Thursday, June 30, 2016

20 vegan friendly (and everybody friendly) picnic ideas

The first week of English summer has not been very summery. I know this sounds like a stereotypical British claim, but we really have had some remarkably wet and stormy days, complete with associated rail and road disruptions. Before summer, though, Mr Bite and I took advantage of sunny spring weather to have some low key picnics in nearby parks and nature reserves.

My recent picnic efforts have been simple - usually rolls with hummus and salad, plus some accompanying items like biscuits or fruit. However, I idly searched 'picnic ideas' online the other day and was impressed by the variety of options I found. So, I thought I'd share a round-up inspiration post. If it's summery where you are, take advantage of it. If it isn't? You can always embrace picnics in cars, under shelters, or on the floor in your living room...

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Vegan Life Magazine, issues 16 and 17 (June and July 2016)

I receive complimentary digital copies of Vegan Life, which allows me to post reviews with screenshots included. My reflections on the magazine are entirely my own.

I'm sharing highlights from the last two editions of Vegan Life today. However, I also can't resist some comment on the UK's referendum on membership of the European Union. I don't usually veer into politics and intend to keep that trend, but am hugely saddened by the leave result that came in on Friday morning. Like many of us who voted to remain (and, it turns out, many who voted to leave) I am also shocked that the outcome went that way. Reading news reports over the weekend, I confess to a fair dose of anger as well. If the reports are to be believed, there are a fair few people who admit to voting leave "because I didn't think it would happen" and an even larger number who now regret or doubt their leave vote. It would seem wise to think one's vote through before voting, but clearly that is a lesson learnt too late for some.

Anyway, moving on! As always, Vegan Life provides a great collection of stories, recipes and product revelations. The June edition also had an interesting report on the increased number of vegans in Britain and their demographic characteristics. There are more female vegans than male, many more in urban areas than in rural, and a bias towards Masters or PhD level qualifications. Interestingly, you are also less likely to be married or have children if you are vegan - whether by choice or not is unclear.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Spiced satay pineapple beans in sweet potato

With our weekly pizza making and love of tinned pineapple on pizza, we regularly have leftover pineapple in the fridge. It can end up in smoothies, on cereal, in baking, or just eaten plain. Occasionally it ends up in stir fries. Last week, it inspired this meal.

This is one of those simple dishes that barely constitutes a recipe. You can make it with store cupboard staples (presuming your staples are like mine and include tinned beans, pineapple, peanut butter and spices) and it takes all of 5 minutes to throw together. The bean mix could top a regular jacket potato instead of sweet potato, or be paired with rice or couscous or quinoa. It does work brilliantly with sweet potato though.

I served this with asparagus which is in season here at the moment. Asparagus isn't my favourite vegetable, but I do take pleasure in eating it in season when the flavours are at their peak.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

We Should Cocoa chocolate malt challenge: Vegan chocolate malt pie

This month, Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe is hosting the We Should Cocoa challenge. This is a long running link-up (70 months to date!) centrally organised by Choclette of Tin and Thyme. I haven't participated before but was drawn in by Johanna's theme: chocolate recipes that also feature malt. Reading the theme made me realise that I'd not had malty products since turning vegan - clearly something to be rectified.

After doing a bit of research, I was delighted to discover you can get vegan malt powder - and indeed, malt powder per se is vegan. It is the added milk powder that renders commercial malt drinks (like Horlicks and Milo) non-vegan. I was less delighted by the difficulties I had sourcing any malt powder, even in London with Whole Foods as an option. You can order it online but I opted to skip that and use malt syrup for my recipe instead. This was also fun to discover and reminds me a bit of molasses...but is maltier. It's quite readily available in health food stores in the UK.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Vegan pizza with tahini, mint, sriracha and kale

I've mentioned previously that we regularly make pizza for dinner. However, I've never actually shared a full savoury pizza recipe (I have shared a dessert one). There are two main reasons for this. One is that I use a base recipe only loosely adapted from Kate's on No Meat and Three Veg, and it didn't seem necessary or appropriate to re-post it. The other is that I generally use the same toppings, and they aren't that exciting: tomato paste, dried oregano, spinach or kale leaves, pepper, tomatoes and pineapple. Sometimes I use hummus instead of tomato paste, and sometimes I add nutritional yeast. So far, so standard.

This pizza was a bit more adventurous and so I am taking the opportunity to share the recipe with you. To be honest, even as I made it I wasn't confident that it would work out. I was sure about the tahini, and even the sriracha, but mint on a pizza? It wasn't something I'd come across and I was prepared to regret my whim to use it. Fortunately, the combination was delicious and I can now attest that mint on pizza is excellent! I will definitely be adding these toppings to my pizza rotation.

I tend to make pizza base in a quantity that gives 4 individual pizzas. Mr Bite and I each have one for dinner, and then another slightly smaller one for lunch the next day. We have his and hers toppings (albeit with lots of overlap) and I am sure many households would do the same. Thus, I list the pizza base ingredients to make a quantity of 4 bases, but then give the toppings for this particular recipe with a guide to what you need per pizza. Whilst the tahini, mint and srirarcha components are essential for this version, feel free to vary the vegetable toppings to suit what you have to hand.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Two years in the UK - a celebratory day trip to Lewes and Brighton

Today marks 2 years since we flew into London from Australia. In many ways, it feels like much longer. The last year has been particularly eventful - we moved out of London to Kent, bought a car, and consequently made it from almost the bottom of the UK (Cornwall) to the top (Scotland), as well as seeing lots of places in between. I smiled when I re-read my post from last June on 'One year in London'. I spoke then about adjusting to life in a one-bed flat without a car, and it is safe to say we have since adjusted out again to life with more space and driving. Overall, I would also say that we are very settled now into life in the UK.

Lewes Castle

To mark the 2 years since our move, we ventured south yesterday to Lewes and Brighton, both in Sussex. I don't think I'd ever been to Lewes before and we were both impressed by the town, which is dominated by an impressive castle (above and below) and has a mix of attractive streets and parks.

Lewes Castle

Whilst Brighton is a hot-bed of vegan food, I knew we would struggle to get there for lunch and so directed us to Laportes in Lewes instead. Laportes is a cafe and food store with an emphasis on fresh, local, organic produce. They aren't specifically vegan or gluten-free but cater to both of those requirements if required. They also have an attractive garden at the rear of the cafe for outdoor eating when the weather permits.

Laportes lunches

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Carrot cake ice cream (the simple version)

In January 2014, I shared a recipe for carrot cake pudding or ice cream. I still love that recipe and highly recommend it to you. It features carrots (of course!), frozen banana and canned coconut milk, as well as optional but recommended maple syrup, vanilla, spices and desiccated coconut.

Today's recipe is similar but slightly streamlined. It's entirely appropriate for breakfast and, if you're like me, you'll always have the ingredients on hand (I don't always have coconut milk). Adding raisins to the carrots and bananas gave plenty of sweetness without extra syrup, and really boosted the carrot cake profile. Basically, I love this version too. I wanted to share it with you and record it for my future reference!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Spiced couscous salad with grilled portobello mushrooms

I'm still in my mushroom phase and have branched out from small button mushrooms to the larger portobello variety. Aren't they fun? One day we will have an outdoor barbecue and I'll grill them in style, but for now they are just as delicious cooked in an oven-based griller.

This simple meal pairs the grilled portobellos with an easy couscous salad. The combination worked very well, both in ease of making (the couscous cooks while the mushrooms grill) and in the resulting mix of flavours and textures.

I used paprika, onion and chilli powders to flavour the meal, along with a dash each of salt, pepper and sugar and some fresh mint leaves. The mint leaves were from our garden, which added to my enjoyment of them! I also added diced carrots and whole snow peas (mange tout) to the couscous. I loved the resulting mix but other vegetables would work well too if you have different things to hand.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

In my kitchen - June 2016

I am linking this in to the monthly In My Kitchen event, hosted by Maureen of The Orgasmic Chef.

It may mean something that I first titled this post "In my kitchen - April 2016". I knew we were in May, but my brain seems unable to grasp that we are moving forward and now mid-year. On the plus side, June brings the start of summer, beautifully long days, and the prospect of equally long days for at least another few months. As I write, it's cloudy rather than sunny, but then this is England...

With the (variable) warmer weather I have been eating more salad vegetables and fewer cooked ones. Mushrooms have been a particular fancy. In addition to eating them raw (as per above impromptu salad with kale and pineapple), I've been a bit obsessed with grilling them. I like them sprinkled with paprika and/or jerk spice seasoning.