Category Archives: reviews

chestnuts roasting on an open fire…

chestnuts and cocoa

Unlike previous chestnut roasting efforts, these were done properly, in an actual long handled chestnut pan, no less.

chestnut pan

So they were sweet and succulent and cooked all the way through, unlike the ‘wrapped in foil and put in the fire’ nuts of the past which were burnt on the outside and raw in the middle.

Washed and scored:
scored chestnuts

Roasting:
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The pan comes with full instructions on how to choose the best chestnuts and then how to roast them, making it a really nice festive gift.

It’s almost December! Chocolate Advent Calendars:
 

To finish off today, turn your sound up and listen to some beautiful whooper swans on the early morning loch.

black badger stew and other beans

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We were sent some wonderful British bean products by Hodmedod’s. Before the title causes too much alarm: black badgers are a variety of pea that has been grown in Britain for at least 500 years, also known as carlin or maple peas. They are exceptionally flavoursome for a pulse and made a delicious hummus (substituting the chick peas in our usual recipe) and a wonderfully filling stew:

Black Badger Stewblack badger stew
250g of black badgers, soaked and cooked
2 onions, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
4 sticks of celery, chopped
2 dried bay leaves
1 box passata (500g)
1 tablespoon of tomato puree
water as needed
seasalt to taste

Soak your black badgers overnight, bring to the boil and turn down to simmer for about 30 minutes. Add in the vegetables, passata, water to cover and bay leaves and simmer again for at least fifteen minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Remove the bay leaves. Thicken the sauce with tomato puree and season with salt. Nice served with rice or mash.

bean saladWe also made a fava bean (broad bean) salad:
1 can of cooked fava beans
3 tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 small onion, diced
a handful of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

Mix it all together and dress with the juice of one lemon and a little olive oil.

The big vegan box pictured above would make an ideal Christmas gift for any foodie. Not only does it contain the useful store cupboard staple of dried beans (including split fava beans which do not require soaking) but it boasts a plethora of ready to eat tinned products and roasted snacks. The baked beans are broad beans in a homemade style sauce rather than the orange goo of most brands. The dahl makes ‘chips with curry sauce’ into something gourmet and delightful. And the roasted beans and peas – wow – horseradish peas! Spicy like wasabi… There’s also a UK-grown bag of quinoa, removing any ethical issues with the product.

And speaking of Christmas: don’t miss our Vegan Christmas or Yule page for lots of festive recipes and gift ideas and also Advent calendars (those will sell out soon).

orange is the new green

pumpkin

A lovely pumpkin, but it’s not really the orange of the title so we’ll return to it later. Here’s the green:

virb

Viridian’s Soul Food Greens is a nutrient dense mix of several green food powders: spirulina, wheatgrass, barleygrass, alfalfa leaf, seagreens wild wrack seaweed and chlorella, making it a good source of trace elements, vitamins, essential fatty acids, polysaccharides and soluble fibre.

It went well in a green smoothie:pumpkin

Smoothie recipe (makes 4 large glasses): 4 bananas, 1 large avocado, a few good handfuls of fresh kale (or frozen), 2 heaped tablespoons of Soul Food Greens, 2 heaped tablespoons of linseeds and a litre of orange juice.

The juice is the orange, it makes these green drinks more palatable to those who are not so used to the bitter tang that green powders and kale can have. It stops people saying ‘I can’t drink this’ and instead they comment on the nice orange flavour while downing their vitamins. Viridian’s blend is quite gentle though, far easier on the taste buds than pure spirulina.

pumpkinAnd so, back to the seasonal orange of the pumpkin, or in fact any squash in this most basic, but delicious, of soup recipes: peel, deseed and chop squash of choice, cover with water and bring to boil. Add in onion, lots of garlic, a chilli, and salt to taste. Blend up with a handful of cashews…

Also see:
Paprika Pumpkin Soup
Roasted Butternut Soup with Lemon Thyme

And for a range of wonderfully varied recipes see Animal Aid’s new Buzzfeed post, 8 Amazing Recipes You Won’t Believe Are Vegan

Coconut!

smoothie

We were sent some coconut milk by Rhythm. It’s a chilled product, comes in sachets as opposed to tins, and contains no added ingredients, no sweeteners, no de-coagulants, no rubbish. Just coconut. It’s also cold pressed, so suitable for raw food recipes, and is the best coconut milk we have ever tasted.

coconut milkWe made the tropical fruit smoothie pictured above (4 pints, adjust quantities as desired).
Into it went:
1 bag of frozen organic tropical fruit
4 bananas
100g of Rhythm’s thick creamy coconut milk
a few brazil nuts
1 litre of orange juice
Whizz it all up in a blender. The Vitamix had no problem with the fruit straight from frozen, you might have to defrost with a lower powered machine. It was gorgeous: sweet but not too sweet, rich but not sickening, perfect.

chiilisThis next recipe we are calling ‘Thai-Style Bubble and Squeak’. If you actually have left over cooked potatoes and cabbage it would be super quick to prepare. This is the method from scratch:
In 1 tsp of coconut oil, fry up a red chilli, 5 cloves of garlic and a thumb of ginger, all finely chopped. Stir in 300g of Rhythm’s coconut milk with a little water to make a creamy bubbling sauce.

Wash and thinly slice a small bag of new potatoes and half a Savoy cabbage. Pop them into the pan, stirring frequently until soft and cooked, increasing the water if needed.  Add sea salt to taste. Nice served with rice and salad after a blustery Autumn walk.

autumn leaves

Viva! Cookbook

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The beautiful new cookbook from Viva! by Jane Easton (see her delicious beanburger recipe over on frugal).

The organisational structure of the book is exceptionally user-friendly. First there’s the main sections: Vegan Basics; Souperb; A bit on the side; Back to the sauce; The main event and Sweet thing. Then there’s a range of indexes based on the codes found on the recipe pages: budget dishes, fast feeds, Gluten & wheat free, cooking for one, kid-friendly, freezable, low fat/diabetic-friendly.

The recipes themselves are diverse and gorgeous and there’s a stunning colour photo beside each one. It’s hard to know where to start with describing them as there as so many, so we’ll give you a favourite: Speedy Chocolate Pudding. You can click the photo to see a bigger version.

viva recipe

The book is a wonderful mix of simple advice for beginner cooks and those new to veganism through to advanced ideas such as Christmas Stuffed Squash with Two-rice, Cranberry and Porcini Mushroom Filling. Rose Elliot’s Chestnut and Red Wine Pate en croute that we’ve loved for years is also included.

There’s Scrambled Tofu; Socca Pizza with Cream Cheese, Sundried Tomatoes and Artichoke Hearts; Perfect Pancakes; Vegetable Tempura; Smokey Black Bean Cakes & Sausages; cakes, muffins, slices… we could go on and on. Really we could, there’s 145 recipes!

The beautiful photos make it an excellent coffee table title, so much better for inspiration than tucking it away on a shelf…

To buy or read more visit Viva!

Also available from Amazon.co.uk


Be rewarded the Web's Premiere Rewards Site

a pasta dish and a dragonfly

pasta

So simple: cook pasta of your choice; fry up some chopped onions and whole chestnut mushrooms in a little olive oil. Once cooked, drain the pasta and stir everything together adding salt as desired. Add chopped parsley and cherry tomatoes, some seeds. Eat.

And a dragonfly, there are so many this year…

dragonfly

glossy hair, a recipe and a dolphin

Argan_Rosemary_treatment_mediumFirst to the glossy hair. The organic hair care company Old Wives Tail sent us some lovely smelling Argan & Rosemary Organic Oil Treatment. Now, my hair has always been thin and brittle; good nutrition improved it, but on a windy day in the woods I still looked like a demented will-o’-the-wisp. I also use other products, like a special shampoo for avoid hair loss, learn more here,

Never having used an oil treatment before, I wondered if the thick conditioner would really shampoo off easily: it did, oily to squeaky clean in sixty seconds. And it’s left my hair feeling fuller, with more body and smelling great. It’s actually glossy. Will it defy the wind? Well that would be a miracle, but who knows?

Old Wives Tail are running a competition to win a free hair mask of your choice here. (Closes August 1st).

sunflower

An older recipe from our main courses page has recently come back into favour, it’s so delicious I don’t know why we stopped making it:

Sweet Potatoes in a Coconut and Peanut Sauce
Ingredients:
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
a little sunflower oil
1 teaspoon of curry powder or spices of your choice
2 tablespoons of peanut butter
1 tin of coconut milk
5 or 6 medium sized sweet potatoes, cut into bite size chunks
seasalt to taste

Fry the onion and garlic in the oil for a few minutes. Add the curry spices and stir well. Add the peanut butter, stirring over a medium heat until in begins to melt and then pour in your coconut milk and stir until well blended. Put the sweet potatoes and salt in the pan and bring to the boil and then turn down to simmer until they are softened (10 minutes +). Nice with rice and salad.

dolphin

‘Harlequin’ is one of fifty life-size dolphins displayed across Aberdeen for the summer. They are diverse and beautiful and huggable. See the Wild Dolphins website for more info.

Chocs Away!

Goodness Direct goodies
Goodness Direct sent us some things! Sweet things! Ooh!

The Booja Booja Champagne truffles we had tried before, hence our delight on seeing them in the box. They are smooth and rich and decadent, perfect for a special occasion or as a gift or treat.

truffles

The Eskal mints and fruit crèmes were new to us, but both very enjoyable, the mints reminiscent of Bendicks and the crèmes delicately and naturally flavoured. The company do quite a large range of vegan and gluten-free foods (we like the pasta and noodles too).

nutri snax

Nutri Snax are a bit like Nakd bars, maybe a little chewier, but very nice and they come in various flavours.

Lest this post be ever so sweetly misleading: Goodness Direct are actually an online health food shop, selling everything you would expect from such a store including fresh vegetables, bread and household items. Despite the fact we live in the North of Scotland, a package from them usually arrives the day after ordering. They offer free delivery on orders over £35. We’ve used them for years and know their customer service to be excellent.

Let’s finish up with an evening loch picture, just because:

loch

Tibits, Tomato Soup and Vegan Month

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Autumn is deepening and darkening, it’s conker time, it’s almost November, and November is vegan month. Animal Aid are running The Great Vegan Challenge where anyone can pledge to be vegan for a month with lots of help and support detailed here on their website (some rather nice recipes there too).

The vegetarian restaurant Tibits in London, normally 80% vegan in its offerings, is going to be launching Vegan Days, specifically on the 1st, 7th, 18th and 29th of November. Further vegan days will be mentioned here on their website. Judging by the lovely book they sent us – Tibits at Home – the food is pretty delicious.

Divided into seasons, the plethora of colourful recipes are all accompanied by photos. We liked the fact there are juice recipes and lots of really tasty sounding quinoa dishes, but today we tried the tomato soup with lemongrass and coconut milk, recipe below.

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Theirs is rather better presented than ours 🙂 The book is now splattered, always a good sign with a cookbook.

Preparation time 40 minutes:
1 small onion
2 garlic cloves
1 stalk lemongrass
200g green leeks
600g fully ripened tomatoes
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
350ml vegetable stock
half tsp ginger powder
half tsp lemon pepper
1 tsp chilli oil
1 tsp sea salt
150ml coconut milk
freshly ground seasalt and white pepper

1. Peel and finely chop the onions and garlic. Squash the lemongrass on a chopping board and chop finely.
2. Wash the leek, cut into half lengthwise and then chop into fine strips. Wash the tomatoes, remove the stem ends and chop into 3cm dice.
3. Sweat the onion, garlic and lemongrass in the hot olive oil until transparent. Add the diced tomatoes, veg stock, ginger, lemon pepper, chilli oil and sea salt and simmer at low temperature for 20 minutes.  Puree the soup in a food processor and pass through a sieve.
4. Add the coconut milk and the leek and lightly cook for another five minutes. Add seasalt and pepper to taste.

It was a very nice and warming recipe despite being from the summer section of the book. There are many sweet photos throughout, this was our favourite:

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Next up will be the parsnip soup though the linguini with pumpkin and swiss chard also looks enticing…

Don’t forget out own paprika pumpkin soup recipe this autumn, the shops seem to be stocking proper culinary pumpkins this year.

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Chilli! Books! Autumn leaves!

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A very simple and very good (and rather vague) recipe. Fry off some finely chopped onion and garlic and add a selection of roughly chopped – chunky – vegetables. We used: courgettes; red, green and yellow peppers and celery.  Mushrooms would be great too. Add chilli of choice, either finely chopped fresh chillis, dried chilli or a chilli powder mix, or maybe a mixture of these. Stir well.

Bung in a box of passata or chopped tomatoes and add a little water to the mix. Bring to boil and turn down to simmer. Once veg is tender add a tin or two of cooked red kidney beans and salt to taste. Nice served with rice, a baked potato or quinoa or, if you’re feeling a bit trashy, chips. Cucumber is a good cooling accompaniment. Other optional additions: a teaspoon of sugar stirred into the sauce really brings out the flavours in a different, sweet, way; a few squares of dark chocolate melted through it turn the dish into a darker, richer mole.

Don’t eat  when you’ve been talked into watching a scary fast moving zombie film that will make you consume the hot chilli far too fast and overheat in a bad way.

Unconnected, book related advice: reading Very British Problems: Making Life Awkward for Ourselves, One Rainy Day at a Time will stave off the depression caused by reading certain parts of the new Bridget Jones book.

And, books again: now is the time to get a copy of Rose Elliot’s Vegetarian Christmas for 1 pence or 1 cent. The price will inflate hugely through November and December and it’s a lovely collection of recipes. See our review here or visit Amazon in the UK or Amazon in the USA.

And finally, a mention for the wonderful online health food shop Goodness Direct, such a life saver for rural dwelling vegans.

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