The Hunt for Vegan Yarn

I knit. I am vegan. I'm sure I don't need to highlight the apparent problems this can cause, what with wool being from an animal and all.

Before becoming vegan I will admit that all of my faves were wool blends and, I am also human and unsaintly enough to admit that though I am vegan, I miss them. Even so, this pitiful pining for wool isn't enough to make me turn my back and I have come to find a whole host of beautiful yarns that, although not exactly the same, offer new and exciting creative opportunities for me.

Initially, I though that cheap acrylics were my only hope but with some perserverance along with some support from my LYS I am discovering I can knit with some equally, if not more beautiful yarns.

Right now I am knitting with Rowan Bamboo Soft and I cannot believe how gorgeously soft it is. I would kick my boyfriend out of bed for it if it knew how to spoon. Though a much slower knit than the Rowan Spray I was obsessed with before, it's softer and appears to be a much higher class of yarn - huzzah!

The project I'm working on is Dazzle, a freaking lush tank top from Rowan Studio Issue 16 and, when finished, will be my first EVER garment.

Look me up on Ravelry
if you're there and you can see how far I have come in my 18 month knitting journey. It's quite a treat.

The Language of Cake is Universal

Lucky for my taste buds (but unfortunate for my hips) baking is something I do regularly.

There are a couple of recipes below (brownies and cupcakes!) as well as a video giving a wealth of egg alternatives for baking. I will also bitch about egg replacer, because in my not so humble opinion, it is shit.

Vegan or not, the language of cake is universal and I'll pretty much find any excuse to bake. It's someone's birthday! Someone's had a baby! I'm awake! By baking delicious vegan cakes for friends, family and colleagues you can open up discussion about how easy it is to be vegan and give everyone's taste buds a party all at the same time.

My current excuse for doing excessive amounts of baking is that I have a promotion and I'm leaving 2 part time roles in the university to take on one full time role. This means I have double the amount of mouths to feed but double the opportunist to impress people with how delicious veganism is.

Yesterday I baked 3 trays of vegan brownies.

Here's the recipe:

  • 170g/6oz self-raising flour
  • salt
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 170g/6oz caster sugar
  • 5 tbsp sunflower oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 230ml/8fl oz sweetened soya milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder (optional - if you want them a little fluffy rather than stodgy)
  • Pre-heat the oven to 350F/Gas 4
  • Grease and flour a 20cm/8in square cake tin with some of the sunflower oil
  • In a bowl sift together the flour, salt, cocoa powder and sugar (and baking powder if using)
  • Add the oil, soya milk and vanilla extract, and mix carefully together until completely mixed
  • Pour into the tin, and bake for about 25 minutes, until the brownies spring back when gently pressed
  • Leave to cool for five minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack
This is the first vegan brownie recipe I've tried and they didn't come out exactly like brownies containing dairy but given how quick they were to make I can't complain. Original recipe can be found here.

Also, a little while ago I made vegan cupcakes for a friends retirement party which I will make again for my leaving do.

Here's the recipe:

  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 ½ cups plain soymilk
  • 2 1/8 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 1/8 cups sugar
  • ½ cup oil
  • 1 ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. coconut extract (optional)
  • Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/350ยบ. Spray 22 muffin cups with nonstick spray or line with paper cupcake liners (I like to spray the inside of the muffin papers with nonstick spray to help the cupcakes release). Set aside.
  • Place the apple cider vinegar in the bottom of a liquid measuring cup and fill the cup with soymilk to equal 1 ½ cups. Stir well and set aside (the mixture will curdle).
  • In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another mixing bowl whisk together the soymilk mixture, oil, vanilla, and (optional) coconut extract. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and beat until smooth using a hand-held mixer.
  • Fill each muffin cup with at least ¼ cup of batter. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.
  • Let cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then remove cupcakes from the pan and place on a wire rack. Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting.
Thanks to Shmooed Food for the recipe.

I had tried using egg replacer and a normal sponge recipe prior to this but it was a real failure. They barely rose, came out with strange contours all over the top, were hollow on the underside (where they had failed to rise properly) and looked awful in comparison to the second batch I made using the above recipe:

This wasn't the first time I had used egg replacer and despite trying a couple of different techniques it always failed. I won't use it again and I wouldn't recommend it.

This video gives some good egg alternatives for baking (but it does include egg replacer):

See what works for you and share your successes with me so I have another excuse for CAKE!

Like a Friend to the Slaughter

A couple of days ago I heard whisperings about a lamb raised by a group of school children in Kent. The aim of the project was to teach the children about farming. They named him Marcus.

On Monday, the headteacher of the school confirmed that the children, aged 6-11 had voted 13-1 to have Marcus sent to slaughter and the money raised was to be used to buy piglets to help continue the farm project. This plan however, looks like it will be put on hold indefinitely following the media furore surrounding the decision. Children and parents from the school and the general public are outraged and some parents of the school are threatening legal action as their children are apparently deeply traumatised by decision.

What do I think? Although I don't think that the death of one sheep should cause such a stink given the global magnitude of animal agriculture, this could well be one of the single most enlightening experiences of these children's young lives and maybe (hopefully) even their parents.

As a young child, I remember watching television with my parents and seeing a whale being harpooned. I quietly got up, went upstairs and cried; I'd never seen anything like it before and I couldn't understand why. My mother came up to console me but as far as I can remember she couldn't give me any more of an explanation than 'These things happen'. My next experience of violence against animals was seeing a pig being slaughtered on TV at the age of 11 (contrary to how this may seem, I didn't get all my life knowledge from TV as a child, just the gory bits it seems. I loved Robocop though and used to slo-mo the bit where the guy who'd been in the vat of acid gets run over... Go figure). Although distressing this gave me the knowledge to truly understand where my food was coming from and at the age of 11 I stopped eating meat, much to the dismay of my parents who refused to cook for me in an attempt to make me change my mind. Obviously it didn't.

Armed with my childhood experiences I believe that those traumatised children will be just fine. Although I was never involved in making such a tough decision as theirs, I know they are now armed with a real knowledge of what they are biting into when they eat meat and that it once had the potential to be as much of a friend as their beloved cat or dog. They can no longer be mollycoddled by their parents or have the wool pulled over their eyes (pun, groan) and can make informed, independent decisions.

To say I am saddened by Marcus' death would be true, although in the grand scheme of things it is utterly ridiculous to be touched by just this one story. Just because he had a name it doesn't make his life and death and more tragic than those of the millions of animals mistreated and slaughtered daily for the benefit of us humans. The only difference in Marcus' story is that his death has been so high profile that it could very well be the kick up the arse that many have needed to stop eating meat and hopefully, all animals products.

So many people are happy to buy their pre-packaged products and let their taste buds and weak wills call the shots. Maybe Marcus' story will start to make those people think twice.

Vegan Munch: Chickpea, Tofu and Mushroom Pasty

So Chickpea Tuesday is now 4 months in and I'm having to come up with some pretty inventive ideas to keep it fresh.

Chickpea Tuesday happens on the 2nd Tuesday of every month (which was yesterday) and this month I made mashed chickpea, marinated tofu and mushroom pasty (yes, it's vegan!)

Here's the half-assed recipe (I can't remember exactly what I did!).

Serves 2

150g wholemeal flour
65g white vegetable fat
Between 30-45ml cold water
1/4 tsp salt

Add the vegetable fat to the flour & salt and mix/fine out with fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs.

Add the water spoon by spoon and mix with a knife until a dough is formed. Roll into a ball and cool in fridge until needed.

The key to good pastry is keeping it cool at all times, so make sure it stays away from your palms, that you only add cold water and that you keep in refrigerated until needed.

1 white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
1 tin chickpeas
Enough water to cover chickpeas
4 medium size mushrooms
1 pack of Cauldron marinated tofu
Seasoning and spices to taste:
Cayenne pepper
Powdered ginger
Salt & Pepper

Mash/blend the chickpeas with the water and leave to one side.

Fry the onion and garlic until soft. Add the mushrooms.

Once the mushrooms begin to soften add the tofu and chickpea mix along with your spices (I added mine gradually with the handle of a teaspoon until I was happy with the taste) and leave the mix on a low heat until reaches your desired pasty consistency. Don't forget your salt and pepper!

Roll out your pastry into some sort of rectangle, cut in half and fill both parts with the mix. Cook on Gas Mark 4 for around 20 mins or until the pastry is firm. Eat.

I will admit that this was my first time making pastry and I feel it could have been a little more moist but the filling was really tasty. Thanks to @rhelune for the inspiration.

Enjoy the recipe, remember that cooking is not a science, nor should it be stressful. Enjoy it and go vegan. It really is so easy and delicious, and ethically, it's the best thing you can do for animals.


P.S. Chickpeas are for life, not just for Tuesdays.

A Day in the Life of My Digestive System

I'm obsessed with food. I love it, can't get enough of it and, though petite, have an appetite to rival even the largest of my fellow humans.

Being vegan, I encounter a few people who question what I eat and who think I must have a less-is-more approach to my diet. They may assume that I am happy to live on a diet of salad, fruits, nuts and seeds and don't demand exciting and down right delicious food. They are so very wrong.

This was initially going to be a quick #whatveganseat Tweet with a TwitPic but I decided to blog it instead as 140 characters is just not enough for me to express how much I adore food and to show that it is easy, fun and totally tasty (groans at the alliteration) to eat ethically (groans again).

You may think that being vegan is nothing more than a painful reduction in food options. I have found that it has led to me being more creative in the kitchen and a lot more discerning when it comes to the quality of the food I buy and I know I am not alone.

Enough chatter, nobody likes long blogs. On with the pictures, on with the proof!

For brunch today (it was late about 2pm) I had a Huevos-less Burrito with Rancherous Sauce.

To make up for the lack of breakfast, naturally I had to have a desert. Coconut and sultana rice pudding with toasted brazil nuts.

I am currently digesting my final meal of the day which was pretty much the ultimate in comfort food. Sausage, sheese and basil mash, chilli and garlic roasted brocolli all topped off with onion gravy. Flavour overload. Nom.

Being vegan isn't all salad and seeds. It isn't hard and it isn't boring. I only hope that next time someone asks me what I eat I can think of a more inspiring reply than just 'loads'.