Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Du Juan and Sun Fei Fei for H&M

Saw this latest H&M winter campaign on Market Street, Manchester today and nearly clapped with delight! Aren't they stunning? I'm partial to the red dress (£9.99); it's perfect for Christmas.

Credits: The image is the property of H&M, sourced from AsianModelsBlog.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Pizza Express, Old Colony House, 6a South King Street, Manchester

So it was the night before my birthday, and the night of the Christmas lights switch-on in Manchester. Here are some fireworks as proof!

WP and I decided to go to Pizza Express at the Old Colony House. Pizza Express is a very well known and ubiquitous franchise in the UK, and they are very hit and miss when it comes to food and service standards. For instance, the worst Pizza Express experience I've had is at the Piccadilly Gardens branch. The service was poor and the food wasn't great. The only thing that was nice was the Sicilian lemonade, and that's because it came out of a bottle.

This Pizza Express at South King Street was miles better, and we really enjoyed our dinner there. WP ordered the Diavolo - hot spicy beef, pepperoni, onions and Tabasco sauce. Lots of green chillies!

I ordered the Pollo Pancetta but substituted the red onions for caramelised onions (which was actually a chutney). This was yummy, the pancetta was perfectly crisp around the edges and there was plenty of cheese.

Check out the size of my pizza. I was undeterred!

The get-up was very standard Pizza Express: clean, no-fuss and efficient. We were up for a no-fuss dinner and this ticked all the right boxes.

This was the beginning of a long weekend of feasting and being non-vegan!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Vegan Zucchini / Courgette and Onion Mini Cornbread - Recipe

So it's only day 4 of my 40 day vegan trial and already I'm slightly frustrated at the lack of options available to me in the cafe at work. I love savoury snacks but there is always some form of lactose or egg-derived ingredient on even the most vegetarian option on offer.

So when I got home this evening, I decided to whip together a savoury snack I could pack to work which doesn't taste like grass, hommous or lentils. I found some cornmeal lurking in the kitchen and decided to make a vegan version of the traditional cornbread. Now I am no expert in soul food by any stretch of the imagination so I appreciate this will be a very distant relative to proper southern corn bread. Nevertheless as someone who has been cooking since the age of four, I do have some common sense in the kitchen and promise you the final product is pretty yummy for something with no butter, milk or cheese in it.

Firstly, get your muffin tray. I use these cute re-usable silicone cups from Asda. You don't need to grease these and they work so well. Very cheap too. Oh, and easy to wash after! Grate 3/4 of a courgette/zucchini (depending which side of the pond you live) into a bowl and season with salt and pepper. As you can see from the photo below, the mixture starts becoming mushy as the salt causes the zucchini to seep water.

Next, add softened onions. I'd softened these a couple of days ago and kept it in the fridge. I have a habit of softening a huge batch of onions at once and storing them so that as and when I fancy something quick, I don't need to chop and fry onions from scratch, stinking up the kitchen.

Then add half a cup of soy milk and 4 tablespoons of oil. This soy milk is sweetened because that was all I had but I don't think it makes a difference. Excuse the Old El Paso salsa in the background. My flatmate was making burritos.

Then add a cup and a half of corn meal. There's a story of how this cornmeal ended up in my kitchen but I'll save the story for another day. For now, I'll just say I didn't know this ingredient existed in UK supermarkets before and this is the first bag I bought.

I love the bright yellow colour of cornmeal!

Mix it all in. Now, I know the next step will cause either

A: looks of horror and disgust
B: whoops of delight

as along with a teaspoon of vegetable bouillon and turmeric, I add a generous squirt of Marmite. I love Marmite. I have it almost every day, on crumpets with butter, on toast, in rice porridge, the list goes on. You don't have to add Marmite if you don't like it, but trust me, it's so good and doesn't actually taste that strong in the grand scheme of things.

Mix very well (remember you added bouillon so MIX MIX MIX). Spoon into the muffin moulds.

They call me yellow mellow...

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 190 deg celcius until golden brown. These babies took about 20 minutes. Just keep an eye on the baking in the last 10 minutes.

Mmmmm... I love the sight of shredded zucchini peeking out! The cornbread is on the heavy side as I didn't add any baking powder and plain flour so maybe I'll include those next time. However, I really like it this way as the zucchini keeps the cornbread moist and it's not crumbly at all, unlike some cornbread I've tried in restaurants. I like the slight pull you get once it cools down.
Do try this at home! It's totally vegan and no animals were harmed in the production of this recipe.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Vegan Day 2

So as promised, here is my vegan lunch for day 2 - I forgot to take a photo of day 1's lunch and wolfed it down quicker than you can say "lactose-free". Say hello to my lunch box! It's quite boring but it's functional. I fancy some of the really cute bento style boxes but those are expensive so we'll stick with what we've got.

Some low fat hummous
Carrot sticks
Vegetable curry - I made this at home with some Japanese curry mix, cauliflower, zuchinni, carrot sticks (I'm going to turn orange), sweetcorn, onions and spinach.
An orange
A plain bagel
Some rice crackers

Estimated total cost of all items in this packed lunch: £1.47

Sunday, 7 November 2010

40 days of vegan

Today I embark on a 40 day challenge I set for myself, something which I've been convicted of doing for awhile but never got to it due to lack of organisation and a general fondness towards eggs, cheese and protein. I am particularly fond of a good steak:



I watched a programme awhile back documenting how our food is produced. Whilst I have nothing against eating meat, eggs and dairy, something wasn't right. Over the next few weeks, I felt a stirring in my heart to actively try to trace the origin of my foods. It was harder than I thought it would be! I couldn't be assured by the labelling on my food that the chickens of my eggs were free to roam or that my steak was a cow that was regularly let out to peacefully graze. I'm by no means a PETA champion but do feel that as stewards of God's creation, there is something to be said about making choices that encourage ethical farming. Farming issues are not just about animal rights, but include environmental issues, workers and farmers' rights, economic justice and health and safety.

Every time we buy something, we are casting a vote as to what we want: baby corn flown in from Thailand or potatoes delivered from a field 30 miles away? Affordable barn hens or slightly more expensive free range organic chickens?

The reasons I'm challenging myself to go vegan for 40 days are two-fold:

1. The labels in the supermarkets are, in my opinion still not clear enough and can be misleading. I don't have very much time at all and certainly cannot spend the additional minutes deciphering labels. The problem of Freedom Food vs Free Range vs Organic vs Red Tractor vs Country of Origin etc etc etc is completely eliminated if I just cut out everything that came from an animal.

2. Free range meats are expensive! I can't afford them anyway.

As there are almost zero pure vegan options in my office cafe, I've decided to pack my own lunches to work. To make things a little bit more fun, I'll be documenting my work vegan bentos every now and then to let you have look at what a noob-vegan is learning to make/ pull together! Watch this space :)

Can't believe how tan I was in summer

I miss my tan!
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Saturday, 6 November 2010

Professional Masterchef - Saturday funnies

This made me laugh out loud! W and I caught the real finale on BBC iPlayer and commented on the over-the-top epic music, dragged-out "suspense" scenes verging on ridiculous and over-enthusiastic grandiose editing of what is essentially just another cooking show. The editor of this satire video has a real point. If you're based in the UK (i.e. you have a UK IP address - I know some of you can make as if you do have a UK IP address when you are in fact somewhere else, yes you Hulu-fan pretenders you know who you are - it's ILLEGAL yo!), you can catch the real Masterchef Finale on BBC iPlayer.