Tuesday, 30 November 2010


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!


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


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


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.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Homemade Limoncello

I've already got some Strawberry Gin on the go and decided to try out something new with some of the vodka I brought back from my recent holiday.

I decided to go for Limoncello as I'd just got a load of reduced price unwaxed lemons. It's really easy and turned a gorgeous yellow colour straight away. The only thing I'm having problems with is sourcing some little bottles for decanting the liqueurs into for Christmas presents. Does anyone in the UK know of anywhere? Ikea don't seem to have anything small enough or Lakeland which were my first thoughts.


Recipe from the BBC website

5 unwaxed lemons

1 litre of vodka

750g of caster sugar

700ml of boiling water

Pare the zest from the lemons, making sure there is no white pith. Put the zest in a large sterilised lidded jar and pour over the vodka.

Shake the jar each day for a week

After a week, dissolve the sugar in the boiling water to make a syrup.

Leave the syrup to cool and then add to the vodka.

Leave for a few more weeks shaking regularly.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Autumn Hotpot

I'm a bit under the weather at the moment and haven't been able to get out to the shops. I knocked this together for last night's tea* with what I had in as I needed something that would do me a few meals. I'll definitely make this again, my idea of comfort food.

*I am from the North of England where 'tea' is also a term for our evening meal.

Autumn Hotpot – Serves 2

1 onion

2 carrots

1 parsnip

1 small butternut squash

3 small to medium potatoes

½ teaspoon of dried sage

1 tablespoon of vegan margarine

Olive oil to brush potatoes


1 oz flour

½ pint of apple juice or you could use alcoholic cider

1 dessert spoon of tomato puree

½ teaspoonn of yeast extract

¼ cup of nutritional yeast

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

Chop the onion, carrots, parsnip and squash into chunks and saute in the margarine for about 10 minutes with the dried sage until the veg starts to soften.

In the meantime make the sauce by whisking the flour in a pan with enough apple juice to dissolve it and make a paste. Over a low heat continue to add the juice whisking all the time. Stir in the tomato puree, yeast extract, nutritional yeast and salt + pepper to taste. When it starts to thicken remove from the heat.

Stir the sauce into the vegetable mixture and transfer to an ovenproof dish.

Peel the potatoes and cut into thin slices. Top the veg mixture with the potatoes and brush the slices with oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cook for 30 minutes.

Serve accompanied with the remaining cider or apple juice.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Bargain Shopping

This weekend I went to stay with my good friends Jude and Paul in St Annes. As usual Jude and I enjoyed a ramble round the many charity shops there. I was delighted with this Bone China star covered milk jug and sugar bowl by Royal Vale in perfect condition for a mere £1.75

I always have a look in B and M Bargains when I'm there as although they are a chain there isn't one near to where I live in Manchester. I came away with enough stuff to fill a hamper! From L to R clockwise – Box of Whittakers Mint Creams – 99p, Dragonfly Organic Redbush Chai – 29p, Sherriffs Fairtrade Dark Chocolate covered ricecakes – 29p, jar of Ginger Jam – 69p, Bacon Flavour salad crispies – 79p, Silverspoon Almond Extract – 39p, 4 bars of Frys Chocolate Cream - £1.49, 5 bars of Jamesons Raspberry Ruffles – 89p. Some of these things might even make it to the Vegan Tuck Drawer!

Friday, 12 November 2010

Come Dine With Me Again

Back in September we had a work 'Come Dine With Me' evening. I noticed when I was in Vancouver that it was being shown on tv there and a Canadian version was about to be launched. Watch out North America, this is a low budget tv show that started off small and has become a cult hit in the UK. Richard was the first host and last night it was Paulette's turn.

In true Come Dine With Me style we were all presented with a rolled up menu and Andrew filmed our reactions to it on his Iphone. He then cleverly edited them together and added the theme music and titles just like the tv show. We got to watch the final edit whilst we were having our Jam Fizz champagne cocktails with jerk cashew nuts at the start of the evening.

The menu was Jamacian themed and we were treated to an amazing sweet potato soup with a rouille garnish for starters. No one had a clue what a rouille was or how to pronounce it! Turned out to be a cream made from blended lemon, fresh corander, bread and garlic and it complimented the soup perfectly.

Our main was a Red Bean Loaf. Paulette made me a separate vegan version and subbed egg replacer and nooch for eggs and cheese. This was topped with a rich coconut sauce and accompanied by sauted plantain, steamed rice, green salad and crunchy coleslaw. A fabulous blend of flavours and textures.

Yet more spicy flavours in the dessert with a sticky toffeeish pineapple and ginger crumble with icecream for the others and soya cream for me.

We rounded off the meal with Jamacian Blue Mountain coffee and retired to the lounge to sit in from off a real fire whilst a gale howled outside. It was a delightful evening. I'm up next and the bar's been kept high!