How old is your tofu?

Whilst many people think that soya products are relatively new, Tofu which originated in China, is believed to have been discovered by accident during the Han dynasty some 2000 years ago, and then its later spread across Asia and globally may have coincided with the spread of Buddhism, since Buddhists found tofu to be a useful source of protein and a versatile food.

Tofu is made by ‘curdling’ the soya milk, to create curds which can then be strained to form tofu blocks.  It is a pretty straightforward but time consuming process, where the tofu block needs to be put under pressure to squeeze out excess fluid.

Soya milk is also known to be produced and bottled commercially since the 1920s, when a few companies started manufacturing it in China.

Tofu comes in a staggering variety of styles, although most of these are unavailable across the world and so we would have to visit China to be able to experience a fuller range of options which include:

Silken
Silken tofu, also known as Japanese-style tofu, is silky, creamy and has the highest water content. It has the consistency of a thick yogurt and is great for desserts.

Regular Block
This is firmed than silken but still soft and can absorb the flavour of dishes so goes well in stir fry and sauces.  It also makes a great tofu scramble with veggies.

Firm Block, Extra-firm or Super-firm
Widely available in blocks, it is compacted and easy to slice.  It can be pan-fried, stir-fried, deep-fried, put in a curries etc and can absorb flavours well.  Extra-firm tofu has less water than firm tofu, which you notice in the difference in texture. It can be used in the same way as firm, but it wont absorb flavours so well.  And super-film is the next level, making a great ‘meat substitute’.

Seasoned or smoked tofu
Tofu can be bought pre-seasoned in a range of flavours or smoked, so its ready to go in your own dishes.

Fermented tofu
Tofu can be pickled in a mixture of salt, rice wine and water to ferment it, which will give it a umami flavour – a savoury strong flavour and goes well in cooking.

Tofu skin
When heating soya milk, a skin forms on the surface of the liquid. Fresh tofu skins are not widely available, but dried skins are in Asian food shops. These skins are similar to filo pastry and can be marinated then pan-fried, or filled and deep-fried like spring rolls.

Tofu sticks
These are sun-dried, rolled tofu skins. Tofu sticks are great to add to soups or broths.

Fried tofu or tofu pockets
These slices of tofu are first firmly pressed and then deep-fried. They are soft and sponge-like and quickly soak up marinades and sauces.  Before use they may need to be soaked in boiling water to allow then to puff so you can cut them open.

Tofu puffs
These tofu balls are frozen first and then deep-fried. They are soft and sponge-like and so ideal for quickly soaking up marinades and sauces. Tofu puffs are already cooked and so just need to be fully heated for serving, either served plain or with saucy dips, or ideal to top a curry.

 

Whichever way you try tofu, if you haven’t found one you like yet – then I encourage you to try another style!  There are so many varieties and yet many people who just try the regular block tofu may say “its too bland or tasteless”.  I suggest that there is a tofu that almost everyone will love – you just need to keep an open mind!

What is your favourite tofu?

Rx

 

Are vegetables actually good for us?

Not a question I ever thought I would ask myself, but whilst I was doing research this week about the benefits of vegetables, I realised I had never asked myself if and IF vegetables are good for us.

For my whole life I have understood vegetables ARE good, and we should eat at least 5 portions a day, and preferably organic!

Then I stumbled across Dr Georgia Ede, an American doctor who has given a number of talks on why vegetables may not be good for us after all.  She argues that whilst plants ‘want us’ to eat their fruits, to spread their seeds – they do not want us to eat their main plant structure – as a natural defence mechanism.

She gave examples of plants which when eaten, release toxins – which made an interesting watch but I noticed at the end, she was unable to answer audience questions and came back to her point that she couldn’t say whether on balance vegetables are good but she couldn’t say they weren’t either.  So after half an hour of this specific video, I was none the clearer.

Dr Ede did give examples of certain cultures, like Eskimos, who live on almost entirely meat and fish based diets.  However, when researching other sides of that argument, I found that those cultures who live on very little if any vegetables, do eat berries or drink plant teas, to provide them with the vital nutrients required.

And she didn’t mention any groups of people which live on little or no meat, but very high vegetable diets such as Buddhists.

Overall, I thought it was an interesting question and always worth considering a different perspective, however from the years of information I have considered, I passionately believe plant based diets are healthy and vegetables have an awful lot of goodness to offer.

To me it makes sense to eat vegetables, as fresh as possible, enjoying a wide variety which are as free from pesticides or chemicals as possible.  I believe that they can taste amazing, look fantastic and doubtlessly provide quality nutrition, which is why its just common sense that they are good for us.

Rx

Are part-time vegans the future?

There is much debate about those who choose to eat vegan food or plant based part of the week, rather than becoming a ‘full time’ vegan.

There are many people who choose to have meat free days but prefer not to become full time vegan or plant based.  And there is often great debate on whether one can be a part-time vegan.

In my opinion, you can’t be part-time vegan, but you can enjoy vegan food as often as you like – the more the better.  So if that means 5 days of the week, great because that means for over 71% of the time you are eating plant based – which is awesome.

 

The numbers add up

About 1% of the UK population identifies as vegan – which means they eat a plant based diet but also adopt the vegan lifestyle.  There is also about 3.25% vegetarians. A further 30% want to reduce their meat intake (Ipsos MORI research) – these are the Reducetarians.

So making some estimates, lets have a look at what the impact going meat free can have.  Taking the days in a week against the equivalent proportion of the population for both the 30% of Reducetarians and the total UK population, we can see the results below.  So for example, if Reducetarians opt for 1 day a week plant food, that is the equivalent of 3.1million people doing it every day of the week.

Days of plant food per week Number of full time equivalents for 30% Reducetarian group Total population
1 3,125,714 9,377,143
2 6,251,429 18,754,286
3 9,377,143 28,131,429
4 12,502,857 37,508,571
5 15,628,571 46,885,714
6 18,754,286 56,262,857
7 21,880,000 65,640,000
So half the week or 3.5 days 10,940,000 32,820,000

Population estimates as per ONS November 2017.  65.64million total of which 2.13million are estimated to be vegetarian.

So this tells us that if Reducetarians were to go meat free for half of the week, that would equate to almost 11million full timers. Thats almost 17 times the current number of vegans.

Or, if the whole population were to go meat free just one day a week it would equate to 9.3million full timers! Thats over 14 times the current number of vegans. 

 

What does this mean?

Tobais Leenhart aka the Vegan Strategist said “most people eat meat because people eat meat”, so logically “most people would eat plants if most people ate plants!”

So imagine a world where the Reducetarian, or part-time vegan foodie (not part-time vegan – that isn’t a thing) and plant based people – who fit into this 30%, embraced an extra day or two a week, equating to an extra 3million to 6million full time vegan/plant based equivalents!! This would be revolutionary.

And this is why I believe the part-timers are just great.  Whilst there is critical place for vegan advocacy through those of us who wear the vegan label with pride, it is equally important to support and encourage those who do not identify as vegan or plant based, and yet make plant based food choices.

 

Fuel demand and change the world

The demand for vegan plant based foods that this significant group will drive demand, and create more supply.  The world where “most people eat plants because most people eat plants” would be in reach.

My view is not about a lack of desire for the world to become vegan in the next five minutes, better still right now – but rather a pragmatic approach of how real significant and meaningful change can be achieved.

Every vegan meal matters, every choice for a plant based alternative fuels demand and creates the need for greater supply.

Imagine the improvement in the health of our population, the significant reduction in environmental impacts, the animal lives saved, the money individuals would save, etc etc…. and all because a critical mass of people are willing to make a change 1,2,4 or more days a week…. wow.

By developing that critical mass of demand, we can make even more significant change happen and who knows when there are even more amazing vegan and plant based options out there – maybe those who at first choose a day or two a week of this diet, will be tempted with another day too…. until one day, we wondered why we ever ate animals in the first place.

Rx

Vegan cheeses that are worth talking about

When I went vegan a decade ago, there were very few ‘cheese’ offerings available and they were all pretty horrid….. I used to be a big cheese fan and I would often opt for the smelly ‘ripe’ cheeses too, so the plasticky tasteless vegan versions were just not enjoyable.

For many years I have still found that to be the case, but something has happened in the recent months, maybe year or two – where we have suddenly seen an explosion of vegan cheeses on the market, which dare I say it… actually taste pretty good!

We can even find vegan cheese topping pizza in many of the high street chains like Pizza Express or Zizzi now too!

Do they taste like the ‘real thing’? Well I am not suggesting that a cheese lover would be fooled into thinking they were the original versions, but in my opinion, there are a number of decent alternatives out there now…. and the variety is growing! Plus they come with all those wonderful vegan benefits (animals, environment, health etc)

So what vegan cheeses are there to choose from, well both supermarkets and small vegan friendly stores are stocking more and more varieties, as well as those available direct from suppliers… if you know who they are! The new coconut cheese for both Tesco (as photo above) and Sainsbury, is made by the Bute Island foods and for me, the whole range is a real winner.

Below are some of the varieties that I have found in the supermarkets – but what you can find in your local shops will vary.  Clearly demand is growing, as the shops are adding more and more varieties, and now it is possible to put together a darn good vegan cheese board – perfect for this festive season!

My top choices (mosty Bute Island) would be:

  1. Camembert, although I have only found this in artisan brands – my favourite was the Mouses Favourite, utterly divine!
  2. Cheddar, you can find soya or coconut based – but I prefer the coconut strong cheddar, as it has more flavour
  3. Caramelised onion cheddar, perfect
  4. Parmesan by Violife, to me this isn’t parmesan but it has a strong cheesy flavour and so good for topping pasta etc
  5. Soft cheeses
    1. Cream cheese, plain or with flavours – great for bagels or as pasta sauce
    2. Peppercorn rounds – this looks great and will definitely be on my next cheese board
  6. Blue cheese, great and tastes pretty authentic for a mild blue
  7. Mozzarella grated, perfect for pizzas

Others that are available but wouldn’t hit of my top list:

  1. Jalapeno cheddar, nice enough
  2. Goats cheese, nice option but not very ‘goaty’
  3. White cheese, including feta style
  4. Wensleydale with cranberries
  5. Red Leicester
  6. Smoked cheddar

 

Cheese platter anyone? I haven’t had chance to try all the new Violife cheese board offering, but I love that they have put together a selection which is perfect for parties, as the usual blocks are a decent wedge and so a selection of smaller blocks offers more choice!

violife-platter-1196x640

 

Or make your own? For those with a good blender, making your own nut cheeses is also an easy great option.  I make a cashew cheese, which I then dehydrate to create a rind – which makes a great brie and added to a sandwich with rocket and cranberry sauce, is just divine!

 

We would love to hear what you think? What are your favourites or which do you avoid? Have you noticed the shift in quality and variety?  Have you tried them out on any cheese lovers?

 

Rx

 

Why do vegans want ‘meaty’ foods?

A questions I often hear is “why do vegans want things that look or taste like meat?”.

I am talking specifically of vegan versions of sausages, burgers, kebabs, ham slices, roasts etc.  There are also vegan fish products, fish fingers, fish cakes or fillets but many non-vegans haven’t heard of those, so I don’t hear THAT question:-)

Well, of course the answer to this will vary from person to person, so it isn’t right to generalise – however from my 30 plus years as vegan/veggie, I have learnt a few things along on the way that might help answer this.

  1. Not all vegans DO want meaty things: Firstly, the assumption that because some vegans enjoy a specific taste or texture, doesn’t mean ALL vegans do.  Like everyone else, we have our preferences.
  2. Can it help new vegans? Some new vegans find it helpful to eat foods that are familiar in taste and texture, so they don’t feel as if they are ‘missing out’.
  3. What about veteran vegans? Some people who have been vegan for years and years, just simply enjoy the taste or texture of these type of foods, but don’t want to eat an animal. This is where I sit – there are many things I enjoy eating which I enjoy because they have a rich flavour or chewy texture NOT because they remind me of meat itself.
  4. Not all vegans like vegetables.  Breaking news ….. just because someone doesn’t want to eat animals, doesn’t mean they only want to munch on lettuce leaves and carrots, this can be quite a surprise to some meat eaters 😉
  5. Not all vegans are uber healthy.  Whilst many vegans enjoy the healthy benefits of vegan food, there are many of us who enjoy chips, cakes, fry-ups, pies and other less healthy options.  And there are many ‘junk food’ vegan options which are similar to meat or fish products like a cheese burgers, v-fish and chips, pizza, hot dogs etc.
  6. Variety of food.  Using meat alternatives is a great way to have more food choices.  There is a staggering choice for vegans when cooking at home, but by not using animal products, relatively vegan choices are more limited.  Therefore to NOT use products which are vegan, would limit choices further….
  7. Not so different / fitting in.  These days many restaurants have really improved their vegan choices, but all too often the vegan option will be VERY different to the meat options, particularly at large catered events such as christmas parties.  For example, so many times I have seen vegan lasagne or curry as the option when meat eaters are offered roast dinner and trimmings.  If only these places realised that offering a vegan roast is easy too!   In that environment, I personally dislike having a meal that is so obviously different to my dining companions – as it effectively puts a sign over my head “vegan here” which usually prompts a whole set of (the same) questions about what I eat and why… and whilst I am happy to discuss this, there are occasions when I just want to enjoy my meal and not get into the debate, especially if the person asking is confrontational!
  8. Does eating these things mean a vegan really wants meat? Absolutely not, and when people assume this, I think they are projecting their own thoughts onto that vegan.  If the vegan REALLY wanted to meat MORE than the mock meat, then they would most likely be eating the meat!
  9. Can meaty be TOO meaty. For many vegans that I know who eat mock meats, they enjoy them as long as they aren’t TOO realistic.  The idea of a vegan burger which bleeds or tastes JUST like meat (apparently) would be off putting to many vegans.  I have had a few vegan products which were so similar to meat or fish, that I just couldn’t enjoy the meals!
  10. Will vegans who eat these things go back to meat? From my research, it seems very few vegans go back to eating meat, there are more people who are vegetarian for a time and then revert back to meat.  I believe that vegans who enjoy that rich/meaty taste and texture, and fulfil that with vegan alternatives are far LESS likely to go back to meat, as they get what they need from the alternatives.

 

So in conclusion does it matter if vegans eat mock meats? No, every vegan food choice is just great.  Whether someone chooses raw vegan, junk food, mock meats, lentils or lettuce, is something to celebrate… because no animals were harmed in the process! And ultimately THAT is what being vegan is all about.

I should say that when meat eaters genuinely seek to understand WHY many vegans like these meat alternatives, I am very happy to explain and help… otherwise, just let me get on with enjoying my burger and chips 😉

Rx

Why every vegan meal matters

Vegan or not vegan? There have been a number of celebrities recently claiming to ‘eat vegan’ or ‘be vegan during the week’, and this has sparked debate about the use of the term.

Personally, I go for the principle that everyone can enjoy vegan food, but only those following the lifestyle should describe themselves as vegans.

That said, these days I don’t get as worked up as I used to when people use their own definitions or the ‘wrong’ words.  I care passionately that those in the catering industry use the proper definitions when preparing any food which is then sold as vegan, but I have come to realise that people will deliberately or accidentally use the terms vegan, veggie etc inaccurately sometimes – thats human nature and many people are just learning about the vegan lifestyle.

A vegan future? I dream of a vegan future world and I truly believe that one day our future generations will learn in history classes that their ancestors (people we know today) actually ate animals… and they will be shocked.

Veganism is so much more than the food, it is about the use of animals in all forms including clothes, household products, medicine, animal testing, entertainment, sport, the list goes on…. it is quite frankly staggering how many common things around us either contain animal products or required them to be made.

Why focus on the vegan food? Food is central to veganism and beyond a doubt, it is the single biggest factor in veganism that makes the most impact to animals.  Eating is something most of us do several times a day and therefore it is a constant reminder and opportunity for us to make a choice… a choice that matters… because every time we choose a vegan meal is a win for the animals and the planet.

Whilst I would love everyone to become vegan right now, I understand this isn’t going to happen and my belief is that it is easier for many non-vegans to choose vegan meals say 2 or 3 times a week, than it would be for  a third of non-vegans to convert fully.

Working on this 1/3 principle – imagine the world which IS possible today with

  • a third less animals killed
    • thats about 2.7 billion animals a year in the UK (Defra 2013 total 8.1 billion)
  • a third less carbon footprint from animal farming
  • a whole heap more vegan choices offered by restaurants, cafes, supermarkets, etc etc – because customer demand reaches unprecedented levels

That would be HUGE… a monumental shift… a turning point.

But with a relatively much lower impact on individuals, by simply choosing vegan options 2 or 3 times a week.

Why would people eat more vegan food? Not many people are attracted to change because someone simply tells them to, it is a process which we all go through during periods of change in our lives which have both push and pull factors.

There are a lot of pro-vegan arguments which could be ‘push factors’ for some non-vegans, but focus on the ‘pull’ factors:

  • its easy
  • its affordable
  • its tasty
  • there is SO much choice, the more you look – the more you will find!
  • health benefits, many people claim improved health benefits when they ensure a balanced diet
  • it’s great for the animals, the environment and us all
  • the list goes on!

So why does every vegan meal matter? Because it is a step in the right direction, a positive action, and all of these actions when done by enough people WILL make the critical shift that is surely coming, to create the vegan world of the future.

We can build on positivity and encouragement, as a strong foundation for sustainable change.  Where hearts and minds work together to ensure people are empowered to make great choices, and where, hopefully, those choices are vegan!

Rx

Vegan smoked carrot-‘salmon’

I wanted to share this super easy recipe for vegan smoked carrot-‘salmon’.  Yes its really a thing and for me, it has been an exciting creation!

I have never eaten salmon, so I have had to rely on others taste testing to give this the thumbs up on similarity to real salmon… and I am pleased to say it passed!

 

Ingredients:

1 large fat carrot

1 tsp liquid smoke

1 tbsp salt – I used Himalayan pink salt

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp black peppercorns

2 1/2 tbsp rapeseed oil (or other flavourless oil)

Method:

Use a vegetable peeler to first peel the carrot and rinse

The use the vegetable peeler again to slice thin strips of carrot into a pan.  Some will be long and others short, continue until all the carrot has been thinly sliced and you are left with a stump to discard

Boil the carrot in a pan of water for about 5 minutes until it softens

Drain carrot and put into an ovenproof dish, with all the other ingredients.  Stir gently to mix the flavours and the put into a pre-heated oven at 180 C for about 20 minutes.

The carrot should be soft but holding together, not mushy

Allow to cool and then put all the mixture into a container with a lid to put into the fridge overnight

You can eat it once made, but it will taste even better overnight

Serve on a lightly toasted bagel with vegan cream cheese and a spring of dill, or with a tofu egg scramble

Enjoy x

 

DSC_0045

6 amazing uses for Chia Seeds?

Have you wondered what all the fuss is about with chia seeds, the little black seeds which can seem pretty expensive and tasteless?

Well there are a number of great ways to use chia seeds which will get you as excited as we are about these little powerhouse seeds.

Chia are high in omega 3 fatty acids, protein and fibre, and you will see a whole range of claimed nutritional benefits from them online.  This combination of fat, protein and fibre, means the seeds are digested relatively slowly, which provides a slow release of energy and that keeps blood-sugar levels stable.

But how can you use them? Maybe you just wonder what all the fuss is about or you bought some for a recipe and aren’t sure what to do with the rest.

Well heres my top 6 uses for chia seeds.

(1) Keep it simple and sprinkle they are great sprinkled on your breakfast cereal, porridge or salad

(2) Chia jam whizzing up some fruit puree and adding these seeds will make a fabulous jam.  Great for toast, puddings, porridge, cakes etc

Screen Shot 2017-11-01 at 15.28.38

This beautiful batch by @libertylovesuk was jammy fruity gorgeousness

(3) Chia puddings can be chocolate or coconut, fruit or juice.  Great for breakfasts or dessert.  Here is one of my favourite, Fruity Coconut Chia

R0000161 Fruity coconut chia pudding

(4) Chia pancakes why not whip up a batch of pancakes, and add in extra chia seeds that you have soaked overnight beforehand.  They make a great addition!

vegan-chia-seed-pancakes-with-maple-syrup-1

Photo: runningonrealfood.com

(5) Lemon Chia Seed Muffins/Cake instead of using poppy seeds in this classic recipe, try chia.  Just wait until the cake is cool before frosting!

11001771_959253324085819_7355371655018507397_n

(6) Avocado on toast with chia, cashew and craisins just yummy

California-Avocado-Toast-with-Cashews-and-Chia-e1417989014488

Photo: California Avocado Toast with Cashews, Chia, and Cranberries / I Wash You Dry 

 

Do you have any favourites or recipes to share, do let us know!

Rx

8 Great Vegan Halloween Foods

Are you looking for some spooky fun vegan foods to share with friends and family this halloween, well look no further as I have put together my top 10 favourite halloween inspired foods.

  1. Stuffed Jack-o’-Lanterns

Pasta-stuffed-Jack-o-lanterns-103

I love these because they would be so simple to make, and yet effective.

These spooky stuffed peppers by healthfulpursuit.com, are filled with a tomato pasta!

2. Mashed Potato Ghosts 

mashed-potato-ghosts

Again simple and fun – bet it would even get the kids eating up dinner quicker!

Pipe mash onto your vegan bolognaise, and add ketchup eyes! By WingItVegan.com

3. Tangerine Pumpkins and Banana Ghosts

vegan-halloween-snacks-treats-2

A simple and healthy halloween treat.  Using cucumber for pumpkin stalks and vegan choc chips or raisins for eyes.  By floandgrace.com

4. Spooky Black Bean Hummus

vegan-halloween-snacks-treats-6

A healthy hummus with an olive spider and halloween twist.

For the recipe, check out fatfreevegan.com

5. Vegan Cheese Muffin Mummies

vegan-halloween-snacks-treats-42

Another great one for kids or for party food.

By veggiessavetheday.com, using muffins topped with tomato sauce, strips of vegan cheese and olive eyes!

6. Witches Fingers

vegan-halloween-snacks-treats-46

These look so effective and ….er…. realistic!  Shaped pastry, with jam and flaked almond fingers. By foodfaithfitness.com

7. Monster Toast – Avocado, Pea and Pumpkin Seed

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Another healthy and quick winner, with bread and ketchup fangs. By healthyandpsyched.com

8. Bloody Cups

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A bit more effort is needed to pull off these cups, but take the word bloody out of it and they look delicious.  Vegan and gluten free, by elephantasticvegan.com

 

All vegan and spookily fun – enjoy!

Rx