The Liebster Award – Eleven Questions…

First of all, thank you very much to The Cheeky Vegan for the nomination!  I hadn’t heard of the Liebster Award before but from what I can gather it seems like a great way of sharing great blogs that you might otherwise not get to hear about.

The Cheeky Vegan is Siân, a Bristol-based blogger who was inspired to go vegan after a trip to Thailand. Her blog is packed with delicious and inspirational recipes so do check it out.

I may have to respond to this nomination over a few separate posts as work is a little crazy at the moment but I will do my best to reply in full ASAP.

So, as part of the nomination I firstly need to answer 11 questions, set by The Cheeky Vegan, so here goes….

What made you decide to start a blog?

I’ve been vegan for a while now (about four years) and I’m always getting asked “but what do you eat” and “I’d love to eat less meat/go vegetarian/go vegan but I don’t know what I’d cook”.  I used to spend a lot of time emailing over recipes and inspiration for plant-based meals to various people and a lazy part of me figured it would be less work if I just posted these recipes somewhere central and people could access them in their own time.  The other reason was that I’m very much a throw-a-little-bit-of-everything-in-the-pot-and-see-what-happens kind of a cook, which is fine except you can never quite remember what you made or how you made it and if a recipe actually works out and you would quite like to eat it again at some point it helps to have it written down somewhere!  The blog is a way for me to record what I’ve made and means I can make it again, fairly reliably.  So up to now we’ve established that I’m lazy and a little forgetful.  Hmmmmm….

In all seriousness though I am absolutely passionate about veganism.  I love animals, not to mention this amazing planet that we all live on and it makes no sense to me to live my life in a way that would cause harm to another living being, if I can help it.  On top of that I truly don’t believe that our bodies are designed to need animal products.  Since going vegan I’ve spent a lot of time reading up on nutrition and physiology (mainly in order to articulately field the inevitable “but where do you get your protein?” and “but surely you can’t live without meat, can you?!” questions) and I feel so healthy and full of energy eating this way that I want to share that experience and help other people to discover the joys of plant-based food for themselves.

I’d been talking about starting a vegan food blog for a while amidst lots of encouragement from some lovely friends but it took a long-weekend in Italy and a few glasses of wine to actually motivate me to finally get on with it.  In addition to that we lost our beloved rescue-cat Humphrey earlier this year and I needed something positive to focus on as I was missing him like crazy.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a vet for a long time but the realisation, aged 16, that I would need to achieve an A in both maths and chemistry A-levels meant that I switched to Physiotherapy.  As it happens I actually don’t know if I’d have made a very good vet as I think I’d have been far too emotionally-attached to my patients!  

What is your earliest memory?

I could make this up but the honest answer is that I very distinctly remember throwing up on my Nanna and her beautiful, dry-clean-only vintage skirt, aged two.  Sorry Nanna.  Sorry readers.

If you could jump on a plane and fly anywhere tomorrow, where would you go?

Probably somewhere hot, with amazing beaches, lots of incredible wildlife and not too many people.  I went to Panama earlier this year and it was incredible – I would love to go back there again.  Although I also love India for the food, the culture and the general craziness of the place.  Hmmm, decisions…..

Which three foods/ingredients could you never live without?

Curry.  I love spicy food, the hotter the better!

Lemons.  We always seem to have dozens of them in our fridge as I use them all the time and I sneak them into almost everything, even when they probably don’t really belong there!

Coconuts.  Coconut milk, coconut cream, coconut ice-cream, coconut flakes, coconut water, fresh coconut…… Love them.  Can’t get enough!

(And I know it said three but I’m also addicted to avocados!) 

Have you had any big kitchen disasters that you can share?

Er, yes, most weeks!  In all seriousness though I love experimenting with food but it does mean that sometimes it goes a bit wrong!  I’m not a very good cooking-loser either and I do get annoyed with myself when a recipe doesn’t go my way.  (Apologies to my husband – I suspect that this kitchen-disaster-related grumpiness may occasionally get projected towards him a little too….!)

Other than the usual experiments-gone-wrong I do clearly remember redecorating my new (and previously very lovely) open-plan flat once when i forgot to but the lid on a blender containing a curry sauce…. It turns out that orange splattered walls/floor/ceilings/furniture actually isn’t that good a look.  Who knew?!

If you had one opportunity to time travel, which time period would you go to?

Probably either the 60’s (I’ve always been a bit of a hippy at heart) or the 20’s (for the jazz and beautiful dresses).

If you could be a member of a TV sitcom family, which one would you pick?

One of the Friends gang! I’ve loved the show since I was about 14 and I still watch the DVD’s if I’ve had a bad day and need cheering up.

Who would play you in the movie of your life?

Hmmm, maybe Alicia Silverstone.  Also a vegan, also blonde and also an actress, which probably helps in these things.

If you could un-invent one thing, what would it be?

Guns.  

What is one thing you always wanted as a child, but never got?

A Playmobil pirate ship.  But it’s my birthday this weekend so you never do know….

 

Liebster Award

I was really chuffed to have received a mention earlier by The Cheeky Vegan and a nomination for a Liebster Award. I will be blogging about this soon, answering the set questions and nominating my own blogs… Watch this space!

The Cheeky Vegan

While I was on holiday last week I received the most lovely comment on here from Laura over at Incredibly Edible to say that she had nominated me for the Liebster Award!

First off, thank you so much Laura, it was such a nice surprise and it totally made my day. I think I had a genuine Julie Powell moment, because while my blog does receive steady traffic, I don’t often receive comments and so I’m not always aware of my readership. Laura’s comment came completely out of the blue, and really took me by surprise! So really, thank you.

Your comment that my story almost makes you want to go vegan is really encouraging (now for that final conversion! Haha).

Incredibly Edible is a lovely blog where Laura’s focus is on “using the freshest, most natural, organic, unprocessed, nutrient dense – as nature intended – ingredients available”. Laura’s blog…

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Crab-friendly ‘crab’ cakes

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I heard about a vegan restaurant in California using hearts of palm to make ‘crab’ cakes a few weeks ago and have been keen to experiment ever since.  These were my first attempt and they were really tasty but I personally think I may add a bit of potato to the mix next time as the texture was quite crunchy and I think a combination of soft/crunchy may work better.  I also found that although they looked quite ‘crabby’ the taste and texture was quite different to the crab-unfriendly version (from what I can remember!) Having said that, these are still well worth a try for something a little different plus they taste good in their own right and they’re healthy!

If anyone else has experimented with crabless ‘crab’ cakes then please do post a comment to let me know how you got on and to share any tips or ideas you might have.

(Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main)

  • Tin of hearts of palm – roughly chopped into small pieces and make sure you buy it with salt, not sugar!
  • 1 small bunch of radishes – topped, tailed and grated
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic – peeled and crushed
  • Drizzle of organic sunflower oil
  • 5 teaspoons of paprika
  • 6 teaspoons of dill – fresh or dried
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Panko breadcrumbs to coat
  1. Once prepared place the hearts of palm, radishes and garlic into a sieve and using the back of a spoon force out as much of the liquid as possible (for the mixture to hold together in the pan later you don’t want too much moisture)
  2. Add the oil, hearts of palm, radishes, onion and garlic to a pan and gently fry for a few minutes to soften
  3. Add the paprika, dill, lemon juice and salt and pepper
  4. Leave the mixture on the side to cool down to room temperature and then place in the fridge for 20 minutes to chill further
  5. Using either your hands or chef rings mould the mixture into patties and coat in panko breadcrumbs
  6. Fry in a little oil for a few minutes each side until nicely browned
  7. Serve with a green salad, dill sauce (mix soya yoghurt, dill and lemon juice) and a wedge of fresh lemon

 

Carrot and orange soup

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I love making soups – they’re so simple to do and there are unlimited numbers of combinations of flavours and ingredients.  Also, most soups keep well in the fridge for a few days and make great healthy snacks and lunches or as a starter for a dinner party – simply warm them up when needed.

We’ve been getting huge bunches of carrots (carrot-tops included) over recent weeks in our veg box so I’ve been basing a lot of our meals around them (sorry G!)  Today’s lunch was a very simple carrot and orange soup, which literally took me about twelve minutes from walking through the door to sitting down to eat.  

(Serves 4)

  • Bunch of organic carrots – approximately eight, scrubbed, topped and tailed and roughly chopped
  • 2 organic oranges
  • 2 gloves of garlic – peeled and crushed
  • Drizzle of organic sunflower oil
  • 5 teaspoons or ground coriander
  • 2 pints of vegetable stock (I use Kallo organic stock cubes)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan
  2. Add the ground coriander and garlic together with the carrots
  3. Sauté for about 3 minutes
  4. Grate the zest and the juice of the oranges to the pan (I also often add the remaining peel and flesh for additional flavour and then just remove before blending)
  5. Add the veg stock, bring to the boil and simmer for about 8 minutes to soften the carrots
  6. Blend and return to the heat (I use a hand-held blender most of the time as it’s much quicker and makes far less washing up!)
  7. Season to taste and serve

Loaded potato skins

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Although the potatoes need quite a while in the oven the actual time needed to prepare these is very short, making them a great mid-week supper option.  I used a Vegusto vegan cheese for this but any vegan cheese that melts would work well.

(Serves 4)

  • 4 baking potatoes
  • 1 red onion – chopped
  • Small pack of vegan cheese – I used Vegusto (No moo, melty)
  • Handful of fresh thyme
  • Sea salt and cracked black pepper
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  1. Prick the potatoes with a fork and drizzle over some olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt
  2. Bake for around 90 minutes (until fluffy on the inside and crisp on the outside) at 180°C
  3. Remove the potatoes from the oven, cut in half and scoop out the potato inside
  4. Mix the potato in a bowl with the red onion, cheese, thyme, salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil
  5. Stuff the mixture back into the skins and return to the oven for a further ten minutes
  6. Serve with a salad and soya yoghurt or sour cream

 

 

Jamie Oliver’s Vegan Keralan Curry

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I’ve really noticed in the last couple of years more mainstream celebrity chefs are including plant-based meals in their cookery books and TV shows, which is fantastic.  This delicious Keralan curry is one of Jamie Oliver’s 15 Minute Meals – it’s deliciously fragrant with a great fruity twist from the addition of the pineapple and a wonderful variety of textures. This dish really takes me back to a wonderful few weeks spent in Southern India sampling the amazing light and fragrant curries – A great part of the world to visit if you’re vegan!

I didn’t actually make the minty yoghurt this time but you could easily make it with unsweetened soya yoghurt to make the entire meal dairy-free.

The link to the recipe is below: 

http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/vegetables-recipes/keralan-veggie-curry-with-poppadoms-rice-minty-yoghurt

Raspberry and banana milkshake

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This is delicious and far healthier for you and your little ones than the more traditional versions, which are packed full of dairy, sugar and all kinds of artificial rubbish. You can add coconut sugar or agave syrup if you prefer things a little sweeter but I enjoy it just as it is.

(Serves 2-3)

  • Half a pint of almond milk  – unsweetened and organic
  • Large handful of organic raspberries – fresh if they’re in season but frozen raspberries work well too
  • 4-5 organic bananas

Simply blend all the ingredients together and serve

Raspberry and coconut chia seed pudding

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I love this pudding – it only takes a few moments to make and it’s really healthy. Perfect for when you want something sweet but not too naughty!  It keeps well in the fridge for 2-3 days so I tend to make a few at once.

(Serves 4)

  • Half a can of coconut milk
  • Couple of handfuls of raspberries
  • Handful of chia seeds
  • Small handful of coconut flakes
  1. Mix the coconut milk and chia seeds together 
  2. Place a few raspberries in the bottom of each glass and pour the coconut milk and chia seed mixture over the top
  3. Place in the fridge for a couple of hours
  4. Scatter the coconut flakes over the top and serve

Lentil and bean chilli

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This is a really simple meal and relies mainly on store-cupboard ingredients so it’s a great option for mid-week when you meant to get to the shops but didn’t quite get there!

(Serves 4)

  • 1 onion – chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic – finely chopped
  • Drizzle of vegetable oil
  • 1 red pepper – chopped
  • Half a mug of red lentils
  • Tin of organic kidney beans
  • Tin of organic baked beans
  • Tin of organic chopped tomatoes
  • 1 dessertspoonful of tomato puree 
  • 1 dessertspoonful of Marmite
  • 1/2 teaspoon of hot chilli powder
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon 
  • 2 squares of dark chocolate
  • Cracked black pepper to season
  1. Drizzle some oil into a large pan
  2. Add the garlic and onion and fry for a few minutes to soften
  3. Add the kidney beans, baked beans, lentils, red pepper, tomatoes, marmite, chilli powder, cinnamon, chocolate, black pepper and a couple of mugs of water
  4. Stir all the ingredients together, bring to the boil and then turn the heat down and simmer for 15 minutes

Serve with rice and vegan sour cream or yoghurt

Mushroom and pepper Stroganoff

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Despite it still (officially) being British summertime the weather here has been decidedly wet and windy today.  This vegan Stroganoff is perfect comfort food for rainy days but also holds its own at dinner parties if you’re entertaining.  You can make it ahead of time (meaning more quality time with your guests) – just warm through on the night and don’t add the soya cream or fresh parsley until you’re ready to serve.

(Serves 4)

  • 1 punnet of organic closed cup mushrooms – sliced
  • 1 punnet organic chestnut mushrooms – sliced
  • 1 organic red pepper – sliced
  • 1 organic green pepper – sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic – chopped
  • 1 organic white onion – chopped
  • Sunflower oil
  • 2 tablespoons of paprika
  • 1 tablespoon of mixed spice
  • 1 tablespoon of vegan Worcestershire sauce (I use one by Biona)
  • 1 dessertspoon of Marmite
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • Cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup soya cream (I use an Alpro one)
  • Bunch of fresh parsley – chopped
  1. Add the sunflower oil to a large pan and warm
  2. Add the paprika and mixed spice and allow to dissolve in the warmed oil (be careful not to burn)
  3. Add the garlic and onion to the pan and cook for a few minutes to allow the onion to soften
  4. Add the mushrooms, peppers, Worcestershire sauce, Marmite, brandy and a generous sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper
  5. Stir and cook for approximately 10 – 15 minutes
  6. Stir the soya cream and fresh parsley through just before serving

I served it here with long grain rice but it’s equally delicious with tagliatelle