VegfestUK London 2014

28 Sep

I’ve just got back from a brilliant day out at VegfestUK London at Kensington Olympia. According to their website, 10,000 people went through their doors today, to try and buy vegan products, do some clothes shopping, browse books and magazines, eat some amazing food, meet people from conservation organisations and welfare charities, and to watch talks and stand-up comedy. I could have easily spent the whole weekend there, especially because there were so many caterers selling different incredible-looking meals. Here are some of my photos.

My favourite thing about VegfestUK is that it’s a completely vegan festival. It’s kind of tiring going to an event as the vegan in the room, always having to check and ask what I can and can’t eat. It was exciting to be in a place where I’m normal, where everything I could see was edible. Here are some of the thing we bought. I’m particularly excited about the crazy amount of snack bars, my new favourite chocolate from Ombar, and the Round Up wagon wheels (I’ve had them before and they’re incredible). We also bought some Mr Nice Pie pies for tonight’s dinner from (not pictured), which I’m really looking forward to.

Ok, so despite there being so many caterers offering beautiful, colourful, healthy meals, as soon as we heard that Vegusto were selling hot dogs all good intentions went out the window. Here’s one of their delicious frankfurters with fried onions, ketchup and mustard. It was amazing, I regret nothing.

In true Mrs Veg style, as soon as I saw the bar I had to go for a vegan ale. Here’s me sampling a pint of Eco Warrior from an organic brewery called Pitfield’s.

VegfestUK is a brilliant day out for vegans, vegetarians, and the veg-curious. I’m already looking forward to going back next year.

http://london.vegfest.co.uk/ – VegfestUK London.

http://vegfest.co.uk/ – other VegfestUK events around the country.

Drying red chillies

27 Sep

I’ve been growing my own chillies at home for a few years now. If you look after the plants well, they can keep fruiting from spring all the way through to autumn and beyond. There’s always a bit of a glut around late summer though, and if you preserve that glut well you can have home-grown chillies all year round. They freeze fairly well, and you can use them to make things like sweet chilli sauce or chutney, but my favourite way to keep them is to dry them. You don’t need any special equipment, just a needle, thread, and somewhere cool and dry for them to hang out for a few months. Here’s how you do it:

Pick all of your red chillies. They should still have the stalk and be fairly firm, if there are any soft bits it won’t work. Cut a long length of cotton and thread the needle. Pick up a chilli and pass the needle through the fleshiest part of the stalk. Repeat with all of the chillies, spacing them a couple of centimetres apart. They shouldn’t slide down, but if you’re worried you could loop the thread around and put it though the same hole again.

Tie a loop in each end of the thread, and hang it up somewhere. Here are my chillies in my pantry:

Leave for a few months until the chillies are fully dried out. They should be fairly hard, and you shake them you should be able to hear the seeds rattling around inside.

Once completely dried, you can remove them from the thread and put them in a jar, ready to be crumbled into your favourite spicy dishes. Alternatively, you could make your own chilli flakes by quickly pulsing the dried chillies in a blender or pounding them in a pestle and mortar. Either way, they will last for months.

 

In my veg box this week – mushrooms, kale, corn

24 Sep

I can’t believe it’s been almost a month since I last wrote about my veg box. I’ve not been slacking, we had to cancel a few weeks of deliveries, at first because I had so much home-grown produce from my Mum’s allotment, and then because Mr Veg and I went on holiday to Italy. We had such a fab time in Italy, and of course ate some gorgeous food, but I’ll tell you all about that another day.

This week we have:

Mushrooms
We get a bag of mushrooms most weeks. It’s a bit strange, they’re really good mushrooms but we only get a really tiny amount of them – about 100g. It’s not really enough to make them the star of a dish. What will I do with them? This might sound a bit odd, but it depends on whether or not Mr Veg likes mushrooms at the moment or not (he has a bit of a love/hate thing for fungi). If he does like them then great, I’ll use them to enhance an unadventurous dish like spaghetti bolognese, stir-fry, or a vegetable pilaf. Otherwise, I might just be having mushrooms on toast tomorrow, one of my favourite breakfasts.

Kale
I was really really hoping to get some kale this week, so I was thrilled that it was the first thing I saw when I opened the box. The butternut squash my Mum gave me a few weeks ago is almost ripe now, I’ve thought of two ideas of what to do with it and both involve kale. I like the idea of combining sweet, rich, soft squash with green, earthy, crunchy kale. Whichever idea I go with will probably end up on the blog, so keep an eye out.

Corn on the cobs
Wow, these are the first (possibly only) fresh corn I’ve had all summer. I’m definitely having them tonight – sweetcorn is one of those vegetables that gradually gets less sweet, so time is of the essence. I’m not going to do anything fancy, just boil them and slather them with a bit of hot sauce.

Also received this week: bananas, plums, apples, grapes, a lemon, a red pepper, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, onions.

No need for a veg box this week – home grown goodies from Mum

27 Aug

Wednesday is normally my veg box day, but I went to see my parents at the weekend and came home with this gorgeous back of fresh veggies! Going to visit my Mum’s allotment was one of the highlights of my weekend, she puts an awful lot of work into it but gets so much back in return. It’s not just the veg (although as I’ve said before about a million times that you can’t beat home grown), but the community and the satisfaction of putting love and effort into something and being rewarded. I don’t have a garden but don’t have the time for an allotment either, I am more than a little envious.

Anyway, my Mum said “lets just pop over to the allotment and pick a couple of bits for you to take back with you” and I ended up with all of this. We picked:

A massive bundle of beans. I think it’s going to be beans with everything for the foreseeable future.

Three different sorts of courgette – yellow, green, and round. The round courgette was more like a ball of marrow than a courgette. I cut it in half, scooped out the seeds, stuffed it with felafel mix, and baked it.

A butternut squash. It’s still very under-ripe, but after a few weeks of sitting on a window ledge (sunny, but not in direct sunlight) it will be ready to go. I love squashes and I’m really looking forward to them being in season. My Mum is also growing massive pumpkins, so hopefully I’ll have one of those soon as well.

Some long peppers. She broke one of the “rules” of vegetable gardening and planted some seeds out of a supermarket pepper. It’s a bit risky because the seeds might not be fertile, or might produce peppers completely different from the parent plant, but luckily it did work and they’re absolutely beautiful, really fruity and with a much more interesting flavour than peppers from a shop.

A box of tomatoes. As you can probably see, they got a bit squashed in transit (I’m a public transport girl), but it didn’t matter because I decided on the journey to turn them into a bit batch of tomato sauce, after I spotted this recipe from JB at frugalfinefreshfood.com. The sauce was delicious, somehow both fresh and rich at the same time. We had some over the felafel-stuffed courgette, and I’m about to reheat the rest to serve with some pasta, veg, and tofu.

She also gave me a couple of bulbs of garlic, not freshly picked but definitely home grown.

Product review – Oatly oat drink

13 Aug

Oatly, the Swedish brand of oat milk, has recently rebranded. Their previously bland, generic packaging has been replaced by a quirky design that proudly shows off their ethical standpoint and the health benefits of oats, as well as their reduced environmental impact. The carton explains how they chose to use oats because they’re “tall and strong and full of goodness” to make a drink that is “like milk but made for humans”. Their independent, principled personality really comes across and that’s something to be admired.

But enough of that, what is Oatly actually like? It might sound a little strange but trust me, it’s lovely! It tastes like the milk that’s left in your bowl after eating muesli, it’s not chalky or porridgey at all. It can be used exactly the same as milk from cows. It’s delicious in a glass with some biscuits dunked in it. It’s perfect for cereal, obviously it’s particularly good for muesli or granola, and it’s Mr Veg’s favourite milk for making porridge.

Oatly really comes into its own when used in cooking or baking, working better than any other non-dairy milk I’ve tried. The flavour is mild enough that it doesn’t dominate the dish, you don’t have to worry about your cakes or sauces tasting of oats (unless you want them to of course). What’s more, Oatly is very stable, doesn’t split, and does a really great job of making things thick and creamy – I can only assume that this is something to do with the soluble fibre content.

As well as regular and organic Oatly, you can also buy chocolate Oatly, which is absolutely divine! As with plain Oatly, you can drink it straight or use it for cereal, porridge, or baking. You can also use it to make a luxurious thick milkshake by blending it with a frozen banana or, if you’re feeling less virtuous, a big scoop of dairy-free ice cream. Delish!

All non-dairy milks have their pluses and minuses, some work much better than others depending on what you’re using it for. The only disadvantage I’ve discovered about Oatly is that it doesn’t work as well in tea and coffee as some other plant milks. The taste is fine, but it separates slightly and tends to leave a strange residue in the bottom of the cup. Still, I think its many advantages outweigh this, and I would definitely recommend you give it a try.

What better way to demonstrate Oatly in cooking than to make some basic white sauce. It tastes the same as the real thing, and is just as thick and creamy, but without having to get any cows involved. My favourite use for white sauce is a good old-fashioned lasagne. The recipe I’ve given here is basic because I wanted to showcase the white sauce, but you could tuck extra veggies between the layers, or jazz up the red sauce with chillies or sun-dried tomatoes or whatever you fancy. I don’t particularly like vegan cheese so I topped mine with breadcrumbs instead, but you could use vegan cheese or ground cashews if you prefer.

Recipe – classic vegan lasagne (serves 2)

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 200g vegan mince
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 20g non-dairy margarine
  • 20g plain flour
  • 300ml Oatly
  • 4-6 sheets egg-free lasagne
  • 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the red sauce, fry the onion in the oil over a medium heat until translucent and starting to colour, about 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for a further minute or so without colouring. Add the mince, tomatoes, tomato puree, and oregano, then leave to simmer while you make the white sauce.

For the white sauce, melt the margarine in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Add the flour and cook for a further couple of minutes. Add the Oatly very slowly, stirring all the time until you have a smooth sauce. Let it simmer for a couple of minutes until it’s nice and thick.

Season both sauces to your liking and remove from the heat.

Now to the fun part – building the lasagne. Spread one third of the red sauce over the bottom of your lasagne dish (you might notice in the photo that I use a loaf tin – it’s the perfect size and shape), cover with a layer of lasagne sheets, then spread one third of the white sauce over the top of that. Repeat two more times until you have used everything, ending in a layer of white sauce. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and more dried herbs over the top.

Bake in the oven at 200°C for 30-40 minutes, until light brown on top. Leave to stand for 5-10 minutes before serving – it will be easier to dish up whole slices that way. Serve with plenty of garlic bread.

Disclaimer: I have been asked to write this post by Oatly but as with all of the posts on my blog all opinions are my own. For more information on Oatly please see their website: http://www.oatly.com/.

In my veg box this week – sorrel, kohlrabi, tomatoes

9 Aug

Sorrel
The bag was unlabelled so I had to try a little bit just to double check what the leaves were. I’m glad I only tasted a tiny bit because it’s really strong on its own, kind of like incredibly lemony spinach. It can give a mixed leaf salad a lovely tang, or can be used in cooking to liven things up.  I’ve used some to make some courgette and sorrel soup. To feed 2-3 people, dice a small onion and a small potato and sweat over a low heat with a bit of oil in a covered saucepan for five minutes; add a couple of crushed cloves of garlic and about 500g sliced courgettes and sweat for another five minutes; add 500ml vegetable stock and simmer for 10 minutes; throw in 25g sorrel then blend; taste for seasoning and serve. With the rest, I think I’m going to experiment with sorrel pesto, if it goes well it will end up here on the blog.

Kohlrabi
Looks like a cross between a vegetable and an alien space craft, tastes like a cross between broccoli stems and turnip. Smaller ones can be sliced or grated for a salad, but this is a bit of a monster so it will need to be peeled and cooked. At other times of year I might roast it or use it in a potato gratin, but it’s summer and I can’t face stodgy food so it will either end up in pesto pasta with mixed veggies, or in a spicy stir fry.

Regular tomatoes and cherry tomatoes
Another favourite glut of the summer, tomatoes are something I don’t mind getting tonnes of because I can happily put them in anything. At this time of year they’re sweet and full of flavour, and they smell of summer. For tomato scrambled tofu for 1-2 people, fry a couple of tomatoes over a medium-high heat for a couple of minutes; add 200g crumbled tofu and fry for a couple more minutes; add a tablespoon of roughly chopped basil, a splash of lemon juice, half a teaspoon of black or regular salt, and a tablespoon of nutritional yeast flakes; serve on toast or as part of a big veggie fry-up.

Also received this week: courgettes, carrots, new potatoes, broad beans, green and yellow French beans, garlic, bananas, pears, grapes, greengages.

“In my veg box this week…” is not intended as a product review, simply a description of some of the fruit and vegetables that are in season and what I like to do with them. I pay full price for my vegetable box and have no affiliation with the company that delivers them or any of their suppliers.

BBQ pitta bread

2 Aug

This is really just my basic recipe for anything bready, you can also use it to make breadsticks, naan breads to mop up your curry, or a base for your home-made pizza. We were having a barbecue one day and didn’t have any bread in the house, so I decided to try making some flatbreads directly on the grill, just to see how they’d come out. Amazingly they puffed up just like pittas, so we stuffed them with hummus and grilled veggies and they were absolutely delicious. You have to try this next time you have a barbecue!

Recipe (makes eight decent-sized pittas, enough for four hungry people):

  • 300ml warm water
  • 1 teaspoon dried yeast
  • 1 teaspoon any kind of sugar
  • 250g bread flour (I prefer to use brown)
  • 250g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • A handful of semolina or polenta

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the water in a large bowl and leave to activate. After 10 minutes or so it should have a layer of foam on top, once this appears, mix it into the flours, oil and salt. Knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Put the dough back in the bowl and cover with cling film or a damp tea towel. Leave to rise until doubled in size, about an hour.

Knead the dough for another couple of minutes, then divide into eight pieces. Scatter a handful of semolina or polenta on a large tray. On a floured surface and with a floured rolling pin, roll a piece out into a circle about 15cm across then put it on the tray. Repeat with the rest of the dough. If there’s not enough room on your tray to comfortably fit all of the pittas it’s ok to overlap them as long as you scatter some more semolina or polenta on each one – it should stop them sticking together. Let the pittas rise for half an hour or so while you light the barbecue and get the rest of your food ready.

To cook a pitta, put it straight on the hot grill. Let it cook until it has completely puffed up all over, this should take less than five minutes. Flip over and cook for another two minutes, until nicely browned on both sides. Split, stuff, and enjoy!

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