It’s never too early to start christmas cake

soaking fruits for christmas cake
If I had my way I’d probably start soaking my fruit in January so that everything is extra fermented and tasty. I did once leave fruits soaking for about 10 months but that was more through neglect than anything else. I’ve already talked about my dislike of things such as mixed peel in anything festive and I’ll also add that a christmas cake full of nothing but currants, raisins and sultanas is disappointment pure and simple. A mix of raisins, apricots and prunes is what I use even though the chopping (or scissoring) of the apricots and prunes is more time consuming. I like to stand meditatively and cut them one by one in a Zen-like trance. Afterwards they get soaked in a random selection of alcoholic dregs and, if I remember some orange and lemon zest. Mmmmmm, it’s beginning to smell a lot like christmas.

(Talking of christmas I am half thinking about bringing back Vegan HoHo again. We’ll see.)

Vegan MoFo – Samosa type things

While perusing the FatFree Vegan Kitchen blog, E’s Samosa Wraps caught my eye. I thought they might be nice for Jonathan to take for lunch; however, I thought pastry would be less messy to transport than wraps. Being scared of bubbling vats of oil, I went for the healthier option of baking the FatFree Vegan’s filling in some whole wheat pastry from Leah Leneman’s book “Easy Vegan Cooking”. The pastry was enough for 9 samosas with a small amount of filling left over. We didn’t have any tofu so I used a can of chickpeas instead and corn instead of peas. They were tasty but not very filling.

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Vegan MoFo: vegan peppermint hot chocolate

 

peppermint cream hot chocolate
When autumn rolls in I do like to treat myself on wet blustery days with a hot chocolate. White hot chocolate is always a favourite but a change is always good. Cue a brainwave. While sitting eating a Frys peppermint cream it dawned on my that a rather mintily delicious hot chocolate beverage could be made by simply melting said peppermint cream in some hot non dairy milk. It was, of course, mintily delicious.

(However, fast forward a week and the acceptance of an outdated Kenwood cookbook courtesy of my MIL ( and where I say acceptance add reluctant) and low and behold a recipe for peppermint cream hot chocolate. Only 22 years behind the times then.)

 

Vegan MoFo. Food anecdotes: greatest influence

I think I have established that I was not an adventuresome eater as a child, and how my diet suddenly expanded with the discovery of Indian food but further onward with the story!

The greatest influence on my eating habits was my brother. Six years older he was off at University drinking beer and discovering life. He would come home occasionally and in his own inimitable way tell me what I should be eating. He introduced fresh ground, fresh brewed coffee to me and was so vehemently against instant coffee that to this day I won’t touch it because the smell of an instant coffee is like Bovril to the multi layered aromas of chocolate and tobacco to be found in a fresh brewed crema coated cup.

He was studying in Bangor, Wales and  I would make the journey across the country by train, exciting for a girl from the countryside. He was vegetarian at the time (there was a woman) and his food seemed so wildly exotic compared to my mundane fare. Veganism didn’t phase him and he was fundamental in expanding my tired food repertoire.  He explained, encouraged, insisted and in the end I would try those foods so gruesome to my palate. Olives, courgettes, aubergines, peppers, fresh coriander I devoured them all. I learnt that the judicial application of extra virgin olive oil (it was green!) made everything taste better; salad dressing was not acidic and creamy and did not come out a bottle; ripe tomatoes should be sliced, sprinkled with sea salt and olive oil not thrown on top of some iceberg lettuce; aubergines should be fried until golden and meltingly soft; avocados were not bland but rather a creamy cooling backdrop to brighter fresher flavours…you get the idea.

 

(He will not be happy if he sees this…)

He’s not vegetarian any more but he’s still an advocate of vegan food, because its GOOD food and he still convinces me to try new things more than anyone else (gherkins most recently). Food still connects us on a greater level than anything else and  I’m truly thankful for his input into my culinary world.

Have you got someone who has helped influence or shape the way you eat now?

Vegan MoFo: vegan menu planning my way

Until recently I have always found the process of how to menu plan difficult. I definitely  find knowing what we’re going to eat for a week a stress buster but it’s more the “where do I start”. I find sitting with a blank page the easiest way to make my brain go blank. There has to be a process to developing the menu plan otherwise each week becomes nothing but a chore. General, conventional, menu planning seems to follow three main approaches:

1) Theme nights: Meat free Monday, Mexican night, take away…etc. So far this does not work for me at all.

2) coupons. I understand why some people base meals around this as it does mean a cheaper shop but as my primary focus on my menu plans is to get them as nutritionally balanced as possible this isn’t the way for me.

3) looking through cookbooks and magazines. This is the approach my man used to take and it certainly works but it can easily result in very expensive shopping.

The other issue I found was that most menu plans don’t even mention lunch. Not only do myself and the baby eat lunch at home every day but I have to provide two meals for my partner as he works long shifts. That’s a lot of meals and a lot of cooking.

Ultimately what I found was that as there are so many variables influencing what I eat it makes sense to start with them, and it worked!

So, here’s what I do

I start by asking myself a whole lot of questions. Are we near the end of the month? If yes this usually means a tighter budget.

What is in the store cupboard that we can use? What needs used up from last weeks shop? What’s in the freezer? What are my partners shifts this week? What season is it?

While doing this I make mental notes such as “lots of frozen cauliflower. Could make aloo gobi, cauliflower with a mustard and leek sauce or a pasta bake.” or ” That  couscous needs used. Let’s have it with roasted veg and he leftovers can go in a wrap with hummus for lunch.” that sort of thing.

I’ll then slot in those meals and then plan around them. Maybe they need accompaniments. I have a tendency to  base most meals around the carbohydrate component because carbs are good! This way I tend to eat more of a variety. Once I have my carbohydrate I add my protein and vegetables. So if I’m having rice do I want dal, black bean chilli, Thai curry or stir fry with it.

So that’s my general approach to planning my meals. Do you have any useful tips for vegan menu planning?