Tuesday 21 July 2015

Recipe: Easy Vegan Pancakes

These American-style pancakes are a staple in our house: they take minutes to whip up from simple store cupboard ingredients, and they taste great. Perfect for a lazy weekend brunch. This recipe makes enough batter for 12 small pancakes or 8 much larger ones.

You will need:
1 cup plain flour (or you could use wholemeal, or a blend)
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 heaped tablespoon baking powder
A pinch of salt
1 cup soy milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1. On a medium heat on the stove-top, begin to heat a large, flat-bottomed frying pan. As long as it's non-stick, you shouldn't need any oil or butter to grease it.
2. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix together.
3. Make a well in the centre and add the soy milk and oil, a little at a time, using a fork or small whisk to bring the mixture together smoothly.
4. When the batter is smooth, spoon it into the pan, one pancake at a time.
5. When the pancake starts to bubble on top, use a spatula to flip it. Repeat until all pancakes are cooked.
6. Serve with fresh berries or sliced banana and syrup.

Tuesday 5 May 2015

New vegan options on the high street

Apologies for our long silence. With T working on his thesis to meet his PhD deadline, and J putting in 12 hour days at school, we've rather neglected this little corner of the internet.

What we haven't neglected, though, is some ace vegan food. Even when work shows no sign of letting up, going out to eat - or cooking at home - remain priorities. And so we were chuffed to bits to learn from Fat Gay Vegan that Pizza Express now offer a vegan, cheese-less, pizza. And, even better, if you take your own vegan cheese, their chefs will top your pizza with it. How ace is that?!

Of course, on discovering this we were straight down to our local branch for a date, and very impressed we were too.

Despite being a bit nervous that our proffered bag of cheese might be looked at askance, the staff were brilliant and knew exactly what we were talking about, which was impressive: too often, a company's website will say one thing but they won't have bothered communicating it to staff on the ground.

T went for the the dough balls as a starter, with a dipping sauce of olive oil and balsamic vinegar (rather than the standard, non-vegan garlic butter) and then tried the Pianta - the new cheese-free vegan pizza, which features spinach, mushrooms, pine nuts and artichoke on a spicy arrabbiata sauce - topped with the vegan cheese we'd brought. He was very impressed with the pizza - loaded with vegetables and topped with rocket leaves, it was tasty and filling. So, if you're looking for a quick and easy vegan option on the high street, you could do worse than try Pizza Express.

Wednesday 11 March 2015

A radical approach to eating lunch at Saltaire Canteen


On our visit to family this weekend, we stumbled upon a revolutionary new cafe in Saltaire, a lovely village to the north of Bradford (and a UNESCO World Heritage Site - I recommend a visit if you're ever in the area).

Saltaire Canteen opened on Victoria Street in 2014 with a mission to reduce food waste by using what they call 'intercepted' food: surplus food that would otherwise be thrown out by local supermarkets and food producers. The food is cooked on-site to provide an ever-changing menu (which was entirely vegetarian the day we visited), for which customers can then 'Pay As You Feel' after eating. In other words, pay what you can afford and what you think the meal was worth. Even better, if you can't afford to pay anything, you don't have to. As their mission statement says, "Spending time in a cafe, eating a good meal, watching the world go by, is a simple thing, but it's often outside the means of many people we live in community with." All profits are fed back into the parent company, Shipley Food Project, which runs the local foodbank and promotes healthy food initiatives in the area. Pretty awesome, right?

The food was great, too: I went for a simple Margarita Pizza (not vegan, sorry!) with salad while T had one of the two vegan options, vegetable hotpot with a sweet potato crust. Both were tasty and filling and the hotpot was packed with flavour. Eating a delicious lunch and supporting community initiatives in one fail swoop? Count me in!

Monday 2 March 2015

Recipe: Leek and ‘Bacon’ Quiche

Something new we’re trying in the Hungry Vegan kitchen is picking a recipe at random each week from one of the many vegan cookbooks we’ve got, trying it out and sharing the results (well, sharing a report of the results; the results themselves will be well and truly eaten by the time you read anything here).

To start with we picked an ackee quiche from Tony Weston and Yvonne Bishop’s The Vegan Diet Recipe Book. The name is a bit deceptive as it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with dieting, which is all good with us. It has quite a few delicious-looking recipes, a few with cheese-style sauces that we’re looking forward to, and some cakes and deserts.

J’s not exactly a fan of mixing sweet and savoury in dishes so we decided to alter the recipe a little and go for a traditional leek and bacon quiche instead of the ackee one, but used the same recipe, simply replacing the ackee with leek and bacon-style tofu pieces.

For the pastry you’ll need:
250g self-raising wholemeal flower
60ml rapeseed oil (we used standard sunflower oil)
60ml soya milk (make sure to use unsweetened)
A pinch of salt

For the filling:
3 tablespoons olive oil
100g mushrooms, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 medium-sized leek, halved lengthways and then sliced
125ml plain soya yoghurt (avoid the Alpro plain yoghurt if you can as they started adding a sweet flavour a few years ago for some reason)
2 teaspoons vegan bouillon (we used one stock cube crumbled)
1 teaspoon tomato purée
½ tablespoon Dijon mustard (the recipe in the book says 1 tablespoon but we thought this was a bit much)
1 large tomato, sliced

For the ‘bacon’:
About 100g of tofu
1 tablespoon syrup (we used golden syrup but maple syrup would work well)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon marmite (or yeast flakes)
A pinch of smoked paprika
½ tablespoon vegan smoky barbeque/grill sauce (a lot of recipes ask for liquid smoke which we couldn’t find in any of the shops we tried; if you can find this, add a couple of dashes instead of this sauce)

To garnish:
Sprigs of parsley
Pinch of smoked paprika

1. Mix the ‘bacon’ ingredients, apart from the tofu, in a dish. Slice the tofu in ½ cm slices and marinade in the mix for as long as you’ve got. If short on time like we were, fry them gently in the marinade with a little oil for twenty minutes or so. Just make sure the marinade doesn’t burn in the frying pan.
2. Oil a 20cm/8in pie dish. Preheat oven to gas mark 6/200 centigrade/400 Fahrenheit.
3. Mix the pastry ingredients in a bowl. Make sure it’s a nice, firm dough. If it’s too dry add equal measures of the oil and soya milk in small amounts until you’re happy with it.
4. After briefly kneading the dough, roll it out and line the oiled pie dish with it. Bake it in the oven like this for 5 minutes. This will help avoid a soggy bottom to the quiche.
5. For the filling, fry the onion, mushrooms and leek in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until everything’s soft.
6. Mix the yoghurt, mustard, tomato purée, bouillon powder and remaining olive oil together in a bowl.
7. Cut the tofu ‘bacon’ into small pieces (like bacon in a traditional quiche) and mix in with the onion, mushroom and leek mix. Put this inside the pie shell and spoon the yoghurt mixture over the top of it. Lay the sliced tomatoes over the top and bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
8. Garnish with the parsley and smoked paprika and serve with your favourite style of potatoes and veg (we went for boiled new potatoes and peas, the book recommends roasted sweet potatoes and salad).

The results
We were very satisfied with this recipe. The quiche was delicious: very creamy and rich in flavour, and a tasty wholemeal pie crust. All in all a success and something we'll definitely be having again. 

Sunday 22 February 2015

Lifestyle veganism and luxury politics

Beyonce recently launched a new campaign to promote veganism and make changing to a vegan diet easy. It involves signing up to having vegan (and healthy, and organic, and GMO-free, etc.) meals delivered to your door, ideally over a three week period consisting of three meals a day. The reasoning is that it takes 21 days to kick a habit, so the plan provides for your food needs for those 21 days. While there are several options available, from one meal a day and one week to the full three meals and three weeks, the most comprehensive option would cost around $600.

There’s a lot that’s troubling with campaigns like this, but I want to focus here on the class politics of it and how it works to exclude a great many from veganism being taken seriously as an alternative to meat and dairy production and consumption. Without wanting to disparage Beyonce (she’s a role model for many and I’m sure does a lot of good on those grounds, and anyway I would guess that her involvement is about as extensive as it is in her perfume line), promoting a food plan which would cost around $800 a month (extrapolated from $600 for three weeks) is, I think, very problematic.

Kale, the Beyonce of vegetables according to some. Image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kale#mediaviewer/File:Kale-Bundle.jpg

Average US salaries are estimated at around $3000 a month after tax. Minimum costs are estimated at around $1500 not including food, so on the average income a single adult could comfortable afford the $800 a month food bill. It’s still about $550 more than the minimum food bill but they could manage it. 

However, because of incredibly high incomes for the top earners in the country, the average wage and above only covers some 40% of the population, with the rest earning below $3000 a month. To be able to pay $800 a month on food, on top of minimal expenses on things like rent, transport and healthcare, a single person would need to earn around $2300, which still excludes 45% of the population.

On a federal minimum wage, which would bring in just $1200 a month and represents about 30% of the US population, $800 on food would be completely impossible. Add to this the fact that Hispanics and African Americans typically earn 28.5% and 22% less than white Americans respectively, and you can see how absurd an £800 a month food bill is for huge sections of the population. And this doesn’t even begin to consider families with childcare, education and added healthcare costs.

So while a vegan food plan like Beyonce’s might sound nice, it targets itself at an exclusive group of high earners and excludes huge numbers of Americans. If veganism is to become a realistic alternative it needs to be made just that, realistic, to people on low incomes. And it’s no good saying that incomes should be raised so that everyone can afford such a lifestyle. Of course incomes need to be raised, but that has to happen at the same time as food-related practices being made more sustainable and less damaging to animal life.

This is perhaps one of the biggest challenges in terms of promoting veganism as an alternative, with many vegan products clearly aimed, given the price, at a middle class lifestyle version of veganism rather than a politically radical one. Veganism can of course be very cheap (if you’re cooking everything yourself), but with much of the vegan-specific fayre priced out of the reach of large sections of the population it does send the wrong message and maintains food-related politics as a luxury few can afford.

Wednesday 28 January 2015

The Orange Tree, Leicester

The Orange Tree, on Leicester’s High Street, is one of the best places in the centre of town to get a bite to eat and have a drink. It’s owned by the same people as the Lansdowne and while it does have a lot in common with its sister pub (The O Bar in the West End is in the same small chain, which also has branches in Nottingham and Loughborough) it’s quite a bit more low-key and the décor is a bit more rough and ready, and all the better for it. It’s also got arguably the best and hardest music quiz in town; you’ll need a very broad but deep knowledge to stand a chance against the regulars.

The Orange Tree actually has a special place in our hearts: it was where we had our first date and we regularly return there of an evening.

In terms of food it doesn’t do quite as well as the Lansdowne but in the last year or so its menus (they change every season) have included at least one marked vegan option each time and the specials do sometimes include something vegan. While the food is generally very good quality and delicious, it does tend to suffer from the same problem as the Lansdowne in assuming, for some reason, that vegans only ever want very small portions.

The last meal I had there, one of the specials, was aubergine and chickpea köfte* with toasted flatbread and vegan yoghurt with mint (pictured). It was great, if a bit oily, but it really wasn’t that much, and when you’re paying more or less the same as the pretty generous meat options, that’s definitely a drawback.

The Orange Tree, like the Lansdowne, will remain a regular watering hole for us in Leicester, but I just wish they’d make the vegan options a bit more substantial.

*Interestingly, there’s currently a ban in Turkey on traditional çiğ köfte made using raw meat (at least at street stalls) and they are now made with bulgur wheat instead, making them vegan. A Turkish friend of mine brought some of these back from a trip a couple of years ago and they taste fantastic. They’re made from bulgur mashed with tomato paste and spices and eaten with lettuce and lemon juice. I’ll try and get a good recipe and test them out for a future post.

Thursday 8 January 2015

The problem with PETA

PETA are one of the biggest names in animal rights and vegan activism. But their form of animal liberation is built, in large part, on the exploitation of women and the creation and dissemination of offensive and misogynistic images.

If you Google 'PETA advert' you will be faced with a seemingly endless parade of naked or almost-naked women*. Women tied up; women shrink-wrapped and bloody, like victims on Law & Order; women in sexy lingerie; women reduced to the sum of their parts. Within the thousands of images on that Google search, there are a handful of pictures of men. I counted one naked, two topless and five fully dressed male models and celebrities, to literally hundreds upon hundreds of women.

Other PETA adverts show a woman in skimpy underwear with pubic hair peeking out the sides and the tagline: Fur trim - Unattractive. Or how about poster featuring a disgustingly body-shaming cartoon of a chubby woman in a bikini with the slogan: Save the whales - Lose the blubber. Go vegetarian? Scrolling through images from PETA adverts is like being assaulted in the eyeballs. It's virulently misogynist, fatphobic, hateful. It makes me want to go and eat a huge beefburger just to say "fuck you."

No doubt PETA think that the woman-as-slab-of-meat approach to advertising is very clever and subversive - a way to wake people up the realities of the meat industry, to ask people to have compassion for animals by saying "we wouldn't treat a human being like this so why do it to another animal?" But if all of this is about compassion, why are we women not worthy of a little compassion? In a world where women are reduced to pieces of meat every single day, where degradations are enacted on our bodies for entertainment or hatred or both, there's nothing clever about exploiting womens bodies: it's just the same old shit.

PETA need to realise how alienating their current approach is: any liberation that relies on the objectification, subjugation or exploitation of another group is not a 'liberation' that I want to be part of.

* I would have included some here, but I couldn't stomach hosting such hateful images