Thursday, 23 December 2010

La-z Girls

Last night after work I met up with some of the girls from Manchester Vegan Society and Cake Liberation Front at Jo's house for a meal. Wow, Jo really spoiled us! We started with hot mulled apple with optional shots of rum. Next was a cauliflower and blue scheese soup with delicious bread from the Unicorn Grocery. The picture below is of the main course - a hearty root vegetable and cider stew with garlic and rosemary roast potatoes and dumplings. Perfect food for a cold, snowy night. We finished off with one of my favourite desserts - trifle. Mmmm.


We were so full after eating we could hardly move! Jo, Vicki and I bagged the la-z boy chairs for a post-dinner lie down!


Saturday, 18 December 2010

Christmas Gifts - Orange and Chilli Marmalade


I finally managed to find some small bottles for the Limoncello and Strawberry Gin. These are from Ebay and worked out at £1 each when the purchase price and postage were added together. The seller sells them for wedding favours so you can fill them with spirits and print your own labels.


I've been busy today making more Christmas presents. I baked a batch of the Gingerbread Biscotti from VCIYCJ. I love how easy they are and how they are good for presents as they keep for a month, not that they'll last that long! I also made my yearly batch of Orange and Chilli Marmalade. I've been making this for 20 years and it's a real favourite.


Orange and Chilli Marmalade

Ingredients

1 kg / 2lbs unwaxed oranges, thinly sliced
Juice and zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
1.5litres / 2 3/4 pints of water
6 whole red chillies
2 kg / 4 lb granulated sugar

To sterilise jars - Wash jars thoroughly and then place in a low oven at 110c/225f/Gas 1/4 for 20 minutes.

Place the oranges, lemon juice + zest and the water into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours adding the red chillies after 45 minutes. Place a saucer in the freezer to use when testing later.

Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. When the mixture comes to the boil turn up the heat and cook rapidly for 20 minutes or until setting point is reached. Test for setting point by putting a drop of mixture on a cold saucer and seeing if it crinkles when pushed.

When it's ready remove from the heat. Let it stand for 15 minutes and then ladle into sterilised jars.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Cedar Tree


I've got 2 works Christmas do's this week. The first one was a team one last night. We went for a meal at The Cedar Tree. The Cedar Tree is cheap and cheerful and is one of the older establishments in the Northern Quarter. The food is Lebanese and we all ordered lots of small dishes. The table was packed! It's also BYOB hence the abundance of wine bottles on the table!


There are loads of delicious vegan choices. One of my favourites is the bright red dish at the end of the table. I always forget the name but it's number 13 on the menu!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Trip to the Big Smoke


Phew, the end of last week and the weekend were pretty full on. On Sunday my friend Jude and I hosted another babyshower for our friend Jan with lots of daft games and yummy vegan food. Before that I had a few days in London dashing around seeing exhibitions. And then of course there's the food.

Thursday night tea was from Mrs Marengos, the cafe and takeaway arm of Mildred's. On the way through Soho to meet my friend Helen a man tried to entice me into his establishment with cries of free lamb, free chicken! Now if it had been free falafel..... Anyway, Mrs M's is highly recommended. Lovely, friendly staff and reasonable prices. I had the burger of the day with a massive bowl of sweet potato fries.

Also, highly recommended and somewhere I've been wanting to visit for a while since reading about it on Siobhan's blog is the Gallery Cafe. And, seeing as Helen took me to see some work her pupils had done in the Sense of Place exhibition at the Museum of Childhood next door, we popped in for lunch. Again, great food and prices. I had a smoked tofu panini, H had soup and we shared a large bowl of fries. We made sure we left room for one of Siobhan's cupcakes choosing flavour of the month Cranberry and Orange. You can get the recipe here on her other blog.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Manchester Christmas Market


I no longer work in the next street to the biggest of the Manchester Christmas markets, there being several sites dotted around the City Centre. However, I am still near enough to easily make after work visits.


After several postponements I made it there tonight for Gluwein with some of my lovely work colleagues. There's not usually anything for vegans to eat so I was excited to find a stall selling falafel and hummus salad wraps by the Brazenose Street Gluwein stand and it was good falafel!

I bought my tree as usual from the Dutch tree sellers. For years we had the huge inflatable Santa and his sleigh on top of the Town Hall. These days we have our South Park style light-up Santa who I like just as much.



Thursday, 2 December 2010

Triple Chocolate Amaretto Cookies


I came up with these for my friend Jen's birthday as she is a lover of both amaretto, chocolate and cookies it seemed appropriate to bring the three together!

I save old herbal teabag boxes, cover them with recycled wrapping paper and reuse them lined with greaseproof paper for cookie boxes.

Ingredients

1/2 cup of sugar
1/3 cup of oil
1/2 tablespoon of arrowroot
2 tablespoons of soy milk
1 tablespoon of amaretto
1 teaspoon of almond extract
1 cup of plain flour
1/4 cup of cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of chocolate chips (I used a mix of white and dark)

Makes 16 cookies

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C/Gas4
Grease a baking tray

Whisk together the sugar, oil, arrowroot, soy milk and amaretto for a few minutes.
Stir in the almond extract.
Sieve in the flour, cocoa, bicarbonate of soda and salt and mix.
Stir in the chocolate chips.
Roll into small balls, place on baking sheet and flatten each cookie with a fork.

Bake for 8 minutes.
Let cool for 5 minutes on tray, then transfer to a cooling rack.


Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Mofo Giveaway winner


Congratulations to Falovi. you're the winner of my Mofo giveaway. Please contact me via the email link in my profile to let me know what prize you would like. I can't get the Random Generator thing to copy and paste to the blog but it was you with comment number 10. When I set up the competition there was a selection of skull and crossbones and heart teacosies in the Folksy shop.


These have now been joined by some lovely seasonal festive cosies knitted by my mum.

There's also some sets of little Christmas toys too.


Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Breakfast

We have a 1 hour pilates class where I work at 8am on a Tuesday. Today is our last class for a while as our teacher is heading back to her native Brazil for a month. We decided to have breakfast together after the class before diving into a days work. My contribution was pumpkin muffins using this Vegan With A Vengeance recipe with a cup full of chocolate chips thrown in - it is breakfast after all!


Monday, 29 November 2010

Vegan Grocery Shopping in Manchester


I am so lucky to live in a town where there are good vegan food shopping options. In the city centre there are several streets of Chinese, Thai and Japanese supermarkets in the Chinatown area.


On my way home from work, in the heart of student land, there is the long established Eighth Day Health food shop which is run as a co-operative and all items are vegetarian or vegan. They have a whole aisle of chocolate and are good for raw food items too.


I live at the end of the Curry Mile in Rusholme so there are several great value Asian grocers in amongst the cafes and restaurants.


A bus ride away in my old neighbourhood of Chorlton is the Unicorn Grocery. The Unicorn is also a co-op which has grown and grown over the years and could now be described as a vegan supermarket! They also have the best shopping bags around which you can compost after they've worn out. Parsnips on Tour is one of my favourites.




The little bags are perfect for packed lunches. For several years they got customers to take photos of the bags in different locations around the world and these photos are displayed at the till points. My sister and I took one of a bag hanging off the Berlin Wall!



Sunday, 28 November 2010

Dandelion and Burdock


I had a train ride out to Yorkshire yesterday. It was nice to gaze out of the window for an hour at the snow covered hills before I got off in Sowerby Bridge to meet my old college friend Sarah. We try to meet up several times at year at the fab completely vegan restaurant in the town – Dandelion and Burdock. We were gabbing far too much for me to remember to take a picture of the main course. Sarah had the vegetable biriyani and I had a creamy, herby roasted root vegetable penne dish. Both were fresh, colourful and flavoursome with decent sized portions.


We managed to fit in desserts. I had the cranberry, orange, chocolate teabread that was stacked with vanilla ice cream and drizzled in chocolate sauce. Sarah went for the rice pudding with rum and raisins. Both were great comfort foods for a winter day.


Sarah lives just up the road from the restaurant and I love going there with her. She was the person who taught me to cook 20 years ago when we were poor students living in shared houses with horrendous kitchens! One of my favourite soups is still the carrot, apple and celery that we used to make big pans of with apples from my parents garden and herbs from hers.


Saturday, 27 November 2010

What's Your Favourite Cookie Cutter?


Do you have a favourite cookie cutter? I got this set 2 years ago for Christmas and have only just got round to using them. I think in the back of my mind I thought they were going to be complicated to use but they weren't. The cookies were fun to cut and they came out really well. I used this simple sugar cookie recipe and chucked in a teaspoon of cinammon too. They were finished off with just a dusting of icing sugar but would be great iced too.


They are from the RSPB website and they are selling them at half price at the moment.



Friday, 26 November 2010

Magic Mustard Garlic Bread


Today was a trip to Ikea. Seeing as I went to get a cupboard that is on the website but when we got there found it has been delisted and is not available, it was a bit of a disappointment. However, the nearest Ikea to my home is in Ashton and it turns out that Topaz Social Centre is only a few streets away. I had heard good things about the vegetarian cafe there so Steve and I went for lunch. We were blown away by how good the food was. Falafel burger, sweet potato wedges, lemon pesto pate, white bean hummus, carrot cake, parkin, hot chocolate and coffee – everything was excellent quality and as it is run as a not for profit enterprise it was also extremely well priced. Friendly staff and nice cosy atmosphere too.


Back home there was the usual flat pack frustration putting together the one item I was able to purchase but I ended up pleased with my little set of drawers that I'm going to use for spices and teas. There's still a few days left to enter my MoFo Tea Cosy competiton to win one of my handknitted teacosies from my Folksy shop.


Tea was quickly thrown together mushroom and pineapple pizzas with my special recipe garlic bread. My sister and I have been making garlic bread this way for years. I can't remember which book we got it from but it's yummy. I always use French Mustard but it's good with English too.

French Mustard Garlic Bread

2 ciabatta rolls

1 large tablespoon of vegan margarine

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard

In a bowl mix together the garlic, margarine and mustard. Cut slices into the bread (not quite all the way through) and spread each side with the margarine mixture.

Wrap the rolls in foil and bake in a pre-heated oven 220C / Gas 7 / 425F for 8-10 mins.


Thursday, 25 November 2010

Cherry Bakewells - a English tradition


These are another of the things I decided to veganise for last Sunday's CLF meeting. Bakewell tarts and puddings are an English invention from the Derbyshire town of Bakewell. You can read about how they were invented here. I've never attempted them before and I was really pleased how they turned out. They were delish, miles better tasting than I remember Mr Kiplings being (too sickly sweet) and pretty easy to do. Check out this old Mr Kiplings advert which demonstrates how they're made.


I cheated and used Jus Roll ready made shortcrust pastry. I rolled this out, cut circles with my biggest circular cookie cutter and then pressed the pastry down into muffins pans. After pricking the pastry with a fork it was blind baked for 10 mins at Gas 5/ 190C/ 375F. When they came out I put a layer of strawberry jam in the bottom of the pastry case. For the filling I made up half of the mixture from the Bakewell Slice recipe in The Return of the Cake Scoffer. They went back in the oven for another 15 mins at a slightly lower temperature of Gas4/ 180C /350F. Once they were cooled, I gave them a proper Mr K finish with a thick layer of icing and half a cherry. I couldn't get any glace ones so I used Cocktail cherries!


Filling

Adapted from The Return of the Cake Scoffer - I highly recommend this book and The Cake Scoffer,Breakfast Scoffer and Salad Scoffer. At only £1.50 each (or all 4 for £6 including P+P) I've ordered lots for Christmas presents. Ideal for non vegans too, recipes are easy to follow with no hard to get hold of ingredients.

3oz or 3/4 cup of self raising flour (I've read here if you add 1 teaspoon of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt to all purpose flour it will convert it to self raising)

3oz or 3/4 cup ground almonds

3oz or 3/4 cup caster sugar

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1 teaspoon of almond extract

3.5 fl oz or 1/2 cup of sunflower oil

2.5 fl oz or 1/3 cup of water

Mix the dry ingredients together. Add the almond extract, oil and water. Mix together and then add a layer to the pastry case on top of the layer of jam.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Lovely Liverpool


Yesterday was a busy day. I'm off this week but I was still up at the crack of dawn to go to the pre-work pilates class we have every Tuesday. Next, I met my friend Dale for coffee a veggie breakfast before we caught a train to Liverpool to see some more of the Biennial before it finishes. We headed to the Tate first and then took in Bluecoat, Open Eye and Fact. We also managed to fit in a search of the shops for little bottles to decant my liqueurs into but didn't have any luck finding any.


We stopped for a well earned tea break at Brew, an interesting independent tea bar on Bold Street, we've been meaning to try for a while and we were really impressed by it. I enjoyed a matcha, vanilla latte and Dale had a Christmas tea which had pine needles in it and smelled amazing, like a cross between Christmas trees and mince pies.


In the evening we had a swift half in the Philharmonic Dinning Rooms, famous for it's lavishly decorated gents toliets! This was followed by a meal at the Yuet Ben, a Chinese restaurant we'd been recommended. The food and service was great – ginger,garlic tofu and aubergine in black bean sauce washed down with a pot of Jasmine tea. We finished the day off by going back to the Bluecoat to see comedian Laurence Clark with his new show 'What's The Best Medicine'.



Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Choctastic



One of the conversations some of the vegans who came on Sunday had was that we'd all encountered people saying 'Oh, you poor thing, you can't eat chocolate'. What do they mean? Vegans eat the best chocolate of all!

My friend Jo is a fellow vegan and chocolate conosiuer. It was Jo who first introduced me to the delights of the Chocolate Tree in Edinburgh who sell amazing flavoured bars. The sea salt + caramel and bramble + cardamon are my favourite's of the ones I've tried so far.


For my birthday she presented me with a goody bag full of treats including chocs by two brands I've not tried before. The Chocolate Cafe are fairly local, based in Ramsbottom, near Bury. There is a shop and cafe and they even organise an annual chocolate festival in the town. They sell the Zotter range of chocolate which looks like it's got some interesting vegan options. Bird's eye chilli or goji berries in sesame nougat anyone! The goody bag contained dark chocolate covered lemon sticks from the shop which were delicious and very moreish!


Artisan Du Chocolat are in London. Jo got me a bar made with almond milk. Mmm, very creamy, full of almond flavour and it has cute squirrels on the packaging. They've got some intruiging looking bars. I fancy trying the bars flavoured with espresso, tobacco and darjeeling tea next. I can feel a chocolate tasting evening coming on in the near future!


Monday, 22 November 2010

Chocolate, orange pecan pies



Wow, what a busy weekend. It was my birthday and also the first CLF meet up yesterday.


The meet up was great. It was attended by both vegans and non vegans and the variety and standard of baked goods was really excellent! There was pumpkin pie, lemon gem cupcakes, Mexican hot chocolate cakes, doughnuts, chocolate pecan pies, bakewell tarts, chocolate hazelnut whoopie pies, cinammon rolls and chocolate rolls, vanilla fairy cakes, brazil nut and banana brownies, banana and chocolate orange bread, peanut butter cookies, chocolate chip cookies, brownies, blondies...... I wish I'd written a list cos there was so much I can't remember it all! We were all able to take some samples home too which was an added bonus!


This is one of the Chocolate Orange Pecan Pies that I made. I got the idea from Sarah Kramer's Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie recipe. I made mini individual pies and added orange extract as well as vanilla, 2 tablespoons of mixed chopped peel and 2 tablespoons of orange curaco instead of bourbon.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Mmm......Doughnuts!


It's the first Cake Liberation Front meeting on Sunday and I've been wondering what to make for my contribution. One of the things I definitely want to try making again is vegan doughnuts.


My ex-boyfriend is the owner of a Homer Simpson doughnut maker which I still seem to have custody of! It's a bit like a breville sandwich maker and makes doughtnuts in minutes.



I made some a while back for one of the regular film nights in with the girls. We watched Grease and had lots of diner style food. I coated them in icing and dipped them in sprinkles. I used this fab recipe from Vegan YumYum and it worked perfectly in the Homer as it's affectionately known.



Thursday, 18 November 2010

What Do You Get The Vegan Who Has Everything?


Well, if you live in the UK, Oreos from North America are always an idea. For some reason the ones made in Europe are widely available but all have whey in them. The FAQs on the Oreo Eu website says – 'We're also hoping to work on a vegan option soon, so watch this space. Whey-powder free, vegan-happy Oreo will hopefully be available soon. Exciting!'



Hmm, that was written in 2009, and seeing as they already have vegan ones elsewhere I can't see what the hold up is!

Anyway, in the meantime we do have the Bourbon Cream which gets subbed for Oreos in many a cake recipe or here in my alcoholic Double Bourbon Milkshake.


So, in answer to the question of what do you get the vegan who has everything? How about one of these lifesize ceramic Bourbon Biscuit boxes by Robert Archard. Kind of the opposite end of the scale to the Trafalguar Square cake but just as cool.