Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Coconut butter--the cheap way

There was a time when coconut oil was a no-no because of the saturated fat, but new studies have shown that coconut oil is a different kind of saturated fat. It is not the kind that clogs your arteries/affect your cholesterol like the sort that comes from animal products but rather is a “medium chain fatty acid”(MCFA)  which means it doesn’t store as fat, but rather burns off as energy. Coconut oil is high in lauric acid which makes it antifungal and antibacterial and anti lots of other bad things as well.

What is the difference between coconut oil and butter? Oil is just that--oil. The butter is made from coconut meat and is full of fibre which means a spoonful can be a snack that holds you until the next meal. It has been said that including some coconut oil/butter in your diet can help you lose weight by increasing your metabolism, taking the stress off your pancreas and supporting your thyroid gland.

Before we go on, I’d like to say a few words about what I’ve just written. I’ve used the words butter and meat--and I am in no way talking about animal exploitation here. Why do the meat and dairy industry think they own these words? Butter is used in lots of words to denote a fatty substance--peanut butter, coconut butter, cocoa butter, shea butter, etc. None of those are made from dairy--although I once met someone who thought peanut butter was made from butter and told me in a rather condescending way that I couldn’t eat it. I put her straight.

Meat was used in ancient times to mean food--not a beverage. In the Bible in the book of Genesis 1:29 God says Behold I have given you every plant yielding seed which is on the surface of all the earth and every tree which has fruit yielding seed: it shall be meat for you.  Some Bibles translate it as food for you but if you look in the original language it says meat. We also use the word meat when dealing with nuts--we say nut meat when we get our prize out of the cracked shell.

Colleen Patrick Goudreau (my vegan hero) suggests we reclaim these words and use them as vegans. Why should we have to say words like when talking about our food :





. That sounds stupid and it makes it sound like our food is second class or not very good. What kind of milk? Cow’s milk or plant based milk? We prefer Oat milk. What kind of meat? Animal flesh meat or nut meat or vegan meat? I make three different kinds of vegan sausages --why should I have to call them what they are not? They are a spicy mixture that comes in link and patty form. Isn’t that what sausage is?

So this recipe uses coconut meat to make coconut butter and I am not ashamed to say that.

Coconut butter is wickedly expensive here--something like £15 for a small tub. With my high speed blender I can make one that is nearly as smooth as the commercial one. Yes I’m sure the commercial might be a tiny bit whippier and fluffier, but the price difference makes me easily ignore that.

DIY coconut butter

You need:

Some bags of unsweetened dried (desiccated) coconut

That’s it! I am on the look out for some organic desiccated coconut (which Spiderman always calls desecrated coconut) but haven’t found any so this is the bog standard £1 bag of the stuff.

Dump 2 bags in your high speed blender--I don’t know if a regular blender or food processor could make this work.

dry coconut in my blender

Blend like hell pushing it down with the tamper towards the blade.

liquid coconut butter in my jar


Pour it into a jar for storage.

It is all liquid-y in the photo as it is hot from the blades but in cooler weather it will harden up pleasantly. Right now it is so hot that the coconut oil separates and floats on the top and you have to stir it back in like natural peanut butter.


You can store it at room temperature. If you put it in the fridge it will become a rock that will be hard to scoop out. In spring when I made my first batch if you used a spoon that had been run under hot water it scooped up fine. It’s not really a problem at the moment.

Verdict:  lovely and creamy--not quite as smooth as a shop bought one, but since it only cost me £2 instead of £15 I think I can live with it.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Bippy Dread

Bippy Dread is one of our standard “it’s too hot and I don’t feel like cooking much” light summer meals. The actual meal is entitled Dippy Bread but somehow got mutated into Bippy Dread a few years back and the name stuck. I had a childhood friend whose nickname was Bippy so this makes me think of endless summers of fun and friendship.

It can be made easier by using commercially made pita bread that you cut up and toast in the oven under the grill. As I can’t find a decent gluten free pita I use my standard 5 minute flatbread recipe.  5 minute flatbread is a *slight* misnomer as it takes about 5 minutes to put together and then 5 minutes each side under the grill to cook so it technically should be called 15 minutes flatbread, but since every step takes about 5 minutes I have decided to keep the illusion of swiftness in the name because it tastes amazingly good for gluten free and is relatively quick in terms of making bread from scratch.

If you are using pita bread, just use a pizza cutter to slice into strips and toast under the grill until crispy. You know your grill and its strength so you know how long to do it for. I won’t teach your granny to suck eggs about this. But if you want to GF flatbread option, I’ve included it below.

Bippy Dread

You need:

Your favourite hummus

Your favourite chutney

Some Greek style soya yoghurt with a bit of mint or mint sauce stirred in

Half a cucumber, chopped into bite size pieces

Some toasty bread for dipping


That’s it really…..just dip your bread in a variety of tasty dips. It’s not rocket science.

We used caramelised onion hummus and our favourite chutney is Geeta’s mango and chilli because 1) it is spicy 2) it is made with sugar and not high fructose corn syrup like some of the cheaper brands 3) it has the vegan society logo. I was out of mint so we just had plain yoghurt, but it was still good. Not as good, but still good. Then I made a salad of cukes and some matchstick carrots in the fridge that needed to get used up and squeezed over the juice of half a time that was hanging out in the fridge leftover from making strawberry lime sorbet a few days ago.

GF 5 minute flat bread is adapted from the blog Including Cake.  


200g gluten free flour mix

3 tsp baking powder

1 tsp xanthan gum

2/3 cup soya yoghurt

¼ cup water (maybe a splash more if needed)

½ tsp salt to taste

1 TB nutritional yeast.

Makes 4 small saucer sized flatbreads


Put your oven rack up to the top of the oven. Heat the grill to medium and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix the flour, baking powder, nutritional yeast, xanthan gum and salt in a bowl then add the yoghurt and water and stir through, using your hands at the end as necessary. This should 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. . Lay on the baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper if desired.

Grill for approx. 3-5 minutes on each side (depending on the strength of your grill) until lightly golden and puffed up.

I find smoothing the rather sticky dough with wet hands gives a nice finish. 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. This recipe and the blog’s GF pizza crust recipe (also made with soya yoghurt) have transformed my idea of GF bread. Pizza crust for those of you interested:


Now go and dip it for yourself.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Summer fun

School's out, school's out! Teacher let the monkeys out!

That is how I feel after the year from hell. My school has been in lots of turmoil as we went into special measures for being a failing school, lost our head teacher and gained a series of temporary heads while we wait to be turned into an academy. We're not out of the water yet, folks. So with a sigh of relief I plan to fully invest myself with fun this summer.

I've got plans for crafts--been making some Doctor Who themed jewellery--stay tuned for a tutorial--and plan on on doing lots of sewing projects --I bought an amazing book about making crafts from bits and bobs you get at charity shops. the book is called ReCraft and has amazing ideas from stuffed toys from old woolly jumpers to kitchen aprons and bunting from men's button up shirts.

I've been seriously thinking of starting up and Etsy shop  to sell my creations if I get good enough. In the meantime, some friends and I have been debating about selling our crafts together on a table at the weekly craft fairs in our town. So I'll be looking into that.

I plan on inventing new recipes for cool weather eating--I am developing a variety of ice cream/frozen yogurt/sorbets to eat when it is hot made of whole foods and no weird chemical stuff. Stuff that looks like this:

photo from
Although this week I think all ice cream will be frozen banana based as I got 26 very ripe spotty bananas at the greengrocer for £1 today as they were dying to get rid of them as they're closed on Sunday and they'd have to be binned at the end of the day. So I'm thinking chocolate and peanut butter flavour? Or coffee?

I am also memorising the words to a complicated song--i like to do this every few years as a mental agility challenge. In years past I've learned all the words to Paul Simon's You Can Call Me Al, Billy Joel's We Didn't Start the Fire and REM's It's The End of the World As We Know It.

This year the choice is Mitch Benn's I'm Proud of the BBC which you can watch the video for it here:

This awesome song lists a staggering number of BBC telly and radio programmes throughout history. How many can you recognise? It is especially poignant as BBC television centre as featured in the video has now closed and recording of BBC shows has been farmed out to various other studios.

I'll also be concentrating on my writing--I've been inspired recently to write a short story and I have a novel I wrote a few years ago whilst recovering from the horrible hysterectomy that I am editing. My friend Loren is always pushing me to "get myself out there" so I'll be trying sell some writing as well. Even if it doesn't pan it--it will be fun to write.

I've also had an idea about starting up a local chapter of Quaker Concern for Animals and some fun food based activities we could do. Over some good vegan food we could discuss some animal outreach ideas--our Meeting puts a wreath of purple poppies every year on the war memorial to commemorate animals who lost their lives in conflict--maybe other Meetings would like to do that as well.

What are you doing with your summer?

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Jonny and the Baptists

Ok, my friends, I have a new favourite obsession. We heard this band called Jonny and the Baptists on a radio 4 comedy programme called Sketch-o-rama and then were lucky enough to see them play live at the Distraction Club in June.  I like the name Sketch-o-rama which just makes me want to add the suffix o-rama to the end of everything to make it more fun in a zany madcap sort of way. Spiderman totally disagrees about the effectiveness of this, but I’m not giving in just yet.

The band is made up of Jonny and Paddy who sing and play guitar and sometimes Amy on violin. Anyway, I found them warm, engaging, topical and hilarious. They are brilliant musicians and their lyrics are clever and snarky and often based on real political/newsworthy events. They also do angry and embittered exceedingly well.

With a name like Jonny and the Baptists--clearly they might be offensive to some. But I wanted it out there for the record, that not every religious person is a small-minded asshole with no sense of humour. I am a committed Quaker and God is the centre of my universe, but I also love to laugh and find them irresistible.

We recently bought their self titled CD and have pre-ordered their upcoming CD Bigger than Judas (see what I mean? That works on so many levels and references my favourite Beatle who was murdered 3 days before my 11th birthday totally ruining that year for me).

The CD contains some old favourites that we heard live/on radio as well as some new ones.

Do it in the library--all about how to stop public libraries from closing (a huge issue here in the UK which I have previously blogged about) by having sex in them--which I’m sure would bring in more people! 

Upper middle class gangster children- about how the posh privileged behave (what is it with rich white teens that seems to turn them into unconvincing rappers?) and how they will be running the country one day--what a scary thought.

These 2 are available in video form on their website--go to  then click on videos. You can also watch the video of another favourite that I hope will make Better than Judas--Scotland don’t leave me about Scotland possibly becoming independent from the United Kingdom.

They are well worth checking out --but if you don’t like swearing and sex then obviously give the library one a miss, but do watch the others. They make me laugh out loud every time. Which is rather unfortunate since we don’t have the internet at home and I have to watch their videos at the public library. 

There are others on the CD like the freak-o-rama that is Quentin Blake--where lovable national treasure and children‘s book illustrator, whom we have met several times, is some sort of weird axe wielding homicidal maniac--he must have drunk the potion in the can of coke left on the fridge by Vyvian Bastard in my favourite episode of The Young Ones.

But the surprise song for me was Give Blood. It contained the fact that because of a law that was passed during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, sexually active homosexual men in the UK cannot give blood. They were deemed too much a risk, but shouldn’t all blood be screened anyway?  Why is it alright for a promiscuous heterosexual man who has unprotected sex to give blood, but not a homosexual--who might very well be committed and monogamous and MARRIED (since the new law *finally* supports it)???

So the first surprise was the topic of the song--I definitely am going to get onto my MP about this. But the second surprise was how *sexy* the song is. It is sung in that languid, sultry, bluesy style I love and when they got to the bit about Paddy’s long yellow hair and tiny beard, I was so hot and bothered I nearly had to turn the CD off and go and do that thing that everybody does but pretends they don’t. I haven’t had a song make me want to re-enact the Divinyls--so much since I first heard Michael Hutchence of INXS sing Need You Tonight. Whew.

If you are going to the Edinburgh Festival--do go and see them.  If you aren’t, do watch their videos and buy their CD. I’m sure they could work out a deal with you about overseas postage for my American peeps. They were super friendly when we ordered the CD and sent us a sweet note on a scraggly bit of lined paper (they are struggling artists after all and can’t afford posh stationary!) They even signed our CD with lots of love and kisses (three xxx from Paddy and two xx from Jonny--so Paddy loves us more) --which thrilled my little heart to no end.

They ought to have a digital presence where you can pay to download songs so they can get a worldwide following. Helen Arney sells her stuff through Bandcamp. Guys, if you read this--think about it!! 

My verdict: fab-o-rama.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Too hot to function

British Summer Time is here--that means blistering hot and humid days without any air conditioning. It is not terribly fun and makes me want to be like that rhino in that Rudyard Kipling story who could take off his skin and go swimming (but not the bit where the Parsee Man put the cake crumbs in his discarded skin to make him itch as revenge for stealing his cake.) As it says in the story:

Them that takes cakes

Which the Parsee man bakes

Makes dreadful mistakes.

Anyway, what was I saying? The heat plays tricks on my mind and keeps getting me off topic. Oh yes. Dinner. One that doesn’t use the oven or need much stove top time. That’s what we’re about these days. Last night we ate Southern Pasta Salad.   I meant to take a photo of this last night, but it slipped my mind. After being in the kitchen I was an exhausted puddle. Blame it on the heat. It is a good excuse this time of year.

Southern Pasta Salad

1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes (not the oil packed kind)

1 ½ cups dry pasta of your choice (we like wholegrain spelt penne)

2 cups black eyed peas

1 cup finely diced smoked tofu (the original recipe called for smoked turkey)

½ cup frozen peas

1 white onion, thinly sliced into rings

1 red pepper, cut into strips


¼ cup tomato soaking water

1 TB tamari or soy sauce

2 TB apple cider vinegar

juice of one lime

1 tsp molasses (we prefer blackstrap as it is higher in iron)

½ tsp marmite (if you can get it--it just adds a savoury beefy quality)

½ tsp ground cumin

1 ½ tsp chilli powder

Pinch hot chilli flakes

1 tsp sriracha (or hot sauce of choice)

Agave or maple syrup to taste (I just squirt and taste until the balance of sweet and spicy and tangy is spot on)

What to do:

1.Rehydrate the sun dried tomatoes in hot water-saving the soaking water for the sauce.

2. Start boiling water for pasta while you cook the onion and pepper in a little oil in another, larger pan.

3. Add pasta to boiling water. Add squeezed out sun dried tomatoes, smoked tofu and black eyed peas to onion and pepper mixture.

4. When the pasta is nearly finished, add the frozen peas to the boiling water for the last few minutes.

5. Drain the pasta/peas and add to the black eyed pea mixture.

6. Pour over dressing.

This is delicious hot but equally good cold on scorching days like today. It makes quite a bit so plan for cool leftovers the next day.

It also helps to beat the heat if you follow it up with some cold pudding. This week we’ve had strawberry lime sorbet, mocha frappuccinos and peach and banana ice cream (made by whizzing frozen peaches and frozen bananas with a bit of oat milk and vanilla in the blender)

Stay cool, dude.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin

There is hair and then there is hair.

I enjoy being a hairy fairy. I love not shaving my legs, my armpits or my bikini area. I love the natural look. I adore the feel of the wind blowing my leg hairs.

I don't even pluck my eyebrows any more. I do use a bit of aloe vera gel on them each day to keep them neat. But they are a nice shape, so why bother working hard to make them a different shape?

I do not, however, want to have a beard.

I struggle from time to time with whiskers. I have three moles on my face that seem to sprout witchy hairs if I'm not careful so I do a bit of tweezering every now and then.

Last year I notices a hair that sprouted under my chin on the RIGHT side. This little whisker was noticed one day when I was doing that "thinking face" where you stroke your chin and look pensive. I have regularly checked for it and pulled the bugger out when I felt it starting to poke out of my chin.

However, the other day I did the "thinking face" again and somehow caught a feel of a very whiskery patch under my chin on the LEFT side.

I rushed to the bathroom and had a look in the mirror and lo and behold--there were THREE rather long whiskers just a-growing under my chin.

Oh my!

How long had they been there?

Why  have I never noticed them until today?

Then I looked more closely and two were black and one was grey! Oh the indignity!

I was at school at the time and so could not get to some tweezers until I got home. But as soon as I walked in the front door, I annihilated the buggers.

I don't mind a bit of body hair, but I draw the line at my chin. I am not sure why. Every other hairy part of me seems feminine and lovely, but somehow having a goaty little beard makes me feel masculine. I am thankful I only have to contend with a few hairs. I have a friend with PCOS who could actually grow a beard if she wanted to. She's joked about it, but her partner put the kibosh on that idea. She said if she wanted someone with a beard she'd have married a man.

So in this house Spiderman is the only one with a beard.

When it comes to hair removal my motto is that of the Three Pigs-- not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin.

Just don't huff and puff and blow my house in because of it.