Green Lentil and Chilli Hummus

Green lentil hummus with garlic and chilli

Riverford sent me some celery. I don’t hate celery, per se, but I don’t like it cooked in stews or anything like that and I certainly don’t want to make a soup out of it and I don’t really like it raw in salads either. As far as I can see, celery’s only role in life is to be an edible spoon for hummus. Which, as roles in life go, isn’t a bad one – in fact, it’s to be commended, but I didn’t have any chickpeas with which to make the best hummus in the world ever so I was stuck with celery and nothing to eat it with.

So, as I knew I had a tin of green lentils, I pondered on Twitter whether green lentil hummus was a thing.

and received this reply from my Twitter friend, Healthy Hornett

and I reckoned she (actually, I have no idea if it’s a girl or boy Hornett so, if you’re reading this, @healthyhornett, sorry for assuming you’re a she) was right and, after promising to report back, I went off and made some green lentil hummus.

Well, two days later I did, anyway. And, do you know what? Green lentil hummus is most definitely a thing and an excellent alternative to the more traditional chickpea one.

I made this hummus in my Optimum G2.1 blender which whizzed it into smooth and creamy hummusy perfection in a minute but if you haven’t got a high powered blender, you might want to add a bit more olive oil to help it along.

Green Lentil and Chilli Hummus
Recipe Type: Vegan
Author: Cathy @ Planet Veggie
A gorgeous alternative to the more traditional chickpea hummus
Ingredients
  • 1 390g tin green lentils, drained
  • 1/2 cup (150g) tahini
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 whole dried chilli
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Put all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until everything’s combined
  2. Add the olive oil and process until smooth

For other alternatives to chickpea hummus, try this beetroot and cannellini bean dip from Fuss Free Flavours, or Tin and Thyme’s smoky red pepper dip and chive guacamole.




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My Sugar-Free Challenge

I wouldn’t say I have much of a sweet tooth. If someone offered me a cake or a bowl of olives, I’d rather have the olives. But I’ve seen recently a trend for people saying they want to give up sugar and there are even ‘experts’ such as Sarah Wilson, who can help people give up the white stuff.

But is sugar really that bad and if it is, is it really so hard to give up, you need ‘experts’ to teach you how? I didn’t think it is, so when Benenden asked me if I’d like to join in their sugar-free challenge to help promote their sugar-free hub, I was more than happy to oblige because a) I didn’t think I ate much sugar; and b) I love a challenge.

So, below is a kind of diary of what I ate and – if applicable – what I usually would have had on a normal ‘not bothered about looking out for sugar to avoid’ day.

Sugar-Free Breakfast 

Hot water with lemon

Well, breakfast was never going to be hard to be sugar-free as, although there was a time when I was a five-teaspoons-of-sugar-in-tea kind of girl, I haven’t drunk tea for years and I’ve never drunk coffee (bleurgh) and my hot drink upon waking is always hot water and lemon.  Before anyone pipes up with ‘but fruit is full of sugar – you’ve failed already, loser’, as far as I’m aware, going sugar-free doesn’t mean giving up something perfectly healthy like fruit. So there.

smoothie-collage

Just as I haven’t drunk sugar-laden tea for years, I also grew out of eating sugary breakfast cereals topped with more sugar when I was about ten years old. Nowadays, my breakfast is a smoothie and today’s one was frozen mixed fruit, dried golden berries, acai powder and water. It did occur to me that sugar might be added to the packeted fruit and powder but, hooray, no added sugar. No added anything, in fact. If you haven’t tried golden berries before, please do – they make a great tangy addition to smoothies, or you could add them to flapjacks, energy bars, etc.

Sugar-Free Lunch 

Vegan tomato soup and ciabatta

Lunch was going to be slightly more tricky than breakfast as I’d made mushroom jerky the other day that I’d been having in wraps for lunch. No problems with the mushrooms, obviously, but I’d marinated them in Reggae Reggae Sauce which I thought was bound to contain sugar and, upon inspection of the label, saw I was right. No Reggae Reggae for me that day, dammit.

Never mind, I thought – I can have some of the tomato soup I made the other day, that’ll be sugar-free. But – woah, hang on, what about the stock? They put all sort of things in stock – they put milk in some vegetarian stocks, so I wouldn’t be surprised to find sugar in them too. It was fine though – no sugar in the stock. Oh, but then I thought, surely there must be sugar in the tinned tomatoes I used? But still, no sugar there either. My tomato soup was a sugar-free zone. Phew.

How about the ciabatta and Vitalite I wanted with it though? None there either – ha, this sugar-free thing is a breeze.

Sugar-Free Drinks

Hot chocolate made with raw cacao and almond milk

Okay, so obviously my homemade lemonade that I still had in the fridge wasn’t sugar-free – it’s made with just three ingredients, which are lemons, sugar and water – but apart from my beloved hot chocolate, I usually only drink water throughout the day, so cold drinks weren’t a problem. But, what about the aforementioned beloved hot chocolate? I didn’t even have to read the label to know that that would have sugar in it, so what was I to do? Go cold – or should that be hot chocolate – turkey? Na. I’d make my own with raw cacao powder instead. Sorted.

Although I couldn’t see sugar listed on the ingredients for the soya milk I usually use, I decided to make my hot chocolate extra pure by making it with homemade almond milk. Yep, maximum hippy level reached.

Homemade almond milk

Sugar-Free Dinner

Sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, wheat-free, egg-free, courgette and carrot burgers

Luckily, Wednesday is Riverford veg box delivery day, so I had a box full of veg with which to make a healthy, sugar-free dinner. Faced with courgettes and carrots, I made courgette and carrot burgers and served them with purple sprouted broccoli and new potatoes. Because I made them with chickpea (gram) flour, I got a bonus ‘free’ in, as they’re gluten-free as well as sugar-free. Actually, they’re full of ‘frees’, as to give them their full title, they’re wheat-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free and sugar-free (this may explain why The Meat Eater said they didn’t taste of much).

As a condiment freak, I don’t usually have ‘dry’ burgers, but tomato ketchup contains sugar, so that was out. The Mayola mayonnaise in the fridge didn’t contain any sugar but at the time I didn’t think courgette and carrot burgers would go with mayo – not when they’re spiced with curry powder, anyway. On reflection though, it probably would have gone well. Ho hum.

Sugar-Free Snacks

I’m not going to lie. I missed my after-dinner mint and I spent the whole of the evening wanting a bit of chocolate or a biscuit or something sweet, so maybe sugar isn’t as easy to give up as I originally thought and it is addictive as ‘they’ say?

As challenges go, this one was easy but, then again, I only did it for a day. Some people give up sugar for life and I’m not sure that would be so easy.

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Easy Vegan Tinned Tomato and Basil Soup Recipe

Vegan homemade tinned tomato soup recipe

Aah, tinned tomato soup. Or, more specifically; aah, Heinz Cream of Tomato Soup. Everyone loves cream of tomato soup, don’t they? I have it when I’m ill, when I’m hungover and it was all I could face when my house got burgled a few years ago (well, soup and alcohol, anyway). In fact, it’s more of a comfort blanket than a soup, really. I suspect it’s because I don’t see tomato soup as an ‘everyday’ soup, I don’t make homemade tomato soup very often and, if I do, it’s usually ‘tomato and something’, rather than just tomato.

But I had a few tins of chopped tomatoes taking up room on the kitchen worktop, so I decided I’d make a homemade tomato soup. I wasn’t expecting it to turn out like Heinz because mine would be a vegan version and therefore it wouldn’t contain any cream. I’d thought about thickening it with cashews but, thanks to my Froothie Optimum G2.1 high powered blender, it turned out beautifully creamy and smooth without needing to add any thickeners (I know it doesn’t look silky smooth in the photo but, trust me – it is).

You could, for a creamier taste, replace half the stock with soya milk (or dairy milk if you’re not fussed about it being vegan), but I don’t really think it’s necessary and I only swirled on a bit of soya milk for a prettier photo.

A cheap, creamy, comforting bowl of soup; even if you don’t need comforting.

Vegan homemade tinned tomato soup recipe

Easy Vegan Tinned Tomato and Basil Soup
Recipe Type: Soup
Cuisine: Vegan
Author: Cathy @ Planet Veggie
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
A cheap, creamy, comforting bowl of vegan tomato soup
Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 400g cans chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 500ml vegan stock
  • A few basil leaves, torn
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan
  2. Add the onion and garlic and fry for about 5 minutes, until soft
  3. Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato puree and stock, then season to taste with the salt and pepper
  4. Stir through and simmer for 10 minutes
  5. Add the basil, stir through and transfer to a blender and blend until smooth

*Disclaimer: I am an Ambassador for Froothie and any links to their products in this post are affiliate links which, if you purchase through, won’t cost you any more but will earn me a small commission. I only endorse products I am happy with and I have not been paid for this post.




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Zizzi Vegan Pizza Review

Zizzi vegan menu
The vegan menu at Zizzi

Forget Kim Kardashian and her oversized bum, Zizzi almost broke the internet a few weeks ago when they revealed their new vegan menu. Vegans are used to visiting chain restaurants and adapting items already on the menu and asking the staff to omit cheese from their orders but Zizzi is the first (as far as I’m aware) to offer a vegan cheese on their pizzas. The vegan cheese is MozzaRisella, which is made from germinated whole rice made without milk and lactose, making it suitable for vegans and those who are allergic to dairy, gluten and soya.

I’m neither vegan nor suffer from any allergies and although I make a conscious effort to eat fewer animal products, when it comes to eating out in restaurants, ‘without cheese please’ just doesn’t manage to leave my mouth when the waiter comes to take my order. So, when I heard about Zizzi’s new vegan pizza, I had to give it a go.

Zizzi, Charlotte Street, London

A friend and I visited Zizzi in Charlotte Street, London and I’m hoping the smiley-but-slow service isn’t indicative of all their branches. The friendly waitress seated us immediately, handed us a couple of Zizzi’s usual menus but rushed off before I had a chance to ask for the vegan one. A long time passed until she came back for our drinks order, which gave me the chance to ask for the vegan menu which she immediately brought to me, but then we had a long wait for our wine to arrive (by the way, most of the wines are vegan and the ones that aren’t are listed on the menu).

To be fair to the waitress(es) though, there did only seem to be two of them but, even so, the restaurant was empty and even the chefs were standing around in the kitchen not doing anything, so I’m not sure why the service was so slow. Slow service is one of my bugbears and the reason I no longer go into my local Pizza Express (I gave them four chances but the service never got any better).

Starter – Vegan Garlic Bread

Zizzi's vegan garlic bread
Vegan garlic bread

Still, we eventually managed to order and our shared starter of garlic bread arrived. Despite – as you can see – the bread being covered in lumps of garlic, it wasn’t particularly garlicky and it was also a bit dry. I did like the green ‘vegan’ sticker stuck to the plate though (that’s as in ‘liked Zizzi thought of doing it’, not ‘mmm, yummy sticker’).

Main Course – Zizzi Vegan Pizza with MozzaRisella Cheese

Zizzi vegan pizza with MozzaRisella cheese
Zizzi vegan pizza with MozzaRisella cheese

But I didn’t go to Zizzi for their garlic bread, I went for the vegan cheese I’d heard so much about. Zizzi offer a vegan Margherita (including a gluten-free option), onto which you can add your own toppings. Unfortunately, my pizza was a bit burnt and I considered sending it back as I hate burnt food even more than I hate slow service but given how long my pizza had taken to arrive, I kept it. Luckily, only a part of it was burnt and the rest of it was fine and I soon cheered up and enjoyed the rest of my pizza. The vegan ‘cheese’ was more of a sauce and not the stretchy mozzarella pizza lovers have come to expect on their pizza but there are no complaints from me as it was tasty, cheesy and not artificial tasting at all (unlike a lot of vegan cheese). As someone who loves sauces and hates dry food, a sauce-like cheese on top of my pizza is fine with me.

Price/Value

My vegan Margherita cost £7.95 and I chose toppings of olives, green chillies and mushrooms so, with toppings being 80p each, this meant my pizza came to £10.35 which is excellent value in my opinion, especially when a lot of pizza restaurants charge around £12 for a pizza and extra toppings at £1.50 a pop. Unfortunately, I can’t gush about the garlic bread and, at £4.50, I won’t be getting it again.

I’d definitely go back for the vegan pizza though and hopefully more Italian/pizza restaurants and chains will follow Zizzi’s example and start offering vegan cheese on the menu.

For more information about Zizzi, view their whole menu, find your nearest branch and book a table, visit the Zizzi website.

If you’ve been to Zizzi to try their vegan pizza, I’d love to know what you thought about it.




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Wild Garlic and Cauliflower Soup Recipe (Vegan)

It’s spring, therefore it’s wild garlic season, hooray! Ha, who am I kidding? I’d never even seen wild garlic before some arrived in my Riverford box this week and if you’ve never seen it either, it looks like this.

Wild garlic

Wild garlic (also known as ‘bear’s garlic’, ‘devil’s garlic’, ‘gypsy’s onions’ and ‘stinking Jenny’) has a milder taste than its bulby counterpart and grows – as you’ve probably guessed – wild, in forests and, as you can see, it’s the leaves that are eaten, not the bulbs.

Wild garlic can be eaten raw in salads or wilted in butter and used like any other leafy green vegetable. Because I’d also received a cauliflower in my veg box, I decided to make a vegan wild garlic and cauliflower soup and very nice it was too. It turned out a beautiful pale green colour (admittedly, it looks slightly like Angel Delight but don’t let this put you off) and, thanks to my new Froothie Optimum G2.1 Platinum Series high powered blender (review coming soon), velvety smooth and creamy. If you haven’t got a high powered blender (I definitely recommend one though; I’ve never had such a smooth soup in my life), you could use a hand blender instead.  This is a thick soup so if you like it slightly thinner, just add a bit more stock. Despite the thickness though, it’s a fresh, light soup; perfect for spring.

Wild garlic and cauliflower soup

Wild Garlic and Cauliflower Soup Recipe
Recipe Type: Vegan
Cuisine: Soup
Author: Cathy @ Planet Veggie
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 2-3
A thick, velvety smooth vegan soup.
Ingredients
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 head (about 400g) cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 50g wild garlic, shredded
  • 750ml vegan stock
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion for about 5 minutes, until soft
  2. Add the cauliflower, wild garlic, stock and season to taste
  3. Simmer for about 20 minutes until the cauliflower is tender
  4. Transfer to a blender and process until smooth
Wild garlic and cauliflower soup nutrition facts
Please note the nutritional information above is approximate and will vary depending on your own ingredients

For more wild garlic recipes, check these out from my fellow food bloggers:

Wild Garlic Pesto Two Ways – by Tin & Thyme
Cheese and Wild Garlic Scones – by Thinly Spread
Sweet Potato, Wild Garlic and Spinach Soup – by Munchies & Munchkins
Wild Garlic Tattie Scones – by Foodie Quine




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Vegan Banana and Cashew Muffins Recipe

Vegan banana and cashew muffins

When you’ve got bananas going black in your fruit bowl, there’s only one thing to do with them – yep, make banana bread. Or, in my case, make vegan banana and cashew muffins.

These muffins are quick and easy to make and I used cashews because that’s what I had in but you can add any nuts or fruit you like instead, such as raisins or walnuts.

I had a bit of a baking urge at the weekend because as well as these muffins, I also made vegan brownies containing flax seed and cacao nibs, which I’ll blog about tomorrow.

Vegan banana and cashew muffins

Vegan Banana and Cashew Muffins Recipe
Author: Cathy @ Planet Veggie
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 225g plain flour
  • 3 heaped tsp baking powder
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 75g vegetable oil
  • 50g cashews
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C
  2. Mash the bananas and mix well with the oil and sugar
  3. Add the flour, baking powder and mixed spice and stir well, mixing everything together
  4. Stir in the cashews
  5. Spoon the batter into muffin cases in a muffin tin and bake in the oven for 20 minutes

 

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Vegan Omelette with Silken Tofu Recipe

Vegan omelette with silken tofu

Home alone means YAY I GET TO BE REALLY VEGAN and by ‘really vegan’ I mean I get to try things I haven’t made before like a vegan omelette made with silken tofu, such as this one I based on the one at the brilliant Post Punk Kitchen.

Vegan omelette batter made with silken tofu

Vegan omelette made with silken tofu

This vegan omelette was so good. It was quick and easy and although you’re not going to fool egg-eaters with it, this soft, tasty omelette was lovely stuffed with mushrooms, spring onions and spinach, and as the batter made enough for four omelettes and will keep well in the fridge or freezer, I had one cold the next day for lunch, used as a wrap with pesto, spinach, tomato and cucumber.

Vegan omelette wrap

Like a lot of vegan ‘eggy’ dishes, this silken tofu omelette contained black salt (or kala namak as it’s also known) to give it an eggy taste. Black salt is cheap on Amazon but you can leave it out if you’re not that bothered about an eggy flavour.

vegan-silken-tofu-omelette

 

Vegan Omelette with Silken Tofu Recipe
Cuisine: Vegan
Author: Cathy @ Planet Veggie
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 349g pack silken tofu
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp fine black salt
  • 1/2 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 tbsp potato starch
Instructions
  1. Prepare your chosen fillings before you start making the omelette and leave to one side
  2. Blend the garlic, tofu, nutritional yeast, olive oil, turmeric and black salt until smooth
  3. Add the chickpea flour and potato starch and blend until it’s all combined
  4. Heat a lightly oiled large frying pan and pour in 1/2 cup of the batter
  5. Use the back of a spoon to spread the batter out to make a thin circle
  6. Let it cook for about 3-5 minutes, until lightly browned on the bottom
  7. Flip the omelette over and cook for another minute or so
  8. Spread your prepared fillings evenly over half the omelette and fold over the other side
  9. Repeat with the rest of the batter

 




 

 

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Vegan Pinto Bean Stuffed Peppers Recipe

Vegan pinto bean stuffed pepper

This vegan pinto bean stuffed peppers recipe is loosely based on the Chillies Stuffed With Beans recipe in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s vegetarian cookbook River Cottage Veg Everyday! Although Hugh’s version would undoubtedly be better than mine, his recipe involved grilling and peeling chillies and there is no way I could ever be arsed to a) peel a chilli pepper; or b) stuff something that small, so I bunged a couple of peppers in the oven and stuffed those instead.

The pinto bean stuffing is pretty much the same as Hugh’s except I left out coriander and cumin because I’m not keen on coriander and every time I use cumin, The Meat Eater says it tastes of farts and I wasn’t in the mood for any stupid talk like that (by the way, in case you’re wondering, The Meat Eater is 44, not 4).

I loved the bean filling in these peppers – it’s not dissimilar to baked beans in tomato sauce – and I also thought it would make a good sandwich filling. The Meat Eater didn’t enjoy it as much as I did but I think he was in a moany mood as he also complained about having a green pepper and not a red one (even though I offered to swap) and said the peas were too chewy.

Next time, I’ll tell him to rearrange this sentence: dinner your make own fucking

Vegan Pinto Bean Stuffed Peppers Recipe
Cuisine: Vegan
Author: Cathy @ Planet Veggie
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 2 red or green peppers, deseeded
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 150g tomatoes, halved
  • 400g tin pinto beans (or other beans of your choice)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Put the peppers on a baking tray and bake for about 20 minutes at 200C until tender and the skin is slightly browning
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the shallots and garlic for a couple of minutes, until soft
  3. Grate the tomatoes into the pan, and discard the skins
  4. Remove from the heat, add the beans and lightly mash with a fork, leaving plenty whole
  5. Add the paprika and season with salt and pepper
  6. Stuff the bean mixture into the peppers and return to the oven for another 20 minutes

 

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Tofuture Tofu Press Review: No More Soggy Tofu!

Tofuture Tofu Press

When the postman knocked on the door and handed me the Tofuture Tofu Press, I hadn’t been so excited about a few pieces of plastic since getting my first Spirograph in the early 80s. As you’ve probably guessed, you don’t draw pretty pictures with the Tofuture Tofu Press though; you press tofu with it.

As anyone knows, tofu needs pressing. It needs pressing to make it edible; unpressed tofu is a gungy, spongy, soggy block of slime and I wish I’d learnt about pressing it earlier than I did. Now I have learnt to press tofu, I eat it regularly (you can check out my tofu recipes here) but the one thing I was missing was something practical and convenient to press it with. My method was to wrap the tofu in reams of kitchen roll and then press it between two saucers – either quickly with my hands or for longer with heavy objects balanced on top. Although both methods work to an extent, they have their failings – I had visions of the saucers snapping and slicing my hands with the hand method and the last time I used the heavy objects method, I balanced a cast iron frying pan on the top saucer, then balanced my Nutribullet on top of the frying pan. I was happily playing on my computer upstairs when I heard a crash in the kitchen. On investigation, I found the frying pan had slipped off the saucer and bashed into the wall, breaking a kitchen wall tile. A brand new kitchen wall tile in the BRAND NEW KITCHEN THE MEAT EATER HAD ONLY JUST PUT TOGETHER WITH HIS OWN FAIR HANDS. Oh man, was I in trouble. Luckily, the Meat Eater had had a tax rebate or something and was in a good mood and when I confessed what I’d done (I couldn’t really not confess – there was a big hole in the kitchen wall where a tile should have been) he just shrugged.

Phew.

Unsurprisingly, ever since then, I’ve been nervous about using the ‘stack a load of heavy shit on it’ tofu-pressing method, so when Tofuture offered to send me one of their tofu presses, I got mega-excited. As in HALLELUJAH PRAISE THE TOFU-PRESSING LORD excited.

Tofuture tofu press

The Tofuture Tofu Press is small, compact and no bigger than it needs to be. It comes in three pieces, which all stack neatly inside each other.

Tofuture tofu press

I had a block of tofu (just the normal block of Cauldron you can find in all supermarkets) in the fridge, waiting to be pressed and because I’m a geek and wanted a before and after comparison, I measured it first. Please excuse the dirty ruler (and in case you’re wondering what para it’s ruling out, it’s parasites [the ruler was a freebie from the vet]. I have nothing against paramedics or paralegals).

Before the tofu was pressed

The tofu fits perfectly inside the inner tub.

Tofu about to be pressed

The inner tub is placed inside the main tub (which will catch the water), then the top is placed over the inner tub and you pull down the elastic bands over the hooks, then pull the clasps back, which will cause the top to press down on the tofu, squeezing the water out.

Tofuture tofu press

The elastic bands are quite difficult to get over the hooks but if the bands were slack, then there’d be no pressure on the tofu and no water would get squeezed out and then it wouldn’t be a tofu press; it’d just be a tofu container.

Tofuture tofu press

As mentioned above, the tofu press is compact and when your tofu is sitting safely inside it, it fits beautifully in your fridge, nestled in amongst whatever it is you keep in your fridge (mine had a respectable amount of vegetables in it when I took this photo; sometimes it only contains beer and chocolate, but I didn’t borrow these vegetables just for the photo, honest. Although, that’s an embarrassing amount of plastic *makes mental note to reinstate Riverford veg box and stop buying plastic-wrapped veg from Tesco*).

The Tofuture tofu press fits neatly in your fridge

Although I’d planned to leave the tofu pressing for a few hours, after an hour, I couldn’t resist a peek. I took the tofu press out of the fridge and could feel the water sploshing around in the bottom and when I poured it out, there was 100ml of water.

Water pressed from tofu after 1 hour

After five hours had passed, I took the tofu out of the fridge and poured out the water that had collected since I’d emptied it and there was another 25ml.

Water pressed from tofu after five hours

And as you can see, the tofu had shrunk by about half (in case you can’t be bothered to scroll back up, it was 4cm high before being pressed).

Tofu after pressing

And guess what I made with my newly pressed tofu (after marinading it in the press – another use for it)? I’ll give you a clue – it was on a Friday. Yep, tofush! I’m not lying when I say this is the best tofush I’ve made so far – whether that’s down to the Tofuture Tofu Press or my immense tofu-battering skillz or a combination of both, I don’t know. All I know is that I’m very happy with the press and will be using it to press all my tofu in the future. No more broken kitchen wall tiles, yay.

Tofush and chips

How to get your hands on a Tofuture Tofu Press 

Okay, so now you want one of these tofu presses, don’t you? You’ve got a few options: you can either:

a) buy one direct from the Tofuture website for £25; or

b) buy one on Amazon for £25; or

c) buy one from Tofuture in person at Brighton VegFest (it’s over now) or London VegFest for £20; or

d) enter the competition on the Tofuture website to win one for absolutely no money at all (I’d go for that one if I were you). (Update: The competition is now closed.)

The Tofuture Tofu Press is Vegetarian Society Approved and Vegan Society Approved. For more information, visit the Tofuture website.

I’d like to give Tofuture approximately twenty-six billion thanks for sending me one of their tofu presses to review. All my gushing is genuine. I fucking love this thing. 




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Veganuary: How I Got On and Where Do I Go From Here

Veganuary banner

Since Veganuary finished, friends have asked me if I’m still vegan. My answers usually began with, ‘Um…’ and finished with, ‘Well, no, not exactly. Well, no.’ It’s a ‘no’ because – before the vegan police shout at me – I’m aware there’s no such thing as being ‘mostly vegan’, just as there’s no such thing as being ‘a bit pregnant’ – you either are or you aren’t. And although I haven’t eaten much dairy since January, I have eaten some, so no, I haven’t stayed vegan.

I’m also aware being vegan means more than just eating a plant-based diet: It’s also about not wearing wool, silk or leather. It’s about not using lip balm containing beeswax and avoiding shoes that have glue. It’s also about animal rights, the environment and living compassionately. And it’s also – going by what I’ve seen on various vegan Facebook groups – about wearing t-shirts with vegan slogans on, getting the word ‘vegan’ tattooed on to your arm (with vegan ink, obvs) and telling people to watch Earthlings. Oh, and arguing amongst yourselves about who’s the best at being vegan (if you eat anything containing palm oil, then it’s not you).

Why I took part in Veganuary

If you know me in real life or are a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know I have strong vegan/plant-based diet leanings (I really can’t be arsed to keep typing ‘plant-based diet’ so I’m going to write ‘vegan’ in this post from now on) so it probably wasn’t much of a surprise that I wanted to take part in Veganuary.

I’ve been vegetarian for twenty-four years and that’s not your willy-nilly fish-is-a-vegetable/parmesan-is-cheese-and-therefore-must-be-vegetarian-innit vegetarian – I know what I’m doing. I know Parmesan and Gorgonzola are never vegetarian. I know to ask in a restaurant or cafe if the stock in a seemingly vegetarian soup is vegetarian because just because it’s a vegetable soup, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been made out of chicken bones.

But – and I shouldn’t generalise but I’m going to anyway – most long-term vegetarians know vegetarianism is a half-hearted attempt at doing the right thing for animals. We know veganism is the only way to show you’re serious about animal cruelty. Yes, we don’t eat meat, but the dairy and egg industry is just as cruel, if not crueller. There’s no such thing as humane slaughter and there’s definitely nothing humane about stealing cows’ milk and taking their babies away from them or chucking live male chicks into grinders.

Most vegetarians don’t bang on about being vegetarian because, secretly, we’re embarrassed about not being vegan.

I’m sitting here trying to think of a good reason why I haven’t changed my diet from vegetarian to vegan before (except for one month in 2008) but there are no good reasons. My only excuses are a) lack of choice when eating out; and b) living with an anti-vegan. But I could live with a) for a month and, happily, b) didn’t make any fuss when I said I wanted to take part in Veganuary and so I took the vegan pledge and signed up.

Some of the food I ate during Veganuary
Some of the food I ate during Veganuary

What did I think would be difficult during Veganuary?

Given that my diet is mostly plant-based anyway, I didn’t think I’d have too much difficulty during Veganuary, other than finding a month’s worth of main meals the Meat Eater would like. I’d happily have omelettes made from chickpeas and cashews made into cheese but I knew the Meat Eater wouldn’t be impressed. So, I made a list of meals that were vegan, simply by being vegetarian meals that didn’t contain eggs or dairy anyway, e.g. stew, curry, stir-fry, etc., and if I made something that traditionally (but doesn’t have to) contains cheese, e.g. pizza, tacos, jacket potatoes, then I could make two of them – one for me and one for him.

So that was the main meals sorted and I was happy that the only problem I might have was finding enough variety and not ending up having curry three times a week, but a bit of meal-planning (which I do anyway) took care of that.

Hot chocolate

My main concern was hot chocolate. I drink about three mugs of it a day and before Veganuary I used the instant low-calorie stuff that contains milk, so that had to be swapped for a tub of drinking chocolate and soya milk and whenever I’ve done that in the past, I’ve burnt the saucepan while heating the milk.

But Veganuary doesn’t care about burnt saucepans so I decided to experiment by heating drinking chocolate and soya milk in the microwave and, do you know what? It works fine! All those burnt saucepans were for nothing, dammit. Now I’m a convert and have a couple of cups (not massive mugs – yes, sometimes I can do moderation) of Cadbury’s Drinking Chocolate and soya milk, heated in the microwave a day. Yay.

Cheese 

Cheese is obviously the big ‘BUT I CAN’T GIVE THAT UP’ thing when it comes to veganism. I knew I’d be fine indoors and would be happy to put Violife on my pizza, jacket potatoes and tacos while the Meat Eater had dairy cheese on his but eating out would be a problem, even in a cafè. In fact, especially in a cafè, as I love me a toasted cheese panini. As it turned out, Billy-no-mates here didn’t have any dinner engagements during Veganuary (probably because I’m a ponce who calls ‘eating out’ a ‘dinner engagement’) and the only time I ate out, I had a houmous and falafel wrap in Caffè Nero to go with my soya milk hot chocolate, and very nice it was too.

Caffe Nero vegan hot chocolate and wrap
Caffe Nero vegan hot chocolate and wrap
Garlic bread

I didn’t have to go without garlic bread with my Violife-covered pizza, as I made my own vegan garlic bread (along with a non-vegan one) and it’s better than any garlic bread you can buy in the shop.

Vegan pizza and garlic bread
Pizza with Violife vegan cheese, and home made vegan garlic bread
Chippy night

Friday night is chippy night in this house and pre-Veganuary, my usual order was battered halloumi, onion rings and chips (and curry sauce in a jar, heated up at home as I don’t think curry sauce in the chippy is vegetarian). Obviously battered halloumi was off the menu during Veganuary so I had the brainwave of making tofush and what a fucking brilliant brainwave that was, even if I do say so myself.

Vegan tofush and chips

I made this vegan tofush (tofu and nori covered in batter) and had it with chips from the chippy every chippy night during Veganuary. It’s fantastic and you can find my recipe for tofush here.

Everyday vegan food/snacks that are easily available in the supermarket 

A lot of food is vegan. Or, ‘accidentally vegan’, as the vegans like to call it when talking about food that doesn’t scream VEGAN quite like, say, a lettuce or a bag of lentils does.

For example:

Hot chocolate 

I’ve already mentioned above it’s easy to find vegan hot chocolate. Most of the tubs of drinking chocolate are vegan – just avoid the instant ones, as they usually contain milk. I started off Veganuary by treating myself to a tub of Green & Black’s cocoa but I didn’t like it much, so I ditched that and bought a tub of Cadbury’s Drinking Chocolate instead. I liked that so much, when it was half price in Tesco last week, I bought another four tubs of it.

Chocolate

I’m not going to lie and say supermarkets all carry a vegan range of Snickers, Twix, Dairy Milk, etc. (DAMN YOU, SUPERMARKETS) but if you like dark chocolate, a lot of that is vegan (just check the label for milk) and most supermarkets sell their own ‘free from’ range and/or Mini Moo dairy-free chocolate, so you don’t have to go without your chocolate fix.

Crisps

It’s not all ready salted and salt and vinegar crisps when you’re vegan. Bacon Wheat Crunchies, Skips and BILLIONS of other flavours are vegan. Unfortunately though, while manufacturers will happily create artificial pig flavours for their crisps, there aren’t any artificial cheese flavours in the supermarkets. Sob. If you’re lucky though, you might find some Ten Acre vegan cheese and onion flavour crisps in your local TK Maxx.

Biscuits

I don’t eat many biscuits but I ate Oreos during Veganuary purely because they’re vegan and everyone goes on about them in vegan Facebook groups (please note, not all the Oreo range is vegan, so check the label).

There are many, many ‘accidentally vegan’ snacks you can buy. For a list far better than mine (let’s face it – it’s a shit list), Vegan Womble’s your man (or woman – I have no idea if it’s a boy or a girl womble)

Side effects during Veganuary 

I had no side effects. Nothing. No hunger, no tiredness, no urge to get a tattoo, no nothing. I didn’t at any time feel any different. I was expecting to feel something; at least a little bit of ‘holier-than-thouness’ but nope.

One side effect I thought I might have, especially as it was coupled – nay, tripled – with not drinking during January (except for a couple of days) as well as doing Janathon, was a bit of weight loss but I was disappointed there as, although I did lose weight, it was only two pounds during the whole of January. Still, that list above of crisps, chocolate and biscuits might give me a bit of a clue why not much weight loss happened. Just because something’s vegan, doesn’t mean it contains no calories.

February and the future 

At no point during Veganuary did I announce to anyone – either in real life  or online – that I’d stay plant-based after January but I think most people, including myself, thought I probably would.

But, here’s the ‘but…’

I’ve already admitted that, although I haven’t instantly gone back to instant hot chocolate and cheese and onion crisps, I have eaten dairy. In fact, I know I said I’d only eaten some, now I’m thinking about it, it’s actually quite a lot and I was talking bollocks.

I ate a cheese and tomato toastie on the plane back from Tenerife, along with a slice of pizza when I got home from the airport. Since then, I’ve been out for a friend’s birthday where I – with only a slight pang of guilt – ordered a cheese-laden pizza in Strada. In my hungover state the next day, with it being Friday, I – again with only a slight pang of guilt – ordered battered halloumi from the chippy.

On Saturday, I decided we should use up the Papa John’s leftover pizza that had been in the freezer since December and when the Meat Eater made some garlic bread, I didn’t insist that my half be vegan (or make any myself).

This week, I’ve had a bad cold, thought ‘sod it’ and had a couple of bags of crisps that contained milk (WHY DO ONION RINGS HAVE MILK IN THEM YOU FUCKERS?) I’ve also cooked meals that contained honey and cheese (admittedly only a tiny bit that I could easily have left out) from a Riverford recipe box that I’d already agreed to review.

My only excuse was ‘I couldn’t be bothered because I was on a plane/tired/ill’ but when I thought about it, I thought, ‘not being bothered’ wouldn’t make me not be vegetarian so why should it be any different now? Even if I couldn’t be bothered to make my own tofush last Friday, I didn’t have to order the battered halloumi – I could have just had chips. Using up leftovers is fair enough but I didn’t have to have garlic bread with it.

I haven’t totally fallen off the wagon though. I purposefully checked the labels in Tesco last week on their chilled soups to find vegan ones to have for lunch this week (their Mexican Chilli Bean one and their Minestrone ones are vegan, cheap and delicious) and yesterday, I fancied some biscuits and spent about half an hour studying labels before settling for a packet of Oaties. I’m still drinking my Cadbury’s Drinking Chocolate and soya milk and haven’t gone back to my lazy but quick instant stuff that contains milk. Tonight is chippy night and I’m going back to making tofush.

So, now I haven’t just got off a plane or have recipes containing dairy to review and my cold is clearing, next week will be a new start and I’m going to resume my plant-based diet. I just need to find onion rings that don’t contain milk. I think Asda do them and although Asda is a two mile bike ride away, I will cycle for crisps.

I’m not saying I’m never going to eat a pizza with cheese again and I’m not going to call myself a vegan, but I’m going to do my best to stick to a plant-based diet.

I think that’ll do for now.

 

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