Fiona Oakes: Vegan, marathon runner, superwoman

Fiona is running the London Marathon this year
Fiona is running the London Marathon this year

You’ve probably heard of Fiona Oakes.  She’s the founder of the Tower Hills Animal Sanctuary, where she cares for over 400 animals without making a single penny for herself (in fact, every month the feed bill exceeds donations by £2,200).

And as if that wasn’t enough, in her “spare” time she trains for marathons.  Lots of them.  And not only that, she’s bloody good at them too.  This year Fiona will be running London Marathon on 26 April.  But she won’t be at the back with the fancy dress brigade, she’ll be at the start with the elite women where she’s hoping for a top 20 place.

Please visit her website and do all you can to support her, she really is an inspiration.

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Leek and potato soup (vegan)

I saw lambs today.  Titchy, tiny ones.  They were very cute. That has absolutely nothing to do with this blog but I just thought I’d mention it.

So, after seeing lambs (titchy, tiny ones) I escaped the countryside (nasty thing the countryside, completely pointless, whoever invented it needs taking outside and giving a good kicking) and came home and made soup.  Leek and potato soup to be precise.

Ingredients (serves 5):
3 medium sized potatoes
5 smallish leeks
2,500ml stock
Bit of dried garlic
Bit of dried thyme
Salt and ground black pepper
If you got your potatoes from a manky local shop, cut off the manky bits then chop them up into smallish pieces (I never bother to peel potatoes)
If you got your leeks from an organic veg box scheme, wash off half the field that they’re covered in
Put the stock and potatoes in a large pan
Add the leeks
Add the garlic, thyme, salt and pepper
Boil for about 20 minutes until the potatoes are soft
Remove from heat and blend
Remind yourself to take camera with you on your next visit to Kent in case of any lamb-based emergencies

Leek and potato soup
Leek and potato soup

By the way, I’ve given The Meat Eater user privileges on this blog, so watch out for his guest Delia’s Chocolate Marbled Energy Bars blog post shortly.

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Rice & mushroom parcel: The Seasoned Vegetarian by Simon Rimmer

I am out of leftover homecooked food in the freezer so decide I will make a couple of recipes out of my new cookbook The Seasoned Vegetarian by Simon Rimmer and as usual, it’s the ones with cream and cheese that take my fancy and tonight’s recipe of choice is Rice & Mushrooom Parcel.  Although it has no cream in it, or cheese, but it does have mushrooms.  And puff pastry.  What more does a girl need?  Ah, wine.  Of course.

So armed with my cookbook, a glass of wine and my brand new-ish set of knives, I set about making this rice and mushroom parcel that I am informed feeds two.  I’m not sure which two people Mr Rimmer is talking about when I see the pile of mushrooms that I slice.  The two fat ladies, perhaps?  (Notwithstanding the fact that one of them is a dead fat lady.  No, not dead fat, as in I’m a Scouser and talk funny, dead as in dead.  No more.  An ex-fat-lady. Ceased to exist. etc.)

The Walthamstow Mushroom Mountain
The Walthamstow Mushroom Mountain

After I’ve spent five minutes of my life that I’m never going to get back slicing 600g of mushrooms and an onion, I pull out of the drawer my big frying pan and wonder if it’s going to be big enough for The Walthamstow Mushroom Mountain and decide it probably won’t be and therefore it will take longer than the five minutes Mr Rimmer reckons it’s going to take for the onions and mushrooms to cook.  Still, Eastenders isn’t on yet so all is good.

But before I start on this frying a mushroom mountain exercise, I have to hard boil two eggs.  HELP!  I’M STUCK!  I don’t know how long it takes to hard boil an egg.  I decide it’s about 10 minutes, which is handily how long it’s going to take to boil the rice I also need to cook.  Synchronisation, like swimmers.  Except in egg-form.  And rice-form.

After about 10 minutes or so, I decide the mushrooms and onion have cooked enough and I pour it into a bowl along with the chopped hard boiled eggs and rice (that is a pretty yellow colour thanks to the turmeric).

Now it gets tricky.  It’s always tricky when pastry’s involved.  Even if it’s ready-rolled pastry.

I get the pastry out of the packet and the recipe says put the mushrooom and rice filling mixture down the middle of the pastry.  BUT THERE’S F*****G TONS OF IT!  Still, undeterred I pour the mixture onto the middle of the pastry.  Now it says to wrap the pastry around to enclose the filling.  Wrap it like a Swiss roll or just fold it over?  I’m confused.  I decide on the Swiss roll approach and not too much filling oozes out of the sides and I even get to squish down the edges that I have brushed with egg.  There are, however, a few holes.  Ho hum.

A few holes
A few holes

But I decide not to try and patch the holes up and put it in the oven and after 25 minutes I decide it’s ready and there’s no way it feeds two, more like four, as it’s massive, even for a glutton like me.

Feeds two?  As if.
Feeds two? As if.

And hurrah, it’s delicious.  And definitely one I’ll be making again, although I think it’ll be nicer without the egg so won’t be adding that again.  If The Meat Eater’s lucky, I might even make it for him one day.

Rice & mushroom parcel
(taken from The Seasoned Vegetarian by Simon Rimmer)

250g ready-rolled puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
50g basmati rice
pinch of turmeric
grated zest of 1 lemon
50g butter
1 onion, finely chopped
600g brown cap mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp each chopped fresh parsley and tarragon
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
few sesame seeds, to sprinkle

For the parcel filling, cook the rice in salted boiling water with the turmeric and lemon zest for about 12 minutes until just tender, then drain.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a pan and gently fry the onion and mushrooms for about 5 minutes until soft.  Tip into a bowl.

Stir the cooked rice, herbs and chopped hard-boiled eggs into the onion and mushroom mixture and season with salt and pepper.

Cut the pastry into a rectangle measuring 30 x 20 cm (12 x 8 cm inches).  Place the filling mixture down the middle of the rectangle, brush the edges of the pastry with beaten egg, then wrap it around to enclose the filling and press the edges together to seal.  Roll the parcel over so that the long seam is underneath and brush with egg wash.

Place the parcel on a baking sheet and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 200C/Fan 180C/Gas 6.

Sprinkle the pastry with sesame seeds, then bake for 30 minutes until crisps and golden.  Serve hot cut into thick slices.

(Note.  I used lemon juice out of a bottle, dried tarragon, no parsley and no sesame seeds, and I didn’t leave it to chill for 30 minutes either.  And I haven’t died or been struck by lightning.  Yet.)

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Vegetarian Dutch pancakes

Since the last time I went to My Old Dutch in Holborn, I’ve been craving pancakes, and what better time to make them than on Pancake Day? and now I know how easy they are to make and how tasty they are, I think I’m going to make them every day.  Should be compulsory really.

Ingredients (makes 1 big pancake)
60g plain flour
1/4 pint milk (I used soya milk and it was fine)
1 egg

Turn the grill on

Make the batter by beating together the flour and milk, then slowly beat in the egg (I used an electric whisk; you might want to use a bigger bowl than I did so it doesn’t go everywhere)
Heat a bit of oil in a large non-stick frying pan
Pour in the batter and cook until the underside is brown
Turn the pancake over (I was too scared to toss it.  Wimp.)
Add toppings (I used my leftover mushrooms [that I fried first in some butter and garlic], tomato, spinach and cheese)
Put under the grill for a couple of minutes
Find a big plate
Eat it and be full of pancake all night.






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Spicy broccoli and cabbage soup

Another look-in-the-fridge-and-see-what’s-left soup this week. A yellow pepper is still hanging about from the box delivery two weeks ago, and this week’s box brought me broccoli and cabbage. An onion would have been useful but I forgot to buy one. And I wouldn’t have added chili powder and curry powder but I had hardly any curry powder left.  Ho hum. Still, a very nice soup it turned out to be indeed.

Spicy broccoli and cabbage soup (serves 4)
1 yellow pepper
1/2 a cabbage
2,000 ml stock
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp curry powder
2 tsp chili powder
Black pepper

How I made it
Chop the vegetables
Put them in a large pan with everything else
Simmer it for about 15 minutes
Whizz it up with a stick blender
Marvel at its bubbly greenness

Spicy broccoli and cabbage soup
Spicy broccoli and cabbage soup
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Sundried tomato and jalapeno bread

The Bread Book by Sara Lewis
The Bread Book by Sara Lewis

Last night I’m trying to decide whether or not to make some bread and because I can’t think for myself, I put this pondering onto my Facebook status like the saddo I am and it gets the thumbs up from Julia and Mark and so then I have to decide what bread to make and in my fridge there’s some sundried tomatoes and some jalapenos and so I think aha, I will make sundried tomato and jalapeno bread and I adapt a recipe from The Bread Book: The Definitive Guide to Making Bread by Hand or Machine and hope for the best and in the morning I have a perfect loaf of gorgeous smelling bread and I tuck into it as fuelling for my long run.

Sundried tomato and jalapeno bread (makes 1 small loaf)

325g strong white flour
1 tbsp olive oil
200 ml water
2tsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 tsp fast action dried yeast
35g sundried tomatoes (blot them if in oil) / chopped
30g jalapenos / chopped

How to do it:
Put the water and oil into the tin
Add the flour, sugar and salt
Make a dip in the flour and add the yeast
Add the sundried tomatoes and jalapenos (try to avoid putting them on the yeast)
Set it for small loaf, medium crust
Press start (or time it to be ready for when you get up)
Eat it while you’re emptying the dishwasher and making a cup of tea

Sundried tomato bread
Sundried tomato bread
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Competition: Win “The Seasoned Vegetarian” by Simon Rimmer

The Seasoned Vegetarian by Simon Rimmer
The Seasoned Vegetarian by Simon Rimmer

It may be vegetable box delivery Thursday but today I have something far more interesting to blog about, oh yes.  Today it’s Planet-Veggie-is-feeling-generous-today day although strictly speaking that should be Mitchell-Beazley-is-feeling-generous-today day as my new favourite publisher has given me three copies of The Seasoned Vegetarian by Simon Rimmer to give away on this here blog.  Hurrah.

When the books arrive I have a look through and am getting hungrier browsing the recipes for small platefuls and large platefuls and spicy platefuls and brunch and soup and salads and add ons and puddings and things that sound confusing like turmeric roulade with harissa stew and things that don’t sound confusing like veggie carbonara, and the peppered mushroom and stilton pie is accompanied by a photo that is forcing me to make it for dinner one day next week and I wonder what the theme of the competition should be and I think aha, I know, I’ll have a competition where people have to name five famous vegetarian guests they’d have round for dinner and why and then I think I can’t think of any famous vegetarians except for Paul McCartney and I don’t want to invite him round for dinner in case he starts singing The Frog Song or something and so I find a list of famous vegetarians and I start scanning it and thinking na, he won’t be on here, he probably isn’t veggie and then fuck, there he is: JUDE LAW IS VEGETARIAN!!! Maybe there is a god after all and then I think oh but he’s divorced and I’m not really into divorced men and then I think oh he’s got kids and I’m not really into kids and then I think hang on, didn’t he cheat on Sienna Miller? and I think maybe I should just stick with The Meat Eater after all as he’s not divorced, hasn’t got any kids and probably won’t cheat on me with Sienna Miller and then I think well, I’ll still invite Jude along as eye candy, I just won’t sleep with him even if he begs me and I look down the list for a chef so they can do the cooking and blimey, there’s only one famous vegetarian chef/cookery writer and that’s Rose Elliot and I don’t want Rose Elliot to do the cooking as I bought one of her vegan cookbooks once and everything I made out of it was crap so I’ll have to do my own cooking and I think I’ll invite Jodie Marsh so there’s someone more Essex than me there but she’d better not get off with Jude as I might change my mind after a few drinks and I’m going to invite Hazel O’Connor as Breaking Glass is one of my favourite films and I can embarrass her by playing the soundtrack which I still have on tape and I’m going to invite Boy George as I bet he’s really funny and bitchy and he’ll probably get on well with Jodie Marsh  as she’s probably the only person in the world to wear more make up than he does and I’m going to invite Damon Albarn as we can get drunk and slag off Oasis and that’s my five dinner guests and now you have to tell me yours.

My five famous vegetarian dinner guests
Jude Law
Jodie Marsh
Hazel O’Connor
Boy George
Damon Albarn

Competition rules
List your five guests and reasons as a comment (list of famous vegetarians here)
Your five guests don’t have to be different to mine and they can be dead or alive
More than one entry is allowed
UK entries only please
End date 28 February 2009

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Broccoli and yellow pepper soup

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day and The Meat Eater got me a knives set.  Not just any old knives set, but the coolest knife set in the world ever.

Voodoo knife set (aka the coolest knife set in the world ever)
Voodoo knife set (aka coolest knife set in the world)

But me being a wimp that is too scared to touch the coolest knife set in the world ever, I let The Meat Eater insert them into their holders and we go out and get the worst service in the world ever from my local Indian restaurant and the next day we go out and get the best service in the world ever from a local Italian restaurant (voted Best Pizza In London by Time Out magazine (it’s not, but don’t let that put you off going, it is very nice but the nicest is Mondragone (for pizza anyway Uffizzi may have the touch on pasta))) and later on I decide to be brave and use my new knives while I’m making my weekly soup and so I decide to use the one penetrating his right leg to chop up the vegetables for

Broccoli and yellow pepper soup (serves 5)

1 large onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 yellow pepper
2,500ml stock
Nutritional yeast
Black pepper
Brown miso

How to make it:
Melt the butter in a large pan
Add the onion and garlic and fry for a few minutes
Add the stock
Add the broccoli and yellow pepper
Add some nutritional yeast
Add some black pepper
After about 15 minutes, whizz it up with a stick blender and add some brown miso
Don’t cut your fingers off with new knives from the coolest knife set in the world ever

Broccoli and yellow pepper soup
Broccoli and yellow pepper soup
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This week’s mystery vegetable : Swiss chard

I rescue my vegetable box from under the recycling bin (yay, they were emptied this week, unlike last week when those few flakes of snow scared off the council workers, probably due to some cr*ppy health & safety thing) and it’s full of pretty colours and I look at the list to see what’s there and apparently the stuff I don’t recognise is swiss chard and I think it looks more like pak choy to me but what do I know? but what I do know is that I’ll be having broccoli soup next week for lunch and tonight I mash up the left over robinta potatoes from last week with some of the swiss chard and I also have some of the broccoli and have that with a couple of Sainsburys meat free burgers and Aunt Bessie’s Yorkshire puddings and Bisto onion gravy (yeah yeah, not exactly a cooked from scratch dinner but I can’t be a domestic goddess all the time) and while I’m making it I look in the cupboard and see the box of Paxo sage & onion stuffing and I think b*llocks, I should have made some stuffing but it takes 25 minutes and it’s too late now.  Damn.

Organic vegetable box 12 February 2009
Organic vegetable box 12 February 2009

This week’s box contents
(mini fruit & veg box)
Baby leeks
Swiss chard
Mixed peppers
Navel oranges

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