On the first real sunny weekend of the year we escaped to the Lakes. The sunshine was a happy coincidence rather than specifically running away to the sun, and it turned out to be the perfect weekend, with great vegan food, beautiful scenery and a gorgeous quiet little b&b to make our base. I’d never been to Ambleside before, and I’d go back in a heartbeat. Continue reading “A vegan trip to the Lake District: walking in Ambleside”
Have you ever stayed in a yurt? I hadn’t until last month, and wasn’t really sure what they were. Is glamping hipster? Or has it become cliche now? How much glam does a campsite require to evolve into a glampsite? These existential questions must prey on all our minds from time to time, but I would urge you to leave your worries at the tiny little hobbit door and enter the world of yurting (note: I don’t think that’s a real verb).
We stayed at Cae Wennol yurts, about 20 minutes drive from Betws-y-coed and 40 minutes from Snowdon. The site has three yurts, as well as an outdoor pizza oven, individual bbq areas and an open-air communal kitchen. There are ponds with dragonflies, rabbits peeping their little noses about, and cheeky magpies thinking they own the place. It’s a weirdly magical place.
All of the yurts have names, and ours was called Seren. It was equipped with a double bed and futon, as well as drawers, a chair and tables, and a wood burner complete with chimney. The floor is made of wood with rugs to keep your feet warm. It was decorated in a middle-eastern inspired “rustic” theme that made it feel like a real home. It definitely didn’t feel like a tent, more like when you are a child and you dream of making your wendy house into a real house to live in your garden forever.
On the first night we made a valiant effort with the outdoor pizza oven, with mixed results. We had trouble getting it hot enough, and in the end resorted to creating a thin garlic flatbread, using our pizza ingredients to create a pasta instead. I made the pizza dough from scratch without scales, weights or measurements, rolling my sleeves up in the open air kitchen with a G&T at my side and using a pint glass as a rolling pin. It was just perfect.
On the second night, after an exhausting trek up Snowdon and a second (this time successful) visit to the Swallow Falls we had a simpler BBQ/salad outside our yurt before collapsing into bed. That night I was so happy we weren’t sleeping on the floor of a tent, and my weary legs really valued the support and softness of a real bed! Although the yurt had a log burner inside, we found it really warm, and were throwing blankets off the bed rather than needing to worry about keeping warm. Those padded walls are really insulating.
Each of the three yurts has its own individual “loo shed”, with a real basin and a compost toilet. There was also an eco shower, complete with hot water running off into pebbles under your feet. The whole site felt a bit like Alice in Wonderland meets Eden – one morning when I woke up and came out of the yurt, I saw six baby bunnies sprinting across the path in front of me, as if playing that now the humans are awake, it’s time to run! Another morning, as I entered the open air kitchen, a magpie flew out with a whole slice of bread in his beak – I entered to find that someone had left a new loaf on the sideboard rather than in a cupboard, and the magpie has worked his way in through the plastic to steal a cheeky snack.
It felt magical to have these home comforts of real beds, hot water and pizza ovens while running round barefoot and huddling around a fire. I’d return in a heartbeat and would recommend the site to anyone else staying in the area.
Last month we spent a long weekend in a yurt in Snowdonia for some much needed relaxation. Continue reading “Adventures in Snowdonia”
I fucking love summer. I can’t get enough of being outdoors, sitting on the grass barefoot drinking gin & tonics. Lighting a fire when it gets late and an English chill sets in. Part of our quintessential English summer is the BBQ – getting friends and family together over the mutual burning of food. When I was veggie I ate a lot of grilled halloumi, leek & cheese sausages etc. So as this latest heatwave set in it left me thinking – could I still do BBQs? Was I doomed to grilled peppers over and over again? What do vegans eat at BBQs? Don’t worry – turns out it’s fine! Last weekend we had our first BBQ of the summer and I was in heaven. Here’s my menu:
BBQ Tikka Tofu fingers
I spent years getting tofu wrong. You have to treat it well to get a good result. This is a really simple option that should be beautiful as long as you don’t skimp on the golden rule of tofu – drain well.
This is dead easy but needs a bit of prep work – do this early in the day and then you’re laughing later on.
- One block of tofu.
- Coconut oil (you could replace this with any oil that copes well with high heat)
- Tikka powder – or even make your own mix from cumin, coriander, chilli powder and whatnot
- Take a block of tofu, and gently squeeze out the excess water over a sink. If you press gently it should sort of ooze. Then wrap the block in some kitchen roll and place between two plates. Leave this for about half an hour for even more liquid to escape.
- Make yourself a sangria (see below)
- Come back to the tofu after about 30mins of draining and slice it down the middle so you’ve got two thin tofu ‘bricks’. Then cut those in half so they’re half the height, then each of those pieces into about four smaller, thinner rectangles. Basically you end with tofu soldiers.
- Spoon some coconut oil into a small bowl and microwave in bursts for 10 seconds or so until it starts turning to liquid. Probably about a tablespoon when solid should be enough, but don’t go mad stressing over measurements.
- Mix in some tikka If. As you mix in the powder the coconut oil should get even more liquidy and go sort of thick and gloopy. Rub this thick gloopy mixture into your tofu on all sides.
- Once it’s all rubbed in, pour any excess gloop over the top for good luck. Cover in cling film and leave in the fridge for at least two hours to marinate – the longer the better.
- Once your BBQ is nice and hot, gently place directly onto the wirerack. Turn over when the edge goes a bit golden and crispy.
- If all has gone well, you’ll end up with beautiful crispy on the outside soft on the inside tikka tofu – enjoy.
Chili aubergine rounds
Again, doing these in advance is key.
- One aubergine (eggplant to our US fam)
- Chili oil
- Firstly, you need to gorge your aubergine. Slice it into rounds, about as thick as your finger. Cover these in salt and leave to one side for about half an hour. This will draw out the juices that can make aubergine tough or bitter and instead makes it mushy and delicious.
- Come back to it and scrape off the salt where you can. Noone wants a mouthful of salt, but also don’t stress over every grain.
- Use a pastry brush (or your fingers) to coat the slices in chilli oil.
- Leave in the fridge covered in clingfilm. It can chill happily next to your tofu.
- Grill on a nice hot BBQ on both sides for 5-7 minutes.
- That’s it.
Pile your tofu and aubergine into bread buns with spinach, sliced beef tomatoes, ghurkins, grilled peppers, mustard and whatever else you fancy.
BBQ Garlic flatbreads
Dear readers, I saved the best til last. Also this isn’t my recipe, it’s Mr Jamie Oliver’s so I can’t take credit. Follow steps 1-4 of his basic bread recipe here, then adapt for the BBQ here. I just coated in garlic oil all over, he does something with olive oil and rosemary which does sound good.
- 500g bread flour
- 300 ml tepid water
- 15g fresh yeast
- 1 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 level tablespoon salt
- Put your flour in a bowl, make a “well” in the middle. Add half the water, then add you yeast sugar and salt and mix together within the well using a fork.
- Bit by bit, bring in more and more flour from the “walls” of your bowl, until it goes stodgy. Once it’s all in, or it’s getting tough to mix, start adding more and more of the remaining water. You might need more or less flour or water depending on the heat of the room.
- Once you’ve got something that looks like dough, smack it around a bit. Stretch and smack down, push it around until it goes all smooth and elastic. This is really gratifying.
- Leave in a bowl covered in cling film in a warm place until the dough more or less doubles in size. Jamie says half an hour but we ended up leaving ours for like an hour or 90 minutes cuz we were faffing with BBQ coals.
- Break off balls of dough and stretch out into rough flatbread shapes. With your hands, rub garlic oil all over.
- BBQ for about 3 minutes each side – you’ll see the edge go golden and it will stop sticking to the wire rack.
- Serve with more garlic oil and bit of balsamic if you fancy it. The outside will be golden and the inside light and fluffy. I can’t get over how well this came out.
Can’t wait for more BBQ experiments this summer! To finish off here’s my easy sangria – one part red (vegan) wine, one part lemonade, lots of ice, a few shots of brandy, strawberries, lime and apples 🙂
To start testing how this whole blogging thing works, here’s a post about when the sun shines in Manchester. Many people who think of Manchester think of industry and greyness, and more than likely, rain. Actually we do get (some) sunny days and I’m lucky enough to live near Chorlton Water Park – a beautiful outdoor space and nature reserve.
We were lucky enough to get some sun on Good Friday so I dragged the hub away from his PhD for a few hours to walk along the Mersey and the artificial lake. Apparently the lake was built in the 1970s from an old gravel pit, and now is home to swans, geese, cormorants, herons, moorhens, coots and more. I was even lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a kingfisher darting by.
Also I obviously had to take the obligatory pole picture!
To see how all the wildlife comes alive in sunny weather just like humans do is beyond cute. I love being outdoors and feeling part of nature – refreshes the soul for those of us with indoor jobs!