the Peak District range of teas to try.

*Please note that one tea - Moorlands, does contain honey so is not featured here.


Blue John is named after the famous Blue John mines and is a blend of assam and darjeeling with gorgeous vibrant cornflower petals in the mix. This makes for a great breakfast tea with a subtle fruity, maltiness to it.


The Edge is an unusual green tea blend which has cardamon seeds, ginger, clove, black pepper, cinnamon and mint. For my palate it would have worked better without the mint. The smell made me think of roast dinners!  If you are a fan of green teas though and looking for something a bit different this might be up your street.


White Peak is a blend of white tea and peppermint. I've never come across white tea with mint before, fruit yes, but not mint. On opening the packet you get a big hit of peppermint. It's a really refreshing brew which is gentler and more subtly flavoured than regular mint tea which I liked.


This tea blend is named Secret Recipe. Any guesses what that might be referring to? I'll give you a clue that it's referring to a famous Derbyshire baked treat. Yep, it's Bakewell pudding. The tea is a blend of black tea, almonds, rosehips and raspberry and subltly captures the essence of Bakewell pudding. This would make a perfect afternoon tea drink.


Duchess Georgina got a mention last month when I made a Derbyshire style breakfast during Vegan Mofo. Duchess is a gorgeous smelling blend of black tea, grapefruit, rose, marigold and mallow petals. The grapefruit adds something special and the mallow flowers round out the blend beautifully to make a very elegant cup of tea.


There's two herbal teas in the Peak District collection. The Trail pictured above is a blend of chamomile and lemongrass. The bright, zesty lemongrass is the dominant flavour here so if you are someone who appreciates the calming benefits of chamomile but isn't keen on the flavour this could be one for you. I drink chamomile most evenings. As well as it being a great aid to sleep I find it really helpful with the post nasal drip condition I suffer from. I found this a fantastic change to my usual brew.


Dressed Well is the other herbal tea in the collection. It's a colourful blend of hibiscus, rosehip, apple, mallow, safflower, cornflower and marigold petals. It smells absolutely amazing, like a sweet shop! The taste was lovely and reminded me of sherbet lemons mingled with strawberries. I think that this would make an excellent iced tea too for the summer months.


And finally, the tea that started my journey of discovery with Birdhouse Teas - Muddy Boots. This is a picture of me on a walk we took up to Coombes Edge. We popped out one afternoon last week for an hour for a little walk and to watch the sun set. It was absolutely freezing and we were glad that we'd brought a flask. Muddy Boots is best drunk without milk and is a blend of black tea with roasted cacao husk, cacao nibs and vanilla which gives the tea a creamy edge. I was the perfect tea for the walk and was of course accompanied by a few squares of dark chocolate.

If you're a tea fan I highly recommend checking out the Birdhouse website. The quality of the teas is excellent and the packaging lovely. And don't forget to pop back tomorrow when I'll be featuring an impressive range of handmade marshmallows!

Friday, 2 December 2016

Nina's Popcorn Review

Whilst I am a big lover of crisps and nuts my favourite snack has got to be popcorn. So, when new company Nina's Popcorn asked if they could send me some bags to review I didn't hesitate to reply, yes please! Matt works from home so I don't get much time in the house on my own but when he has an evening gig there's nothing I like more than to stretch out on the sofa to watch a film with snacks to hand. Needless to say he didn't get a look in with this popcorn!


I decided to work my way through the savoury popcorn first. The lemony kale and pepper had a fun tinge of green to it. You can definitely taste the kale and there's a slight citrus tang and actually quite a bit of a kick from the black pepper. The pepper was a little too much for my palate to be honest. It's certainly a grown up popcorn maybe one to pair with a Bloody Mary as a bar snack.


The other savoury flavour in the range is Spicy Sriracha and Spirulina. I was a bit apprehensive about trying this one as my hyper sensitive cough reflex syndrome is super intolerant of chilli or anything with heat and can cause me a lot of discomfort. I nearly gave it away but I'm glad I didn't as the good news is that I tried this after started my new meds and had very little reaction. The meds suppress the cough reflex pretty well. This is amazing for me and I couldn't stop smiling. It's ten years since I've been able to eat anything with this kind of heat and believe me with was hot, hot, hot!

 The other two bags in the range are sweet rather than savoury and I have to say that these were my favourites. The Sweet Coconut, Himalayan Pink Salt and Maca had lovely buttery, maple, coconut flavours with just a hint of maltiness from the maca.


The absolute stand out flavour for me was the Cacao, Goji Berries and Pistachios. As with all of the range the popcorn is cooked in coconut oil. It's sweetened with maple syrup and I thought that this was a really inspired flavour combination where the tastes blended really well. The nuts also gave an interesting crunchy texture to the coating. I really liked that there were only healthy natural ingredients in the products and I would definitely buy them again. Hopefully they will become more widely available. At the moment you can buy them online as a taster pack or by the box from Nina's Popcorn and Yumbles.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Exploring Green Tea with Teavivre - Teas To See You Through The Festive Season

I'm back! It's been quite a long break from blogging as I prepped all my Mofo posts in advance in October. There were some gaps and I had hoped to do some more throughout the month but life kind of got in the way. I've started a new drug treatment for my hyper sensitive cough reflex syndrome. It's sort of the last resort in the drugs they give patients as I've tried everything else and nothing has worked. It's morphine therapy where I take a controlled low dose twice a day. So far it is having really good results with my cough being about 30% of what it usually is which is great news. I'm still in the stage of dealing with side effects (and hoping they wear off) so that's fatigue, brain fog, nausea, anxiety, headaches, stomach cramps and other fun things! I am trying to feel positive though and trying to incorporate self care practice into my day to day life more than ever.


One of the things I'm doing is making sure I stay hydrated. Alcohol is off limits whilst I'm on this treatment so I've been exploring the world of nice teas more than ever. One type of tea I've always shied away from a bit is green tea. You might remember that I blogged about a wonderful afternoon that I spent tasting and learning about Chinese teas that I was sent from a lovely company called Teavivre. I was excited when they contacted me again to say they were sending me some more samples, this time of some of the green teas that they stock. I wondered if I would be converted!

I loved how the teas in the selection that they sent all looked so different. These flat leaves were from the Organic Superfine Dragon Well Long Jing. They recommend on the website to drink this when you need calming so that will be a good one for me over the next month. This has sweet, grassy aromas and a sweet, buttery mouthfeel with hints of chestnut.


The Xin Yang Mao Jian had twisted spindly leaves. There was nice freshly cut grass aromas and a refreshing palate. It was slightly vegetal, think of spinach with a hint of smoke and a very slightly salty aftertaste.


Different in appearance again were these tightly twisted black/green leaves of Charcoal Baked Anxi Tie Guan Yin Oolong. This tea needed a longer steep than the others. The Teavivre website is really helpful telling you how to brew each type of tea. This produced a bright yellow brew with toasty, seaweed aromas. It had a big, smooth mouthfeel with floral flavours with just a hint of smokiness.


I think my favourite of all the samples was the Organic Bai Hao (White Downy) Green Tea. I've nicknamed this Sweetcorn tea as it really does smell of sweetcorn! This carries through onto the palate and it's really light and refreshing. It was very different to anything I've tried before and has become a new favourite.


I really enjoyed exploring the world of green tea and am definitely converted. I'll be carrying on drinking it through December. Another thing I like about these teas is that they are reviving without having such a big caffeine hit as coffee (around 10% in most cases).  They are going to be useful in helping me deal with fatigue without giving me an anxiety spike like coffee can do. There's going to be a review focus on the blog over December and I've got several more reviews coming up focusing on vegan friendly products made locally to me that would make excellent gifts so stay tuned!


Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Vegan Mofo Day 29 Gingerbread Granola



Day 29 is holiday test run day. I like to make my own granola now and again and I've been thinking about trying to come up with a seasonal flavour for a while. I kept coming back to something that I like to make at this time of the year - gingerbread!


I was pretty happy with the result but think I would like to tweak it still further. It's not overly sweet so I think next time I'd try adding a little more maple syrup, maybe 1/4 cup. I'd originally wanted to use dried apples but they seem to be out of favour at the moment and I could find dried fruit of all descriptions except apples! The dried pears tasted good but were a little too chewy for my liking and stuck in the teeth a bit! I think I would possibly try this again with some dried pineapple as pineapple and ginger is such a great combination. Anyway the texture came out great and I loved the pecans in it. I'll put the recipe below for people to play around with and I'll continue to refine it until I get it just perfect. I quite like to give glass jars of home made granola as gifts so maybe this will even make it as a Christmas present this year. We enjoyed it mixed into plain yoghurt that had been drizzled with Sweet Freedom.


Gingerbread Granola

Makes 4 servings

2 teaspoons of ginger
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 1/2 cups of oats
1/4 cup of dried pears
1/2 cup of chopped pecans
2 tablespoons of vanilla soy milk
2 tablespoons of rapeseed (canola) oil
1 tablespoon of blackstrap molasses
2 tablespoons of maple syrup

Pre-heat the oven to 350f/ 180c

Stir the spices together in a cup and add them to a bowl along with the oats, pecans and dried pear and mix well.
In another bowl whisk together the soya milk, oil, maple syrup and blackstrap molasses.
Add the liquid mix to the oat mix and stir to combine.
Line a backing tray with greaseproof paper and tip the granola mixture onto it.
Bake for around 25 minutes giving it a few stirs and keeping an eye on it so the nuts don't burn.
Let it cool and store in a glass jar.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Vegan Mofo Day 27 Cherry Chia Bricher Museli


So today's Mofo prompt asks 'Was there a food you used to hate and now don't?' As I'm sticking to my breakfast theme I struggled a bit with this as I couldn't really think of any breakfast foods that I don't like, if anything I feel I am discovering new ones all the time. 2016 has definitely been 'The Year of The Breakfast' for me. But then I remembered the first time I ever heard of Bircher Museli. It was about 15 years ago and I'd gone round to my friends Robert and Corinne's house. Now this pair are fantastic cooks and know their food so when Robert was talking up this Bircher Museli that he had started making I should have known it would be great. However, the picture that popped into my head of oats soaked overnight and then eaten cold in the morning just made me think, urggh, cold porridge! Now years later and a regular overnight oats eater I am pleased to say I am a huge fan of Bircher Museli too. Basically anything that takes a few minutes prep in the evening and yields a wonderful tasty, healthy breakfast in the morning is a winner in my book.


Cherry, Chia Bircher Museli
Serves 2

Ingredients
1 cup of oats
2 tablespoons of chia seeds
1/2 a cup of dried cherries
1/4 cup of flaked almonds
1 1/2 cups of plant milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Sweet Freedom/maple syrup/ agave to taste
2 grated apples (in the morning)
Yoghurt to serve (optional)

Prepare the bircher museli in the evening by stirring together the oats, chia seeds, dired cherries and almonds in a tupperware container. Add the milk and vanilla extract and stir again then place in the fridge overnight.
In the morning stir in the grated apple. Portion out into two bowls. Drizzle with the sweetener of your choice and add a little more plant milk / yoghurt to taste.

Are you a fan of overnight oats or bircher museli? What add ins do you like?

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Vegan Mofo Day 23 - Roasted Apples and Applesauce

The prompt for today is Autumn traditions. For me that would be roasting apples to use in recipes throughout the winter. I am lucky in that for the past few years I've had people give me organic homegrown apples. I use the recipe from Babycakes to prepare them.


Roasted apples - From Babycakes by Erin McKenna

2lb apples peeled, cored and diced into 1 inch cubes
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
1/2 cup of agave nectar or Sweet Freedom
1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice

Mix everything together and spread on a baking sheet covered with greaseproof paper and bake for 35 minutes.


Once baked I like to keep some of the apples as chunks. There's a tealoaf and a muffin recipe in the book that uses them like this.


The rest I blend up with a little more sweetener and some hot water to make applesauce. Most of the Babycakes recipes use applesauce so I tend to bag them up into various cup sizes ready to grab from the freezer when I need them. I've come to love doing this as a Sunday afternoon Autumn tradition and the house smells amazing. Who needs scented candles when you can have the aroma of roasted apples and cinnamon!