Sunday, 30 May 2010

Thousands of Happy Vegans!

Yesterday was the Bristol Eco Veggie Fayre (previously known as the Bristol Vegan Fayre). Jo, Dale and I made a round trip and spent 8 packed hours there. The photo below shows just some of the stash I brought back, some it purchased and some free samples. Seriously, you could probably feed yourself for a day on all the food samples! I managed to also fit in homemade mushroom sauasages with wild garlic pesto on a ciabatta from local business Cafe Maitreya and an amazing middle eastern salad box that I had for the train home with kofta, couscous and red peppper hummous whilst we shared a bottle of a'Becketts white wine.

The weather for the last 4 years has been amazing but this year the showers came. The sun did come out a few times though and we enjoyed delicious Beanies B'nice ice creams made with rice milk. We also escaped into one of the big tents for an hour for a cookery demo from medicinal chef Dale Pinnock. We got to sample a red lentil and coconut soup and sweet potato curry. Both were delicious and easy to make and Dale explained the medicinal properties of each ingredient.

Bristol is a real mixture of established businesses, new businesses and campaigning groups and of course there's all the music festival part of it too. Two of my favourite stalls were little businesses from London. Jaz and Jul's make amazing organic hot chocolate flavoured with spices and pure essential oils and can usually be found at Camden Lock. I had an iced peppermint chocolate topped with whipped cream and it was superb, really hit the spot. I bought some of their tubs of chocolate in caramel and orange to bring home to experiment with. They also use the chocolate in cocktails, mmmmm.

To Happy Vegans are familiar to a lot of people who check out internet vegan food sites and blogs. It was lovely to see that they had a stall. I bought 3 of their mini muffins to bring home for breakfast the following day and wow, am I impressed. The flavours are breakfast muffin (packed with seeds and carrot), chocolate and raspberry and blueberry. I loved all 3 and am inspired to have a go a mini muffins myself, perhaps for the cake stall MVSers are doing in Longford Park in a few weeks.

Friday, 28 May 2010

RIP Aldi Croissants

It's official Aldi vegan friendly croissants in a tin are no more. They have been discontinued!!!!! I have people checking Aldi's in Manchester as we speak to see if there is any stock left but it's looking unlikely. Boo, I will be contacting Aldi and asking for them to reinstated, hope others will too and we can reclaim our breakfast treat! Annoyingly Aldi don't publish an email address and say you have to contact them by mail or phone. So, come on everybody, complaints on a postcard please.

If you have a corporate or general enquiry write to us at:

Aldi Stores, Holly Lane, Atherstone, Warwickshire CV9 2SQ

Or telephone 0844 406 8800

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Colo de Mono

Colo de Mono (Tail of the Monkey) is a Chilean concoction traditionally drunk ice cold at Christmastime. Obviously their winters are a lot warmer than ours so in the UK it's more suited to this time of year. The Chileans use aguadiente an overproof cane spirit. I use Cachaca 51 which I have in for Mojitos and Caipirinhas. Traditionally made with cows milk, here is my vegan version.

Colo De Mono
Makes 1 pint
Serves 4

2 cups of vanilla soy milk
1/3 cup of caster sugar
1/3 teaspoon of cinammon
3 teaspoons of instant coffee
1/2 cup of spirit*

Bring the milk, sugar and cinnamon to a low boil in a pan stirring until the sugar is dissolved.

Turn off the heat and stir in the coffee.

Leave to cool.

Once cool add the spirit and chill in the fridge. It will keep for 2 weeks.

Serve over ice or straight up but make it cold.

* Spirit - I use Cachaca but have heard that people use tequila too.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Whisky Mac Fairy Cakes

Fairy Whisky Macs

Makes 16 small cakes


1 cup of soya mlk
1 teaspoon of cider vinegar
1 1/3 cups of plain flour
2 tablespoons of cornflour
3/4 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/3 cup of sunflower oil
1 teaspoon of lemon extract
2 tablespoons of whisky
3/4 cup of caster sugar
1/4 cup of finely chopped crystallised ginger

Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C
Line the cake pans with fairy cake cases

Whisk the soya milk and cider vinegar in a bowl and set aside to curdle.

Sift the flour, cornflour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt together into a bowl and mix.

In a separate bowl whisk together the oil, sugar, lemon extract, whisky and soya milk + vinegar mixture.

Add the flour mix to this and stir until smooth. Gently fold in the chopped crystallised ginger.

Fill the cake cases 2/3 full. Bake for 20-22 minutes.

Once cool ice.

Whisky Icing

1 1/2 cups of icing sugar
1 tablespoon of vegan margarine
4 teaspoons of whisky
2 tablespoons of soya milk
16 small pieces of crystallised ginger

Sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Add the margarine and mix with a fork until it resembles crumbs. Add the whisky, stir in then add the soya milk and mix until you have icing.
Add a good teaspoon to each cake and spread until smooth.
Top with a piece of crystallised ginger.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Vegetarian Shoes sale

I own a couple of pairs of shoes made by Vegetarian Shoes in Brighton. I bought the black 'Crystal Sandal' pictured above 2 and a half years ago with my birthday money from Moo Shoes in New York. They are the ideal comfy work shoe and I've worn them so much. I've even had them resoled and they still look like new. Vegetarian Shoes use amazing materials and you would never guess that they are not leather. I would recommend them to anyone vegan or not. It's easy to find cheap plastic shoes but the quality is often poor and they are likely to use animal glues. I think they will easily keep going for another 2 and a half years of constant wear!

I've also got a pair of these red 'Dorothys' which come in various colours and which are currently in the sale. I've had loads of compliments on them every time I've worn them. Where do you buy your vegan shoes?

Monday, 24 May 2010

Bristol Eco Veggie Fayre

I'm getting excited about the weekend. On Saturday I'm going to the Bristol Vegan Fayre or the Bristol Eco Veggie Fayre as it's called these days (everything is still vegan). It will be my 4th year and I always see it as a way to celebrate my veganiversary (4 years on June 11th) and a way to confirm my choices and celebrate all that is great about the vegan lifestyle. I've always gone for the full weekend before and come back with a suitcase full of goodies. Only managing a day trip on Saturday this year. If you've yet to experience it, I highly recommend it!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Earl Grey Shortbread


Makes 16 biscuits

1/2 cup of vegan sunflower margarine
1/2 cup of icing sugar
Couple of drops of vanilla extract
1 cup + 2 tablespoons of plain flour
1/8 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1/8 teaspoon of salt
The contents of 3 Earl Grey teabags

Preheat the oven to 350f/ 180C.
Grease and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

Using an electric whisk beat the margarine until creamy. Add the vanilla and icing sugar and beat again.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and bicarbonate of soda. Stir in the contents of the teabags.

Fold this mixture into the margarine mix in two batches. Add a bit more flour if too sticky.

Roll out on a floured board. cut out with your favourite cookie cutters.

Transfer to the baking tray and bake for 12-14 minutes until they start to turn golden.

Allow to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire cooling rack.

Whilst they cool put the kettle on and make yourself a pot of Earl Grey.


Mystic Pizza

Kicked off the weekend with a big Oddbins wine and whisky tasting. Over 40 wines and 8 whiskys including the delightful BenRiach Pedro Ximinez Sherry Wood finish, Saturday was a trip to Chorlton to the annual Chorlton Arts Festival Crafts Fair, one of the launch events for the festival which just keeps getting bigger each year going from a little community event to drawing some big names. I've had a stall at this busy craft fair for the last 3 years so it was nice to be on the other side of the table for a change. I bought a great broach with a drawing of the Manchester skyline from Purple Pixie, like the necklace below but with white on a black background.

Saturday evening my friend Steve, a connoisseur of pizza, came over and we ate pizza and watched a good old 80's film Mystic Pizza. My hair at that time was exactly like Julia Robert's in the film! We had two pizzas, balsamic roasted vegetables and 'ham', mushroom and pineapple. These were followed up by Knickerbockers Glories. Layers of chocolate sauce, strawberries and peach in strawberry sauce, pineapple and cremo vita cream all layered up with chocolate icecream and finished with toasted almonds and a cherry on top! I bought a Soda Fountain Classics book a while ago in a charity shop and am going to work my way through it veganising the recipes. This first one was a definite success.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Ice Cream Season

I've spent the last 3 days trying to find a tub of Vanilla Swedish Glace to make Knickerbocker Glories this weekend, but to no avail. My local Tesco and Sainsbury's seem to have stopped selling it and the health food shops either don't sell icecream or had run out.

I managed to get a tub of the chocolate in The Eighth Day and spotted these little tubs of the latest contender at the same time, Coconice. Like Booja Booja, it's pricier than Swedish Glace, a little one person tub costs £2. I was delighted to find though that it had a spoon under the lid and couldn't resist tucking in on the bus. There were 3 flavours available chocolate, strawberry and a non vegan one with manuka honey. I went for the chocolate. It was pleasant enough and coming in a small pot is good news for me as I have more of an icebox than a freezer. I prefer my chocolate a bit more chocolately though, on inspection the label showed that there was only 4% chocolate! It was more caramely than chocolatey. Will definitely give the strawberry a try too though.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Our Tragic Universe

The new novel by Scarlett Thomas has just come out and I was delighted to get a surprise copy from Dale. Thomas is a vegan and has included vegan characters in one of her past novels 'Popco' which was the first time I'd ever come across any interesting vegan characters in a novel. The book design of the new novel is similar to her last one 'The End of Mr Y' with cool black edged pages.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Punch drunk

Seeing as how I used to work for a wine merchant, have a keen interest in all things wine and spirit related and a fairly good collection of vintage glassware, it's come to my attention recently that I've hardly got any wine glasses. I went to a friend's for dinner last week and was presented with a whole cupboard full of fantastic wine glasses and asked to choose which one I'd like to drink out of which was a real treat.

This weekend I went over to stay with Jude and Paul in St Anne's which always means good charity shopping. Jude picked me up from Kirkham and we had a mooch around and the charity shops there. I came across these beauties which are handmade and etched and cost £5 for four of them. The bottles on the bar in the background are full sized Pisco brandy bottles from Peru and Chile, which gives you an idea of the size of the glasses. As I live in a one bedroom flat, I often try to combine uses for things to save on storage space. I can see these glasses getting used for wine, beer and now that the summer is here I think I'll be exploring some new recipes for punch.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Futuresonic Light Night

Managed to get out of the office this afternoon out and about today to actually see some art. First stop was to see some of the Future Everything festival and the Manchester Modernist's Tour of old K6 red telephone boxes finishing up at the Museum of Science and Industry with a sound art installation in one of them by Ailis Ni Rian. Then a quick stop to catch CU exhibition in Copperfaced Jacks pub underneath the Palace Hotel which turned out to be a great setting.

Next up was a train to Liverpool for their Light Night when galleries and other cultural venues stay open late. We fueled up at the vegetarian Egg Cafe, home of such vegan treats as tandori mushrooms! I'm not the biggest fan of everything on their menu but the mushrooms are always a winner, the cake selection is great and it has a good atmosphere.

From there it was the Toulouse Lautrec preview at the Walker Art Gallery. And finally an interesting, funny and self indulgent yet clever comedy show at the Bluecoat, Kim Noble Must Die. The Bluecoat also had a craft fair in the courtyard and I treated myself to a lovely doily embroidered with magpies by Lianne Mellor.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

He's back......!

Fantastic news for Manchester Veggies. Martin the Mod of the much missed Mod Pop Cafe fame which used to be under Pop Boutique on Oldham Street is back with a new business. In a prime spot on busy Oxford Road, Martin is now running an all veggie kitchen at the Thirsty Scholar pub under the railway arches by Oxford Road train station. It's business as usual with homemade veggie burgers with vegan cheese, chillis, noodles and all the old favourites.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Tea toddy

I'm a bit under the weather and have had a throat infection for the last few days which luckily doesn't seem to be developing into a full blown cold but has left me feeling pretty low. I like the taste of hot toddies but as a vegan I don't use honey and I am avoiding citrus fruit as I have a tendency to get eczema when I'm run down and citrus can exacerbate it.

So, I'm come up with this version instead and I must say it tastes fab. It's a measure of blended whisky with a teaspoon of agave syrup, boiling water and a bag of Birt and Tang Ginger Pu'er Tea. The tea also contains cloves and pu'er is a type of fermented green tea which is packed with polyphenols so plenty of anti-oxidants all round to fight off illness.

Feeling better already!

Saturday, 8 May 2010

The Miracle Tea!

In my new job I have to read applications all day and then write reports about them with constant deadlines to meet. It's kind of the equivalent of doing exams everyday! I'm sure I will get more used to it in time but at the moment it's often hard to switch off and my brain keeps on going in my sleep or occasionally it stops me from sleeping. A while ago I sent some of these Pukka Night Time tea bags to a friend who sometimes has sleep problems as a side affect of medication. She got in touch and said how great she's found them and has had some really restful nights sleep. I'd forgotten how good they are, I've been using a different brand of herbal tea for for a while now to less effect. So, I'm back on these. They are available from health food shops and also Tesco and at the moment boxes have a code inside that you can enter on their website to get sent some free samples of their 3 ginger, 3 berries and 3 mint teas too.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

It doesn't rain it pours!

I got my first proper pay rise paycheck this month since starting the new job. One day I will save some of my new (albeit small monthly) disposable income! As the law that is Sod had it, first my blender went on fire and had to be replaced and then my laptop collapsed and has been declared deceased. So the Bank Holiday weekend started well with forking out for a new laptop. I was restrained and bought the cheapest pc laptop available rather than the lovely shiny Mac Book. I stayed at my sister's on Friday and only popped home briefly on the way to a friend's house on Saturday teatime for a birthday curry feast to grab some soy yoghurt and a couple of jars of Geo Foods chutney from the fridge.

Good job I did as there was water streaming through my kitchen ceiling. Builders had started work doing up the empty flat above me the day before.

So it was all very dramatic. A plumber had to come out with ladders and get in through the windows above. He has managed to temporarily stop the dripping by crushing a pipe together (?!) but who knows what joys Tuesday will bring when the builders return.

Anyway, we still managed to make it to the curry evening albeit two hours late. In all of the drama I took my camera out of my bag so no pics but what a feast it was. Four different curries - mushroom and aubergine, potato and tomato, sweet potato and pepper and spinach and chickpeas served with home made samosas and a multitude of different type nans, flatbreads and chapatis. Susan and Debbie had provided gorgeous desserts - the richest chocolate cake and lemon gem cupcakes with lemon cream cheese frosting.

So, I may have a soggy ceiling but I do still have a roof over my head and am so lucky to have the loveliest friends who though non of them are vegan will happily work together to create an all vegan pot luck feast of a meal.

A weekend of breakfasts

For a while now I have been meaning to experiment with the Aldi vacumn packed croissants in a tin. A few years ago I tried a 'vegan' croissant and it was so awful and so uncroissant like that I didn't think I'd ever eat one again. A while back I happened to pick up one of the little blue tins from the fridge section of Aldi and started scanning the ingredients list. I have a habit of doing this in the vain hope that something will turn out to be vegan friendly and I was delighted to see that these were. Whilst not having the buttery taste of non vegan croissants these are really tasty and actually once you've been vegan for about 6 months your tastebuds change and you really don't miss the taste of the butter.

The dough is in a long rolled up piece which is perforated into 6 triangles which you split up and then roll to make traditional crescent shaped croissants. For the experiment I squished the dough back together over the perforation of 2 of the triangles with my fingers and then cut the rectangle in two. I put a slice of marzipan or chocolate in the centre of each rectangle, folded over the ends and then rolled it up like making a wrap or a burritto. They are supposed to take 15 minutes in the oven but mine is fan assisted so they only needed 10. The plain crescent shaped ones we had with Pure margarine and Sweet Freedom which is a delicious vegan honey like substitute, low GI and suitable for diabetics too.

I was really pleased with the results. They were delish! Word of warning if you do buy the croissant tins then make sure you keep them refridgerated until you use them. I have it on good authority as the tins have a tendency to explode otherwwise!

Sunday breakfast was a full vegan non fry up down at Odder Bar on Oxford Road. It was a wet, grey day and this hit the spot along with the Sunday papers. Grilled tomatoes, grilled field mushrooms, toast, scrambled tofu with salsa, sweet potato and bulgar wheat pattie, home made veggie sausage and boston baked beans. Mmmmm - now if they'd just offer soya milk and some decent choices of herbal tea and Earl Grey this place would be damn near perfect!