Promotion: Bah Humbugs

Friday, 13 August 2010

Hi guys, I'm back! I've been on a longer than intended hiatus thanks to a new job, new projects and various other life type things getting in the way.

So, let's get back on track shall we?

I'd like to introduce to you a lovely little business based in North Yorkshire called Bah Humbugs Sweet Shop and to Lucy, the brains behind it all. Bah Humbugs opened in 2004 after Lucy reminisced with friends about classic British sweets from their youth. Soon, Lucy found herself a shop in the Yorkshire Dales and having roped in friends and family to help, sourced the best classic sweets around and started a booming business! Bah Humbugs now has an online shop so you can get your retro sweets wherever you are!

Bah Humbugs sells over 200 different sweets including suckable rhubarb and custards (a personal favourite), chewy Wham bars, soft fudge and fizzy sherbets! They are especially proud of their amazing collection of over 50 liquorice varieties! As you may know, Yorkshire is synonymous with liquorice so Lucy and Bah Humbugs are definitely staying true to their roots! They also offer hampers and party bags so you can share your sweeties with your friends and family (if you can bare to!)

Now, I got a parcel of sweeties from Lucy this morning. Look at them all! I'm so lucky! I've got some plans to bake with some of these delicious treats (but I might have to fight Al for the space dust!)

Bah Humbugs have a great online presence with their blog and their YouTube based Sour Challenge! (I might have to get Al in on that - he's a pro with sour sweets!)

Visit Bah Humbugs at the following address:

Bah Humbugs
2 The Market Place
North Yorkshire
United Kingdom

Visit their website at You can follow them on Twitter or Facebook too!


Bread Machine Recipes: Garlic and Cheese Monkey Bread

Monday, 17 May 2010

I've been eyeing up monkey bread for ages. Traditionally it is a sweet dish made with cinnamon and sugar (and don't get me wrong, I'm dying to make it that way too!) but I thought I'd try a savoury version that I knew Al would like. I mean, who can resist cheese and garlic? I made this for Real Bread Maker Week but have only just had time to upload it.

It was actually pretty easy. After reading the comments on this recipe, I decided to modify the recipe a bit; halved the recipe, added more flour, changed the method slightly. It was tasty and a nice change from the standard garlic baguette from the supermarket. The bread fell apart a bit when I took it from the loaf pan (hence the rebuilt loaf pictures!) but that didn't matter. It meant it was easy to portion our and share.

I think this would be a great recipe for a barbecue or picnic. The bread is easily doubled to serve a crowd and as the bread machine does all the hard work it's really easy.

For the bread
150ml water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
225g flour
1 tsp yeast
2 tbsp strong cheddar, grated
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 tsp dried oregano

For the topping
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 tbsp butter, melted
Black pepper, mixed herbs and oregano to taste (around 1 tsp each)
Grated cheddar

Place all of the ingredients for the bread into the bread machine pan and choose the Dough cycle.
Towards the end of the cycle, mix the topping ingredients (except the cheese) together in a bowl. Prepare a 1lb loaf tin by greasing with a little of the topping mixture.
Once the dough is finished, divide into 1 inch balls and dip each ball into the topping mixture before layering in the loaf tin. Sprinkle each layer with some of the cheese and finish the final layer with cheese so that it melts and browns in the oven.
Place the bread into a preheated 180C over and bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown on top and cooked through. If it browns too much on the top then cover loosely in foil.
Serve warm.


30 Days of Food and Drink and National Real Bread Maker Week.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Today marks the start of 2 UK food events.

First, we have 30 Days of Food and Drink which is sponsored by Sainsburys and hosted by the people of It's a celebration of all things food and drink offering a host of competitions, discounts and information about food events all over the country. To find out what's on go here!

Secondly we have National Real Bread Maker Week running between the 1st May and 9th May. This week celebrates the humble bread machine and the estimated 10 million of them gathering dust in people's cupboards across the land. They are even hosting bread machine swaps where you can take your old bread machine and give it to somebody else!

As you know, I love my bread machine and think people should use these marvellous gadgets to make all kinds of things! Look out for some bread machine recipes this week and check out all my bread machine posts here.

Celebrate your bread machine!


Spicy Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

Friday, 30 April 2010

As you know I love nifty kitchenware. I'm often found in the kitchen department of random shops just looking to see what I might be missing out on. Luckily, other people know I'm a sucker for this stuff and I sometimes get things as presents.

It was my birthday last week and I received these funky soup mugs from my brother as a gift. I'd seen them around Christmas time and had pined over them for a while. He'd tried to get some then but they were soon sold out. However, the boy triumphed and I now have 2 of the little beasts in my collection. I am happy.

So, I've had soup on the brain for a week or so even though the weather is toasty. So I wondered what kind of flavours would make a tasty soup for this summery weather. I ended up choosing tomato and red pepper. The flavours are sweet and bright and I added some chili to give it a warm heat to perk it up a little. This was a real throw together dish with ingredients I had kicking about but it was delicious!

1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp oil
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1 roasted red pepper (from a jar - you can easily make your own!)
1 tin tomatoes
1/2 pint chicken or vegetable stock (fresh or from a cube)
Pinch of dried mixed herbs
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3/4 tsp Peri Peri spice
A few dashes of Smoked Tabasco
1 bay leaf (2 if they're small)

Gently fry the onion, garlic and peppers in the oil until softened but not browned.
Add the tin of tomatoes and the hot stock and bring to a boil.
Add the herbs, spices, Tabasco and bay leaf. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer and allow to cook for 15-20 minutes.
Blend the soup with a stick blender or liquidiser until it reaches the desired consistency (add more water if it's too thick).
Serve with crusty bread.



Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Wow, I can't believe how long it has been since I last updated! Things have been very busy around here for lots of good reasons. As I mentioned before I'm still settling into a new job which is going really well. I'm working as a support worker in a local hostel for homeless teenagers. It's very worthwhile but it's strange getting used to shift work again!

As I also mentioned (okay, glossed over) the fact that I'm starting a new business up too. I've teamed up with a friend to start Pixie Hall selling handmade gifts and wedding favours. I do the baking part of the deal and she (Victoria) makes the most gorgeous stained glass gift tags and decorations. We hope to be up and running soon!

As far as the blog goes, it will be back with regular updates soon. I'm also hoping to post PH related bits and pieces as they happen. Thanks for sticking around through the quiet, I'll be back up and running soon!


Banana Bundt Cake with Rum Icing

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

This is the best banana cake I've ever made. It's seriously moist and delicious and will be making its way into my repertoire for whenever I have some over ripe bananas to use up. It's easy to make and looks stunning with very little effort. This is definitely my favourite of the two bundts I made this weekend.

The banana flavour is very pronounced (I did use 4 of them!) and, when combined with the sour cream, the cake becomes tender and moist with a soft crumb. I found the original recipe here on but as with the last recipe, there were some problems. The method neglects to mention some of the listed ingredients which is kind of unhelpful! Thankfully, I know how to make a cake and could work out what I needed to do.

I've typed the recipe here as I made it and have converted to metric as usual. I really recommend this cake even if you don't have a bundt pan, I think it would work well in a few loaf tins or maybe even a big batch of cupcakes! The rum icing was amazing. It was the perfect accompaniment to this cake and was so easy to make too.

115g butter
340g sugar
3 or 4 over ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs
220g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
120ml (a small pot) sour cream
For the icing
300g icing sugar
2-3 tbsp hot water
3 tsp rum (to taste)

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease an 8 cup bundt pan.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.
Add the eggs and bananas and mix well.
Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda into a bowl.
Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and fold in. Finally, stir through the sour cream.
Pur the batter into the prepared bundt pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes before turning the cake onto a wire rack to cool.
For the icing, combine the sugar, rum and water into a large bowl and blend until it's spreadable. Pour over the top of the cake and allow it to drip down the sides.


Cinnamon Bun Bundt Cake

Monday, 29 March 2010

Wow, it's been a long time since I updated. I've been settling into a new job and also trying to set up a business (more details of that to come!). It's all been exciting but somewhat disturbing to my blogging and baking! I spent Sunday baking cakes in my new bundt pan and they're the first things I've baked for ages!

I've been eyeing up bundt cakes for some years. They feature on American baking blogs regularly and I've always been interested in them. I got my first bundt pan (8 cup) from Lidl a couple of weeks ago and have only just got the time to try it out.

I did some searching for recipes that use my size of pan (often bundt pans have a larger 10 or 12 cup capacity) and found a couple that I wanted to try. So I made them both. I'll start with the Cinnamon Bun Bundt to carry on the theme from my last post.

I found the recipe for this cake here at Food for Laughter. I'm posting it here with metric measures as usual and how I made it. There were a couple of issues with the original recipe so here is my version

220g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
150ml milk
85g butter
4 tbsp sugar
3 eggs

For the glaze
135g soft brown sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
120ml water
50g butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a bundt pan with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
Heat the milk, butter and sugar in a pan on a medium heat just until the butter is melted, stirring constantly.
Add the eggs and the milk mixture to the flour mixture, and beat well.
Pour the batter into the bundt pan, and bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate.
To make the glaze; heat the sugar, cinnamon, water and butter in a saucepan until the butter has melted and the sugar disolved. Pour over the still warm cake and, using a pastry brush, make sure the entire cake is covered with the glaze.
Serve warm with some extra syrup poured over.


Cinnamon Rolls

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Cinnamon is such an amazing spice. It's warming and delicious and when heated, it fills the room with the scent of winter. It pairs wonderfully with all kinds of things like apples, Morrocan tagines and pumpkin pies. It can also shine all by itself (well with plenty of sugar and butter to enrich our lives) in these delicious cinnamon rolls.

The soft yeast dough bakes with a lovely crust in top and a soft and spiced centre. The rolls are delicious warm and at room temperature. They even last a few days too (assuming they're not all scoffed within moments of icing). They can be reheated in the oven to restore freshness too if necessary.

This recipe from The Pioneer Woman came highly recommended. I wasn't sure whether to go ahead and make the whole batch but I'm glad I did. Just make sure you have plenty of people to give these away too else you may have to be lifted from your house with a crane. Seriously. These are high calorie treats and they are so delicious. I wouldn't make these every week - not least because they take all day to make but they are really fun to make and easy too.

I decided to make a tutorial for these as the process is quite long to start with. It's mostly hands off time until the dough is ready then it's a quick turn around of the buns, a half hour wait for the dough to rise again and then a blast in the oven for 15 minutes. Brilliant.

As usual, the recipe has been changed into metric measures and written how I made them.

2 pints Whole Milk
230ml Vegetable Oil
200g Sugar
2 sachets Active Dry Yeast
880g (Plus 110g Separated) All-purpose Flour
1 heaping tsp) Baking Powder
1 scant tsp Baking Soda
1 tbsp Salt
Plenty Of Melted Butter
400g Sugar
Generous Sprinkling Of Cinnamon

Put the milk into a large pan (I used a pressure cooker pan) and mix in the oil and sugar. Heat gently until it's just before boiling (this is called "Scalding") and then switch off the heat. Leave the milk mixture to cool for 45 minutes to and hour or until it is lukewarm. Sprinkle over the 2 sachets of yeast and let that sit for a minute or two.
Next, add the 880g of flour to the milk and stir it all together (I needed Al to help with this because I'm weak. Cover (I used a tea towel) and let it sit for an hour.
Now add the remaining 110g flour, the baking powder and soda and the salt and mix together again.
Divide the dough in half. Flour your kitchen counter and roll the dough into a long rectangle.
Drizzle melted butter over the dough (don't be frugal!) and spread it out a bit with a pastry brush. top with a generous cup of sugar and plenty of cinnamon.

Roll the dough into a a tight sausage (along the long side) and seal the edge with more butter.

Slice the dough into equal rounds about an inch thick. Brush 4 pans with a bit of melted butter and lay the sliced rolls into the pans.

Leave the buns to prove for 20-30 minutes, until the double in size. Top tip: If your house isn't warm enough, put the pans into a cold oven with a tray of hot water underneath. The steam creates the perfect atmosphere to prove.

Once the rolls have doubled in size, place in a preheated oven 180C for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Frost while still warm so the the icing melts into the rolls.

I used the other half of the dough the following day and kept it in the fridge until I was ready to use it. You can do both batches in one day or you can store the dough in the fridge. Do punch it down if it rises too much in the fridge. It'll be fine.


Vegan Month comes to a close...

Monday, 1 March 2010

So, February has come to an end and so has Vegan Month. I'd like to first say thank you to Jhon and Chrissie for their support and input. I'd like to welcome new readers too, there have been quite a few of you! Thanks for all the comments that have been left and thank you for all being interested!

There are things I didn't get a chance to make and places I didn't get a chance to go but I'll get around to them soon. I found new things to love, and new challenges as well as new friends. It couldn't have gone better!

So, we're back to "normal" here and I'll get on with posting some treats as soon as I can (some vegan, some not). I'm so pleased with how this feature month went that I'm already thinking about what to do next time! Your suggestions are welcome.


Chocolate Chip Cookies

Friday, 26 February 2010

I've made my fair share of vegan cupcakes. They're something I really enjoy making. It's all about the chemistry of ingredients and how they work together to form a light, fluffy and delicious treat. I've not really ventured into vegan cookie baking though. I don't really why, I think I must need to purchase Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar! I'm sure that would push me to make some cookies.

Anyway, I was searching for a simple cookie recipe to start me off. I found all sorts of recipes requiring a range of ingredients that I don't have in my cupboard. I found this recipe on YouTube actually. It struck me as an easy recipe with no unusual ingredients (apart from Blackstrap Molasses but I just left that out). Who can resist a chocolate chip cookie?

The recipe was simple and came together really easily. The cookie came out chewy in the middle and crispy at the edges which was lovely. I was quite generous with the chocolate chips and ended up sticking the stray ones from the bottom of the bowl into the formed cookies.

I think I'd use brown sugar next time to add a bit more of a depth of flavour (maybe that's where the blackstrap comes in?) and have altered the recipe to reflect that. As usual, I've turned the measurements metric.

110g Plain Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1⁄2 tsp Baking Soda
50g Soft Brown Sugar
Pinch of Salt
75ml Maple Syrup
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
75ml Vegetable Oil
50g Dairy Free Chocolate Chips

Preheat the oven to 175C and prepare a baking sheet.
Sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda into a bowl.
Add the sugar and salt and mix to combine.
In a seperate bowl or measuring jug, mix together the maple syrup, vanilla and oil.
Add the wet ingredients into the dry and mix well.
Add the chocolate pieces and stir until distributed evenly through the dough.
Shape the dough into walnut sized balls and place on a baking sheet. Space the cookies about an inch or so apart as they do spread. Flatten the balls slightly.
Bake in the oven for around 11 minutes. Be careful not to overbake as the cookies may dry out.
Allow to cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


Quick Noodle Soup

Thursday, 25 February 2010

There's something about a broth that makes you feel good. My mum and my gran always made chicken broth for the following day's lunch after we'd had a roast dinner. I have very fond memories of hearty homemade broths.

I really like noodle soups as a more filling version of a broth. The warm soup with the filling noodles is a winning combination for me. Combine those with crisp, barely cooked vegetables and some subtle spicing and you've got a very happy me.

This soup was made up on the spot and was delicious. It's a bit of a mish mash of flavours but they work really well together. I'll provide you with an ingredients list but the spices and seasonings are all to taste.

Egg free noodles (I used Clearspring Udon)
Vegetable Stock Cubes
Mange Tout
Sugar Snap Peas
Soy Sauce (I used reduced salt)
Chinese 5 Spice
Chilli Powder
Sweet Chilli Sauce

Boil the noodle according to the instuctions and refresh in cold water.
Disolve the stock cube in enough water for your soup and bring to a gentle simmer.
Add the soy sauce, 5 spice, chilli powder and sweet chilli sauce to taste.
Add the vegetables and simmer until they are just tender. Taste for seasoning.
Place the noodles into a soup bowl and pour the broth on top with the vegetables.


Homemade Tofu?

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Since vegan month began I've been looking at all sorts if things to do with veganism. I find myself searching for vegan recipes of all descriptions and, in my search, I stumbled on a few articles about making tofu at home.

Tofu isn't something I'd ever really enjoyed until I tried to make my own tofu scramble. I think the difference was that I wasn't using it as a "meat replacement" but rather as an ingredient in its own right. It is definitely something that I am looking to use more of in my recipes as it is such a unique ingredient.

The whole process of homemade tofu really intrigues me as it seems to simple yet it's not something I've ever really thought about making at home. It seems rather similar to cheese making. There are several articles floating around the internet but these are some that I found particularly good's Homemade Tofu Recipe takes you through the process step by step. It has clear instructions and makes the whole process seem very doable. The pictures are clear and simple and the language used is easy to understand. There are also some recipes to make with your homemade tofu!

Just Hungry's version is a little more in depth and is a series of three posts about making soy milk, making that into tofu and using the "okara" or solids from the process which is a nice way to make the recipe less wasteful (though the suggestions are not necessarily vegan). Again, there are some good instructions (a little more wordy than's but still easy to follow) and the pictures are a good size and easy to view.

So have any of you had a go at making your own tofu? I'm actually quite interested in trying it out (though probably not this month due to time constraints!) and would happily give it a go. Let me know if you've had a go, are planning on trying it or just think that nipping to the shops is much easier!


Peanut Butter Oat Bars

Monday, 22 February 2010

I love simple recipes. Things that you can knock up in a hurry when you get bitten by the baking bug but haven't got the time for a full blown spree. I felt like that last night. It was getting late and I really wanted to make something as I've been away from the kitchen for several days.

I found this recipe on the Alpro Soya website, most of their recipes aren't vegan but this one was and looked really simple. The recipe specifies cookies but I thought they would work well in bar form, a bit like a flapjack. The peanut butter lends a creamy texture to the finished bars and, as I used crunchy, it also adds a bit of a bite.

The finished bars were very sweet so I'd definitely reduce the sugar content in order to preserve some teeth! The texture was a bit like a cross between Scottish Tablet (that kind of chalky, crumbly fudge) and a flapjack. The oats lend a chewy bite while the caramel that is made with the other ingredients turns to a slightly grainy glue to hold it all together. I think you could easily add in all sorts of things to this recipe to change it slightly. Some raisins, dark chocolate chips, cranberries or even chopped nuts would be lovely.

As usual, this recipe is converted metric and this is how I made it but with reduced sugar.

125g Dairy Free Margarine
60ml Soya (or other dairy free) Milk
225g Sugar
120g Peanut Butter (I used crunchy)
1 tbsp Vanilla
300g Oats

Line a 9x9" pan with parchment or foil.
In a saucepan, mix the margarine, milk and sugar and heat gently.
Bring to the boil, stirring and let cook for 1 minute
Add the peanut butter, vanilla and oats and mix well.
Spread the mixture into the pan (alternatively drop by spoonfuls onto parchment lined baking sheets) and leave to set overnight.
Cut into small servings (these are a little too big) and enjoy.


Ginger and Courgette Scones

Monday, 15 February 2010

I had high hopes for this recipe. Adding courgette to a baked treat is not dissimilar from adding carrot to cakes. Adding these things makes for added bulk, sweetness and moisture for baked goods and costs very little.

This recipe came from The Vegan Visitor. I've made a couple of things from there before and generally find the recipes easy to follow andreliable but this time it just didn't work for me. I found that the dough was really sticky (and I'd only used half of the required milk). I had to add loads more flour and it still didn't come together into a dough the could be sliceablle. I had to bake the dough in a round and slice after baking. They took a long time to cook (and browned before they were fully cooked inside - they never really cooked properly).

The taste however was lovely. There was a subtle warmth from the ginger and, although the dough had a greenish tint from the courgette, there was no strong flavour of the vegetable in there. I really wanted this to work and will try and tweak the recipe to work for me. I think the courgette could be squeezed of excess liquid after being grated which could help with the sogginess. I'll have a go at working the recipe through again and will post it if it is successful.

Hopefully this recipe will work out in the future as the flavours were lovely.

P.S. How cool are my pirate breakfast items? There be a pirate breakfast on the horizon shipmates!


Mixed Vegetable Soup

Friday, 12 February 2010

I apologise for being a bit absent this week, I've been really poorly and haven't really been able to cook/eat/write much. But I'm feeling better and have some things to show you now!

Soups are amazing. It wasn't until last year that I really understood how delicious a mixture of good veggies and some spices could be. Most of the soups I make are vegan too (I don't go for creamy soups really) and so this makes something great to post!

Soup is such a simple meal to make and is so versatile, they freeze beautifully, are cheap to make, full of goodness and easy to make in bulk. This one in particular was really easy as I just combined a load of vegetables together with some vegetable stock, salt and pepper and allowed it to simmer until all the vegetables were tender and then blended it. Stick blenders are a godsend when making soup. They're easy to use, clean up more easily than traditional blenders and can be used in the pan the soup was cooked in.

Ingredients (to taste - use what you like, leave out what you don't!)
1 onion
1-2 cloves crushed garlic
2 sticks of celery
1 courgette
1 sweet potato
A chunk of swede
1 carrot
Olive oil
Vegetable stock cube
Salt and Pepper
Dried mixed herbs

Chop all your vegetables up into medium sized chunks. It doesn't have to be beautiful as it'll all get blended up later.
Sweat the onion off in the oil with the garlic until softened slightly.
Add all the reast of the vegetables and allow to cook for 5 minutes.
Pour over the passata and herbs and allow to simmer.
Crumble in the stock cube followed by enough boiling water to just cover the vegetables.
Put a lid on the pan and allow to simmer on a medium heat until the vegetables are tender.
Blend the soup to a consistency of your liking (add mroe water if you want it smoother) and season to taste. Enjoy piping hot with crusty bread.


Butternut Squash Risotto

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

The following recipe and photgraph were kindly provided by Chrissie from Artichoke Zine. She wanted to give you all a recipe that included some of the staples from her post about The Vegan Pantry. Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Risotto

Serves 4

1 Butternut Squash
Olive Oil
Rock Salt
1 Onion
2 Cloves of Garlic
Dairy Free "Butter"
White Wine
500g Risotto Rice
3 Stock Cubes

Cube the butternut squash and pop into a roasting tray which has been drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with rock salt and paprika. Roast on 200c for around 20 minutes, until the squash can be crushed with pressure.

Slice the onion and crush the garlic. Fry on a medium heat until tender. Pour the risotto rice into the pan and combine together. Melt a chunk of butter into the rice and pour a nice amount of white wine into the pan. Season with salt and pepper.

Allow the rice to absorb the butter and wine, before adding two ladles of stock. Keep adding a ladle of stock at a time, for around 30 minutes, until the rice is cooked through and slightly sticky, and most of the stock has been absorbed.

Add another splash of white wine and small chunk of butter and stir through.

Season to taste and serve with garlic bread.


Why Become Vegan?

Monday, 8 February 2010

The following article was kindly written for Full Stomach by a friend of mine, Jhon Cosgrove. Jhon plays guitar for Mike TV and is pretty open about his veganism. I asked him to write about why he is vegan and what it's like touring abroad and eating vegan. As usual with Jhon, there's a bit of swearing so if you're not into that, then feel free to skip. I thought Jhon would bring a bit of lightheartedness to the month and true to form, he did! Enjoy! (And thanks Jhon!)


A blog on why I'm vegan with some unnecessary swear words and a mention of Uri Geller.

By Jhon Cosgrove aged 28 years and a few months.

I'm not sure where to start with this blog. This is the first time I've ever really written about my ethical dietary choice and it's difficult. There's a fine line between preaching and personal opinion. Let's hope I stick with the latter and you don't treat this as a biased, vegan eulogy. I'm kind of aiming this mainly at meaty men and women who maybe haven't ever considered what any of this vegan stuff means. Sorry if you already know this or if I sound condescending but I get asked vegan questions all the time (even more than I get asked 'Why don't you dye your other eyebrow blonde' or 'has anyone ever told you that you look like Sideshow Bob?').

Firstly, I have been vegetarian for ten years and vegan for nearly three. I made the step from the longer 'V' word to the smaller 'V' word after deciding my principals against animal cruelty were basically compromised by the fact that the dairy industry goes hand in hand with the meat industry. It seems to me that many people view the word 'vegan' as a bunch of hippies who don't eat 'real' food, are in some sort of faddy cult or are just doing it to be cool. The general public seem to think that the diet must be really boring and plain. 'How can you survive without cheese!’ people cry at me with disdain. Then follow it up with the second most popular question 'What do you eat then...just vegetables and fruit?' This is usually followed by a disparaging grin. A vegan picnic by anyone’s reckoning must be a sea of undernourished, skeletal freaks dipping carrots in humus and snorting lentils.

I'm vegan for one main reason. I personally believe that cruelty to animals is wrong. That is the bottom line. There are other factors to consider like health and environment but I'm not gonna go into it excessively, as it will be boring for you carnivorous types and you will think I'm just trying to convert you. If you're interested, read up about it! It's as easy as searching the word VEGAN on Google or Wikipedia. I hate flying but I spent a whole night last week researching plane crashes. Knowledge is power! Except in my case, as I'm now even more terrified of flying. As I said before, I don't want to preach and it's your choice. Some people like hot air balloons, some people like watching Holby City and some people like sleeping with members of their own family. I like being vegan and cruelty free. You may say, well I only eat ethical meat and free range eggs. I'm sure when your pissed and on your way home, you stop at that Kebab van, start to salivate, then you reach into your pocket, buy a burger and start to masticate. It's still your choice but maybe have a little look online and see where your food actually comes from, how it's made and sold to you the consumer. I also advise researching 'mechanically separated meat'. You might never eat a hot dog ever again.

Anyway, this is all getting a bit serious isn't it? Let's pull it back in with what the fuck we eat. I like to eat healthy but I also like eating junk. Again I don't want to sound condescending and most of you food fanatics will know all this anyway. You can pretty much 'veganise' most things both savoury and sweet. Instead of me making a list and sounding like (more of) a moron, check out the websites below for some awesome recipes and cooking advice. If anyone is thinking of trying it out even for a day, a week or a month then check out the vegan forums (link below) as they have lots of information and help. I'm not trying to make it sound like a sexual health clinic but it's always good to be clued up and maybe even consult a vegan friend to see what they eat. Don't be put off by the fact that spoon-bending, pseudo-psychic fuckwit Uri Geller is a vegan. There are some famous vegans you can really relate to like Heather Mills or Bryan Adams (apparently). Okay, maybe that's not an argument then...

Enough silliness, back to the task in hand... Travelling and being vegan can be a pain in the arse if you aren't a bit organised about it all. When I go on tour with my terrible band, I usually bring a box full of tasty tricks to keep me going. It's pretty easy once you get used to it and you get to know places you can eat out and the places you can't. Again there is lots of good reading about travelling and being vegan, I'll list some below.

I haven't really got much else to say, other than I hope I have opened up a few eyes (and mouths)* with my dumbed down approach to internet communication. Cheers to Linds for having a vegan month on this blog and sending me cupcakes. Just have a quick read up on this vegan malarkey (just for me, no pressure), check out the websites and books below and maybe even try out a few meals. If you make anything nice, send me some, I'm fucking starving after all this typing.



*This is really unfunny but I'm keeping it in.

Some Useful Websites



Tofu Scramble

Friday, 5 February 2010

I decided that my first official vegan meal of the month should be a breakfast dish. For me, breakfast usually consists of cereal, toast or maybe some kind of fruit salad. If I go for a cooked breakfast is may be bacon and eggs or a full english. Hardly vegan friendly though, right?

I've seen tofu scrambles around and about and never really thought much of it. I bought some tofu the other day when I was preparing for this month and couldn't really think of what to do with it. I was eating breakfast the other morning and saw just how un-vegan my breakfasts usually are (milk on cereal, butter on toast, yogurt on...spoons?) and decided to have a vegan breakfast to start my day.

Tofu scramble is exactly what it sounds like. Tofu is spiced with (in my case) indian flavours and gently heated with onions, mushrooms and tomatoes (or whatever takes your fancy really). The texture resembles scrambled eggs but sligtly drier. This was perfect on wholemeal toast and really set me up for the day. My mum wasn't convinced though and wouldn't try it because it "didn't smell like breakfast." I thought it was great and have since used up the rest of the tofu on another breakfast. I reckon spinach would be an excellent addition...if only I had any!

Ingredients (spices are to taste)
1/4 an onion, chopped
2-3 mushrooms, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
Ground Cumin
Ground Coriander
Chilli powder
Dried Mixed Herbs
Half a block of tofu, drained
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
Soy Sauce
Black Pepper

Gently fry the onion, garlic, spices and mushrooms in a little oil until the vegetables are soft and the spices are warm.
Crumble in the tofu and stir to coat with the spices. Add a little water if it looks dry.
Add the tomatoes
Continue to cook until the tofu is hot.
Season with soy and black pepper and serve on hot toast.


Vegan Carrot Cupcakes with "Cream Cheese" Frosting

Thursday, 4 February 2010

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you'll know that I've done a wee bit of vegan baking over the last few months. I really enjoy it. I love how unfamiliar ingredients come together in such a familiar way. The vegan baking that I've experimented with have always come out moist and delicious and these are no exception.

I chose carrot cupcakes for a couple of reasons, firstly, I didn't have all the ingredients for the ones I wanted to make (fail) and secondly, Al really likes carrot cake. He doesn't like being able to detect any hint of carrot in them though so I used a fine grater (this resulted in a grated finger - ouch!). I think if I made these again then I'd really want to add a bit more spice to bring out the flavours a bit more, I'd also add a few more raisins. I left out the walnuts as I don't care for them and I put in a few more raisins than called for as mine were enormous! The mixture only made 10 cupcakes instead of 12, that could have been because I used muffin cases rather than cupcake papers but I don't usually have that problem.

I made the cream cheese frosting too as I'd never tried it. It was fine but I think a bit of lemon to cut through the sweetness would be great. Vegan cream cheese is disgusting by itself but transforms deliciously when made into a frosting. The cakes were moist and tasty with a good light texture and the creamy frosting complemented them well.

75g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
150g sugar
75ml vegetable oil
75ml soy yogurt (I used vanilla but you can use plain)
1 tsp vanilla
2 medium finely grated carrots
Handful of raisins

For the Frosting, combine (add the sugar in 1/2 cup batches):
50g Vegan cream cheese
50g of dairy free margarine
220g of icing sugar, sifted
Vanilla to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners.
In a medium mixing bowl, mix together sugar, vegetable oil, yogurt, and vanilla. Sift in the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices), and mix until smooth. Fold in carrots and raisins.
Fill the liners 2/3 full. Bake for 26-28 minutes, until a toothpick inserted through the center of one comes out clean.
Once fully cooled, top generously with cream cheese frosting.

This recipe is taken from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.


JD Wetherspoons - Vegan Option?

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

I went for a meal with my boss the other day. We had been in Norwich sorting some things out and decided that it was time to grab something to eat. We called into a Wetherspoons and looked over the menu. As it was the 1st of the month, I thought it was probably wise to look for a vegan option, this is not an easy task with the menu for this large pub chain. Aside from a side salad there were 2 vegan options and both required a special alteration to the meal.

The first was a tomato soup which needed to be ordered without bread. Just a bowl of soup. Surely there could be a dairy free bread option? I was really surprised by this. The other option was the one that I went for. It was a Chickpea, sweet potato and spinach curry served with yellow basmati rice and poppadoms (naan bread is replaced with extra poppadoms to make the meal vegan) with a small tub of mango chutney. It sounded nice enough so I ordered one.

When it arrived, it looked like it had been sitting around for a while. It had a slight "skin" on the top of the curry sauce and the rice was a bit cold. The poppadoms were stale and slightly chewy - not good because I had 4 to get through. The chickpeas were overcooked and chewy and the curry sauce was vaguely spiced but pretty bland. The tiny pot of chutney wasn't really worth bothering with either. There certainly wasn't enough for 4 poppadoms! I was really disappointed. As the only proper vegan meal on the menu it was really poor.

One of the more popular vegetarian options on the menu is a 5 bean chilli which I considered ordering. The problem is that it contains Quorn mince which isn't vegan friendly. Surely this is a pretty unnecessary addition to a dish that is already crammed with beans. It doesn't quite make sense to me really. There should be more options available in such a large chain of restaurants.

I was pretty appalled by the lack of choice and the poor quality of the food. I'm not sure that it would be too difficult to have a vegan chilli (even if ordered without sour cream on top etc.) made with beans and vegetables rather than Quorn just so that there is more choice available to those who eat a different diet from what is considered the norm.

Low scores for Wetherspoons.


The Vegan Pantry

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The following piece was kindly written for Full Stomach by the lovely Chrissie from Artichoke Zine. Her blog is great and you should definitely check it out! Her informal, chatty writing makes her blog very approachable and she has loads of pictures of some very yummy looking stuff!

The article contains lots of information about what veganism is and includes a list of store cupboard essentials for no-fuss vegan meals. Thanks Chrissie!


Veganism means that you don’t wear or consume any products which come from an animal. This includes meat, fish, milk, eggs and honey. No fur, suede or wool, and many vegans boycott companies which test their products on animals, and buy eco-friendly cleaning products.

With the technicalities out of the way, it’s not as bad as it sounds! Veganism may seem to cut out a lot from your diet, but these are soon replaced with animal friendly alternatives, a healthier diet, lighter conscience and a broader knowledge of cooking.

Before turning vegan, I spoke to a friend who had been vegan for years. He explained that it changed his life- I thought, “Come on! Changed your life? A little dramatic!" But a few weeks after I went vegan, I had the same light bulb moment. I had lost weight, had more energy, felt positive about my diet and explored cooking in a completely different way.

Veganism has taught me to have an open mind with ingredients; when eggs aren’t available to give cakes their fluffy and risen consistency, you have to look for alternatives. Ripe bananas are a favourite of mine. Oil works very well, as does packaged dried egg replacements. Adding some extra baking powder gives it a gently nudge in the right direction. In fact there are very few recipes which can’t be veganised; meringue is probably top of the list!

You don’t need expensive faux meats and cheeses to make great vegan meals- and supermarkets stock almost all of the essentials.

Here’s a shopping list of products which make my life easier and tastier:

Vegetables: It might sound sort of obvious but vegetables are an absolute staple to my diet; meals revolve around them and I’ve learnt so much about what’s in season throughout the year, when things taste better and what to avoid to have a slightly more environmentally friendly meal.

Spinach: It doesn’t live much longer than a few days, but it can be added to so many dishes that it doesn’t last very long in my kitchen. Use instead of lettuce in a sandwich, stirred into a freshly made butternut squash soup, wilted with butter and freshly grated nutmeg, added to curries and Moroccan stews, popped into salads.

Vitalite Butter: Dairy free butter, it’s creamy and delicious. Can be found in Tesco, Asda and Iceland.

Oatly ‘milk’ and Alpro ‘cream’: I try not to have a completely soya sourced diet, so stick to oat milk. Slightly thinner than soya milk, but with a warmer flavour. Soya cream is a cupboard essential; it brings a peanut butter curry together beautifully, and poured over cherry crumble it’s just brilliant.

Tofu: Tofu is an occasional addition to a meal; my favourite way of cooking tofu is to slice into thin triangles (around 5mm thick), brush with oil and coat with a thick marinade. Grill for around 15 minutes until the outside is quite crisp and the inside is fluffy. Serve with toasted cashew nuts and salad.

Risotto Rice: Risotto is one of my absolute favourite recipes. I always make sure that I have a box of rice in, and add pretty much any vegetables that I have lying around. Have patience and it will be your favourite meal too.

Couscous: So simple but so brilliant. Pour it into a bowl. Pour over some hot water. Pop a plate over the top. Leave for 5 minutes. It literally doesn’t get any better than that. Drizzle with oil, throw in some paprika and add to salad. Use instead of rice with a Moroccan stew. Stuff some portabella mushrooms with it; pour on some melted butter infused with garlic and white wine, and cover with breadcrumbs.

Houmous: It’s the answer to everything. Pitta bread and houmous. Jacket potato and houmous. Carrot sticks and houmous. Houmous in a sandwich with spinach, olives and sundried tomatoes.

Chickpeas: These can be made into so many things; soup, falafel, houmous, added to salads, smashed with raw chillies and coriander, roasted with spices.

Soya sauce: Chop some ginger and add some soya sauce and oil, and you have yourself a stir fry sauce! The fridge is bare? Add soya sauce to cooked rice and toss in some toasted cashews!

Stock cubes: Genius. They make your soups, give your risotto flavour and even make a little afternoon drink. Little cubes of joy.

Flour and sugar: To make life a little sweeter. And because baking should be able to happen at any moment.

Spices: You can find pretty much any kind of spice you like in my cupboards; some twice over. Even three times over. Yes I have three jars of turmeric- and?

Salt: Maldon. Perfect. Crunch it into anything, crush it over a piece of toast rubbed with tomato and drizzled with oil, pinch it into a cake mix and let the flavours hit you.

Olive Oil: Good quality olive oil. Spend a little bit more and drown in flavour.


Look out for more from Chrissie this month as she shows us a simple, delicious risotto recipe.


Vegan Month

Monday, 1 February 2010

Welcome to Vegan Month on my blog!

I should start by explaining why I'm doing this. I'm not vegan, I was vegetarian for some years but have been eating meat for the last 5 years. I'm not squeamish about meat and I do try to eat free range where possible.

Veganism itself really interests me and I understand why people choose this lifestyle but a lot of people don't get it. There seems to be a stigma surrounding vegans that brings to mind a waif-like hippy eating tofu and rice cakes (or cardboard).

While I (and my family) do eat a few vegetarian meals a week, they invariably contain cheese or eggs for a protein kick and though they are delicious, they do contain a fair amount of fat. By incorporating vegan meals into my diet I hope to gain more knowledge and understanding of new ingredients and ways to create healthy, delicious meals that appeal to non vegans.

I am not going to adopt a full vegan diet for a month. I will be trying new recipes and adding them to my usual family repertoire. I will also be reviewing vegan products and restaurants and getting an insight into what it's like to be a vegan.

I have two lovely helpers this month, both of whom are vegan. Christina writes the wonderful Artichoke Zine, she has contributed some of the recipes I will be using this month along with an article about her vegan store cupboard must haves. Jhon is a guitarist in the pop-punk band Mike TV and he's contributing some more recipes and useful links along with a feature about what being a vegan means to him.

So, I hope you enjoy this month's feature, I'm really excited to be beginning this exploration and can't wait to try new and hopefully delicious things!


Coconut Macaroons

Monday, 25 January 2010

Al loves all things coconut. It's just a flavour that he adores. I do too actually, I like the subtle sweetness of coconut and the creamy flavour and dense texture. I remember macaroons from when I was a kind. The crunchy outside and soft chewy centre. When we used to get them they were attached to rice paper - that weird edible but not really appetising paper stuff - and had a little drizzle of chocolate.

It's so simple to recreate a simple version of these (though of course you can cook them on rice paper if you wish and a drizzle of dark chocolate really isn't going to hurt them any. A simple combination of 4 ingredients means that these are easy to whip up for guests. They keep well and are great for lunchboxes.

These were the other gluten free and dairy free cookie I sent to Tam for the Cookie exchange and ... she liked them! Thanks goodness!

2 Egg Whites
150g Dessicated Coconut
150g Caster Sugar
1tsp Cornflour

Preheat the oven to 180C and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (if not non stick)
In a clean, grease free bowl, whisk the egg white until stiff.
Fold in the sugar, coconut and cornflour.
Shape the mixture into around 12 balls and place onto the baking sheets
Bake for around 10 minutes, or until golden and transfer to a wire rack to cool.


Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

Friday, 22 January 2010

There is a bit of a back story that comes with these cookies and how they ended up being added to my recipe file and why I've made two batches in less than a week. I randomly stumbled across a blog a few weekends ago. This blog was Steph Chows. If I'm grabbed by the writing style and photography of a blog (and the recipes of course) then I tend to read pages and pages of things over a few days until I find something else to hold my attention.

Steph grabbed me and I spent several days reading a few months worth of entries. I noticed this entry and was intrigued by it. I've seen craft based exchanges for fabric, handmade greeting cards and even underwear but I'd not seen a food based one before. I thought about how interesting it would be to see how other people work with ingredients and flavours. Some of the jams sounded amazing and I couldn't get it out of my head.

With a bit more reading, I found this entry about a cookie exchange. I read through to see the rules and get a general feel for the whole thing when I notice that a UK blogger is looking for a partner. Well, I could hardly pass up this opportunity could I? I was a bit late to the party (the post was made in December and the deadline for sign ups was waaay past) but I emailed Steph to see if I could join in and exchange...
A few days later I received confirmation that I had been teamed up with the UK blogger - Everyone, meet Tam! - and we were allowed a little extra time to get our cookies out. After exchanging contact and allergy information (Tam can't have dairy or gluten) I set about finding a recipe to fit the bill.

And here it is! These cookies are amazing and ones that I am sure to make again and a again. They are simple to make, require few ingredients and nothing too exotic (I wasn't ready to jump into the field of Xanthan Gum and strangely named flours - but if there's a cake exchange in the future? Why knows!). These would be delicious with a little chocolate thrown in and I might try making them with crunchy peanut butter for a different texture.

This recipe is from the Gluten Free Girl and I've reprinted it here.

1 cup Smooth Peanut Butter
1 cup Sugar (plus extra for rolling)
1tsp Gluten Free Baking Powder
1 Egg

Cream the peanut butter and sugar in a bowl. Add the baking powder and the egg and mix until smooth.
Roll the dough (it will be quite soft) into balls about the size of a walnut and roll the balls into the extra sugar.
Place the balls, well spaced, onto a baking tray and flatten slightly.
Bake in a preheated 180C oven for 10-12 minutes.
Allow to cool on the tray for at least 5 minutes before attempting to remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.


Candied Pomelo Peel

Sunday, 17 January 2010

I may have mentioned before how much I love citrus. I just love how the tart, sharp flavours work so well in desserts and sweets, they combine perfectly with a little sugar to make a fresh, flavourful treat in almost any form!

Anyway, when I was shopping one day I spied a honey pomelo lurking amongst the fresh fruit. It was a weird looking beast, like a large grapefruit but in the shape of a pear. It has a greeny-yellow skin and no strong scent from the outside. I just had to buy one!

After doing some research, I found mixed reviews and decided to just go ahead and get on with it! There's a lot of white pith inside and the actual fruit part is probably the size of a large grapefruit. the flesh is a pale yellow and quite dry to the touch (unlike an orange for example). The flavour is delicate with a sharpness akin to grapefruit but with a subtle sweetness too. It's really hard to explain but the lot was gone within an hour or so... Every time I (or my mum) walked past the bowl in the kitchen, another piece was devoured.

It was quite laborious preparing the fruit. The pith has to come off and the membrane between segments is tough and dry so that has to come off too. But, as a huge pomegranate fan; I'm okay with labour intensive foods. I wouldn't buy one very often (I've only bought 2 ever) but they're nice for a change.
In order to get the most out of the £1.49 I paid (another reason why I wouldn't splurge too often) I looked into the process of candying the peel. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be and yielded really delicious results.

You start by cutting the peel into strips about a centimetre wide, you can keep them fairly long but basically, they need to fit in the saucepan and they need to be a size that you'd want to serve.

Next you need to blanch the peel to rid it of some of its bitterness. Bring a pan of water to the boil, plunge the peel in for a minute and then take them out. Repeat this twice more with fresh water each time.

Next, heat equal quantities of water and sugar (a cup of each) in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Place the peel into the syrup and turn the heat down until the syrup is at a simmer and leave to candy for around about an hour. Keep checking on the syrup to make sure it doesn't boil away completely and allow the peels to burn.

Once the syrup has been absorbed into the peel, remove from the heat and spread the peel on a wire rack to cool. Once cool, stuff them into your face quickly and eat them. They are delicious.

You can also take this a step further and cover the candied peel in chocolate. I cannot be held responsible for the effects these gorgeous little treats may have on you... They are amazing.


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