Sunday, 30 July 2017

The Sheffield Vegan Beer Festival 2017

Sue and I like a real ale or craft beer or two on a weekend. Maybe lunch on Saturday and then nip in to one of the fine hostelries in Sheffield or sometimes further afield.  We go to perhaps a couple of beer festivals a year. We started doing this when we first went to stay in Berwick nine years ago and fell in love with the place. Coincidentally they were having a food and drink festival on the weekend we arrived with lots of local produce and a small beer tent. We go back most years, the atmosphere is welcoming.

Yesterday we went to the first Vegan Beer Festival in Sheffield which was organised by Sean a.k.a. Fat Gay Vegan who is a regular contributor to the Vegan Life magazine. It was held in the trendy Yellow Arch Studios near Kelham Island and we had the bonus of locating the Thali Cafe on our way there and plan to visit that place soon too.

The weather was brightening and the sun came out. There were four food vendors in the courtyard and plenty of seating. An indoor area was reserved for the beer with three breweries and a local pub providing the beers. and what a great selection there was too!

We grabbed a table which became our home over the coming hours whilst occasionally venturing out into the sun, or watching the charity kareoke taking place. I got up and did a fair cover of the Rolling Stone's classic, Paint it Black. No, wait,  that was someone else. I have never done kareoke and this was not the time to start.

The four food vendors did good business. We tried something from each. I am probably the wrong demographic for these businesses as the food was more American diner/ fast food alternative takeaways, however V-Rev from Manchester were really particularly friendly and Sue liked their brisket in a bun and had a good laugh with the main guy there who had great people skills.

I tried "crispy eg and bacon on a pretzel bun" produced by Butcherless. It was interesting and disconcertingly like the real thing, certainly closer to the real thing than many imitators i have tried. It was all sweet and salty, smoky and umami with the bacon made from mheat. The eg was incredibly realistic with an oozing yolk that utilised indian black salt to recreate the sulferous odour.

Did I enjoy it? Yes. Would I have it again? Yes, as an occasional take away. Would I cook with it? Probably not. It did blow away some of my preconceptions and as they say on their website, their product is not a fake meat, just simply vegan, grown not born. There is something artisanal about this approach which intrigues me. It's not quorn.

Somebody later tweeted Sean to say this had been one of the most welcoming and inclusive festivals they had been too and I heartily agree. It was relaxed, pleasant, no anti-social behaviour. Very friendly.

The beers were sensational. I had one bad beer all day, an experimental Weird Beard creation "Roots, bloody roots" which was a take on root beer and should have been all licorice and sarsaparilla but was very medicinal. Sue tasted it and screwed her face up "horrible, tastes like "germolene". And it did, every mouthful from then on was like drinking an anti-septic. Luckily there was only a half pint to drink and it was a weaker beer. I did think about feeding it to the nearby bay leaf plant, but my conscience would not have been clear. But that's part of the fun of trying something new, I once saw a pint of parma violet stout in a pub and asked the bartender what it was like. "Disgusting" she said. But I tried and enjoyed a half! Weird Beard makes some great beer but this was a miss for me.

The wonder of beer festivals is that you can get to sample an array of beers and chat to the people who are so passionate about brewing them. The commerative glass, well, it was more a frosted plastic design but lovely - is marked with half and third pint measures so you can sample a lot of beers over an afternoon without falling over. I started with a Bad Seed wheat beer, all raspberry, rose petal and hibiscus. Later I tried their strong Glass Case of Emotion  - an Imperial stout all almonds and cherries. Chorlton Brewing Company had an array of sour beers all great but I liked the orange/ cherry sour brown ale whilst Sue liked the hemp pale ale (ah, the benefits of being a couple, you sample twice the beer!)

The Welsh Heavy Industry Brewing had a gold medal winning IPA called 77, which did not disappoint and it was a tie between this and the Farmaggedon Gorse IPA which adds a heady aroma they describe as almost a pina colada of pineapple and coconut but was like nothing I had tried before, as to my favourite of the day. The Farmaggedon just edged it. 

Before leaving I took a few quick candid shots with my Nikon D40 and a 35mm prime lens. Sue and I noted that Black is still the new Black; Vegan Doc Martens are plentiful and as is bright colourful hair... and people are getting younger.

I spoke with Sean before we left and he was looking more relaxed. He'd been really worrying about the weather but the sun prevailed and this event was a success and will surely be back in the new year.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

The New Vegan

Meera Sodha's Made in India - Cooked in Britain is one of my favourite Indian cookbooks with great stories about growing up in Lincolnshire. Although not vegetarian, there are plenty of vegetable and dal dishes and the fresh chutneys are great. The jeera rice recipe is sublime. Every Indian cookbook seems to have its own method of cooking rice but Meera's is my favourite absorption method I have tried so far and I often adapt other recipes I read to follow this method. Her writing is really quirky and reading the publicity when it came out you could tell how much she had invested in it.

So when I heard her second book, Fresh India, was going to be vegetarian I was thrilled. It did not disappoint, and although by then I had switched to a vegan diet, there was still so many interesting plant- based recipes and others could easily be adapted.

So how pleased was I when I discovered that Meera had been signed up by the Guardian newspaper to write a weekly column The New Vegan! There have been two recipes so far, a Potato, chard and coconut curry and a Tamarind and spinach dal  I am going to cook all these dishes and though results may not have the panache of the food stylist's gorgeous photos I am expecting some tasty dishes!

In the first column Meera states that, although not vegan herself -
"I didn’t grow up in Gujarat, but in Lincolnshire, the vegetable heartland of this country. Behind our house was a potato factory, and down the road fields brimming with cabbages like boulders and blushing beetroots; a lot of that produce ended up on our table, quickly cooked and lightly spiced. Somewhere in the middle of this cross-cultural Venn diagram, I developed a love for a simple, fresh diet without much meat."
 Who knows, maybe her third book will be vegan too.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Sunday lunch

Sunday lunch

I love cookbooks that tell stories. Chetna Makan, ex Bake-off contestant, has written Chai, chaat and chutney about the street foods she tasted in Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai and Delhi that inspired the recipes for her new book. 

There are a number of dals in the book. The mung dal and cashew nuts above is from Kolkata. There is no onion or garlic in it. You cook the dal separately with salt and turmeric. You soak a handful of cashews for half an hour, then fry cumin seeds in ghee (I use rapeseed oil, I was never a great fan of ghee, though I miss butter in some of my dals) . Then you add the ginger followed by the cashews and fry until golden. Then add tomato and green chillis. Add to the dal with a handful of coriander leaf. It's nice. The earthiness of the dal comes through. 

Sunday, 23 July 2017

If King Alfred had been left in charge of the grilled masala aubergine.....

Mira Manek's Saffron Soul  is a beautifully photographed cookbook of modern Indian food with a healthy twist. With time on my hands I thought I would try the grilled masala aubergine dish which looks very appealing in the book, drizzled with a herb yoghurt dressing and scattered pomegranate seeds. The recipe involves slicing an aubergine lengthways into 4 slices. Frying them in a little oil on both sides for a few minutes before baking in the oven. The masala mix I used was an adaptation due to the ingredients I had in.

1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp turmeric
Pinch of salt
Pinch chilli powder
2 tbs tahini
1 tbs jaggery
20 g ground cashew nuts
Small handful of coriander leaf
1/2 lime
1 tbs sunflower seeds
50 ml water

You mix this up and it should ressemble a goldilocks texture ( not too thick, not too thin... Just right) which you then smother the aubergine slices and bake a little longer before carefully grilling and then serving with the yoghurt and pomegranate seeds. I made up a soya yoghurt with fresh mint from the garden, a pinch of salt and a dusting of chilli powder. Being a lazy Sunday afternoon I thought I may even make an effort to photograph the resulting dish.

Then a few moments of inattention and I cremate the aubergine slices. They resemble a crime scene in a Scandinavian noir. "We can't be sure of the gender or age, officer, but we think the body may be an aubergine but we won't know for sure until the results are back from the lab."

Half a slice survived... and when I say survived, I mean was edible. And nice. It tasted nice.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Peanut butter

I love Vegan Richa's book and blog and tonight's recipe was inspired by one of her posts, a lovely peanut butter curry sauce. I used sweet potato, courgettes, chanterelle carrots and sweet corn. If I was cooking it again I would ditch the sweet potato in favour of new potatoes, preferring the waxy texture. I think I overcooked the sweet potato - roasting it instead would work but who has the time midweek? The courgettes were fine. Peas, carrots and cauliflower would work a treat. I added fresh curry leaves because I had them and they are gorgeous. I did not follow the recipe but more , read it, then was inspired by it. I am trying to be a bit more spontaneous in the kitchen, trying to trust my own tasting. It's hit and miss but has been quite liberating and fun. The dish tonight was an honourable miss, the over-cooked sweet potato let it down but the flavours were great and I will give it another go another week. A version of this sauce would be in my fantasy cookbook because it would go so well with tofu and tempeh and a range of veg.

The masala kraut is tasting good. The fermentation has started and the spices are pleasant, the fennel really coming through. Will keep tasting but I reckon it needs another week or so. Then will be looking at a kimchi recipe, just need to order the Korean chilli powder.

I need to do bread this weekend too. Maybe a rye sourdough...

Monday, 17 July 2017

Masala Kraut

I chose just to use half a cabbage this time though perhaps I was a little too conservative. Sliced and in a bowl with a liberal amount of salt I scrunched the cabbage letting it release its juices. I added turmeric, chilli powder, cumin, coriander and fennel seeds, some diced red onion, a pinch of asofoetida, black mustard seeds, fresh curry leaves finely chopped, grated ginger. It's in its jar now and will take 1-2 weeks before its transferred to the fridge. Fermented food - Step by Step by Adam Elabd is my guide - this is a lovely introduction to the art of fermentation.

So warm this evening. Sue had made a smoky red bean chilli yesterday which will feed us three days.  I added a simple guacamole, a pineapple,coriander and lime salsa and a new corn chaat dish, sweetcorn flavoured with coriander leaf, lime, chilli powder, chaat masala, and salt. With sourdough bread and new potatoes. Sat in the garden, shaded from the sun, watching the house martins, way up in the sky, riding the thermals. Since starting this blog I have been more adventurous in the kitchen mid-week and started to really enjoy cooking after work rather than seeing it as a chore.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

... or the same

Lazy Sunday morning, It is a warm day but I am determined to bake sourdough bread this weekend having missed out in the last few weeks due to other commitments. Case study handed in, report for my trainee completed, this weekend felt "free". Friday I made some baked onion bhajis and sue and I had them with salad in wraps. Sue loved them, I thought they were okay. Deep fried still taste best and so much better than most restaurant or take away ones. I think I prefer them that way as an occasional treat. But will continue to experiment. Made my usual tarka dal this week, minus the garam masala, finishing the last few drops on Saturday. Need a new recipe to try next week.

#EatYourGreens is calling hosted by Veg Hog. I have decided to bake another handvo which went down well with my work colleagues and none went to waste. I stick with the same basic recipe - brown basmati and chana dal.  Reading on the net there are a myriad of rice and lentil batters made from grinding soaked rice and dal or using flour and a wide choice of veg used. Veg-wise I used a courgette, spinach, coriander leaf and some fenugreek along with red onion. I use the nutribullet this time which left a smooth batter and I left it to ferment overnight. Still unsure about this stage as I cannot see much evidence of fermentation. I may try the coconut yoghurt next time. And there will be a next time as I love this stuff and just want to try out my own combinations.

Meets the brief regarding green seasonal veg! The methi was a sorry bunch but it was all I could find. Yesterday, I went to the market place and my favourite Middle Eastern shop and stocked up on spices and lentils. Curry leaves were replenished. Tried to find kokum ( dried mangosteen) without success. One vendor got excited saying she had it in powdered form and went to find it bringing me back mango powder (amchoor) instead. I bought it anyway. 

I served it with a basic coriander chutney, still experimenting with recipes, and a fine plum chutney that I improvised last weekend. 

Sunday, 2 July 2017

... and now for something completely different

Savoury lentil and rice cake. It does not sound especially appealing. I have seen it in a number of my cookbooks. Sometimes it consists of a special mix of flour. Other times it contains rice  and chickpea flour. I really fancied giving it a go but have nothing to compare it with. For someone without an Indian heritage this recipe is really out there. And more intriguing for it. 

I plumped for Mira Manek's recipe from Saffron Soul. It involves soaking chana dal and brown rice in water overnight ( I used brown basmati). Then grinding it up into a paste adding a little water to bring it together. Then you add it to yoghurt and let it ferment. It's says this can be 1-2 hours but better overnight, I left it about 6 hours. I used a thick soya yoghurt I have been experimenting with.  I guess coconut yoghurt or dairy would be fine too, 

Then you add veg to the batter. Finely diced red onions, spring onions, spinach, grated courgette, coriander leaf - some recipes have cabbage, carrots, peas, red pepper - I mean wow. Then salt, pepper, ginger, chillis, and garlic. Jaggery and lime. All mixed up in the batter.

Then you temper it with rapeseed oil - popping mustard seeds, hing, sizzling curry leaves, sesame seeds - then stir in a raising agent - bicarbonate of soda. Place in a oiled baking dish and sprinkle with sesame seeds and cook at 200 C for 45 mins or so. 

Buy the book for the recipe or search for "handvo" - a Gujarati speciality. 

I really was not sure about this and enlisted the help of Sue about when it may be considered baked. It smelled great coming out of the oven. 30 mins later it tasted great. Much lighter than I thought it would be. Trouble is I have loads of it. Will take it in to work but not sure what people will make of it. Breakfast is covered for the next few days. 

I think it is delicious and the possible variations are endless. Need to scale done the proportions though. 

Linking this post to MLLA #109, conceptualized by Susanand hosted by Lisa.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

July the four(th)

Well I have been eating a lot of Indian food this past fortnight. I fear the last of the Jersey potatoes may have gone, but they made several good potato dishes, a simple aloo matar (potato with peas) and a simple aloo gobi methi dish (potato, cauliflour and fenugreek leaves) that I improvised from my aloo gobi recipe. No more fresh methi in the house. I did a black dal with red beans too. I noted Vicky Ghobal had a recipe near identical to the last one I posted but instead I chose to pressure cook a cup of urid dal and add tinned kidney beans later. It was nice but I felt something was missing, I think it was the alchemy that the chana dal brings. I also did a gorgeous Gujarati dal from Mira Manek's Saffon Soul, toor dal sour-sweet with lime and jaggery. Dried mangosteens were optional and so will look to try and find some of them (after I look up what they are!)

So last night I thought I would use Anna Jones'  black dal recipe which you can find here as a basis to flavour 90g urid dal and 90g chana dal that had been soaked for a couple of hours and then pressure cooked in 1500ml of water for 30mins. It's the fennel seeds that make it for me but you can leave them out if you prefer. Delicious and soupy.

6 posts in June, which is close to prolific for me.

I have decided to give the next few months more of a structure and set myself 4 challenges a month.

1.  A new pulse dish ( no surprise there) for the #MLLA challenge
2.  A veg dish for the  #EatYourGreens challenge
3.  A chutney, pickle or relish, a condiment of some kind
4.  Something different

The something different option should be fun. One recipe a month trying one of the more unusual recipes in my cookbooks or one that I may not have tried because of time constrainta or unfamiliar ingredients.

So for July I want to try a rasam or a sambhar recipe, a date and tamarind chutney and handvo, a savoury rice and lentil bake.