Being a better vegan: I’ll take the ale without the fish, please

I believe that being vegan, veggie, plant-based or environmentalist, we should all do the best we can, and not feel guilty when we’re not perfect. We all make occasional slip ups, forget to ask the question, or forget how certain products even have a chance of animal ingredients in them (pork in your mascara, anyone?)

Beer

Anyway, even when I was vegetarian, I often turned a blind eye to animal ingredients in my booze. I had my excuses: “I’m doing enough already/they’re only waste products/it’s not actually in the drink, just used in processing” etc, etc. The real reason was, that I couldn’t be arsed – I love a boozey Friday and I didn’t want anything getting in the way of that. Finally, I realised I was no different to the people who claimed it’s too hard/inconvenient/expensive to give up meat, and if I’m going to call myself a vegan it’s time to drink responsibly.

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Dizzy blonde

Putting theory into practise: time to drink some beer

To celebrate a new level of discipline I headed down to Runaway brewery‘s monthly Grub Fair. Runaway are pretty awesome, they set up in 2014 to brew great beer how they wanted it, and set up in the Green Quarter in Manchester. The third Saturday of every month in association with GRUB, they get local food traders in and set up gazebos and benches in their car park for the Grub Food Fair. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere, where you can while away the afternoon in a beer and food coma. Which is how I spent my Saturday this week.

The event caters to all, and looks to make sure their mix of traders includes veggie, vegan and gluten free options, Yes there’s also a lot of meat, but at least you can bring the whole family without any complaints. This month I sampled the leek and aubergine stir fry stew from Maiden Taiwan, followed by some fresh mini vegan donut bites with cinnamon sugar from Fritto Italian Street Food.

Vegan beer at home

Unfortunately, we can’t spend all our weirdly warm but rainy days in Manchester beer gardens. So for the other days of the week, I found this excellent resource called Barnivore that collates information from most beer, wine and spirits brands on whether animal products are used. I’m a big ale lover: I love a strong German Weissbeer, a gentle session bitter, or a lovely blonde (LIKE ME!)  I’ve collated below a list some of my regular UK beers that turn out to be vegan (phew). These aren’t particularly the best (although many are delicious), they’re just easy to find, the sort you can stock up on in advance, grab from your local, or always have on hand:

Vegan lagers:

  • Corona
  • Sol
  • Stella Artois
  • Becks
  • Carlsberg Export
  • Grolsch
  • Brewdog This is Lager

Vegan ales:

  • Robinson’s Dizzy Blonde (my favourite and my namesake)
  • Brewdog Dead Pony (ironically)
  • Black Sheep Golden Sheep (BOTTLE is ok, cask is NOT OK)
  • Marble Beers (not the honey versions obv)
  • JW Lees: everything except the standard Cask Bitter
  • Obviously Runaway brewery

I have heard that as a rule of thumb, smaller microbreweries are less likely to feel the need to use random animal parts in brewing – this may or may not be true.

The above list has a strong Manchester skew as I love to support our local brewers, but the Barnivore search list is completely global.

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Runaway brewery

All this has made me thirsty now: long legs, green heart, full glass…

Do share your favourite vegan beer finds or non vegan warnings if you have any!

x

Vegan discoveries April round up: Keeping Cool

It’s been hot at last. Our garden has erupted in bluebells and I can bust out my Toms. You leave work and it’s still light, walking places becomes a pleasure again.

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I had planned to update this blog in categories, beauty update, snacks update and so on. But life doesn’t happen in categories and it’s always the how it happened rather than the what happened that makes the better story. Not that there’s much storytelling in today’s cruelty free update, but it’s been a month with things to smile about. I’ve been a bit clever and created a THEME for this post. And so, with no further ado, today’s edition has turned out to be on the loose theme of Keeping Cool.

Cruelty-free beauty: the vegan antiperspirant.

I put a lot of research and effort into looking for a cruelty free antiperspirant. As much as I’d love to run off and live in the woods and live in nature, in reality, I work in an office and no one likes a stinky pits. In addition, I have a very sweaty hobby, and so all in all a good deodorant is an essential.

The trouble with this part of the beauty industry is that everything seems owned by freaking L’Oreal, queens of animal testing. And it’s not just cruelty free that’s the issue, for example, Sure’s Aloe Vera antiperspirant has fish in it. I found this really useful blog post by the amazing The Eco Edit that helps you decode your make up bag’s ingredients list. Warning: it’s disgusting reading. But you owe yourself and your skin the right to make informed choices so please do read.

Anyway, when you Google vegan deodorant, vegan antiperspirant, you get the same handful of brands popping up, and they’re basically all US brands, hard to get hold of, or conflicting advice. It was impossible to find anything. Finally I found one, Salt of the Earth, which is stocked at Vegan Disneyland: (exciting, entertaining, overpriced…) Holland & Barrett.

Salt of the Earth spray
Salt of the Earth spray

When I found it on the shelf, I was underwhelmed. It looks like those little sprays you use to keep houseplants damp. It screamed NATURAL like all it was doing was waving homeopathic sugar piss under your arms. Nevertheless, I shelled out 5 English pounds and tried to think about all the weeping bunnies I would be saving while enduring a sweaty summer.

Let me tell you, I WAS WRONG! This stuff is incredible. It sprays on like water, admittedly taking a little while to dry, but it’s so effective. Probably better than the Mitchum 48 hour stick I used to use, and no greasy whiteness to go with it. I don’t know why the heck we cause this pain and suffering to the animals that are used as ingredients and guinea pigs, spreading crap on our bodies that’s probably giving us cancer (there’s a lot of research linking the aluminium in antiperspirant to breast cancer). This cheeky little bottle is perfect. 5 out of 5. And no I wasn’t gifted it and have never spoken to the company, but I feel like I should write them a letter of commendation. It’s no wonder they’ve won awards, this stuff’s got game.

Salt of the Earth
Platinum awards, vegan seal, leaf juice… ticking all boxes.

On the subject of Mitchum, supposedly their antiperspirants contain no animal ingredients, but they are owned by Revlon who sell in China and therefore conduct animal testing. My gut feel for this is to avoid where possible – it’s not like Mitchum shout about eco credentials, so by purchasing it it’s not like you’re showing off to Revlon that you care like in the case of Body Shop/L’Oreal. But it’s a grey area, let me know what you think?

Keeping Cool: Ice Cream edition

When I was a kid, I was never that into ice cream. I had an allergy to a certain red food colouring but a penchant for strawberry flavour things, so I developed an association between ice cream and vomming early on. When I started uni and our halls kitchen didn’t have a freezer, we had one of those amazing summers where it’s sunny permanently (2006 helloooooo). Suddenly I missed it and I craved it.

Going vegan was like being at uni again. Not being able to have it made me want it more. Luckily it appears there’s a shit tonne of milk free alternatives, and they taste ace. Ice cream must be an easy thing to crack, unlike cheese for example.

Top marks for branding goes to Tesco’s deliciously named “Choc Sticks“.

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Tesco choc sticks

The box looks clinical and weird. I had expectations of those crappy choc ices that are 20 for 50p where the chocolate is thin and bland and the ice cream is crystalline, watery and tasteless. Again: WRONG. I would challenge any non vegans to try this and say it’s not real ice cream. The chocolate on the outside is thick and rich dark chocolate, with a satisfying crack as you break it up. The ice cream inside is smooth, creamy vanilla, just like a magnum. They’re currently 3 for 2 and I have officially Stocked Up. Don’t be out off by the uninspiring packaging or name.

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Get in my belly choc stick

Ice cream treat number two is in even weirder packaging and it reminds me of the Doge meme (much wow, so ice cream).

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Just like Ice Cream Mochi Ice Dessert

I had never heard of Mochi before, so I’ve no comparison to whether these are authentic or different to ‘normal’. Basically, the outside is a sort of chewy, doughy, marshmallowy thing, that immediately makes you panic that there must be gelatin in it. There isn’t, it’s just starch from tapioca. You’re safe. Go with it.

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Mochi:  chewy ice balls

So you bite into it (it’s weirdly not that cold) and there’s a runny centre of coconut ice cream, very drippy rather than a solid scoop. I guess it’s sort of the jam donut of the vegan coconut ice cream world. Apparently they come in other flavours, mango, chocolate, strawberry and Black Sesame, naturally. I didn’t know what to expect when I opened them, but it definitely wasn’t 6 individually wrapped pieces. It seems quite wasteful in the plastic packaging, but they’re so sticky I can see why.

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Six coconutty balls

Would be ace if they replaced that with paper or something more eco friendly. High novelty factor, but it doesn’t sit in a bowl with broken oreos and strawberries in quite the same way. 4/5.

That concludes April’s vegan round up: Keeping Cool!  Looking forward to a theme presenting itself for a May round up. Suggestions welcome.

Love, Kayley xx

 

What is tempeh and what do you do with it?

What is tempeh?

Tempeh is made from soy beans, and is an alternative to tofu. Tofu is made from bean curd rather than the whole bean, so loses some of the fibres and nutrients from the soy beans, and is considered more processed. Tempeh on the other hand uses whole beans, contains about 50% more protein and more than 3x the fibre of tofu. It is considered ‘less processed’ as the soy beans go through less faffing to get to the end product. Some people apparently have trouble digesting tofu, but tempeh is supposed to be easier on the digestive system. So there you go.

I like having a wide range of dishes to turn to so I wanted to give tempeh a go. I used to struggle with tofu, but now have several go-to tofu meals that I love. Tempeh seems to be a lot less talked about and I think I know why:

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It looks like a cross between a highly sweetcorny poo and the front of a pebble dashed house. I gallantly continued.

How to cook tempeh

I read several recipes and advice and a lot of them talk about boiling it. Apart from rice and pasta I never boil anything so I couldn’t be arsed with that. I then found a few ‘marinate and fry’ recipes so I decided to freestyle on that basis. My approach in the kitchen is alwaysalways that I know what I like better than the recipe writer, and I’m a constant substitutor if I don’t have the right ingredients in the house. In this case I mixed soy sauce, lemon juice, ginger powder and garlic powder in a bowl, sliced the tempeh pretty thinly, brushed the tempeh with the marinade and left it in the fridge for an hour. In retrospect, I’d probably add some chili or hot sauce next time to this mix.

I left it for an hour then heated up some seseame seed oil in a wok. Sesame seed oil has a hotter boiling point than things like olive oil so it’s great for when you want a high temperature. Also it tastes amazing, sort of toasty, nutty.

With this high-ish heat I only needed to do the slices for a couple of minutes each side before they turned a nice toasty colour. You might be wondering about the different shapes – I experimented with different ways of chopping the tempeh to see if it affected how well it stayed together – there was little difference, I’d stick with the slice like salami approach.

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At the same time, I fried a leek in some coconut oil, then chucked in a tin of chickpeas, a generous amount of spinach and some pinenuts with a spoonful of Thai green curry paste in a saucepan. (Asda’s Thai curry pastes are vegan, but most other places and brands put fish sauce in so watch out). And here’s how it looked:

IMG_20160430_185528 I served it with Thai sweet chili sauce.

The verdict:

Maybe 6/10 for tempeh and 8/10 overall. OK, so tempeh isn’t my fave. It’s quite dense, reminds me a lot of nut roast which I was never keen on specifically for that reason. Taste-wise, it tasted fine and its good to have different foods in your diet. I’d definitely make it spicier next time and try it again. To be honest, the leek and chickpea concoction was my fave part of the meal. Also a whole tempeh ‘sausage’ between two people is definitely too much! I would say that it’s good enough to give it another go but I can’t see it replacing tofu any time soon.

If you’ve got any of your own tempeh recommendations please let me know!

Love Kayley x

 

Great Vegan Food in Manchester

We’re very lucky in Manchester to have some amazing vegan options, some healthy, some not so healthy. I’m in my fourth month of vegan-ing and I’ve not struggled too badly anywhere. I thought I’d share some of the amazing finds I’ve had around the city lately:

Pho cafe

Pho have places all over the country, the Manchester branch is located in the Corn Exchange (previously the Triangle, and previously a bit crap). Pho are great because they declare pretty openly that virtually all their vegetarian labled dishes are also vegan, rather than hiding it away on a secret menu, and when queried the server I had was ready to answer vegan questions.

I had the bun chay hoey – hot and spicy noodle soup. You get the main soup in one giant bowl, the vegan option being tofu and mushroom, and a tray of fresh ingredients on the side to add as you like – lemongrass, coriander, beans sprouts, lime and mint. I’m normally pretty good with spicy things, and I optimistically added all the chillis I was given. A bit of a ‘nose runner’ shall we say.

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The tofu wasn’t a texture I’d had before, to be honest, it reminded me of croutons, sort of ‘bready’. In spite of this surprise,  it was delicious and I’d definitely have it again.

www.phocafe.co.uk

Evelyn’s

Evelyn’s is in the Northern Quarter, on Tib St. It has a pretty varied menu for meat eaters, and TWO vegan options. Apparently it’s a great breakfast/brunch spot, but it did appear quite egg-centric (not even a pun).

Another day, another new tofu format, this time breadcrumbed. It was amazing, pretty sure it was silken tofu as the inside was very soft and smooth, and the breadcrumbs were really crispy, what a contrast. Served with loads of spinach and blackened cauliflower, on sort of lentil Dahl thing. It was incredible. I could have eaten it twice, which I guess makes portion size the only slight negative.

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www.evelynscafebar.com

Go Falafel

Go Falafel is like vegan Greg’s. It’s fast, it’s delicious… Oh no wait, except that it’s incredibly healthy rather than greasy beige. There are rumours that a new one is opening on Deansgate which would be amazing, the current one is just off Piccadilly gardens. They serve all sorts of fruit smoothies too. Entirely vegan.

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You’ll notice there’s something missing in the salad bowl above. I was actually not too hungry so I just went for the salad bowl rather than any actual falafel. But look at it, it’s beautiful. I ate this on my own on a bench on a sunny day I’m February listening to a guy play guitar. Highly recommend that ambience.

Go Falafel Facebook page

Deaf Institute

Deaf Institute has snook in a bit here as the meal I had was a special rather than on their normal menu. However, it was one of those sandwiches you think about for days afterwards so I couldn’t leave it out. Maybe if we all go and demand it they’ll make it regular.

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This sandwich had the three As – avocado, artichoke and aubergine. Plus loads of red onion and grilled peppers. So fit. Look at the size of it. Needs a wooden stake to hold it together.

www.the deafinstitute.co.uk

Cowherd’s

I’ve been telling everyone I know about Cowherds.Unfortunately I keep getting overwhelmed by the glory of their food and eating it before I can take a pic. They have a regular daily hit food item (Mondays are Thai green curry – try it) plus various snacks and All The Juices. I actually won one of their regular Facebook competitions a few weeks back and got 12 bottles of juices, and I never felt healthier. The green one below looks like pondwater yes, but it’s cut with apple besides all the kale, spinach and whatever else so tastes amazing. The orange one is ginger and carrot – if you weren’t a big fan of ginger I’d say it’s not the juice for you. It’s a great lick you up though!

Cowherds also serve Tyler & Hall chocolate vegan protein brownies – you would think that being vegan and protein heavy they’d taste like crap but you’d be SO WRONG. They’re so rich, almost like praline. Highly recommended.

Cowherds is currently just a van behind the cathedral, but they’re imminently getting a new portakabin type thing where you can also sit inside. They do a lot of community work too and are generally wonderful people.

www.cowherds.org.uk

That’s today’s round up complete – please do let me know of anything else you discover!

Kayley x