Sunday, 16 October 2016

South Coast Wild Mushroom Harvest

Around this time last year we were camped out in Miles the Camper Van on the South Cornish coast.  The weather was unseasonably warm last year, but was a little chillier today on our day trip. However we were still lucky to discover the same amount of amazing wild mushrooms in the exact areas we had found them before.  The gorse and bracken were a little higher so it was a little harder to search them out but find them we did.  

We also had a visit from our old friends the choughs.  We had hoped to see them when we first arrived, but they only appeared at the end of our walk when we had nearly given up hope.  At first it was hard to definitely identify them from a distance, and we doubted our initial sighting of their acrobatic flight. However, a ray of sunshine revealed the banded orange legs, and orange beaks in all their wonderful glory.  The sightings were topped off by the distinctive 'cheow' call of this charismatic Cornish bird.

We weren't camping out on this occasion, so we retreated home with our mushroom haul and Phil cooked up a Spanish inspired seitan, mushroom, and tomato dish to enjoy for dinner, whilst we mused over the delight of yet another Cornish chough experience and successful mushroom forage.

This time of year will definitely be marked in the diary for returning to this special spot to stock up on wild mushrooms and hopefully see the choughs.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Cheeky Vugga

Image may contain: drink, outdoor and waterWe reported back in March that our favourite local pub had introduced organic vegan ale on cask.  Well since then the wonderful ales from Atlantic Brewery have proved to be a real hit at The Bowgie, with each cask selling out so quickly that you can be guaranteed to experience a different ale flavour experience each visit. 

With ales ranging from red, pale, blonde, and porter, to ginger, elderflower, earl grey, masala chai and smoked green tea (to name a few); there are plenty to try.  We were also extremely pleased to see Atlantic Brewery included in the Bowgie's very successful annual August bank holiday Ale and Cider Festival this year too.

To add to the excitement, The Bowgie are now having their own signature Pale Ale brewed and have chosen Atlantic Brewery to produce it for them.  There can't be that many pubs in the country that have a vegan organic ale as their signature ale on cask!  How amazing!

The call was put out on Facebook to name this ale, which had to be inspired by The Bowgie, Crantock or the surrounding area.  Cheeky Vugga was the chosen catchy name.  Vugga is a narrow sandy cove tucked away on Crantock beach and it is a short stroll after a nice pint!  Kind of catchy too huh?

So if you want to experience the wonders of another amazing vegan organic brew from Atlantic Brewery, from a pub with an amazing view, get yourself to The Bowgie Inn pronto. Neither the view or the ale will disappoint.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Cornwall Vegans Fundraising T-shirt

The Cornwall Vegans Poster fundraising campaign continues with a chance to get your hands on a fabulous 'We Are All Earthlings' T-shirt designed by Hepzibah Pink's Lulu Baker complete with the proud 'Cornwall Vegans' branding.

These unique hand printed T-shirts come in black on white or white on black with organic (£14.99) or non-organic (£9.99) on offer. The Cornwall Vegan word mark can be put on the sleeve or across the top on the back. For more details, sizing and to place an order, please visit the 'We Are All Earthlings' T-shirt Shop Facebook page. 

What better way to spruce up your vegan wardrobe and spread the vegan message; both via this lovely T-shirt and also by contributing towards the poster campaign?

A bulk order is being put together now so get in there whilst you can!

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Phil's a Fun-guy!

We've recently been out foraging for wild mushrooms. At the start of every autumn we head off into the woods and onto the commons in search of free fungi.  It's one way we console ourselves with the end of summer and the onset of the colder seasons.  As well as our spirits, it keeps our vitamin D levels up; not just from the fact that we might be out in sunshine and getting our vitamin D directly, but also due to the fact that mushrooms are a great source of vitamin D.  Last year we were fortunate enough to find a wide range of interesting wild edible offerings.  This year has so far been less prolific but we have still managed to prepare a few mushroomy meals as well as drying some for future meals.

Phil is the 'fun-guy' identifier in the Driftwood household. Scooby is the mushroom 'hound' that sniffs them out and points, awaiting the verdict on whether the results would be edible, hallucinogenic, or deadly.  Fortunately our relationship is based on trust!  So far, so good!

The results have been really tasty.  There is nothing that compares to wild mushrooms. The shop bought varieties are a world away. However, here is the standard disclaimer; you have to be sure what you are looking for.  There have been times when Phil has been 99% sure of what he has identified but that's not good enough.  You have to be 100% sure unless you want to risk a trip to the hospital, or of another kind!  There are quite a few experts out there so do seek out their guidance. For instance, one such local expert on wild foraging is Jon Dale and this Saturday there is a chance to join him for a local foraging session courtesy of Sprout Health Foods in Newquay. Check out the Sprout Health Foods Facebook page for details.

On our own recent forage for mushrooms we found some Deceivers, Amethyst Deceivers, Agaricus Macrosporus, Wood Hedgehogs, Oysters, Bay Boletes, Pine Boletes, and some King Boletes.  Some of these we dried both to preserve our haul, and to improve the flavour, and some of them we cooked up for the next meal.  Risotto is one of our favourite uses of wild mushrooms as it really concentrates and enhances their earthy flavours.  Below is Fungi Phil's recipe.  If you don't find wild mushrooms then you could just use shop bought ones.

Fungi Phil's Risotto

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion
1 clove of garlic
Pinch black pepper
200g mushrooms (we had a mix of Amethyst Deceivers, Hedgehogs and Boletes)
1 cup Arborio rice
1 tablespoon vegetable stock powder 
Sprinkle of nutritional yeast to taste

In a frying pan saute the onion in the olive oil until translucent and then add the thinly sliced garlic clove and the pinch of black pepper.  Continue to cook for 1 minute more.  Add the chopped mushrooms and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes before adding the rice and stirring in well.  Add enough water to just cover the rice, and then the vegetable stock powder, stirring well to ensure the rice doesn't stick. From there it's a process of just adding water 1/2 cup or so at a time, until the rice is cooked but still has a little 'bite'.  Then stir in the nutritional yeast powder.

If you are wondering what the other dish in the photo is then let's call it 'Phil's Saucy Risotto Accompaniment' and here is that recipe.

 Phil's Saucy Risotto Accompaniment

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion
1 clove garlic crushed
1 red pepper
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
Pinch of chilli flakes
2 tablespoons tomato puree
Portuguese butter beans from our garden (or broad beans as our beans are ours!)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Fry the onion in the olive oil until it starts to brown and then add the garlic.  Add the chopped pepper and continue to fry until soft.  Add the salt, paprika and chilli and fry for 31.5 seconds :)  before adding tomato puree and stirring well.  Add beans and enough water to just cover and cook for 15 minutes, adding the balsamic vinegar just at the end.  


Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Cornish Vegan Piskies Hit the Shops

It seems that it is indeed true; Cornish piskies do exist. What is also amazing to learn is that they all seem to be vegan and whilst we imagine they very rarely roam from their mist clad moorland stone circles, barrows and cliff tops, it has recently come to light that they actually do enjoy a good shopping trip here and there.  From supermarket shelves to hobby stores (or should that be hobbit stores?), the vegan piskies are up to harmless vegan inspired mischief spreading the gentle message as they go.  

Roll over Banksy too as, it also appears, the vegan mischief has taken to the streets 'Pisky' style.  Mysterious chalk messages are appearing on pavements and structures all over the place as piskies and pixies of the world unite in spreading the magical vegan message. The pixies just across the border in Devon indeed invite you to partake in such mischief and magic this coming Saturday.  Check out the Plymouth Vegan Chalk Bomb Challenge for details.  

If you can't make it this Saturday then create your own magic in a shop or on a pavement near you soon. According to the official advertising agency 'Especially Subliminal Piskies' (ESP for short), advertising really does work.  So go forth and be pisky!  

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Coconut Collaborative Rice Pudding

Photo from The Coconut Collaborative's Facebook page
Rice pudding is one of those things that we really should make more often.  In the heat of the summer a chilled, creamy, ricey wonder is delicious and equally, a warm spicy rice pudding in the depths of winter is more than enough to chase away the darkness.  Indeed at Christmas, when my parents come to stay, my coconut rice pudding is a regular request from my not so vegan dad.

For years making your own vegan rice pudding has been the only option if you fancied such a treat.  Back in the 80's there was a tinned rice pudding available from Plamil.  It was delicious and very popular within the vegan circles both Phil and I moved in back then, but despite this it then sadly disappeared off the face of the vegan earth, leaving a lazy, convenient vegan rice pudding 'dessert desert'.  No more though.  For those moments when rice pudding desire strikes there is now a delicious vegan solution.

The Coconut Collaborative have deliciously charged into the vegan market with their frozen Snowconut Yogurt and chilled coconut milk yogurts.  However, the recent discovery of a two pack of coconut rice pudding from them had me snatching it off the shelf with unnerving zeal.  An equally enthusiastic reaction ensued from Phil when I showed him.  It really was such a childish reaction to such a simple food but yep, we openly admit it; we were kids about it.  The consumption of said rice pudding stood up to the anticipation too.  It was delicious.

Now if the whole idea of a 'convenient treat' doesn't sit comfortably with you, there are a few facts that might ease the guilt. First off, come on, The Coconut Collaborative have made the vegan effort and even made sure they proudly display The Vegan Society mark. Secondly, the ingredients are pretty good too.  A rice pudding containing coconut is full of fatty acids with beneficial properties especially in terms of an energy boost.  Coconuts also contain zero cholesterol.  The rice pudding is also free of gluten and soya.

If that wasn't enough The Coconut Collaborative also have a tree planting project with their friends at Pur Project.  The resulting little piece of jungle in South East Asia will regenerate soil and provide wildlife habitat and income for local communities.  For news of the project and all the other goodies The Coconut Collaborative make, check out their website or Facebook page.  

Did we mention that the rice pudding tasted extremely good too?..........yum.

Friday, 23 September 2016

It's a Wrap

We were out of bread and I really couldn't be bothered to either go and get any or bake some.  We did however need something for lunch the following day and the fridge and cupboards seemed fairly devoid of useful options. Unusually we didn't even have enough leftovers to dispense with the whole sandwich idea altogether. With garden supplies, there were things we could put in a sandwich but where was the bread?

This whole lazy issue led to an experiment I should have tried a long time ago; I would make some flat breads/wraps/tortillas or whatever you want to call them.  It can't be that hard or long winded surely and I had plenty of flour in the stock cupboard? As it turns out it was really easy. So why haven't I made them before and more to the point, why would you want to buy them if you can get purer, cheaper ones by making them yourselves?  I offer no real answer to that because for a first attempt it was pretty tasty and further refinement can only lead to tastier attempts I'm sure.  

So here I offer you my first attempt which made four 8" breads; more than sufficient for both of us for lunch.  I used sun dried tomatoes because, well we had some and to be honest the idea of just a flour and water mix seemed almost too simple. That's a daft concept from me really as that is exactly what flat breads are made from, but I also wanted them to pack a punch with flavour too, which sun dried tomatoes certainly do.  Oh, I also sneaked in some dried oregano for an additional Mediterranean vibe.

I used a food processor to mix it; nothing fancy, just my 25 year old trusty friend of a food processor.  I'm sure hand mixing would be fine too but I was in no mood for this to take a load of time or effort!

Quick 4 Ingredient Wraps

200g flour (I used half buckwheat and half strong white bread flour)
100g sun dried tomatoes (I used jarred ones so they did have a little oil on them)
1 tablespoon of dried oregano

Whizz up the tomatoes until broken up, then add the flour and oregano until incorporated.  With the processor running add water through the top until the mixture comes together into a ball.  Turn this mixture out on to a floured surface and give it a bit of a knead until it feels pliable and smooth (I did this in less than 5 minutes). Divide the mixture into 4 equal balls and then roll each ball into a thin round that will fit into a frying pan. Cook each bread in a heated dry frying pan until browned on each side.

Now I will mention again that these were my first attempt and improvements can definitely be made.  For a start they were a little stiff once cooked but they still did the job in wrapping, all be it with the help of a cocktail stick to keep them wrapped!  It certainly has led me to want to experiment more with different combinations of flours and flavourings and I even have in mind, for a wet winters weekend, that I will have a flat bread making session and freeze a load for future use.

If you are wondering what we used inside our wrap in the photo; there was homemade cashew cheese (I'm always experimenting with that but here is at least one version I make), coconut bacon, a slightly tweaked version of our creamy leek, mushroom and broad bean pasta (without the pasta) and tomatoes and rocket from the garden.

Anyway, it's a wrap.  Enjoy!

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Finally a Fig!

Our fig tree in the front garden is a legend in many ways apart from the most useful one.  I planted a fig tree in my garden when I lived in Devon back in 1992, then when I moved to Cornwall I took cuttings from this tree and planted one of these cuttings in our now front garden.  So all in all, it is about 24 years old.  It is a beautiful tree that fits perfectly among the herbs, and the birds love to sit in its now tall branches.  With its vividly green leaves reaching up towards a deep blue summer sky, it is evocative of warmer Mediterranean climes.  Its amazing looks have inspired requests from friends and family for cuttings which are now growing in various locations around the country. This is where the legend ends though, as in all those 24 years it hasn't bothered to give us any edible figs.....that is until now!

The aesthetics of the fig tree have been mostly lost on Phil, especially in light of the lack of edible rewards and he had only just recently been suggesting that the large space could be better used.  I have despairingly watched each year as the new figs load the tree only for them to either not ripen or be blown off in our strong coastal winds. My excuses to keep it there had pretty much run out and then as if by magic, 'figgy' suddenly comes through. 

There sat right in the middle of the deep foliage was a big fig.  Each night when I went to put out my 'badger, please leave our veg alone offering' I would have a squeeze, daring not to mention too soon to Phil that I think finally we had a winner. Then a couple of evenings ago I took him out there to show him, and this evening we finally tasted it.  Magic is the word that springs to mind.  It was delicious.  We are not sure what has been different this year and why 'figgy' decided to finally grow this fruity offering, but let's just say he will thankfully be remaining and we have every hope that this may be just the beginning of even more figgy delights in years to come.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Excalibur Cafe Glastonbury

Now if there is anything you could say about the town of Glastonbury it is that you are guaranteed to find good wholesome vegan food, while away many happy hours hunting for good books, and enjoy interesting and random conversations here and there.  All of these things we enjoy and hence why we try and visit a few times a year.  We've become quite familiar with the shops and eateries along the high street and so on a recent visit we were surprised to see a new cafe had arrived in town since our last visit.

The clean and crisp frontage of Excalibur Cafe, along with what appeared to be quite a minimalist interior (from peering through the window) actually had us confused at first.  It had quite an air of  'up market' about it which sat a little 'off centre' to the down to earth wholesomeness of the Glastonbury we were more used to.  The minimalist menu on display in the window, at first glance, also had us wondering whether this was one of those establishments that you'd leave with a still empty tummy but with a lighter wallet.  We were slightly suspicious.  However, this was Glastonbury and the sign outside used words like natural, organic, wildcrafted and buffet.  It also called itself a cafe instead of a restaurant. That was a good sign for us down to earth foodies.  We were definitely curious and so we stepped inside.  We are very glad we did.

Rather than stuffy poshness, the interior was instantly light, airy, vibrant, and relaxing, and the staff happy and welcoming. I was inwardly feeling embarrassed about my clear preconception of Excalibur but the proof would be in the eating.  The Pendragon Burger caught our attention and upon checking whether it was all vegan, we were told that it was all vegan and, with a mischievous glint in her eye, the lady followed that by telling us that it did however contain dragons!  There was also a self service buffet on offer which was sold by weight (£2.00 per 100g).  We might have just stuck with the burger, but when we took a look at the buffet some weird magic happened whereby we couldn't resist, and subconsciously served ourselves a plateful of tasty morsels to share and try.  

The drinks took a while to peruse and choose, such were the interesting and tasty choices. In the end Phil opted for the Pine Power Smoothie; described as a creamy, energy boosting smoothie with fresh almond milk, coconut meat, dates, lucuma, pine pollen, maca, vanilla and sea salt. I meant to opt for the Love Potion Hot Chocolate which included ashwagandha, cacao, chaga, cinnamon, maca, mesquite, pine pollen, vanilla and cayenne pepper, but I think I was so in awe of the choices I somehow just ordered the less intensely interesting hot chocolate on offer.  This was still very satisfying but I did end up staring more lovingly at Phil's Pine Power Smoothie with a tinge of envy.  I had been allowed a sample and just enough to realise I would definitely order the smoothie next time!  

The service was very quick and we hadn't managed to polish off much of our sample buffet and drinks before the burgers arrived.  As it was placed in front of us any notion that this was a 'minimalist food' establishment exploded.  It was not only a thing of beauty but it was 'love at first bite'.  The Pendragon Burger involved mushrooms, activated walnuts, raw olives, dulse and sun-dried tomatoes, served on a homemade sourdough ciabatta bun.  The burger itself was intensely flavoured; a real 'wow' moment.  The sourdough bun surrounding it was really good too and an ideal additional accompaniment to the plateful of lovely buffet items we had indulged in, such as the 'Creamy Cheese' dip.  The size of the bun was extremely generous and had it not been for the additional buffet dips we may have struggled to have balanced that against the size of the wonderful burger.  There was a raw version of the Pendragon Burger on offer too which was served on homemade raw crackers.  I might try that next time.  At the end of the meal we were well and truly satisfied. Ironically, in a 'grass is always greener' moment we wished we'd had more space to sample the desserts on offer.  So much for worrying about it being a minimalist menu!  

So if you are in Glastonbury, do look out for Excalibur.  It certainly offers something a little bit different from the norm.  The menu identifies vegan, vegetarian, raw, gluten free, nut free and even Sattvic options.  All alcohol is also labelled as 100% organic and vegan (although we noted that Pennards Organic Mead was included on the menu so honey avoiding vegans should avoid this; aka actual vegans!).

The General Manager and Executive Chef, Sarmado Sibley, sounds like quite a dude too. Not only has he trained in Michelin starred kitchens and worked with some of Europe's top chefs, but he has also founded an innovative holistic food company in London and is a renowned raw food coach.  However, there is much more to Excalibur beyond the food. They have also installed a full spectrum EMF defence system in the cafe, all their water passes through a state of the art filtration and energising system and even the cafe ceiling is coated with a special paint that neutralises pollutants in the air.  We can hear the laughter now from some of you but when we became vegan 30 years ago we heard the same laughter, so it might be time to open up to fact that there are multiple factors in the modern day world that may affect our health.  It really is up to you but it is good to know that some establishments are thinking about the 'wider picture' for their customers just in case.  50 years ahead of time is better than not at all, and perhaps our open appreciation of such issues will mean that we can look back with gratitude on their efforts.

For further information on Excalibur, including their menu, please do check out their website or their Facebook page for social media updates.

  • Excalibur Glastonbury Ltd
  • 22 High Street
  • Glastonbury, Somerset
  • BA6 9DU, United Kingdom
  • +44 1458 258301

Friday, 9 September 2016

Rooting For Those Vegan Vibes


As a sustainable community space in the heart of Cornwall, there is always something interesting going on at the Mount Pleasant Eco Park in Porthtowan.  One such example is their Roots Culture Markets which run on various Sundays throughout the year.  If the stalls in the covered outdoor artisan market selling local produce, crafts, up-cycled goodies, plants, cakes (including vegan ones from our experience), records, and other unusual gifts wasn't a draw enough, how about indulging in some fabulous tasty food whilst Latin, African, and Reggae musical vibes float tropically through the air?

I'm sure that has caught your imagination already but word is that this Sunday the already legendary specialist vegetarian Cantina Cafe (normally they always provide luscious vegan options) is for the first time offering a full vegan food menu. Phil's eyes lit up even more when he noticed that the food on offer for Sunday was also an 'Indian Summer Feast'.  I remember the sights, smells and resulting culinary delights that emanated from the home kitchen of Paul, the now Cantina Cafe chef, many many years ago back in our Devon pasts, especially on curry night.  The word legendary has to be used again here.

So it may be a windy old Indian Summer down here in Cornwall this weekend but you could do worse than to head over to the Roots Culture Market this coming Sunday 11th September for a big old Tropical hug.  Check out the poster above or visit the Mount Pleasant Eco Park website for further details on this and all the other great stuff that goes on there.