It’s taken me a while to start eating ‘normally’ again after Christmas. When I say ‘normally’, I mean actually eating something. I’ve been skipping breakfast (okay, so no change there then – I can’t stand the thought of eating first thing; it seems the height of gluttony to me to stuff your face the moment you wake up) and lunch and I’ve only been eating dinner because it seemed like something I should be doing and even then my dinners have consisted mostly of cardboard boxed frozen stuff heated up in the oven. Unsurprisingly, this diet of nothing has made me sluggish and unfocused and so I went hunting and foraging for vegetables in my local Tesco with which to make some soup and get some vitamins inside me.
January is traditionally the time for people to give their bodies a rest from Christmas excess and whether you call it a ‘new year, new you’ thing, a cleanse, a fast or a detox, they all basically boil down to the same thing: ‘I’m a fat, hungover bloater and I need to step away from the cheese and chocolate and put something healthy inside me’.
As a child, my breakfast cereal would be piled high with not just spoonfuls of sugar but fistfuls of the white stuff, not to mention the three teaspoons of sugar I added to my copious cups of tea each day. Then, on top of that were the sweets I bought each week at the local shop with my pocket money. All that sugar probably accounts for why my teeth wouldn’t look out of place on someone you’d see on The Jeremy Kyle Show.
As the self-proclaimed Queen of Tofu, when I heard about a new brand of tofu called Tofoo, I was obviously keen to give it a go. Tofoo is different than the usual block of Cauldron found in any supermarket, as it’s ready-pressed (yes, I said ready pressed – no more reams of kitchen roll!*) and ready-flavoured in smoked, Indian spiced and Oriental spiced varieties (the latter two coming in cubes). There’s also a naked one, ready for you to do whatever it is you like doing with tofu (if it’s something other than eating it, you probably need help. Just because it’s called ‘naked’ doesn’t mean you should get pervy with it).
I went to London VegFest the other week and for once, I actually came out looking forward to the next year’s event. On the previous years I’ve been, it’s been cramped, overcrowded and I hadn’t been able to get anywhere near the stalls, let alone try anything or buy anything. This year, although it was in the same space and I’m going to assume they weren’t turning stallholders or customers away, there was plenty of room to walk around and to see and sample everything, and sample things I certainly did.
I’m not suggesting for a moment you ditch the more traditional chickpea hummus – especially when I have the recipe for the best hummus in the world ever but, if you fancy a hummus/spread/dip type thing but can’t be bothered to go to the supermarket for a tin of chickpeas but you do have a carton of silken tofu and a jar of tahini in the house, then this is the recipe for you. As an added bonus, unlike the recipe for the best hummus in the world ever, you don’t have to wait for this tofu hummus to cool down.
Since discovering a few months ago when I made my courgette and broad bean soup with chilli and fennel, how wonderful chilli and fennel is as a combination, they’ve been added to most of my soups. Obviously (to me, anyway) chilli goes with everything and, although fennel isn’t to everyone’s taste, give it a go – just don’t add too much as it’s not a subtle flavour.
Carrots. Flipping carrots. I’m not a fan of carrots (except those ones in a tin – I know, I’m common as muck), so whenever I get carrots in my veg box delivery, they usually stay in the fridge until they go floppy, then they go in the compost bin. I did make some vegan carrot cupcakes a while back but, as I’m trying to cut down on junk food at the mo (not helped by being sent a hamper of Ten Acre crisps), I didn’t want to make them again just yet. Soup is always a great way to use up leftover vegetables but if I didn’t really like carrots much, would I like them in a soup? I decided to find out and I can now confirm that carrots make a perfectly acceptable soup. Especially when you add lentils and some spice. As always, I blitzed this soup to silky perfection with my Froothie blender. I know I’ve said it before but this blender really has transformed my soup into something special, and I’ve been making soup for years.
Vegan cheese and onion crisps? Surely the stuff of myth and legend? But, no, they actually exist, thanks to Ten Acre Crisps. I’d heard about these crisps but never got the chance to try any as they’re not widely stocked in bricks and mortar shops. According to myth and legend though (okay, various vegan Facebook groups), they’d been spotted popping up now and again Loch Ness Monster stylee in TK Maxx but on a visit to my local store, I returned empty crisp-handed.
The first time I had a massaman curry was in a Thai restaurant in Ashford. I was happily tucking away, thinking how gorgeous it was, when I saw a massive lump of beef sticking out of it. Obviously, I stopped eating it and told the staff, who apologised and offered to make me another – meat free – one but, unsurprisingly, I’d gone off the idea of eating. That wasn’t the first time I’d found meat in a meal: