Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Artificial meat - the end to world hunger....or not?

An article shared by Yeovil and Somerset Vegetarians on my Facebook page, prompted me to write this post. It stated that the Japanese are developing a new meat-like food stuff made with protein from bacteria, extracted from human waste. After reading the article, I had to check the date, to see if it was written on April the 1st!

Then, last Sunday, I read a very interesting, but scary article in the Sunday Times newspaper about in vitro meat (an update from this previous article.)  Apparently scientists have managed to produce small quantities in the lab and think that mass-produced cultured meat could be a reality within the next 10 years.

I was slightly surprised to find PETA are promoting this research, despite their reasoning that in vitro meat could save the unnecessary slaughter of farm animals, reduce carbon emissions and could help tackle famine.

Famine is something that we would all surely like to end. As far as I understand, and I could be wrong, it's known that if the entire world's population turned vegetarian, we would, in theory, all have enough food to eat - Around 70% of the world's agricultural land is currently used to grow food to feed and raise livestock, instead of being used to grow plant-based food for humans. As a bonus, carbon emissions would be significantly reduced, as farmed animals produce approximately 20% of our global greenhouse-gas emissions.

Now, I'm not saying that the world going vegan or vegetarian is likely, or even possible (as this is a totally idealistic argument), but a diet more like that of our ancestors, containing just a little meat or fish along side plenty of plant-derived foods, would surely go along way to feeding the starving millions, and would help to improve the health of people globally.

We already have the option of eating non-meat alternatives such as soya, tofu and Quorn which are all low in fat, high in protein and cheaper to produce than meat - so why do we need a version which contains animal cells? I'll certainly be sticking to my veggie diet, whatever the scientists come up with!

What do you think...are you for or against cultured meats and do you think they could be the answer to world hunger?

Read more about in vitro meat here.
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Thursday, 23 June 2011

Vegetarian Jambalaya

Vegetarian Jambalaya

I saw some Cajun seasoning in the supermarket this week and bought it as an impulse buy. I then had to find something to use it in, and decided on a one pot vegetarian jambalaya. Having scoured my recipe books with no luck, I turned to the internet. I found two recipes which sounded like they might work, (a meaty but simple one from Netmums, and a veggie one from Gumbo Pages which serves 12 people) so I picked the best bits from both and came up with this recipe to serve 4.
  • 4 vegetarian/vegan sausages or chicken-style fillets, defrosted and diced/sliced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • ¼ butternut squash peeled, seeded and diced (or a large sweet potato)
  • 1 courgette/zucchini, diced
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup long grain rice
  • 2-3 cups hot vegetable stock
  • 1-2 tsp smoked paprika powder
  • 1-2 tsp Cajun/Creole seasoning*
  • ½ tsp dried thyme/1 tsp fresh chopped thyme
Heat the oil in a large pan.
Add the onion and squash, cook for a few minutes on a medium heat. Stir in the herbs and spices to taste (I used 2 tsp each of smoked paprika and Cajun seasoning).
Add the garlic, bell pepper, courgette and chopped sausage to the pan, and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Stir in the rice and then add the tinned tomatoes and 2 cups of stock.
Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer.
Put the lid on the pan and simmer on a low heat for around 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. (You may need to add some of the extra stock as the rice is cooking.)

Alternative: Swap the veggie sausage for a tin of drained red kidney beans or chickpeas.

*To make your own seasoning, mix equal quantities of ground cumin, coriander, cayenne, dried oregano, black pepper and sweet paprika. 

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Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Tourism and The Truth

It's not often that I'm glued to the TV, but when I stumbled upon Stacey Dooley's Tourism and the Truth, whilst channel hopping, I was captivated.

The episode I first watched, was about the impact of tourism in Kenya; In the drive to keep holiday costs down, more and more British tourists are opting for luxury all inclusive holidays at a bargain price. As most of the tour operators and hotel owners still want to make a decent profit, they cut costs by paying their staff below the paltry minimum wage, or in some cases sacking their workers without paying them for their labour at all. 

Shockingly, a luxury golf course had been allowed to cut families off from their water supply, by building a wall around to keep the locals out, and a Masai tribe benefited by a mere 300 shillings from 4000 shillings a Western family thought they were paying for traditional Masai souvenirs.

Certainly food for thought if you're considering such a holiday.

If you have a spare hour, please do watch it on BBC IPlayer, and let me know what you think. Pin It

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Flapjacks with Dried Fruits, Nuts and Seeds (Vegan)

Flapjacks with Dried Fruits, Nuts and Seeds (Vegan)
This is a fruity adaptation of my vegan chocolate flapjack recipe. It came into being after finding a packet of almost out-of-date dried dates at the back of my cupboard!

Makes 12-16 bars/squares.
  • 150g/6oz dairy-free spread
  • 150g/5oz soft brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 150g/6oz mixed chopped dried fruit, nuts and/or seeds 
  • 225g/9oz porridge oats  
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Pre-heat the oven to 160C/150C Fan Oven/325F/Gas 3.
Melt the spread with the sugar and syrup (in a pan or in the microwave).
Stir in the dried fruit/nuts/seeds and the vanilla extract.
Mix in the oats until coated in the syrup.
Pour into a greased baking tin (15cm x 20cm approx) and flatten with a fork or spoon.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.
Cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes before marking into squares/bars with a knife.
Turn out when cool - not before, or they'll fall apart!
Suitable for freezing.

Alternatives: Top with melted dairy-free chocolate when cool, for a more indulgent flapjack!

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Friday, 10 June 2011

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes (Vegan)

vegan chocolate orange cupcakes

I've been attempting to make a decent vegan chocolate cupcake for some time now. I wanted to make them without egg replacer or any fancy ingredients, but although I found I could make great tasting cakes, the texture was too crumbly without egg to stick it together. This time I added a grated apple and that seemed to do the trick!
  • 250g/10oz SR flour
  • 200g/8oz soft dark brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp fine shred orange marmalade
  • 150g/6oz vegan/dairy-free spread
  • 150ml/a generous ½ cup cold water or dairy-free milk
  • 50g/2oz unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 peeled and grated eating apple
  • 50g/2oz dairy-free chocolate chips, raisins, chopped dates or chopped nuts (optional)
Pre-heat oven to 180C/170C Fan/Gas 5/375F. 

Cream the dairy-free spread and the sugar, then add the cocoa, grated apple and marmalade and mix well.
Add the flour, water/milk and bicarb. Blend until you have a smooth mixture.
Stir in some chocolate chips/chopped nuts etc (optional).
Spoon generously into 12 muffin/cupcake cases.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until firm to the touch.
Ice when cool (optional).

Suitable for freezing.

Orange glacé icing
  • Juice and zest of 1 orange
  • 100g/4oz icing sugar
  • A couple of drops of orange food colouring (optional)
Mix all ingredients together. Add a little boiling water or some more icing sugar if needed, to make a thick, but spreadable icing.
Spread on top of each cake.

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Saturday, 4 June 2011

Lentil and pesto veggie burgers

I've been trying to perfect a lentil burger recipe that tastes good and doesn't fall apart when cooking; I initially managed to make bland burgers which stuck together, and tasty burgers which fell apart, but hadn't quite been able to combine the two! That was until I had the idea of adding vegetarian pesto (regular pesto generally contains Parmesan) to the mixture. This pepped up the flavour without making the mixture too sticky, so voila, here's the recipe for cheap* and tasty lentil and pesto burgers...
  • ½ cup dried red lentils
  • ½ cup dried green lentils
  • 1 onion diced finely
  • 1 red bell pepper diced finely
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp vegetarian or vegan pesto (e.g: ASDA smart price)
  • 2-3 slices of wholemeal bread made into breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree or sun dried tomato paste
Place the lentils in a pan with 2 cups of boiling water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for around 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. You may need a little more water, but only add a drop at a time, as you want the lentil mixture to be as thick and dry as possible. Leave to cool while you do the next steps.
Fry the onion, pepper and garlic in a drop of olive oil, until soft.
Stir in the pesto and tomato puree/paste.
Add this to the lentil mixture and stir well.
Use a food processor to make your fresh breadcrumbs.
Add as much as you need to bind the lentil and vegetable mixture, until you have quite a firm mixture which can be shaped into burgers.
Divide the mixture into 12 burgers.
Place on a well greased baking tray and drizzle or brush with a little more olive oil.
Bake for around 20 minutes at 190C/180C Fan/Gas 5, turning once.

Suitable for freezing (after cooking).

*This budget recipe makes enough to feed 2 adults and 2 kids for 2 meals - we ate them in bread rolls with salad and home made potato wedges one night and on top of pasta in tomato sauce the next night. Each meal cost around £1.50/$2.50 (made using budget, own brand ingredients)...not bad eh?

Vegan option: Use vegan pesto, or extra sun dried tomato paste and a good tablespoon of chopped fresh basil. If you can't find a ready made pesto, make your own by blending a good handful of fresh basil, with 2 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp pine nuts.

Alternatives: If you want to ring the changes, swap the pesto for vegetarian Thai curry paste or Indian curry paste.

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Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Vegetarian sandwiches and packed lunch ideas

I take a packed lunch to work most days and my kids take a packed lunch to school. Quite frankly, we're all getting a bit bored with our sandwich fillings!

Of course if you're veggie, you'd better like cheese, as the most common sandwich option in your average cafe or pub will be a Cheddar cheese sandwich with tomato, onion, pickle or coleslaw. If they use a good tasty or mature cheese you might be onto a winner, but a sandwich made with sliced white bread and mild Cheddar cheese is about as boring and bland as you can get.

I think you need to use a good bread to make a great sandwich, so either make your own, buy a good rustic loaf or even opt for a decent wholemeal sliced loaf (I like Hovis wholemeal granary). If you're a fan of 'real' bread, you might be interested in joining the Real Bread Campaign.

I've compiled the following ideas for vegetarian and vegan sandwiches, paninis and wraps, in the hope that this inspires me to make some of them for myself and my girls.

Cold Sandwiches
Here are some filling ideas for the humble cold sandwich...use thicker, rustic breads for the wetter fillings, especially if they will be sitting around for a while before lunchtime:
  • Ploughman's - mature Cheddar, salad and Branston-type pickle.
  • Wensleydale/Brie/Goat's cheese and cranberry sauce.
  • Cheese and colesalw
  • Quorn/meat-free slices, sliced pickles and salad.
  • Cold, sliced veggie sausage with tomato chutney.
  • Cold veggie BLT.
  • Hummus and cucumber.
  • Cold nut roast or veggie pate.
  • Cold roasted vegetables with olive paste.
  • Marmite with or without cheese. 
  • Egg mayo/egg salad.
  • Peanut butter - plain or with sliced banana/chocolate hazelnut spread/jam
  • Thick cut heirloom tomatoes topped with mango-pomegranate guacamole, roasted garlic aioli, radish sprouts and thinly sliced dill pickle.
  • Greek salad - cream some feta cheese with a drop of plain/Greek yogurt, sprinkle with oregano. Spread onto bread. Top with a salad made from diced tomato, cucumber and olives and pepper.
  • Vegetarian coronation 'chicken'
  • Sweet options - jam, chocolate hazelnut spread, marmalade.
Hot Sandwiches
Here are some ideas for the slightly more sophisticated toasted sandwich, panini, pitta or wrap...
  • Goats cheese, rocket and onion chutney or cranberry sauce.
  • Mozzarella, veggie pesto and rocket/sliced tomato.
  • Cheese/vegan cheese, tomato, onion and basil.
  • Roasted vegetables (home made or use anti-pasti) with sliced olives and a balsamic dressing.
  • Sun-dried tomato paste and feta cheese.
  • Falafel and salad drizzled with tzatziki.
  • Hot veggie BLT.
  • Veggie bacon, mushroom and cheese/vegan cheese.
  • Veggie sausage/burger, salad/fried onions/sliced mushrooms and ketchup.
  • Grilled flat mushroom with peri peri marinade and a slice of halloumi cheese (a la Nando's).
  • Garlic mushrooms.
  • Veggie pizza filling - tomato purée/sun dried tomato paste mixed with diced and roasted onion, pepper, sweetcorn, mushroom, courgette/zucchini (grated cheese - optional) .
  • Cheese/vegan cheese and baked beans
  • Refried beans, salsa and grated cheddar. 
  • Hawaiian - veggie bacon, pineapple and cheese/vegan cheese.
  • Chocolate hazelnut spread and sliced banana/strawberries
Any more ideas? Comment below with your favourite veggie/vegan sandwich filling and I'll add them to my list.

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