things i have learned in the past year

i logged in to write this and found that someone had actually left a comment on my ostroveganism post!  an actual person, who reads my site, and not a spam robot!  so with that extra incentive, i thought i would actually update this blog, given that we’re all in quarantine yaaay.

jhonier, this one’s for you lol.

1) i suuuck at keeping a blog.  just suuuck at it.  i have about a dozen blogs i’ve let die over the decades, all about completely different things, and i’m shit at branding.  so for real guys, don’t expect me to suddenly turn into freelee and actually update in a timely manner.  (also sorry for making you think of freelee.)

2) you can revert back to a wordpress URL!!  i really, really wish i’d known this sooner, because i’ve lost sites by not paying for URL renewal and if you’re going through a lean month and then find that you’ve given your fun money to wordpress it is sad.

health stuff:

3) ostroveganism is actually kinda hard to keep up if you’re not actually living near an ocean.  though we intend to move near an ocean sometime soon, ethically sourcing – and affording – rope-grown oysters and mussels in a landlocked city is a fucking drag.  so i’ve had to find other ways to get iron into my kids, including a spray i did for awhile that they both hated so much.  but!  i’ve found a pretty good method:

4) GO AND PURCHASE A LUCKY IRON FISH GUYS, IT’S A GAME-CHANGER.  they sell them on amazon, you just dunk it in the boiling water you’re using for pasta/soups/stews/sauces/etc for ten minutes and the thing you’re cooking is INFUSED WITH IRON.  IT IS GREAT.  WE LOVE YOU IRON FISH.  also it’s a relief because sneaking mussels into my kids’ food was a fucking headache.

and now for the sexy juicy stuff you came for, cooking thingies:

5) VEGEMITE IS BETTER THAN MARMITE.  FIGHT ME.

6) you can actually fuck off buying nooch altogether, because you can replace it in most recipes with a large spoonful of [yeast extract] and a pinch of sugar.  btw this means you can ACTUALLY MAKE WHITE SAUCES WITH SWEETENED PLANT MILK, which is a fucking game changer when idiot carnists are panic-buying all your milk.

7) if you’re making a recipe that calls for both sugar and tomato paste, eg mushroom bourguignon, you really can just add ketchup.  fight me.

8) i recently acquired sourdough starter from a neighbour – she placed it on the pavement before me and i bent to pick it up, as though either one of us or the substance itself was hazardous – and i fucking love it so much.  i’ve been adapting this sourdough recipe, and it tastes amazing every time especially when i let it ferment as long as possible to get that incredible, tangy sour taste.  too bad i’m now having trouble finding flour, because of The Pestilence(TM).

9) harina de maiz isn’t the same thing as masa harina, and the time to find that out is not when you’re in the middle of attempting to make tamale pie.  (don’t worry though all you have to do is add boiling water instead of cold.)

10) if you want to make schnitzel, combine minced onion, mushrooms, your favourite kind of nut (except not peanuts ffs), and some kind of bean with a bit of flour and veg stock, then roll around in some breadcrumbs and fry like a pancake.  just sayin’.

i’m sure there’s other stuff i’ve learned in the past year, but i can’t be bovvered.  anyways i might post here more.  i also might not, iunno.

salad queen

okay i know it’s been a hot minute, my two friends who actually read this blog, but i feel compelled to share what is probably the best goddamn salad i’ve ever made. with no pictures. cos you’re just gonna have to trust me.

i used:

  • 1 bag of salad leaves
  • 1 block of tofeta
  • a few thinly-sliced rings of red onion
  • 12 olives
  • 16 grapes
  • about 15cm of cucumber
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 julienned bell pepper
  • fuckloads of halved cherry tomatoes
  • bulgur wheat
  • croutons
  • lemon juice
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Magick™️

soz, nobody can top that. ever.

coming as soon as i can be bothered: my Rules for Salad.

croque monsieur tartlets

i didn’t take pictures in time to capture the full dozen little croque monsieur-inspired tartlets i made for dinner today, but here. look at the two that are left.

marvel. MAAARVEEEL.

i was with my kids in sainsburys today and saw that they now stock quorn’s vegan ham slices. so naturally, i bought all five packets that were left, so they’d stock more in response to increased demand.

eldest wanted ham sandwiches for dinner. i said no, as i’d already planned a sort of cajun dirty rice thing, but then thought of croque monsieurs and said yes. then we passed a roll of puff pastry in the fridge…

so i decided to do a big croque monsieur-style tart. but when we got home, the puff pastry roll didn’t quiiite fit my largest baking tray. then i noticed my sad, neglected muffin tin…

anyways, read on!

croque monsieur tartlets
ingredients
1 roll puff pastry, cut into 12 squares
dijon mustard
6 slices vegan ham, diced
1 to 2 tomatoes, diced
grated vegan cheese
1/2 an onion, chopped
around 1 cup bechamel sauce

method
okay so first off: caramelise the onions in the margarine when you’re making your bechamel sauce. you really need some caramelised onions in this dish.

either line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake cases, or grease with margarine or something. shove the puff pastry dough squares into each hole, then bake at 180C while you chop all the things. check the pastry every 5 minutes and if the middle is puffing up poke them with a fork.

when the middle’s looking a bit less soggy but not fully cooked, take the tray out of the oven, smear the bottom of each tartlet with a little dijon mustard, and fill with about 1 Tbsp each of diced ham, tomatoes, and cheese. put back in the oven and bake until the pastry’s golden.

finally, take out of the oven and spoon a thick layer of bechamel sauce over the top of each tartlet. put under a medium-hot grill until bubbly. great for picnics!

on ostroveganism

this is a hard blog post for me to write, but i’m gonna woman up and do it.

for over five years now, i’ve been a committed and passionate vegan, as has my whole family including my kids. one went vegan as a toddler; the other was born vegan. they love their veggies – my eldest likes broccoli best of all – and all things beany.

last year we found out my eldest has an iron deficiency. all his other levels were great, including folates (thanks veggies!) and B12 (thanks fortified toothpaste!), and we were initially told to just up the iron in his diet. out came every cruciferous vegetable you can think of, usually paired with chickpeas, all doused in buckets of lemon juice. plus of course fortified foods, and a snack i made for awhile consisting of cashews, pumpkin seeds, and raisins covered in melted dark chocolate and allowed to harden. called ’em iron bombs.

but, his deficiency persisted, so he did a course of ferrous gluconate to get his levels up. he started looking healthier, but just to double-check, we had his bloods done again recently, a couple months after the course was finished.

although his blood count was up, for some reason his iron was even lower? how does that even bloody work??

his iron vitamin gummies have once again been swapped for tablets before every meal, and his next blood test will also check for coeliac. but, as a parent, i had to question: was non-heme iron enough?

some people can better absorb plant iron than others. lots of vegan kids don’t develop an iron deficiency, but it is a common problem amongst vegetarians and vegans of any age. when it’s your kid, and you’ve tried all the tricks in the book to up non-heme absorption including supplementation, you do have to consider whether there’s an ethical way to get more easily bioavailable heme iron into your kids’ diet.

and, while there’s passionate debate on this, some people believe that an ethical source of animal iron, not to mention zinc, omega-3, and B12, does exist. these people believe that rope-grown bivalves such as oysters and mussels, which feel no pain, require no food, and purify the waters in which they’re grown without the negative environmental impact of dredging, are ethical produce.

yup. somewhat awkwardly given the title of this blog, my family is newly ostrovegan.

to be honest the ethical arguments for ostroveganism have been bouncing around my head for a few years now, but i didn’t run out and buy loads of shellfish for two reasons. 1) barring a compelling health reason, i didn’t see the need to reincorporate bivalves into my family’s diet. almost every essential vitamin can be found in a vegan diet, and supplementation covers the rest. and 2) i found the idea of chewing the flesh of any animal repulsive, whether sentient or not.

but here i was, facing down my son’s iron deficiency after all plant-based options for rectifying it had been exhausted. what do?

so reason #1 has been overturned. there’s now a compelling health reason to eat farmed bivalves. but…reason #2 remains. after over 5 years of eating delicious plants, selling my picky eldest (and myself) on bivalves is proving immensely difficult. they taste fucking rancid.

but we’re plodding through it…i’m trying to find a reliable way to get him to eat them. managed to garner some tepid interest with smoked oysters shredded and mixed with vegan cream cheese and spread over a bagel like lox, and i found these smoked mussels online that have been line-grown down in cornwall which might be more to his taste and are more local than the oysters we tried.

i’m treating this like a medical remedy so won’t be posting bivalve recipes. i do still think that most people can and should be vegan. but, if like my family you have problems with absorbing some of the vitamins found in plants, know that there is an option that’s more ethical than dairy (and more environmentally friendly than ahimsa dairy, which is at least trying to be ethical).

honestly? it hurts. i did treasure my vegan purity. but hey, now i get to champion an even *more* obscure diet! plus, yknow, potentially more effectively combat my son’s iron deficiency, but in an ethical and environmentally friendly way. so that takes away the sting a little.

fad food: variations

i was ready to let curry noodles die. honest.

then i bought mango pickle.

now due to running out of nooch and laziness the recipe has morphed into sliced mango pickles, lemon juice, and lots and lots of margarine. it’s goddamned delicious.

except, now i’ve run out of noodles. sigh.

fad food: it’s curry noodle weather (again)

my fad foods come in seasons. not traditional ones bounded by time, but personal ones. so lasagne is out (don’t worry, i’ll probably force my family to eat it for the whole winter), and mac’n’cheez is in.

but what am i literally eating for every meal right now? yup. once again, i’m hoovering up industrial quantities of curry noodles.

i think it’s something to do with the cold, blustery weather that comes between seasons, but for the past week or so i’ve had to force myself to eat anything else. i cook the noodles plain, then dump them on top of margarine blended with salt, curry powder, lemon juice, and nooch. then i top with copious pickle slices and mayonnaise (okay, salad cream – it’s 50p less at tesco for twice as much squeezy goodness).

i expect i’ll get sick of it soon. after all, the season’s changing.

making decent hummus is a pain in the arse

i’m like three quarters of a tin into peeling chickpeas and am deeply regretting attempting to save money by not buying premade hummus. and i have another tin to go. send proper hummus -_-

also, hai. i have been on a life journey that precluded food blogging. thankfully (?), i am unemployed and broke again and turning to my one surefire stress relieving hobby of cooking. you’re welcome, anytime, truly. …send money and/or a decent job.

the sketch app presents: fad food round-up

howdy to all and sundry who actually read this blog! it’s been awhile so i thought i’d let you in on my latest fad foods. however, i’ve been too lazy (and hungry) to take pictures (and/or the pictures i’ve taken have been crap), so i decided to draw my fad foods using the sketch app for android. 

(do you like my name-dropping btw? thought i’d shoehorn a plug in there just in case somebody somewhere wants to give me money to write a cookbook or something.)

anyways my sketching has had mixed results as can be seen below:

i’ve made about 5 or 6 lasagnes in the past 2 weeks, but the best picture i’ve been able/willing to take has been this:

i mean, it’s not a horrible picture, but it doesn’t adequately capture the spirit of the dish i’ve been perfecting for the past couple weeks. hence the beautiful sketch. (shut up.)

i’ve been making moussaka for donkey’s, because lasagne always seemed too fiddly. then, i actually read the instructions on a packet of lasagne sheets and discovered that you don’t actually need to cook them first. (shut. up.)

so long story short, lasagne for daaays. layered with bechamel sauce, an insanely easy tomato sauce which i guess i’ll include for posterity, sometimes some sliced courgettes, and topped with, budget permitting, vegan cheese (or breadcrumbs if not – sometimes i add ground-up nuts too).

i’ll give you the really basic tomato sauce base i found in the guardian one day (SHUT UP), as well as my adaptations.

tomato sauce for lasagne
ingredients
1 tin peeled plum tomatoes
1 or 2 onions, sliced into thin rings
3 Tbsp margarine
1/2 tsp salt

extras:
100g soya mince (either frozen or dried)
2 tsp soya sauce
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp vegetable bouillon (if using unflavoured dried mince)

method
melt the margarine in a saucepan, adding the salt and sliced onions and cooking over low heat until soft. add the soya mince if using (along with the soaking water if using dried), making sure to cook a couple minutes if frozen, along with the soya sauce, balsamic vinegar, and vegetable bouillon. dump in the tin of tomatoes, breaking apart the whole plum tomatoes with your stirring spoon. allow to come to a simmer over low heat, then just leave it to meld together for awhile so you can get on with other stuff (like slicing courgettes or making bechamel sauce!).

NEXT FAD FOOD: japanese-style breakfast. nearly every day, for about 3 years. it comes and goes sometimes but this has persisted beyond a fad into a habit.

it all started in the airport one day, desperately searching for a hearty vegan breakfast before a morning flight. i passed by a wagamama’s and thought to myself, ‘i wonder what japanese people eat for breakfast.’

as it turns out, japanese people have magic for breakfast. that day i had miso soup, sushi rice, and pickles. i’ve since substituted hiyayakko for miso soup – mine consists of cold medium-firm or silken tofu topped with chopped spring onions, nori flakes, sesame seeds, and soya sauce. on the side i have sushi rice, sliced into blocks from a container in the fridge (or fresh and hot from the rice cooker), and homemade japanese pickles. 

here’s an old picture…just makes me want to have second breakfast tbh…

‘japanese pickles??’ i hear you ask. (not really but i need a segue.) yes, friends. pickled cucumber, radish, and ginger, all made at home. ‘but hoooooowww’

well friends, the pickling brine recipe is a piece of piss to make. allow me to enlighten you.

japanese pickling brine
ingredients
1 cup rice vinegar
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt

method
okay i confess, i nicked this recipe from somewhere but don’t remember where. anyways all you do is boil all the above together until the sugar dissolves, then pour it over the sliced veg you want to pickle (or in the case of ginger boil it for a few minutes on the hob). then just leave the jars of pickles to cool and pop in the fridge, where they will keep for ages ^_^

culinary cock-up: ‘i don’t have time for this shit’ quick oat milk

lately i’ve been cooking with homemade oat milk instead of soya, because while 59p/litre is great, it still can’t beat 7p/litre.

seriously. i love, love, love cheap shwag.

however, i have discovered two drawbacks to homemade oat milk:

1) you have to soak the oats overnight, which is bad if you just want to make a cheap cheesy sauce on a whim.

2) the ~1.5L you do make has to be used within about 3 days, otherwise it goes all rancid in the fridge. like, come on oat people, you’re not helping me sell this to my family here.

SO today i decided, fuck this, i am making instant oat milk. by essentially pouring boiling water over instant porridge oats, blending, then straining out the porridge.

reader, it worked! i poured 2 cups of boiled water over 1/2 cup of oats, blended, and strained.

okay, it was a bit thicker than normal oat milk, and had the taste and texture of thin gruel.

but it watered down into a passable oat milk, that took 5 minutes to make. it worked, the end.