Sunday, 29 July 2012

Yo sushi!

I've put on a bit of weight from being ill last year and not being very active combined with being stuck inside and eating far too many kettle chips. I've gone up a clothes size and still have some issues with fatigue so I decided last week to try to tackle things by doing some exercise and having a bit of an overhaul of my eating habits. So, the plan is to eat really healthily in the week, uping my intake of raw foods whilst using my exercise bike whilst watching the Olympics on telly for inspiration. Here's a few of the meals I've had starting with a Sweet Potato and Black Bean chilli stew. This is adapted from a recipe that used to be on Post Punk Kitchen which doesn't seem to be there any more but it's a real favourite of mine. At the end of cooking you give it a good mashing with a potato masher which creates a great texture.

Salad with radish, olives, carrot, heirloom tomatoes, alfalfa and mung bean sprouts and a shop bought 3 bean mint salad. The crispbread is a raw food one from Inspiral topped with humous. Expensive but soooo good and they are filling.

Mixed leaves, heirloom tomatoes, 3 bean mint salad, sweet potato and squash baked with fresh thyme and marinated mushrooms. For the mushrooms I cleaned and sliced a punnet of organic chestnut mushrooms then marinated them in a mix of olive oil, soy sauce, nooch, garlic, agave and liquid smoke. I mixed it all up in the morning and left it in the fridge so it was ready when I got home from work.

On Saturday I taught Matt to make sushi. We used some of the mushrooms from above and also the roasted sweet potato and squash. Inspired by the PPK recipe for Yamroom roll I mashed the sweet potato and squash with some sesame oil and sesame seeds. We combined this mix with the mushrooms for some of the rolls and it was amazing. There was also that good old classic, the avocado roll.

I've really enjoyed all the food this week. I'm planning to keep it going for 2 months and it will be interesting to see if it makes a difference to my energy levels and sleeping patterns. There's going to be a lot of stress coming up in the next 12 months as we enter a huge re-structure at work so it also feels like a good time to start consciously looking after myself. That being said I want to make sure that I stick to this so weekends are for treats so I don't feel deprived. That included a veggie breakfast yesterday and I'm meeting friends for lunch today so I think I can see a veggie burger, fries and onion rings in my near future!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Road Trip Picnic

My friends Helen and Debbie live in Hackney. They decided to escape the Olympics and go on a bit of a road trip. They stopped off in Manchester for a few nights en route to the Lake District to go and stay in one of these amazing looking pods! I managed to get yesterday off work and we nipped over to Liverpool to the Tate to see the Turner, Monet and Twombley exhibition. Then we went just a few miles further for a picnic.

Yum, bagels slathered with humous, rocket, tomatoes, olives, kettle chips, vegetable chips, olives, giant crunchy corn, fresh coconut and a little lemon cupcake. We bought extra cake from Meat Free Monday the night before and it was an excuse to get the special cake holders out! Can you guess where we went?

It was my first visit to see the Anthony Gormley installation Another Place. As it was such a nice day it was quite hard to spot some of the figures in the water as there was so many people in there with them! I'm looking forward to going back in the winter to see how the piece is changed by a deserted beach. I couldn't resist the doing the tourist thing and giving Mr. 88 a good stroke on the head. Someone has drawn a beard and sideburns on him. He reminded me a bit of Ming the Merciless!

Here's a little film showing more of the work.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Cake Liberation!

It's been a busy weekend of baking related activity. I spent hours yesterday making loads of stuff for the Cake Liberation Front meet up today. I was worried that we might have a low turn out due to a couple of other events happening at the same time and it also being too nice to be indoors. I was also worried that due to the nice weather not many people would have baked as it's not compulsory. I needn't have worried as loads of people came down, loads baked and we even had stuff left for people to take home this time! Here's my contribution in the picture below of white chocolate, raspberry and almond cake (from Vegan Diner), Chocolate Chai cake (from Get it Ripe), Cheesy heart biscuits from this Chef Chloe recipe, Ginger and Macademia Nut cookies + Tahini and Lime cookies, both from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.

And here's the full list of what people brought - White chocolate, raspberry and almond cake, chocolate brownies, chocolate and walnut biscuits, banana and fruit loaf, gluten free coconut cake, cheesy heart biscuits, rich dark carrot cake, tahini and lime cookies, chocolate and mixed fruit cupcakes, ginger and macademia nut cookies, gluten free lemon cupcakes, banana flapjacks, chocolate + rasin oaty balls, cherry lemon buns, choco donut holes, saffron mini muffins with tofutti cream cheese, chocolate chai cake, chocolate crinkle cookies, sausage rolls, potato and pea samosas, focaccia with garlic and pumpkin seeds

I also got given a present which was very welcome (see my last post on BBQs). I'm looking forward to using this. Let's hope I manage to get some BBQs in whilst we have a bit of nice weather!

Friday, 20 July 2012

Get Your Grill On

It's been a bit of a busy and stressful week but there have been some nice things to punctuate it. One was a fab vegan wine tasting at the wonderful Bakerie Tasting Store. The Bakerie Bar and Tasting Store are one of the most vegan friendly businesses in Manchester so make sure you check them out if you visit here. They have also just been nominated for Best Newcomer in the Manchester Food and Drink Awards so if you could spare a minute to vote for them that would be ace! Hopefully one days our cities will be full of vegan friendly businesses of the same calibre. I also got round to spending my accumulated Nectar points which I always use for cookery books. I'd read good reviews of this.

I LOVE barbeques. Even when I wasn't veggie I used to prefer to cook veggie stuff on them. I have Rose Elliot's Vegetarian BBQs and Grills which I think is out of print but there are some good used copies here on Amazon from as little as 1p - well worth snapping up. The pictures are lovely and there's some good burger recipes. I was pleased to see my new book had arrived when I got home from work tonight and immediately had a flick through. I was going to have an avocado salad for my tea and this quickly got translated into one of the ideas from the book although I did use my oven's grill rather than trying to fire up a BBQ in the rain!

This is very quick and simple. Toast a piece of bread on both sides. Mash an avocado  and season with lemon juice, salt, black pepper, thyme and oregano. Once the avocado mix is spread onto the bread it goes back under the grill for a few minutes. It's then topped with green leaves - I used a mix of rocket, watercress and spinach. My side salad was some of the lovely organic multi coloured tomatoes that Lidl are doing at the moment and my current favourite olives, naturally wrinkled olives from Thassos which I picked up in Tesco which have an amazing almost sweet, licorice-like taste. A nice cold glass of crisp white wine and this was a great meal made in minutes.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Vegan Eats Nottingham Part 2

During the trip to Nottingham we managed to fit in visits to Alley Cafe bar on both the Friday and the Sunday! I'd had the breakfast on my last visit there and great as it was (the scrambled tofu is really amazing, I think they use smoked tofu), whilst Matt opted for that again I went for the sausage sandwich. They use good quality sausages (Redwood's Sage and Marjoram) with vegan mayo, caramelized onions and salad on thick, soft, granary bread. The perfect thing to enjoy whilst  huddled inside from the torrential downpours that were engulfing the East Midlands.

Once we finished our brunch we were joined by friends Jeff and Jane for a cake off! Starting from 12 o'clock and moving clockwise - Jeff choose Chai Lemon Sponge with icecream, Matt had Chocolate Torte, I had Chocolate Biscuit Cake with icecream and Jane went for Peach Cheesecake. Whilst the menu at Alley Cafe is vegetarian and vegan, ALL of the cakes are vegan so I got to try a bit of each. They were all good but it was decided that the guys just edged in front with their choices. The Chai Lemon being my favourite.

We headed back on Sunday before catching our train, excited at the thought of the Vegan Sunday lunch. To our disappointment it wasn't being served that Sunday though. The disappointment didn't last long though as we had two excellent sandwiches. At the back is the Smokey Tempeh burger and at the forefront of the picture is a Smoked Tofu and roasted pepper bagel.

The burger came with some wedges and we ordered an extra portion as the bagel came with salad. When I saw this huge bowl I was a bit worried we'd ordered too much but they soon went and were seriously some of the nicest wedges I've had.

There was just enough room to squeeze in soy lattes and a shared cake. I'm not gluten free but I try to not too eat too much and I've been enjoying exploring gluten free baking recently. This is a rich, dense chocolate brownie that was packed with hazelnuts and served with icecream. It definitely held it's own against the non gluten free cakes we tried on Friday.

I really like Alley Cafe. The atmosphere is relaxed, food lovely and fresh and customer service is good. In fact I am dreaming of that Tempeh burger as I write. I wish they would open a branch in Manchester!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Vegan Eats Nottingham Part 1

Matt is from Nottingham and we've just spent a lovely weekend there seeing his family. We went to see his nephew Jono's band on Thursday night and also to a great village fair that a lot of his family were involved with raising money for kids from a local special school to have a trip to the Paralympics. Jono also had a vintage clothing stall at the fair and has a fantastic business called Captains Locker. Check it out if you're into vintage clothing. Nottingham is a good city of vegans and on Friday night we all went out to Aubergine restaurant. As soon as we sat down we were treated to a yummy complimentary 'amuse bouche' of beetroot hummus on sundried tomato polenta.

I've not posted pictures of the starters or desserts (for those of us who had room) but they were all polished off. The menu changes on a monthly basis and it's all vegetarian with more than half of it vegan as are all the wines and beers. Here's a selection of the vegan main courses we ordered. Indian chickpea and spinach curry served in a puri basket with basmati rice which was hailed as one of the best veggie curries ever tasted!

Shepherdless pie with lentils, spinach and potato mash with garlic asparagus.

Jamacian jerk tofu served with rice and peas, plantain and Carribean coleslaw. We couldn't work out what kind of tofu was used but it was delicious and a great texture, almost chicken like.

Here's what I went for. Brazilian black bean stew with mango salsa and Lousiana cornbread. I loved it, very flavourful and something I would like to try to recreate at home.

As well as being well fed by Matt's mum we also managed to fit in 2 visits to Alley Cafe. More on these in the next post!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012


 Last weekend was a really busy one. Matt had a gig in Harrow on the Thursday evening then we spent Friday with friends in St Albans before hoping on the train early on Saturday morning. We shared it with hundreds of Stone Roses fans and the train buffet ran out of lager after 45 minutes! Made me feel old, I remember going to see them a couple of times around 85/86 before they were famous! Once back in Manchester it was time to host a party. One Sunday evening in January I had dinner with my friends Rachel and Marie and we were bemoaning the fact that our birthdays are in November and December so we never get to do things like birthday picnics or sitting in beer gardens. We decided that we would have a joint un-birthday party in the summer and as there is a nice communal garden at my flats we'd do drinks outside.

Of course being Manchester and despite it being June there was a torrential downpour and we ended up holding the whole thing inside! As the flats were built in the 1930s we went with that as a theme. Rachel sorted the crisps and the soundtrack with era appropriate music. Marie made her infamous Ginger Tiffin, known to those who have tried it as 'Vegan Crack' and also won the outfit of the night complete with amazing 1930s hairstyle.

I made a load of pates to go with the selection of breads and crackers. There was humous, kalamata olive and sundried tomato tapenade and sunflower seed pate all from the Candle Cafe cookery book which I always find go down really well at buffets. 

Sunday was most definitely a day for rest and recuperation. Most of it was spent lounging watching a box set of Any Human Heart. There was a short break for throwing together a quick Sunday dinner. Inspiration came from Vegan Diner and a bag of Vital Wheat Gluten picked up from VX in London.. It was a first time for making Seitan and wow I think I am hooked. We made the chicken style seitan roast and it was so easy and tasted great and there was lots left over to freeze and to use for sandwiches the next day. I also used some left over French Stick from the party to make the amazingly simple Chocolate Chip bread pudding from the book. Mmm, pure comfort food. I've been impressed with everything I've made from Vegan Dinner and am looking forward to trying more.