Brazil Nut Tart with Avocado and Lime Sorbet

So England are out of the World Cup. Despite our home team being rapidly ousted from the tournament my boys remain glued to the TV. Not sharing their passion for football I have retreated to the kitchen. I’ve taken inspiration from the host nation Brazil for this recipe. Apparently they are very fond of sweet things like dulce de leche (or caramel by any other name). They even eat avocados as a dessert (which isn’t as weird as it sounds as avocados are a fruit after all) and I’ve found they make a lovely sorbet.

Brazil Nut Tart Low Res

Ingredients (for the tart) – Make 1 x 23cm tart or 4 individual tarts

  • 300g brazil nuts
  • 150g plain flour
  • 100g cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 340g tin Carnation caramel or dulce de leche
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

  1. Place 100g of the brazil nuts in a food processor. Blitz until finely ground then add the flour, butter and eggs. Process until combined then add half an egg (which will be around 25 – 27g in weight if you want to be precise about it). Process again until a soft ball of dough is formed. Refrigerate for at least one hour before using.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200℃.
  3. Roll out the pastry and use it to line a 23 cm loose bottomed, deep flan tin or four individual loose bottomed flan tins (measuring about 12 cm in diameter). The nuts make this a very rich pastry which falls apart easily. If this happens just press it into the tin or repair any tears with the off cuts. Line the pastry case with baking paper and fill with ceramic or dried beans. Bake blind – five minutes for the individual tart cases or 10 minutes for the larger tart case. Remove the beans and paper and reduce the oven temperature to 180℃.
  4. To make the filling roughly chop 200g of the brazil nuts. Lightly beat 1½ eggs and mix with the caramel, vanilla extract and the chopped nuts. Pour into the part baked pastry case and bake for a further 20 minutes (individual tarts) or 25 – 30 minutes for the larger tarts. Allow to cool to room temperature before eating.

Ingredients (for the sorbet) Makes about 500-600ml

  • Zest and juice from 3 limes
  • 250ml coconut milk
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 very ripe avocados

Method

  1. Put the coconut milk, sugar and lime zest into a small saucepan. Gently bring to the boil ensuring the sugar has dissolved then leave to infuse until completely cool. You could do this the night before and refrigerate it until required.
  2. Put the avocados in a food processor or blender with the lime juice. Strain the infused coconut milk into the processor or blender. Blitz until completely smooth.
  3. Freeze in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturers instructions. It should take around 15 – 20 minutes. Transfer to a tub and freeze until required. If not using immediately you may want to remove it from the freezer a good 20 minutes or so before serving.
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FareShare Feast

Each time I read an article about how much food is wasted in this country my stomach churns. It’s sickening particularly as I know that as much as I try not to waste food, at times I am as guilty of this sin as the next person.

©Julia Claxton/BHFDF

©Julia Claxton/BHFDF

It’s particularly refreshing to hear that there are some people out there striving to make a difference. Last week I was invited to attend the FareShare Feast a collaboration between the Brighton & Hove Food & Drink Festival, City College Brighton and FareShare Brighton & Hove. If ever you needed proof that you can make something from virtually nothing then this event was it. Chefs from some of the city’s finest restaurants were taken to the FareShare warehouse a short time before the event to select their ingredients. What they produced from what otherwise would be considered ‘redundant’ food was nothing short of amazing. Sixty percent of the food on our plates that evening had been sourced from that warehouse – all of which could have wound up in landfill sites without FareShare’s intervention.

FareShare Brighton & Hove began in 2002 to support the services in the city that were feeding the homeless. Ian Chisholm from FareShare explained that supermarkets used to bleach out of date produce to make it inedible (presumably because of some messed up Health & Safety regulation). Although supermarkets are frequently criticised for their food wastage even they realised this destruction of perfectly edible food was nonsensical then and equally so now when so many people are living in food poverty. In 2013 FareShare Brighton & Hove distributed 455 tonnes of food to charitable organisations across the city. This equates to £1.65m per year but this is still a minute proportion of the £1billion worth food destroyed in the UK every year.

©Julia Claxton/BHFDF

©Julia Claxton/BHFDF

I’ve long been a fan of Terre a Terre and their chef Matty Bowling didn’t disappoint with his egg noodle laksa with a smoked slow cooked egg served with oolong pickled lotus root (OK this particular item wasn’t found in the FareShare warehouse), buckwheat crumb, fresh coconut and coriander. As with all of their dishes the execution was highly accomplished and spicing spot on with the smokiness of the egg still discernible through the punchy laksa sauce.

©Julia Claxton/BHFDF

©Julia Claxton/BHFDF

The asian theme continued through to the main produced by Michael Bremner of 64 degrees. This time we were treated to a moist fillet of pork with rogan josh carrot, roast tomato and coconut. The simplicity of the description belied the complexity of the sweet (from the roasted tomatoes) and savoury flavours on the palate.

©Julia Claxton/BHFDF

©Julia Claxton/BHFDF

In between each course a palate cleansing sorbet were served produced by Seb Cole of Boho Gelato. Seb had just returned from the Nivarata Festival of granita in Sicily as part of the Brighton & Hove Food Festival’s International Chef Exchange. His mojito sorbet served between the starter and the main was amazing – forget the traditional cocktail I’d be all for eating this on a hot summer’s night. I can’t say as was as fond of the tea granita between the main and dessert but then I’m not really a tea fan so there’s no surprise there.

©Julia Claxton/BHFDF

©Julia Claxton/BHFDF

For texture and presentation David Edward of Seattle’s coffee mousse with a chocolate base (crushed up Kit Kats – brilliant!) and jasmine sorbet gets full marks. The generous portion of mousse was ridiculously light but there was something about the flavour (perhaps it was the mention of Coffee Mate) that didn’t quite do it for me. I should add, in David’s defence, that dessert is generally my least favourite course and that it was still an amazing accomplishment considering the limited repertoire of ingredients he had available.

It costs something like £150,000 per year to run the FareShare project in Brighton & Hove. Frankly, that is money well spent if it prevents people from starving. So if like me you know that perhaps you do (however inadvertently) contribute to food waste you could do worse than support this charity. Enough said.

Many thanks to the wonderful Julia Claxton for the use of her superior photography for this post!

©Julia Claxton/BHFDF

©Julia Claxton/BHFDF

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Favamole

Serves  4 – 6

Broad beans are also known as fava beans and can easily be turned into delicious dips. I’ve adapted my favourite guacamole recipe from Lourdes Nichols The Complete Mexican Cookbook for this great seasonal alternative. As well as tasting great it’s a much better behaved dip than guacamole as it won’t discolour!

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Ingredients

  • 300g broad beans (the frozen variety is fine here)
  • 2 ripe tomatoes
  • 3 sprigs fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ¼ – ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 1 – 2 tbsp creme fraiche

Method

  1. Boil the broad beans in lightly salted water for five minutes. Drain and refresh with cold water. Allow to cool then pop the bright green beans from their jackets.
  2. Mean while mix all the other ingredients together except the creme fraiche and leave for between 30 minutes to two hours to allow the flavours to meld together.
  3. Place the cooked beans into a food processor with the creme fraiche. Blitz until you have a smoothish purée. Stir the bean purée into the tomato mix. Serve with tortilla chips or crudités.
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Taking things for granted

You could say I’ve had a bit of week. It began quite well with a bank holiday but ended shrouded in gloom. Two particular incidents have scarred the past seven days. The first was being on a train that hit some unfortunate soul who decided to jump or was pushed (depending on which social media platform you were looking at) onto the line at Horley. The second was our cat, Dino, dying suddenly. Yes, I know he was only a cat but it caused a fair amount of distress in the Bilton household. It’s the first time (although definitely not the last) my children have had to confront the finality of death. There were many tears and my eldest son was inconsolable for much of Friday.

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It got me thinking about how much we take for granted. The electricity that powers our homes. Wifi. Supermarkets. The water we drink and the food we eat. The people (and animals) in our lives. Do we ever really stop to think about how these things come to be at the tips of our fingers?

It also reminded me of two books I was prompted to read recently after hearing the authors speak at the Book Lover’s Supper ClubThe Secret Intensity of Everyday Life by William Nicholson and Millions Like Us by Virginia Nicholson. The former explores the everyday ‘dramas’ of several protagonists – like a woman’s search for the perfect dress for Glyndebourne or a teenagers turmoil over a prank that goes wrong. It struck me that we are all so cocooned in the web of our own lives – our work, home life, keeping fit and so forth – that we loose sight of the really important things (support of our nearest and dearest, memories of our departed loved ones). It’s only when a catastrophic event occurs like a World War that perhaps we gain a bit of perspective. This is glaringly obvious when you read Virginia’s non fiction book on the experiences of the millions of women left behind to physically and emotionally support the war effort in the 1940s. Many of these ladies had a certain joie de vivre for life despite the atrocious consequences of war. They took nothing for granted.

One thing which I do believe we take for granted is our culinary heritage. A lot of people, myself included, bang on about how we no longer know how to cook. But there are still many people who throw dinner together without the aid of a cookery book or microwaved ready meal. These ‘recipes’ may be ones they have devised themselves although quite often they are things they have picked up from their parents or grandparents. They don’t have to be complicated (they usually aren’t) but they are part of our culinary heritage and will be lost if we don’t pass them on.

I rejoice when I do see evidence of this knowledge being put to good use as I did at the Book Lover’s Supper Club in March. The book element is organised by Melanie Whitehouse. The club, a group of people who share a love of literature and food, meets every six to eight weeks in Ditchling with different authors reading from their works. Supper  is provided by Oz of Sultan’s Delights. Think Middle Eastern meze with goats cheese and butternut squash tarts, pomegranate studded couscous, minty stuffed vine leaves and the impossibly moreish roasted almond tarator sauce. It was the latter that really grabbed my attention partly because it tasted so good (rich, nutty with a pleasant garlicky punch) but also the story of it’s origin, in Oz’s life at least, which illustrates the point I am making here. She told me that it was just something her grandmother would whip up for her husband as part of a meze to eat while he played cards and drank raki.

“Since my dad and my grandad loved raki so much, my earliest cooking memories all about meze making,” explains Oz. “We used to sit on a big table and share all these tasty dishes with a lot of laughter.”

It is the essence of her childhood and a delicious one at that. These are the recipes and memories we should treasure and share with those we love. Fortunately, Oz has generously allowed me to share her family recipe for tarator with you. You’ll never crave shop bought hummus again after eating this.

If you enjoy a good read and fancy a chin wag with other bibliophiles over a great plate of food and a glass of wine then you’ll love The Book Lover’s Supper Club. Melanie always finds fascinating authors to speak at the evenings. The next event is on 18 June with Crime Novelist of the Year 2013 Sophie Hannah and Sarah Hilary discussing their books. Tickets are £20 and can be purchased from the Brighton Dome ticket office. Don’t forget to like the Book Lover’s Supper Club Facebook page for the latest updates.

If you can’t make The Book Lover’s Supper Club but love the sound of Oz’s food you can find her at Street Diner on Wednesdays at Hove Town Hall and Friday in the Brighthelm Centre Gardens a stones throw from Brighton Station.

Roasted Almond Tarator Sauce

Adapted from a recipe by Oz from Sultan’s Delights

Serves around 6 people

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Ingredients

  • 100g walnuts or blanched almonds
  • 2-3 slice of white stale bread crust removed (I used Pain de Campagne)
  • 1- 2 cloves of garlic or more if you like a stronger flavour
  • 150ml-ish olive oil
  • juice of half to a whole lemon according to taste
  • ½ tsp salt
  • White pepper and cayenne to season

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200℃. Place the almonds or walnuts onto a baking tray with the garlic and roast for 5 – 10 minutes until the garlic is soft and the nuts golden brown.
  2. Meanwhile soak the bread in water then squeeze out most of the moisture.
  3. Squeeze the garlic into a food processor. Blitz with the roasted nuts then add the remaining ingredients and process again until well combined. Season with white pepper and cayenne to taste adding more garlic and lemon juice if you like. If it’s too thick add more olive oil to loosen up. (Oz’s Mum used to add some water instead when she was watching her waist line!). This sauce should keep for at least a week in the fridge in a sealed container - if it lasts that long! Afiyet Olsun / Enjoy!

 

 

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Going Vegan – The Verdict

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My vegan experiment ended yesterday. So how did I find it?

Going meat free was a bit like discovering a pair of comfortable but forgotten shoes in the back of the wardrobe. I slipped back into this regime with ease and in all honesty didn’t miss meat at all.

Dairy was another matter. Yes, I can live without milk. Black coffee (so long as it isn’t instant) is bearable but I’m afraid I love my flat whites. I’m not going to lie. The first white coffee of the day went down a treat this morning. I also missed yoghurt and most of all cheese. What was it Brillat-Savarin said? “A dessert without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye.” I can see where he is coming from although cheese most certainly has a larger place in my life than dessert.

Where I live in Sussex it is possible to find good vegan food when you are out and about. I went to the Food Rocks South show at Ardingly yesterday and some lovely vegan tostadas from La Choza. It’s also good to see some supermarkets like M&S and Sainsbury’s being proactive in the labelling of wine and other products so that you can easily tell whether something it suitable for vegans or not.

What I have come to appreciate is that I really should eat less meat. With a bit of effort it’s so easy to conjure up delicious vegan recipes (even without my beloved fromage). I’m not sure I could go vegan on a permanent basis (which my family will be relieved to hear) but I’m going to make a concerted effort to eat more vegetarian and vegan food in the future.

Thanks to everyone who helped me in my quest! If you missed any of my posts this week you can click on the links below to read them.

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The Big Breakfast Dilemma

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“How do you like your eggs in the morning?” was one of the first questions Billy asked me. Clearly it wasn’t the very first thing he said to me otherwise I would have sent him packing with a tirade of four letter expletives ringing in his ear.

To clarify the situation, I had been invited to a New Year’s Eve party by a couple of friends. They had arranged for us to crash at their friend Billy’s house (who I had met briefly a few weeks previously and had apparently made quite an impression). Billy, in what I assume was an attempt to reinforce his status as a congenial host, had been telling me how he had stocked up on bacon, sausages and eggs so that he could provide his guests with a full English the following day. I had to burst his bubble by informing him that I was a vegetarian. I assume the “how do you like your eggs in the morning” question was blurted out in an attempt to save face. Unlike our friends I didn’t take this as a lewd proposal but more as an desperate attempt to impress. It must have worked because here we are some 14 years later with two children.

Smoked Salmon Scrambled Eggs

I do love eggs. Scrambled with smoked salmon is my preference but I’ll happily eat them boiled, poached or fried. Eggs are my go to breakfast when I’m super hungry or hungover. Unfortunately, as a vegan they are out of bounds. I also love yoghurt with granola and fresh fruit but with all dairy products outlawed this week this breakfast was also out of the question. So what could I eat?

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Well, breakfast hasn’t been as troublesome as I thought it would be this week. My savoury fix has been half an avocado mashed with some lime or lemon juice and plenty of salt and pepper on sourdough toast. Today, being the weekend, I made Banana-Walnut-Waffles from the Veganomicon cookbook which were truly lovely, especially with some sliced strawberries and blueberries and a bit of maple syrup.

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Porridge is always a great if you are planning to exercise. I made the dairy free recipe below a couple of times this week and can thoroughly recommend it.

Coconut Cinnamon Porridge with Star Anise Poached Pineapple

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • ½ medium pineapple
  • 1 tbsp agave nectar plus more to sweeten
  • 2 tbsp water
  • ½ star anise
  • 60g porridge oats
  • 50g creamed coconut, roughly chopped (Bart package their creamed coconut in handy 50g sachets)
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 400ml water

Method

  1. Remove the skin from pineapple and cut out the tough core. Roughly chop the flesh into segments.
  2. Put the pineapple into a saucepan with the agave nectar, water and star anise. Bring to the boil then gently simmer for 5 – 10 minutes until the fruit is tender but not mushy. Remove the star anise and transfer to a bowl while you make the porridge.
  3. Put the oats, creamed coconut, cinnamon and water into the saucepan (use the same one one you cooked the pineapple in). Bring to the boil then simmer for 4 – 5 minutes. Sweeten the porridge with a little agave nectar to taste. Serve the porridge with the poached pineapple spooned over the top.
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Sweet Little Mystery

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Hurrah! The weekend is here! This means I can indulge myself with a bit of cake and glass or two of wine. But if you’re a vegan it seems life isn’t quite as simple as this. Suddenly the weekend looks like it’s going to be a very sober and healthy one.

So let’s deal with the wine issue first. At the start of the week I was thinking that wine, being made from grapes, would be free from animal products. It seems I was wrong. Apparently there isn’t a market for cloudy wine so all wine is filtered through a ‘fining agent’ and quite often these can be products derived from animals. The PETA website provides the following definition:

“Popular animal-derived fining agents used in the production of wine include blood and bone marrow, casein (milk protein), chitin (fiber from crustacean shells), egg albumen (derived from egg whites), fish oil, gelatin (protein from boiling animal parts), and isinglass (gelatin from fish bladder membranes).

Read more: http://www.peta.org/about-peta/faq/is-wine-vegan/#ixzz32ZHzz3Nk

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Fortunately, if you Google vegan wines from a particular supermarket you can get a list from veggiewines.co.uk or you can visit barnivore.com for a listing of vegan beer and wine. A lot of the supermarkets are good at labelling the suitability of their wines for vegetarians or vegans. I paid a quick trip to M&S and bought myself a bottle of the pink stuff so that was the wine crisis averted. Now all I had to do was figure out how to fit cake into my vegan diet.

Luckily help was hand in the form of Jojo from Operation Icing. Operation Icing is a non-profit making vegan bakery based in the North Laine area of Brighton. All of the profit they make is donated to animal charities. They produce some amazing flavours like Peanut Butter Bombshell and Matcha Green Tea. Unfortunately, I haven’t got time this week to make a trip to Brighton so I need to rely on some home baked goodies.

Initially, this didn’t bother me too much. Logically you can replace butter in any baking recipe with the same quantity of vegan margarine (blocks are a safer bet than spreads as the latter sometimes contains buttermilk, but you need to check the ingredients to be sure). What I really wanted to know is how to get a light and fluffy cake without eggs?

“A light and fluffy cake without eggs involves a little trial and error,” explains Jojo. “I use a splash of apple cider vinegar in with my soya milk to make a buttermilk which helps and then egg substitutes such as applesauce or mashed banana help too.”

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I trawled through my vegetarian cookbooks to see if could find some recipes that I could easily veganise. As luck would have it I came across one for an Apple & Pear Cake in Leith’s Vegetarian Bible which contains no eggs. All I needed to do was replace the butter with marg. The recipe intro states that it is a “close textured cake” and the final result is more akin to a malt loaf than a sponge, but that’s fine by me.

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Jojo also recommends the Post Punk Kitchen website for vegan baking recipes. As I had been lent a copy of Isa and Terry’s book Veganomicon I decided to try their Chocolate-Chocolate Chip-Walnut cookies. At this point I should say that chocolate seems to be a bit of a grey area in the vegan world. Although dark chocolate shouldn’t contain any milk it may have been produced in a plant where milk is used for other products. Therefore, a lot of dark chocolate isn’t labelled as being suitable for vegans. It’s similar to products that are produced in the same factory where nuts are used and are are labelled with “may contain traces of nuts”. If you are a strict vegan you may want to avoid all chocolate accept those that are labelled as being suitable for vegans. I bought the dark chocolate for this recipe from Big Life Organics so I’m happy that it is vegan enough for my requirements. Anyway, the cookies are lovely and I don’t think anyone would suspect that butter and eggs are absent from the ingredients.

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So, with both problems solved I can look forward to an indulgent vegan weekend after all.

 

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Dining out vegan style

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There was a time when declaring you were a vegetarian in a restaurant was like being unveiled as Frankenstein’s monster. You half expected to be chased out of the establishment by the disgusted waiter into a crowd of pitch fork wielding yokels baying for your veggie blood.

Eating out was always a bit of a chore in my earlier non meat eating days. Not many restaurants seemed to get the vegetarian concept. I remember going to one restaurant in Essex for Sunday lunch with my family (including my vegetarian brother) where we were told the only thing they could offer the vegetarians were the veg and roast potatoes they had to go with the roast beef and pork on offer. We declined as the potatoes had been cooked in lard and neither of us fancied a plate of over cooked veg. I believe we retreated, shame faced, to the car with packet of crisps and a bottle of coke each in the end.

The vegetarian’s lot seems to have improved somewhat in the 21st century. Many gastro pubs and independent restaurants offer decent vegetarian dishes with only a few laggards still offering the microwaved veggie lasagne that was so ubiquitous in the 1990s. That said, if you want a good selection of vegetarian dishes to choose from you still need to head to a dedicated vegetarian restaurant. Until relatively recently, in Sussex that meant heading to Brighton to places like the award winning Terre à Terre or Food For Friends so it’s lovely to find a good vegetarian restaurant outside of this city.

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Today I found myself in the Little Chelsea area of Eastbourne. This is where you will find lots of independent retailers like my all time favourite second hand bookshop Camilla’s on Grove Road. It’s a wonderful place that looks like the ceiling it is quite literally being  supported by the mountains of dusty books. I can get lost in there for hours browsing the cookbook section alone. It’s a bit like visiting an animal shelter. There are so many unloved and neglected volumes just crying out for a good home. You may not find a rare first edition of an Elizabeth David yet in their own way each book is fascinating and even beautiful however dog eared it is. You can’t help but buy a few to take home. Or perhaps that’s just me.

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You’ll also find lots of restaurants and cafés in Little Chelsea with the big coffee chains quite rightly relegated to the town centre. I’d arranged to meet a friend for lunch here and, as I am vegan this week, we decided to visit Miss Wall’s Back Garden a new vegetarian café. It’s a homely sort of place with simple wooden tables adorned with colourful flowers and the pitch forks are firmly attached to the wall rather than being wielded as a weapon of destruction. As the name suggests there is also a garden which we were assured is a sun trap (although sadly the sun was snoozing behind the clouds today).

P1010389 The great thing about a dedicated vegetarian restaurant is that you are usually spoilt for choice. Lunch at Miss Wall’s works like this. You pick a main and two to three sides to go with it from a selection of dishes. I chose the squash and coconut curry which was gently spiced rather than aggressively hot (which was fine by me). My friend had a roasted vegetable tart with feta. Plus there were three other main dishes to choose from which I have forgotten now but all looked and sounded great. Both came with a trio of salads the best of which was the crunchy carrot, red cabbage and beetroot spiked with roasted fennel and cumin seeds (the others were a brown rice, lentil and butter bean salad and a green salad with radish and kohlrabi).

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The criticism often levelled at vegetarian food and vegan food in particular is that it’s bland mush. The generous plate of food we each had at Miss Wall’s was far from boring. There were a variety of textures, colours and flavours on the plate and the portion size was generous too. I would defy anyone to go there and come away saying “it would have been better if it had contained some meat.” Plus all of this comes for the very un-princely sum of £7.50 per head. I was stuffed after I’d demolished the lot so I never made it to dessert but the cakes on the counter looked pretty good too.

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Veggie or not, if you’re in that area of Easbourne any time soon, I’d definitely pay a visit to Miss Wall’s.

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Devine inspiration

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When I embarked on this week as a vegan I never doubted that I would find plenty of inspiration in my cookbook collection. I have more vegetarian cookbooks than any other style of cooking, a legacy from my non meat eating days. I’d also been lent a great vegan cookbook Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero . This book had been recommended to me by Rachel Demuth the owner of Demuth’s  Vegetarian Cookery school in Bath. I felt confidently prepared for my adventure.

However, what I wasn’t prepared for was the amount of time it would take to trawl through these volumes to find vegan recipes that I wanted to cook. The problem is not that I am fussy but more to do with the fact that there were so many recipes I liked the look and sound of. Plus with work and children to factor in there is the small matter of time (i.e. not having enough of it) to cook a fraction of the dishes I fancied.

Fortunately, I had received a copy of a new book by Brighton based food writer Nicola Graimes called Veggienomics. Nicola describes this book as containing “straightforward, simple dishes that don’t compromise on good taste, are nutritious and, importantly, don’t burn a hole in your pocket.” Having spent a couple of hours getting reacquainted with my veggie cookbooks hunger was beginning to gnaw away at my resolve. I hadn’t been to the shops to stock up on vegan ingredients. It was a toss up between eating the ham for the kids sandwiches or one of the cookbooks. I needed something quick and tasty fast so it was to Veggienomics I turned.

Of course it would have been very easy to go to the supermarket and buy some ready made hummus or a can of soup. But I’m never quite sure with all those funny E-numbers they tack onto the end of the list of ingredients whether pre-prepared foods can truly be classed as vegan. Plus I really wanted to try some of Nicola’s recipes.

I should state at this point that Veggienomics is a vegetarian rather than a vegan cookbook. For the time being I just have to skip over the delicious images of Tunisian Eggs with Herb Yoghurt and Potted Cheese with Elderflower Pears. But there are plenty of other recipes which are dairy free or can be adapted to meet the vegan criteria. Today’s lunch was a Lebanese Beetroot Dip with pitta bread. As promised it was quick to make (I replaced the natural yoghurt in Nicola’s version with soy yoghurt and omitted the feta cheese garnish) with everything being blitzed in a food processor before serving. What you end up with is a beautiful magenta dip laced with exotic ras el hanout and pungent garlic. It’s very moreish if a tad anti social (I was convinced I reeked of garlic on the school run this afternoon). Now a good blogger would have a picture of said dip but alas hunger got the better of me and I frankly forgot to take one.

It was back to Veggienomics for tonight’s dinner. I haven’t managed to persuade my family to follow me on this journey so I have been trying to find recipes that will appeal to two young boys and a carnivorous husband. I decided to go with a south east asian theme tonight. Nicola’s Thai Rice with Spiced Cashews went down a treat. This is a fried rice dish flavoured with fresh lemongrass, ginger, garlic and chilli with pak choi rippling through it. Not too spicy but still flavoursome. Having made this I would recommend making extra spiced cashews which are coated in Thai seven spice powder and soy sauce. They’re seriously good and would make a great, albeit fairly extravagant, snack. The boys had theirs with Thai style fishcakes and I had Spicy Lemongrass Tofu (sadly not from Veggienomics but I will share it with you another time, I promise). Fishcakes and rice eaten my curious boys decided they would tuck into the tofu and they loved it. Maybe they’ll decide to join me on this adventure after all. (You can check out the picture for this on Instagram).

Veggienomics is available from Amazon and all good booksellers.

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Going vegan

Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.” The Vegan Society (which is celebrating it’s 70th anniversary this year).

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Way back in the dim recesses of my life I was a non-meat eater. I’m not going to say I was a vegetarian because I still ate fish (but I’d never label myself as a pescatarian – it would have sounded like I had taken up with some dodgy religious cult). There was no moral thinking behind my decision to eschew meat. I simply went off it. It started gradually with the rejection of red meat and eventually chicken and bacon followed suit.

This phase of my life lasted about 15 years or so. On the food front it was a happy period of my life. I never once felt like I was missing out, probably helped by the fact that I am a competent and adventurous cook. But then I had my boys. The curious thing about children is that they are very perceptive about what is going on around them. They soon cotton on that certain words are taboo (even if you spell them out letter by letter) and notice if you are eating something different from them. It didn’t feel right to pass on my prejudices against meat onto them. Neither did I want two fussy eaters. So about seven years ago I decided I would try eating meat again.

I fully expected my body to reject meat. I assumed I would find it impossible to digest and highly unpalatable. Neither of these things occurred. I found my carnivorous feet again with an almost alarming ease. I love a rare steak and will happily eat the bits of the animal most people screw their noses up at. I still enjoy vegetarian food but meat has regained a special place in my stomach.

This week (19th – 25th May) is National Vegetarian Week. The Vegetarian Society have issued a challenge to encourage people to go veggie for a week. This I could do very easily without any hardship to my diet or state of mind. Going vegan on the other hand is a different matter. This I think will be hard because I will not only have to give up meat, fish and eggs but all dairy produce and honey to boot. It’s always struck me as a rather harsh regime to follow but the only way to find out for sure is to try it myself.

For the purposes of this experiment I should state that my week long foray into veganism will only extend to my diet. I will not be throwing out my leather shoes or my cosmetics (apologies true vegans but it really wouldn’t make economic sense to do either for such a short period of time). There are many reasons to support going vegan which you can read about here. As all food is a very important part of my life it will be interesting to see what sort of an impact being vegan has. Will I feel healthier? Will it change my eating habits in the long run? Could it persuade me to go the whole hog and ditch leather? We’ll see.

What I plan to do this week is write a number of short posts on how I am finding life as a vegan. These are my expectations:

  1. Going without dairy products is going to be hard. I eat a variety of them every day from milk in my coffee, yoghurt with my granola and cheese with just about everything I can justify having it with.
  2. Breakfast could be challenging as a result of the no dairy thing. Plus eggs are outlawed too (not to mention bacon, the veggies nemesis).
  3. Chocolate I can live without especially for one week. But with no eggs allowed where does that leave my beloved cake?

I hope you will follow my vegan adventure this week. Perhaps I may even inspire you to have a go yourself?

If you want to read about someone else’s experiences of going vegan check out Claire’s post on Places I Eat Brighton – she did it for a month!

 

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