Posts Tagged ‘food’

Veganic Farming

When it comes to agriculture, arguably the biggest buzzword of the last decade has been ‘organic’.

With the huge expansion in organic farming, organically grown crops no longer need to be sought out at specialised farmers markets or stores, and it’s now commonplace to walk into your local supermarket and alongside every vegetable comes its organic counterpart.

However, the word ‘organic’ has, to some extent, become a victim of its own success. With the huge hype around organic, people often choose to buy organic food (and now clothing) with little understanding of what that actually means other than ‘it’s a better option’.

There is a distinct irony in this: the modern organic movement originated in, essentially, a desire to reconnect with food – food that, over the last century, had become pumped full of chemicals and sprayed with pesticides and fertilisers. When I head to aisle 6 of 54 in my local supermarket to buy a pack of organic tomatoes that have been flown over from Portugal, I could not feel more disconnected from the food that I am buying.

This sense of reconnecting with food on a more personal level is not unfamiliar to vegans. Vegans often talk of the bizarre nature of food shopping today. It’s something we have all experienced – that walk down the meat aisle in a supermarket and the realisation that every piece of cellophane-wrapped piece of flesh around you used to be a part of an animal is a bewildering experience.

Omnivores feel it too – for many that is the very start of their journey towards vegetarianism. It’s that point where you reconnect.

Vegan organic/veganic/stockfree organic farming is a sub-movement within the organic food movement. It aims to reestablish that connection with nature and food once again. Organic food is supposed to be clean – veganic farming therefore sticks to the principles of avoiding pesticide and chemical fertiliser usage.

However, it takes this a step further. Veganic farm disallows the use of any animal byproducts whatsoever. Typical organic fertilisers include animal waste (manure and urea), other animal byproducts such as eggshells, blood, bone, and even animal remains.

The use of such products is abhorrent to both vegans and supporters of a true organic food movement.

The former, for obvious reasons – animal byproducts are a no-go. Most larger scale organic farming operations will purchase the aforementioned animal fertilisers from slaughterhouses, which sell them as a byproduct.

As for the organic food movement, supporters of this should be concerned based on the sheer levels of hormones and steroids which are fed to these animals. These chemicals are rife within their byproducts, and thus are part of so-called ‘organic’ farms.

VeganOrganic.net is a UK-based charity supporting veganic farmers and their practices

Veganic farming utilises various other methods for its fertilisation.

‘Green manures’ are methods of developing the soil without animal waste. One such example is the growth of cloves and leguminous crops to positively affect the nitrogen content of the soil prior to other crops being grown in it.

The entire system of a veganic farm is finely tuned but effective. When the system is in place, crops thrive. There isn’t even a need for pesticides of any kind, as crops include flowers which provide a rich ecosystem to control pests.

This in turn also provides complete sustainability. Thus, the system is inherently linked to the green movement. The farmers are not having to rely on external requirements such as fertiliser from animals for crop growth (animals which are an integral part to a farming system which is hugely damaging to the environment). By keeping this finely tuned machine running, and using the land to maximum efficiency, crop yields from veganic farms are large and varied.

One Degree are one of the companies supporting the rise of veganic farming in the US. Citing the lack of transparency in the modern food chain, and the lack of guarantee that ‘organic’ necessarily means healthy food anymore, they ensure that every supplier that creates their foods uses veganic farming methods.

They get to know every farmer who works for them and the history of their farms. They ensure that their core values match the farmer’s, and that they know how every product has been grown and by whom. They trust every farmer who works for them.

And when it comes to the people who grow the food that you eat everyday, surely it makes sense to want to trust them too?

For a little more insight into one of those farms, check out Don Hlaydich in this video.

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Curried Mock Duck

It’s been a while since we posted a recipe post and so I thought I’d kick start the posts with a simple yet delish dish. This recipe is so quick and easy you could do it with your eyes closed. I first discovered it on a new app I got for my phone called ‘Veg Web’ and it’s becoming a firm favourite in my repertoire. Try it out for yourself – you won’t be disappointed.

What you need:

1 1/2 Cups of basmati rice

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 cups of vegetable broth (or veggie stock!)

1/2 head of shredded cabbage

2 Onions, sliced

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

3 (10 ounce) cans of mock duck, sliced

1/2 can coconut milk

2 tablespoons of curry powder

1/4 soy sauce

How you do it:

1. In a saucepan heat 2 tablespoons of oil and add the basmati rice. Cook until light brown (be careful not to burn it- no one likes crusty rice!) Add the vegetable broth/ stock and cook until done. Approx. 15-20 minutes.

2. In a large pan, heat the remainder of the oil. Add the shredded cabbage and the onions and saute for around 3-5 minutes until slightly brown. Add the garlic and saute for approx. 1 minute.

3. Add the mock duck, curry powder, and coconut milk and cook on high until thickened.

4. Stir in the soy sauce and serve over rice.

And that’s it! I was surprised myself as to how simple yet tasty this was. I cooked up a batch and kept it covered in the fridge and took it to work for a few days for lunch.

Vegan Portobello Stroganoff

I’ve always wanted to try out a vegan stroganoff and so the other day I decided I would finally get round to doing it. I looked around at a couple of recipes but in the end I opted to try out Isa’s recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance seeing as I’ve always had so much success with her recipes in the past. I stupidly forgot to pick up some rice for this dish when I was out shopping for the ingredients, but I did have some potatoes so I decided to stray away from the norm and served this up with a nice jacket potato that had been slowly cooking in the oven. And I must say I was not disappointed with the results.

Her actual recipe calls for ‘seitan’, however, I haven’t been able to make any of this myself yet as I have yet to get a hold of some vital wheat gluten so instead I just used mushrooms for the first batch (the ones I have photographed) but for the second batch I added some fry’s beef style pieces which took this dish to a whole new level of tastiness and according to my dad (who isn’t vegan or even vegetarian) it was just as good as the real deal. So if that isn’t reason enough to try this one out for yourself I don’t know what is!

.::What you need:

2 tablespoons of cornflour (or arrowroot powder)

475ml/ 16fl oz vegetable stock (or cold water)

2 teaspoons olive oil

6 shallots, thinly sliced

1 large onion, finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

150g/ 5oz thinly sliced mushrooms

2 portobello caps, thinly sliced (if like mine yours came in a pack of 4 here’s an idea what to do with the left overs!)

2 tablespoons of fresh thyme, chopped

2 teaspoons of salt

250ml/ 8fl oz red wine (make sure it’s vegan! If in doubt and you come from the UK Marks and Spencers have a very nice selection of vegan wines!)

1 tablespoon paprika

8 tablespoons of nutritional yeast

120ml/4fl oz plain soy milk

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

115g/ 4oz frozen peas

4 potatoes for jackets! (This recipe serves four, however, it keeps pretty well in the fridge so I popped the leftovers in a container and just heated it up a couple of days later, adding the fry’s beef style pieces. I actually think the sauce tasted a little better than it did the first time round for reason! Worth keeping in mind!) If you are going to try out potatoes, if possible try cooking them slowly in the oven. This usually takes around an hour depending on how big your potatoes are, if you have the time it’s definitely worth it because they end up nice and crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. However, to save some time, cook the potatoes in the microwave for around 5-7minutes and then pop in the oven for 5-10 minutes prior to serving. Feel free however, to just use rice or even noodles as Isa does in the book!

step one: prepare the potatoes, as above, or prepare rice/ noodles according to packets instructions.

step two: Dissolve the cornflour (or arrowroot) in the stock (or water); set aside.

step three: Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and the onions, sauté for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and both types of mushrooms, and the thyme. Sauté for 15 minutes.

(step three and half: if you’re using seitan or beef style pieces, heat up a pan around now and cook in some frying oil)

step four: Add the salt, wine, and paprika. Turn up the heat to high to reduce the liquid, about 10 minutes.

step five: Lower the heat to medium-high, add the cornflour (or arrowroot) mixture, stir well, and let the sauce thicken for about 5 minutes. Add the nutritional yeast and mix well until it is dissolved. Add the soy milk and the mustard and bring the heat down to low; be careful not to let the it boil now because it can make it taste bitter. Add the peas, (and the seitan or beef pieces if using!) and cook for a further 10 minutes.

step six: Serve and enjoy!

Vegan Phad Thai

O.k. so this is not strictly speaking a ‘traditional phad thai’ recipe but nonetheless it’s still seriously tasty! It’s so good in fact my none vegan friends and relatives are forever asking me to cook it for them and I myself eat this pretty much all the time. Not only that but it’s so easy to make and doesn’t take long at all, nor does it require any particular skill in the kitchen. Another great thing about this recipe for me is that I can use whatever vegetables I happen to have in at that moment, and the ingredients for the sauce are stuff I always keep in my cupboard so this is literally my go too recipe when I just want something simple but tasty. I have adapted this recipe from a little vegan cook book called ‘Vegan with a Vengeance’ which, if you haven’t already, you MUST check out!

.::What you need:

450g/ 1lb rice noodles

4 tablespoons of groundnut oil (note: this recipe serves 4 so if your wok is quite small you may want to fry the ingredients in two smaller batches, in which case you will need 6 tablespoons. The frying part only takes 3-4 minutes so every one can still eat together!)

1 block of tofu, drained and pressed and cut into small triangles (or if you can get hold of them some pre-marinaded tofu pieces. I usually use Cauldron’s tofu pieces if I can’t be bothered to wait a half an hour whilst my tofu drains!)

1 medium sized red onion, chopped into strips

1 pepper, chopped into strips (the colour of it is up to you!)

1 courgette, cubed (or zucchini if you’re American!)

– Some asparagus tips, halved

– A handful of mushrooms, chopped

8 spring onions, sliced

1 pak choi

For the sauce:

6 tablespoons of tamari (or soy sauce if you don’t have tamari)

3 tablespoons of agave (or 6 tablespoons of sugar)

2 tablespoons of chilli sauce or hot sauce (I like my spice so I usually put in a little more, but go with your gut!)

2 tablespoons of sun dried tomato paste (or tomato purée)

3 tablespoons of lime juice (or lemon)

3 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar

Sprinkling of chilli flakes

step 1: Prepare the rice noodles according to the directions on the packet (unless you’re using the straight-to-wok option which is great for the washing the up!)

Step 2: Mix together the ingredients for the sauce

step 3: Preheat a large wok or frying pan over a medium to high heat. Pour two tablespoons of oil in the pan and heat. Add the tofu. Stir fry for about 4 to 5 minutes until crispy. Remove and place on a piece of kitchen towel.

step 4: (if you’re frying in batches remember to half these ingredients!)  Pour two tablespoons of oil into the pan. Add the onion and stir fry for around 30 seconds. Add the rest of the veggies and stir fry for another 30 seconds to a minute (depending on how crisp you like them!). Add the sauce. As soon as the sauce bubbles (which should be more or less straight away) add the noodles. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the tofu, spring onions and pak choi. Stir fry for another 30 seconds.

step 5: serve and enjoy!

Goodbye Red Veg – A review

Welcome to the Vegan Critic section! This is a new category, although considering how many tasty vegan eateries I check out I’m sure it’ll become popular. Basically, this is restaurant reviews from a vegan perspective. And I don’t just mean vegan/vegetarian only restaurants – anywhere that we deem suitable for vegans to eat in (such as pizza restaurants who are happy to dodge the cheese, or burger restaurants whose veggie options are incidentally vegan) will be liable to a grilling (haw haw haw, cue a joke about vegans and grilling meat or something). Anyway, I have literally no experience as a restaurant critic, and maybe I’ll read up on typical styles for critics at some point, but for now I’ll judge restaurants on a variety of standards including (but not limited to): food (obviously), availability and variety of vegan options/willingness of staff to sort out vegan options, price, and atmosphere (including staff’s attitudes). It should be noted that I live in Brighton UK, which is a very vegan friendly city, and so if I review any chain restaurants citing that they gave me a great and understanding service and you live in Steakville, Meatland and find that the staff just stare blankly at you when you mention being vegan then it may be because of that.

Anyway, the first restaurant I want to review is the benchmark of vegetarian cuisine to me, and has been a staple part of my diet for over 6 years now. I am talking about Red Veg, Brighton’s vegetarian/vegan answer to McDonald’s and Burger King. I heard news today that Red Veg will be closing its doors as of next week though, so don’t get too excited about ever trying it if you haven’t before. A little part of me died when I heard this, but let me honour Red Veg and all the delicious food it’s served me over the years with a final review, kicking off our Vegan Critic section. I’m aware that generally restaurant critics base their experiences on one meal, but I’ve eaten at Red Veg probably in excess of 100 times, so I can’t really do that. But whatever, here we go.

I’ve heard stories of people travelling from all over the country to get hold of some Red Veg food. One guy apparently zipped down on his motorbike from London during his lunchbreak to satisfy that Red Veg craving that’s become very familiar to me.

The restaurant, for many, is one of the highlights of Brighton. It serves up traditional fast food – burgers, hot dogs, onion rings, fries, cokes, and falafel wraps. In the time that it’s been going I can safely say I’ve tried everything on the menu at least once, and never have I felt let down. Particular highlights from a vegan standpoint are the Chilli Veg burger (a standard burger with a bit of a spicy kick in a wholemeal bun, with plenty of salad filler and vegan mayo) and the hot dog, particularly when it comes with fried onions and a load of ketchup and mustard. Everything is absolutely delicious, and I don’t think I’ve ever waited for longer than 10 minutes for my meal to come out (and it’s always hot). I’ve converted several meat eating friends to Red Veg, many claiming it tastes better than a beefburger yet feels far less greasy. The variety of drinks on offer is always nice to, with Red Veg stocking ethical companies such as Whole Earth and their variety of soft drinks. If you’re not full from the meal, there’s usually a tasty slice of vegan cake on offer at just over £1.

Speaking of money, the food is incredibly well priced too, matching most fast food chains. Whenever I’ve been with wrosie, we tend to spend about £12 and get large fries, onion rings, two burgers and two drinks, which is definitely fantastic value for money.

The atmosphere is also great in Red Veg. The staff are friendly and helpful, and will always offer extras to go with your food when they’re available. It always feels very relaxed and chilled-out, with the speakers usually playing some underground hip-hop and the walls are covered in posters of events coming up in and around the city. This may sound clastrophobic but it’s actually pretty nice and gives you something cool to look at. Several gigs I’ve been to I wouldn’t have even realised were on were it not for Red Veg, and I even got my Christmas tree this year from a guy who was advertising in there. Speaking of stuff to look at, it’s in a very nice location in the centre of Brighton’s North Lanes, meaning there’s always some quirky looking people to watch wandering down the street. The only problem with Red Veg‘s atmosphere is that it can sometimes get very busy and you may have to wait for a seat to free up, but this isn’t a bad thing, just a sign of their success.

Overall, I’ll be gutted to see Red Veg go. Like I said before, to me it is the highest standard of vegetarian eating. It’s by no means fine-dining but for £6-7 per meal it’s unbeatable. Based on their food alone, Red Veg is 10 out of 10 eating, and Brighton won’t quite be the same without it.

The easy Vegan’s guide to the perfect Mac ‘n’ Cheese!

Being vegan is the best thing I ever decided to do. But sometimes I get this pesky little craving for good old fashioned mac and cheese and it just won’t go away. So I trawled the interweb and came across a couple of recipes, most using this thing called ‘nutritional yeast’. Now, I have heard of this curious little product before and have always wanted to try it but I couldn’t seem to find it anywhere. I had looked in my health food store but I had always come back empty handed, unable to successfully locate it. But I now find that this was down to my eyes, as they say, ‘being painted on’, as whilst browsing the array of vegan mayonnaise on offer I turned around and what did I stumble on? Yup, nutritional yeast. It had been there all along, hiding from me. I was literally so happy I pretty much ran home with my find and started on the task at hand: satisfying my ever growing cravings for mac and cheese! I must say I wasn’t disappointed with the results. This was literally the best mac and cheese I have had in my life. Ever. I couldn’t get enough of it and neither could dear old flouncel. We made tonnes of the stuff, hoping that it would last a couple of days, but it’s so tasty that you’ll be lucky if it lasts the evening let alone, being able to have any for lunch the next day! But it takes less than half an hour to make so it won’t take long to whip up some more!

Without further ado::.

Ingredients:

700g (1.5lbs) pasta, preferably macaroni but feel free to just get your favourite shape of pasta!

for the sauce:

350ml (1.5 cups) unsweetened nondairy milk

65g (1.5 cups) nutritional yeast

250ml (1 cup) vegetable oil (or canola/ rapeseed oil)

250ml (1 cup)water

80ml (1/3 cup) tamari or soy sauce

1 block of firm tofu (not silken!)

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon paprika

1 tablespoon salt

1 dollop mustard (optional, but I highly recommend using it!)

The method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C or 350°F or gas mark 4. Boil some water in a pan and add the pasta. Cook according to packet’s instructions.

2. Add all the sauce ingredients together in a blender and blend until smooth.

3. Drain the pasta and put in a large baking tray. Pour the sauce over the top and whack it in the oven for around 15 minutes or until the top is a lovely golden brown and your kitchen smells deliciously cheesy (for the first time in years!)

4. Serve and enjoy!

**EXTRAS**

The great thing about this recipe is the potential to go crazy with it! It’s just so versatile. Remember recipes are only the beginning of exciting culinary adventures don’t follow them mercilessly like sheep. Be adventurous and have some fun with it!

-Why not try adding a few sprinkles of fake parmesan on top

-Add in some peas or green beans or indeed any other green veggies of your choice!

-If you’re worried about the amount of oil, try using a bit less and substitute a little vegan margarine

-I don’t always like adding salt to my recipes so if you’re the same there’s no harm in adding less or even omitting it completely

-Add some bread crumbs on the top. Makes for a crisper topping! 🙂

-You could also use this sauce on top of cauliflower to make a delicious cauliflower cheese side dish! Perfect for those Roast dinners!

All in all, this makes for a fabulously cheesey dish to help keep those cheese cravings in check and I’m sure you’ll love it just as much as we do!

Spaghetti tofu balls

This dish is great for everyone and the tofu balls are a fun addition to  plain old spaghetti. A great substitute if you’re bored of soy mince. Nicely served with a fruity red vegan wine!

.::What you will need:

-250g/90z firm tofu, drained (see:the taming of the tofu (not shrew))

-1 onion, coarsely chopped

-2 garlic cloves, crushed

-5ml/1 tsp wholegrain mustard

-15ml/1 tbsp ground cumin

-1 small bunch of parsley, finely chopped

-15ml/ 1tbsp tamari or soy sauce (which ever you prefer but if you go with the tamari use slightly less)

-50g/2oz/half cup ground almonds

-30ml/2 tbsp olive oil

350g/12oz spaghetti

sea salt and ground black pepper

basil for garnish

.::for the sauce

-15ml/1 tbsp olive oil

-1 large onion, finely chopped

-2 garlic cloves, chopped

-1 large aubergine (or eggplant if you’re in the USA!), diced

-2 courgettes (or zucchini), diced

-1 red (bell) pepper, seeded and finely chopped

-15ml/1 tbsp agave syrup

-400g/14oz can chopped tomatoes

-200ml/7fl oz/1 cup vegetable stock

-1 tbsp sun dried tomato paste (optional)

Step one, make the tofu balls: Tear up the drained tofu into little pieces then place this along with the grated onion, crushed garlic, mustard, ground cumin, chopped parsley, soy sauce, and ground almonds into a bowl. Season to taste and mix thoroughly. Roll up your sleeves and start rolling the mixture into walnut sized balls, squishing the mixture with your hands.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan, then add the tofu balls (I would recommend trying out a couple of the balls first, our first attempt was rather a failure to say the least (see picture!) But, as you can see, we soon got the hang of it!).

Cook gently, turning them occasionally until brown all over. Remove from pan and set aside on some kitchen roll.

Step two, prepare the sauce: Heat the remaining oil in the same pan. Add the onion, and garlic and cook for 5 minutes until softened.

Add the aubergine, courgette, pepper, and agave syrup, and stir fry for around 10 minutes until vegetables begin to brown and have softened (as my handy assistant is doing in the photo to your left!) Season to taste.

Stir in the tomatoes  and stock (and sun dried tomato paste if using). Cover the mixture and simmer for about 20minutes or until sauce has thickened. Just before the end of cooking time add the tofu balls to the mix to heat through for about 2-3 minutes.

Meanwhile cook the pasta in a large pan of slightly salted, boiling water according to packet’s instructions.

Serve, garnished with basil.

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