Veganuary‘s over and maybe you took part and maybe you didn’t. Maybe you thought, ‘Pah, I ain’t jumping on no bandwagon. Especially one that involves not eating cheese.’ Or maybe you did take part but struggled in the supermarket trying to decipher what was vegan and what wasn’t and would have quite happily lived on non-dairy Ben & Jerry’s for the month of January had it not cost five pound fucking fifty pee a tub.
As I mentioned before, in an effort to try and minimise any weight gain and hopefully accelerate the healing process while I’m housebound with a gammy leg and can’t exercise, I’m off the alcohol (40 days so far, go me!) Although come the weekend the wine has been calling me from the little Tesco down the road, despite me being able to limp down there, I’ve ignored it and stuck to water. I got bored quickly with water though and started making my own drinks – I made lemon barley water, dandelion and burdock soda, lemon, ginger and mint lemonade, and ginger lemonade. I even bought swing-top glass bottles to store the drinks in. Despite these drinks being refreshing, tasty and healthy, they weren’t really doing it for me on a Saturday night so, when Wise Bartender offered to send me some alcohol-free drinks, I thought I’d give them a go.
Cider’s had a varied reputation over the years. For me, it was the first alcoholic drink I started drinking regularly (42p a half down The George in Wanstead in 1985 when I was 15 [ssh, don’t tell my mum]). After my early years of drinking sweet Woodpecker underage in the pub, I progressed onto what I thought were more sophisticated dry ciders such as Diamond White and Merrydown (okay, I only drank Merrydown to get hammered, like everyone else, but Diamond White and Merrydown came in glass bottles and not tins, so I thought they were posh). But apart from cider being the tipple of teenagers, other images conjured up by cider drinkers are:
I did Veganuary in 2016. I didn’t do it in 2017 because – to be blunt and because I haven’t really got a valid reason – I couldn’t be bothered. However, I’m now practically plant-based, partly thanks to moving to a town with a veggie/vegan cafe just down the road and an Italian restaurant that has vegan cheese for their pizzas and partly thanks to living on my own again and being able to eat whatever the flipping flop I want no matter how vegan it is. (Yes, me and The Meat Eater have parted ways but don’t worry, it’s all amicable. And I mean properly amicable, not amicable as in publicly-announce-on-Facebook-it’s-amicable-then-publicly-slag-each-other-off-on-Facebook-a-week-later-amicable.)
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 Vegetarian Italian Kitchen cookbook has only one thing about it that annoys me – Veronica Lavenia uses a few cheeses that are NEVER vegetarian and not once does she suggest a vegetarian alternative*. I don’t know what will happen when/if we leave the EU and whether we can happily sod their laws and make our own cheese and call it what we want but, at the moment, as any self-respecting vegetarian can (and will) tell you, Parmesan/Parmigiano-Reggiano is an EU Protected Designation of Origin product and has to be made using calf rennet, therefore making it unsuitable for vegetarians. And if you don’t believe me, you can read The Vegetarian Society’s cheese fact sheet which also points out that Gorgonzola (also used in the book) is never vegetarian either.
[*The author, Veronica Lavenia, has seen this post and here’s her reply:
It has come to my attention there are people out there who don’t press tofu. If you’re one of these people, then please read on because you NEED what I’m giving away today. If you’re someone who’s seen the tofu light and already presses your tofu, then you should also please read on because you probably press your tofu by balancing books and other heavy shit on top of it and therefore you also NEED this tofu press. If you’re one of the people who read my review the other week and have already bought one of these presses, you should also read on because you probably know someone who doesn’t press tofu and therefore you can give them this tofu press and be their best friend forever.
Or you can just flog it on ebay.
Either way, this giveaway is for A Very Good Thing Indeed. You might have seen me gushing about the Tofuture Tofu Press a couple of weeks ago but if not (or if you want to refresh your memory), you can read my review of it here. And not only am I giving away a Tofuture Tofu Press, Tofuture are also chucking in one of their tofu making kits too, which contains:
- 500g soya beans
- 35g nigari
- 2 cheesecloth squares
- a set of instructions
See that bag of white stuff in the photo? I thought Tofuture had also chucked in a bag of crystal meth for me, but that’s the nigari – a coagulant used in making tofu. Although, obviously I was disappointed not to get the chance to recreate a scene from Breaking Bad (ideally with a semi-clad Jesse), it was probably just as well, as I would have no idea how to declare Class A drugs on my tax return.
Anyway, semi-clad Jesses aside, what makes this tofu press different from others (not that there are many; I’ve only seen a couple, and they’ve only been available from the US) is that this press completely contains the tofu (middle container) and the water it’s pressing out (container on the left), so once you’ve pulled the bands down over the hooks (the container on the right goes on top of the middle container holding the tofu, squeezing the water out into the container on the left), that’s it.
Then you can put the press out of the way in the fridge and you don’t have to worry about having to keep adjusting the springs or putting it on a plate or in the sink to catch the water. After you’ve pressed your tofu, you can then use the container to marinate it in. Genius.
This tofu press is brilliant and you NEED one.
Win a Tofuture Tofu Press and Tofu Making Kit
Do you want to win one of these Tofuture Tofu Presses and Tofu Making Kits and promise to do tofu justice by pressing it, therefore improving the texture and its capacity to soak up all the lovely flavours of whatever it is you’re cooking it in/with?
You do? Okay then, you can enter via the Rafflecopter thingybob below. Good luck!
p.s. I don’t condone the use of drugs.
p.p.s. Not crystal meth, anyway.
p.p.s.s. Not that I’ve had it.
p.p.p.s.s. I’m going to stop here before I get myself in trouble. (Actually, I’m going to stop here because I don’t know if p.p.p.s.s. is correct and I can’t be bothered to look it up.)
Many thanks to Tofuture for providing the prizes. For more information about Tofuture, their tofu press or their tofu making kit, visit the Tofuture website. They’re also holding their own competition to win one of their presses, which you can check out here. If you can’t wait to get your hands on one of these presses, you can:
a) buy one direct from the Tofuture website for £25; or
b) buy one on Amazon for £25.
Back in November, I reviewed Riverford’s vegetarian recipe box. The meals were tasty, quick to prepare and didn’t create much washing up, so when Riverford asked if I’d like to try another recipe box, I wasn’t about to turn it down.
Along with Riverford’s usual recipe boxes are boxes created by guest chefs. The latest chefs to be featured are twins David and Stephen Flynn, who own The Happy Pear shop, cafe and restaurant in Co. Wicklow, and it was this recipe box Riverford sent me to review.
As with all Riverford recipe boxes, everything you need is sent to you in one big box – all the fresh, organic, seasonal vegetables, tinned goods (tomatoes, beans, coconut milk, etc.), with all the herbs and spices pre-measured. Recipe cards with preparation and cooking time and step-by-step instructions are included. You really can’t go wrong with a recipe box.
The first recipe I made was a Mexican leek and black bean chilli. The recipe card said it would take me 25 minutes to prepare and cook and as I had a cold and really couldn’t be bothered to cook anything, it sounded perfect.
This vegetarian (it had honey in it, otherwise it would have been vegan) chilli was definitely a good choice for a lazy day as it didn’t require much more than a bit of chopping then chucking everything in a pan and letting it simmer for a bit. It made far more than two servings – I served the chilli on top of jacket potatoes and there was enough left over for another two servings.
I must have been feeling livelier the next day as according to the recipe card, this vegetarian (easily veganised by leaving out the honey and cheese) Spanish chickpea and potato bake with sundried tomato pesto would take 70 minutes to prepare and cook. Given how slow a cook I am, I took this to mean two hours, so I started it early.
Again, the recipe card said it served two but it was huge and could easily serve four. I thought the Happy Pear guys must be the size of the Two Fat Ladies or The Hairy Bikers but, nope, there’s not an ounce of fat on either of them.
This chickpea and potato bake came with a beetroot and pumpkin seed salad but I had it with my own vegetables instead.
Unfortunately, the last recipe of puy lentil coconut dahl was a bit of a disaster. In the instructions, it says to add more water if the dahl is becoming too thick but it should be reasonably dry. I could have left this to simmer for a year and it still wouldn’t have reduced down to ‘reasonably dry’; it was swimming in liquid.
I’d like to say that despite the wateryness of it, the vegetables and lentils were tasty enough but I’d be lying. To be fair, the potatoes were okay but the lentils didn’t do anything for me.
Still, two meals enjoyed out of the three isn’t bad (and because the portions were so large, I’ve got enough leftovers to heat up and have again another day) and on the whole I’d definitely recommend the Riverford recipe boxes. They’re tasty, healthy and easy to make.
The Happy Pear recipe boxes were for a limited time only and are now no longer available. However, the usual Riverford recipe boxes are available in:
For current prices and more information, visit the Riverford Recipe Box page on their website.
Win a Riverford Recipe Box
If you’d like to win a Riverford recipe box of your choice, enter my giveaway via the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!
Please note: Although Riverford deliver to lots of locations around the UK, they don’t deliver everywhere, so you might want to check they deliver to you before entering the giveaway to avoid any disappointment, as there is no cash alternative.
I bought The Meat Eater a copy of Booze for Free a few years ago. Not because he’s a big drinker but because I thought he’d like to make wine and stuff from things in the garden, and then I’d have a load of booze for free. So far he’s made elderberry wine (disgusting and got poured down the sink). cider (a disaster and got thrown away before it had finished fermenting or whatever it is it does), plum wine (lovely) and blackberry wine (even lovelier).
Although I’ve drunk everything he’s made (and I mean everything – he doesn’t like wine), I haven’t made anything myself because it involves buckets and demijohns and funnels and tablets and a whole bunch of other things that look complicated. So, when Emily Han’s publishers asked me if I’d like a copy of Emily’s book – Wild Drinks and Cocktails – my first thought was, ‘god no, I can’t be doing with all that faff’.
However, the drinks and cocktails in this book are faff-free and use only a few ingredients which you’ll either find in your garden, on a foraging expedition, local market or supermarket. For example, the only ingredients you need for the Rosemary Wine recipe are rosemary and wine and you can’t get much more simple than that.
The book isn’t just about alcohol though – there are plenty of syrups and cordials too. I had planned to make Cranberry Mors (cranberries, water, honey, lemon juice) but I don’t have a cranberry bush in the garden, and then I found out Tesco don’t sell fresh cranberries, so I scrapped that idea and made Strawberry Squash instead.
Rather inconveniently, strawberries don’t generally grow in UK gardens in November, so I bought some from Tesco (and although I said strawberries don’t generally grow in UK gardens in November, they grow somewhere in the UK in November as the strawberries I bought were British).
Strawberry Squash recipe (makes about 470ml)
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup (235ml) water
1 cup (200g) sugar
3/4 pound (340g) strawberries, hulled and quartered
Combine the lemon juice, water, and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Stir in the strawberries. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer, gently pressing on the strawberries to extract the liquid without forcing the pulp through the strainer. Discard the solids. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
The squash was delicious and, with it being Saturday evening, I made a Cava cocktail with it.
The next day, I diluted the squash with water, which made a light, refreshing drink. I imagine it would be great with lemonade, too.
I love this book. There are so many drinks I want to try, such as Dandelion and Chicory Chai (water, ginger, dandelion root, chicory root, black peppercorns, cardamom pods, clove, cinnamon, milk and honey), Apple and Mint syrup (mint, apples, sugar, water), Figs and Vanilla Rum (figs, vanilla bean, rum) and Apple and Sage Wine (apple, sage, honey, vodka, wine).
As you can see, there’s a wide variety of drinks here and Wild Drinks and Cocktails will definitely appeal to foragers, but if foraging’s not your thing, you should be able to find the ingredients easily enough in the shops.
Giveaway: Win a copy of Wild Drinks and Cocktails by Emily Han
If you’d like a copy of Emily’s book, just enter below via Rafflecopter. Good luck!
Wild Drinks and Cocktails by Emily Han is published by Fair Winds Press with a cover price of £14.99.
Thanks go to Fair Winds Press for my copy of the book and also for providing one to give away.