Sunday, 28 August 2016

Ohana Superfoods Hot Chocolate

We recently cycled into Newquay to watch some of the Boardmasters event at Fistral Beach, and arrived in need of some vegan sustenance.  We took turns scouting the many food and drink stalls for something both vegan and enticing, and were left wanting on both counts.  How disappointing that the vegan revolution in Cornwall didn't extend to the foods on offer here (we heard that the main music side of the festival fared better).  Many years ago there used to be a van selling amazing tofu burgers at this event, but we haven't seen it there for a few years now (thinking about it, that might be why we stopped going!).  As usual (for a surf comp. in August) there wasn't a lot of wave action happening, so we resigned ourselves to a bit of hunger while watching the amazing skills of the BMX'ers on the ramp. There were no problems with progress with those guys. Respect.

After a while our gnawing hunger got the better of us, and we wondered where to head to refuel. Enter Ohana. We can't remember where we'd heard of them; it could have been through a friend, or Cornwall Vegans Facebook group.  Either way, when we looked through the menu sat out back on their sun terrace overlooking the expanse of Newquay Bay, we kicked ourselves for not checking them out sooner.  To say that they are vegan friendly would be an understatement. When we saw a vegan 'Superfoods hot chocolate' on the menu, it didn't take us long to start our order with that; also adding a quinoa burrito, a falafel sandwich, and some chocolate cake.  When they asked if we wanted vegan whipped cream on our hot chocolates, well... it would have been rude to refuse!

I don't think we'd have ever come up with the idea for a superfoods hot chocolate ourselves, but we're glad somebody did.  It was delicious.  Made with almond milk, cacao, turmeric, cinnamon, and maca, it was just the thing to re-energize us.  A definite winner.  The burrito was another one.  Packed with quinoa and roasted peppers, with just the right amount of chili heat.  The Falafel sandwich also went down well, but wasn't on quite the same level.  It was good, but could have done with a few slices of avocado or some sauce, as it was a little bit dry.  Put it this way though, none of it was left on the plate.  The chocolate cake was really good too.  It must have been, as there was only one slice left for us to share!  

Ohana means family in Hawaiian, and that's the feel of the place.  You feel welcome, even as a vegan! (we shouldn't have to say that, but some places have yet to catch up).  With great food, great views, great music, friendly and welcoming staff, what's not to like?  They also host live music events in the evenings too, which we really should make more of an effort to attend.  See their Facebook page for details.  Since that first visit we've been back quite a few times, to fill empty post surf bellies, and to top up our hot chocolate levels.  In fact, we've even tried making it at home.  Here's our version...

Superfoods hot chocolate for two

We used Good Hemp Milk, Hasslacher's Hot Drinking Chocolate bar and also their Panela, and added in 1/2 tsp ground turmeric and 1/3 tsp ground cinnamon, simmering for a minute or two, before adding more hemp milk to cool it a little, and whisking in 1/2 tsp Maca.  Who wants to wait 20 mins before it's cool enough to drink?


Thursday, 25 August 2016

Vegan Event Hub

The new & improved website has launched! (I've even handmade an illuminated sign to celebrate.)

SpiritualImagine the situation; you are heading off somewhere and you are all up for seeking out the best vegan opportunities available to you in the chosen destination at the said time (yes even outside the amazing world of Planet Cornwall)?  Enter Vegan Event Hub. What about if you had a vegan event planned and you wanted to shout out to the world that it was happening?  Enter Vegan Event Hub again. 

How lucky are we that the very creation of such an amazing resource has happened within Cornish shores?!  How proud are we that one of our own has come up with such an amazing idea? Very is the answer.  And you know what?; the website looks amazing too!  Love it, love it, love it.  So proud.

Not only is it an amazing resource to bring worldwide veganism together (Viva La Revolution!) but it makes me feel all cosy and warm inside that all that vegan, lovely, kind stuff is happening on our planet.  It's like a big old vegan planetary hug.

If you are looking for the vegan angle on animals, travel, knowledge. sound and vision, health and fitness, campaigns and demonstrations, food and drink, festivals or spiritual ideals, you'd be a bit bonkers mad if you didn't stop off at Vegan Event Hub.  So 'get in there' and please do find, promote and illuminate this wonderful global resource.  It simply has to go global now, especially as the vegan interns have put in such an effort!

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Vegan Chick'n and Mushroom Pie

Most vegetarians are more than familiar with the 'orange takeover' of Quorn on the supermarket shelves whilst us long term vegans wondered what all fuss was about and cursed at the non-vegan monopoly that has existed for way too long. No longer though.  In the past year Quorn has introduced a vegan range. I have however been slow on the uptake and Quorn has only really just come onto my radar, probably because I'd spent way too long ignoring the 'orange glow' in the shops already. Processed food isn't a regular theme with us either.

However, a recent visit involving my omni/vegetarian/vegan family led me to seek time saving, big family meal ideas which suited the tastes of everyone but didn't compromise my own ethics.  I thought I'd give the Vegan Quorn Pieces a go and, with the help of some equally convenient Jus Rol puff pastry, I decided on making a big old chick'n and mushroom pie. Let's just say that I not only got away with it big style (with a big thumbs up from the two omnis), but Phil demanded I make another after my family had left that he didn't have to share with everyone!  It is now likely to become a regular convenient treat for those weekday evenings when a good old pie is exactly what is required.

Not one to write a recipe down, below I will endeavour to give you (aka remember) the recipe. However, it is more the idea that I hope to inspire with.  After all my friend and colleague Jane went home the very evening that I mentioned it and cooked her own version no problem because 'I'd put the idea in her head'!  When you have to have pie, you have to have pie!  

...and don't worry if you think the pie is too big as it is great the next day cold for lunch!

Chick'n and Mushroom Pie

This filled a 7" x 12" pie tin 

Oil for frying and some for greasing the tin (I used rapeseed oil)

2 large leeks sliced
Garlic cloves to taste chopped or crushed
About 8 large mushrooms (I used organic chestnut ones) sliced
1 packet of Vegan Quorn Pieces (280g)
A heaped teaspoon of mustard
A tablespoon of soya sauce
Half a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
A tablespoon of parsley flakes
Half a pint of thickly made gravy of your choice
2 packets of Ready Rolled Jus Rol Puff Pastry (320g each sheet)

Put sufficient oil in a medium sized saucepan to fry the veg (you could just 'fry' in a little water or broth if you preferred).  Start with the leeks and fry until nicely softened, then add the garlic and finally the mushrooms.  Fry until browning slightly and then add the packet of Vegan Quorn Pieces. Stir and then leave to cook for a further 5 minutes until the pieces have softened.

At this point freestyle it and add in whatever tastes you like and that go with this combo.  I added in a little mustard, a splash of soya sauce, a bit of balsamic vinegar (adds a slight tartness), a sprinkle of parsley flakes and then made up half a pint of thick gravy and stirred that in to the mix.  I cooked the mixture for about another 10 minutes to fully mix the flavours.

Grease your chosen pie dish or tin and then line it with the first sheet of pastry ensuring it goes nicely up the sides to contain the juicy filling.  Whop the filling on the top and then finish with the final sheet of pastry.  Cut any excess pastry (mini pasties or cut nice shapes to decorate the top?) away from this sheet and give it a good crimping around the outside to seal in. I added in a couple of vent holes just to insure against the top blowing off.  Bake in the oven at 200 degrees C for approximately 30 minutes (but our oven is about 30 years old so don't completely trust me and just cook it until nicely brown on top!).

The first version I made I froze in preparation for my family's visit.  I think I really should have then cooked it from frozen rather than defrosted it first as the bottom burnt a little. There was no such problem with the freshly made second version I made though as pictured.


Sunday, 21 August 2016

Cornwall Vegans Celebrate 1000 Amigos Animales

Having been vegan for almost 30 years and very much feeling like a minority back then, it is a glorious feeling to now live in a world where the word 'vegan' is not only recognised but has reached mainstream levels.  I had always hoped that veganism would gain popularity in years to come but I never quite imagined it would have taken off quite as dramatically as it has.  The Internet and social media has had a  major impact on many different levels, including veganism, and I now have a revised and renewed dream that we could see a vegan utopia sooner than we think!

I knew a small bunch of dedicated vegans in Plymouth and the surrounding area during the time I lived there but when I moved to rural Cornwall 12 years ago I wasn't expecting to bump in to many vegans at all.  It took me a while to realise that wasn't the case and to very much prove the point the Cornwall Vegans Facebook group recently reached 1000 members.  I've yet to meet them all but it is certainly a great feeling to know they are all around!

1000 Amigos Animales is an event organised by Cornwall Vegans to celebrate the 1000 members (actually now currently 1022).  It takes place on Saturday 27th August at Whiskers in the bustling centre of Newquay.  With free entry the party kicks off at 8pm - midnight and with Bobby Soul and DJ Schmarkle ramping up the latin/funk/afrobeat vibes it would be worth putting on your vegan dancing shoes and practising your smooth moves. 

Whiskers is a coffee shop, bar and live music venue with a reputation for being 'dog, cat, child, vegan and gluten free friendly'.  They have also picked up 'Winners of Best Bar' and 'Best Overall Service' in Newquay's Bar and Venue Awards. They are a chilled out, fun loving, energetic bunch with a great sense of humour, great dedication to eco-awareness and customer service which makes it even more shameful that this lovely small business was recently burgled.  So if you can't make it to the celebration please do make sure you go along at some point to support them during this difficult time.

Details for the 1000 Amigos Animales event at Whiskers are available on the Facebook Events Page and in the meantime, here's to another 1000 members to Cornwall Vegans in the coming months!

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Go On Have Some Blackcurrants

The fig tree in our garden may be stubborn at producing edible fruit but one thing that never fails to deliver is our blackcurrant bush.  I'm pretty fond of this particular plant too as I've had it for almost 25 years.  Friends gave it to me when I moved into my first house in Devon in 1992 and when I moved down to Cornwall 12 years ago, although I couldn't dig up the large bush, I took cuttings and planted them in our garden.  It is now taller than Phil and each year produces branches that are positively groaning under the weight of blackcurrants. Even the local blackbirds can't make a dent in the supplies.  Bees, butterflies and hover flies also seem to enjoy hanging out with it too!

Blackcurrants are powerhouses of nutrition. For a start there is the obvious one; vitamin C. 100g of blackcurrants contain 300% of the recommended daily allowance so chuck a few in a smoothie and you are well on your way with that one. The same amount also contains 20% RDA of your iron too.  As vitamin C helps absorb iron it will also boost the intake of your iron from other sources too.  

Blackcurrants have a great amount of health boosting antioxidant value, indeed one of the highest of the fruits after elderberries and cranberries.  Vitamin C is a contributing antioxidant here but blackcurrants also contain others such as vitamin A and anthocyanins. In fact blackcurrants contain 6 to 8 times the concentration of antioxidants than the much shouted about blueberries. Antioxidants help protect cells and other structures in the body from free radicals, so they can guard against various cancers and heart disease.

Add to this a high amount of calcium, good amounts of B vitamins (including the potentially cancer fighting B17) and a good quantity of omega 3 and the little blackcurrant suddenly becomes an extremely powerful but overlooked fruit.  I knew blackcurrants were good for you but I have to say that even I was surprised by the amount of nutritional benefits I discovered just with a quick search on-line.  Alzheimer's, cancer, heart disease, eye strain, menopause, rheumatoid arthritis were, among others, all mentioned as conditions that could potentially be protected against with the nutritional benefits of blackcurrants.  Take a look yourself and, apart from the fact that they taste pretty good, perhaps you too will consider growing your own blackcurrants?  Sadly for some reason it seems they are difficult to come by in the shops.

So you may ask what we do with all those blackcurrants?  I've made everything from blackcurrant muffins,  to my very own Ribena and a sauce for a raw cheesecake.  I do also lock in that nutrition by freezing a load so that in the depths of winter I can still enjoy a handful in a smoothie (a chocolate based one with blackcurrants is really nice!).

Alpro Go On Blackcurrant
We have recently however discovered a shop bought product from Alpro that perfectly marries the tartness of blackcurrants with a smooth creamy strained yoghurt alternative. Alpro Go On Blackcurrant was an instant hit with us with the added benefit of providing a good amount of plant protein along the way too. Other useful nutrients included are B12, calcium and vitamin D.  

In addition to the blackcurrant, the Go On range also includes passionfruit and mango flavours, of which we are yet to try but no doubt will also impress.  So if you fancy a shop bought healthy treat, we recommend looking out for the Go On range in the shops now.  

And don't forget, if you have space, consider planting a blackcurrant bush.  If our bush is anything to go by, it will reward you with years and years of tasty nutrition as well as become a welcome addition to the garden for the birds, bees, and insects.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

The V Cream Tea

What could be more Cornish than a lovely cream tea?  If you're from Devon then no doubt at this point you will have reached for the phone to call up BBC Cornwall's Laurence Reed to shout obscenities about the audacity of the Cornish claiming the Devon cream tea as their own. Then the whole jam or cream first debate will ensue and before you know it your tea's gone cold. Serves you right for being weird if that's the case, especially if you really believe the jam should be on top.  That's clearly wrong and you know it.

Next will come the shout from the non-vegans out there thinking they've finally caught you out.  "You can't eat that!" they exclaim incredulously.  Wrong again.  Scone, jam and cream; they can all be vegan along with a lovely cup of tea made with the plant milk of your choice instead of moo juice.  Healthier and cruelty free to boot!

However, if you want a vegan cream tea in Cornwall you would normally have to make your own, unless of course you are heading westbound this coming Sunday, and jump off at Camborne Railway Station and join Cornwall Vegans on the platform.  A lovely lady called Julia runs a cafe from the platform and it is here that Cornwall Vegans are hosting the Vegan Cream Tea.  Baked by Cornwall Vegan members the scones, jam, cake, and cream on offer are free (donations appreciated) with Julia serving the tea from the counter.

So if you are local or down on holiday why not join Cornwall Vegans for a 'propur' treat Cornish style this Sunday as well as meeting up with some like minded folks?  For full details take a look at the The V Cream Tea Facebook event page.  Just remember to put the jam on first to avoid being chased back across the Tamar under a hail of pasties!

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

A New Lion, A Vegan Pagan, and a Sprig of Heather

We like a beer or two, it has to be said.  We like the old vino tinto too, but a cold beer is definitely the 'weapon of choice' when it comes to summer time.  We've found some corking vegan choices over the last few months.  Not only does our favourite local brew continue to be delivered on cask to our local pub with a view, but we have discovered three lovely new additions to our 'bottled beer quiver'.

First off is one from over the border in Devon.  We actually ran into the guys from the Totnes based New Lion Brewery at the Dartington Food Fair back at the end of May, but our summer then took on such a spin we didn't get a chance to write about their lovely beery offerings.  

New Lion Brewery was launched in November 2013 by a passionate group of locals.  They wanted to revive the once hugely successful Lion Brewery, which led the brewing trade in Totnes for over 70 years before it ceased trading in the 1920's. The project wasn't just about boosting the local economy again though.  They are serious about making beers that stand out as celebrated and different; beer that indeed enhances and runs alongside the existing reputation that Totnes already has as an alternative and progressive town. If you know Totnes you will know that sustainability is therefore naturally very much part of their ethos too, with links within their team to Transition Network and Transition Town Totnes. Seasonality and collaboration with a wide range of local food producers follows on from this, along with the brewing of limited edition beers in support of various emergent enterprises and projects.  If this wasn't enough already, their brews are pretty wonderful too.  All of their bottled ales are vegan and marked as such but due to the fact that most pubs require fined cask ale, not all of their cask is. We enjoyed the Earl Grey Tea brew on offer, and the Scorpion IPA (created in collaboration with South Devon Chili Farm). In line with the reason why we love Totnes (the vegan capital of Devon), we would very much welcome even more vegan brews appearing on cask in pubs from the New Lion Brewery.

Our next discoveries take us further up country.  We discovered the Kelpaul Brewing Companys' Vegan Pagan Pale Ale in a little shop in Hay-on-Wye.  First off, this was an amazing moment.  Please tell me when you have EVER seen a beer that actually used the word 'Vegan' in its title? For this reason alone it becomes an automatic favourite. 'Vegan blinkers' and all forms of partiality off, it was bloody good and in a taste test would be right up there with the best.  Light, summery and refreshing and we very much regretted not buying more at the time. They seem pretty elusive, with no details on the bottle, but sneak up on them via their slightly off the wall Facebook page to find out more.  We'd love to know more about you guys!

A little further up in North Wales, and more recently, we were after a 'post Snowdon Watkin Path in 25 degrees heat' refreshment. In answer to our quest for a quencher, we found the bottle conditioned Minerva Mountain Heather Ale from Conwy Brewery. All their beers are bottled at source in small batches and undergo the minimum of processing, so are unfiltered, unpasteurised and naturally carbonated (hence our confidence in this one being vegan).  It produces a stunning beer, which in this case, had a delightfully distinct heather taste to it. They say on their 'suitable for vegetarians' marked bottles that they do this 'because we believe this produces better tasting beer.  We hope you agree'.  We certainly do.

Onwards into the summer, rest assured the hunt for vegan beer will continue near and far and we will keep you posted with our discoveries.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Berry Good

We are enjoying regular strawberry, raspberry, and blackcurrant based smoothies courtesy of our garden at the moment. Whether foraging in our garden, or in the wild, it's always great to find food for free.  On a recent trip up to North Wales we went for a walk in the woods, and found such a profusion of these wild bilberries that we took much longer on the walk than we thought we would.  As we went on it seemed that they just got sweeter and tastier, and we couldn't restrain ourselves from stopping every few hundred metres to 'just have a few more'.  There were so many of these berries that we had purple stained fingers and tongues for most of the walk.  It seemed rude not to sample a few as we walked.

More locally, we've previously gorged on these bilberries on Bodmin moor and Dartmoor during walking and cycling trips.  They are just the sort of free 'energy snack' that is needed during such activities, and are currently out there ripe and waiting for those who are willing to take a little walk on the wild side to track them down.  Unlike most wild berries that seem to ripen in Autumn, bilberries are the first of the wild berries to ripen and reach their peak at the end of July, so be quick if you want to go out and about searching for them.  

They go by many different names, depending on where you are in the country; bilberries, blaeberries, fraughans, whortleberries, whimberries, hurtleberries, wild blueberries, etc., and each region has it's own stories about this wild food. In Ireland they are celebrated with Fraughan Sunday, the last one in July, which is linked to the pre-Christian Celtic Festival of Lughnasa.  They were previously picked commercially in many regions.  For their size they also pack a rich nutritional punch.  Interestingly, it seems the nutritional effects are increased by not consuming bilberries with dairy products.

If you find yourself out and about in the right environment, be sure to have a look for these tasty seasonal treats.  They are well worth the effort of searching them out.  We offer no ideas for recipes here because, quite frankly, they would never make it home.  We prefer the wild eating experience.  However, the Fraughan Sunday link above does offer some ideas if you do manage to resist eating them on the spot.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Newlina Eco-Gardens Crowdfunder

A cat called TC who has his own interesting 'tail to tell', his own Facebook page, and Buddhist tendencies, led me to meet new friends recently.  That in itself is a whole new story for another time.  However, it was my new friends who alerted me to an interesting project, in turn created by friends of theirs, a mere 5 miles from where we live.

Paul and Laura Salmon from Newlina Eco-Gardens have quietly been providing sustainable local food to the community and restaurant business in Cornwall from their base at St Newlyn East for over 11 years now.  More recently however they have decided to open their 'green out-doors' and offer community education with their new Wild Garden Project.  It was at a recent open day and event that we went to see what was planned for this project.

Paul and Laura have a quiet and determined energy about them.  There is nothing outspoken or showy about them. Instead their hard work and passion is reflected in the flourishing land, rows of tasty produce and natural habitat that make up Newlina.  Their skills are also perfectly balanced for the new project.  Paul has years of horticultural experience, including permaculture, and his obvious natural skills and abilities make you want to follow him around for hours firing questions at him in an effort to understand fully why all the things he grows seem so perfect.  His delight at showing us the footprints of the resident pest controller (a hedgehog) was infectious too. Meanwhile Laura's skills as a playworker and story teller mean that she could be explaining the merest blade of grass and you would be transfixed by the interwoven details and creative energy that surround it.  Indeed Laura has her own 'Wild Stories' Project that seeks to explore the human relationship with nature through storytelling.

Although some areas of the Community Wild Garden Project have been started, such as a free monthly Wild Garden Group, some of the planting, and the set up of communal areas, there is still a little way to go.  To help with this they have launched a Crowdfunder appeal. The momentum is definitely building though, with interest and support from the local community and schools.  

It is a sad fact that much of modern living has led to a disconnect and lack of understanding of the importance of where and how our food is delivered to our plates, let alone the ecological implications of getting this wrong.  Paul and Laura have been producing food ecologically for years from their poly tunnels and outdoor areas, but to help the wider community reconnect and re-understand, the new Wild Garden Project has become their next mission. After all, the ability to grow and produce your own food might have been lost to individuals in more recent generations, but is really one of the most important and empowering skills to have.  It really sits alongside, if not above reading and writing in some ways. 

Thankfully some parts of the community are recognising this, including schools, and as such local schools are therefore embracing such projects like the one at Newlina. Children can learn how to grow and forage for food, outdoor cooking skills, how to work with and around nature, and how to be creative in the natural environment, among other things; all this in a fun and engaging environment.  It is a simple but effective concept that quite frankly all kids should have the opportunity to learn and experience.  If we had kids I would more actively encourage and support them to attend the 'School of Laura and Paul' (along with a spot of good old fashioned travel experience) over sending them packing off to study some over-charging/overrated university degree (and that's coming from someone who works in higher education!). But that's just my simple opinion; supported by an ever growing number of environmentalists who foresee the way 'modern society' is 'progressing'.

With my slight rant over and an ever growing garden of our own homegrown produce to attend to (and a mountain of unwritten blog posts to catch up on), I'd best stop there.  You get the idea though I hope; projects such as the one at Newlina are increasingly important in the wider scale.  If you feel the same and live locally, or are even just visiting Cornwall, pop over, take a look at their website and Facebook pages and, if you can afford it, they'd be delighted if you supported their Crowdfunder appeal (details below) or volunteered your time to help progress the project.


Newlina Eco-Gardens
 Neeham Road
St Newlyn East

Friday, 15 July 2016

Another Birthday, Another Cake

July is a busy time, particularly for birthdays.  This week was my lovely colleague Charlie's birthday.  Charlie likes cake and he loves coffee so it was obvious that coffee cup cakes were the order of the day.  He jokes with me that I am his Cornish mother and as such I joke that he should therefore listen to his mother and become vegan.  He sees sense in it but feels that it will be something that he will realise in about 10 years time.  All I can do in the meantime is to wait, continue to be his Cornish mother and ply him with vegan cake.  

I didn't have a specific coffee cupcake recipe so I adapted my usual cake recipe (here is another adaptation but leave the carob, almond essence, cherries and raisins out of it for the basic cake recipe).  I took some of the milk out at the first stage and heated it before dissolving some instant coffee into it.  After it cooled I added it back to the milk and carried on with the rest of the recipe as normal.

The cakes simply had to have icing on them too and again I didn't have a coffee icing recipe so busked it with what I had to hand.  I have no specific measurements to give you but you'll get the idea - just make it gooey, that's all you need to aim for!  I dissolved some more coffee granules in hot water and then added icing sugar, stirring until dissolved.  A touch of creaminess was required so I chucked a couple of tablespoons of almond butter in and also about a tablespoon of coconut oil.  The latter was to help it set well.  The coconut oil and almond butter dissolved in nicely whilst the mixture was still warmish but I knew once chilled the coconut oil would harden.  It took a bit of mixing and a bit more icing sugar before I got it to a soft gooey mixture that could easily be swirled on top of the cooled cakes but didn't just ooze down the sides.  A flurry of vegan marshmallows finished off the tops before I popped them in the fridge to set.  

The next morning they were perfect and ready to take to work for Charlie and the crew. Nine out of five was the score given for them, whilst another member of the team hinted that a bigger version cut up and finished with a dollop of custard would be very much appreciated next time.

And Charlie.....I know you are reading the right thing by your mum and you could be living the vegan cake dream everyday.