Jan62 day 26 – five days and less than a fiver left

A friend was shooting a video for one of her songs yesterday and asked for volunteer “crowd” so B and I drove to the shoot (mildly exciting!). On the way back we were passing Aldi and dropped in to see if they had any flaked almonds. Unfortunately, they seemed to be out of almonds completely, flaked or otherwise, as they were last time I visited in December, but I did manage to pick up a kilo bag of oats for 75p.

bag of porridge oats

I wanted to see if my oat and coconut flour pastry would work in savoury format but had been low on oats, so it was good to get more to play with. I tried the pastry with a ratio of 2:1 oats and coconut, plus a splash of olive oil, pinch of salt and water to bind. I made a simple red onion and chickpea flour quiche-type filling. Seemed to work okay, though the coconut flavour is a little unexpected in a spiceless savoury dish.

You may be wondering what I’ve used to fasten up the bag of oats, although those of an urban-foraging disposition may already know. It’s a strip of bicycle tyre inner tube, tied to make a sturdy rubber band. I cadged loads of inner tubes from a local bike repair shop, and they were happy for me to take them as they were much punctured and repaired and would otherwise have been thrown away. Once I’d brought these home I cut them across once to make a tube, then slit the tubes end-to-end. I popped the tubes into the washing machine on wool cycle and they came out nice and clean, ready to be used for craft and DIY projects! They’re a perfect free sub for rubber bands as you can make them almost any length and they’re much less likely to perish.

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Bargains at the market! (November ninety, day 15)

Halfway through the month!

Since I was in credit, and I really fancied some tofu and a looksee at the market to try for cheap bananas, I headed across town after the morning at work. I popped into the Chinese grocery next to the market for calcium-set tofu, £1.30 for 600g, then headed across the road towards the market.

One of the stalls regularly sells organic pointy sweet peppers a few for a pound, and today the bowls were extra large. True, some of them were slightly wizened, so I may have to process them fairly quickly and freeze some, but they’ll add interest to lots of meals!

red, yellow and orange peppers in a row

There’s a stall that sells sweets, crisps and snacks at knock-down prices and they had The Dormen mixed nuts (baked almonds, cashews, macadamias and pistachio nuts) in 130g foil bags, three bags for a pound! True, they were past the sell-by, so I bought a three bags and opened one. Seemed absolutely fine, so I bought another three bags, and will stick most of them in the freezer to be on the safe side. When I came home I checked the normal retail price and they seem to go for over two quid a bag, so I’m very pleased.

bowl containing bags of nuts

I also bought a savoy cabbage for 60p, and 20 clementines with leaves (showing freshness) for a pound, so that’s a total of £5.90, bringing the month’s spend to £44.17.


November ninety – day thirteen

It’s rather a nice day in Leicester. Cold, yes, but crisp and sunny. This was part of my view from work this morning.

cityscape view of west leicester

I haven’t spent anything yet today, but I could splash out £6.50 or so and stay on target, and may take a trip to the shops soon as I am nearly out of almonds, meaning my morning routine is in jeopardy. I’ve mentioned before that I am not usually hungry first thing in the morning so I soak a handful of almonds in my drink when I get in to work and by the time they start to plump up I’m ready to snack. Today’s drink was Equal Exchange brand rooibos and honeybush.

brown liquid in mug with almonds

But now I only have about ten almonds left.

almost empty almond packet

The price of the Natco almonds I’d been getting has shot up over the last year. Used to be you could get 400g from Morrisons for under £2.50, then they seemed to stop selling them but Sainsbury’s had them for around £2.56, still a good price. Last time I saw them there (while I wasn’t boycotting them!), they’d gone up to £3 a packet. Aldi do ground and flaked almonds which work out to less (60 and 62p per 100g), but don’t seem to do whole nuts. The best bulk deal I can find currently involves having to buy 800g for £5.39 (6.74 per kilo) from Co-op, so I may get those tomorrow, or I may pay one last hopeful trip to Morrisons tonight to see if the Natco ones are back in stock. Incidentally, Poundland have started doing a range of healthy/wholefoods type things, and were recently seen selling 150g brazil nuts for a pound, which seemed a bargain if you like brazil nuts! Unfortunately I’m not that keen.

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Lunch today was virtually identical to what I ate yesterday, but craftily varied in terms of form. Yestrday I had split pea thick soup with added butternut suash, a bit watered down and with toast on the side. Today I have made open-faced sandwiches of slices of toast generously covered in cold split-pea mix (having a break from the squash), with chopped peanuts on top for added texture, and fresh mint from the garden, which is a slightly odd flavour addition as coriander would go a lot better, but you work with what you’ve got!

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I also have a smoothie to which I’ve added all sorts of weird and wonderful things. It has a small apple, some oats, dried apricots, a dried fig, flax seeds, a pinch of Irish Moss (for iodine), blackstrap molasses and a handful of frozen gooseberries. It isn’t terrible, but it does taste quite worthy. I knew I should have put some chocolate in instead of gooseberries!


£100 challenge – day twenty-six

Big, exciting news, everyone! Are you ready?….. wait for it….

I finally cracked open one of the four Christmas puddings that have been sitting in my cupboard since January!

And the crowd goes wild! They didn’t expect that!

Yeah, sorry, my life is pretty boring at the moment. Instead of steaming the whole thing for hours when there’s no way I can get through 400+ grams of pudding in one go, and the packaging says not to reheat it, I just cut a couple of slices, lightly oiled my cast iron frying pan and put them on a medium heat for a few minutes each side. Sure, they were a bit chewier than Christmas pudding generally is, but I just drowned them in sauce (which included leftover chestnut and leftover pumpkin pie filling). Yum yum.

No spending again today. I’m still on £67.79 at the moment, but my oven has gone peculiar in the last few days, taking a very long time to come up to anything near baking temperature. I’ve been wanting a toaster/mini oven for years, especially just to heat a beanburger or two – obviously turning on a full size oven to do that is pretty wasteful. Now I’m thinking that if I carry over £30 to next month that can go towards something halfway decent – I’ve seen some “rotisserie” mini ovens around fifty quid, but they also come with shelves, and have a grill/broiler function, which I don’t currently have in my oven even when it’s working properly. It’d be nice to have the ability to brown the tops of things!

So, say I get the mini oven. That’s £20 from next month’s £90 straight away. Another £22ish for the dentist leaves me with £48. I also really want to go to another gig, which is going to be another £12ish. There are also Christmas fairs I’ve said I’m going to. My mother has pointed out to me (and this had genuinely escaped my attention!) that I’ll probably want to buy Christmas presents at these fairs. Even if there’s only a tenner’s worth of stuff from a fair that leaves less than £30 for food, and cupboards are noticeably emptier now, though I do still have a lot of gluten-free flour I bought to experiment with, pumpkin, squash and onions. Plus three and a bit Christmas puddings, of course.

Maybe I just cook everything on the stovetop for a while, eh?

Finally, here’s a leaf I found on my way into town some time back. I didn’t tamper with it, it was this shape when I spotted it. Pretty, huh?

heart shaped leaf


Booze-day Tuesday – Cooking With Beer

Earlier this year I went on holiday to the Lake District. We had lovely weather for almost the whole holiday, and stayed in a couple of pretty nice places. The one slight cloud in my otherwise sunshiny sky was that the small independent offies we visited didn’t seem to know which of the bottles were suitable for vegans in their vast arrays of local beers. However, a very helpful man in Booths supermarket was sure they had some, and almost as soon as we started searching I spotted this beauty.

bottle of stout

Lancaster Black stout. Apparently it’s won awards. It’s certainly very pleasant to drink. I had one or two after enjoying views like this –

lake district blue skies

But I also bought a few bottles home with me. Going through my freezer recently led to the discovery of a mystery sausage. Upon defrosting, I remembered it as a take on Vegan Dad’s veggie lunch meat slicing sausage, to which I’d added some dried porcini mushrooms, and thought a beery hotpot might be nice to come home to this evening so between jobs I put some stuff in a pot…

Stout and Sausage Stew

Ingredients

200g seitan sausage

200g cooked chickpeas

90g (Medium) onion – or more to taste. I only had one left.

125g (2-3 smallish) carrots

140g (2 medium) potatoes

1 400g can tomato chunks

150ml (5 fluid oz, or just over half a cup) stout, or a bit more if you like

1/2 teaspoon of salt or more, to taste

1 teaspoon dried oregano or mixed herbs

2 teaspoons cooking oil

Method.

Cut the onion, carrots and potatoes and seitan into chunks. Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onion. Cook it for a few minutes until it starts to brown then add everything else. Continue to cook on a medium-high heat until it starts bubbling, then lower to a simmer until the potatoes are done.

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It was dark when I got home, to explain the particular rubbishness of the last picture, but I was very glad to be able to grab supper almost as soon as I got in. It’s not the most exciting stew in the world, and the beer flavour is not pronounced, but it seems to round out the flavour of the broth and mellow the acidity of the tomato. Over all, this was pleasant to eat following an afternoon’s work and a mile’s walk home. I’d have added some garlic if I’d had some, but then I would always say that!


Sociable Saturday – Chesters Mexican restaurant, Worcester

Last Sunday I showed you the scones I didn’t eat, and the breakfasts I did during my weekend trip to Worcester. The only other actual meal I had with friends that weekend was lunch at Chesters Mexican restaurant

Originally, we planned to go for dinner on Saturday night, but it wasn’t until Friday that we got around to trying to book a table. Oops. They could fit us in before 6 or after 9.30. We opted to go there for lunch instead.

Chesters isn’t a veg restaurant, but the vegan options are marked and there is a reasonable choice, including several puddings, which it always gladdens my heart to see, although on this occasion I didn’t get to try any of them. We dispensed with starters too, and just went for main dishes with bowls of fries and onion rings to share.

I’ve only had chimichangas once before and remembered a deep-fried, crispy parcel of deliciousness, so I went for that with a filling of six-bean chilli, which came with salsa, vegan sour cream and guacamole on the side. There was a choice of salad or fries with this and I chose the former, since we were sharing side orders. However, when it arrived I was a bit taken aback with the size of the salad compared to what I had been considering the main event. I would put it down to misconceptions about vegans all being health-conscious except my non-veg friend got an identically large bowl.

Photo showing huge salad and small chimichanga

Unfortunately, there was very little seasoning or dressing on the salad either. On the other hand I felt the salsa portion, which was well flavoured, could have stood to be doubled in size.

The chimichanga itself was thoroughly cooked, and pleasant enough, but to my curry-seasoned palate it tasted rather underspiced, nor was it the crispy greasebomb i’d been lusting after.

Fortunately, the fries and onion rings made up for this a bit, being excellently crispy, oily and delicious.

Photo of fries and onion rings

This was not a bad meal, the service was friendly and helpful, and it was very reasonably priced. If I’m visiting Worcester again I’ll definitely give their main courses another shot, but chose fries on the side instead of salad! I’d also like to try one of puddings none of us had room for this time. As you can see, we did a pretty good job with the mains.

Photo of empty plates and friends looking full of food


Market (and nearby) Monday

Got my avocados this week! I saw avocado feature in so many other people’s MoFo blogs I really started wanting some. Think I can risk £1, especially as the bowl I got had 5, not 4 avocado pears in it. I’m going to make some bread later, as the first way I ever had avocado (smooshed up on wholemeal bread with salt, pepper and vinegar) is still my favourite way to eat them. 

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Nothing else really caught my eye, apart from a bag of pickling onions I dithered over before deciding against, so I’m going to fill out this post with some eulogising about one of my favourite places near the market, Just fair trade shop.

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This is a couple of minutes walk away from Leicester Market, on Silver Street, and is nearly always the first place I go to when I’m looking for cards or gifts. Although veganism is strictly only about avoiding harm to animals as far as possible, I believe most vegans are pretty socially conscious in general and try to include humans in their not-harming endeavours. I’m obviously not the only one, as there’s clearly a market for cross-sectional do-gooding if the array of vegan-friendly goodies on offer here is anything to go by. For example, they have intentionally vegan chocolate as well as stuff that’s ingredient-suitable although it has “may contain traces…” style warnings (I’m looking at you, Divine chocolate!)

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Particularly pleased to see the cinder toffee, as I’ve not seen this before, and I do miss crunchie bars very occasionally (although really, after 16 years I only have the haziest memory of what they actually tasted like).

They also have quite a good selection of other grocery items like olive oil, spice mixes, couscous, drinks, a few beans, and some tasty-looking (albeit pricey) spreads, and a choice of several teas and coffees. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a ‘suitable for vegans’ label on tea before!

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So yes, well worth a visit if you happen to be in the neighbourhood.


Scones on Sunday – AKA what I didn’t have for breakfast

Yesterday’s post didn’t actually happen yesterday, it was something I prepared earlier, as I knew I wouldn’t have time to write while being busy enjoying the sights of the rather pleasant city of Worcester.

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We left Leicester on Friday evening and drove up the motorway in rather horrible rainy conditions to arrive after 9pm. We didn’t get up to much that evening beyond nipping out for a quick drink just before last orders.

On Saturday we were meeting a couple of friends for the afternoon, but decided to go out for breakfast (especially because we were staying in a Travelodge, where it looked as though there was a set price of £8 for breakfast, which I’d probably baulk at paying even if they were offering me something better than boxed cocoa pops or dry toast). 

Worcester has only 3 places to eat listed on Happy Cow, and we visited them all. Our breakfast destination was the Karmic Cafe, and it is here that I did not have scones for breakfast.

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If we’d have had room later, I did fully intend to come back and try one of these, as they offered cream teas at the cafe, including the above vegan scones with jam and I think some kind of vegan cream and a pot of tea.

But these scones stood no chance with me in the morning, because if someone offers me a choice of the above, or a vegan version of a full English breakfast, guess which one I’m going to take?

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2 hash browns, traditional tinned tomatoes, baked beans, veggie sausage and bacon, herby mushrooms, brown sauce and a couple of rounds of toast with vegan spread, with a glass of juice to wash it down. That was a good breakfast!

Before we left to come back today, we went to Boston Tea Party, and they also do a pretty nice breakfast. Of note were the rosemary potatoes, and the toast made from seedy bread, although the latter lost marks with me because it came pre-spread, whereas I prefer to use my toast to mop up bean juice.Image

 

Not pictured is the excellent blueberry and ginger smoothie I had with this. Totally worth a visit for that even if you’re not hungry.

 


Sociable Saturday – Shivalli

I’m lucky enough to live in Leicester, which has a hugely diverse population, including many whose religion strongly suggests they should be vegetarian. This results in an enormous choice of places I can pick up something to eat, with many restaurants, cafés and sweetmarts offering vegetarian food with vegan options or happy to substitute menu items so a meal can become vegan (I had a most interesting mixture of Punjabi and English breakfast a few weeks ago!).

So far, I haven’t found a match for my favourite restaurant, which is handily situated just across the road from my main workplace. Can’t do better than to point you to the Happy Cow reviews for this place (especially since mine is in there, from early 2011) – http://www.happycow.net/reviews/shivalli-leicester-20481

I was therefore very happy when my boyfriend suggested we toddle along to this place, and that he would treat me. With this on offer, what else could I do but get a thali?

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The lighting and my phone-cam really don’t do this justice. When it came out, I actually said “holy moly!” – and this wasn’t even the whole thing! Previously we’d been bought poppadoms and  other deep fried snacks, with chutney which I had to assure the new-ish waiter was one of my favourite things when he tried to warn me about the heat level.

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This wasn’t the starter though! This was the pre-starter. For starters I had a dosa (thin delicious pancake made out of fermented rice and lentil batter, filled with spicy potato and onion mix), and a samosa, and more chutney. 

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No wonder I had to regretfully decline when they offered me dessert!

Maybe this doesn’t exactly look sociable. I haven’t even shown you what my boyfriend was eating, but to be honest his was a bit boring in comparison. He helped with eating the fried things to begin with, then he had some potato balls with chutney, and then beans palaya, which is pleasant enough but visually unassuming, and some kind of cashew and vegetable thing. He also had to help me quite a bit with the main thali plate, which even so I didn’t quite manage to clear. Close enough though!


Midweek miscellany

My goodness, it’s been a bit of a rubbish day on the weather front! I had a lot on at work today, and I’d left my purse at home, and didn’t want to go back home for lunch so I was reliant for sustenance on the contents of my desk drawer.

I always start the day at work with almonds and a cup of coffee. I don’t usually feel like eating breakfast and almonds are small in volume and snackable, and relatively good in terms of protein and vitamins and minerals and all that. Also they’re quite cheap. A bit later in the morning I had some Finn Crisp thin rye crackers. These are one of my favourite snacks! So crunchy, with a surprisingly big flavour for something with such a short list of ingredients. Check ’em out – http://www.finncrisp.com/crispbreads/thin-crisps/ (I am in no way affiliated with Finn Crisp, I just really like these).

Since the weather was so yuck, it’s definitely a warm-comforting-something-in-a-mug day. Given my limited options, I improvised some hot chocolate

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Yes, I do have the remains of a kilo of chocolate chips at my workplace. And I keep a jar of cinnamon on my desk drawer. As you can see, the chips have a bloom on them, from the 2 weeks we had this summer where the weather was actually hot. Fortunately that doesn’t affect the taste at all. 

I decanted a handful of chips and a sprinkle of cinnamon to my mug and then filled the cup about a third of the way up with boiling water from the water heater, stirred vigorously then topped it up with more water.

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This would have been a lot nicer with soya, coconut or hazelnut milk, but even with just water it did cheer the day up a bit. Here’s the view I enjoyed while I drank my chocolate

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When I got back from work I was really in the mood for something savoury and warming. A short while ago, I started discovering heavily discounted cans of chestnut puree, so I stocked up on them, but then couldn’t find quite the right recipe to showcase their smooth, light texture and mellow flavour (they are a key ingredient in my family’s traditional Christmas pie, but it’s not quite time for that yet!). I did see quite a few suggestions for either pairing with butternut squash or mushrooms in a soup though, so I had soup in mind and it was the work of moments to chop and fry up an onion and a stick of celery and then add half a can of chestnut puree, a crushed clove of garlic, some bouillon powder and a couple of spoons of tomato paste and top it up with hot water then bung in a roughly chopped courgette. As soon as the latter was done, into a bowl and then down my gullet it went!

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The chestnut works as a great thickener in this soup, although the flavour was pretty well swamped by the celery, I’d probably cut that down or out if I made something like this again.

Last and probably the ugliest thing I made today, some tropical jelly with gooseberries in (frozen a couple of months back), using up something I found in the bargain bin of the local healthfood shop. Love this stuff! The addition of fruit stops it from just being empty calories too! 

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Thinking about possible Wednesday MoFo themes, one of my tentative ideas had been Wibbly Wednesday. It also seemed like a potentially appropriate-looking thing for a Halloween party in a few weeks time. 

I boiled a pint of water, added it to 165g frozen gooseberries in a little pan then brought it to the boil again. The idea was to just cook the gooseberries a little bit so they didn’t burst so I only boiled them for about a minute and some came open anyway but never mind. 

Here’s the rather repulsive looking result! In a strange way, I’m quite proud of it. If it was just set in a bowl you could probably tell a small child that it was giant frogspawn and get them to believe you.

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