Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Comedy of Carnage

Comedians are masters of searching out and observing the hypocrisy and irony in life; turning it back on society in a more digestible and entertaining manner.  Given the surge in veganism in recent years, it is therefore no surprise that there is currently a ripple of veganism surging through the comedy industry. 

Vegetarianism and veganism has had its fair share of being negatively mocked in the comedic sense, but it seems the tide may be turning.  Not only have vegans (Sarah Pascoe, Romesh Ranganathan and Simon Amstell included) joined the ranks of the mainstay of British comedy performers, bringing with them their own more positive and thought provoking comedic observations of being a vegan, but the industry as a whole seems to be sitting up and paying attention.  I did think however that we were still a way off of hearing anything beyond the odd comment or discussion on a comedy game show, or a story in a stand up show.  Then came along Simon Amstell's film, Carnage.

A short film on mainstream TV, looking at veganism, would have been amazing enough.  An hour long mockumentary, with well known actors and celebrities produced by the BBC is nothing short of astonishing.  Okay so they haven't been brave enough to put it on anything but the BBC iPlayer yet, but they have at least advertised it on the main BBC channels. 

Carnage looks at a world 50 years into the future; a world turned vegan and horrified at its carnist past.  This is however, no run of the mill, usually brutal exploration into the reasons why the masses should turn to veganism.  Simon Amstell has still honoured the very essence of veganism but wrapped it up extremely well in layer upon layer of humour, entertainment, and fascinating facts for both vegans and non vegans alike.  He is like a child who has very skillfully hidden his vegetables under the meat on the dinner plate; or in this case, should it be the other way round?

We had laugh out loud moments (yes us vegans do have a sense of humour!) mixed in with moments of being pulled along in wild imaginings that such a world could eventually exist.  I was also delighted, as cringe worthy as some of it was, to see the inclusion of the historical aspect to veganism.  I also felt a sense of pride and hope; pride in that veganism has come so very far in the 30 years Phil and I have been vegan, and hope that Carnage represents and accelerates the more recent surge in vegan interest into even more of an awakening.

It is easy for us vegans to wax (soya not beeswax!) lyrical about something that hits the vegan nail on the head, especially if it does it in a ground breaking, entertaining, and accessible way; but will it work?  After all, it must have been the intention of Simon Amstell, as a vegan himself, to go way beyond the entertainment level and send out those far reaching vegan ripples.  I find it extremely hard to believe that it won't reach out to the non vegan viewer and at least plant a seed.  In fact I would be astonished if it doesn't but then I am already astonished how people will very easily deny the facts that are already in front of many (take for instance the man in the film who said that cows would explode if they weren't milked; whether that was staged for the film or not I have personally heard someone say this!).  I will read the reviews and listen to the feedback with much interest and hope.

Carnage is available now on BBC iPlayer and remains so for over a year apparently.  If you would like a non vegan's review then check out Mark Kermode's take on Carnage. 

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

A Shock to the Health System

I've been very quiet on the blogging front as I've had other priorities; pretty massive ones. You see both of my parents are really sick.  Mum has been dealing with pancreatic and liver cancer for the past four years and dad was recently diagnosed with leukemia and was rushed to hospital in an extremely serious and life threatening state.  I've just returned from Kent, where they live, and despite a few days of rest at home I am still feeling relatively shell shocked.  The worry, multiple hospital and medical visits, helping them work out every day practicalities and putting support services in place have played their part in the mental exhaustion and stress, but there is more to it than that.  I'm in shock about how all this could have happened.

When you are young you don't really think much about your parents not being around, and in fact it hadn't really hit me until relatively recently.  Mum will be 75 this year and despite her long struggle with cancer, it wasn't that long ago that she was still out walking along the cliff tops of Cornwall or in their local woodlands at a fair pace.  The fact that she is still with us four years on from diagnosis and major surgery is a credit to her.  Most people last about 18 months with her diagnosis.  As for dad, who will be 81 this year, he's not long stopped getting on the house roof to adjust tiles and climbing trees with chain saws.  To see and try to come to terms with both of them in their current state is the most upsetting and exhausting thing of all.  None of us expected this.

Whilst I was in Kent, the newest film from the creators of the award-winning documentary Cowspiracy was pre-released. What The Health exposes the collusion and corruption in government and big business that is costing us trillions, and keeping us sick.  As contributors to the crowd funding of this film, we got access to see the pre-release for free. Having witnessed my parents being pumped full of prescription drugs and being at the mercy of the medical profession, the timing of What The Health couldn't have been any more apt, shocking, moving, and personally influential at the same time.

Now I am by no means knocking the 'on the ground' NHS or medical profession in this country (we are very very fortunate to have such a system).  In terms of the care my parents have received, it has been extremely good. Neither am I holding my parents responsible for how things have turned out, or for continuing along the pathway of medical care they are currently on.  It is what it is and, despite offering various suggestions for potential improvements, their generation is unquestioningly dedicated to and trusting in the medical industry.  Most of us ultimately are to a certain extent, as much as some of us try and resist it

But I'm confused and I'm angry.  I'm angry that the world over we have a medical industry that seems to put profit before health, that teaches and promotes treatment over prevention, that prescribes drugs to combat the ill effects of other drugs and that is sponsored by profit seeking companies.  I'm confused by the way that many health care professionals go along with what the medical industry dictates.  I'm confused by the way that many medical charities concentrate their efforts on treatments and seemingly ignore prevention.  I'm scared by the amount of people, young and old, I've seen in the oncology departments I have had the displeasure of passing through recently. And I'm scared that these people have so much trust in what is being done to them without question.  Blind fear and denial has many of us sleep walking to our deaths.  Sure a lot of health advances have been made, but that doesn't mean that there is not something uncomfortably wrong with the 'following the money' course the mainstream medical industry seems to be increasingly deluded on.  

Part of the reason for being vegan is to do the best I can to try and prevent harm to myself as much as to other beings and the environment.  Prevention; surely we all want that right?  Well no actually, an awful lot of people don't seem to, or rather are taught not to.  Instead we are taught that your only chance is to take this expensive drug or give money to that charity who will then use that money to try and research a drug which will 'wave a magic wand' and cure the evil of disease.  Well, I feel a lot of dis-ease about the two 'elephants' called 'Prevention' and 'Nutrition' that sit in the room of the medical industry and charities but still continue to be ignored.  What The Health puts a spot light on those 'elephants' and more importantly the industry that chooses to ignore them.

Seeing my parents as they now are, and seeing What the Health has not only enforced my reasons for being vegan, but it has also made me think even more about whether I am doing enough to keep myself as healthy as possible.  Ask yourself why we have a health system that is neither teaching or encouraging people to take responsibility for themselves? How can that be happening on any level let alone on such a massive scale?  Nobody is completely immune from health issues but I'm determined to do my level best to stay out of a system whose end game is profit.  Even if I do end up in the system, I want to make damn sure I keep my eyes wide open to make sure my end game is not their profit. There may well be alternatives out there that are ignored purely because there is no profit to be made.

Please, if you get the chance, vegan or not, take a look at What The Health.  Ask yourself, who has the biggest stake in your continued good health and who gets to profit the most out of a sick population?  At the very least think about the issues being tackled here.  It is surely food for thought right?

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Foxy Cake and Bake Sale

Image may contain: drawing
Original artwork by Agusta L Downs
If like me, the dark, dank and cold days of winter are driving you to become more than obsessed with cakes, there is just the right event for you taking place tomorrow. It not only supports your need for cake but most importantly, supports a great cause.

Cornwall Vegans are hosting a cake and bake sale to raise funds for the Kernow Sabs, Monitors and Animal Rights Team who have been made particularly busy just recently. This takes place at The Cornish Vegan in Truro from 1pm with drinks being sold by The Cornish Vegan and all proceeds of the sale of cakes and bakes going to the fund.

If you are a vegan cake baker then your delicious creations would be very much welcome to aid this event and you are invited to arrive with them from 12 noon.  Likewise if you are the 'crafty type' then any creations you can spare to sell for this fund raising event would be most appreciated.

For more details on this event or if you have any questions, please do visit the Facebook Event page - Foxy Cake and Bake Sale.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Cakey Delights from Sprout Health Foods

As our last post detailed, we are continuing our period of alcohol abstinence and part of our success has been in treating ourselves in other ways.  This time from Sprout Health Foods in Newquay we sampled the cakey sweet delights on offer.

Occasionally Claire and Bast from Sprout do make their own gluten free and vegan cakes to sell.  They also source sweet treats from a couple of other producers, including local chef and baker Vivienne Levick and also Cornish based mother and daughter fronted clean food company Je Tam.  However the majority of their delights are supplied by husband and wife team, Charlotte and Graeme at Pura Pressed. Pura Pressed are known for their cold pressed juices but have also gained an increasingly appreciative market for their raw, vegan and gluten free cakes which are also free from palm oil, refined sugar and preservatives.  As well as being available at Sprout you can delve into these delightful desserts at Archie Browns or The Cornish Vegan, both in Truro.  Alternatively you could catch up with Pura Pressed at their regular stall at Truro Farmers Market or order direct online from the Pura Pressed website.

The first of the two Pura Pressed delights from Sprout we scoffed was a carrot cake. Chewy and creamy in equal measure this carrot packed slice has a wonderful lemon zing coupled with a sweet cinnamon kick.  It's filling though, and sharing the slice enabled us to move onto the second treat we'd bought, which was a chocolate peppermint slice.  As good as the carrot cake was, the 'biscuity' base colliding with the fresh burst of minty filling and chocolate topping just pipped the post for me.  It was like a big hug from a vegan After Eight mint (but so much better).  

It seems that when it comes to a vegan healthy treat, Sprout has it covered and, with so many local producers of vegan goodies around, there are plenty more to enjoy on future shopping trips! 

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Pro Fusion Kombucha

We've given up drinking alcohol.  Yes, you read that right.  Given our numerous posts of a vegan alcoholic nature, we've even surprised ourselves with this decision.  However, like many people facing the pressure of the whole 'New Year, New You' thing, we had been questioning the amount of alcohol we had got used to drinking.  It was time to make a change.  Whether this is just a temporary well needed break, or a permanent situation remains to be seen but for now we are fairly resolute in our indeterminate personal prohibition.

It has been hard though, I admit.  Treats and distractions have definitely played their part in our success so far.  A recent visit to our local health food store, Sprout in Newquay, provided one such delicious healthy treat.  

Pro Fusion Organic Kombucha is a lightly sparkling fermented green tea drink, complete with beneficial live cultures.  It's raw, live and unpasteurized!  Kombucha is an ancient drink said to have originated in China at least 2000 years ago.  It contains, among other things, probiotics, antioxidants and B vitamins. In other words, it's good stuff in our view.  We have previously made our own kombucha, but not for a few years now, and we no longer have the starter culture known as a scoby (you read that right we do mean scoby and not scooby!).

There are quite a few kombucha brands on the market these days but this one, made by Pro Fusion Organic Living, is the first we have come across which is enhanced with superfoods.  There are three delicious slightly tart fruity flavours on offer; Baobab Mint and Pomegranate, Maca Coconut and Pineapple, and Turmeric Ginger and Lemon. The last two were the ones we sampled on this occasion and both were equally delicious and beautifully angelic; even served in our devilish wine glasses!

Before any smart vegan out there draws our attention to it, yes okay kombucha does still contain alcohol, naturally produced during the fermentation process.  At a maximum of 1% alcohol content though I don't think we could be accused of cheating too much!

We will be following up this post with more wine distracting treats we have recently bought from Sprout Health Foods.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

First Crack of The Vegg

Whilst I found the introduction of The Vegg and Follow Your Heart VeganEgg in the last year or so interesting, I wasn't intrigued enough to splash out on either of these egg substitute powders, particularly so as I thought the latter was over packaged.  After all, I found it difficult to see how a good old fashioned tofu scrambles could be improved upon. 

Then just before Christmas, and whilst shopping on Veganstore for seasonal goodies, I noticed they sold small sample bags of The Vegg and one of them ended up in my basket.  I thought I'd give it a go after all.

At the weekend, with the wind and rain lashing the window with force, an afternoon indoors experimenting in the kitchen seemed like the more desirable option.  I reached for The Vegg sample with a quiche in mind to go with a colourful palette of winter salads to counter the less than colourful weather outside.  The wonders of the quiche are that you can add whatever vegetables you fancy or have available into the filling.  I wanted however to keep it simple so that I could get a real feel for the results of The Vegg mixture.  Just onions, mushrooms and tomatoes, with a hint of garlic went in the mix, with a good sprinkle of vegan cheese on top.

For the pastry I had to freestyle a bit!  I discovered I didn't have much plain flour left. However, with buckwheat and spelt flour stocks high, a healthier style pastry was the obvious choice anyway to compliment the salad accompaniment. Luckily, despite my random free styling and guesswork, it turned out tasty.  With hindsight I would have rolled it out a little thinner but there wasn't a soggy patch in sight regardless!

And my impression of The Vegg?  I was really pleased with the resulting quiche and it got the definite thumbs up from Phil.  Would it be enough to make me buy a big packet? Hmmm, not totally sure at the moment.  The leftover quiche we had for lunch the next day nearly swayed me, but really the results weren't significantly different to some results I'd had without it.  I do however have quite a lot of the small sample packet left, so there may be many more experiments ahead and perhaps by the end of the packet (or even when I next use it), I would have been totally convinced.

First Crack Vegg Quiche
This recipe made two small quiches and the large one pictured above.

The Free Styling Pastry
40g plain flour
40g buckwheat flour
220g spelt flour
1 teaspoon vegan bouillon powder
80ml oil (I used part rapeseed and part olive)
80ml plant milk (I used soya milk on this occasion)

Put the flours in a bowl with the bouillon and mix together.  Add the oil and rub in so it resembles bread crumbs. Then add the milk bit by bit until you have a dough that holds together and can be rolled out (you may not need all the milk - don't make it too sticky). 

Roll out to about a half cm thickness (as mentioned above I rolled mine a bit too thick so would go for this thickness next time).  Line your chosen greased pie cases with the pastry.  Part bake for about 10 minutes at 200 degrees C.

The Filling
Touch of oil for frying
1 medium onion diced
1 clove garlic crushed
6 medium mushrooms sliced
4 teaspoons of The Vegg powder
1 cup water
180g silken tofu
Salt and pepper
8 cherry tomatoes halved
Grated cheese for the top to your cheesy taste!

Fry the onion and garlic in the oil for 5 minutes or until translucent.  Add the mushrooms and cook until softened and slightly browned.  Add the mixture to the bottom of the part baked pastry cases.

Blend The Vegg and water until completely incorporated.  Add the tofu and blend again until smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Pour the mixture over the onion and mushroom mixture and smooth over. Top with cherry tomato halves (cut side up) and grated cheese.  Bake for 45 minutes at 200 degrees C until firm and slightly browned on top (do keep a check though as our oven is really old!).


Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Mobile Phone Service from Ecotricity

We are big fans of Ecotricity, as you will gather from previous posts.  So whenever we hear anything new and exciting from this ever growing ethical company, we like to shout about it on their behalf.  

We received an exciting email today from Ecotricity announcing the launch of their brand new mobile phone service called Ecotalk.  Their network use is powered by green energy from the wind and sun.  In addition, the money Ecotricity make from Ecotalk will be used to buy land to create vital new habitats for pollinators and other wildlife in Britain. According to Ecotricity there is not that much information out there at the moment about the environmental impact of the mobile phone industry, but it is something that they want to follow up on and explore.  Ecotalk is the first step in this.

Superfast 4G is on offer along with competitive ethical pricing, short contracts and no exit fees.  In other words equaling, if not surpassing, some services on offer from other mobile service providers. Oh, but hang on.....what other providers also offer that special Ecotricity customer service and responsible environmental practice, all cooked together like a comforting, vegan, winter greens warming soup?  Sounds very tasty indeed.

So if you would like to be one of the first in Britain to benefit from this new green mobile service from Ecotricity, check out the Ecotalk website where there is also more information about mobile phone use and the environment.  You could also give them a shout on 0333 800 4400.

And no, we don't get commission!  We just like to 'big up' those companies out there who are trying to make a difference in the world.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Lettices Deli Delights

A while back we bumped in to the lovely people from a new artisan vegan company called Lettices. They have been doing the vegan festival rounds to market their small batch meat and cheese alternatives, which they produce from their base on the Isle of Wight. We met them at Animal Aid's South West Christmas Without Cruelty Festival in Exeter in November.

Poppy-Lettice-about-usThe founder of Lettices, Poppy Lettice, has been a vegetarian all her life and has more recently turned to veganism.  It was this transition, along with travels to countries that embrace plant based diets, that led Poppy to turn her existing culinary interests and talents into experimenting with producing her own range of exciting vegan alternatives.

The Lettices stand and display of products at the festival was colourful and plentiful and, coupled with a 'buy any three products for £12' festival deal, it was hard to resist taking some home with us.  We bought the Blue Beauty, Sticky Ribs, and Popperoni pictured above.  

We tried the Popperoni first, in bagels with hummus and roasted red peppers, and it was an instant hit with Phil.  It wasn't quite such a hit with Scooby, being less inclined to like the chilli hit of pepperoni style products.  To be fair Phil had chosen our selection of products and so something with chilli was bound to have crept in there somewhere!

Next up was the Blue Beauty cheese.  One evening Scooby had a sudden urge for cheese and crackers and so grabbed it from the fridge.  Being brought up in a house where the only real experience of cheese was cheddar, and having left home already a vegan, she had never experienced any other 'exotic' cheeses before.  This Blue Beauty was therefore a little bit of a shock.  Phil was less shocked by its intense and unusual flavour.  His dad was a regular stilton eating cheese monkey, so he had grown up eating regular stilton before he was vegan.  This unusual cheese might not have been such a hit with Scooby just on crackers, but melted on top of baked potatoes; well that is a completely different story.  The mild 'creaminess' of the baked potatoes mellowed but enhanced the bold flavour of the cheese. Needless to say, once we had discovered the wonders of this cheese served like this, it disappeared pretty quickly and we were left wanting more!

Last but by no means least, we devoured the Sticky Ribs.  These were our top pick of the three, being generous in flavour, texture, and 'tardis' like quantity that emerged from the packet.  They were a pleasure to get your teeth into, bursting with umami spicy goodness!  Despite the fact that they were tasty enough to want to consume in one hit, we managed to make them last over two meals.  Given their ability to fill you up, if we had eaten them all in one go that would have been just plain greedy.  So all in all, great value too.

Watch out for Lettices over the coming months at a festival near you.  If you can't wait to catch up with them doing the rounds, you can check out their full range and buy online from the Lettices website.  Alternatively, you can catch up with their latest news on their Facebook page, and they even have their own YouTube channel which includes Poppy's best recipes and vegan lifestyle tips.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Snacks, Seals, and Sunsets

We love where we live, especially as we can walk out of our door and be on wild coastline within a few minutes.  These past two days or so we have enjoyed such walks, even covering some of the same route without a hint of boredom.  All we need is the ever changing landscape of the sea on one side, a bit of decent weather and a bag full of snacks and we would happily wander around 'the hood' all day until sunset.

Our snack bag recently has been filled by treats that my sister sent over from Alaska. Every year we send each other these packages, with food being a particular theme.  I always send her favourite Cornish Tregothnan Tea along with, among other things this year, Tartex Green Olive Pate and Sainsburys (Vegan) Bacon Crispies, which she is mad for. Meanwhile from my sister we got a big old parcel of vegan cookies, lovely Kashmir chai tea, Mayan drinking chocolate and coconut water hydration for my running exploits.  So with a flask of lovely tea and some vegan cookies we headed off towards the sound of the waves.

We were hoping to catch a glimpse of the Cornish choughs that we are fortunate enough to have residing on our section of coastline.  

Earlier in the week we had seen two flying over the west end of the beach, the furthest east we had ever seen them, so we were hopeful. 

However, whilst jackdaws whirled and chuckled all around us, teasing us with their similar black shapes, there was not a distinctive red beak or leg in sight during our most recent wanderings.  

We were however treated to the sight of the local seal colony frolicking in the surf and lazing in a cove with equal measure. 

There were plenty of people around to enjoy this spectacle too, and it is always a delight to hear such excitement from those that are experiencing seeing seals for the first time in their natural environment.  

With the sun setting and with about 3 miles between us and home, we reluctantly headed back; our snack bags depleted, hair windswept, but minds refreshed by a simple walk on the wild side.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

A Seitanistic Year

I'm not a fan of new year to be honest; although I don't think there will be many of us that don't look back at 2016 and think, 'hell what an amazing year that was and what a shame it's over'.  Some weird shit happened, both on a global and a personal level.  For that reason 2016 can bog off.  However, as hellish as it has been, seitan has been most welcome in the Driftwood Vegans household over the past year.  

I'm always experimenting with seitan and 2016 has been a particularly good year for such experiments.  About a couple of months ago I accidentally created a seitan recipe that I've found hard not to make quite a few times since; each time becoming slightly different.  It was about time I shared it....well the one I have currently settled on that is!

It all started with a lack of gram (chick pea) flour.  I found a recipe that called for a mix of gram flour and vital wheat gluten. I've used this combination before and it has turned out pretty good but on this occasion we didn't have any gram flour in the stock cupboard.  I did however have a whole load of coconut flour that had been kicking around for a while, along with a half bag of soya flour that I think I had used once for a long lost recipe and never since. With this adaptation came quite a few more, and very soon, and over a few different occasions, the recipe had pretty much changed completely with what we had in the cupboard.  I also added a crumb coating.  So here I offer you my crispy crumb coated seitan burgers which I positively encourage you to try, fiddle with, adapt and have fun with yourself! 

Crispy Crumb Coated Seitan Burgers
Makes about 12 small burgers or any shape/size you like!

80g coconut flour
50g soya flour
Sprinkle of dried parsley, chives and oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

250ml boiling water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon tomato puree

1 litre boiling water
30ml tamari

2 tablespoons masa harina or polenta
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon oregano
Few grinds of black pepper

Don't let the slightly big list of ingredients put you off.  It's pretty quick to put together and most of the time is spent with it cooking itself!

Mix all the dry ingredients in the first section of the ingredients list in a bowl.

Mix all the wet ingredients in the next section in a jug until well incorporated.

Mix the above wet with the above dry.  Get your hands in there and give it a knead.  It should be well incorporated and all in a big lovely doughy lump now. 

Let the above rest for a bit whilst you heat the water, bouillon and tamari in a pan. Make sure this pan is big enough to fit all the gluten with a bit of expansion too.

Roll out and mold the seitan dough into whatever shape you desire.  I cut out 12 small burger shapes with a cookie cutter.

Drop the burgers/whatever shape you chose into the now simmering pan of stock and let gently simmer away for 1 hour.  Be gentle and don't boil the hell out of it otherwise it will all break up.

Remove the seitan from the pan and allow to drain.  Keep the stock for another use (we have used it tonight to make a sausage casserole).

The seitan is now ready to cook in whatever form you would like.  

From here I mixed the last section of dry ingredients together and coated the burgers in it before then baking in the oven at 200 degrees C for 1 hour (turning once half way through).

You could freeze the seitan either after the boiling or the oven baking.

So here's to the New Year and may it be more gentle, less traumatic but just as seitanic!