Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Walkers to add real meat flavourings to their crisps!

clip art picture of a bag of crisps
News Flash!
According to the Vegetarian Society, from the beginning of February 2013 Walkers Smoky Bacon and Roast Chicken crisps will no longer be suitable for vegetarians as they will contain real meat flavourings.

Walkers have confirmed this on their Facebook page "...As part of our homegrown range, we are indeed making the move to make our crisps more authentic, and the Smoky Bacon and Roast Chicken flavours will now contain real, farm reared 100% British meat."

This is a real shame as they are obviously well aware of their vegetarian customers' needs, after changing the ingredients of their cheese and onion crisps some time ago (to include vegetarian cheese powder). Whether this is simply a publicity stunt planned by their marketing department to cause public outcry, or whether Walkers think this change in ingredients will increase their profits, I will certainly be contacting them to let them know how I feel, and urge you to do the same.

To contact Walkers about this issue, please phone their consumer careline on 0800 274777, email consumer@walkers.co.uk or write to:

Consumer Services Department
Walkers Snack Foods

You can also make your point on their Facebook page and on Twitter.

Read the full story here.

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Sunday, 20 January 2013

Tarka Dal

bowl of tarka dal
This simple tarka dal/dhal recipe is really cheap to make and tastes great as a side dish. Double the recipe for a main meal.

Serves 4
  • ½ cup dried red lentils
  • 1 small onion, diced finely
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds/powder
  • ½ red chilli, de-seeded and chopped finely, optional 
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 2 heaped tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely sliced
  • 1 heaped tsp garam masala
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
Place the lentils in a pan with 1½ cups boiling water. 
Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes or until tender, adding a little more water if needed.

In another pan make the tarka by heating 1 tbsp vegetable oil. 
Fry the cumin and onion until golden.
Add the remaining ingredients (except the garam masala) and cook for 2-3 minutes on a low heat.

Add the cooked dal to the tarka and stir in the garam masala. Season to taste.
Cook on a low heat for a further 5 minutes, adding a little more water if needed.

Serve with rice/chapattis and a vegetable curry.

Alternatives: Try using different pulses or a combination of lentils and adjust the cooking time as necessary.

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Monday, 14 January 2013

Mini Fruit Cakes

If you've got some dried fruit left over from Christmas why not whip up a batch of these mini fruit cakes? They're really quick and easy to make and are the ideal size for a lunchbox treat or after-school snack.
  • 100g/4oz butter, softened
  • 100g/4oz soft brown sugar
  • 125g/5oz SR flour
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 200g/8oz mixed dried fruit
  • 50g/2oz flaked almonds or chopped glace cherries
  • ½ tsp each of cinnamon and mixed spice
  • 2 tbsp milk
Pre-heat the oven to 160 C/150 C Fan/325 F/Gas 3.
Put all of the ingredients into a bowl or food processor and mix well.
Spoon into a well greased muffin tin and flatten the mixture slightly with the back of a spoon.
Bake for around 20-25 minutes, or until firm to the touch.
Turn out and cool on a wire rack.

Suitable for freezing.

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Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Spiced Parsnip and Carrot Soup

A bowl of Spiced Parsnip and Carrot Soup
This warming winter soup is a variation on HFW's parsnip and ginger soup (River Cottage Veg Everyday). I added carrots and cut down on the spices to give a more subtle flavour as favoured by my parsnip-disliking family! This is another useful for using up leftover veg and costs just a few pence per portion...any combination of root vegetables would work well.
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil or butter
  • 1 large onion or leek
  • 2 medium parsnips, peeled and cored
  • 4 large carrots, peeled
  • 1 medium potato, peeled
  • 1 litre/1¾ pts hot vegetable stock (I used a veg Oxo cube)
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger or a good pinch of ground ginger
  • A good pinch of ground cumin
  • Black pepper to taste
  • A little double cream to serve, optional
Roughly chop the vegetables into chunks.
Heat the oil/butter in a large pan.
Add the onions and cook gently for a few minutes.
Add all of the remaining vegetables and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
Add the spices (if using) and the vegetable stock. 
Bring to the boil and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the vegetable are tender.
Blend until smooth and then return to the heat for a couple of minutes.
Swirl with a little double cream before serving (optional).

Suitable for freezing

Top Tips: This soup is easily veganised by leaving out the dairy ingredients.
To adapt for babies and toddlers, make using water or a low-salt vegetable boullion. Omit or reduce the spices. Blend, then remove the children's portions. Return to the heat and add the remaining spices. Simmer gently for 5-10 minutes before serving, while the children's portions cool.

This recipe is my entry to Lisa's Kitchen leftover-themed No Croutons Required. 

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Saturday, 5 January 2013

Anyone for shark fin soup?

One of my new year's blog-olutions was to focus a little more on animal welfare issues. In the past few days, I've read about about two shocking stories of greed and cruelty, which I wanted to share, to raise awareness. I know not all of you are vegetarian or vegan, but I hope that this doesn't stop you from joining me in outrage at these recent events.

Firstly, I saw
these photographs taken by Gary Stokes (also see video above), of thousands of shark fins drying on the roof tops of Hong Kong. Although the trade in shark fins (for the infamous shark fin soup) is apparently in decline, there is still a high demand for the product in China. Incidentally, something I didn't realise before, was that the fins are harvested from live sharks which are then thrown back into the sea to die, as the rest of their meat is not nearly as profitable.

The second story was featured in the Daily Mail and involves the beautiful and undeniably intelligent dolphin. You may already have heard of the annual dolphin massacre at Taiji cove on the south coast of Japan? Well, those dolphins which are caught but not slaughtered for their meat, may end up being sold to aquaria for our entertainment in "abusement parks". 

a sea of blood - dolphin slaughter in Japan
photo courtesy of the dolphinproject.org
Whilst the UK no longer has any captive whales or dolphins, many UK holidaymakers flock to see dolphin shows or to swim with captive dolphins in other countries. Although many are now captive-bred, some including those in other European aquaria, may have been caught from the wild. Please do consider the plight of these amazing animals before booking your tickets to any zoo or aquarium which still has captive whales and dolphins.

Read more about the campaign to stop shark finning here. Read more about wales and dolphins in captivity here.

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Friday, 4 January 2013

Cheese Arancini

cooked arancini with tomato sauce

These little stuffed rice balls are very economical as they can be made with left-over risotto and any firm cheese you want to use up...I used feta, as I had some left over after making my New Year's Eve canapés. 
Alternatively, cook up a basic fresh risotto and allow to cool before making. They're good fun, although rather messy, to make with children!
  • 1 cup risotto rice (arborio)
  • 2 cups hot vegetable stock
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 heaped tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped basil
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of dried breadcrumbs
  • 100g mozzarella or other firm cheese, cubed
To make the risotto:
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan.
Gently fry the garlic for a minute or so.
Add the rice, paprika, pepper and basil and stir for a further minute.
Add 1 cup of vegetable stock, stir and bring to the boil.
Reduce to a simmer and add the second cup of stock. Stir again, cover pan and cook for 15 minutes.
Continue cooking for 5 minutes until cooked through. When the rice is cooked, cool and refrigerate until needed.

arancini ready to be cooked
To make the arancini:
Take a good heaped teaspoonful of the cool risotto and form into a firm ball using your hands to squeeze the mixture together.
Poke a hole into the middle of the ball using your thumb, then place a small cube of cheese into the hole.
Squish the rice back over the hole to cover up the cheese completely. Repeat until all of the rice is used up.
Beat the egg in a bowl and place the breadcrumbs on a plate. First dip each rice ball into the beaten egg and then roll into the breadcrumbs until covered all over.

Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes or until needed.
Heat 2-3 tbsp of vegetable or olive oil in a large frying pan. 
Add the arancini and roll around in the pan gently to coat with oil. 
Cook for 10-15 minutes on a low-medium heat, turning occasionally, until golden brown and piping hot. Alternatively, deep-fry for 5-6 minutes.

Serve with a simple tomato sauce and seasonal vegetables.

Top tip: Cooked rice should be cooled quickly and refrigerated, then re-heated thoroughly to avoid food poisoning
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Quick and Easy Tomato Pasta Sauce

This simple pasta sauce can be made up in bulk, frozen in batches and defrosted when needed.
  • 1 small onion, diced finely
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 500ml passata
  • 1-2 tsp chopped fresh basil, or ½ tsp dried oregano
  • dash of hot chilli sauce or a pinch of cayenne (optional)
Fry the onion in a drop of olive oil for a couple of  minutes, until soft. 
Add the herbs and chilli and stir well. 
Add the passata, stir and then put the lid on the pan and simmer for 10-15 minutes.   

Suitable for freezing.

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Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Resolutions and Revelations


Happy New Year! As usual, my first post of the new year requires a look back at my resolutions post from last year to see how well I've done. 

My main resolution last year was to do more gardening and improve on my fruit/vegetable/herb patches, so that we would have some of our own fresh produce to eat. Unfortunately, with the appalling weather we had in the UK last year, I failed miserably on this resolution! Seriously, we had enough rain to float the ark, so the only crop I managed to raise successfully was one of slugs and snails! Even my normally productive apple trees only managed to produce a handful of apples between them.

This year, I want to try again (weather permitting), so I'm hoping get outside more and make a raised bed this year, to see if that helps with drainage and disease issues. 

One other thing I want to do this year, is to reduce my reliance on plastic carrier bags. I generally carry one re-usable bag around with me in my handbag, but sometimes that just isn't enough! I reckon I need to keep a couple more in the boot of my car, so they are at hand if needed. I would love it if more shops could be pro-active on this issue too. Some stores train their staff to ask if you need a carrier bag (or even charge for them), but many assume that customers want one for even the smallest item, and some assistants almost seem offended when I turn their carrier bag down!

Blog-wise, I'm determined to focus a bit more on vegetarian and vegan news, issues and product reviews. I have been very flattered to receive so many product review requests over the past year, but this year, I will try to be a little more selective in the ones I feature (unless they involve chocolate, of course!).

Finally, I'll leave you with a little update on the charity I've been supporting over the past year. Deki provides micro-loans and training to people living in poverty (in Malawi, Togo, Ghana and Nepal), so that they can create sustainable livelihoods. So far, I have lent to 5 different people and had £47 re-paid to my account, which I have then re-invested and lent to other budding entrepreneurs. If you would like to join me in helping others this year, I'd love to to join my Bloggers United Team at Deki. You don't have to be a blogger, just someone who would like to make a difference. By making a loan on behalf of the team, you will boost the team’s loan total but repayments will be made to your personal account. Find out more about team lending here.
The minimum investment is £10 and Deki charge no interest and take no commission from loans. Deki rely solely on donations to cover running costs and enable us to continue connecting entrepreneurs and investors around the world. We use carefully-vetted field partners to pass on loans to borrowers in their local currency. Field partners pass on minimal interest rates to help cover running costs and ensure sustainability. Rates are monitored to ensure they are fair and affordable.
Thanks for reading...I'd love to hear what your resolutions and aspirations are this year, so do drop me a comment below. 

Read more blogging resolutions over at Tots100.
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