My latest obsession – magic grease!

Pictures and videos of  pigs seem to pop up regularly in my facebook feeds, usually with lots of comments containing the words “cute” and “adorable”. If I share such a thing I always preface it with “Anyone who comments ‘Mmmmm Bacon!’ will be unfriended. I’m not joking.” I find it hard to understand why someone would look at pictures of an intelligent, social creature and then sit down and eat one which has been slaughtered, cut into strips, smoked and fried. Somebody actually said to me recently (I’ve heard other people claim it’s happened to them, but I never thought it would happen to me)  that if god didn’t want us to eat animals he wouldn’t have made them taste so good. I responded that his daughter would taste like pork, but god probably didn’t want me to cook her up and serve her for dinner. That didn’t go down well. I’m usually very tactful, but just occasionally I say what I think.

Last year the veg#n community here in Ontario shared a lot of feeds featuring Esther the Wonder Pig, and I’d like to introduce you to her. She’s a 650lb house trained happy piggy. Her dads were told she was a 6 month old mini-pig when they got her, and were a little surprised to find out that they were actually living with a 6 week old piglet who was going to keep growing and growing. So they built a sanctuary, stopped eating meat, and Esther became famous. Check her out at http://www.estherthewonderpig.com/

But what are you supposed to do if you like the taste of bacon but no longer want to put a dead pig on your plate? I’m pleased to tell you that there are alternatives out there. Are they bacon? No. But are they better for your health and cruelty free? Yes 🙂 Check out your local supermarket and health / natural food stores for bacony vegan alternatives such as  Paradis brand veggie bacon (the best ever!) or Ives veggie bacon strips. You might also find vegan “bacon bits” in packets or jars ready for you to sprinkle on your salads. Coconut bacon (which I personally hate) is available at some natural food stores, and there are various brands of tempeh “bacon” knocking around. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, check the internet for recipes on how to make your own “tofu bacon” strips. But be warned – no matter how much the person posting the recipe insists it “tastes just like the real thing”, it doesn’t. Just ask my omnivorous family members – all the recipes I’ve tried were nice, but there’s no hiding the fact that it tastes like tofu trying to be bacon.

But, to quote Frank-N-Furter in Rocky Horror,  let me show you my favourite obsession. Come up to the lab and see what’s on the slab. I see you shiver with antici……

VEGAN BACON GREASE! Yes, you read that correctly! It’s totally vegan, but it’s like bacon fat. Gross! And yet…… it’s wonderful! It’s made from coconut oil with herbs, spices and magic.

magic_grease

It’s more of an aroma than a full-on bacon flavour, but I think I’m in love. I bought my first jar from a natural food store in Ottawa last week, and it’s almost empty. I’ve stirred it into a split pea soup, added it to veggie spag bog, fried mushrooms in it (bacon grease, mushrooms, garlic, parsley…OMG!!!!) and drizzled melted magic onto freshly cooked corn. I’m one happy chef!  I’ve stopped short of eating it off the spoon, but I have to admit that I was tempted! Oh who am I kidding? Of course I’ve licked it off a spoon! And – bonus – it’s gluten free so I can feed it to both of my kids when they come for a visit. Not that I’ll have any of this jar left by then – I’ll have to stock up!

magic_grease2If you want a cruelty-free bacon fix check out their website at  http://veganmagic.cc/   to see if it’s arrived in a store near you. Those in the U.S and Canada can also get it from veganessentials.com. It has the true aroma of bacon, without the need to kill any cute, intelligent piggies! Does it get any better than this??

Spinach and Mushroom Salad with (or without) Magic Vegan Bacon Grease

If you don’t have any magic bacon grease use olive oil instead. Obviously it’s not the same, but you’ll still have a tasty mega healthy salad, especially if you add some fried faux bacon strips or sprinkle the salad with vegan bacon bits.

  • 6 cups baby spinach
  • 1 orange, peeled and cut into chunks (grate the rind before peeling the orange – you will need it later!)

Dressing:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tsp grated orange rind

Topping:

  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 2 tbsp magic vegan bacon grease OR ¼ cup olive oil

 Serves 4

  1. Toss together the spinach, orange, walnuts and baby spinach.
  2. In a jar with a lid, shake together the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, salt, garlic, orange juice and rind. Pour over the salad and mix well.
  3. Fry the walnut in the magic grease or olive oil until hot and lightly toasted. Don’t burn them – it only takes a minutes or two. Pour the hot oil over your salad and serve immediately.

…pation!

I would love to know what vegan bacon alternatives are available wherever you live. I know the brands will vary, and some countries will have a bigger selection than others, but tell me about your favourite non-piggy treats!

Karen 🙂

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Why I will never be a success on Twitter

I’m going a bit off-topic today to talk about Twitter. Tweeting. Tweeters (or are they called Twerts?). To tweet or not to tweet – is that even really a question? As I sit here pondering the mysteries of social media I have to ask myself: Should I tweet? I’m regularly told by people (who usually aren’t tweeters themselves nor do they follow anybody on twitter) that the way to “get ahead” in the world of writing, self-publishing, blogging and being “seen” is to tweet. But I’m not convinced. I’ve always been under the impression that twitter’s reason d’etre was to discuss topics such as the size of someone’s boobs, the latest disaster in Justin Beeber’s fucked-up-fantasy life, or clothes seen at the Oscars. Is that even how Justin Beeber spells his name? I’m sure someone, somewhere has tweeted about that!

A few weeks ago I crumbled under the pressure and started a twitter account. I learnt about hash tags and @ names. I looked at trending issues and read the secrets to successful tweeting. And then I tweeted. Perhaps I should now join a self-help group? “Hello, my name is Karen, and I tweet.” Or perhaps not. I decided to follow a few other tweeters to get a feel for what’s going on out there, and chose 24 which looked OK. It seems that some people “follow” hundreds of other tweeters, which leads me to believe that they either have no job, no life (or both) or don’t actually read any of the tweets. My 24 tweeters fill my inbox with a constant stream of…what shall I call it? Information? No. Comments? Nah. Important social observations? No. Life-changing insights? No. Definitely not. They fill my inbox with…tweets. I have neither the time nor the motivation to read them, even though some of them might link to something more substantial. Who has the time for this???? And why do they do it? Does it drive business to their website? Help them make sales? I really don’t know. What I do know is that the person who once filled my facebook feeds with multiple tweets written during (and about) a really bad episode of Dr. Who got moved into my “archived” list of friends! Is there such a thing as over sharing? Yes there is!!!!!

So here’s what I’m currently thinking. I believe in saying things when I think they need to be said. And, usually, it will takes more than a sentence to say it.  I will never master the art of verbal diarrhea to the point where I will be able to tweet successfully. Does anybody care if I have crappy nails because I swim a lot? Getting help on such matters are what my friends are for. Should I tweet that I found a new vegan product in my local grocery store? I don’t think so. That’s what my local vegan facebook group is for. Should I send out tweets about “vegany issues” in the hope that someone, somewhere will read them and say “OMG! I should go vegan!” as a result? I’m way too planted in reality to believe that would ever happen. So rather than sending short messages out into the social media void, or reading the tweets landing in my Twitter account, I’d rather spend my time finishing the second edition of my first cookbook, making changes to my 2nd cookbook now that it’s back from my editor (vegan Japanese cooking! How cool is that?), and working on my third one (Vegan Indian recipes and travel tales). And maybe writing the middle bits of a novel. And going out having fun. In fact, that’s why there’s no pictures of any sort with this blog – I’ve left my house sitter to sleep with my cats and gone to Toronto to have some fun, forgetting to bring my camera cable with me 🙂

So, here’s what I think. I tried twitter and, as expected, I didn’t like it. I’ve also tried tempeh, and I’m not sure I liked that much either.  And as for papaya – I’ve now tried it twice and it tastes like something that died a week ago.  I might give either one or two of these another try, but I’ll need some convincing first.

So, tweeters, why do you do it? Enlighten me please! But don’t tweet your answer – I probably won’t see it.

Karen 🙂

Food For Thought

Today I took my vehicle to the car wash – it went up to PLUS ONE DEGREE CELSIUS today, so it looks like spring might be on its way! Admittedly it was snowing yesterday, but let’s not go there. Anyway, there I was sitting in my car with 6 cars ahead of me. The guy directly in front of my car left his engine running the whole time while we waited. That’s nearly 25 minutes of idling, needlessly burning gas, polluting the atmosphere and costing him money. Big truck, huge guy, with apparently no brain. Did he think that if he kept his engine running he would get there faster? Or that it would somehow damage his mega truck if he turned it off for five minutes then turned it back on again? Or maybe his head was so far up his ass that he simply couldn’t see what he was doing?

This guy got me thinking about a PETA advert I saw this week. I’m not a huge fan of PETA – I find a lot of things they do are not my kind of thing. Naked women on posters. Aggressive techniques and all that jazz. This video, however, was spot on. There are some questions which omnivores ask vegans over and over again, some of which are valid inquiries and some of which are just people being stupid. But I wonder how many times meat eaters ask themselves the same questions. Or are they, like the guy in the big truck, just carrying on regardless not thinking about their actions? PETA looks at this in the video “If vegans said things meat eaters say.” Check it out at:

http://www.peta.org/videos/if-vegans-said-the-stuff-meat-eaters-say/

It has a lot of good points. I’m sometimes told the “joke” which goes “How can you tell if someone is vegan? Answer: You won’t have to, they’ll tell you!”. But in my experience the reverse is also true, and to a much greater degree. When somebody finds out that I’m vegan (not that it’s a big secret or anything) they often feel compelled to tell me and anyone else in the vicinity how much they like eating meat, which types of flesh they prefer, and how they like to cook it. Usually followed with “But you still eat cheese and eggs, right?” No, I don’t. “I could never give up cheese, and you can’t bake without eggs, so I guess you can’t have cookies.” And this is sometimes followed with the now famous line “So where do you get your protein?”

Just like the guy who didn’t think about burning gas while idling in a line, I find many omnivores don’t give any thought to where their protein comes from. I have a friend who won’t eat a fish if it still has its head on (I don’t like to think that its looking at me) and another who won’t eat chicken drumsticks (they look too much like a piece of animal), and one who won’t eat beef which is still on the bone. It’s as if they know that they’re eating animals but want to pretend that they’re not.  But, to my knowledge, not one of my omnivore friends has ever looked into where their protein actually comes from. They don’t want to think about pigs as intelligent, social creatures being confined in small crates, living a miserable existence until somebody kills them for food. Or chickens who never see the light of day, even in many “free run” poultry farms. Or the implications of the words “raised without the use of antibiotics”. If a cow gets an infection of the udder and can’t be given antibiotics, what do people think happens to her? In egg farming, what happens to most of the male chicks? Where do they go? Today is one of the few days when I’m throwing humour out of the window and saying “Omnivores – where does your protein come from?” Yes, I might lose some readers, but maybe, just maybe, it will cause somebody to stop and think. I think it’s worth the risk.

Karen.

If you would like to follow my blog (and I really hope you will), look for the small “Follow” icon in the bottom right hand corner of your screen. Or in the toolbar at the top. It’s going to be around somewhere! Click on follow, add your email address, and all my pontifications will appear in your email, without you having to put in any effort at all. You can, of course, unsubscribe at any time.

Mexican Fiesta!

I recently watched the movie “The Book of Life”, partly because it looked like it might provide some quirky entertainment for an evening, partly because I’d heard it was good, but mostly because one of the head animators is my hubby’s kung fu brother. We’ve since bought a couple of copies for Eric to sign for our movie-loving adult sons. I really had no idea what the movie was about, other than it was set in Mexico and it was animated, so I was very pleasantly surprised by how visually striking it was. I was doubly surprised when the lead female character liberated the village pigs after realizing that they were destined to become food, adopting one as her own companion. My cries of “Woo hoo! Animal Liberation!” turned a couple of heads – don’t worry, we were watching it at home, not in a big movie theatre – but I quickly quietened down when the bull fighting started. I cringed at every cape swing. I scowled at every comment about bull-fighting being the family’s occupation for generations. And then wanted to clap my hands when the lead male character refused to kill the bull, saying it was wrong to do so. He didn’t want to be a bull fighter – he wanted to be a musician instead. Before I give away the whole plot, might I suggest you buy or rent a copy and watch it yourself? It’s s kid’s movie, but if you’re a parent of little ones I’d recommend you watch it yourself first to make sure it’s not too scary. It’s set around the time of Cinco de Mayo – the day of the dead – and was originally released around halloween.

Check out the trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBw5YScs8iQ

There have been a few movies over the years which have made valiant attempts at “getting animals off the table”, one of my favourites being Chicken Run. For those of you who haven’t seen it, the chickens in a free-range prison want to escape before Mrs Tweedy turns them into pies. When my kids were small we had a game based on the movie in which we made our own chicken-shaped pieces out of play doh and moved them around a board. If they landed on certain squares we shot them out of a cannon then squished them with a large pie-crust stamp. I think one of my kids took it to Toronto with him to play with his friends. I loved both the movie and the game, but I’m not sure how effective either was at communicating the message that chickens have feelings too.

Another fun movie is “Free Birds”, which came out in 2013. Some turkeys travel back in time to change history and stop turkeys from being eaten at thanksgiving. Check it out at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1621039/. There were comments from various parenting groups saying they would never take their children to such a movie because it might upset them and they didn’t want a fuss at the thanksgiving table. And it’s kinda sad that the movie ends with them eating cheese-covered pizza, but at least they tried.

Anyway, to get back to my original point – I really enjoyed “The Book of Life”, and not just because it’s vegan-friendly. To get you into the spirit of Mexico and to maybe inspire you to watch the movie, I’m sharing my recipe for mole poblano.

Tofu in Simplified Mole Poblano

Look for cans of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce in the tortilla chip / salsa isle of your local grocery store. If it’s not there you’ll have to google a Mexican speciality store.

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 canned chipotle pepper
  • 2 tsp adobo sauce from chipotle pepper can
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes
  • 2 tsp cayenne powder
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 6 cloves, ground
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds, ground
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ ripe banana, mashed
  • 2 cups vegan “chicken flavour” stock
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 800g / 1 ¾ lb thinly sliced firm tofu
  • Soft tortillas for serving

 Serves 4

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onion and garlic. Cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes or until soft and slightly golden.
  2. Add the chipotle, adobo, raisins, tomatoes, cayenne, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, allspice, cumin, black pepper and mashed banana. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
  3. Carefully pour the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth. Add the stock and salt.
  4. Return the mixture to the pan and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cocoa and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in the sliced tofu and heat through.
  5. Wrap the tofu and some sauce in soft tortillas and drizzle a put extra sauce over the top.

Variations: Use a combination of white, portabella and shiitake mushrooms instead of the tofu. Fry in a little olive oil and drain off the liquid before adding to the sauce. Or use slices of cooked “faux chicken”. They both work well instead of tofu.TOFUINMOLEPOBLANO (Copy)

I can’t claim that this recipe is “authentic” since I’m of British descent and I’ve not traveled to Mexico yet, but I can assure you that I’ve fed it to a Mexican friend and he declared it to be tasty. So pick up a copy of the movie, cook yourself dinner (or better yet, get someone to cook it for you), grab a Mexican beer and have a nice trip to the exotic land of funky animation.

Karen 🙂

If you would like to follow my blog (and I really hope you will), look for the small “Follow” icon in the bottom right hand corner of your screen. Or in the toolbar at the top. It’s going to be around somewhere! Click on follow, add your email address, and all my pontifications will appear in your email, without you having to put in any effort at all. You can, of course, unsubscribe at any time.

The Great Fish Debate!

Last month Alan and I went to a local theater to participate in the recording of “The Debaters” as part of the live studio audience.

For those of you not familiar with it, The Debaters is produced by the CBC and features two comedians debating topics in a humorous way, with the winner decided by the studio audience. http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thedebaters. Steve Patterson is the host. We went to see them last year when they debated deep issues such as “Is William Shatner the best actor of all time?”, with hilarious results. This time the debates included topics such as “Can a man be a feminist” and “Do the children of stars have it made?” and “Is it possible to over share?”. As proved by the person arguing against the argument, yes it is!! But the debate which sticks most in my mind was titled “Can a fish be a pet?”.

As someone who eats a plant-based diet, I’m used to the question “But you still eat fish, right?”, as if people have trouble understanding the concept of what is and what is not an animal. Fish are, in fact, animals. But this was the first time I had ever encountered the question “Can a fish be a pet?”. The comedian allocated the task of supporting this proposal started his argument with (and please forgive me if I mis-quote accidentally): “My best friend spends hours going round and round in circles. He has no short term memory and just eats and poops. These are things my fish would say about me if he could talk.” He went on to compare fishing to drowning puppies in the lake “but it’s OK, because I pull some of them back onto dry land before they die” much to the bewildered horror of the audience. Some people really didn’t find his comments amusing, but I expect it’s too much to hope that they’ll give up torturing fish and calling it a harmless hobby. Someone recently posted on Facebook that little girls are much more attractive when fishing than twerking. My comment that little girls who hurt fish for fun aren’t attractive didn’t go down too well!!

I’ve recently found out that some restaurants in Toronto are serving live animals to their customers, mainly fish, shrimp and octopuses. Should that be octopi? Or is the real plural of octopus actually octopodes? I should have paid more attention in taxonomy classes. While eating still-moving creatures is a common practice in Japan it’s creating a bit of a commotion in Toronto. It goes without saying that I think killing an animal for food is unnecessary in our culture, and that the practices of many slaughter houses are horribly inhumane. But eating an animal while it’s still alive is barbaric, especially when we can chose to do otherwise. Like, here’s a thought, not eating animals at all!

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/food-and-wine/food-trends/diners-face-unique-experience-moral-dilemma-with-live-food/article23265808/

In my childhood days my mom often cooked a simple meal of white fish, mushrooms and onions, made from fish my dad was given when he had work to do down on the docks. One day he came home and gave my mom a fishy plastic bag, which wriggled violently when she placed it on the counter. Mom left the kitchen and didn’t return until dad had “dealt with the issue”. I avoid the whole fish issue by replacing it with vegan “fish alternatives” or tofu, but I often think of my mom when I cook up a vegan version of her fish dinner.

Mom’s Onion and Mushroom Fish-Free Supper

  • 250g sliced mushrooms – about 1 cup
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped – about 2 cups
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • 2 cups (450g – usually 1 block) semi firm tofu, cut into 8 1″ thick squares
  • 1/4 cup flour – I use brown rice flour
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Put the mushrooms, onions, garlic and 1 tsp salt into a large frying pan and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. You don’t really need any oil since the mushrooms release lots of liquid, but add a tiny splash if it makes you happier. When they’re really soft remove them from the pan and keep warm. I put them in a bowl and cover it with a plate. While the mushrooms are cooking, mix the flour with the parsley, 1/4 tsp salt and pepper. Dip the tofu into the flour mixture to coat.

Add the oil to the frying pan and cook the tofu over a medium heat until lightly browned and crisp – about 5 minutes each side. Handle it gently, but don’t worry if it falls apart. Add the mushrooms and onions back to the pan. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes, check the seasoning and serve with rice or oven fries.

mushroomTofu (Copy)

If you want to pep it up a bit, add a teaspoon of garam masala or chinese 5 spice powder (but not both) to the mushrooms when you fry them.

I’ve not asked my mom what she thinks of my fish-free dish, but I know that one particular member of my family would do a considerable amount of eye-rolling. I wonder if I should tell her she looks like a boggle-eyed goldfish when she does it? Probably not….

Karen 🙂

If you would like to follow my blog (and I really hope you will), look for the small “Follow” icon in the bottom right hand corner of your screen. Or in the toolbar at the top. It’s going to be around somewhere! Click on follow, add your email address, and all my pontifications will appear in your email, without you having to put in any effort at all. You can, of course, unsubscribe at any time.

Playing in the Gluten Free Sandbox

I have to preface this blog with something important. Gluten free pastry and I are not friends. Never have been and never will be. It’s like that relative who’s always genuinely welcome in your home because they’re family, but you’re secretly relieved when they leave. My relationship with gluten free pastry is like that. It’s welcome to visit my kitchen when needed, but I dread the day when it might say “I’m moving in – get my bedroom ready”.

As you’ve probably guessed – I’m not a gluten-free gal. Vegan, yes. Allergic to a ludicrous number of things – yes. But gluten free? Nah. Bring on the wheat products – they’re so much cheaper than gluten free ones and it’s much easier to find products which taste good. So why am  I putting myself through the trials and tribulations of playing with gluten free flour, making, of all things, pastry? Pastry doesn’t always play nicely to begin with, but if you take the gluten out you should be prepared for a bit of bad behaviour. I’m doing for the simple reasons that I’m a mother, and a total push-over. One of my sons is intolerant to gluten (and a whole host of other things which rivals my own list – he makes me proud). His journey towards becoming gluten-free is a story for another day, but it involves lots of Drama! Misdiagnosis! Thrills! Danger! Excitement! In Technicolor with Dolby Surround Sound! But I’m not telling his story today.

Last week I made my hubby some vegan pasties. My youngest son reads my blog (hello son 🙂 ) so I felt I should offer to make him some gluten free ones and freeze them to take to Toronto in 3 weeks when we go to visit. Yes, I know that he’s nearly 21 and quite capable of looking after himself, but he’s a busy student and the University of Toronto isn’t a gluten-friendly place when he needs to grab a quick lunch, so a frozen pasty or two might come in useful. Although we’ve just heard that the teaching assistants have gone on strike so he might have time to make his own pasties  if classes are cancelled.

I’ve bought some gluten-free veggie grounds (my usual brand says “may contain traces of wheat, so I can’t use that today) and thawed it overnight in the fridge.

GFgrounds (Copy)

I’ve made gluten-free pastry before, but I did some googling to see what other recipes are out there. I found a rather confusing one requiring iced water and warm melted coconut oil, quite a lot containing eggs, and a stack of recipes with “can’t fail flour blends”. If I stand any chance of getting number 2 son to make his own pasties sometime in the future I have to keep it simple, so I stuck to my own recipe and used Red Mills All Purpose Gluten Free Flour rather than a complex blend. I’ve tried other brands in the past, including the very gritty Robin Hood AP flour (talk about a sand box!!), but Red Mills is my favourite. If you have your own pastry mix, go ahead and use it – and let me know what it is!

GFflour (Copy)

Being a bit of an over-achiever by nature, I decided that if I was going to make pasties to take to Toronto I might as well make it worth my while. So I knocked up some traditional Cornish pasties (minus swede – I’m yet to meet anyone who likes swede), Jamaican patties and Indian curry pockets. And it took forever. I just hope my other son doesn’t read this and request a large batch of wheat-flour ones….although I’ll probably make him some anyway. Ah…..The joys of motherhood.

If you treat your gluten free pastry like a temperamental child, you can’t go far wrong. Make it using cold ingredients, handle it gently, let it have a time-out in the fridge, then let it sit at room temperature for 5 minutes before rolling it out. I don’t like to jump straight into action when I stagger out of bed in the mornings, and the pastry also needs time to metaphorically sit with a cup of tea before starting an activity involving a rolling pin.

If your pastry cracks during rolling, press the crack back together and patch it if needed with scraps of pastry cemented in place with flour glue. Some of your pasties will be perfect, while others will look like they’re back from the hospital covered in bandaids. But they’ll all taste the same, so unless you’re entertaining somebody important, don’t sweat about appearances too much. Like with people – it’s what’s on the inside that matters.

Gluten Free Pastry

To make 6 – 8 pasties you need:

  • 2 cups gluten free flour such as Red Mills
  • 2 tsp xantham gum (unless your flour blend already contains this)
  • 1/2 cup vegan margarine, chilled (or, if you have some, replace 1/4 cup with vegan shortening)
  • 6 – 12 tbsp ice cold water. Not warm water. Ice cold please.
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp soy milk for glazing

Put the flour and salt into a large bowl. Add the margarine and cut it into small pieces. Use your fingertips to rub the margarine into the flour until it forms breadcrumbs. Handle it as little as possible. Add the water a tablespoon at a time and mix with a knife until it starts to form a dough. Don’t make it wet – you want something you can roll out later. Use your hands to form it into a ball then cut it into 6 pieces. Form each piece into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Put in the fridge for 15 – 30 minutes.

Make the filling of your choice.

Take the pastry out of the fridge and roll into circles about 6″ across. I put a large bowl on top and trim them into a nice round shape. Save the pastry off-cuts. Brush flour-glue over the pastry discs then divide the filling between the them, placing it on one half of the circle. You should have some filling left over.

GFpastry1 (Copy)       GFpastry2 (Copy)        GFpastry3 (Copy)

Fold the pastry over the filling to create a half-moon and use a fork to press the edges together to make a secure packet. Cut 2 small slits in the top and brush lightly with soy milk. Form the pastry off-cuts into one or two balls and roll into discs. Process as before, using up the extra filling.

Heat the oven to 350’F / 180’C / Gas 4. Put the pasties on a baking tray and cook for 45 minutes until golden.

Traditional Pasty Filling

To make the filling, mix together the celery, potato, veggie grounds, parsley, thyme, stock cube, salt and pepper. Make sure none of the veggies are in chunks larger than your thumb nail.

  • 1 cup celery, finely chopped or, if you’re a true Britt, 1 cup swede, finely chopped
  • 1 cup potato, finely chopped
  • 225g gluten free veggie grounds,thawed if frozen
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 vegan “beef” stock cube, crumbled (make sure it’s gluten free)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp soy milk

Put this filling directly into the pasty – no pre-cooking needed.

Simple Jamaican Filling

I’ve kept this as simple as possible, knowing that a list of ingredients as long as your arm can be off-putting. I’ve stuck  to ingredients I’m fairly sure number 2 son has in his kitchen. If you have coconut oil, feel free to use it instead of olive oil.

Add 1 tsp of turmeric to the pastry flour to give it a slight yellow colour.

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 225g / 8 oz gluten free veggie grounds,thawed if frozen
  • 2 tsp madras curry powder
  • 6 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Fry the mixture for 5 minutes then allow to cool before putting into the pastry.

Simple Indian Spice Filling

  • 2 tbsp olive or coconut oil
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 jalapeno chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 225g / 8 oz gluten free veggie grounds,thawed if frozen

Fry the mixture for 5 minutes then allow to cool before putting into the pastry.

And here’s the result!

pastyGFVegan (Copy)               pastyPile (Copy)

They’re now wrapped and frozen, eagerly awaiting their trip to the exotic delights of the big T O. There’s a group of us turning up that weekend (2 sets of parents and a brother or two) to help my son and his friend move from the outskirts of Toronto into the city center. If we get peckish from all the hard work we might thaw out some of the pasties and eat them on the job, so it’s probably a good thing that I’ve made plenty!

And for my next trick…..tortiere. Hubby saw participants making this famous Canadian pie on Canada’s Masterchef TV show, and commented on how nice it looked. So I’ve promised him a vegan tortiere with roast potatoes and green beans with garlic for dinner tomorrow. See – I told you I was a push-over! Perhaps I should drop a hint or two about him cooking something for me someday soon……

Karen 🙂

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Natural. Organic. May Contain Beetle Secretions

I love natural products and organic things. At least, I thought I did until recently.

A couple of weeks ago my eldest son came home for reading week and some good home cooking, but it’s always a challenge to feed either of my kids without them loosing weight. I know most people would say “I’d love to have you cook for me AND loose weight at the same time!” but for my boys it’s not quite the same. They’re both tall (and even taller if they don’t slouch) and on the thin side. I’m sure my youngest is actually a 2 dimensional being from a cartoon rather than a 3-D human. It’s always been a battle trying to put any flesh on their bones, and when they come home “healthy junk food” makes an appearance to give them extra calories. I buy vegan chocolate bars, salted potato chips (yes, I’m aware that they’re not healthy in any way, shape or form) and I make cashew nut faux cheese, brownies, cookies and desserts. And, if I can find them, I place a bag of vegan dark chocolate almonds on the coffee table.

At Christmas time I seemed to have very little trouble finding chocolate almonds to munch on…..or, rather, “to give to my children”. But in the middle of February they were hard to track down. Until, one jolly cold snowy day, I found some sitting in the natural food section of my local grocery store. Hurray! The price wasn’t very nice, and my son had already returned to Toronto, but I’d been looking for them for weeks so I thought I’d buy some for myself. I read the ingredients: Dark chocolate (evaporated cane juice, unsweetened chocolate, cocoa butter, soy lecithin) vanilla, dry roasted almonds, pure food glaze. SCORE! And they’re natural and organic! You can only imagine how happy I was as I shared the news with the local Facebook veg#ns, some of whom had also been looking for vegan chocolate almonds.

DSC09760 (Copy) DSC09761 (Copy)

Everything was fine until somebody commented “Isn’t pure fruit glaze made from beetles or something?”. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! And….gross! And then I remembered that “organic” and “natural” do not mean “vegan” or even, necessarily, “healthy”. Dog poo is without doubt natural, but I wouldn’t describe it as food. Gas for the car might be organic, but I’m not going to put it in my coffee. I did some research, and it would appear that “pure food glaze” is, indeed, made from beetle secretions in most cases. Here’s what gentleworld.org says about it:

“Laccifer lacca is a small insect about the size and color of an apple seed, which swarms on certain trees in India and Thailand. During the larval stage of its life-cycle, the lac insect creates a hard, waterproof, communal protective shell as a cocoon in which to mature and then mate. The encrusted resin that forms this shell is scraped off the branches where the insects nest.” I emailed Central Roast to ask what their glaze was made from, hoping that they would say “Actually, our glaze is derived from palm”…….but they didn’t get back to me. I’ll give them another week then try again.

My almonds are sitting on my desk, looking at me in a hurt kind of way, but I don’t care. I’m not eating them until I know what the glaze is made out of. Besides, I knocked up a batch of chocolate bark with Japanese seven spice powder and nuts, and it’s delicious.

Seven Spice Chocolate Bark

  • ½ cup pine nuts or coarsely chopped macadamia nuts
  • 1 – 1 ½ tsp Japanese seven spice powder
  • 350g / 12 oz. dark vegan chocolate

Preparation time: 5 minutes. Cooking time: 5 minutes. Chilling time: 30 minutes. Eating time: Gone in an hour!

  1.  Place the pine nuts in a dry frying pan and cook over a medium heat for about 3 minutes or until lightly toasted.
  2. Break the chocolate into small pieces and place in a microwavable bowl. Place into the microwave and melt, pausing to stir the chocolate halfway through. This takes about 1 minute in my microwave.
  3. Stir in the pine nuts and seven spice powder. Spread onto a flat baking sheet lined with a wax paper. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes or until hardened. Break into pieces to serve.

CHOCOLATE_BARK (Copy)

Every bar of vegan chocolate has bits of ground-up insects in it. The legal limit is no more than 90 or more insect fragments in one 100g subsample, or an average of 60 or more insect fragments per 100 grams when 6 100-gram subsamples are examined, just in case you were wondering. Check out other foods at http://www.fda.gov/food/guidanceregulation/guidancedocumentsregulatoryinformation/sanitationtransportation/ucm056174.htm. But that doesn’t mean I want to eat chocolate nuts coated in beetle mating secretions. So next time I go hunting for chocolate almonds I’ll simply buy some chocolate and buy some almonds, and eat them both at the same time. It’ll save me a lot of time, probably some money, and I’ll know that It’s beetle-secretion free.

Karen 🙂

If you would like to follow my blog (and I really hope you will), look for the small “Follow” icon in the bottom right hand corner of your screen, or in the menu bar across the top. Click on follow, add your email address, and all my pontifications will appear in your email, without you having to put in any effort at all. You can, of course, unsubscribe at any time.

New Blog Schedule

I’ll be posting blogs every Tuesday and Friday from now on to give me time to work on recipes and photos for my “Help! There’s a Vegan in India!” Cookbook. I’m also waiting for “Help! There’s a Vegan Coming for Dinner – Japanese Style” to come back from my editor, which will no doubt require some work when I get it. If you don’t want to miss a blog, click “follow” in the bottom right corner of your screen or in the menu bar at the top ….. or somewhere!…..and they’ll be delivered directly into your email inbox.

Karen 🙂