Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Waitrose Russell and His Amazing Barnivore Effort

I was in Waitrose in Truro earlier. Among a few other things I was after a bottle of wine.  Now unfortunately Waitrose let us down a little with their shelf labelling of vegan wines, but they do redeem themselves slightly by producing a free 370 page Wine, Beer and Spirits List.  We picked up a copy back in the summer at another Waitrose store. 

Inside, the guide labels not only vegan but also organic and bio dynamic choices, along with great information about each product. It is a handy little guide to have with you whilst perusing your choices, and also seems to match what is indeed available on the shelves; so no long moments trying to find the one you've just identified in the book.  For this reason I keep a copy in the car.  

I decided to talk to the member of the staff in the wine area to say how much I appreciated having such a handy guide which clearly marked vegan options.  Well it turns out that Russell is a bit of a star.  He said although the guide was really good, he thought it was a shame that Waitrose didn't label the shelves as such.  He had been so disappointed at not being able to help a lady find some vegan wine that he had taken it upon himself to ensure he was able to check Barnivore if asked again.  Members of staff are apparently not allowed to have their mobile phones on them whilst working, but he had been given special permission to do so purely so that he was able to help again if anyone asked him about vegan products in his section.  His mother-in-law is vegetarian for ethical reasons and so he said he knew how important it was to people.  I was so impressed that he had gone to such effort and told him he had inspired me to write a blog post.

Now unfortunately all the guides got snapped up a while back in the store (even Russell doesn't have one he can refer to!). However, he said he would look into getting some more in.  I'm going to contact customer service too. I would like Russell to be recognised for the effort he has made, as well as back up his request for more helpful guides, and give Waitrose a gentle nudge towards better shelf labelling too.  I might even mention that it is nice to see them including a vegan recipe in their December 2016 magazine (mentioned on the cover and found on page 72).

So if you are in Waitrose in Truro, say hello to Russell.  He is the man in the know when it comes to pointing you in the right direction of suitable wines and it's always good to recognise those individuals trying to make a difference to our shopping experiences.

Monday, 21 November 2016

The True Power of Plants

We are big fans of Ecotricity and it's not often people get to say that they actually like their power company.  Ecotricity are a bit different though aren't they?  Yes, they still send those bills that you have to pay but somehow it doesn't feel quite so bad parting with your well earned money when you know they are doing their best to level the environmental playing field in Mother Nature's favour.  

We get email updates quite a lot from them explaining what they are working towards.  The one below came today and we thought we would share it.  Please do share it far and wide too and, if you are not already with Ecotricity, consider getting behind them too (with a vegan at the helm of the company you know they are going to be heading in the right direction).

Today we launched a new report, which shows that Britain can get almost all of its gas from a very simple source – grass. 

The benefits to our country of making our gas this way are pretty astounding, so we’re calling on the government to rethink where Britain gets its gas.

Quite incredibly, we’ve found there is enough suitable land to produce enough green gas each year to power almost all of the homes in Britain (97%).

And we can do that without affecting food production – in fact, we would be boosting it (via crop breaking), and at the same time we would create new wildlife habitats on an unprecedented scale.

Not to mention the £7.5billion boost to the economy and 150k new jobs in a new and sustainable industry - and making fracking a redundant concept. Our report shows that we now have a more than viable alternative to fracking, which people have been fighting tooth and nail up and down the country to prevent.

It’s not too late, because fracking hasn’t started yet. But we need a proper review of where Britain gets its gas from – we can either frack the countryside or we can grow the grass. It’s that simple.

We’ve recently got consent for our first Green Gas Mill. All we need now is the government to get behind this simple, abundant and benign energy source.

You can keep up to date with our plans on Facebook and Twitter – check it out and join in by all means. There’s lots more info on our website about what we’re doing, including the full report and detail on how our Green Gas Mills will work.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

South West Christmas Without Cruelty Festival 2016

Barely has the dust settled from the crowds attending the Plymouth Vegan Fair last Saturday before we have another vegan event to look forward to this coming Saturday.  Although a little further to travel from the Cornish border, the Animal Aid South West Christmas Without Cruelty Festival at the Exeter Corn Exchange, is always worth a pre-Christmas day trip.

I know I have just mentioned the 'C' word and it is only November, but this Festival does tend to tweak the festive spirit.  Perhaps it is the plethora of 40 or more vegan stalls (many presented with a seasonal flair), the wonderful Christmassy food on offer, or perhaps it is just the joy of being surrounded by a fluffy warm cloud of veganism.

The entry is free but do make sure you do take plenty of wonga. You will be sure to want to treat yourself, get ahead of your Christmas shopping, and be lured by the lunch options, as well as be kind enough to drop more than a few pennies into the Animal Aid collection buckets by the doors.

Doors open at 10am and as it is a special 10th Anniversary festival this year, the first 250 visitors will be given free gifts donated by Lush Cosmetics and Natural Balance Foods. Fairfoods make their second appearance in a week (Plymouth last Saturday) to treat us to their tasty vegan snacks and delicious lunches, all at really good prices.  Food is from 12.30pm and queues get long so do get there early to avoid disappointment.

This year the comedian Sara Pascoe will be speaking so make for the main stage at midday if you would like to catch what she has to say.  In fact, the weekend starts early for vegan comedy fans as Sara is performing a stand-up show at the Exeter Corn Exchange on Friday evening with all profits going to Animal Aid.  Vegan food is available before the show and during the interval from Rabbit, Exeter's first vegan cafe which opened its doors recently. For tickets for the evening visit the Corn Exchange website.

For more details on the festival, please visit the Animal Aid website.
South West Christmas Without Cruelty Festival 2016
Exeter Corn Exchange, Market Street, Exeter, Devon.  EX1 1BU
Saturday 19 November - 10am till 4.30pm

Friday, 11 November 2016

Plymouth Vegan Fair and Party

Get yourself just over the border to Devon tomorrow for not only a vegan fair but a vegan party afterwards.  The Plymouth Vegan Fair, hosted by Plymouth Friends for Animals, has been organised to celebrate the Vegan Month of November. Both take place at the Discovery Cafe on Eastlake Street in the city centre.

It's free admission to the fair, which kicks off at 3pm and runs until 6.30pm, with food available from the delicious vegan Devon based caterers Fairfoods.  There are talks during the afternoon including an Alkaline Diet Talk by Laura Wilson, James Stewart talking about the badgers role in Bovine TB, Berty Justice on the power of food and the power of you and a talk about Cornwall Badger Rescue from Kathryn Driscoll.  For vegan shoppers and information gatherers, there are plenty of stalls to peruse including; 

Alkaline Diet
Andy Pollock - Wood Turner
Dr Hadwen Trust
Tropics Cosmetics
Devon Wildlife Trust
Devon Badger Group
(St Agnes) Marine Conservation
Plymouth Friends for Animals - info and sales
Oh My Goodness Cakes
Ethica - all vegan shop
Devon County Hunt Sabs
The Naturally Vegan Plot
EFFA with Animal Headsets
James Stewart - wildlife photographer
Hyfryd vegan skincare - hand made in Wales
Ethical Investors
Wild Futures
Cruelty Free International
Arts, crafts and jewelry stalls raising funds for CALF Sanctuary and Rabbit Rescue

If that wasn't enough entertainment for the day, half an hour after the fair closes the Vegan Party opens its doors, again at the Discovery Cafe.  

There is a charge to attend the party which does include a vegan meal from Fairfoods

Fortunately for Plymouth Friends for Animals all the full price meal tickets have sold out now (unfortunate though if you are only reading this now and kind of wanted to go and eat too!) but there are still some standing non meal tickets left for the evening if you would like to indulge in some great vegan company, music, and poetry.  

For full details on the fair and the party please visit the Plymouth Vegan Fair Facebook page

For more information on the work of Plymouth Friends for Animals, give their website a peek via the link above.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Bale Ale - Haytor Rebel

Around these parts the mention of "Bale Ale" immediately conjures up fond memories of the Crantock Bale Push, and the resulting aching arms and legs the following day if taking part. Around this time a beer appears in the local shop, and in the Cornishman pub, that bears the name 'Bale Ale'.  It has no other identifying features.  We have tried to find out who brews this each year, so far without success, and therefore we have yet to determine if it is suitable for vegans and so haven't tried it.  

On a recent trip up to Tavistock we found another beer bearing the legend 'Bale Ale', but this time it is the name of the brewery.  With so many micro-breweries and craft beers popping up all over the country, you can forgive any confusion resulting from a few similar sounding names.  In the U.K. we haven't quite got to the point of having specialist lawyers who focus only on craft beer names and descriptions among the thousands of competing brewers (as they do in America), and hope that time never comes.  Even though this most recent bale ale comes from across the border in Devon, we might have to admit that it trumps our local brew by announcing in no uncertain terms that it is "suitable for vegans" on the bottle. Check the 'why cloudy' section of their website for further confirmation of vegan status.  We also must admit that it would probably come out tops in a taste test also, as it's one of those beers where you take one sip and go, "aah... now THAT is a good beer".  

Screen Shot 2016-08-02 at 17.24.55

So far Bale Ale only seems to be marketing their 'Haytor Rebel' ale, which, being keen cycling fans, is a "tip of the hat to anyone who has ridden one of Devon's greatest climbs". They state on their bottles that they are "obsessed with cycling and ale", and we've got to admit there are far worse ways to spend your days than in the pursuit of the best of both.   We'd also like to 'tip our hats' both to the quality and taste of their ale, and the fact that they've made it clearly suitable for vegans.  

Check the 'where to buy' section on their website to taste for yourself.  We found some in Roots and Vines, and will be looking out for more of them in future.  It is a perfect ale for relaxing with after a hard day in the saddle, or indeed pushing the bale.

Friday, 28 October 2016

The Hectic Vegan Magazine

Circumstances at the moment have got us more than a little behind in blogging activities recently.  The beginning of October saw the launch of a new vegan magazine called The Hectic Vegan and I am ashamed to say that it is only just now that we've had a chance to take a look.

The magazine is the brain child of Rich Underwood, a Herts based vegan.  It all started a couple of years ago as an Instagram account which then led to The Hectic Vegan Blog, both with a view to demonstrate that even if your life is super hectic, you can still eat well and lead a healthy vegan life.  To spread this message far and wide, the next natural step was the magazine.

The 45 pages of the first issue include everything from exciting recipes and travel guides, to articles covering ethics, spirituality and community, as well as competitions, a vegan diary, and reviews (including a cheese review!).  Whether you are a long term vegan or just starting out on your amazing vegan journey, the magazine is inclusive and interesting.  I particularly enjoyed the 'Day in the Life' Plant Powered article and I always love a recipe or two to salivate over.

So take a peek at the newest 'vegan mag on the block'.  You can download a free copy of the first issue here.

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.