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.