Christmas Pudding

I missed stir-up Sunday last weekend, then worked most of this weekend so I didn’t get around to making our Christmas pudding until today. The recipe is adapted from one my fella made up years ago. Each year I tweak it a bit so hopefully this year it will be even better! I’m cooking for 10 so no pressure!

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  • 1 cup sultanas
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup currants
  • 5 dried apricots, chopped
  • ½ large cooking apple, diced
  • 1 carrot, finely grated
  • ½ cup plain flour
  • 2 slices wholemeal bread, breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • ½ tsp ginger
  • Pinch salt
  • ½ cup ground almonds
  • 1 cup veg suet
  • ¾ cup muscovado sugar
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • ½ large orange, juice and zest
  • ½ lemon, juice and zest
  • ¼ pint brandy

 

Mix everything well in a bowl then transfer to a greased 2 pint Pyrex bowl. Cover with greaseproof paper (put a pleat in it so it can expand) then tie with string to secure the paper. Cover with foil and tie again with a string handle so you can lift it in and out of the pan. Strand in two inches of boing water in a pan for 8 hours. On the day, heat for 1 ½ hours.

 

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Buck Tradition and Ditch the Turkey!

Recent figures published by Defra in October 2014 showed that around 17 million turkeys were slaughtered in the UK over the previous 12 months. That number of people could fill Wembley Stadium nearly 200 times over! The majority of these unfortunate birds are killed for the Christmas dinner table. However, one of the key results of this Defra report was that the number of turkeys killed in the UK was 15 per cent lower than this time last year. At a time when it is universally agreed that we need to be eating less animal produce, are we finally beginning to get the message? Most meat-eaters admit they don’t even like turkey. So are they opting for duck, goose or one of those hideous monstrosities where they jam one bird into another and then another? Or are we moving towards making a healthier and kinder choice and going for the nut roast or chestnut wellington?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe’ve only been eating turkeys at Christmas for a few hundred years. It was during the 16th century that turkey started to become popular, when Spaniards imported them from America. Henry VIII was apparently the first English king to eat turkey, but Edward VII made it fashionable to eat them at Christmas.

Modern farmed turkeys descend from their wild counterparts that live in North and Central America. They are opportunistic omnivores and in their natural environment they roost in trees and roam around the woodlands eating a wide variety of plants and insects. They are naturally inquisitive birds who enjoy foraging. Although they were first bred domestically over two thousand years ago, the intensive breeding methods we see today have developed rapidly over the last three or four decades. Like chickens and other birds bred for meat, the emphasis is on developing breeds that grow rapidly with large amounts of breast meat.

So the modern farmed turkey is much heavier than his wild relatives. The average weight of a wild male turkey is around 7.5 kilogrammes. However, through selective breeding, a male domesticated turkey may reach as much as 25 kilogrammes in just 20 weeks (around the same size as a six-year-old boy). That is a lot of weight to be carrying round on two skinny little legs! The stress of carrying such an unnaturally heavy body can result in joint pain and degeneration of the joints.

When running, wild turkeys can reach speeds of 25 miles per hour. An adult turkey can fly for short distances of speeds up to 50 miles per hour. Needless to say, commercially-farmed turkeys are unable to fly. However, they still want to stretch their wings, run, investigate their environment and sit on raised perches. However, most turkeys in the UK are reared intensively and these natural urges are denied them. It’s a grim existence…

Over 90 per cent of turkeys in the UK are reared on the floor of large, purpose-built windowless sheds. A limited number of farms use pole barns, where the top half of the wall is made of fencing to allow in some light and air. Up to 25,000 birds may be confined to just one building. Aside from the feeders and drinkers present, the sheds are often bear with few opportunities for the birds to express natural behaviours such as perching and foraging. The floor is covered in litter and by the end of the growing period as much as 80 per cent of the litter may be made up of the Turkeys’ own faeces. This results in the build-up of ammonia which can cause ulcerated feet and painful (hock) burns on the turkeys’ legs and breasts. These marks are where the ammonia from the waste burns through the skin. Some meat processors remove these marks as they tend to put off the customers! According to poultry industry standards, hock burns can affect up to 15 per cent of a given flock, but independent studies have found incidents of hock burn to be far more common. Researchers from Cambridge University found hock burns in 82 per cent of the chickens they examined in supermarkets.

Inevitably, some might say, intensive farming on such a large scale has led to the emergence of various diseases in turkeys. These include Blackhead disease (histomoniasis), caused by a microscopic parasite; Ornithobacterium rhinotracheale (ORT), a bacterium that causes respiratory disease in poultry and avian influenza (H5NI or bird flu). Even if the turkey manages to avoid these diseases, the short, miserable life of a farmed turkey ends with a trip to the abattoir. Farmed turkeys are usually slaughtered between the ages of 12 and 26 weeks, although according to Defra, some may be as young as eight weeks. In the wild, turkeys can live for up to 10 years.

It is beyond question now that the typical meat-based Western diet requires more energy, land and water resources than we have at our disposal. Producing animal-based food is typically much less efficient than harvesting grains, vegetables, nuts, seeds and fruit for human consumption. It takes almost four kilogrammes of grain to produce just one kilogramme of turkey meat. Nearly 40 per cent of world grain is fed to livestock (rather than being consumed directly by humans) so that some people can eat meat. This is not sustainable. Meat production puts a strain on fossil fuels too. The average fossil fuel energy input for animal protein production systems is around 25 kilocalories (kcal) fossil energy input per kcal of protein produced. This is more than 11 times greater than that for grain protein production. The ratio of fossil energy inputs required to produce one kcal of protein in turkeys is 10:1.  The significant quantity of non-renewable fossil fuel energy to produce this type of diet is also not sustainable.

So, what can you do? Well it’s very simple; ditch the meat and go veggie for Christmas! You will feel better, for your own health and that of the planet. There are many different websites offering a wide range of cruelty-free recipes for the festive season. You can go for a Chestnut Wellington, nut roast, stuffed peppers, aubergine towers or you can even buy a Cheatin’ Celebration Roast; off the shelf and into the oven! Having a veggie Christmas is not only important for the reasons above but also for symbolic reasons. Cooking and sharing delicious cruelty-free food at this time of year sends a positive message to friends and family. Viva! have produced a handy Christmas guide with delicious recipes which range from classic to modern – and all 100 per cent animal-free. The guide is available to buy from www.viva.org.uk/shop or find it on Viva!’s wonderful new Christmas pages here.

It’s time to give the turkeys a break and opt for a kinder, healthier Christmas.

This is an updated version of a previous post.

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The Mighty Food Fight

Food fightNow I am officially old I was invited to go for routine breast-screening. All the stories about it I had heard were right, it’s like pushing your boob into a sandwich maker. The efficacy of screening has been questioned but I tend to opt in rather than out of these things. Afterwards, I felt like I deserved a little reward so I headed round the corner from the health clinic to The Mighty Food Fight’s takeaway van. These two lovely ladies have just set up in Bristol with their stylish blue van selling tasty, fresh, colourful, vibrant, vegan food.

IMG_2654For lunched, they sell delicious tacos made with authentic corn tortillas – just £3.80 for two! You can choose from Quinoa Pizza balls (packed full of cheesy pizza like flavours, rich tomato, garlic and heaps of herbs with butter beans and crispy quinoa) or Chipotle Chile Balls with a warm kick! I tried both types – bloody lovely I have to say. The tacos each have two balls and a selections of salads. This is not your everyday watery lettuce and tomato-style salad! We are talking colour and flavour here! Classic slaw made with carrot and red cabbage, fruit salsa (with pineapple), vibrant potato salad with paprika and celery salt, and all of this loveliness topped with kale salad – the kale is rubbed or massaged (this food is made with love!) with a tahini-almond dressing. I was offered the choice of two beautiful sauces, one pink with chilli and the other pale green with avocado. I had both! Then just to be sure I wIMG_2664ouldn’t be hungry later, I ordered a cinnamon doughnut too.

This van is well worth a visit – it’s only a few minutes’ walk from the centre of Bristol. I’ll be back!

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Kirstie’s fundraiser cupcakes

My lovely, fun-loving, beautiful friend Kirstie died earlier this year – cancer is a bitch. She was defiant to the end, planning a holiday apparently! An extraordinary woman who led a varied life that was full of colourful experiences. She left behind two amazing children who have shown such dignity over the last year – they both clearly miss their mum terribly.

The funeral costs were a problem so Kirstie’s friends rallied and put on a fundraiser gig/party. There were three bands, a DJ, a raffle (great prizes) and or course I made cupcakes… Both types were based on recipes from the brilliant from book Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

Margarita cupcakes

  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 ½ tsp freshly grate lime zest
  • 1 cup soya milk
  • ¼ cup rapeseed oil
  • 2 tbsp tequila
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ⅓ cups plain flour
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ pack fondant icing and colouring
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and put 12 muffin cases into your cake tins.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the lime juice, zest, soya milk, oil, tequila, vanilla and sugar.
  3. Sift in the flour, baking soda and powder, and add the salt.
  4. Whisk until smooth then dived into the cupcake cases – they should be just over two-thirds full.
  5. Bake for 18-20 mins until a toothpick inserted comes out dry.
  6. Transfer to a cooling rack.

To ice, roll out fondant icing and cut skull shapes. Use a fork to indent teeth marks and paint with brush and black icing. Cut little circles in a different coloured icing (I used a pen lid as a cutter) and decorate with piped coloured icing as you like and use little silver balls for the eyes.

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cakes

  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seed
  • ¾ cup plain flour
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • ½ cup cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 pinch chilli powder (be bold!)
  • ¼ cup ground almonds
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup rapeseed oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Chocolate frosting or ganache as desired!
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and put 12 muffin cases into your cake tins.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the coconut milk and flaxseeds and let sit for 10 mins.
  3. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cornflour, cocoa, baking powder and soda, and add the salt, cinnamon, chilli powder and ground almonds.
  4. Into the coconut milk, whisk the sugar, oil and vanilla.
  5. Add in the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth then dived into the cupcake cases – they should be just over two-thirds full.
  6. Bake for 18-20 mins until a toothpick inserted comes out dry.
  7. Transfer to a cooling rack.
  8. Top with chocolate frosting or ganache. I made two-tone purple roses using a Wilton 2D piping tip and little green leaves dusted with green glitter.
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Amy’s Kitchen Breakfast Sandwich

The box has been sitting in my freezer for over a week… this morning I finally got round to trying Amy’s Kitchen Breakfast Sandwich. You have to separate the meatless sausage patty and scrambled tofu layer and wrap them in foil and bake for 20 mins. Then bake the half-buns for an additional 20 mins. Then reassemble it and scoff the lot. It looked tiny when I got it out of the box. I wondered if on heating, it might magically expand, but no. However, I really liked it! It was surprisingly filling too. The tofu was pretty tasty as was the patty. I’m not sure I’d eat one regularly, it would be useful if staying in an apartment or cottage on holiday. I think £2.49 was a fair price – there’s a lot of thought gone into this little breakfast! Well done Amy’s Kitchen!

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222 Veggie Vegan

222 Veggie Vegan is one of London’s best-celebrated vegan restaurants. It opened in 2004 and is the brainchild of Ghanaian-born vegan chef extraordinaire, Ben Asamani. There is a wide choice of dishes and all are made to order using fresh ingredients. We did book but on a busy Saturday night and the three ladies eating before us took for eveeeeeeer to eat their desserts and pay! Luckily, there is a pub just down the road so we nipped in for an aperitif. We were finally seated and decided to go straight for the main course…

All the mains were priced between £9.50 and £12.00. The burger looked good – great looking chips with it! The oyster mushroom and spinach raclette (what is a raclette?!) looked dreamy creamy and the healthy salad looked like it should be singing. My lasagne looked a bit on the small side when it arrived, but it was very tasty and very filling; I practically had to force myself to order dessert…

I’ve never seen so many vegan desserts all on one menu! I went for the Spice Island Pie which is a raw dessert made from cashew and almond cream flavoured with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg on a crunchy nut and coconut base. Bloody lovely! We shared some lovely organic wine too. The bill was a little over £20 per head. I will certainly go back to try some more of Ben Asamani’s delicious food!

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Butternut Squash Ravioli

IMG_2346

Pasta

  • 225 grams ‘00’ pasta flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp Olive oil
  • 125ml water
  1. Mix all the dry ingredients with the oil.
  2. Add water slowly and knead for about 5 minutes until the dough is springy.
  3. Wrap in cling film and leave for 30 minutes.

Butternut Squash Filling

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes
  • 20 fresh basil leaves
  • 20 leaves of fresh sage
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of pine nuts
  • Margarine
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  1. Cut the squash into thick wedges and de-seed.
  2. Put the squash wedges in a bowl with a tablespoon of olive oil, pinch of salt, good grind of black pepper and a teaspoon of chilli flakes. Mix until all of the squash is coated.
  3. Roast in a pre-heated oven at 200°C for about 25 minutes until the squash is soft and browning.
  4. In a pestle and mortar grind the basil leaves, half of the sage leaves, the garlic, pine nuts and a grind of freshly ground black pepper into a thick paste.
  5. When the squash is roasted, scrape the flesh off the skin into a bowl and add the basil and sage paste and mash together.

Assembling and Cooking the Ravioli

  1. Divide the dough into 2 balls and pass through a pasta machine on the thickest setting.
  2. Fold the rolled pasta over and repeat the process at least 6 times until the dough becomes really elastic.
  3. After the last roll reduce the thickness on the pasta maker to a medium setting and roll out the pasta.
  4. Then reduce the thickness to a thin setting and roll out the pasta again, this time onto a floured surface.
  5. Put 2 teaspoons of the filling in 6 little piles evenly spaced along the middle of the pasta sheet (approximately 4cm apart).
  6. Fold the pasta sheet over long ways and press it together around the filling, being careful not to trap any air.
  7. Cut out the ravioli leaving with a knife or serrated cutter.
  8. Melt of knob of margarine in a saucepan and fry the remaining sage leaves until slightly crispy. Remove and put to one side.
  9. Heat a large pan of water and when boiling add the ravioli, and cook for about 3 minutes.

Serve with a knob of margarine and garnish with fried sage leaves.

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