Wednesday, 21 March 2018

What We Ate Wednesday--Good Gravy

Hello lovelies! I don't know about you, but a good gravy makes every dish better.

Maybe not *every* dish. I mean you wouldn't put gravy on ice cream.

Or would you? No, that would be weird.

Let me rephrase. A good gravy makes MANY dishes better. Roast dinners. Mashed potatoes. Mmmmm....mashed potatoes.

I never made meat gravy before I was vegan. I probably ate it. I ate gravy other people provided, but had no idea how it was made. A lot of my omnivore days were like the US military--DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL. Basically, I ate lots of things as long as I didn't have to know what was in them. I became increasing uncomfortable eating animals that looked like animals. A chicken has a leg and  I have a leg...making the connection...wait! Don't ask, don't tell! I ate lots of chicken strips because strips aren't a body part.

Anyway, back to gravy.

To paraphrase Flannery O'Connor--A Good Gravy Is Hard To Find. 

I have tried vegan gravy powder...convenient, but too salty. I used to make one that was a creamy gravy made with cashews, but it got expensive (and was just ok, if I am honest.) I had a great recipe for a flavourful gravy from a cookbook by Dreena Burton, But it had thirteen (count 'em, 13!) ingredients and like the cashew one required a blender. I went without a decent blender for two years after I accidentally broke my beloved Vitamix blender. I could blend it up in my inferior blender, but it took about ten minutes to collect all the ingredients, measure, blend for ages in my crappy blender, put all ingredients back where they belonged--which for me is the next room because my kitchen is so small. It just wasn't worth it.

So, I went to Google and started looking for a recipe.

And I found it. The Holy Grail of gravy. It was delicious, few ingredients, easy to make and no blender required. My Vitamix has been repaired, but i don't need it for this. I can whack out the gravy really quickly whenever I need a bit of some deliciousness. And did I mention it is fat free? I am not fat phobic by any means -- we need fat in our diet -- but this gravy tastes scrummy without it, so I can save my fat for something like dessert.

The recipe I adapted my gravy from is from Brand New Vegan  and you can read the recipe HERE.
Their recipe uses whole wheat flour, but I used rice flour. So, all you folks who don't have to be GF, can just you whole wheat flour.

Good Gravy

1/4 cup rice flour (or whole wheat flour if you are not GF) 
2 TB Nutritional Yeast
1 tsp Onion Powder
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
2 cups Vegetable Broth 
2 TB Tamari or Soy Sauce 
Optional: 1/2 tsp Marmite (I use Tesco brand Yeast Extract as it is Gluten free and not owned by Unilever) 

1. Add ¼ cup of flour, 2 heaping Tablespoons of Nutritional Yeast, 1 tsp onion powder, ½ tsp garlic powder, and ½ tsp black pepper to a small saucepan.

2.Whisk the dry ingredients together over med-low heat until they become toasty, no more than a few minutes. It will start to smell all toasty and delicious.

3. Slowly stream in the veggie broth and whisk to remove any clumps.

4. Now add the tamari or soy sauce and the optional marmite and stir to combine.

5. Simmer on med-low heat until bubbly and thickened

That's it. I think this gravy would travel well. Sometimes Spiderman and I rent a self catering place on a holiday. You could bring all the dry ingredients in a container and some tamari or soy sauce in those travel shampoo bottles (clean ones...not ones that have previously had shampoo in them, obviously!) Then you could make gravy on holiday. 

I have searched far and wide for a vegan gravy that is easy, cheap and delicious with a short ingredient list and this one wins--hands down--every time. 

Man, that's some gooooood gravy. 

Friday, 16 March 2018

Fairy Tale Friday--The Leopard (China, 1914)

Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I’ll begin.

This week I want to start looking at variations on Little Red Riding Hood from other cultures or countries. The Chinese folktale The Leopard was published in 1914 in Chinesische Volksmärchen (Chinese Folktales.)

I have no doubt it was passed down orally for many generations, but this is the first recorded version of this tale I have come across. It was collected and published by Richard Wilhelm who was a German theologian and missionary who lived in China for 25 years, became fluent in spoken and written Chinese, and grew to love and admire the Chinese people. According to Wikipedia, he is best remembered for his translations of philosophical works from Chinese into German that in turn have been translated into other major languages of the world, including English.

It is unusual in that the villainous animal is not a wolf, but a leopard (as the title suggests), although I have seen a different translation which called him a panther, but the story was the same.

It is also unusual in that the leopard disguises himself as the mother rather than grandmother. Interestingly, the mother was on her way to visit the grandmother, so there is a grandmother in the story. Alas, the mother and younger brother are eaten on their way to visit Grandmother, which is why the leopard returns to the house in the guise of the mother to try to eat the remaining children. However, he hadn’t counted on the cleverness and bravery of the daughters. With the help of local merchants, the girls plan a series of booby traps (weirdly reminiscent of the film Home Alone) and attack the beast when he returns the following evening.

It also contains the curious lesson: Never let a leopard comb your hair. 
                      Image result for leopard china

The Leopard

Once upon a time, there was a widow who had two daughters and a little son.
 One day the mother said to her daughters: "Just you take care of the house! I will go to Grandmother with your little brother."

      The daughters promised to do so. Thereupon the mother set off. Along the way she met with a leopard who asked where she was going.

      She said: "I am going to my mother with my child."

      "Wouldn't you like to take a rest?" the leopard asked.

      "No," she said, "it is late already, and the road to my mother is far."

      But the leopard kept on talking to her, and finally she gave in and sat down along the side of the road.

      "Let me comb your hair a bit," said the leopard.

      So the woman let the leopard comb her hair. As he was combing her hair with his claws, 
he ripped of a piece of skin and devoured it.

      "Stop it!" the woman shrieked, "That way of combing hurts!"

      But the leopard ripped off an even bigger piece of her skin. As the woman was about to shout for help, the leopard grabbed her and devoured her. Then he turned to her little son and also bit him to death. He got dressed in the clothes of the woman and put the child's bones which he had not eaten yet in her basket.

      Thus he went to the woman's house, where the two daughters were, and he called at the door: "Open the door, daughters! Your mother has come."

      They looked through the chink of the door and said: "Our mother does not have such big eyes."

      Then the leopard said: "I was at Grandmother's and saw how her chickens laid eggs; I was so happy that my eyes have become big."

      "Our mother does not have such spots on her face."

      "Grandmother did not have a bed, so I had to sleep on peas; these have pressed into my face."

      "Our mother does not have such big feet."

      "Nonsense! That's because of the long walk. Now open the door!"

      Then the daughters said to one another: "She must be our mother," and opened the door. 

But when the leopard entered, they saw it was not their mother after all.

      In the evening, when the daughters were already in bed, the leopard gnawed at the little 
boy's bones which he had taken along.

      Then the daughters asked: "Mother, what are you eating?"

      "I am eating beets*," replied the leopard.
 Then the daughters said: "Mother, give us a bit of your beets too! We are so hungry."

      "No," replied the leopard, "I will not give you anything. Be quiet and go to sleep!"

      But the daughters kept on begging until the false mother gave them a little finger. Then the girls saw that it was their little brother's finger, and they said to one another: "Let's run away quick, otherwise she will eat us too."

      So they ran out of the house, climbed into a big tree that stood in the yard, and called to the false mother: "Come outside! We can see the neighbour's son celebrating his marriage." 

However, it was in the middle of the night.

      Then the mother came outside, and when she saw them sitting in the tree, she called angrily: "But I cannot climb!"

      Then they said: "Sit down in a basket and throw the rope up to us so we can pull you up!"

      The mother did as she was told. But as the basket was halfway, they swinged [sic]it to and fro and made it bump against the tree. Then the false mother had to change back into a leopard again, in order not to fall down. The leopard jumped out of the basket and went away.
Gradually it became morning. The daughters climbed down, sat down in front of their door and cried for their mother. Then a seller of needles passed by and asked what they were crying for.

      "A leopard devoured our mother and brother," the girls said. "Now he is gone, but he will surely come back and eat us too."

      Then the seller of needles gave them some needles and said: "Stick them into the cushion on the chair, with the sharp ends turned up." The girls thanked him and kept on crying.

      Then a catcher of scorpions passed by and asked the girls what they were crying for.

      "A leopard devoured our mother and brother," the girls said. "Now he is gone, but he will surely come back and eat us too."

      Then he gave them a scorpion and said: "Put it behind the hearth in the kitchen!" The girls thanked him and kept on crying.

      Then a seller of eggs passed by and asked what they were crying for.

      "A leopard devoured our mother and brother," the girls said. "Now he is gone, but he will surely come back and eat us too."

      Then he gave them an egg and said: "Put it in the ashes underneath the hearth!" The girls thanked him and kept on crying.

      Then a tortoise merchant passed by, and they told their story again. Then he gave them a tortoise and said: "Put it in the water jar in the yard!"

      Then a man who sold cudgels passed by and asked what they were crying for. They told him their sad story. Then he gave them two wooden cudgels and said: "Hang these above the gate door!" The girls thanked him and did as they were told.

      When it became evening, the leopard came to their house. He sat down on the chair in the room, but the needles in the cushion stabbed him. Then he went into the kitchen to make a fire in order to see what had stabbed him, but his hand got stung by the scorpion. And when he finally had lighted the fire, the egg burst and got into his eyes, and blinded one of his eyes. Then he walked into the yard and put his hand in the water jar to cool it down. Then the tortoise bit off his hand. In great pain he ran out of the gate door into the street, when the wooden cudgels fell down on his head and beat him to death.

*In the translation entitled The Panther, it was turnips rather than beets.

Stay tuned next week for another  story from China entitled Grandmother Wolf. 

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

What We Ate Wednesday--What I ate on my trip to the US

Hello lovelies! I recently spent two weeks in the US visiting my daughter and two delightful grand daughters.

Let's just start by saying, that no one in my American family is vegan or eats as healthy as we do. However, my daughter was a complete star--reading labels for unhealthy ingredients and animal products--and allowing me to fill up her fridge with vegetables and use her kitchen.

I haven't travelled back to the US since 2011. I had forgotten just how hard it is to find food without High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) and hydrogenated oils. They are literally in EVERYTHING.

All the more reason to eat a whole food plant based diet while I was there.

Which was considerably more expensive than in the UK. I can completely see why families struggle to feed their kids healthy, nutritious food when produce costs so much and McDonalds cost so little.

If I had been at home, I would have cooked more adventurous meals, but I was not at home. I was far from home and having to use someone else's kitchen. So this is what I bought:

roasted garlic in a jar
bottle wheat free soy sauce
bottle of lemon juice
red potatoes
big bag of kale
tins of chickpeas
tins of black beans
tins of kidney beans
small tin of sweetcorn
stock cubes

Now, my mum gladly lent me some spices from her cupboard so i wouldn't have to buy any. However, if I hadn't had a mum who lived a few streets away from my daughter's house I could have brought a few spice jars with me or just bought the minimum spices I needed. The minimum I could have used were these:

Italian herbs

Would more variety have been nicer? Sure. But that was the minimum. I could make lots of recipes with those. My mum included a few more like curry powder and my daughter had some Creole seasoning I borrowed because it was there.

So, how did I start my day? With Overnight Oats. My wonderful stepdad Carl bought me the following ingredients ahead of time and brought them to my daughter's house, so when I woke up the next day after 27 hours of travel, there would be breakfast. Carl and I both get HANGRY (hungry + angry) so he was a life saver. I made my Overnight Oats with:

Quaker rolled oats
almond milk
apple juice
frozen mango

If I had been home I would have added chopped nuts, maybe some coconut and definitely some chia seeds. But I was trying to keep it cheap.

Because I am secretly a Hobbit, I always have Second Breakfast.  We found some vegan and gluten free frozen waffles and some organic syrup made from agave, maple syrup and cinnamon that were free of hydrogenated oils or HFCS. I baulked at the price of both, but my beautiful and generous daughter bought them for me. They had frozen waffles in their freezer too, and we could all sit down and "eat the same thing" together. For extra "staying power" I ate my waffle with a spoonful of peanut butter and the syrup.

After breakfast, I would drain and rinse a tin of beans and add some seasonings, put it into a reusable container and pop it in the fridge for lunch. For lunch, I would eat HALF of the spicy, marinated beans and then for supper I would cook onion, garlic, peppers and add in the remaining marinated beans plus cooked potatoes and kale. Because the beans were different every day, it tasted like a new dish every time.

I should also say that I cooked about 3 days worth of red potatoes in vegetable stock (from the exorbitant organic stock cubes I bought) and refrigerated them. then every night I just tossed a handful into my pan and reheated them.

Some of the variations I ate were:
magic beans made with kidney beans (4 TB nutritional yeast flakes--I had brought them with me in my suitcase--1 TB oil and 1 TB soy sauce)
chickpeas with 2 tsp cumin and 2 TB lemon juice
black beans with sweetcorn with cumin and paprika
kidney beans with Creole seasoning
chickpeas, 1 TB soy sauce, 1 TB lemon juice 1 tsp Italian herbs
black beans, paprika and defrosted frozen mango

Cumin lemon chickpeas with onion, pepper, garlic, potatoes and kale

We decided to try to eat some "family meals" together, even though we both ate vastly different things. We managed this two ways:

Spaghetti night. They had meat sauce and regular pasta, I had marinara sauce and GF pasta. I used some nutritional yeast flakes that I had brought with me in my suitcase as a Parmesan cheese on mine.

Brinner (Breakfast for Dinner) We made grits to share, frozen waffles of our individual sorts and they had scrambled eggs and i had scrambled tofu. I had to improvise on the tofu, but a splash of soy sauce, some nutritional yeast flakes and a shake or two of mum's curry powder (for colour) and it was all good.

We did eat out a bit. Many lovely friends wanted to see me and unfortunately, the only place in town that has a play area is McDonalds. Not my first choice (or my second...or my third) but with two preschoolers, you need a play area. On these occasions, my daughter and her kids ate there and  I brought a pack lunch of marinated beans and my cutlery roll where I can bring my own silverware and thereby avoid single use plastics.

Don't get me started on single use plastics. Can you believe there is STILL no recycling in my hometown????? I felt like I was committing a crime with every item that I had to throw away that I knew could be recycled. *Shudder.* Also, I was shocked at how several shops did not like me taking in re-usable bags and Every.Single.Shop. gave me a plastic bag whether I wanted it or not. (Even after I would preemptively shout "No bags, please!").

I could rant about this for days...perhaps in another post. It has made me come home to my beloved Wales and vow to be even better about my plastic use. I am really trying to reduce our plastic there may be blog posts on that that follow.

Anyway. Back to food.

If you are a vegan and must eat out in a fast food establishment in the US, Wendy's supposedly makes an awesome salad with roasted edamame(if you get it without chicken) and you can get a jacket potato. I was never able to try this  as they lack a play area for two frisky preschoolers. (see above) On my way out of town to drive to Houston to the airport I did eat at Taco Bell. If you order the crunchy corn taco shells it is GF and ask for beans instead of beef and "fresco style" you get pico de gallo instead of cheese and sour cream. It's not gourmet, but it is at least vegan. I had better luck here than at a really nice Mexican restaurant I went to with my cousin's family. Despite me repeatedly saying (and other members of the table saying) to the waiter about just bringing the VEGETABLES THAT COME WITH FAJITAS AND NO MEAT....I still got meat in there. Blech.

I also ate at an Olive Garden where I had a nice salad (sans croutons) and some GF pasta with marinara. I brought some nutritional yeast flakes in a small container for Parmesan. it was OK. Not brilliant...but edible. I ate at a fantastic independent Lebanese restaurant named Jerusalem  where I got velvety hummus and cucumbers (in lieu of pita bread) and some flavourful beans (that were good but too oily for my tastes.) I had a lunch at the Oriental Wok with my sister-in-law and her husband. I had remembered them having a huge array of vegetarian dishes, but hadn't counted on the fact that we had to order solely from the lunch menu. There was less choice. Well, one choice. I got Kung Bo tofu in a spicy sauce...and that was all I could eat. I couldn't eat the soup (not vegan or GF) or the eggroll (ditto) and the fried rice had egg. And maybe sausage. Who knows. I asked if I could get some fried rice without "stuff" in it and was told NO. it was already made. I am really spoiled as our friend and landlord owns a Chinese restaurant around the corner from our house and he often generously gives us free meals. He *always* makes sure we get vegan fried rice.

So, did I eat healthily on my foray back to the land of my birth? Yes. Mostly.

Was I able to escape HFCS and hydrogenated oil? No. Not completely.

Did I manage to have any treats while I was there? Yes. Quite a lot. I had to do a sugar detox when I came back. I found a few types of sweets that you could buy at the Dollar Store.

Image result for peanut butter logs
my Texas granny always had these peanut butter logs

Image result for chick o stick
Chick-O-Sticks taste like a naked Butterfinger

We also found a no bake cookie bar recipe that was both vegan and GF, plus free of the things I didn't want to eat. It was extremely decadent and sweet, but easy to do. We made it twice (twice!), one time with the munchkins helping with the measuring. The other time we made it and didn't tell the kids and just ate it all ourselves. FACT. 

Peanut Butter Krispie Squares

Melt in a pan:
1.5 cups peanut butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup Karo corn syrup (not to be confused with the UK I'd say use Golden Syrup or Brown Rice Syrup as it needs to be a thick syrup)

When melted, pour over 5 cups Rice Krispie type cereal. Stir until coated and then spread into a foil lined pan. Score some lines in there and refrigerate until firm. 

We used expensive Sugar in the Raw because white sugar in the US is not vegan on account of being processed through bone char. 

Did I enjoy my time in the US? You bet. I loved seeing my daughter and her kiddos and my mum and stepdad. I saw several lovely friends who gifted me with many wonderful gifts (mostly spider themed...they know me well.) 

Was I glad to get back to the UK? Hells yeah. I missed my Spiderman something fierce and I was glad to get back to affordable produce, recycling and sugar you don't have to think about not being vegan. 

Now I just need to go recycle something to do penance for two weeks of throwing so much away.  

Friday, 9 March 2018

Fairy Tale Friday--Little Red Riding Hood Re-Told (Britain, 1927)

Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday.  Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I’ll begin.

This week we are looking at a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood by Carnegie Award winner Walter de la Mare. It was first published in his book Told Again in 1927.

His version is the only one I have come across that address the burning question: what exactly is riding hood? Countless tales say she wears a riding hood, but she never goes riding. Is it for horse riding? Is it for riding in a carriage? It always seems to be pictured as attached to her red cloak, but it appears that the hood is separate as her mother makes it for her out of a small strip of cloth.

This story immediately reminded me of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf which you can read HERE if you’d like. Both tales set up their heroine as a vain and shallow clothes-obsessed young girl who was probably quite tedious to be around due to her always banging on about how beautiful she looked and using a spoon as a mirror to check herself out. You know the type.

Both versions set the heroine up for a downfall based on their selfishness and vanity, but Walter de la Mare’s version does it tongue in cheek while Andersen sends her straight to HELL (that’ll teach her!) Andersen was rather moralistic in his tales. The Red Shoes spring to mind—she so admires the red shoes that in church instead of thinking of Jesus, she is thinking about how cute she looks in her red shoes. This causes her to be CURSED and have to dance without stopping until she falls down DEAD. She ends up begging the executioner to chop off her feet and lives a life as a cripple with wooden feet until she repents her wickedness.  You can read this tale of extreme vanity HERE

I bet Andersen was a hoot at parties.

And what is it about the colour red that makes these women lose their common sense?

Anyway, back to this story. Little Red Riding Hood (who is indeed wearing a riding hood, not just a red cap) is not only vain but greedy too. She can’t wait to offload the basket of goodies and fill it with the jam tarts she knows her Grannie will have in her cupboard. She is so excited thinking of the tarts, she forgets to wave goodbye to her mother.

The moment the woodcutter cuts her free from the wolf, she rushes straight to the mirror to check that her hair isn't mussed. So clearly, she hasn’t learned her lesson.

De la Mare ends it on a humorous note. Poor Grannie who had been on her deathbed, gets a second wind after being so warm and compressed inside the wolf. It did her rheumatism a world of good and she lived another twenty years until the age of 90.

The only other thing to look out for in this version is the archaic use of the word faggot meaning a bundle of sticks. In the US I only heard it used in a derogatory way against homosexuals and only saw it used to mean a bundle of sticks in fairy tales. In the UK, however, it is still in current use to mean a sort of pork meatball made of offal (hearts, livers, etc). A butcher’s shop on the corner of a nearby street from our flat advertises for pork faggots and there is a brand of frozen faggots you can buy called (rather unappetisingly) Mr Brain’s Pork Faggots. Just a bit of linguistic trivia for you.

                      Image result for little red riding hood illustration
The only online version of Walter de la Mare’s tale that I can find is a PDF that was scanned from the Norton Anthology of Children’s Literature. Click HERE to read the story.

Stay tuned next week for a version from China where two sisters outsmart a leopard who has eaten their mother and brother and returns home posing as their mother. 

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

What We Ate Wednesday—Pizza Soup and Garlic Cheese Bread

Hello lovelies! This week’s recipes were happy accidents.

My friend Emma and I went to the FREE Book Shop (seriously, it’s totally free! It’s like a charity shop, but free! You are allowed three second hand books per day. Did I mention they are completely FREE?) It’s run by volunteers and their goal is to keep books out of landfills and to promote reuse and recycling. It’s amazing.

So, Emma and I went and one of the three free books I got was a cookbook for vegetarians on a student budget. Many of the recipes for vegan, so I decided to take it home.

In there, they had a recipe for tomato and red lentil soup which looked good, but it had no herbs or spices. I decided to use their basic recipe and add pizza spices and it was a huge success.

I was just going to make some of my 5 minute flatbread  with garlic butter on top, but then remembered I had some Quick and Dirty Cheese Sauce adapted from HERE  in the fridge leftover from when we had pizza and I thought I’d substitute cheese sauce for the yogurt and see what happened.

What happened was the bread was AMAZING.

The picture does not do it justice.

This comes together really quickly if you have the cheese sauce made in advance. It needs to be cold, so do your cheese ahead of time and you can make this in about 30 minutes.

Pizza Soup and Garlic Cheese Bread

Make your cheese sauce:

1 TB vegan butter
6 TB nutritional yeast flakes
1 TB flour (I used rice flour)
¾ cup non dairy milk
¼ tsp each garlic powder and onion powder
½ tsp salt
Shake of turmeric and smoked paprika for colour
Melt the butter in a small sauce pan. While it is melting whisk everything else together in a small jug. When butter is melted, slowly stream in milk mixture, whisking constantly until heated and thickened. Let cool and refrigerate.

The soup:

1 chopped onion
1 grated carrot
Garlic to taste
Half a chopped pepper
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 TB tomato puree (paste)
50g (1/3 cup) red lentils, rinsed and picked over
400ml vegetable stock
Pinch salt
Pinch sugar
1 tsp each basil and oregano
3 TB nutritional yeast flakes

Cook the onion, carrot, pepper and garlic in a splash of oil or water until softened then add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes. 

When cooked, puree smooth with an immersion blender.

Meanwhile, make the cheese bread.

Cheese Bread

Move your oven rack up close to the top. Preheat your grill/broiler. I set my temperature to 220C/425F.

Line a pan with parchment paper.

In a small sauce pan melt 1 heaping TB of vegan butter and a clove of crushed garlic.

In a bowl sift together:

200g (1.5 cups) gluten free flour mix or regular flour
3 tsp baking powder
½  tsp xanthan gum (only if using GF flour)
½ tsp salt to taste

Then add:

2/3 cup cold cheese sauce
¼ cup water

Keep adding water a TB at a time until the flour is no longer wet. It took considerably more 
water than when I make it with yogurt. Don’t panic, just keep adding and stirring. This will eventually result in a rather sticky dough.

Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces using wet hands and form circular patties with your hands approx. 5mm thick. Or do what I did and make 5 breadstick shapes.

Brush with the garlic butter you melted a minute ago, and top with a pinch of flaked sea salt.

Grill/broil for approx. 3-5 minutes on each side (depending on the strength of your grill) until lightly golden and puffed up. I always do 5 minutes per side. Don’t forget to brush with garlic butter when you flip.

It is amazing how this puffs up under the grill and goes all crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and golden brown and yum. The cheese flavour was really strong, and the garlic butter gave it a WOW factor.

We will definitely have this again. It made 3 bowls and the soup recipe could be easily doubled if serving a crowd.. 

But there won't be enough cheese bread, because I will have eaten it all myself. Sorry! 

Friday, 16 February 2018

Fairy Tale Friday--The True Story of Little Golden Hood (France,1888)

Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I’ll begin.

This week we are looking a version entitled The True History of Little Golden Hood by French writer Charles Marelles. It is said he was dismayed at the unhappy ending of his countryman Charles Perrault’s tale and so he wrote a version of his own in 1888. It was published in 1890 by Andrew Lang in his Red Fairy Book.

I really like this tale as it is less about being a victim and more about being empowered, which is pretty impressive for 1888. Admittedly, Little Golden Hood is a bit dozy and feckless at the start but is saved by her wise Granny who has cleverly thought to put a magic spell on the child’s hood. Then when confronted with the wolf, doesn’t get eaten, but captures him a sack like “a letter in the post” and throws him down the well with the intention of turning his pelt into a muff and feeding his bones to the dogs. Little Golden Hood is hysterical at this point and calling out for her mother, but Granny gives her a bit of cake and wine to help her calm down. It ends with her learning her lesson (as in the Grimm’s tale) but one rather thinks the lesson is less to always be obedient, but rather to grow up to be wise badass like her Granny.

Image result for little golden hood
The True Story of Little Golden Hood

YOU know the tale of poor Little Red Riding-hood, that the Wolf deceived and devoured, with her cake, her little butter can, and her Grandmother; well, the true story happened quite differently, as we know now. And first of all, the little girl was called and is still called Little Golden-hood; secondly, it was not she, nor the good grand-dame, but the wicked Wolf who was, in the end, caught and devoured.

Only listen.

The story begins something like the tale.

There was once a little peasant girl, pretty and nice as a star in its season. Her real name was Blanchette, but she was more often called Little Golden-hood, on account of a wonderful little cloak with a hood, gold-and fire-coloured, which she always had on. This little hood was given her by her Grandmother, who was so old that she did not know her age; it ought to bring her good luck, for it was made of a ray of sunshine, she said. And as the good old woman was considered something of a witch, everyone thought the little hood rather bewitched too.

And so it was, as you will see.

One day the mother said to the child: 'Let us see, my little Golden-hood, if you know now how to find your way by yourself. You shall take this good piece of cake to your Grandmother for a Sunday treat to-morrow. You will ask her how she is, and come back at once, without stopping to chatter on the way with people you don't know. Do you quite understand?'

'I quite understand,' replied Blanchette gaily. And off she went with the cake, quite proud of her errand.

But the Grandmother lived in another village, and there was a big wood to cross before getting there. At a turn of the road under the trees, suddenly 'Who goes there?'

'Friend Wolf.'

He had seen the child start alone, and the villain was waiting to devour her; when at the same moment he perceived some wood- cutters who might observe him, and he changed his mind. Instead of falling upon Blanchette he came frisking up to her like a good dog.

' 'Tis you! my nice Little Golden-hood,' said he. So, the little girl stops to talk with the Wolf, who, for all that, she did not know in the least.

'You know me, then!' said she; 'what is your name?'

'My name is friend Wolf. And where are you going thus, my pretty one, with your little basket on your arm?'

'I am going to my Grandmother, to take her a good piece of cake for her Sunday treat to-morrow.'

'And where does she live, your Grandmother?'

'She lives at the other side of the wood, in the first house in the village, near the windmill, you know.'

'Ah! yes! I know now,' said the Wolf. 'Well, that's just where I'm going; I shall get there before you, no doubt, with your little bits of legs, and I'll tell her you're coming to see her; then she'll wait for you.'

Thereupon the Wolf cuts across the wood, and in five minutes arrives at the Grandmother's house.

He knocks at the door: toc, toc.

No answer.

He knocks louder.


Then he stands up on end, puts his two fore-paws on the latch and the door opens.

Not a soul in the house.

The old woman had risen early to sell herbs in the town, and she had gone off in such haste 
that she had left her bed unmade, with her great night-cap on the pillow.

'Good!' said the Wolf to himself, 'I know what I'll do.'

He shuts the door, pulls on the Grandmother's night-cap down to his eyes, then he lies down all his length in the bed and draws the curtains.

In the meantime, the good Blanchette went quietly on her way, as little girls do, amusing herself here and there by picking Easter daisies, watching the little birds making their nests, and running after the butterflies which fluttered in the sunshine.

At last she arrives at the door.

Knock, knock.

'Who is there?' says the Wolf, softening his rough voice as best he can.

'It's me, Granny, your little Golden-hood. I'm bringing you a big piece of cake for your Sunday treat to-morrow.'

'Press your finger on the latch, then push and the door opens.'

'Why, you've got a cold, Granny,' said she, coming in.

'Ahem! a little, a little . . .' replies the Wolf, pretending to cough. 'Shut the door well, my little lamb. Put your basket on the table, and then take off your frock and come and lie down by me: you shall rest a little.'

The good child undresses but observe this! She kept her little hood upon her head. When she saw what a figure her Granny cut in bed, the poor little thing was much surprised.

'Oh!' cries she, 'how like you are to friend Wolf, Grandmother!'

'That's on account of my night-cap, child,' replies the Wolf.

'Oh! what hairy arms you've got, Grandmother!'

'All the better to hug you, my child.'

'Oh! what a big tongue you've got, Grandmother!'

'All the better for answering, child.'

'Oh! what a mouthful of great white teeth you have, Grandmother!'

'That's for crunching little children with! 'And the Wolf opened his jaws wide to swallow Blanchette.

But she put down her head crying:

'Mamma! Mamma!' and the Wolf only caught her little hood.

Thereupon, oh dear! oh dear! he draws back, crying and shaking his jaw as if he had swallowed red-hot coals.

It was the little fire-coloured hood that had burnt his tongue right down his throat.

The little hood, you see, was one of those magic caps that they used to have in former times, in the stories, for making oneself invisible or invulnerable.

So there was the Wolf with his throat burnt, jumping off the bed and trying to find the door, howling and howling as if all the dogs in the country were at his heels.

Just at this moment the Grandmother arrives, returning from the town with her long sack empty on her shoulder.

'Ah, brigand!' she cries, 'wait a bit!' Quickly she opens her sack wide across the door, and the maddened Wolf springs in head downwards.

It is he now that is caught, swallowed like a letter in the post.

For the brave old dame shuts her sack, so; and she runs and empties it in the well, where the vagabond, still howling, tumbles in and is drowned.

'Ah, scoundrel! you thought you would crunch my little grandchild! Well, to-morrow we will make her a muff of your skin, and you yourself shall be crunched, for we will give your carcass to the dogs.'

Thereupon the Grandmother hastened to dress poor Blanchette, who was still trembling with fear in the bed.

'Well,' she said to her, 'without my little hood where would you be now, darling?' And, to restore heart and legs to the child, she made her eat a good piece of her cake, and drink a good draught of wine, after which she took her by the hand and led her back to the house.

And then, who was it who scolded her when she knew all that had happened?

It was the mother.

But Blanchette promised over and over again that she would never more stop to listen to a Wolf, so that at last the mother forgave her.

And Blanchette, the Little Golden-hood, kept her word. And in fine weather she may still be seen in the fields with her pretty little hood, the colour of the sun.

But to see her you must rise early

Stay tuned next week for a version by Walter de la Mare which emphasises the greed and shallowness and vanity of the young woman in the red hood, but does it with a twinkle in his eye. 

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

What We Ate Wednesday—Mardi Gras King Cake (vegan and GF!)

Hello lovelies! Yesterday was Shrove Tuesday, so depending on where you live it was Pancake Day (The UK) or Mardi Gras (The US.)

Spiderman came home from the shops with a twinkle in his eye and an extra shopping bag. I could definitely tell he was up to something. I looked in the bag:
Gluten free puff pastry
Vegan cream cheese
Food colouring

What was this all about?

“I have decided I would like to make a King Cake,” he replied.

King Cake (in case you don’t know) is thought to have been brought to New Orleans from France in 1870 and is a type of cake eaten in Louisiana after Epiphany (hence the name KING cake, since Epiphany marks the arrival of the Three Kings who visited Baby Jesus) and in the big pre-Lenten blow out that is Mardi Gras. Lent is a time in the church for giving something up, and in the early church, a time for plain foods without fats or sugars (or fun) until Easter. Hence eating lots of fatty, sugary cakes right before Lent to use up all your ingredients. This is also why folks in the UK traditionally make pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, to use up their fat and sugar before Lent.

It is also traditional to hide a little something in the cake to represent Baby Jesus. In the past it might have been a dried fava bean, but these days it is a plastic Baby Jesus. This Plastic Jesus is for some reason almost always an unnatural shade of pink, but we did once find a brown one which I thought was more appropriate. Throughout history, the person who found it might be crowned the Lord of Misrule and be able to order everyone about in silly ways. These days, whoever finds it buys the next cake.

King Cake is a bit like a giant cinnamon roll with drizzled icing and granulated sugar in purple, green and gold (PURPLE which signifies "Justice," GREEN for "Faith," and GOLD for "Power.") And the best ones have a cream cheese filling. Hence, why Spiderman brought home a tub of vegan cream cheese.

“If you are going to go out, you might as well go all out,” he said as we unloaded the groceries.

We decided to flatten out the puff pastry and spread the cream cheese on it with some cinnamon and roll it up, and bake it then top with traditional icing and coloured sugar.

It is worth noting that in the UK Jus Rol brand puff pastry is accidentally vegan, and they make a Gluten Free version too. I don’t know what’s available in the US, sorry folks.

Then while it was baking, we coloured our sugar. In the UK, sugar is vegan, but in the US many white sugars are bleached white by filtering through ashes made from bone char, which is just a fancy way of saying burned up animal bones.

I know…yuck.

We couldn’t find purple food colouring, so we had to use a mix of red and blue. No matter where you live, check your labels on the red. If it says cochineal, carmine, natural red 4, crimson lake or E120 then it is made from crushed up bugs.

Crushed up bugs, people! Blech…. And you should know that this is the most common colouring in cosmetics such as lipstick.

He found some food colourings labelled Suitable for Vegans at B&M Bargains for £1 each. Our red dye is made from paprika extract.

Anyway, we put about 20 drops of each colour into a quarter a cup of sugar and dyed our sugar the requisite colours.

When the King Cake had cooled we drizzled on a glaze of icing sugar and the sprinkled on our coloured sugar.

Then went into a diabetic coma for a bit.

This is by far way more sugar and fat than we normally eat…but bloody hell it was delicious.

And it is a holiday.

The only thing we didn’t have was a plastic Baby Jesus.

King Cake
One sheet of Jus Rol pastry, regular or GF
1 container vegan cream cheese (we used Violife. Tesco makes one, but we found it a bit plasticky)
1/2 cup icing (powdered) sugar to beat with the cream cheese

1/3 cup icing (powdered) sugar
A bit of warm water to make a glaze
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided into quarters
Food colouring (red, green, yellow and blue)

Preheat oven to 200C/400F
Beat your softened cream cheese with the half a cup of icing sugar and set aside.

Roll out your sheet of pastry, spread cream cheese on it and generously sprinkle cinnamon.

Roll up and carefully pull around into a roughly circular shape. 
Bake for 20-22 minutes, remove from oven and let cool.

While baking, divide your granulated sugar into quarters and add a few drops of food colouring into each one and stir until you get a colour that you like.

When cool, make a glaze with  1/3 cup sifted icing sugar mixed with enough warm water to make a runny paste. Drizzle over the cake and then sprinkle the coloured sugar on top.

note: we managed it get it in a horseshoe shape, but in future (and there will be a future) we will just leave it as a tube and not bend it as it cracked a bit and some of the cream cheese leaked out.  Also would suggest pinching ends shut next time so aforementioned cream cheese didn't leak out. Also, this is way too much coloured sugar than you need. So either make more King Cakes or make other baking endeavours more festive. 

That’s it! Laissez les bon temps rouler! Let the good times roll!