Fireflies and Chocolate, Lucy’s latest novel, written under the pen name of Ailish Sinclair, is out today. And this one features a real vegan from history: Benjamin Lay.
He’s not a main character but he shows up a few times in the story and his appearance is always profound and helpful to Elizabeth, the protagonist. Benjamin Lay lived from 1677-1759 and did not eat, wear or use anything that came from slavery, human or animal. He campaigned against the slave trade, particularly among his fellow Quakers, often in rather dramatic fashion as is shown in this quote from the book:
Mr Lay did stand out in the snow in his bare feet and stab a bible that was filled with some red juice to look like blood. He did this in front of the congregation as a message about slavery.
FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the 600 children and young people who were kidnapped from Aberdeen during the 1740s and sold into indentured servitude in the American Colonies. The story follows the adventures of Elizabeth Manteith and her determined efforts to get back home. There’s love. There’s derring-dos on the high seas… and there’s chocolate!
Vegan lentil loaf is not the most photogenic of dishes. Its brown whole-foody visage summons vegetarian magazines from the 1980s to mind, with their equally brown grainy photos.
But it’s delicious. And good for you. And pretty easy to make.
Ingredients, quantities serve six, adjust as required:
250g of green lentils (other types will work too)
2 carrots, diced
2 sticks of celery, diced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
a teaspoon of dried rosemary or sage
water for cooking
3 slices of wholemeal bread
a handful of porridge oats
salt and black pepper to taste (it really doesn’t need much salt)
sliced tomatoes for topping
Place the lentils in a large saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Turn down to simmer for about 15 minutes then add the carrots, celery, onion, bay leaf and herbs. Cook until the lentils and vegetables are all tender, adding more water to keep covered if needed. Once the veg and lentils are ready, discard any excess water. You want it wet but not swimming in liquid else the loaf will be soggy. Transfer half the mixture (including the bay leaf) to a blender and give a quick blitz. It does not need to be smooth. Tip it back into the pan with the rest of the mix. Crumble the bread into it. Add the oats. Season and stir thoroughly.
Place it all in a greased baking dish. Top with sliced tomatoes and bake in an oven pre-heated to 200C/400F for half an hour.
Great in a roast dinner, or paired with macaroni cheese, or as part of a lighter meal with a baked potato, this lentil loaf also slices really well when cold for sandwiches and salads.
The book is a satisfyingly chunky hardback with lots of beautiful full page colour photos that reminded me of when my son was a toddler and used to like to look at recipe books. He would point at each picture and say ‘Nums!’ Well, there’s lots to say ‘nums’ about in this book… See our whole review here
Ingredients for the cream of tomato soup: 2 tins of plum tomatoes about a cup of water (rinse out tins with it) 1 onion 5 cloves of garlic 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped 1 or 2 handfuls of cashew nuts a few fresh sage leaves seasalt to taste
Place the tomatoes and water in a pan and bring to the boil, adding the onion, sweet potato, sage and garlic as it heats. Once it boils, turn down to a simmer for 10-15 minutes, until potatoes are soft. Place soup in a blender and add the cashew nuts. Blend and taste for seasoning, add salt as desired.
If your blender is not very strong, try soaking the cashews in water overnight to soften them before using.
We had the cream of tomato soup with a cheese and onion pasty made in a similar manner to the basic pasties on frugal but using Kamut flour in the pastry and filled with chopped red onion, cubed potatoes and vegan cheese all cooked in a little soya milk first, also very good 🙂
Ingredients: 300g Doves Farm Gluten Free Self Raising Flour 100g. caster sugar 100g of cocoa 2 large heaped tablespoons of coconut oil (it’s solid in this country) 1 small courgette or half a large one (yes you did read that right, it’s not a mix up with a pasta sauce recipe!) 2 tablespoons of golden linseeds soya milk, rice milk or water to mix a teaspoon of vanilla extract 2 tablespoons of golden syrup 100g walnuts (optional) dash of vinegar
Mix your dry ingredients together. Melt your coconut oil (if in a cold climate!). In a blender combine the courgette and linseeds with a bit of soya milk until fairly smooth (doesn’t matter if some small lumps). Combine the coconut oil, linseed/courgette goop, golden syrup and vanilla and beat until nice and smooth adding as much soya/ricemilk or water as you need for a good batter. Add walnuts if using and finally a dash of vinegar, well mixed in, before going in the oven at 200C/400F for about half an hour or until a skewer comes out clean. Pictured cake is iced with chocolate fudge icing and decorated with whizzers chocolate beans.
Chocolate Fudge Icing or soft chocolate fudge:
Ingredients: A 100g. bar of chocolate of your choice 1 tablespoon of vegan margarine a tablespoon of icing sugar 1 teaspoon of golden syrup optional additions for fudge: chopped nuts, raisins, mint, vanilla or almond essence, crumbled biscuit pieces
Melt everything together slowly in a small saucepan. For icing: leave to cool, stirring occasionally. Once it reaches a good spreading consistency, ice the cake and leave to set completely. Vegan chocolate beans are go again – from health food shops or here on Amazon
For Fudge: Add your nuts etc. if using and pour melted mixture into a dish that leaves it at least 1cm. thick. Set in fridge and then cut into squares.
Gorgeous Choc Hotlate, a recipe for hot chocolate topped with ice cream, from the equally gorgeous book The Contented Vegan. What could be better on a snowy day?
The book is a satisfyingly chunky hardback with lots of beautiful full page colour photos that reminded me of when my son was a toddler and used to like to look at recipe books. He would point at each picture and say ‘Nums!’ Well, there’s lots to say ‘nums’ about in this book.
Written by a chef who has been vegan for over 30 years, the pages are bursting with great advice for people starting off on the vegan journey and those who’ve been on it a while.
I enjoyed the section on raising vegan children and it also brought back memories. The author advises trying to make the food to be eaten with other children as ‘normal’ as possible. I recall planning such a meal and getting my daughter to check that her friend liked spaghetti, thinking a nice Bolognese style sauce would go down well. Indeed, the initial report came back positive. But I will never forget the look of sheer horror on the child’s face when presented with a bowl of spaghetti and sauce.
‘What is this?’ she asked.
‘Spaghetti,’ said I.
‘But spaghetti comes in orange juice.’
Luckily I did have a tin at the back of a cupboard, so all was well!
Recipe sections include breakfast, snacks, lunch, suppers, family dinners and feasts and celebrations. We’ll be trying the Winter Solstice Pie and the Fennel and Pepper Presto has caught the eye too. In fact I can tell it’s a book of nums that will be dipped into often over many years.
It’s snowing again, may have to make more Choc Hotlate!
Soak beans overnight if using dried ones. For the mammoth pie above which did dinner and lunch next day for four, we used 250g of dried beans. Place in a large pan, cover well with water, bring to the boil and let simmer for a long time… (should be instructions on the bag). Throw in the rice (200g) about half way through cooking. Add more water if needed. Once it’s all nearly cooked add the vegetables. In this pie there were four carrots and one head of celery, all chopped. Onion is good too.
As that cooks up a bit, add a teaspoon of mixed herbs, a good squidge of tomato puree and a teaspoon of yeast extract. Taste and add salt if needed. Stir well. Top with mashed potatoes – especially easy if using cookware that does hob and oven like our favourite Le Creuset Cast Iron Round Casserole – and bake in a hot oven until nicely browned.
Teabread Ingredients: 250g of Doves Farm Gluten free Self Raising flour 1/4 teaspoon of xanthan gum (flour already contains some) 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda 4 mashed bananas 2 generous tablespoons of coconut oil (melted) 300g of raisins juice of one lemon 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract unsweetened soya milk to mix (quite a lot, flour is very absorbent)
Mix dry ingredients and then beat in the wet ones and fruit. Bake at 200C/400F for at least half an hour or until a skewer comes out clean.
Lovely with Booja Booja Vanilla ice cream or just with a bit of marg and a cup of tea.
Chocolate variation!! Add 50g of cocoa powder to the flour and liquidise 100g of pitted dates into some soya milk instead of raisins… delish 🙂
Cranachan This is often served at Burn’s Suppers in Scotland. Ingredients: half a cup of porridge oats; 1 small box of soya cream; 1 tablespoon of Agave Nectar; 1 tablespoon of whisky (or whisky flavouring if you don’t take alcohol); 1 punnet of fresh raspberries
Lightly toast the oats in a frying pan on the stove. Remove from heat and pour in the cream – it will bubble and thicken a bit with the heat. Stir well and add the agave and whiskey, and mix in. Add most of the rasps, keeping a few back for garnish. Place in dishes and chill in the fridge until pudding time.
Other Scottish recipes that might be of use or preferable to haggis:
Whatever you do, have an honest, sonsie time this Burns Night 😀
Experience a perfect Scottish escape with THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR! Exchange 21st century lockdowns for 16th century witchcraft accusations! Live in a castle, visit the stone circle and taste the Twelfth Night Cake…
The first vegan book is Fat Gay Vegan: Eat, Drink and Live Like You Give a Sh!t by Sean O’Callaghan of the well known Fat Gay Vegan blog.
We LOVE this book. It’s political but it’s also deeply personal, containing many stories from the lives of Sean and other contributors. The book is about how to be vegan, but it’s more about how to be a better vegan, and really it’s about how to be a better person. And we can all work on that.
It’s refreshing to read a vegan book that tackles how minorities and traditionally oppressed voices are treated, even within the vegan community. We have experienced and witnessed shocking able-ism and racism in our 21 years as vegans, and yes, sadly, sometimes from vegans. It weakens the movement. It weakens the world. It needs to end.
And we can all check our privilege. We can all watch our language. Some in this house have, upon occasion, described various unfortunate things as ‘crazy’. Not good, Vegan Family House, not good.
So it’s a challenging book, a personally challenging book, but it’s in no way downbeat or depressing. Although forthright, it’s written with a compassionate sense of humour. It’s empowering. Why should we shut up and put up about our veganism to please or appease non-vegan friends and relatives? At the end of each chapter there are little refuelling stops with delicious and simple recipes and food suggestions. And in the final chapter Sean predicts a world that continues to become more vegan, and perhaps more importantly, more kind.
For those who don’t know, Veganuary is a charity that encourages people to go vegan for January and the rest of the year. And this is their compelling guide. It’s so persuasive that apparently the proof-reader went vegan!
The book has sections on why you should be vegan, with warnings of graphic content that you can choose to read or not, and then being vegan at home, when out, visiting friends, answering questions, and everyday foods you maybe didn’t know were vegan. It’s a very good starting point for anyone who is thinking of going vegan and wondering how to go about it and how hard/easy it will be.