Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Autumn Comfort Cooking

I've just been writing a shopping list for this week's meals. There's gnocchi, lasagne, burger and chips on there. We're having pizza for tea tonight too. I crave comfort foods at this time of year. I'm trying to counter the carb overload by taking up a new exercise regime. I've recently dropped some hours at work and can't afford a gym membership so it exists of a stack of Davina McCall DVDs bought cheap off eBay and Amazon and two tins of baked beans for weights! Here's a little look at what I've been cooking recently.

This Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese was something I made on our recent holiday to Suffolk. I'll be blogging about the places we found to eat soon. It's this recipe from Oh She Glows pimped up with some cubed Vegandeli chorizo. I've been sampling some of the Vegandeli slicing sausage range for an upcoming Can I Eat It? review and this was a great way to use it.

I love a good roast dinner and we've been often enjoying them with the Artisan Nut Roasts recently. I decided it was time to try something different and remembered the fantastic Chickpea Cutlet recipe from Veganomicon. It was Matt's first time trying them and he was well impressed. I love how these make extra and freeze well. The picture was taken before I added my usual vat of gravy.

Here's another roast dinner. We've been really getting into roasting sprouts and cauliflower. They taste so good cooked this way. The centre piece of this dinner was Macsween Vegetarian Haggis. This wasn't just the standard haggis though (which I love). This was a limited edition new product - Moroccan Spiced Haggis. I tried this for another Can I Eat It? review and I must say that I was a bit dubious about whether this would work but I was really pleasantly surprised. It's spiced without being chilli spicy and has gorgeous flavours from the inclusion of apricots, prunes, ginger and lime. It's being launched this month in Selfridges but then will be more widely available. Definitely worth trying if you spot it anywhere.

And finally something simple and quick that really hits the comfort food spot. This was a 15 minute Saturday lunch. The French Onion soup is made from a thinly sliced onion, veg stock, a teaspoon of mixed herbs, a teaspoon of yeast extract and a splash of brandy. This costs pence to make but is so tasty and great for when you feel a cold coming on. Alongside it is cheese on toast made with Veganic Pizza Cheese liberally splashed with the Yorkshire delicacy that is Henderson's Relish

What's your ideal Autumn comfort food?

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Vegan Life magazine - Issue 2

Did you manage to get hold of a copy of the first issue of new magazine Vegan Life? We were inspired by the article on a vegan wine and cheese evening and took advantage of an offer that Marks and Spencer's had on for 25% off 6 or more bottles of wine. It brought the price of this lot down to a fiver a bottle and we enjoyed trying them. My favourite was the third from the left, the PX. This was a crisp Chilean white. PX which is short for Pedro Ximenez is a grape usually associated with Spain and amazing sticky, sweet almost treacle toffee flavoured sherry. It was interesting to try it in a different style. M and S do a great job of labeling their wines as vegan and seeing as there is an M and S food at the end of our road we've been enjoying trying the range.

Issue 2 of Vegan Life is out now. You can see a preview of it here. I read my copy cover to cover yesterday evening. It took me over 3 hours, there's so much in it. There's a really great range of features and definitely something for everyone. I was really impressed with the variety. As one of the bloggers featured on their website I get a free digital subscription but I did also buy a copy of the first issue from WH Smiths. It's such a nicely printed magazine on quality paper that we're going to take out a subscription to get copies posted to us. It works out better value than buying individual copies and there's currently a subscription offer where the first 200 people get a free Organii shower gel and liquid soap worth over a tenner.

Very excitingly there is an article in this issue of the magazine on Cake Liberation Front. We're hoping it will inspire lots of people to hold their own CLF events. There's posters and graphics on the website that can be used for free to help with this. Don't forget that the t-shirts we did recently with Philosophy Football are still available. These would make great Christmas presents and are really high quality shirts.They can be found in the dissenters section of their website.

One of the parts of the magazine that I immediately turn to is the recipe section. There's plenty of variety ranging from ideas for Christmas cooking to raw food treats. There's also several features with recipes from selected cookery books which is a great way to get a flavour of a book before buying. I also enjoyed the feature on carob. Carob has had a bit of a bad rap over the years but the secret is to not compare it to chocolate. It used to marketed as a chocolate alternative and it simply isn't. It is great in it's own right though. I often use it in smoothies and I have been known to put carob chips in cookies when I've been able to find them. It's packed with vitamins and I was pleased to find a new way to feature it in my diet. Below is my version of a recipe from the magazine for a spicy warming drink. There's fresh ginger, maple syrup, cinnamon, cardamon, soya milk and boiling water in there. I slightly misread the recipe and had a much higher ratio of soya milk to hot water than it said but I don't think I'd change it as it really worked for me. This was such a lovely indulgent, spicy, treacle flavoured drink, just perfect for a winter's evening. Has anyone got any other uses for carob?

Monday, 20 October 2014


Matt's new job has taken him to the town of Ashton Under Lyne. After spending the last couple of years working in Manchester's Northern Quarter which caters brilliantly for vegans, he was a little worried about lunch options. Ashton however caters surprisingly well for non meat eaters. I joined him over there for lunch one Friday afternoon. Our choice of cafe was Topaz. Topaz is on the ground floor of a centre run by mental health charity, Mind.

All of the food is vegetarian and most of it is either vegan or veganisable. They also use veg which they grow on their own allotment. Matt went for kolrabi fritters with a gorgeous sweet pepper dish. I had tagliatelle with homemade pesto, olives, broad beans and rocket. Both dishes were delicious and really fresh tasting.

We managed to squeeze in some dessert too. 

This chocolate cake was pretty good but the real star was this apple crumble and custard.

We had a quick chat with the head chef Kevin before we left. He's run various veggie restaurants over the years. It turned out he was running a place in Leicester that Matt used to go in and was the creator of one of Matt's favourite food memories, an outstanding cashew cream he tried back in the nineties!