Food: Review: The Occasional Vegan

Sarah Philpott begins her book with a quote from George Bernard Shaw but I’m going to begin with a quote of hers:

“I’m a home cook, not a professional chef, but I’m passionate about inspiring others to eat well, simply, cheaply and above all, creatively.”

There is so much in this book and its origins that I can relate to. It’s the reason I started this blog, it’s the reason I still keep my Instagram, it’s the thing I think about in the shower, on the bus and rolling around at night when I can’t sleep. Food is a big part of my life and has been forever and reading through Sarah’s book I get where she’s coming from as a working class girl, growing up with food being a cornerstone of her life too.

Besides from the fact that we’re both Welsh and grew up in the nineties, there’s a lot in Sarah’s book that reminds me of my own complicated relationship with food. Food hasn’t always made me happy and I’m happy to sing that from the rooftops. I’ve struggled with an eating disorder, low self esteem and boughts of depression in my life that have been hard to deal with. Sometimes food has been my friend and at other times it has definitely been my enemy. It wasn’t until a few years ago (early 2015 to be exact) that my true passion for cooking and inventing food became a reality. Until then I’d been mostly living at home and my mother rules her kitchen with an iron rolling pin. Most of my suggestions for a splash of this and a dash of that fell on deaf ears. In fairness my Mam is an excellent cook so a lot of the time it was a case of “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it!”. That being said I thrived on having my own kitchen and my own ingredients to play around with.

The title of the book belies the fact that Sarah is a full Vegan and she lays out her reasons and the argument for going Vegan right at the start. It’s a book aimed at people who may be on the cusp of going the whole nine yards, who have never considered it before or people who have already made the leap. Stacked from beginning to end with recipes which are self confessedly “easy to make”, her aim was to deliver “proper home cooking” and she achieves that with aplomb. You will find a blast from the past in this book, especially if you’re Welsh!

So, I’ve been lucky enough to get a hold of an advanced copy from Seren and I’ve spent some time pouring over it and decided to create two recipes from the book. The ‘main’, as it were, is her Beetroot Bourguignon, a brilliant and simple take on this classic French dish. For the second I chose and old favourite from my own past, her Bara Brith. I was especially keen to see how both coped with the translation from non to Vegan and I’m delighted to say both are absolutely delicious. I was also keen for something that would make a worthy meal for Easter Sunday, something classy but also casual and not too strenuous. As it happened I’d just returned from an epic walk and needed something that was easy to make and I was not disappointed.

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Beetroot Bourguignon

Both recipes are deceptively simple but this one I was a little more curious to see how it cooked. I’m used to slow cooking everything but this recipe is a wholly hob affair and works brilliantly. The recipe itself is super easy follow, made from ingredients that are readily available and cheap to buy. I halved the recipe for myself and my partner and it still made enough for us to eat the meal twice without being stingy on portion sizes. It calls for the veg to be chunky and this suits doing this meal fast with little fussy prep work beforehand.

One slight deviation I made was making my own stock. It calls for a lot of stock and/or wine and this is where the depth of the flavour really comes from. I made mine by peeling my veg over a simmering pot and chucking in the ends of the onions and the garlic, seasoning with a bit of salt and leaving it to bubble away while I continued with the recipe. After about 20-30 minutes it worked its magic and was ready to be used. It’s a great way of avoiding stock cubes (which can be pricey) and using up your food waste. It’s one of those little cheats you can pick up easily and will quickly become part of your cooking regime. Leftover snag ends of leek or cauliflower or broccoli, stick them in a bag and hide them in the fridge until you’ve got enough to brew away on the stove. You won’t regret it as it will really give your cooking character.

The only time the recipe really takes is the time it takes for the green lentils to finish cooking. Don’t be tempted to go red, they’re way too gritty and don’t have the heft and richness of green lentils when fully cooked. When they’re done the whole thing is, forgive the phrase, meaty and substantial. I love how the beetroot just permeates all the veg with a deep, ruby red quality so the whole thing just glows on the plate. You might also be surprised to know that the beetroot doesn’t overpower everything else, it’s the primary flavour don’t get me wrong, but it’s a deep and complex flavour that goes brilliantly with mash and fresh greens.

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Bara Brith

For the Welsh, Bara Brith is an institution and as it was our first Easter in Malmö I was feeling a little bit of hiraeth (a Welsh word that defies literal translation but in essence means ‘a longing for home’). Translated, bara means bread and brith, as Sarah points out, “refers to the speckles of the dried fruit in the loaf”. It’s a classic, old school soaked fruit cake and is traditionally served with lashings of butter and tea. Traditionally they have egg and milk in them, which are, I’m happy to say, wholly redundant ingredients. It calls for a splash of non dairy milk but other than that all rising and binding duties are handled brilliantly by the rest of the ingredients. I regret to say I was a shade more dubious about this one than the bourguignon, maybe it was the blood of my ancestors crying out, but I’m thrilled to say my doubts were totally unfounded. The bake handles beautifully and the fruit maintain their succulence so each spiced bite comes away soft and sweet and bursting with flavour.

I deviated once more, fractionally this time, from the recipe as I used jumbo golden sultanas, as they are abundant in Malmö. As a variation on a theme they were a brilliant choice as they swell with tea to almost grape sized nuggets. I made sure to use Glengettie, a proper Welsh brew that my good friend Nia sent us in a care package from home, for the recipe as I knew that the common or garden black tea you get abroad wouldn’t cut the mustard. As for the recipe’s execution it couldn’t be much easier than this: soak fruit, measure dry ingredients, combine, stir and pour into a baking tin and cook until done. I would recommend watching over it for the last half an hour or so to check when the knife comes out clean as the fruit and the dough can make things a little deceptive. It makes quite the substantial loaf so it would be perfect for serving your friends and relatives if they come over. As a proud Welshman I couldn’t have been more impressed with the recipe and if you aren’t Welsh then I would recommend this as an alternative to the usual tea cake recipes. Perfect for a Welsh addition to a Swedish Fika (with some vegan butter and a sprinkle of Halen Môn salt, of course)!

Even though I’ve picked two of the more traditional recipes from the book, one of the things that excited me when reading it was the variety of the origins of her recipes. It’s a modern and worldly book and you can really feel her love for exciting and diverse flavours. I really can’t wait to make her porkless pie as it really excites me from a flavour and food innovation perspective. Easy to make, cheap to prepare and packed with hearty flavours, I’ve got to say I will be flicking through this one time and again for inspiration in the future.

 

Published By Seren Books, RRP £12.99

With Pictures by Manon Houston

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Drink: Kladdkaka cocktail

This week in Sweden it was kladdkakans dag, which is a day for the unctuously good gooey chocolate cake, called a kladdkaka (sticky cake), like a Swedish brownie. I wanted to do a vegan version, but instead of just re-creating the cake, I’ve used it as inspiration for a cocktail.

Serves 2

To make you’ll need:

  • Handful of lightly burned oats, soaking in 100ml water
  • 100ml of leftover coffee, I like to use what’s leftover in my French-Press, (so for this I used Coaltown Coffee’s Black Gold No.3)
  • 400ml oat milk, I used Oatly
  • 1tbs cocoa, sifted
  • 50g good quality chocolate (at least 70%), melted, I used Svenska Kakaobolaget
  • 3 shots of Vodka, I used Stoli
  • 1tbs vanilla sugar
  • Ice

Serve:

  • Vegan whipped cream
  • Pinch of cocoa

Start by placing your oats in a pan and toasting them on low. Rather than letting them go golden brown, you need to take it just a bit further so they start to burn, not too much however. You need the nutty-bitterness that will be imbued in the liquid. Take off the heat, place into a bowl and pour in the water. Let the oats soak until they make the water a golden hue. like the picture below:

 

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After this, leave it to cool. When ready, strain the liquid through a sieve and place the golden liquid in a separate bowl. Now, take your melted chocolate and whisk that into the liquid, before adding in the cocoa, whisking thoroughly. Then add in the vanilla sugar.

 

In your cocktail shaker, place the chocolatey mixture, along with the cold coffee, oat milk and your 3 shots of vodka over the ice. Shake vigorously and serve in a tall glass. Top with some vegan whipped cream and a sifting of cacao.

 

Enjoy!

 

Food: Vegan Carbonara

Last week in the ICA store in Möllevången, here in Malmö,  I saw these awesome new soya bacon pieces. Well, I just had to buy them and make myself a vegan spaghetti carbonara didn’t I 😉

Here’s a recipe for an equally creamy sauce as the original, but 100% plant based.

To make, you’ll need:

  • 1/2 pack soy bacon (87g)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1tsp vegan butter,
  • 100ml Oatly cream (or any other plant based cream)
  • Glug of garlic infused oil
  • 1tbs nutritional yeast
  • 1tbs vegan mayo
  • Lots of black pepper, around 8-9 cracks

To serve:

  • Handful of chopped fresh parsley,
  • Lots of vegan Parmesan ( I used Astrid och Aporna’s Riv-iera)

 

Start by putting on the spaghetti, the dish isn’t going to take long to make! Once the spaghetti is starting to simmer in it’s salty water, start by melting the butter in the pan and adding in the vegan bacon. I used ones from ICA here in Sweden, but I’m sure there are definitely nice bacon alternatives you could use, like smoked tofu, or tempeh bacon etc. Fry off until it starts going crisp, then add in the garlic. Fry until it cooks out its raw bite. Now, add in the Oatly cream, black pepper, nooch and garlic oil. Turn the heat down to low and stir. When they have thoroughly mixed together take the pan off the heat. By this time, the pasta should be nice and al-dente. Strain into a colander. As the sauce has started to cool down, you can add in the vegan mayo. This will give the same unctuous taste and feeling as using eggs in a traditional carbonara. Stir through the pasta evenly, so that each strand of spaghetti is enrobed in the sauce.  Serve with the chopped parsley and a generous helping of vegan Parmesan.

Enjoy!

Food & Design: How to do Malmö on a budget

 

Everyone says Sweden is expensive. I knew it was going to be expensive. In the back of my mind I brushed it off, “Yeah, yeah – I know, I know!” After all, I’d been there on holiday, I’d seen the prices in supermarkets, I knew what I was talking about. That is, until I actually moved here and began living with the reality of it being as expensive as it is. 30% tax on your wage plus nothing costs less than a pound in supermarkets. The bargains aren’t as tempting, the staples aren’t as cheap and you’re surprised on a daily basis by the things you’d assume would be a similar price are actually three times the price!

This was my reality for the first week of living here while my partner and I found our feet. Everything we did was tinged with a sense of “can we really afford to keep up our old eating habits long term?” So much so that the both of us started losing sleep over it. So far, our Swedish adventure wasn’t working out the way we expected it to. After a week or so we knew that things would have to change but we weren’t prepared to totally give up on quality. Having lived on a budget before I knew we had to be canny about what we bought, where we bought it and when we bought it to make our SEK stretch further.

Two months on and here we are, making it work in Malmö! I’ve gathered some of the best tips and hints for basic survival, but also ways of maintaining those treats that keep you sane. Living here can work long term if you’re on a budget and a bit sneaky!  Here are some of the solid gold tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the past few months:

 

Food and Drink

Checking your local ICA Nära from 7-8pm for cheap sourdough, fikabröd & rolls should become part of your weekly (if not nightly) routine. Conveniently, ours is just around the corner but chances are wherever you’re living in Malmö you’ll be close to one too. You can pick up sourdough for 12kr, big baguettes for 5kr & rolls & pastries for 3kr a piece if you catch them at the right time.

Livs (grocery) stores are the way to go in Malmö. Cheap, good quality produce, good variety & they reduce their prices in the evening around about the same time as ICA. I’ve often got big bags of passionfruit, apricots & strawberries for 10kr & big sacks of potatoes for 25kr. Picking up a “ten bag” of fruit and veg has become a staple of our evenings!

Möllan market is like the beating heart of the city when it comes to food. With so much competition in the area you can be sure that prices are always as low as they can be. If you catch them just before closing you may end up picking up some mega bargains, but be warned you’ll have to compete with other people to get the best stuff!

 

 

If you’re looking for snacks in Malmö then you’re also in luck. Cheap falafel can be found practically on every street corner, but the cheapest storfalafel I’ve found is for 25kr at Chaplin Grill on Bodekullsgatan and Värnhem. Babylon Grill near Folkets Park also offer a great range of Vegan alternatives. There’s a lot of competition here too so you won’t be out of pocket wherever you go.

If you know where to go you can always get a cheeky gratis coffee when you’re out and about in Malmö. How about some free organic coffee, tea & hot chocolate at the design shop Bolia, with a free chocolate accompaniment? So you can have a cappuccino whilst you ‘windowshop’ all of the lovely interior design pieces. Think of this as flicking through a real life catalogue over a nice cuppa!

IKEA Malmö (like other IKEAs) offer free coffee & tea on weekdays for IKEA FAMILY card owners. Even in the most unlikely places you can get a cheap coffee a free påtar (second cup), like at the Form Design Center in the middle of town. Enjoy the stunning examples of cutting edge or classic Scandinavian design (for free) AND not feel guilty about it!

 

 

Out and about.

The JOJO (pronounced yoyo) SOMMER KORT is the best way of getting out and about in the summer. It’s only 640kr (£62 ish) and is available from June 15th to August 15th. It will take you all over of Skåne, working on busses & trains, so you can visit the beautiful features & quaint little towns of the whole Skåne region. Public transport in general is very good and the prices can be flexible. You’re encouraged to use the regular Jojo Kort or your phone with 10% discounts and the ability to pick and choose where you go (why pay for all of the city when you only go to half of it?).

Malmö city is ideally designed for biking. Picking up a second hand bike on Blocket is pretty straightforward but biking is always available for the whole year for 250kr, around (£25!) with Malmö City Bike. You just have to sign up to the service. You get the bike for an hour before having to put it in one of the many docking stations dotted around the city at key locations, where you can simply pick up another if you need to. Nothing in Malmö is more than an hour’s cycle ride away. They even have a handy app to show you where your nearest docking station is in realtime, showing you how many stations are free and ready to use.

 

 

Malmö is a hive of activity, especially in the summer when it seems there’s a festival or event every other week. Malmöfestivalen is a week long festival of culture, food, music and entertainment that sprawls across the city offering free performances from some big name Swedish acts.

In addition to that there are regularly free shows & events at Folkets Park where you can see a wide variety of things in a small area. The park draws together people of all ages as there isn’t a square inch of it not buzzing with something going on. There are plenty of free art exhibitions at Malmö Konsthall, Form Design Center & Moderna Museet Malmö. If art is your thing then you’ll find the quality and variety is high.

There’s also Malmö Gallerinatt & Malmö Art Walk, which happened on the eve of September 30th. They are events in which open spaces around Malmö from 6pm till 12am to showcase the city’s galleries and up-coming artists and designers. That night the city is overflowing with great exhibitions, talks and projects to become a part of; FOR FREE!

 

Shopping

Loppis hunting is a big thing and a great way to pick up some bargains. Literally translated as “flea”, loppis stores are the equivalent of second hand and charity shops. This being Sweden you can pick up some big design names like Höganäs, Iittala, Stelton and many more. Emmaus near Triangeln is like a second hand department store with a huge range of men’s, women’s and children’s wear, not to mention household items and books. You can also visit Humana second hand clothes shops. Loppis Lounge on Djaknegatan also offers free black coffee and biscuits for its customers. So while you’re on the hunt for bargains, perusing the shelves for some Scandinavian design gems, you can rest assured you’re not bleeding cash as you go.

 

 

Getting stuff done.

Need to do some DIY? Can’t afford to just drop 500SEK on a drill? Then ToolPool is the place for you. Situated in a handyman shop on Störa NyGatan, they offer a service where you sign up and are allowed to take any of their power tools/DIY equipment for 24hrs, free. It’s a great way of getting things done cheaply and is a perfectly Swedish solution to a potentially expensive problem.

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Malmö is a hotbed of startups and small companies eager to make money and get recognised. That means there’s plenty of talent and competition out there, but it’s great for getting the ball rolling with meeting people, creating new business or job searching, which can otherwise be a daunting prospect.

Sign up to Creative Mornings: Malmö, for free events. They are great places to network and offer free coffee. Minc Malmö StartupLabs offer the possibility of a free-of-charge workspace, with wifi & coffee included for up to 6 months. Even though the tickets for ‘The Conference’ business networking event are expensive, there are many side events, talks and workshops for free. Also, Boxspace Malmö, offer a quick and easy sign-up to their free day-pass; including wifi & coffee.

I hope my little guide has helped any budding travellers or people wanting to move to this great city!

Drink: Banana, apricot, vanilla & passionfruit Oatly smoothie

One way of getting by in Malmö, on a budget (for me, at least) has been to shop at my local ‘livs’ store. ‘Livs’ stores are small, little corner shops, come greengrocers. They often have great prices on veg and sometimes reduce great quantities as the day goes by. This it where it really gets fun (AND CHEAP!). My local ‘livs’ store, last week had huge bags of passionfruit, bananas & apricots all reduced to 10kr (just under £1), and I had used them in a myriad of different ways, but time came to that the last few needed using up. This is one great way of using up leftover fruit, that has maybe gone a-bit-too ripe, to make a nutritious & healthy breakfast option.

 

To make you’ll need:

  • 400ml water
  • 4tbs rolled oats
  • 4 ripe bananas, roughly chopped
  • 5-6 ripe apricots, de-stoned & roughly chopped
  • 1tsp Vanilla bean paste/ vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1tsp Maca powder (optional), sifted
  • 1tsp Young barley grass powder (optional), sifted
  • Pinch of salt

 

For the yogurt top:

  • 200ml dairy-free yogurt (I used Oatly)
  • 1 Passionfruit

 

Start by placing the water and the oats in your blender and pulse until you get a creamy, thick solution. Then, add about half of the rest of the ingredients, remembering to keep pulsing it down. Once you start getting a creamy & fruity mix you know you’re on the right track. blend it with the final portion of ingredients and pour into a jug/pitcher. In a separate bowl mix up the yogurt with the passionfruit pulp & seeds. To prep the passionfruit, I’d recommend using a small, serrated knife to cut the fruit in half and then scoop out the tart & sweet pulp with a spoon.

To serve, pour the smoothie mix into your desired cup/ bowl/ glass. If the mixture is a bit too thick, then try thinning it out with a splash of water. After, you have the desired amount,  spoon the yogurt on top and drink.

 

Enjoy!

Drink: Semla Shake

Here’s a great recipe for fettisdagen (the Swedish Mardi Gras). It has all the flavours of semla buns, but none of the time-consuming process of proving and kneading. However, if you’re game for all that, then by all means this cocktail would be amazing paired with the decadent buns! You can omit the custard if you want, but it gives another dimension to the cocktail and hey, it is for Fat Tuesday, after all!

To make, you’ll need:

  • 1 Whole carton of Oatly milk/ unsweetened unroasted almond milk
  • 2 Scoops of Swedish Glace (Tofu Line) vanilla Ice cream
  • 3 Shots of Amaretto
  • 2 Shots of vanilla vodka (I used ABSOLUT, naturally)
  • 1⁄2 tsp Ground cardamom
  • 2tbs Oatly custard

To finish:

  • Soy whip
  • Cake crumbs

To make, put all the ingredients in a blender and whizz up until they make a sweet, aromatic cardamom laced cocktail. Get your glasses, in my case a vintage milk bottle, and fill with the mix. Top with some soy whipped cream, but be wary that it doesn’t sink, as it doesn’t behave exactly the way dairy cream does, it’s also a bit heavier.

Garnish with cake crumbs, vegan in my case, left over from a delicious Naturally Kind Food slice and you’re done!

 

Enjoy!

Check out my post on Gastro Gays’ blog!

Hey guys,

Recently the lovely Russell & Patrick from Gastro Gays did a piece on 16 Scandinavian and Nordic places to drink & eat in London, in the run up to Melodifestivalen (Sweden’s competition to find this year’s Eurovision entry) and of course, The Eurovision Song contest, which will be in Kyviv, Ukraine in May.

As I’m a lover of all things Nordic, I gave them a few more recommendations on Scandi spots in both London, and closer to home here in Wales.

Check it out at:

http://gastrogays.com/scandi-london/

I hope you like!