Why I am not giving out non vegan sweets this Halloween.

Non Vegan sweets- Contain Gelatine. AKA Boiled Cows or pigs bones, ligaments, skin, tendons and other cruel yuckiness- Used as natural glue and can cause bloating or even allergic reactions. Ew.

Vegan Sweets- Often contain agar- agar- a type of seaweed.

 

Nuff said.

 

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Spicy + Decadent Lentil Bolognese

Roll up, roll up, as I present to you the best Lentil Bolognese in all the lands!

Ingredients 

  • One Medium Onion
  • Three cloves of Garlic
  • Three Sticks of Celery
  • One Red Chilli with seeds
  • Two 400g tins of Chopped Tomatoes
  • One cup of Red Split Lentils
  • 1/2 a cup of Vegan Red Wine
  • 1 and a 1/2  tablespoons of sugar
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • One Tablespoon of dried Sage
  • Water

Method 

  1. To begin with, roughly chop the onions, celery, garlic and chilli.
  2. Next, heat up some oil in a pan and add the chilli and  onions, cook until the onions become translucent.
  3.  Then add the celery garlic and seasoning (sage, salt and pepper) with a little water and cook for a few minutes until the celery softens.
  4.  Now its time to add the chopped tomatoes, followed by the lentils and the wine.
  5. Give the lentils a good mix to combined everything and cook for about 20 minutes on medium heat, as usual keep checking and add any extra water or seasoning to taste.
  6. Finally, remove from the heat add some fresh torn basil and plate up topped with chilli flakes and maybe some vegan cheese!

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Lasagna (three ways)

 

Vegetable and tofu cheese lasagna 

Lots of vegetables, lots of love and lashes of tofu cheese (if you’ve never tried tofu cheese before, be prepared to be amazed).

Ingredients for the Tofu Cheese (based on four-five servings)

  • Silken or medium Tofu (depending on how creamy you want the Tofu to be).
  • Vegan cheese powder, or nutrisianal yeast
  • Salt and Pepper
  • One tablespoon of lemon juice
  •  A handful or chives well chopped
  • Two cloves of garlic mashed or finely chopped

 

Method 1: Fluffy and thick Tofu Cheese.

  1. Squish up the Tofu with a fork until pretty smooth then add the rest of ingredients mixing well until the cheese is paste like.
  2. Set aside ready to be added to the lovely lasagna

Method 2: Silky Smooth Tofu Cheese

  1. Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
  2. As before, set aside ready to be added to your dish.

 

Lasagna Sauce and Filling

Ingredients

  • Two cloves of Garlic
  • Italian seasoning (1 Tablespoon)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato puree
  • 1 and a half cups of chopped cherry tomatoes, or if using tinned 400g
  • One white large onion chopped
  • Oven roasted sweet peppers (optional but highly recommended)
  • Water
  • Optional – A dash of red wine (again I highly recommended)

 

Method

  • Heat up a pan with a little olive oil and cook the sliced onions until they are translucent, then add the chopped garlic, cooking for a further two minutes.
  • Next, add the seasoning, (if using dried – if using fresh add torn or chopped off the heat so it doesn’t just wilt- with this recipe I would recommend dried) salt, pepper and puree with a little water to keep everything moving .
  • Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan as well as some more water (about a cup), and the wine if you’re using- as much as you dare.
  • Bring to the boil and then lower to a simmer for 20 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened, adding water if you feel it has thicken too much
  • Whilst the sauce is cooking de-seed and de-stalk some sweet peppers rubbing them in olive oil and sprinkling with salt and pepper, then add them to the oven on gas mark five to roast up.
  • When everything is cooked set aside to cool, layer the lasagna however you like (get creative). I add the roasted peppers to the red sauce and then add some fresh spinach to my tofu cheese, then top with some hard vegan cheese.
  • Finally add to the oven for 30-50 minutes (keep checking) at gas mark 6.

 

Lentil Lasagna

You could very easily use the same white sauce for this recipe, but for varieties sake I’m going to use a vegan white sauce mix, this sauce is really easy to use just add some vegan milk (makes the sauce thicker than using water), and a little lemon juice (about a teaspoon) some salt and pepper.

Use the same read sauce, after adding the chopped tomatoes also ass lentils and black beans.

In this Lasagna I usually do use wine and omit the use of sweet peppers and spinach, but if you wanted to add them in you certainly could and make a mega lasagna!

 

Standard Lasagna

Use which ever cheese sauce you prefer – so in my cause it’s always the tofu one, and the same tomato sauce but instead of adding lentils and black beans add TVP, (textured Vegetable Protein) in the its place. Then eat up and enjoy!

 

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Which ever vegan lasagna you chose, go forth and enjoy pasta bliss and remember to serve with board games and vegan wine!

Veganism and Happiness

When the first glow of English spring breaks through the seemingly everlasting winter, that commences late August and drags itself into about May, I can’t help but smile. I wake up to the sounds of birds at 6.00am and gasp at the profound beauty of it all, rather than launching the nearest object and the nearest wall in anger. The seasonal change brings with it dabbled sunlight, blossoming flowers and a whispered promise of hope – spring, it promises, is a time for new beings. I’ve endeavoured since the chime that signalled 2016 rung out to make every day my ‘spring’.

It might come as a surprise to know that I came to veganism at a low time in my life. I’d left University the previous summer with a disappointing grade and an overwhelming feeling of failure and self-pity, I’d started to live for the weekend and had gotten myself into a rut doing a job I hated, for money I squandered on fast food, material objects and alcohol, trying to numb my overwhelming feelings of self-loathing and unhappiness. When Christmas came knocking I felt worse than ever and even though I had left one job and was about to start a new one I was crippled with debilitating anxiety that, like a malevolent alarm, woke me up every few hours whispering to me that I was a failure, that I had let my friends, family and self down and that the little girl who once looked at her future with so much hope and joy, was crying somewhere inside me, disappointed with the sham of an adult I’d become. I’d also stopped reading all together, the books which I’d studied – my first love, my solace – became reminders of my perceived failure. I couldn’t go into a book shop, I couldn’t look at my book shelves, I couldn’t put pen to paper, I didn’t feel like anything I had to say would be valid or intelligent and so I did not permit myself to think or say it.

I like to think I’m not the sort of person to let anything beat me for too long, and I have an excellent network of family and friends that, when I let them, help me profoundly, so I knew I needed to make a change. I needed to start loving myself again and I needed to start making an effort with myself, no more three days in bed, no more terrible microwave meals, no more avoiding conversations and books, no more living for the weekend, no more sadness. So when the clock rang out to signal the start of 2016, even though it was winter and it was cold and I was still working behind a bar, I knew in my heart that I was about to go on a journey of rediscovery, I was going to make spring come early for myself.

As January became February and money was tight and bills where mounting, I spent more and more time cooking, with less and less ingredients and I was totally plant based by late January. I started writing again, just little bits and pieces, recipes and such like, and then I started this blog, and although it seemed quaint to me that anyone would care about anything I could have to say, I continued. I felt like I was starting to become me again, and that the little girl – who had, regardless of her terrible spellings and weird sentence structures, always dreamed of becoming a writer – was proud of me again. The painful feeling had gone, and in its place was a lovely feeling of satisfaction. The most important change was that I had something to be passionate about again, cooking, eating and experiencing new colourful things, that passion is still with me now and it grows daily.

In my opinion or indeed, in my experience, eating a vegan lifestyle helps in three ways when it comes to tackling slumps in mood: one – holistically; when you feel better physically you start to feel better mentally, with healthy food comes healthy habits, with more energy comes more productivity. Number two, it makes you more aware of your place in the world, you start to see things differently, you experience and enjoy the little things in life, the bee that is pollenating plants, the smiling sheep, that dog that wanders past your window, and three, it makes you much more in tune with your body. Suddenly, you start to understand its messages, you know when you need to drink more water, or eat more carbs, or have a rest, and you know what it needs and begin to listen to its cravings. It’s like opening a text conversation with your body, where it sends you messages like ‘ai up, I fancy some carrots today and I’m a little thirsty’ and you send it back a text telling it you are up for that and ready to drink some H2O and dice some carrots. Of course, I’m not blind to the fact that my decision to make other changes such as trying to have a positive outlook, become more accountable, and develop my creativity have been fundamental in my change in mood, but I what I am trying to say is that veganism is the backbone of these things for me. It is what keeps me focused, keeps me feeling my best and keeps me mindful of changes in my body, whether in temperament or physicality, for example I know it’s physically impossible for me to feel down after a plate of my vegan lasagna. In all seriousness though, I truly feel that if you’re in a slump or feeling down, that a lifestyle change like veganism can be a godsend. The way I see it, or rather the way I’ve come to see it is that when you eat fruits, vegetables, rice, beans and other vegan food, you’re eating something blank- something that is neither good or bad, it just is, and from there you can take it into your body, reap the benefits of its vitamins and do with its energy what you will. Whereas when you consume something that has died, you’re eating all the sadness and pain that comes with bolt guns, slaughter houses and murder, and that’s not neutral- it’s pain, and if you start by minimising pain, sadness and unhappiness in the world around you, in the things you do every day and you don’t take products of it into your body, you’re in a good place to start working on other positive things and from my experience- to start working on yourself.

Tatty Hash

 

As we near the autumnal months, my proud Lancashire soul cries out for a certain culinary experience, one befitting of all northern lads and lasses- the humble, but no less tasty bonfire dish- tatty hash.  How, though can I, a committed vegan, enjoy this English delicacy after all the ‘hash’ part of tatty hash, is pretty non-vegan. Well, not one to be short-changed on holiday feasting foods, I set off to create my own, extremely vegan version of this well-loved classic.

After much consideration I decided to use TVP (texturised vegetable protein) a type of vegan mince, in my ‘tatty hash, as I thought without some type of ‘mince’ or ‘hash’ it would just be a vegetable stew, although you could just as easily not use any TVP or vegan mince and just make a lovely veggie stew instead, with this recipe.

Ingredients (based on four servings)

  • TVP two cups full and prepared as per the packet
  •  A selection of chopped potatoes (I used both sweet and normal) about 6-7 medium ones
  •  Two carrots peeled and chopped
  •  One chopped large onion
  •  Half a turnip chopped into the small size of the potatoes
  • A handful of fresh sage (or dried)
  •  A handful of fresh rosemary (or dried)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Vegetable stock
  • 1 Tablespoon of Vegan Gravy, (most gravy is!) this can be substituted with a table spoon of tomato puree, giving the hash a slightly tangy taste.

 

Method

  1. Firstly, add your chopped onions to a pan with a glug of olive oil (or oil of your choice) and cook until translucent, then add all the rest of your vegetables along with a splash of water, continue cooking for about 5 minutes.
  2. Next, add some salt and pepper mixing well, along with the already prepared TVP, adding a little more water if necessary to keep everything from sticking.
  3. Then, add the vegetable stock and herbs (along with the stems, as they will be removed later- you can even tie the two bunches together with string so they are easy to retrieve when the cooking time has elapsed) as well as the preferred tomato puree or gravy (if using just add the tablespoon of the granules).
  4. Bring to the boil and then reduce to heat to medium and allow to cook for between 30-40 minutes.
  5. Serve with crusty bread and pickled cabbage or beetroot, and feel those autumnal vibes.

*Pictures will be coming soon!

Blackberry Jam

Okay, so most jam is vegan, but as I keep saying food is an experience. There is nothing more enjoyable than taking your loved ones on a blackberry picking trip on an Autumnal evening, to forage for berries and then making your very own homemade jam- which for one) makes you entire home smell absolutely divine and two), tastes about a million times better than shop bought, and three), makes you feel like a full blown domestic god or goddess.

Ingredients

  •  Blackberries (as many as you can find!)
  •  Cinnamon sticks (Two of those)
  •  Dark muscovado Sugar

Method

  1.  Wash, wash, wash those blackberries and then for good measure – wash them again (especially if you foraged them)!
  2. Next, add the blackberries and cinnamon sticks to a pan with enough water to just about cover them and  turn up the heat to high to bring it to a boil (adding a little dash more water if you need to do so).
  3. Now, turn down the heat to medium and start slowly adding the sugar (tablespoon by tablespoon) while mixing, the jam will start to thicken and when it reaches your desired texture, leave aside to cool.
  4. Then, seal the jam in a sterilized jar*.
  5. The final and most important step is show your jam off to everyone that comes to your house- because you made jam and that’s impressive! Oh and go ahead and enjoy it on toast -or crumpets -or whatever you enjoy!

 

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*There are many ways to sterilize a jar-you can sterilize it by cooking it in the oven, or you can boil it. I recommend boiling it, as the oven method can sometimes result in broken glass and burnt fingers. OUCH (Be careful)

‘Gary’

Sainsbury’s Vegan Cheese Review!

With lots of excitement, a whole lot of memes and a little dash of controversy, ‘Gary’ burst onto the shelves on September the 28th. Excited, Amy and I got ourselves to our local Sainsbury’s (Lancaster) and rushed to the previously non-vegan friendly cheese aisle to pick up some of the nine new cheeses. We got there at 10am and it was a good job too as, when we checked back later on in the day, Sainsbury’s was sold out. We managed to pick up three of the new cheeses; ‘Caramelised Onion Cheddar’, ‘Feta-style’ and ‘Garlic and Herb soft spreadable cheese’, as well as a few other bits so we didn’t look like the cheese-aholics we were soon to become!

As I said, since that day I have not actually seen anymore of the cheese in Sainsbury’s –  it’s been totally sold out – which, although a little annoying as I wanted to try and review them all at the same time, is great! I mean who knew there were that many vegans in Lancaster (hellooooo – come to my house for tea), and it’s inevitable that, due to the buying might of the vegan consumers, soon enough ‘Gary’ will be sold at all Sainsbury’s (as I’m aware, some unlucky vegans do not have access to ‘Gary’- my heart goes out to you) and, on top of the immense success of this cheese and the media buzz it has caused, should undoubtedly – if capitalism is anything to go by – be great grounds for even more products and perhaps even other conglomerates to start selling their own ranges of vegan cheese, milk, yoghurts, chocolate, ice cream – the list goes on.

Anyway, that’s my thoughts – onwards and upwards to my cheese reviews!!

Caramelised Onion Cheddar

This is the absolute dog’s jewels – I cannot recommend it enough. It is hands down the best vegan cheese I have ever, ever, ever tasted. It melts perfectly and has a totally realistic taste and texture; pop this on your toast and you will enter vegan paradise. If you can get your hands on this cheese, do so and buy in bulk – it’s excellent!

5/5 – If Jesus was a cheese!

Feta-style

This cheese is also good and, although not a realistic replacement for feta, offers a new taste and texture to the cheese world. Granted it is still crumbly like feta but it has a slight taste of coconut which is not present in the caramelised onion cheese, giving it a little sweetness. I have tried this cheese in a salad (which was actually very pleasant) as well as a topping of a pasta dish – it melted – but I definitely suggest this as a salad cheese over anything else.

4/5 – New cheese on the block

Garlic and Herb Spreadable

I’m not really a massive fan of soft cheeses. I wasn’t pre vegan – those dark times – but this is a revelation in cheesy joy. You can really taste the garlic and the herbs and it makes a lovely creamy moreish dip or spread on crackers, toast, rice cakes or on sandwiches with tomatoes – nom nom nom. I would certainly recommend if you were into Philadelphia pre veganism as it has a similar taste and texture.

4/5 Spread that Cruelty Free Joy!

All in all, the three cheeses I got are very impressive, so much so that I am now constantly on the prowl for more. I’ll be adding to this post as and when I have tried more of the range, which should be soon as I’ve just this second got my hands on the Wensleydale one – sneak peak of that in my last picture!! When my new website – update alert – is done and ready, I’ll be releasing a comprehensive guide to vegan cheese, bought and home-made.

Thank you and good luck finding your ‘Gary’s’

 

 

Why I’ve disappeared…

There is no way about it, recently I have been less than active(which I apologise for), but I solemnly swear I’ve had good reasons – mainly being the creation of a new and improved Vegan Scran webpage, which I’m super excited to announce should be ready by Halloween, as well as general work and life commitments.

So what will be on this new and improved webpage? Well, lots of recipes as usual, but also a lot more lifestyle blogs, which I’m aware are among my most popular, as well as the piloting a new weekly segment ‘Manc Mealtimes’ which will see me every Monday create a never before personally attempted vegan meal and post all about it. On top of that, of course they’ll be lot of Halloween and Christmas (the most magical time of the yearrrrr) recipes and DIY’s, and lots of witty vegan banter.

I hope you’ll come with me to watch this page grow and to cook some excellent vegan feasts this Autumn.

Thank you – Beckie.