Saturday, 31 December 2011

2011 - A Round Up!

It's been a funny old year and has felt like a shorter than usual year as I got ill in April and didn't really start getting back to normal until September and had to put quite a bit of stuff on hold. I've never done a yearly round up before but I wanted to focus on the positive things that 2011 has brought! So, in no particular order.......

We started the Cake Liberation Front at the end of 2010 and it has continued to go from strength to strength with groups springing up in other corners of the world including Adelaide, Australia which I've enjoyed reading about it on Sally Kitten's blog. We even took a stall to a pre-match event at local football club FC United and CLF were also represented at the Manchester Cakes for Japan event. The bi-monthly meet ups continue with the next one on Sunday January 29. If you're interested in starting a group/ holding an event check out our website for posters/ graphics you can use to promote it.




I didn't get any holidays abroad this year but managed a week in London in August, which started with  stepping off a bus literally right into the middle of the riots in Hackney Central! It was a week of hanging out, catching up, visiting museums and galleries and having my first Ms Cupcake cupcakes! Pictured is the amazing Ferrero Rocher flavour. It's great to see places like VX and Ms Cupcake doing so well. Let's make sure we all keep supporting them in 2012.


More locally there were a few weekend trips to The Bear in Todmorden and The Globe in Glossop for yummy and very reasonably priced vegan food.




Also, very excitingly Manchester started it's own weekly Meat Free Monday night at the Lass O Gowrie pub in the city centre. It's run by Martin the Mod, ex of Cafe Pop and also currently at the Thirsty Scholar (lunchtimes). It's brilliant value for £4.50 you get a choice of 3 from 6 dishes with rice from a hot buffet and Lynnmarie from Manchester Vegan Society also sells cakes with funds going to Tameside Animal Sanctuary. Mod and Lynnmarie also organised a great event at the pub earlier in the year combining a Northern Soul and Ska All Dayer with vintage stalls and a vegan bake sale.



In February it was my turn to host the Come Dine With Me evening for work friends. It was a fab night and even got videoed and turned into a little film by Richard which included people rumaging through my wardrobe and trying stuff on in true Come Dine style. I did an Eastern inspired menu including these Rosewater and Pistachio cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World.


I also had a little cocktail party in July which included an alcoholic cupcake bar. Flavours were absinthe and cardamom, margarita and rum and raisin!


My favourite birthday cake to make this year was this carrot cake for Nick, my sister's partner (aka Marzipan Man). It's inspired by this famous one from Cake Wrecks, although I couldn't find any mohawked babies in the UK so they've got more of a Beatles style mop top!



Hopefully 2012 will bring much more cake sharing and opportunities to support both veggie run businesses and also those more mainstream that are making an effort to cater for vegans too. Excitingly in November one of my very best friends became a partner in Bakerie, a new bar/ restaurant with great vegan food and drink options who will also be opening a tasting store in the new year.

Hope you all have a good New Year and wishing everyone all the best for 2012 x

Monday, 19 December 2011

Sticky BBQ Tofu

I adore BBQ tofu. I love the recipe with mushrooms from Get It Ripe and also the one with pomegranate molasses from Vegan With A Vengeance. With this in mind I wasn't expecting too much from this bottle that I picked up for 39p from Home Bargains/ Quality Save.


I have to say though that the ingredients label had no hidden nasties, just the ingredients you'd expect to see when making your own and it made a perfectly respectable and very quick version of this dish. I pre-heated the oven to 220C then cooked chopped onion, red pepper and tofu in olive oil and soy sauce for 15 mins. Then I added the sauce and cooked for another 15 minutes. During the last 10 minutes I did some basmati rice and steamed broccoli. Enough left for lunch too and to get lots of envious looks at work!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Flavoured latte or dirty prosecco?

I'm not usually a fan of flavoured coffee but I do like the odd gingerbread soya latte during the festive season. Having one the other day reminded me of other uses for these syrups. For years my friends Jan and Dave used to have a party on Christmas Eve and I used to be in charge of the Christmas Eve Cocktail. We had some strange and wonderful connoctions during that time. Most memorable were Ginger Imps which were whisky and chilli based and a Christmas Pudding Martini which involved soaking chunks of pud in sambuca and then setting it alight (and almost the table too!) One of the easiest and most popular I remember was just putting a shot of gingerbread coffee syrup into a glass of prosecco.

I got this one from Nigella and googling this to check found that she got the idea from an Italian tradition of adding campari to prosecco for Prosecco Sporco which translates as dirty prosecco. At the moment branches of Costa Coffee are selling sets of 5 x 50ml bottles of syrups for £5.95. They make good Christmas presents or Secret Santa gifts. Flavours are caramel, vanilla, hazelnut, gingerbread and cinnamon and I'm sure lots of fun could be had with them in cocktails as well as coffee.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Manchester Vegan Society

When I decided 5 years ago that I wanted to try being vegan I was pleased through the power of Google to discover that there was a Manchester Vegan Group. They meet the last Saturday of every month at the Thirsty Scholar pub from 1.30pm. I've made some good friends through the group and had some great laughs. Meetings are not formal events, it's basically a bunch of people sitting in the pub having a fry up who are as likely to be talking about music or football as they are about veganism. Non-vegans are always very welcome we just ask that they don't order non vegan food during the meet ups. I've taken non veggie friends along and they've all enjoyed them.

Last Sunday was our Christmas feast. We started with non-prawn cocktails, closely followed by tomato and garlic soup.

Next was a mammoth traditional Christmas dinner. You can't even see the mock turkey it's so hidden beneath the rest.

Finally to finish there was Christmas pud with white or brandy sauce. The pub also labelled all the draught and bottled beers that were vegan as well for us. I was very full but very happy! Has anyone else been out for a vegan Christmas dinner yet?

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Amsterdam Rum Chocolate

A group of my friends and I used to have a thing where we saved £30 a month. When it got to September we'd book cheap flights to a European city for New Year and there'd be money left over for accommodation and some spends. We did this for 10 New Years and had some amazing holidays in Dublin, Barcelona, Paris, Prague, Brussels and Amsterdam, visiting some places more than once. The first time we did this we went to Amsterdam in 1996 when it was one of the coldest winters in years and all the canals froze over. It was magical seeing people skating up and down on them!

It was also blooming cold and we all had to visit C&A and stock up on extra layers and hot water bottles. We stayed in a dodgy hotel in the Red Light district which had ice on the inside of the windows and there was much popping into Brown Cafes during the day to get hot drinks to keep warm. On the second or so day the proprietor recommended chocolate milk that was warmed up and spiked with a shot of rum. This is such a good combination and many more were consumed during the rest of the stay!

I'd forgotten all about this until Provamel send a huge selection of samples of their products to give out at CLF meet ups. Seriously, get hold of some of their small cartons of chocolate soya milk, warm it up and add a shot of good rum. It's as delicious as I remember the Amsterdam ones being!

Friday, 2 December 2011

Adult Only Cornflake Cakes

Tomorrow my friend Sara is holding an open day for her newly formed business Bohemia Holistics. If you live in the Manchester area, check out her website. The day will be a drop in event with taster treatments such as massage, Indian Head massage and reflexology. A few crafty friends are also selling jewellery and my contribution is cakes. Sara recently got diagnosed with coeliac disease and so all contributions from refreshment sales are going to the charity Coeliac UK.

It's been a good exercise to help me to expand the range of vegan and gluten free things I make for bake sales. I've made the Chocolate Chip Banana Bread from Babycakes NYC, the Cake Liberation Front Pirate Bread and Blueberry and Ginger Cormeal Muffins which are based on this recipe from the Urban Vegan. I've also done a more grown up version of that childhood favourite, Chocoalte Cornflake Cakes. These guys are made with Dove's Farm gluten free cornflakes, melted 70% dark chocolate, glace ginger, cranberries and flaked almonds. So, so good!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Dosas!

I live 10 minutes walk from Manchester's famous Curry Mile. This is a stretch of Wilmslow Road populated with Indian and Middle Eastern restaurants, Shisha bars, Indian clothes, jewellery and grocers shops. It's fab and when I remember the first time I went through it on the bus as a kid I thought it was like Blackpool with all the neon signs!

My favourite restaurant is one of the smaller ones, the Punjab, which specialises in South Indian cuisine.

South Indian cuisine means Dosas! If you've never had one before, a dosa is a large crispy pancake made from a rice and lentil batter which is vegan and gluten free. The pancake is wrapped around a filling and served with a coconut chutney and a spicy sambar sauce. I went for the classic Masala Dosa with a filling of spiced potatoes and my friend Lynnmarie had the mushroom one. They have one big ole pan at the Punjab, check out the size of them! I also love that the Punjab menu states that they have a sister restaurant in Melbourne, Australia and instead of getting mints with your bill they give you a Vimto lollypop!

Monday, 21 November 2011

Movember and Animal Testing

The medical world can be a tricky subject for vegetarians and vegans. Animal Aid are currently running a campaign to highlight which major medical research charities conduct and fund animal testing and there is a full list here showing health charities stance on this subject. I've found this info very informative and it has definitely made me think but at the same time I take a prescription drug which is definitely not vegan and which I have been told to take indefinitely. At this moment there is no vegan alternative available and I don't want to go back to how I was feeling a year ago before I started taking it. One thing I intend to try to do more of though is focus on those charities that don't fund testing and lend support to them instead.

As I'm sure you're all aware November is Movember and is a month for raising awareness of and funds for prostate cancer charities. Above is the face of one of the Cake Liberation Front founder members, Steve Cunio. Steve decided to take part in Movember but when he looked further into the charities it donates to he found them all to support animal testing. He has been in touch with the official Movember people and has suggested them offering alternative charities for future years. Hopefully, if enough people do this it might happen! In the meantime he has decided to continue growing his facial hair and is donating all sponsorship to Dr Hadwen Trust who fund and promote the development of techniques and procedures to replace the use of animals in biomedical research and testing. Indeed he is one of two guys listed on their supporters page doing this. He has set up an easy way to donate from as little as £1, go here to find out more. Thank you!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Bakerie Is Open!

Whoever would have thought that when my mate Dale and I stood on Albert Dock outside Tate Liverpool 5 years ago chatting and decided we'd both give this being vegan lark a try that it would come to this! I'm pleased to say that Dale is one of the partners in the freshly opened Bakerie on Lever Street in Manchester City Centre. The business is a wine bar and restaurant and has great vegan options for each course.

I was part of a group invited along tonight to try out the vegan options on offer. To start with there was delicious freshly baked bread, olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dip into and the best olives I've had in a while. Then we were brought tasting samples of a warming pumpkin and carrot soup which had a hearty homemade feel.

Next up was taster samples of the vegan sandwich option which was hummus, spinach and roasted red pepper. As with the soup the flavours were lovely and fresh. We also got to try the vegan option on the stews which was a butternut squash and caraway stew. Again, this was really, fresh and seasonal. The menu is split into soups, sandwiches, stews, salads and desserts with around 4 options for each and it is amazing to see in a non veggie restaurant that there are vegan and gluten free options at each level. Let's hope that this is the start of a trend like you see in cities in the USA. The dessert menu is good to us too with desserts made by Lily and Dilly with chocolate and pear torte and chocolate brownie + peanut butter blondie served with non dairy icecream.

It's lovely to find somewhere that's not strictly veggie where there is a vegan option for each course that is clearly labelled on the menu. What is also great about Bakerie is that it is a proper wine bar with an extensive wine list which is my friend Dale's domain. Before this venture Dale had accrued a wealth of experience with over 20 years experience working for Oddbins and the wines are all hand picked and are very keenly priced and again clearly labelled where they are vegan, organic etc. They are seriously focused to get people in there trying good wine without any of the snobbery attached to wine tasting and there are award winning wines on their list that are great value, especially compared to other venues. There are going to be lots of wine tasting events etc. It's my birthday on Saturday and I'm starting off there and looking forward to sampling more of the list!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

They Call It Mello Mello

Mello Mello has been on my radar for a while. I remember walking past it during the 2010 Biennial and thinking it looked cool but only recently realised through glowing recommendations on Scouseveg that it's not just a bar/venue but that it's also a fab veggie cafe. It's one of the projects of The Art Organisation who regenerate derelict spaces for use by artists and local creative industries.

Got to go in yesterday and we loved it! From the wooden menus and Elvis soundtrack to the mismatched 70's cups, it's fun and had us reminiscing for Manchester's much missed Cafe Pop. The breakfast is undoubtedly the best value vegan breakfast around. For £4.50 you get tomatoes, mushrooms, sausages, beans, scrambled tofu on toast as well as juice and good coffee. All the ingredients were nice quality and there were lots of other vegan options too including a weekend roast for about £5.50 that included wine! The cake selection included several vegan and GF options and we got some spiced chocolate cakes to take out that were pretty good. I was also impressed by the great selection of American craft beers, made me want to go back for another holiday in Portland!

Suitably fortified we then headed to Fact for the amazing and quite bizarre experience that is Zee. It's part of the Abandon Normal Devices festival and is there until November 27. It's been described as an installation 'like death', 'entering heaven' or 'being on another planet' that has audiences struggling to believe the evidence of their senses. Check out the video in the link to get a flavour. Then the rest of the day was spent down at the Contemporary Urban Centre for the excellent Americana 10 festival. Another great day in Liverpool, I love visiting there.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Rise of the Tearoom!

There's been a plethora of tea rooms open up in Manchester recently what with Teacup, Home Sweet Home, North Tea Power , Fyg and my personal favourite Sugar Junction right near work. They tend to be situated around the Northern Quarter but my friend Jan who I sit next to at work has been telling me about Richmond Tea Rooms in The Village and we decided to go for an early birthday celebration after work.


The decor is like something out of Alice in Wonderland, very OTT but it's fun and it works. You can choose to sit in this little Greenhouse type section, the main room or the tented boudoir! We went for the latter.

Jan went in a few days ago and asked if they did any vegan cakes. Like all the tea rooms mentioned above they don't. However, they were great and said they'd get the chef to make something so we had a big piece of really gorgeous chocolate cake with our glasses of champagne. The staff were really friendly and I was impressed with the cake. The tea menu looked good too so I'll definitely be back to try more.


Saturday, 5 November 2011

Cakes, cakes, cakes, cakes, cakes

My flat has felt like a bakery this weekend! A friend asked me if I could make a large cake for his birthday party tomorrow. I'm always a bit nervous with making large cakes but I'm pleased with how it's come out. I started with the basic chocolate cake batter from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, doubled this and added chocolate chips and dried cherries. There's a vanilla chocolate frosting, white + dark chocolate buttons and lots of little stars and edible holographic glitter. So, it's a triple chocolate cherry cake!

Tomorrow is also the Manchester Vegan Society, World Vegan Month celebration. It's an afternoon event at the Seven Oaks pub and for a fiver you get Lancashire Hot Pot and a cake. My friend Lynnmarie who has organised the event was going to be making the cakes but has broken her wrist :( So, I've been busy making cupcakes and the cupcake hotel is now loaded up with a choctastic trio of peanut butter with chocolate ganache, chocolate chip and cherry and Mexican Hot Chocolate. Has anyone else got World Vegan month events going on?


Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Competition Winner

Back at the start of MoFo I put up a competition to win some Cake Liberation Front goodies - a set of the new badges, postcards and an apron.

The winner was drawn by Random number generator from these entries and was number 7 - Mandee of Cupcake Kittee blog! Congratulations, please email me your address via the email link in my profile and I'll get them posted off to you.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Vampire Friendly Hummus

I've been going through my recipes to rejuvenate my packed lunches, now that I'll be making them for my sister too. Came across this flavoured hummus that I've not made for a while. It's a great one for using up lemons. I always buy unwaxed lemons for baking recipes where the zest is needed but only ever seem to find them in bags not sold as single lemons and they end up hanging around in the fruit bowl for ages unless they make it into a gin and tonic! What's a bit different about this one is that there is no garlic! The secret ingredient is the boullion powder. I can't take any credit for the recipe as it was on a Gillian McKeith recipe card I picked up in a Holland and Barretts a few years ago.

Lemon and Coriander Hummus

Can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons of tahini
Finely grated zest of a lemon
Freshly squeezed juice of a lemon
1 tablespoon of organic boullion (stock) powder
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons of cold water
3 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh coriander leaves

Put all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend.

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

Frurt!

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.