Monday, 31 October 2011

Wedding Monsters

It's Halloween and the last day of MoFo so today I am bringing you monsters and cake! You may have noticed that bits of craft have been creeping into my MoFo blogging! I've been wanting to do a post all month about Helen Makes which is an amazing knitting and crochet venture run by Helen Davies who is an ex colleague of mine and a vegan too! Her stuff is fantastic. She makes amazing knitted pictures like the one below of her friend's dog.

She also makes monster versions of people! The attention to detail in these is amazing and they are beautifully made. A few people in the office commissioned them and they really do capture people's personalities and quirks. There are even some celebrity monsters out there, check out these guys on Adam Buxton's blog. Recently Helen has been creating mini monsters for people's wedding cakes!

Helen can also make to commission from photographs. Check out her website to see all that she does. She also just set up a Folksy shop and I can recommend her blog too!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Perfect Baked Chips

I've had the bundles of energy that are one year old twins round visiting this afternoon and was busy making Halloween outfits for them for when they start nursery properly tomorrow. I was exhausted afterwards and decided to go for a very easy tea of pie and chips! The pie is the new Linda McCartney one that was the winner of the public recipe contest a few months ago. If you like the Country Pies in the range you're likely to like these. It's mushroom, ale, lentils and spinach. I often make potato wedges to go with pies either with ordinary potatoes or sweet potatoes by tossing in olive oil, paprika and salt and baking for 30 mins.

Tonight I thought I'd try a different method as described in Veggie Burgers Every Which Way by Lukas Voler. I must say they are a winner! The secret is to remover some of the starch by soaking the chips in cold water before cooking. Wash the potato and cut it (leaving the skin on) into quarter inch matchsticks. Cover with cold water in a large bowl for 30 minutes. Dry thoroughly, a salad spinner and kitchen towel is good here. Then I tossed them in olive oil and sea salt and baked for 30 mins at 200C turning them every 10 minutes. Really excellent chips!

Friday, 28 October 2011


For the last 2 weeks at Meat Free Monday people have being telling me how good Frurt is. It's a new frozen yoghurt place which opened a few months ago. It's the first of this kind of thing in Manchester and is an independent business with everything made fresh on the premises. They have a small selection of flavours with usually around half of them dairy free! The flavours change on a regular basis too. I didn't see my friend Steve on his birthday the other week so after we'd been to an art event I took him for a yoghurt instead.

Must just give the art event a quick mention. It was a exhibition and launch for a project called Manchester and Salford Illustrated. Locally based illustrators have produced a range of limited edition prints and all proceeds go to the charity the Wood Street Mission. Prints are £25 and that's enough to support one child living in poverty for a year. Manchester has the highest rate of children living in severe poverty in Britain and this charity does great work, providing things like school uniforms, Christmas presents, Easter eggs, running book clubs etc. The online shop will be open soon. I bought the post office print by Ben Lamb and Steve got the Tony Wilson print. To our surprise and delight the refreshments at the event were non other than vegan cupcakes by Cake liberation Front members Vicki and Ali, as James (Vicki's brother and Ali's boyfriend) is one of the designers who have organised the project.

So, back to the yoghurt. We went for the 2 vegan options that are on at the moment. I had a 'small' pumpkin spice and Steve had Fruit Parfait which was layers of fruit, frozen yoghurt and granola. The staff were really nice and the place seems genuinely up for catering for a wide range of dietary requirements. It's situated just over the road from the Cornerhouse, Manchester's independant cinema so I'll definitely be popping in here for supplies before a film in future!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Packed Lunch Project

Next Tuesday my sister goes back to work after taking a year out of the office on maternity leave. She has been much missed by her colleagues, especially me! We are lucky enough to work for the same organisation in the same wider team though doing different jobs. The twins will be going to nursery 3 days a week which means the whole family getting up at an unholy hour to get them there before work. I was trying to think of any way I could help. Nick buys his lunch at work but Alex likes to bring a packed lunch and we usually eat together so I thought I could make her's alongside mine.

I've got lots of soup and salad recipes but I've only been getting into sandwiches again quite recently. This has been one of my favourites over the summer - avocado with mayo, alfalfa sprouts, tomato, rocket and crispy bacon flavour bits on Burgen bread. The bacon things are like little croutons flavoured with yeast extract and liquid smoke and I get them from bargain shops like Quality Save and B and M Bargains.

It's good news for me too as my lunches will be more varied. At the moment I tend to make a big batch of flavoured hummus at the weekend and eat the same type of sandwich for 4 days! I've been bookmarking ideas throughout MoFo and am keen to branch out and try things like Banh Mi and various tempeh ideas. What's your favourite sandwich?

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Healthy Pot Noodles!

Well, that's bit of a lie as there aren't actually any noodles involved but they are healthy. Well definitely more healthy than the speciality of pot noodle poured over a plate of chips that one of my ex boyfriends used to serve! There is couscous, bulgar wheat and quinoa involved instead. They come in a pot, you add boiling water and then wait 5 minutes before eating and they are made by The Food Doctor.

I often have to go out to things straight from work, sometimes work related, not always but I prefer to eat beforehand if I can rather than waiting until I get home. When I saw these on offer for £1 in Tesco I thought I'd get a couple to try. I must admit that I wasn't expecting much and thought portion sizes looked tiny (you only fill the pot up about half way with water) but I was pleasantly surprised and wasn't left hungry. They are fine for a once in a while quick snacky tea and I would buy them again. I tried the blue one (bulgar wheat, quinoa, tomato, black olive and basil) and the orange one (couscous, lentils, tomato, red peppers and cumin). The orange one was my favourite. The green pot is bulgar wheat, couscous, asparagus, leek and mint so I'll be looking out for that one to try too.

Monday, 24 October 2011

More Meals on Wheels

At the weekend it was time for me to take vegan food over to friends again. It's autumn and we needed wine and comfort food. I decided a one pot curry was the way to go and picked the 2nd Avenue Vegetable Korma from Appetite For Reduction. Blimey, when I'd finished I actually said out loud 'Is that it?'. I couldn't get over how incredibly quickly this comes together. You've got curry on your plate faster than it takes to pick up the phone and get a takeaway delivered. Thank you Isa, this is a recipe that's going to be made again and again in my house!

It also made the cranberry and cashew biranyni which is more like a pilau rice to go with it. This does take a bit longer but once you've bunged it all in the pan you just set the timer and go away and do something else, so another winner! And, not forgetting dessert, here in all it's glory before it goes in the oven is something that I've been making for the last 5 years at this time of the year since I got my first ever vegan cookbook. It's the Gingerbread Apple Pie from Vegan With A Vengeance which is lovely with custard.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Cheatin' Bailey's

I was cooking earlier with coconut milk and the recipe only used 3/4 of the can. I was about to do my usual trick of sticking the leftovers in the fridge only to forget about them to end up throwing them away in a week's time when I remembered that this week's Iron Chef Challenge was for coconut. So, here we have Cheatin' Bailey's - a vegan version of the Irish Whiskey cream liqueur. There's no faffing around making syrups to flavour it with, it comes together in mere minutes.

Serves 1
2 x double shot of coconut milk
Few drops of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of instant coffee
1 teaspoon of powdered drinking chocolate
1 tablespoon of boiling water
1 shot of Irish whiskey
1 teaspoon of agave syrup

Put the coffee and chocolate in a cup. Add the boiling water and stir until dissolved.
Add all of the ingredients including ice to a cocktail shaker. Shake well until chilled.
Serve in a glass tumbler over ice.

PS - the round thing drawn on the glass isn't a slice of orange as it looks in the photo! It's part of a picture of the London skyline around the glass and it's the London Eye. It's part of a lovely set of glasses my mum got me for Christmas the other year. The other skylines are Paris, San Fransisco and New York.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair

This title doesn't sound very MoFo related but last night I went to the launch of the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair. It was only after I'd treated myself to a few purchases that I realised that with the exception of a ring that they all had a food and drink theme, lol! It's on all weekend and is well worth a mooch around. There's lots of wonderful things and its really interesting to meet the makers. First up was a card from Leila Arzaghi. My camera couldn't get a decent close up but it's got a round teabag printed with a vintage style floral design. She also makes jewellery and the picture below gives more of an idea of her stuff.

I've been admiring Rachel Eardley's work for a while and have been looking for a horseshoe ring for about 3 years with no luck. I fell in love with the horseshoe and horse ring below and just had to buy it as an early birthday present for myself. I've had a bit of a crappy year so I'm hoping the horseshoe will signify a change of luck! The horse is cut from an old Irish coin from before the days of the Euro. I also couldn't resist the biscuit print below although the biscuits are decidedly non-vegan. Maybe I will have to make a matching one with a bourbon, ginger nut and hobnob!

And finally I bought one of Julie Haslam's printed recipes which are found on aprons, teatowels and napkins. Her grandparents were bakers and she originally started off by reproducing pages from her Grandma's handwritten recipe book. As time has gone on other people have donated old handwritten recipes to be transformed into textiles. I was excited to find a vegan friendly recipe for parkin just in time for Bonfire night which had come from Julie's mum! I told Julie that I have a food blog and she's asked me to let her know when I make it and said she was going to go round and tell her mum how she'd made a vegan happy!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Pear and Almond Muffins

A friend at work brought me a bag of apples and pears from her parents garden the other day. The pears were just getting ripe and you know what pears are like, you have to use them just at the right moment or they're quickly over ripe. So as soon as I spotted these looking ready to eat, I whipped these up. I'm really into snacking on almonds at the moment and these smelled soooo good when they were cooking. I think the apples are going to be made into chutney, I'm just searching around for the right recipe. I love a bit of chutney on a veggie sausage butty.

Pear and Almond Muffins

Makes 12


1 cup of soya milk

1 teaspoon of cider vinegar

1 ¾ cups of plain flour

2 ½ teaspoons of baking powder

½ teaspoon of salt

¾ cup of caster sugar

½ cup of sunflower oil

2 teaspoons of almond extract

1 cup of pear diced into little cubes (about 2-3 pears)

1 cup of flaked almonds

Pre-heat the oven to 200C / 400 F / Gas 6

Add the vinegar to the milk in a bowl. Whisk and set aside.

In a separate bowl sieve the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt and stir well.

Make a well in the middle and then pour in the milk mixture, oil and almond extract and give it a few stirs.

As it starts to combine fold in the pear and almonds. Stir until it just comes together, don't over mix.

Divide the batter into the muffin cases.

Bake for 20-22 mins until a toothpick comes out clean.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Getting Set Up for The Day

I'm more usually found with a smoothie at breakfast time but sometimes I like to change it up a bit. The temperatures have really dropped in the last few days and I've had more of an appetite than normal - I blame that on MoFo and all the amazing food I've been drooling over! So, this morning I decided a big, warming bowl of porridge was in order. Stirred in is apple sauce and golden syrup with a sprinkling of cinnamon on the top.

I always wait until I get to work to start on the coffee. Recently I've been starting the day with this Beautiful Skin Tea by Neal's Yard. After never suffering from spots as a teenager I went and developed acne when I hit my 40's and have tried lots of things in the last 2 years to clear it with no luck. About a month ago I started drinking this every morning and I also changed my foundation to mineral makeup from ELF which I read about on Vanilla Sugar blog and also started using this. I don't know if it's one of them or the combination but my skin has completely cleared up and I'm delighted. Check out ELF, they often have massive discount sales, I got everything in my order for half price.

I've also been using coconut oil as a moisturiser on the advice of the Bowen therapist I've been seeing who also told me about using it on toast instead of margarine. I can totally recommend this idea, it's delicious. I like it best with a layer of coconut oil topped with home made Orange and Chilli Marmalade. What sort of things do you like for breakfast in the cold weather?

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Trip to Todmorden

I'm lucky to have stayed friends with my 2 best mates from Uni who I met over 20 years ago! Sarah lives in West Yorkshire and Helen lives in London and we make sure we meet up several times a year. On Saturday I took the 30 minute train ride to Todmorden to spend a lovely afternoon with Sarah.

Todmorden is a little market town which has a great health food shop with a veggie cafe upstairs called the Bear. I forgot to take any pictures of our food we were gabbing so much but my garlic mushrooms on toast was yum and they make the best lattes. Here's some pics from last time.

This wonderful collection of foodstuffs is a small fraction of the wares from the Mediterrean food stall that is on the market and also in the food stall. It is run by a lovely man called Alex who makes his own chocolate and sources the most wonderful foodstuffs. I could have easily spent a £100 there was so much great stuff! I restrained myself and came away with a handmade bar of dark chocolate with rose, pistachio and mulberries, salted roasted Spanish almonds and sweet Turkish figs. Oh, and a packet of Hello Kitty pasta for a HK loving friend.

The market hall also has this great coffee bar where we stopped for espressos which hit the spot for a mid afternoon pick me up. That's Sarah hiding, third one along with the long hair. I'd never been in the food hall before but I'll definitely be back on future visits. I also scored a lovely skirt from a charity shop and an old marmalade pot with a cool spoon from the antique shop next to the Bear, bargains at £3.50 and £2.50 a piece. A perfect Saturday afternooon.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Bringing Brooklyn to Manchester

I had a sleepover at my sister's house on Saturday. Both herself, her partner Nick and their one year old twins James and Robyn had all had a horrible tummy bug in the week. I said I'd cook whilst they were getting the twins to bed whatever they were craving after being so poorly. Yum, yum, they chose the Brooklyn Pad Thai from Vegan With A Vengeance. They got all the ingredients in and I just had to turn up and cook it.

This is lovely comfort food and I highly recommend it if you've got the book but have never made it. I also brought Nick's favourite dessert of carrot cake. I used this excellent recipe from the Alien's Day Out blog that I found through MoFo adding in some chopped pecans and covering with a simple fondant icing.

Friday, 14 October 2011


You know someone is a REALLY good friend when they open a wine and bread bar right next door to where you work! My friend Dale was my boss way back in my Oddbins days and has been a very close friend ever since. He has just gone into business with a group of like minded people including the people who own the fab Dough Pizza Kitchen to launch this new independent business on Lever Street in the Northern Quarter.

Bakerie will specialise in wines (including lots by the glass), artisan breads, oils, vinegars etc. It will also have desserts made by Lisa who used to make the wonderful cupcakes when Cocoa Emporium was in Afflecks Palace. So, there'll be plenty for vegans, all clearly labelled and the gluten free will also be well catered for.

Bakerie consists of two parts. There will be the wine bar and then just opposite the tasting store where you buy stuff to take home. It even has it's own Invader on the wall outside.

Last night was a pre-launch event as part of the Manchester Food and Drink Festival and it was a chance to sample the lovely breads and wines. Not sure if Mr Horse lamp will be staying when the site opens in November or if he was just brought in for the night but we were all rather taken by him!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Where the Magic Happens!

I loved this recent post by Kelly Peloza of the Vegan Connoisseur which gave a tour of her kitchen. Her apartment like mine is in a block built in the 1930s and the kitchen area is very small. But, like her I agree that kitchen space should not be a limitation to what goes on in there!

When I moved in I had to spend money replacing the bathroom and unfortunately there was nothing left over to redo the kitchen. It's old and shabby and only has 2 cupboards. I've got a week off coming up in November and I'm hoping to spruce it up a bit then. Up to now I've focused on creating storage space. I've ended up branching out into the hallway and creating a little pantry in one of the built in storage cupboards there.

All available surfaces get used. The window ledge is nice and deep and has room for growing herbs and ripening fruit. I like to use a vintage cake stand instead of a fruitbowl, it's a good excuse to have it out all the time. The big ceramic strawberry is a compost crock from Lakeland plastics.

This butchers block has oils, vinegars and baking stuff on the bottom shelf and teas and coffees on top.

I put up several of these metal bar shelves from Ikea. They are great as you can attach the s hooks also from Ikea to hang your mugs, oven gloves, sieves etc. The big sweet shops jars contain rice, noodles, sushi stuff and the middle one is full of cookie cutters.

It's nice to have a bit of crafty fun in the kitchen too. Uh oh, someone's escaped from the biscuit tin!

Another Ikea buy is this slim but deep filing cabinet. It's full of herbs, spices, supplements and more teas. You can cram loads in there.

Well, hope you've enjoyed this little tour. I'm always interested in space saving tips if anyone has any.