Wednesday, January 15, 2014

cornish dinners

It was a treat to be in Cornwall, and to have access to a (very well equipped) vegan kitchen.  We all took turns cooking, and Chris introduced us to a pile of vegan products that we can get from a good health food shop, or from the local supermarket (ours was a Cooperative) which was really exciting.  I cannot wait to have our own place, should that glorious moment ever happen.

Anyway, some of the fruits of our labour, for your perusal:

A chickpea and black bean curry, with a can of tomatoes, a made up masala, and splash of coconut milk.  It had a pile of vegetables in it, including sweet potato, but for me the stand out was the black eyed peas.  I need to have them more often, because they are amazing (don't take that as a shout out to the Black Eyed Peas, btw, though I do love
 It was good enough for a bit of leftovers for lunch, with a smashing raw salad:
 Which was drizzled with my favourite new infused olive oil.  Lemongrass is good on everything, it turns out!
 A hot stirfry, with rice noodles, lots of veg, and some smoked tofu.  Flavoured with fresh garlic, chilli, and ginger, a chunk of miso and tamari:
 With a side of fresh spring rolls, stuffed with chopped capsicum, chilli, coriander, cucumber, and carrot, and wrapped by Paul:

Soaked black beans cooked in a cajun sauce - I forget the brand unfortunately, but it was good, and available at your UK supermarket!  With a side of homemade polenta (from the health food shop, using the Rose Elliot recipe), home made hummus, and homemade coleslaw, with red cabbage, green cabbage and carrots, using vegan mayonaise.  YUM.
 A salad, with spinach, cherry tomatoes, chopped raw broccoli, cucumber and seeds:
 And that delicious coleslaw, the mayonaise was the Plamil Egg Free Mayo brand, and its lovely:
 These salads were served with shepherds pie, from a made up recipe with loads of veg and kidney beans, and a most delicious thick mashed potato topping:
 And more salad for lunch, with some left over coleslaw, chopped fresh veg, and some homemade spelt loaf with some homemade hummus.  SO GOOD people.
I love seeing all those fresh veg on the plate.  The food here really is good, and its so much easier to cook when the pantry is so well stocked!

Finally, a homemade aubergine and spinach curry, with lentil dahl and organic wild rice:
Again, all the recipes were made up.  I recently read Nigel Slater's book Appetite, which is not vegan, but is worth a look.  His philosophy is to stop using recipes so slavishly (as I usually do) and trust your instincts - try different sauces and spices and taste reguarly.  I'm giving it a go and enjoying the freedom!!!  Yep, recipes books will always be awesome, but its nice just to cook a bit more instinctively and so far so good.

doing good with porridge

I'm currently on the Oxford Tube, which is actually a bus linking Oxford to London, which goes every ten minutes. All very handy, and the reason I'm off to London is I have a job!  YEAH!  I start tomorrow, and I've got two nights in a YHA until I take refuge at a friends place for a few nights and we find a flat.  Paul is currently still in Cornwall and coming up on Thursday; I'm doing OK but feeling really tired.  Shared rooms in YHAs are great for saving money, not so great for getting any sleep (yes I'm looking at you, old lady who snored all night). Sigh.

Also the kitchen was gross and I didn't have food, and was feeling flat and wondering what they hell am I doing with my life (I am prone to wild emotional swings at the moment), but this morning I found a lovely cafe called Skylight Crisis, which was nearby, and is a socially responsible, and helps homeless and disadvantaged people get into work.  It was light and airy, and they made me a special bowl of porridge with soy milk, and caramelised banana on top:
It wasn't the best porridge I've ever had, and the banana wasn't that caramelised, really, but the staff were so kind, and went out of there way, and rationed the tiny bit of soy milk they had left so I had porridge AND a coffee, and I feel better about humanity in general.

London here I come.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

god i love cake

Chris made two beautiful cakes this week, and we have eaten them SHAMEFULLY quickly.  First up, a lemon cake, from the Rose Elliot Vegetarian Cookbook.  Its actually a sponge cake recipe, which he made with wholemeal flour so it had a bit more density, with a thick lemony vegan buttercream icing:

He also made a coffee cake, recipe slightly improvised, with again a thick coffee icing dotted with walnuts (for health reasons, you understand):
Also amazing.  I think favourite was the lemon, just because I love thick lemon icing, but they both were amazing.  I'm taking the lemon cake recipe, and have every intention of making it again soon.

Also nice?  A bike ride to Padstow today:

Sadly no vegan food, and no open coffee shops!  But lovely nonetheless.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

archie browns, truro

Well things are speeding up in the UK - I've had two job interviews which have gone really well, and another on Monday.  Which is such a relief that my CV has gone down quite well, though its slightly stressful trying to manage some of the recruitment agents... I'm not sure I do it very well to be honest, and I'm not especially good at playing the game.  Sigh.  So hopefully by the beginning of next week I might have a job, though whether its the one I want or not I'm not sure - eekk!

There has been time for a little bit of excellent food though - I've got heaps to share!  We went to Truro for a day, which is a lovely wee town in Cornwall.  Archie Brown's is a vegetarian cafe with another outpost in Cornwall (in Penzance I think). The staff were friendly and engaging, vegan things were extremely well labelled and staff were able to share which of the condiments were vegan with a great deal of authority - and it was above a health food shop - yay!

I had the "Archie Brown" burger, which was mushrooms and hazelnuts on homemade focaccia with salads on the side; a vegan coleslaw, brown rice, and a yummy green, seedy thing:
The burger was moist and had a lot of depth - I also went for the homemade salsa which was fresh tomatoes, onion and herbs on top.  So good!  I'm going to try and replicate at home; I think there were mushrrooms, hazelnuts, onions and perhaps sage?  All good.

Paul had an excellent and thick cauliflower soup with grainy bread on the side (and vegan spread!):
And then we both had a slab of raw vegan chocolate pie, with a date, apricot and nut crust.  The thick rich mousse on top was made with avocado and coconut cream, and boy was it amazing:
I've never been convinced avocado would work in a sweet, but this was really really good, dense and rich.  Could have eaten another bit!  And would happily return to Archie Brown's to try some of the other excellent choices on the menu.

Also nice in Truro was the cathedral.  Just lovely:

Sunday, January 5, 2014

my new friends (and a couple of dinners)

In Cornwall we are staying with Chris, who has three babies who like to sit next to me while I eat:
Finn and Jaz

Me and Gracie, on a 6 mile run this morning
Paul SO wants a dog and this is only stoking his fire.  I've never had a dog so I don't have childhood nostalgia like he does (childhood dog: Fleur, a red setter) but I will grudgingly admit these dogs are very sweet, and I can only relate to their enthusiasm at the sight of a biscuit.

With our temporarily unemployed lifestyle we are also doing a bit of cooking and trying some more excellent English products.  Last night Paul made a lasagna with wholewheat organic pasta (cheap from Tescos) and a delicious vegan cashew, hazelnut and basil pesto from the local health shop:

With a lentil topping, and served with steamed broccoli and a side of mushrooms sauteed in the pesto. Delicious, and a real rib sticker in the cold cold endlessly cold English weather.

Also, I made a coconut curry with heaps of fresh ginger, garlic, chilli, onion and a bit of miso to taste (I'm into miso, its supposed to be anti-breast cancer).  You can get packs of coconut meat here which you reconstitute with boiling water, which makes for a thicker and quite peanuty curry which someone tastes more authentic than a can of coconut milk.  We put in a pile of different veg, and splash of tamari sauce and served with organic brown rice and wakame noodles:
I probably could have thinned down the coconut milk a bit, because it was super thick and because of that the noodles were a bit heavy - however it was totally delicious and I can't wait to use that coconut again.

Also good?  After my daily six mile run (about 10km, but I'm trying to use the local terms as OUT OF DATE as miles are), porridge, made with moon oats, which make for a very creamy and delicious thick porridge (served with a blob of manuka honey, which tastes like home).
England: still weird, but its getting a bit better :)

Friday, January 3, 2014

happy vegan new year

Hey - I'm taking a break from the travel posts as they are long and boring, and will return to them in a while.  We've arrived in England and so far its been a bit tough - for various difficult family related reasons our original plans have gone up the wazoo so we are now bouncing around various friends.  Currently we are in Cornwall, which is wonderful, and staying with Paul's friend who happens to also be a very inspiring vegan. Which is great!  

Food here is also very well labelled and there are many exciting options to draw to your attention.  In the meantime, I'm also starting a bit of a healthy eating plan after five weeks of travel and two weeks of sugary Christmas.  So this is what I had for lunch:
Salad with cucumber, beetroot, cherry tomatoes, spring onions and cos lettuce, drizzled with lemongrass infused olive oil, and two excellent Linda McCartney sausages.  Also consumed: a piece of locally made organic spelt loaf with homemade hummus.

Here's to 2014 being a good one.  At the moment, with no job or home in a strange land it feels mighty scary - but it will only improve, right?  Right?

Monday, December 23, 2013

oman is fabulous (some pics)

When  Paul first suggested Oman on our big trip I was a bit unsure.  However, he was right and I was wrong, and Oman was wonderful.  Its not cheap by any means, but the range of sights (beaches, rocky desert, sandy desert, oases) is amazing.  And the food turned out to be fantastic.  But first, some pictures to set the scene:

Food to come..