Monday, 30 August 2010

Strawberry Gin

I used to make this every year but haven't in the last few. Decided it was time to get some strawberry gin on the go then it will be ready for Christmas. It's a good time to start it whilst strawberries are in season and cheap. As you add loads of sugar there's no sense in using a premium gin. I got a bottle for £7.99 from Lidl. The finished liqueur is ruby red and is great on it's own with ice or served with tonic to make a pink GnT.

Strawberry Gin
(Makes 2 kilner jars worth, as above)

First sterilise the jars
Wash the jars in hot, mildly soapy water and rinse well. Remove the rubber seals and place the jars in a pre-heated low oven of 110c/225F for 20 minutes.


750g/ 1 1/2 lbs of strawberries
375g 12oz caster sugar
1 bottle of gin

Wash and hull the strawberries and split between the jars. Cover each pile of strawberries with half of the sugar. Pour half a bottle of gin into each jar.

Seal and leave for 1-2 months. The strawberries will loose their colour and the sugar will dissolve.

Strain through muslim or a coffee filter and pour into a sterilised bottle. Store for another month.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

In The Suburbs ...

South Manchester has some really nice suburbs where independent businesses still manage to thrive. Today I got the bus over to Didsbury with my friend Susan. We had a mooch round the charity shops before heading to the Art of Tea for lunch. They have a couple of vegan sandwiches on the menu and offer soya milk, sadly no cakes though I always ask!. I had an avocado, hummus and rocket sandwich on lovely granary bread with a soy cappucino. It's a laid back little cafe full of mis-matched crockery and furniture with a second hand bookshop and picture framers in the back and regularly changing art on the walls.

After that we headed over the road to the Finders Keepers craft and vintage fair at Emmanuel Church. Got a few treats. Stripey Star earrings from Woodchip Boutique and a fab bunting necklace and Scotty dog broach from Sunday Girl. The Scotty was a lovely surprise gift from Susan. The afternoon was finished up at the Thirsty Scholar with tea and cakes and a Manchester Vegan Society meet up.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Heavy Metal Vegan Cooking

The Heavy Metal Vegan Cooking shows have been around for a while on You Tube but now Tim has created a website and added some new shows. Check them out, they are funny and there are some good recipes. My favourites are Seitan with Satan and Easter Caskets.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Score for Soy!

I always make a point of asking if somewhere has soy milk even when I know they don't. I figure that if enough of us ask then management will eventually take notice and offer it as an option. I met one of my old gallery friends Marie, for a catch up tonight and to hear all about her recent wedding. We always meet in Kro Picadilly for a brew. I asked as usual and was gob smacked when the barmaid said yes! Hurrah, well done Kro. Don't know about the other Kro's but hopefully the same.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Late Night Foraging and Roasted Apples

Dinner last night at Siobhan's was really good fun. She found some fantastic recipes to make for us on Vegan Village. We started with avocado with raspberry vinaigrette followed by Goan tofu curry which were both taste explosions! And look at that presentation, you can tell this is someone who did A Level cookery!

I took some Turkish Delight cupcakes for dessert - recipe to be posted soon. We had those with some vanilla Swedish Glace and some perfectly ripe blackberries which involved a spot of late night foraging in the garden with ladders and torches! I was also sent home with 4lbs worth of allotment grown apples.

Today I roasted the apples up with cinnamon, lemon juice and agave as per the instructions in the Babycakes cookbook. I then blended half of them with hot water and more agave to make apple sauce and kept the others as chunks to use in muffins. I went through my cookery books and picked out some recipes to try from Babycakes, Get it Ripe and Vegan With A Vengeance. I ladelled them out in amounts needed for each recipe, labelled them up and popped the containers in the ice box to use over the next few weeks. I knew all those empty hommous containers would come in handy one day!.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Raspberry Ginger Breakfast Scones

I am trying to have a bit more variety in my weekend breakfasts. Throughout the week I always have a smoothie but on Satudays and Sundays I've been trying to mix it up a bit. Today I had porridge with fresh apricots, toasted almonds, cacao nibs and goji berries drizzled in maple syrup accompanied by a free sample of refreshing Citrus redbush which you can get here.

Tonight I am going to a friends for dinner which may be a late night requiring a lie in tomorrow so I have baked ahead! I'm going to take some of these raspberry ginger scones along for the others to have for Sunday breakfast too. They are based on the raspberry scones from the Babycakes cookbook with a few ingredients changes and yes that is tablespoons of vanilla extract and baking powder!

Raspberry Ginger Breakfast Scones

2 cups of plain flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/3 cup of sunflower oil + extra to brush the top
1/3 cup of agave nectar
1 tablespoon of vanilla
1/4 cup of hot water
1 cup of raspberries
1/4 cup of chopped crystallised ginger
3 tablespoons of flaked almonds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C/Gas 4

Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt and mix together.

Add the oil, agave and vanilla extract and stir together. Add the hot water and mix to combine. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold in the raspberries and ginger. Sprinkle with almonds if using.

Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let stand on the baking sheet for 15 minutes, then remove to wire rack to finish cooling.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Will The Real Jimi Conqueror Please Stand Up!

I started this blog on February 14 and amazed to find myself at my 100th post. And I've a confession to make. Some of you know me as Jimi and that's not my name. I'm Caroline and Jimi Conqueror is this cheeky monkey below.

Jimi has a sister Gemima who lives with my sister. In fact Jimi belongs to Alex too. We had lived together all our lives (bar a few years at college) until 4 years ago we went our separate ways and Alex said Jimi had to stay with me. He tells us he is a vegan buddhist from Sri Lanka! How he found his way to a gift shop in Manchester is a bit of mystery and Gemima fetched up in a posh toy shop in Dublin! She's not vegan and is a hindu. You may have spotted Jimi in a few past blog posts here , here and here and I've no doubt he'll be sneaking into future ones.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

The Vegan Tuck Drawer Is Restocked

A while ago I posted about the Vegan Tuck Drawer at work. A whole new host of treats have been added recently. There are a few things that you might expect to find picked up in a Health Food shop such as mini packets of Munchy Seeds and Nakd Bars and also some new additions which can be found in many newsagents too. As well as Frys Original, Mint and Orange chocolate bars we've got Mr Tom peanut brittle.

Several of the widely available Blackfriars Flapjack range are labelled as vegan.

And these little sesame snaps from Poland are a yummy treat.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Middle Eastern Flavours

I'm having a bit of a middle eastern themed week! Tried out this new Fentimans Rose Lemonade. It was the usual reliable Fentimans standard and refreshing lemonade with just a hint of rose. I've also been munching on a box of the vegan friendly rose and lemon Turkish Delight the Home Bargains/Quality Save chain are selling for 99p at the moment and which is due to feature in some weekend baking.

Tonight I met my friend Jan to see Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky at the Cornerhouse Cinema and we ate there before the film. The cafe has had a vegan roast vegatable pizza on the menu for a few years now and it was good to see more vegan options have appeared. There was spicy hummus, baba ganoush and carrot and cumin pate and a Morrocan tagine. I decided to give this a try and it was wonderful. It came in a dish topped with a flatbread that had been shaped to look like the lid of the tagine which gave it a real wow factor!

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

10 minute meals

I've been having a few health issues recently that have left me lacking energy. All the more reason to be eating well, so I've been focusing on nutritious meals which are quick to prepare. Here's a days worth of food where each meal took less that 10 minutes.

Breakfast - 1 minute oats made with fortified soy milk and water. I've added chopped nectarine and toasted almonds and drizzled the top with Sweet Freedom.

Lunch - club sandwich with Scheese cream cheese, avocado, tomato, toasted pinenuts and rocket.

Tea - this is based on the sesame noodles recipe in Get it Ripe. This dish is seriously amazing and so quick. It's a couple of tablespoons of seagreens soaked in water to rehydrate then tossed with noodles that have been cooked in the same pan as a load of kale, stirred up with some soy sauce and sesame oil and sprinkled with sesame seeds. The noodles are some new ones I've just discovered by King Soba and are pumpkin and ginger flavour! I've also added some mushrooms fried up with garlic.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Eco Paint

A completely unfood related post! I used Eco Paint for the first time this weekend to paint a radiator in my flat. I have a bit of a love hate relationship with my flat. On the one hand it is in a great location and is in an interesting listed building. On the other hand the building is old and hasn't been well maintained and there are always things going wrong, like the leak last week that still hasn't been resolved. Anyway, I am trying to show the flat some TLC this summer and finish off the little jobs I haven't got round to doing yet in the 4 years I've lived here.

One of the many quirks of living at the Lodge is that you have no control over the heating. I have 2 radiators for the whole flat, they are the originals from when it was built in 1939 and they are on constantly from September to May, 24/7. Not eco friendly at all! They are run from a central boiler room, a bit like school. So, I bought the paint ages ago from here, and have been putting it off but thought I'd better get started before the heating comes back on for the season.

Anyway, I was very impressed. Went on easily and no paint smell at all. At nearly £20 a pot it's not cheap but they delivered really quickly and it will easily do a couple of coats on each radiator, the bedroom one being much bigger.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Bags of Bags

Before I became vegan I used to tend to see non leather bags as inferior and not good quality. How times have changed! I've amassed this vegan bag collection over the last 4 years, the majority of it is by Matt and Nat.

Matt and Nat are an ethical vegan designer based in Montreal, Canada. Their bags are fantastic quality, made with amazing non leather materials and like leather, they even look better with age. The bags include lots of interior pockets including one for your mobile and a matching keyring which clips to the inside so it's easy to find your keys! They have new designs out each season and I can't recommend them highly enough. Above are my small going out bags.

These 3 are my work bags. Roomy enough to carry your everyday essentials and even a laptop.

These 2 are my holiday bags. Both have long straps so you can wear them across the body, keep your hands free and your stuff safe whilst travelling and are still comfortable to wear.

Matt and Nat are at the designer of end of the price spectrum but don't let that put you off. Some of the above bags are second hand from Ebay and some are new from TKMaxx. I have never paid more than £20 and some have cost me as little as 99p +postage!

And here we have more Ebay finds all around a fiver. A 1970's Spanish wicker basket bag which also doubles as a storage item and a coconut shell bag with wooden handles both of which always get lots of admiring comments. The small red clasp bag with the wooden handle is by T2 who I believe are part of the Tula/Radley group. Lots of their bags seem to be non leather but always worth checking with individual sellers if it isn't clear. The denim bag is by Joanna Hall and was bought to replace a very similar one in vinyl by the same designer that I used for years until it fell apart and used to be fondly known as 'the air hostess bag'!

And finally, the collectibles, again from Ebay that cost £20-£30. These are hand painted, signed and in one case decoupaged wooden bags made in the USA in the 1950s and 60s by designers Caro Nan and Enid Collins. Some Enid Collins bags have leather handles but these 2 are vinyl. I do use them for nights out and the rest of the time the 2 bird boxes double as jewellery boxes.

Friday, 13 August 2010

More Raw Chocolate Treats

Raw chocolate is expensive compared to non raw chocolate although you tend not to eat as much of it in one go. Om Bars have been around for a while and tend to be the best value raw chocolate bars I've found retailing at around £1.99, they come in various flavours and very nice they are too.

They've just bought out several more flavours which are enhanced by probiotics. I do like a probiotic. I am addicted to Prime Directive which I have every morning in my breakfast smoothie. I tried the new probiotic coconut flavour earlier. I tend to prefer coconut in savoury things like curries rather than with chocolate but this was good. They've also stopped using agave for coconut sugar which apparently has an even lower GI. Read more here.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Raw chocolate treats

Popped into Eighth Day after work to buy some pate and as usual came out £20 lighter and laden with treats! These new raw chocolate covered white mulberries are really amazing and highly recommended! I needed them as well. Got home after meeting friends for tea to find my flat having it's third flood this year. Not the upstairs flat this time, water appears to be coming into the bathroom from the outside. There was torrential rain earlier and it looks like it might be the drains. The building company are coming out first thing in the morning so I'm praying it's something that easy to fix.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Competition time

I was lucky enough to win 2 competitions last week. I won a copy of Viva Vegan by Terri Hope Romero from a PETA competition and a mug and bag from the To Happy Vegans monthly competiton.

In this months competiton To Happy Vegans have 5 boxes of Natural Balance bars to give away. You can enjoy them au natural or even get creative with them. Check out this post on Lustrous Musings where they get a Glasgow twist by deep frying them!

Monday, 9 August 2010

Easy Oreo Cupcakes

People usually bring sweets in work from their holidays but I decided to make oreo cupcakes with the vegan oreos I brought back. Sadly, the oreos in the UK are non vegan although you can buy imported ones for extortionate prices at places like Selfridges Food Hall. Alternatively, you could sub with bourbon biscuits. They went very quickly and the cupcake carrier caused a bit of a stir too!

This is not my original recipe. I have halved the recipe from one I found here which was originally from a PETA blog so I'm guessing it's ok to reproduce.

Oreo Cupcakes
Makes 20

2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup of cocoa
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 Tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda
3/4 cup of sunflower oil
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of coffee
1/8 cup cider vinegar

Pre-heat the oven to 350F/180c
Line the baking tin with cake liners

Sieve the flour, sugar, cocoa, salt and bicarbonate of soda and stir well
Add the oil and vanilla and mix until just combined
Slowly add the coffee and stir for a few minutes
Add the vinegar and stir for 1 minute

Fill each liner 2/3 full
Bake for about 18-20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean

Let cool fully before frosting

Oreo Crumble Frosting
1 1/2 cups of icing sugar
1/4 cup of vegan margarine
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
2 tablespoons of soy milk
6 crumbled oreos
More oreos to garnish if desired

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Remember my name...

Every few months I get together with a group of my oldest friends for food, drinks and to watch cheesy 80s films. On Saturday it was the turn of Fame (the 1980's Alan Parker version not the remark). As the film is set in New York we started with pizzas. There was mushroom and caramelised onion, chorizo and red pepper, roasted veg and ham, pineapple and sweetcorn accompanied by potato salad and green salad and washed down with Absolut Stoop Party cocktails made with the Absolut Brooklyn in the last post.

For dessert we set up a build your own sundae bar. There was vanilla Swedish Glace, home made banana and strawberry ice creams from the book Vice Cream, strawberry sauce, maple syrup, dark and white chocolate chips, sprinkles, fresh berries and delicious strawberry marshmallows from Sweet Vegan. These handmade gelatine free marshmallows are excellent, come in several flavours, can be ordered from their website or sometimes crop up being sold as mis-shapes on Ebay.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

New York - The Drinks

As well as all the amazing food and plenty of iced tea and coffee we got to try some new drinks in New York. There was Hibiscus Cooler at Angelica Kitchen, Chai Coconut Milk at Bonobos and Lavender Lemonade at Teany.

The green soy latte in the cafe on the top floor of the Kinokuniya Book Store that sells all things Japanese was huge and one of the few hot drinks I had all holiday as the weather was hot, hot, hot! I also got to try my first ever Bubble Tea in the form of a passion fruit flavour one at Gobo.

There was no alcohol on this trip as I joined Alex in not drinking. One day back at work though and I'm on the cocktails. I couldn't resist this bottle of Absolut Brooklyn in Duty Free. It's a limited edition created for Absolut with Spike Lee with monies going to a the charity Habitat for Humanity. The vodka is red apple and ginger flavour. Pictured is the signature cocktail, the Absolut Stoop Party, which consists of equal parts vodka, ginger ale and cranberry juice built over ice.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

New York - The Food

What can I say about NYC vegan food! It was all good and some of it was outstanding and lucky Alex had the excuse of eating for 3! We had raw in the form of cheap n cheerful from Bonobos and also super gourmet sitting in the garden at Pure Food and Wine. On the days we spent in the East Village there were turkey clubs and BLTs at Teany, BBQ burgers and fries at Kate's Joint, Dragon Bowls and Dashi with noodles at Angelica Kitchen. After dinner one evening we visited Lula's Sweet Apothecary and ate our orange cremesicle and ginger creme cookie sugar cones in the delightful Creative Little Garden that we stumbled on further up the block.

Still in the East Village we had several mid afternoon trips to Babycakes for iced coffees and to sample cupcakes, doughnuts, muffins and brownie bites. We got stuff from here to take back to the hotel for our breakfasts too.

We tried to balance the days with one super healthy meal and one more indulgent or junk foody one. On the Saturday we were headed to revisit Red Bamboo which we loved on our last trip but got Chinese food cravings after shopping in Pearl River Mart and instead tried the restaurant Vegetarians Paradise 2 a few doors up. Their food is described as a fusion of Asian-Soul cuisine and we loved our meal of Soul Chicken with BBQ sauce, spring rolls and Crispy Sweet and Sour fish.

On Sunday we spent the day in the Met and lunched on the steps A La Gossip Girl with a fabulous chickpea tuna melt and smoked tofu, spinach and mushroom wrap from Terri. Later we took our museum weary legs a few blocks over to the Candle Cafe for Tuscan Lasanga and giant cookies.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

New York - The Culture

A food post to follow once the jet lag fades! We stayed mid town at the Gershwin Hotel which was next to Madison Square Park which was hosting the Anthony Gormley figures that were all over the South Bank in London a few years ago. If you look in the left hand corner of the photo you can just see one on top of a building and they were everywhere you looked including on top of the Flat Iron!

We only had 3 full days but we managed to visit the Tennement Museum twice - you have to book a tour. Highly recommended. You get to visit a recreated apartment and learn about an actual family that lived there. Particularly good was the more interactive Confino Family tour. Our group had to pretend we were an immigrant family. I got to be the Italian Mama! The museum has an excellent gift shop and is also very near Teany, Babycakes and Mooshoes.
We also spent a day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I could spend a week in there! As well as the amazing permanent collection there was a cool bamboo installation, Big Bambu by Doug and Mike Stern, on the roof that you could get inside.

And finally a few goodies I managed to cram in my suitcase to keep the NY vibe going a bit longer. Matcha tea for making Green Tea Cupcakes from one of my favourite NYC shops Pearl River Mart, vegan friendly Oreos, Swedish Fish, Lara Bars, Clif Bars and vital wheat gluten so I can finally make the chickpea cutlets from Veganomicon. Oh, and not forgetting my new favourite mug from Babycakes.