Wednesday, 31 January 2018

What We Ate Wednesday--Roasted Parsnips and Carrots with Moroccan Style Kale

Hello lovelies! Last week I was flipping through my D-Ring binder looking at photocopied recipes and I came across one I had copied ages ago from a library book and had never tried. I can't recall the title of the book, but it was something like Cooking For The Menopause. (I took it out of the library some time after the "horrible hysterectomy.")

I was craving roasted parsnips and carrots and was looking for a side dish featuring kale to go with it. You know how much I love parsnips--I even composed a SONG IN THEIR HONOUR.

I found this recipe which was for Moroccan Style Spring Greens, but figured i could substitute my other favourite leafy green kale for the spring greens. I haven't composed a song in honour of kale, but I totally should. If I weren't already married...I would marry kale. FACT.

I thought the bitterness of the greens and spices would contrast beautifully with the sweetness of the roasted vegetables. I was right. This was gorgeous.

If I were doing this without the roasted vegetables and serving over rice, I would add some chickpeas and a chopped red pepper to make it more of a meal. But it really was the perfect match with the carrots and parsnips, so it may never happen over rice.

Roasted Parsnips and Carrots with Moroccan Style Kale
Preheat your oven to 220C/425F. Put your biggest roasting tin in the oven to heat up.

Prepare the vegetables: (Use 2 if they are regular sized, 3 if they are a bit small)

2-3 parsnips, scrubbed and sliced into skinny batons
2-3 carrots, scrubbed and sliced into skinny batons
1 TB oil
salt and pepper
a drizzle of something sweet like agave, maple syrup golden syrup etc (not yet)

Mix up the veg with the oil and salt and pepper in another bowl. When the oven is hot, carefully take out the hot pan and add the veg (hear them sizzle!) and roast for 20 minutes. When you take them out after 20 minutes, give them a stir then add your drizzle of sweet and put them back in the oven. Now is the time to cook the greens. Continue to roast until the greens are done (about 10-12 minutes)

The greens:
While the first 20 minutes are going on, get all your stuff prepped for the greens, but don't start cooking them until you have taken the veg out and given it a stir and a drizzle. Make sense?

1 onion, finely chopped
2 or more cloves crushed garlic
1 TB peeled and chopped gingerroot
1 tsp ground coriander (could sub cumin if coriander tastes soapy to you)
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp turmeric
12 dried apricots cut in half lengthways
1/2 cup hot strong (double strength)  vegetable stock
100 g curly kale de-stemmed and torn into bits (4 to 5 cups?) 
a drizzle of something sweet like agave, maple syrup golden syrup etc
sesame seeds to sprinkle on top

1. In a large pot, cook the onion, garlic and gingerroot in a little oil or water until soft and fragrant.
2. Add the spices and the apricots and stir to coat everything.
3.Add the kale and the hot stock and cook, stirring constantly, until the kale has softened and reduced and turned bright green.
4. Taste and if it seems too bitter, keep adding a drizzle of something sweet until the right balance is achieved.
5. Sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving.
6. Take your roasted veg out of the oven and serve with the spicy greens.

It was really easy to make and delicious. It made two hefty servings.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Fairy Tale Friday--Le Petit Chaperon Rouge (France, 1697)

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

The first published version of Little Red Riding Hood was known as Le Petit Chaperon Rouge and was written down by Charles Perrault in his Histoires et Contes Du Temps Passé, Avec Des Moralités (Tales and Stories of the Past with morals) in 1697.

This version is much more sinister with heavier emphasis on the morality than any other version. In this story she wears a chaperon (a type of fashionable hat) in a very sexual red colour.  Other versions may have her rescued by a friendly woodcutter, but in this first version an “attractive, well-bred young lady” gets into bed with the wolf and gets eaten. There is no happy ending for a virtuous girl who allows herself to be “consumed.”

And just in case you didn’t understand that this was a tale about sexual immorality, he includes a moral that reads:

 Children, especially attractive, well-bred young ladies, should never talk to strangers, for if they should do so, they may well provide dinner for a wolf. I say "wolf," but there are various kinds of wolves. There are also those who are charming, quiet, polite, unassuming, complacent, and sweet, who pursue young women at home and in the streets. And unfortunately, it is these gentle wolves who are the most dangerous ones of all.

Angela Carter (whom we will explore later) in her brilliant story The Company of Wolves from The Bloody Chamber says Some men are hairy on the inside.

According to MYTHS WE LIVE BY:

There is also some argument about why this particular tale was chosen by Perrault to be written in a literary fashion. He was serving at the time in the court of King Louis XIV, a king who had a cross dressing bisexual brother. At the time the brother enjoyed dressing up as a woman and going into the women’s only salons where he would lay in one of the beds and urge other young ladies to climb in with him. He would then proceed to and sometimes successfully seduce them, sometimes without anyone else in the salon being any the wiser as he hid his actions underneath his vast skirts or the blankets of the bed he was lying in. This was doubly sinister for the young, naive girls of the court as their virginity was often their only bargaining chip and without it they had nothing. If they reported a rape, they were punished severely. In France, at the time, rape was considered a woman’s fault and got her either banished or killed if she came forward with the crime. Perrault’s version may be the cruelest version of Little Red Riding Hood, but it also accurately reflected the cruelness of the world that surrounded it and young girls of his era were wise if they listened to the lesson it had to give.
Image result for little red riding hood illustration gustave dore
Gustave Doré
Le Petit Chaperon Rouge

Once upon a time there lived in a certain village a little country girl, the prettiest creature who was ever seen. Her mother was excessively fond of her; and her grandmother doted on her still more. This good woman had a little red riding hood made for her. It suited the girl so extremely well that everybody called her Little Red Riding Hood.

One day her mother, having made some cakes, said to her, "Go, my dear, and see how your grandmother is doing, for I hear she has been very ill. Take her a cake, and this little pot of butter."

Little Red Riding Hood set out immediately to go to her grandmother, who lived in another village.

As she was going through the wood, she met with a wolf, who had a very great mind to eat her up, but he dared not, because of some woodcutters working nearby in the forest. He asked her where she was going. The poor child, who did not know that it was dangerous to stay and talk to a wolf, said to him, "I am going to see my grandmother and carry her a cake and a little pot of butter from my mother."

"Does she live far off?" said the wolf

"Oh I say," answered Little Red Riding Hood; "it is beyond that mill you see there, at the first house in the village."

"Well," said the wolf, "and I'll go and see her too. I'll go this way and go you that, and we shall see who will be there first."

The wolf ran as fast as he could, taking the shortest path, and the little girl took a roundabout way, entertaining herself by gathering nuts, running after butterflies, and gathering bouquets of little flowers. It was not long before the wolf arrived at the old woman's house. He knocked at the door: tap, tap.

"Who's there?"

"Your grandchild, Little Red Riding Hood," replied the wolf, counterfeiting her voice; "who has brought you a cake and a little pot of butter sent you by mother."

The good grandmother, who was in bed, because she was somewhat ill, cried out, "Pull the bobbin, and the latch will go up."

The wolf pulled the bobbin, and the door opened, and then he immediately fell upon the good woman and ate her up in a moment, for it been more than three days since he had eaten. He then shut the door and got into the grandmother's bed, expecting Little Red Riding Hood, who came some time afterwards and knocked at the door: tap, tap.

"Who's there?"

Little Red Riding Hood, hearing the big voice of the wolf, was at first afraid; but believing her grandmother had a cold and was hoarse, answered, "It is your grandchild Little Red Riding Hood, who has brought you a cake and a little pot of butter mother sends you."

The wolf cried out to her, softening his voice as much as he could, "Pull the bobbin, and the latch will go up."

Little Red Riding Hood pulled the bobbin, and the door opened.

The wolf, seeing her come in, said to her, hiding himself under the bedclothes, "Put the cake and the little pot of butter upon the stool, and come get into bed with me."

Little Red Riding Hood took off her clothes and got into bed. She was greatly amazed to see how her grandmother looked in her nightclothes, and said to her, "Grandmother, what big arms you have!"

"All the better to hug you with, my dear."

"Grandmother, what big legs you have!"

"All the better to run with, my child."

"Grandmother, what big ears you have!"

"All the better to hear with, my child."

"Grandmother, what big eyes you have!"

"All the better to see with, my child."

"Grandmother, what big teeth you have got!"

"All the better to eat you up with."

And, saying these words, this wicked wolf fell upon Little Red Riding Hood, and ate her all 

Moral: Children, especially attractive, well-bred young ladies, should never talk to strangers, for if they should do so, they may well provide dinner for a wolf. I say "wolf," but there are various kinds of wolves. There are also those who are charming, quiet, polite, unassuming, complacent, and sweet, who pursue young women at home and in the streets. And unfortunately, it is these gentle wolves who are the most dangerous ones of all.

And if you want to read it in French then go HERE.

Stay tuned next week for the version of Little Red Riding Hood by the Brothers Grimm. 

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

What We Ate Wednesday--Potato Corn Chowder with Bacon Mushrooms

Hello lovelies! Back when we were young and ate the SAD (Standard American Diet) and ate lots of processed crap, this soup was one of our favourites. Basically, you bought a tin of potato soup, a tin of creamed corn, a tin of regular corn and heated it up in a pan and topped it with some cooked bacon.

I dreamed about this soup recently and thought I could veganise it. The results were pretty spectacular. We even served it to company and she had a second helping, so i think that clinches it.

Creamed corn in a tin is pretty thin in the ground in the UK. Tesco website claims they sell it for £1.15 for a 418g tin, but I can buy a full kilogram of frozen corn for £1 and make my own and have sweetcorn leftover for other things, so that's what I did.

Also, we don't eat bacon these days as....and you may not know this.... it is made from pigs. Can you believe it? But since we go by the philosophy of Animals are my friends and I don't eat my friends (thank you George Bernard Shaw) I made bacon mushrooms instead.

I am the first to admit that bacon was one of my favourite meats when I wasn't awake to the horrors of factory farming, but don't worry. There are plenty of cruelty free ways to get your salty, smoky groove on without having to harm a piggie.

Potato Corn Chowder with Bacon Mushrooms
Preheat your oven to 220C/425F

Marinate your bacon mushrooms:
200g/ half a pound thinly sliced button mushrooms
1 TB tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp toasted sesame oil

Meanwhile, make your cream style corn:
2 cup defrosted frozen corn, divided (keep half a cup aside)
Pulse or blend in a blender (depending on how broken down you want it to be:
1.5 cup of corn
 1/2 cup water or non-dairy milk
 2 tsp cornflour (cornstarch to my American peeps) or other starch like arrowroot or tapioca
pinch salt 
 pinch sugar. 

Then get your soup going:
1 chopped onion
1 carrot, chopped
half a red pepper, chopped small
garlic to taste
400g/ 1lb potatoes, cut into chunks
1 tin white beans like haricot or navy, drained and rinsed
1 tsp thyme
creamed corn (see recipe above)
half a cup corn you didn't make into creamed corn
3 cups hot vegetable broth
3 TB nutritional yeast flakes
1 cup non-dairy milk, or non-dairy single cream (like soya cream or Oatly) or a combination of both
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook your onion, pepper and carrot in a little oil or splash of water until softened then add your garlic and cook for a few more minutes.
2. Add the thyme, potatoes,  white beans, creamed corn, leftover corn, vegetable broth and nutritional yeast and bring to the boil then reduce and simmer.
3. Once the soup has boiled and is simmering, put a sheet of parchment paper on your biggest roasting tin and scoop the mushrooms out of the marinade and lay them in one layer in the pan. Roast for 15 minutes. Add any leftover marinade into the soup.
4. When the mushrooms are done, turn off the oven, but leave them in there to dry out a little more while you do the rest.
5. Check potatoes for doneness. Add your milk or cream or combination of both and with an immersion blend pulse a bit to break down the potatoes keeping some potatoes whole.
6. Remove mushrooms from the oven. they will have shrunk and concentrated in flavour.
7. Reheat soup then serve with a sprinkle of bacon mushrooms on top.

This made 4 large bowls of soup. Enough for company or the two of us for 2 nights.

It just goes to show that you are not missing out on anything when you go vegan. You can have all your old favourites, just done a different way.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

DIY--Soapy Stuff

I do a lot of DIY.

That's Do It Yourself, in case you don't know.

Not building stuff. Although I am a dab hand with the power saw.

No, the DIY I do is making natural, cruelty free, animal free personal care products.

I have been meaning to blog about this for ages. I have been making my own tooth powder and deodorant for a year or so. I have had friends over to the flat to make their own tooth powder and deodorant.

But I have become more and more sensitive to chemicals over the years. Everything (even the natural products) seem to smell like a French whorehouse. No offence to French people or prostitutes.

And when you want to buy the natural (albeit smelly) cruelty free personal products, you have to buy them from a Health Food Shop and they cost an absolute FORTUNE.

You've got to sell a kidney just to buy a bottle of body wash.

So this year, for 2018, I have vowed to replace as many of our products with homemade ones as I can.

I was planning to blog about the deodorant and tooth powder, but I have found a soap that has been a game changer for me and set me off on making my own face wash and body wash, so I am beginning here.

For years, I heard about how amazing Castile soap is. It;s natural, animal free and super gentle. The most famous brand is Dr Bronner's but it costs £13.99 for 946 ml from Amazon. I cannot afford that even if it is great.

But then I found this at Wilko.
Wilko Original Liquid Soapflakes 750ml
Wilko's website has this to say:
Wilko Liquid Soapflakes contain only pure soap with no additives or fragrances, making them a great choice for those with sensitive skin. They don't contain any animal products and have never been tested on animals, making them suitable for vegans. The soap comes from coconut and sunflower oil and is palm oil free. 

And it costs £3 for 750 ml. 

Supposedly, Dri-Pak makes some with what looks like an identical formula, but this was the one I found. 

So I started researching recipes online. 

I had previously been washing my face with olive oil, which was good but not perfect. I found THIS recipe and have been using it successfully. The recipe calls for 15-20 drops essential oils, but I didn't want anything smelly near my face. 

The recipe also calls for distilled water, which I can't find here. Yes, with water you risk bacterial growth, but i feel if you make this small amount and use it up within three months you should be fine. 

The recipe also calls for vegetable glycerine. I have some which I ordered online, but have found some in the past at Boots by the cough syrup. In the US i used to buy it on the soapmaking aisle of Hobby Lobby. Make sure it says VEGETABLE glycerine (spelled without the final e in the US) or it might be animal derived. 

This is AMAZING. My skin feels clean and soft. It takes off makeup. It is gentle. It makes a lovely, creamy white liquid which ....and there's no polite way to say this.....looks and feels a bit like semen. But don't let that put you off. 

Jizz Face Wash
Blend in a food processor or blender until a creamy liquid forms.
1/2 cup olive oil
2 TB liquid soap (like the one above or Dr Bronner's)
2 TB vegetable glycerine
2 TB water (distilled if you can get it, boiled and cooled if you can't)

Put it in a small spray bottle or a small pump bottle. Using a funnel will help you get in in the bottle and not all over the counter. Learn from my experience, people. Use a funnel. Give it a little swirl before you use it as it may have separated. 

If you'd like, follow it up with a toner made from equal parts apple cider vinegar and water (plus a little extra splash of water). 

I was so buoyed up by my face wash, that i started to research a body wash recipe. I came across THIS recipe which contained all things I already owned. I had an empty shampoo bottle to put it in. I decided to give it a go and I have been really pleased. 

I don't mind a bit of lavender essential oil in the body wash because I can control how much to use. 

Again, this recipe calls for distilled water, if you can find it--great. If not, use this within three months.

This recipe also calls for aloe vera gel. I buy it at Holland and Barrett when they have their Penny Sale so you can buy one and get the second for 1p. 
Holland & Barrett Aloe Vera Gel
It is not tested on animals and has a short ingredient list. Plus it isn't green. Why do some companies add green dye to aloe vera gel??? It should be clear. This one is clear.

Amazing Body Wash
In a bowl, carefully whisk all the ingredients starting with the aloe vera.
1/4 cup aloe vera gel
1/2 cup water (distilled if you can get it, boiled and cooled if you can't)
1 TB olive oil
1/2 cup liquid soap (as above or Dr Bronner's)
Up to 25 drops essential oil

Careful when you get to the soap, whisk slowly so it doesn't foam up excessively. Then decant into an empty squeezy bottle using a funnel.

Give it a shake before you use it in case it separates. I find you need to use a little bit more than commercial body wash when you squirt it on your puff. But it works and it feels amazing on my sensitive skin.

I follow it up with body oil made from half almond oil and half sunflower oil and a few drops of lavender oil. I store it in a small dark coloured spray bottle.
Image result for b & m spray bottle black
My spray bottle looks like this but is black not clear. I got it from B & M Bargains for £1. I use the same style bottle for my Jizz face wash.

That's my handmade soapy things. If you give them a try, let me know. I'll blog soon about the tooth powder and deodorant. 

Friday, 19 January 2018

Fairy Tale Friday--The False Grandmother (14th century France)

Welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. then I'll begin. 

File:John Everett Millais Red Riding Hood.jpg
John Everett Millais

Our first version of Little Red Riding Hood was collected by folklorist Achille Millien in the French province of Nivernais in about 1870. There is evidence that the story was told as far back as the 14th century by French Peasants. This is almost identical to La Finta Nonna that was from Italy except in that version it was an ogre and not a wolf.

The False Grandmother (France)

There was a woman who had made some bread. She said to her daughter, "Go and carry a hot loaf and a bottle of milk to your grandmother."

So the little girl set forth. Where two paths crossed she met the bzou [werewolf], who said to her, "Where are you going?"

"I am carrying a hot loaf and a bottle of milk to my grandmother."

"Which path are you taking? said the bzou. "The one of needles or the one of pins?"

"The one of needles," said the little girl.

"Good! I am taking the one of pins."

The little girl entertained herself by gathering needles.

The bzou arrived at the grandmother's house and killed her. He put some of her flesh in the pantry and a bottle of her blood on the shelf.

The little girl arrived and knocked at the door. "Push on the door," said the bzou. "It is blocked with a pail of water."

"Good day, grandmother. I have brought you a hot loaf and a bottle of milk."

"Put it in the pantry, my child. Take some of the meat that is there, and the bottle of wine that is on the shelf."

While she was eating, a little cat that was there said, "For shame! The slut is eating her grandmother's flesh and drinking her grandmother's blood."

"Get undressed, my child," said the bzou, and come to bed with me."

"Where should I put my apron?"

"Throw it into the fire. You won't need it anymore."

And for all her clothes -- her bodice, her dress, her petticoat, and her shoes and stockings -- she asked where she should put them, and the wolf replied, "Throw them into the fire, my child. You won't need them anymore."

When she had gone to bed the little girl said, "Oh, grandmother, how hairy you are!"

"The better to keep myself warm, my child."

"Oh, grandmother, what long nails you have!"

"The better to scratch myself with, my child!"

"Oh, grandmother, what big shoulders you have!"

"The better to carry firewood with, my child!"

"Oh, grandmother, what big ears you have!"

"The better to hear with, my child!"

"Oh, grandmother, what a big nose you have!"

"To better take my tobacco with, my child!"

"Oh, grandmother, what a big mouth you have!"

"The better to eat you with, my child!"

"Oh, grandmother, I have to relieve myself!"

"Do it in the bed, my child!"

"Oh no, grandmother, I really have to do it outside."

"All right, but don't take too long."

The bzou tied a woollen thread to her foot and let her go. As soon as the little girl was outside she tied the end of the thread to a plum tree in the yard.

The bzou grew impatient and said, "Are you watering the grass or feeding the trees*?”

Not hearing anyone reply, he jumped out of bed and hurried after the little girl, who had escaped. He followed her, but he arrived at her home just as she went inside.

*Other translations of this version use the phrase Are you making a load? or Are you laying cables? But I prefer the image of Are you watering the grass or feeding the trees?

  I also always laugh every time the cat calls her a slut. Always.

As a child I was always fascinated by versions which used the question “Which path are you taking? The path of needles or the path of pins?”  It made me feel all shivery. I always wondered at the meaning. According to folklore database Surlalune:

The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales says merely: "The wolf asks her if she is taking the path of pins or needles. She indicates that she is on her way to becoming a seamstress by taking the path of needles."

Belladonna Publishing has this to say: 

It sounds equally bad, but the needles might in fact refer to a rural custom of sending every girl by the age of fifteen to spend a year with a local seamstress. The purpose of this year was not only to learn how to sew, but also to learn how to “keep herself”. When the year ended she was considered a maiden, ready to receive suitors. The custom was referred to as “gathering pins”. The needle in itself is also an erotic symbol, and prostitutes of the time pinned them to their sleeves to advertise their trade. Choosing the road of needles, as our heroine eventually does, could therefore signify her choice to embark on the path to womanhood. Even her eating her grandmother’s flesh could be a rite of passage of sorts: The old woman dies as her daughter’s daughter becomes a maiden – and the girl consumes her wisdom and life. The young woman then sheds her girl’s clothes and enters the bed with the wolf to be deflowered/consumed.

Perhaps “Little Red” is not so little after all. Perhaps she is on the cusp of becoming a woman rather than a child as she is often depicted in illustrations. This theory of Little Red Riding Hood as a woman who needs to not be deflowered/consumes by wolves will play out heavily in next week’s version.

Stay tuned next week for the Charles Perrault version of Le Petit Chaperon Rouge. 

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

What We Ate Wednesday--Black Bean and Mango Stew (two ways)

Hello lovelies! Last week I was having a mango craving and so I bought a bag of 500g frozen mango from Tesco for £2 as you get the most mango for the best price. Last week I roasted some mango with sweet potatoes and added it to a creamy red lentil dal.

I still had a few sweet potatoes and about 2/3 of a bag of mango left, so I adapted a recipe for Black Bean and Pineapple Stew which you can find HERE. She uses squash and pineapple, so i figured sweet potato and mango would work.

This makes enough for us to have for two nights. The first night I served it as a kind of thicker stew over brown rice, but the second night I added a tin of light coconut milk and made it more soupy.

Both were excellent.

The original recipe uses a cup of crushed pineapple and its juice. I wanted to retain that sweetness, so I added a 2 cups of mango to the stew and 1 cup cloudy apple juice to give the stew some sweetness. Lidl makes a really lush pressed cloudy apple juice for £1. The rest of the apple juice I froze in 1/4 cup portions so I can use to make the apple juice based dressing in THIS M&S copycat meal.

Black Bean and Mango Stew
Preheat your oven to 200C/400F
2 sweet potatoes, cut into cubes (about 400g--a medium and a small)
2 tsp oil
Drizzle your oil on your sweet potatoes and roast them in your big roasting tin for 15 minutes, remove from the oven and stir and roast a further 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the stew.
2 onions, chopped (I used a red and a white as that is what i had on hand)
1 red pepper, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp cumin
1 TB chilli powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp oregano
generous grating of black pepper

In a large saucepan, saute your onions, pepper and garlic in a splash of oil or few TB of water until softening. Add your spices and stir to coat. Then add the following:

1 tin of tomatoes pureed in a blender with 2 tsp smoked paprika, 1/4 tsp liquid smoke and 1/2-to 1 tsp red chilli flakes
2 cups frozen mango (no need to defrost)
1 cup apple juice
2 cups vegetable broth
3 cups black beans (cook yourself or drain and rinse two tins) 

Bring to the boil and then reduce heat and simmer until the sweet potatoes are cooked. Fold in the roasted sweet potatoes and serve over brown rice.

Before we serve ourselves we put half away in a large jar for the next day.

The next day, add a tin of light coconut milk to your leftovers as you reheat them to turn them into a creamy soup.

So, that's it. Two ways to get your mango on. Enjoy.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Fairy Tale Friday--How old is the story of Little Red Riding Hood?

Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I’ll begin.
Red Riding Hood by Vishnu M Nair
Vishnu M Nair
Today’s question is how old is the story of Little Red Riding Hood? Well, the first version to appear in print was written by French author Charles Perrault who wrote Le Petit Chaperon Rouge in his Histoires ou Contes du Temps Passe (Tales of Past Times) in.1697. Perrault is credited with laying the foundation of a new literary genre (the fairy tale) by retelling folk tales that had previously only existed orally. After Perrault's version was published, the tale rapidly grew in popularity and was anthologized in several English fairy tale collections during the 18th century

Huang Zhing wrote The Tiger Grandmother in China in the late 1600s (oral variants were common also in Japan and Korea). While this tale features a tiger and not a wolf, it is definitively a version of Little Red Riding Hood because in both tales the animal pretends to be grandma, attempts to prey on children and teaches a bit about “stranger danger.”  

The Brothers Grimm wrote Rotkäppchen (Little Red Cap) in Germany and published it in  Kinder und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales) in 1812. The Grimms most certainly based their version on Perrault’s, but changed the ending.

We don’t have enough information to know how old the tale actually is because the earliest versions weren’t written down (obviously), but we do know this:

According to Wikipedia:

The origins of the Little Red Riding Hood story can be traced to versions from various European countries. It was told by French peasants in the 10th century and recorded by the cathedral schoolmaster Egbert of Liege.  In Italy, the Little Red Riding Hood was told by peasants in the fourteenth century, where a number of versions exist, including La Finta Nonna (The False Grandmother), written among others by Italo Calvino in the Italian Folktales collection. (In 1956, Calvino collected 200 traditional Italian folktales from a variety of sources and compiled them into a book In his version it was an ogre and not a wolf, but the story remains the same.)

These early variations of the tale are quite different from the version you are probably familiar with. The antagonist is not always a wolf, but sometimes an ogrevampire, or a 'bzou' (werewolf) or as we see in the Chinese version, a tiger. At the time that these tales were being told, it was the height of the werewolf trials (similar to witch trials) making these tales relevant to the time. They also contain cannibalism (the young girl unwittingly eats the flesh of her dead grandmother and drinks her blood) and there is a sexual element to it as the wolf tells the girl to throw all her clothes on the fire as she won’t be needing them anymore. The earliest versions also tend to contain scatological elements (wee and poo!). These bodily functions help the girl form an escape plan. I like these early versions because Little Red is not the helpless victim that she appears in other more popular version. She is clever and resourceful and escapes. This plucky heroine is more to be found in the Asian versions than in the European ones.

Charles Dickens, the famous English author of such great works as Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations and Oliver Twist called Little Red Riding Hood his first love. "I should have known perfect bliss," he claimed, "if I had been able to marry her."  I think that speaks volumes about Dickens. 

Well my friends, that is the history of Little Red Riding Hood. Stay tuned next week for our earliest version which dates back to 14th century France and features a bzou (Werewolf.)

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

What We Ate Wednesday--Coconut Lentil Dal with Roasted Sweet Potato and Mango

Hello lovelies! I had a craving for mangoes this week, so I bought a bag of  frozen mango. Fresh mango is great, but one mango costs about a £1 and you have to wait for it to ripen, so you can't just eat it when you want it. Also, my mum once had a freaky allergic reaction to mango skin when peeling them, so don't like to take chances. A 500g bag of frozen mango costs £2 at Tesco, which is equal to approximately 3-4 mangoes. Win-win-win.

This recipe is so vibrant--I mean it was bursting with colours. It was almost florescent. The picture does not do it justice.

It is based on a recipe from the blog Including Cake. I can't seem to find the original recipe on her blog as she is having to re-index all the recipes. But basically, she had a a dal made from red lentils and coconut milk and spices which she topped with crispy spiced onions and mango. I kept the red lentils and the coconut milk and  some of the spices and added a sweet potato. She added 2 chopped tomatoes, i added a squidge of tomato puree.

Coconut Lentil Dhal with Roasted Sweet Potato and Mango
Preheat your oven to 200C/400F

I should mention that you need to have defrosted your mango for this recipe. So, the night before measure out one cup of  mango chunks and put them in a container in your fridge to defrost. Or frantically take them out the morning of the day you plan to cook it because you forgot the night before. Naming no names *coughSpidergrrlcough* 

400g sweet potatoes, chopped  (for me this was a little 'un and 2 tiddlers)

Put this in your large roasting pan and roasted for 20 minutes. At 20 minutes remove from the oven and add the defrosted mango chunks and roast an additional 10 minutes. (if you roast the mango too long it will break down and melt like a clock painted by Salvador Dali, so this is basically just to heat the mango without destroying the chunk shape.)

Meanwhile get ready to make your dal. It doesn't take long, so I let the sweet potatoes roast ten minutes before i begin the dal.

In a large pot add the following:

1 can coconut milk
1 cup vegetable broth
big squidge tomato puree (1-2 Tablespoons)
1 tsp garam masala
2 tsp turmeric
1/2-1 tsp chilli flakes
3/4 cup red lentils, picked over for small stones and rinsed. 

Bring to the boil and then simmer  until lentils are tender. About 20 minutes. Stir occasionally to keep it from sticking. If it is sticking, then turn your heat down a bit.

When the sweet potato and mango are roasted, spoon them over the bright orange dal. That's it! You can add salt and pepper to taste at this point.

This made 2 large bowls. If you needed to feed more people, maybe roast another sweet potato and another half cup of mango and serve over brown rice.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Fairy Tale Friday--Once Upon a Time

Hello and welcome to the first in this year’s series of Fairy Tale Friday where I will be looking at the elements of different fairy tales and sharing variations on each story.
               Image result for fairy tales
Why fairy tales? I have a long history of devouring fairy tales. I was brought up on a steady diet of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen. As a child, I much preferred the darker elements of these tales rather than the sanitised Disney version. Still do. I have written hundreds of short stories and nearly all of them are fairy tales. My mother always says they are “creepy.” I take that as a compliment. I learned from the masters. For years, I have thought about compiling my stories into collections and publishing them. I thought that this year, I would do an in-depth study of the tales that I love, and it would inspire me to write more and finally publish. Watch this space.

I thought it might help to begin by talking about what is a fairy tale?
 Fairy tales are a genre in literature that have their roots in the oral tradition. Fairy tales with very similar plots, characters, and motifs are found spread across many different cultures. I hope to share with you many variations of the tale you know (or think you know!) over the course of this year.  

 How does a fairy tale differ from a fable?
According to: source
A fairy tale is a fictional story that may feature folkloric characters (such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, witches, giants, and talking animals) and enchantments, often involving a far-fetched sequence of events.
A fable is a brief, succinct story, in prose or verse, that features animals, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature which are anthropomorphised (given human qualities), and that illustrates a moral lesson (a "moral"), which may at the end be expressed explicitly in a pithy maxim.
 A fable differs from a parable in that the latter excludes animals, plants, inanimate objects, and forces of nature as actors that assume speech and other powers of humankind.

 Elements found in fairy tales (again, courtesy of source)

Special beginning and/or ending words Once upon a time...and they lived happily ever after. Sometimes, there’s a surprise ending…
 Good character ~ Do you see a kind, innocent character? Is the good character clever? Is s/he helped by others?
 Evil character ~ Do you see a witch? A demon? An evil stepmother? A sinister gnome? In the end, the evil character usually loses somehow…
 Royalty ~ Is there a castle? A prince? A princess? A king? A queen?
 Poverty~ Do you see a poor working girl, a poor family, a poor shepherd? – Do you see poor people trying to eke out a living to have enough to eat?
 Magic and Enchantments ~ Do you see magical things happening? Do you see talking animals/objects? You might see fairies, trolls, elves, goblins, etc.
 Reoccurring Patterns / Numbers ~ Do you see any patterns? Often, you’ll see things, phrases, tasks appear in "threes," “sixes,” and/or "sevens"
 Universal Truths ~ the tale probably touches on some universal experiences (i.e., coming of age) or hopes (i.e., to have enough food and love)

 Common motifs in fairy tales include:

  •          Talking animals / objects
  •          Cleverness / trickster / word games
  •          Traveller's tales
  •         Origins ~ where do we come from?
  •         Triumph of the poor
  •         Human weakness explored (i.e., curiosity, gluttony, pride, laziness, etc.)
  •         Human strengths glorified (i.e., kindness, generosity, patience, etc.)
  •         Trickster (sometimes a hero, sometimes on the side of evil but humans benefit)
  •         Tall story (slight exaggeration – hyperbole)
  •         Magic words or phrases; repetition of phrases/words (abracadabra!)
  •         Guardians (fairy godmothers, mentors, magical helpers, guides, etc.)
  •         Monsters (dragons, ogres, evil creatures, etc.)
  •         Struggle between good and evil, light and dark
  •         Youngest vs. Oldest (sons, daughters, sibling rivalry)
  •         Sleep (extended sleep, death-like trances)
  •         Impossible tasks (ridiculously mind-numbing, fantastic effort needed to complete, etc.)
  •         Quests
  •         Gluttony / Starvation (there’s a fine line between eating for survival and succumbing to temptation)
  •         Keys, passes (opening new doors)
  •         Donors, Benefactors, Helpers

How are fairy tales classified?
 Fairy tales and folk tales are classified under the Aarne-Thompson-Uther Tale Type Classification (ATU).

Antti Aarne was a Finnish folklorist and began the classification system used today to categorise folk tales. He first published his classification system in 1910. In 1920, Stith Thompson translated Aarne's work and expanded it making the Aarne-Thompson Classification. In 1961, Thompson published an updated version of Aarne's catalogue and created the AT Number System. The AT Number system was updated and expanded in 2004 by Hans-Jörg Uther where it became known as the ATU Classification System. 

The fairy tale I plan to start with is Little Red Riding Hood which is classified as ATU 333 (supernatural animals). Stay tuned.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

What We Ate Wednesday--Hoppin' John and Cornbread

Happy New Year! Blwyddyn Newydd Dda! 

After a successful day demonstrating against blood sports when the Fox Hunting Association had their annual parade through town before they went off to kill an innocent creature, we settled down to enjoy this traditional Southern dish. 

You *must* eat black eyed peas, cabbage or other greens and cornbread on New Year’s Day. FACT. The foods represent luck and prosperity--the black eyed peas standing in for coins and the greens for dollars (or in our case pound notes) and the cornbread for gold.

To quote Chris Rock: Cornbread. Ain't nothin' wrong with that.

How did this tradition come about? Is it only something people do south of the Mason Dixon line? According to

Why Are Black Eyed Peas Good Luck?
The practice of eating black-eyed peas for luck is generally believed to date back to the Civil War. At first planted as food for livestock, and later a food staple for slaves in the South, the fields of black-eyed peas were ignored as Sherman's troops destroyed or stole other crops, thereby giving the humble, but nourishing, black-eyed pea an important role as a major food source for surviving Confederates.
I don’t know about that, but I do know that this is a very satisfying meal that is cheap to make. It’s a stick-to-yer-ribs kind of meal. This is a vegan adaptation of the Southern dish Hoppin’ John.

Wikipedia says:
The Oxford English Dictionary's first reference to the dish is from Frederick Law Olmsted's 19th century travelogue, A Journey in the Seaboard Slave States (1861).However, a recipe for "Hopping John" in The Carolina Housewife by Sarah Rutledge, which was published in 1847, is also cited as the earliest reference. An even earlier source is Recollections of a Southern Matron,  which mentions "Hopping John" (defined, in a note, as "bacon and rice") as early as 1838.  The origins of the name are uncertain; one possibility is that the name is a corruption of the Haitian Creole term for black-eyed peas: pois pigeons (pronounced [pwapiˈʒɔ̃]), or "pigeon peas" in English.

I kind of see how that is possible. If you say Pois Pigeon, it does sound a *bit* like Hoppin’ John.

(if you close your eyes) 

Traditionally, Hoppin’ John was flavoured with bacon or a little ham hock. It was poor food that just used meat to flavour the dish not be the “main event.” Being vegan means meat is no event at all (main or otherwise), but don’t worry. Smoked paprika and liquid smoke will give you’re a cruelty free way to flavour your dish.

Now, as I said, this dish is best served with Cornbread. Or Cornybread as my Texas grandmother used to call it. It’s best to do your cornbread first.

Spidergrrl's Foolproof Cornybread

You need:
1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
1 tsp vinegar
1 cup of corn--frozen and defrosted in boiling water for a few minutes and drained
1 cup polenta or cornmeal
1/2 cup flour (GF flour works great here--add 3/4 tsp xanthan gum)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking POWDER
1 TB onion powder --it makes it taste like hush puppies!
2 TB oil
2 TB liquid sweetener like agave, maple syrup or Lyle's Golden Syrup (my choice)

1. Preheat your oven to 180C/350F. Grease an 8 x 8 square pan.
2. In a blender, blend the milk, vinegar and HALF the corn to make a sort of creamed corn. Let it set aside to curdle and go all tangy and yum like buttermilk.
3. Sift together the flour, polenta, baking powder, onion powder and salt.
4. Mix wet into dry and add the oil and liquid sweetener and remaining half cup of corn. You can add the oil and sweetener to the blender, but it makes it harder to clean so I don't. I just add the oil and sweetener to the dry ingredients when I add the creamed corn.
5. Pour into prepared pan and bake 28-32 minutes until browning at the edges and slightly pulling away. Or do the toothpick test.
6. If you make it GF, then let it cool for about 15 minutes before you slice to prevent crumbling.

Once that’s going, start to work on your Hoppin’ John. This recipe is adapted from the cookbook Vegan on the Cheap (or Cheap-Ass Vegan, as Spiderman calls it)

Hoppin' John Soup
You need:
1 (white) onion, finely diced
1 pepper, probably the green one, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
enough garlic to scare the vampires
100g which is about 3-4 cups worth of kale, de-stemed and torn into tiny bites. We just buy a 200g bag and divide it in half and use it over two meals.
Squidge of tomato puree
splash tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp liquid smoke
Cajun spices to taste or a tsp smoked paprika and a tsp thyme
1.5 cups black eyes peas--1 tin drained and rinsed or cook your own
4 cups hot broth
1/2 cup brown rice
I large potato, cubed

Note: This feeds us for 2 days if you use TWO large potatoes and an extra cup of broth

1. Sauté your onion and carrot and pepper in a bit of oil or water until softening. Add your garlic and cook just a minute or so more.
2. Add your tomato puree and tamari soy sauce to deglaze the pan. Add your spices and stir to coat your vegetables.
3. Add 4 cups hot vegetable broth, the potato, (or 5 cups broth and 2 potatoes) and the rice. Bring to the boil and reduce heat and simmer until rice is cooked. Our brown rice takes around 25 minutes.
4. Add in the black eyed peas, kale and liquid smoke and simmer until kale has wilted and cooked down--about five minutes. Keep stirring to make the kale wilt faster.
5. Serve over cornbread while talking in your best "Ah do declare" Southern accent. 

Enjoy, everyone! May 2018 be a year where we change the world for good!