Thursday, August 26, 2010

Just a quick note to say...

I'm off to Wales on Saturday for 5 days so won't be blogging much until I return. I'll be making up for it then though, so watch out! I'm going to stay with my father in the rolling valleys and stunning countryside of mid Wales. He has a lovely big garden filled with all sorts of fresh fruit and veg, not to mention that he is also an amazing cook! He's got a couple of veggie/vegan restaurants in mind to take me to, and a friend of the family is also preparing a fully vegan meal for us all when we visit her. It will be the bank holiday weekend in the UK, so the nearby beautiful little seaside town will be going all-out for its annual Carnival... lots of drinking to be done, catching up with old friends and eating of lovely chips from my favourite chip shop! So I'll be back soon with lots of photos and a full report on everything we got up to :)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gorgeous Grub at Govinda's!

I love the Hare Krishna café Govinda's so much, I really must go there more often. The food is SO CHEAP and they really pile it on the plate. I don't think there's anywhere you'd get so much tasty food for so little money. The boy and I spent the day in town together today and went to the café on Aungier Street for lunch (there are 3 Govindas around Dublin). He got the spring rolls and chilli dip, which I assume were vegan, and were filled with grated carrot, beansprouts, and peas, amongst other things. I ordered the vegan Subji with salad instead of rice. The vegan Subji of the day was a mildly spicy, tomatoey concoction of cauliflower, aubergines, peas, onions, french beans and carrots, and I chose the peanut cous cous and the apple, celery and beetroot salad as accompaniments. This huge plate came to just under €7.00 - what a bargain!  Govinda's also have samosas which are vegan, and a veggie burger which can be veganised on request. I think their soups are often vegan as well. I really can't wait to go back again, it's the place to visit if you're ravenous and want somewhere where you'll be served quickly and with a smile.

Yes, I am aware that I look a bit of a piglet eating all this compared to my boyfriend's plate!! It's his loss for not liking subji!

I also picked up this book for only €2.99 - 30 Minute Indian. It has a lot of recipes involving meat and dairy, but the vegetable (mostly vegan) and bread/rice sections are really worth picking this book up for. I'm sure even the recipes that are not vegetarian can be veganised. I can't wait to give the mushroom korma, stuffed okra, dahl tarka, bhajis, coconut fudge and pumpkin curry a whirl!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Culinary Disasters!

Tonight I was left alone in the kitchen and things went kinda wrong! First of all when I got home I decided to use up the rest of the mock pork seitan with a nice salad. I thought frying it with a sprinkling of Chinese Five Spice was going to be good... but it was actually disgusting! I've heard wonderful things about this spice, so I don't know if I've used it incorrectly, but it's meant to be nice on chips and wedges and to flavour stir fries, so I don't know if I just hate it altogether, or if I just used it in the wrong manner. It was WAY to cinnamonny/clovey for me... don't get me wrong, I LOVE cinnamon, but this did NOT go well with the salad at all. I was quite miffed that I actually managed to ruin a perfectly good meal.

Then later on this evening I got inspired by Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar to make their Peanut Butter Blondies. Everything was going swimmingly until I left them unattended, deciding that the full 25 mins at 200C would be fine, seeing as our oven is pretty dire... so as you can see, my blondies are not so much blondies, but more like a brownie! :(  The boy loved them though, they still managed to taste good and soft on the inside. Next time I'll know what to do, to make them more aesthetically pleasing!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Oodles of NOodles

I was totally inspired by Bianca over at Vegan Crunk to make my own ramen noodle soup, as we have several Asian markets in Dublin selling aisle upon aisle of different varieties of packaged noodles. I'd normally stay well away from things like this because I know how calorie laden they are and how very little nutrition is in them. However it really appealed to me that you can make a soup from them and add your own ingredients to make it a more satisfying, tasty and nutritionally balanced meal.

I chose to add a few mixed beans and chickpeas, green french beans and some Chinese mock pork (fried gluten/seitan) and of course piled on the chilli powder, artificial chicken flavour stock and garlic oil that came with the noodles. The result was a large, super delicious and super spicy bowl of ramen soup, very like the ones they serve at Wagamama. The mock pork was tender and combined with the mixed beans added a lot of protein to the meal. Of course you can add whatever you like... next time I might try fried tofu puffs, shitake mushrooms and some wakame seaweed. I could definitely eat another bowlful, it was that good!

Bonkers about Baking!

Yes I've gone slightly off the rails with my baking recently, due to having a lot of spare time on my hands. I really had no idea that muffins were so easy to make, and I have fun experimenting with them! They're just so handy to have around as well, for breakfasts (heated up with a bit of jam) and for snacks on the go. Today I randomly made some Banana, Blackberry, Flaxseed & Nutella Muffins, which turned out pretty well. In fact, they were still soft, fluffy and gooey even hours after they came out of the oven, and the boy said they were fantastic! We really couldn't get enough of them. I think I'm going to have to stop making muffins for a while now and wait until next week before I bake any more, I just think I'm becoming addicted to them and keep justifying these indulgent little treats by putting fruit inside them. I'll be getting a 'muffin top' soon if I'm not careful... I think the key to limiting myself to just one a day is to get some larger muffin cases so I can make regular sized muffins like you get in coffee shops, then I think I'll feel more satisfied and won't keep reaching for more!

I can't wait to go see my dad at the end of this month and bake some muffins using the fruit from his garden. He has raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, redcurrants & gooseberries - the poor guy won't know what to do with all the muffins I'm gonna be making for him!!! I'd say warm muffins straight from the oven with some pecan soya ice cream would be a heavenly dessert :)

As you can see, my hamster Pep-Pep loves to nibble on freshly made berry muffins too! Nom nom nom...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Redress Yourself

I've been browsing the Re-dress website tonight.

Re-dress is a non-profit fashion organisation that educates and engages members of industry and society in sustainable consumption and production practices through networking, mentoring, consultancy and scheduled events. 

If you'd like to read more about environmentally friendly fashion, recycling your clothes, reducing your carbon footprint, and learn about ethical impacts certain fabrics have on this planet and its inhabitants then this is the website for you.

THIS page on the site, in particular, is interesting as it lists the companies which are taking part in the 'fashion evolution'.

I've tried to access their page on animal materials but it doesn't seem to be working at the moment...

A Few New Things I've tried

I thought I'd just put up a few pictures of things I've tried recently.  These 'Provamel' Soya Nuggets were quite nice, not too expensive either, and good to have as a snack with a dip. I don't think I'll be getting them again anytime soon though, but I'd recommend them to someone who loves their quick and easy finger food.

The 'Wheaty' Seitan Steak I bought last week was AMAZING and very filling and meaty in this little bun with BBQ sauce, tomato sauce, homemade refried Mexican beans and rocket. Even though the seitan was super tasty (somewhat akin to a frankfurter/smoky hotdog), I don't think I'll be buying it again because it was so expensive at €3.50 for the burger-sized portion. I've seen a much bigger block of it somewhere in town (if only I could remember where! Maybe Down to Earth on George's Street?) for around €7.50, which is much better value as there's about 3 times as much in that packet and it could be sliced thinly too for luncheon meat. The burger-sized slice was a little too thick for my liking as it was a struggle to finish when combined with the bread roll and all the other ingredients, but I assume someone with a normal-sized appetite would probably think it was just about right (I have a little tummy!). I definitely want to buy some again soon though, if I can find it somewhere cheaper, as it was the nicest burger-in-a-bun I've had for a long time.

A product which I've used a lot recently, that I get from the Hopsack in Rathmines, is Xylitol. It's an all natural low-calorie and kind-to-your-teeth alternative to sugar. It pretty much tastes exactly like sugar too, the only downfall is that it's quite expensive at €3.75 for a small bag. I only ever use it in cooking or in porridge though so it lasts me a good while. I love the Hopsack so much, it's a really tiny shop but is packed with so many cool products. They have a fridge full of dairy and meat substitutes and ice creams, sprouted beans from The Happy Pear in Greystones, raw chocolates from Natasha's Living Food, loads of seeds, nuts, dried fruit, cereal bars - anything you could ever want! The staff are so friendly and helpful too.

The Tofu Pizza slice, Carrot & Arame Strudel, and Yellow Split Pea & Celeriac Soup from Blazing Salads pictured below were a bit of a mixed bunch. I thought I'd never fail to be impressed with their food, but I was wrong. The pizza slice was very greasy and the basil pesto was overpowering. The tofu topping was also quite bland (which could have been the reason for laying the pesto on so thick) but towards the end of the experience actually started to taste quite cheesy. I think I probably just wasn't used to something so strange on a pizza. I really do prefer the refried beans they use in Hell. It was also VERY oily and wasn't wrapped up properly so the oil got all over the place! I don't think I'll be getting it again, although if you like that kind of thing was it good value for €2.95 and quite filling. I ate it cold, so maybe it would have been better warm.

The Strudel is another savoury of theirs that I won't be getting again. Totally not worth the €3.05 I paid for it. I'd only recommend it if you like seaweed, because this literally was just a load of arame and a bit of carrot wrapped in some filo pastry with some sesame seeds sprinkled on top. Even for someone like me who loves sea vegetables, it was quite strong and salty. However I did really like the flaky pastry, and I guess as seaweed is so good for you nutritionally it was a healthy option.

Their soup was, again, another hit. The yellow split peas tasted similar to lentils and it was thick and flavoursome. I'd definitely buy it again.

I wasn't expecting much of the M&S Vegetable & Bean Chilli Soup, but I was surprised because it was actually really nice! It did just taste like a watered down version of my own Mixed Bean Chilli though, so I don't think I'd buy it again as I could just make it myself.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Healthy Blackberry Polenta Muffins

I just made these little beauties from the "How it all Vegan" book I got on the weekend. I only made half of the recommended ingredients, just in case they didn't turn out well (and seeing as the boy isn't that fond of anything cake-like I guess I'm not going to eat THAT many muffins on my own, right?). But my oh my do I wish I'd made the full amount now! They are just SO good, and very healthy tasting as well... AND the boy loves them, so it would have been quite handy to have made more. Here's the recipe below. I substituted blackberries for the raspberries and rice milk for the soya milk, as it was all I had at the time. Half of the ingredients made 6 small muffins which would be ideal for breakfast, accompanied with some fruit and a cup of coffee.

175g/6oz Cornmeal
175g/6oz Plain Flour
Dash of Salt
90g/3oz Sweetener
Three-Quarter Tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
4 Tbsp Oil
175ml/6fl oz Soy Milk
175ml/6fl oz Orange or Apple Juice
1 Tsp Vinegar
115g/4oz Raspberries

Preheat oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. In a large bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour, salt, sweetener, and bicarbonate of soda. Add the oil, milk, juice, vinegar and berries. Mix together gently until just mixed. Spoon into lightly oiled/non stick muffin tins and bake for 35-45 minutes. Test with a knife to see if done. Makes 6 large muffins.

Here's the inside of one of them, it's not like this all the way through, I just happened to break it open on a rather large blackberry! They are lovely and juicy and soft when they come straight out of the oven. I can't wait to make them again with raspberries. I might experiment and throw some random ingredients in next time, like some vanilla extract and some dessicated coconut!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Weekend Wanderings

I've had a fantastic weekend! On Saturday I met up with a very good friend and we went to the Hugh Lane Gallery. On the way we picked up a soya latte from Insomnia and some sushi and a curry from Kokoro, to eat in the Gardens of Rememberance opposite the Gallery. Kokoro didn't seem to have all its veggie and vegan sushi on the shelves, so all I got was the avocado, cucumber and sweet tofu rolls with a ginger soy sauce dip. My vegetarian friend got their tofu curry and we totally forgot to ask if it was vegan for the purpose of the blog! She said it didn't taste like it had any dairy in it though. The sauce tasted like a much better version of chip shop curry sauce, and the squash, cauliflower, peppers, onion and courgette were tenderly cooked. At just over €6.00 she was really impressed as it was a very decent, filling portion. My sushi cost €5.95 for 10 pieces and the dip, although when all the vegan sushi is available it usually comes to around €8.00 for a fuller bento with more pieces. I would have been so much happier if they'd had the oshinko and kampyo rolls available, as I find cucumber sushi quite boring...

We passed by the Nutz stall in the Ilac shopping centre. I am not sure how I managed to resist buying bags and bags of their treats, but I did! I love their dark chocolate brazils, peanuts and pieces of ginger. They also sell Japanese rice crackers, dried fruit and roasted / coated nuts.

After visiting the Hugh Lane - having a good nose around Sir Francis Bacon's studio and having fun deciphering the strange artwork of Ronnie Hughes - we went to the Live Food Market in Temple Bar. I love this place! My friend got a raw vegan cocoa & coconut energy bar from Natasha's Living Food stall to take home with her - I'll have to find out how she liked it. I remember getting it when my father was over and I really liked it, although I must admit that I can make nicer and cheaper ones at home from my Rawvolution book, and at the time I was really jealous of the blueberry cashew raw "cheese" cake that my father got! The fake cheesecakes and tarts were melting in the sun, which is why my friend opted for the more solid looking bar - but I guess that's not usually a problem in Dublin! I had to content myself with trying a few samples of their raw vegan flaxseed crackers and kale crispies, as I'm not rich enough to justify buying such decadent treats. Their salads and burgers always look so appealing though, so I'm determined to try these in the near future.

I decided to get some Indian snacks from the vegetarian Indian stall at the market, but as we were there quite late in the day most of their food had gone, which demonstrates just how good it is! I managed to nab the last Spicy Kofta, which they confirmed was vegan, as well as a vegan potato savoury. I think their samosas are also vegan (as most samosas are), and all their ingredients are listed on the labels. My friend bought a block of traditional Indian fudge, made from condensed milk. I used to love fudge and find vegan fudge rather expensive, so I just have it as a birthday or Christmas treat... I'm sure my teeth thank me for that!

We went for dinner at the famous Dublin vegetarian and vegan restaurant Cornucopia. I cannot emphasise enough how amazing this place is! If you ever come to Dublin, this is the place to go. I was still quite full from lunch (and my breakfast of BBQ baked beans on toast) so I asked for a small salad. I wasn't really expecting much for €4.50, but I ended up with a HUGE bowl of sprouted bean salad and a rice salad with tofu and mixed vegetables! The dressing on the sprouted bean salad was heavenly (lemon and ginger from what my tastebuds could determine?) but I wish I'd chosen a different salad to the rice one as it was nowhere near as nice as the sprouted beans and was rather heavy. My friend got the Lentil Dhal (for around €12.00), which came with brown rice and a choice of two salads. She struggled to finish it, so luckily for her I was on hand to help! We were both busting at the seams after this so we didn't get a chance to try dessert this time. I love their tofu cheesecakes. In fact I love ALL their vegan cakes! I think next time I go there I'll just go for a coffee and a cake :)

We visited the Secret Book and Record Store, a very well hidden little shop just down the road from Cornucopia which also houses Freebird Records, and I managed to pick up a virtually brand new copy of How it All Vegan for €6.00. I love this book and can't wait to try it out! Not only does it have the usual food recipes, but it also tells you how to make vegan toothpaste, lip balm, cleansers, cleaning products, face masks, scrubs, baby oil, sunburn lotion, perfume, bug repellant, mouthwash and treats for your pets, amongst loads of other really cool things! We stopped into Lush as well and my friend bought some of their solid Karma perfume and some Vanilla soap. We love Lush, there are so many vegan friendly products there that it's impossible to choose what to get!

Sunday was another good day. I had the Marks & Spencers Vegetable Curry  for lunch, that I purchased last week, along with the Kofta I got in the market the day before. It was really good! The Kofta was really crispy on the outside and tasted quite like an onion bhaji, but the inside was soft and full of mashed carrots, sweet potato and laden with the usual lovely Indian spices.

I was going to cycle out to Ikea this afternoon, but when I met the boy from work I was already dripping in sweat from the mostly downhill cycle, so we decided it was WAAAY too hot to cycle all the way out there. Instead we moseyed into town to do a bit of clothes shopping. Look at the lovely stuff I got below, from H&M, Top Shop, Pull'n'Bear and Awear - and it was all vegan, even the knitted hat (made from acrylic fibres).   We grabbed a quick bite to eat from M&S and had a picnic in the sun - I had falafels with a hummus dip, some oven baked crisps, and an orange and raspberry smoothie. The boyfriend had a brie, cranberry and grape salad sandwich (a vegetarian option - I'm so impressed with him!!), some of their vegan onion bhaji crisps, and a vanilla yoghurt drink (booooo!). I liked the falafels, I've had them before, but I was NOT impressed at all with their baked crisps. They tasted like cardboard, no lie! They also didn't taste very vinegary, so I was very disappointed. I hijacked the boyfriend's onion bhaji crisps instead and they were really good, I wish I'd got those instead!

I'm spending this evening sitting in the garden with a couple of cold Scotch whiskeys and some coke... this weather is just too damn good to be true! I wish we could have predicted it and had a barbecue! :) Hope everyone has had a lovely weekend.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Monty's of Kathmandu Cooking Class

I love Monty's! There's a branch in Temple Bar and another in Rathgar. The Rathgar branch is hosting cooking classes later this year and seems a bargain to me for an hour and a half masterclass with a 3 course meal and half a bottle of wine afterwards. Monty's have an extensive vegetarian menu with some vegan options. Their value menu (just under €20 for a three course meal) is amazingly good value too! If anyone is interested in the cooking classes, information is available here. I'm not sure how applicable it is to vegans, but I'm sure it would be an interesting insight into Nepalese cuisine all the same.

Friday, August 13, 2010

I'm on Friend-Face!

Velovegan now has a Facebook page :)
Very early days in the making, but add if you like!

Field & Vine

There's a chain of health food shops in Dublin called "Field and Vine". I've only ever visited the Rathfarnham and Rathmines Upper branches so I'm not sure exactly how common they are in Ireland. However, the times I have visited have been very positive experiences.

They sell anything from fresh organic veg (I was rather tempted by the large, plump artichokes although am not sure yet what to cook them with so managed to resist!), fresh sandwiches and cakes, and a fresh salad/olive bar, to gourmet meats/fake meats, fairtrade chocolate, preserves and extensive dairy produce/dairy alternatives.

The shop is not entirely veggie or vegan, but as you can see has a few lovely vegan options at the salad bar. Their chickpea salad, the tabbouleh, and the fresh courgette salad look nice (pictured below), as does their seedy grated carrot and coriander salad. The other side of the salad bar is dedicated mainly to different types of olives. I remember before this shop in Rathmines Upper became "Field and Vine" it was called "The Olive Branch", and I used to go here to get tubs of sundried tomatoes and several decadent varieties of stuffed olives: a real treat!

As I have so much food in the house at the moment I opted for a couple of things I could keep in the fridge for a long time: some Tofu Breaded Nuggets by Provamel, and this Smoked Seitan Steak by Wheaty. The seitan was quite expensive for such a small burger-sized portion (at just under €3.50), but I do love seitan so I couldn't resist. Seitan is hard to get hold of in Ireland, as is vital wheat gluten, so it's even more difficult to make it! I plan to have these little delicacies next week and would like to buy some mozerella style Cheezley to melt onto the seitan and add it to a bagel or a bun with some BBQ sauce and rocket. NYOM! :)

I also found this ginger dark chocolate by Butlers (an Irish chocolate company) in the picture below on the left. I was unaware that they did this ginger bar, and have only really tasted their almond and orange chocolate before... which I may add is really worth checking out!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thank You Lovely Boyfriend!

Look what my very kind boyfriend made for me today (he'll even hack through an extremely tough butternut squash for me, that's how much he cares)!

My friend Jacqui has been raving about how amazing butternut squash chips are - a weight watchers zero point alternative for potato chips / fries, for the calorie conscious amongst us - so I bought one and thought we should give it a go. Our oven takes so much longer to cook anything than any other oven known to man, so they weren't as crispy as they should have been as I was very impatient to eat, but they were still incredibly tasty tossed in some Kentucky fried chicken style spices, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and dipped in sweet chilli sauce... mmmmm!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


One of my favourite snacks has to be toasted corn. It's so crispy, crunchy and addictive - way better than popcorn! I nipped into the Asian Market on Drury Street the other day to pick up a packet. They only cost €1.10 for quite a large bag, and the kernels are huge compared to any toasted corn pieces I've seen in health food shops! I scanned the shelves quickly and also saw some other flavours (such as chicken and curry) in a different section.  There were these cute little strawberries there too for a euro and I couldn't resist picking one up. It folds out into a handy orange little bag with "Asia Market" written on the front :)

Another snack I tried recently was the rice ball from Blazing Salads. It's like a big onigiri with mashed beans and vegetables inside, which has then been lightly fried on the outside. At €2.90 I was expecting something a little more exciting, but whereas the texture of the outer part of the rice was lovely, the centre was quite bland and disappointing. It came with a ginger shoyu dip and without it would definitely have been quite tasteless. I only just noticed that day that Blazing Salads have loyalty cards. You can get one for savories and another for the salad bar. I only have the savory card at the moment but plan to get my mitts on one for the salad bar next time I buy one. I'm not sure what the deal is with the salad card, but with the savory loyalty you get every 11th savory free. I would like to go back soon because I have my eye set on the arame & carrot strudel!