Viva Vegan CookbookA couple of years ago I gave my initial impressions of this book, but now, having had a decent amount of time to use it, I thought it was worth an update,:

Let’s face it, we’ve got far too many cookbooks, but there’s always room for one that changes everything! We know we need to eat less meat – for health reasons, to save money, and to help the planet – but somehow we never seem to quite get around to it

Sticking Viva Vegan on my Christmas list was a bit out of left field, but it has turned out to be fantastic. The recipes are really delicious Latin American staples with great Vegan twists, and there are some really interesting meat-substitutes that I can’t wait to try – and I’m sure I’ll get to soon. As a bonus, most of the recipes can be made from store-cupboard ingredients – albeit pretty specialised store cupboard ingredients!

As I’ve embarked on a recent on-again, off-again love affair with the VB6: Vegan Before 6 diet I have found myself making the recipes more often, and I’m definitely developing some favourites.

Our top recipes so far are the Cashew Crema – a replacement for the ever-present sour cream used in many recipes – and the Drunken Beans, although we have yet to make the Vegan Seitan Chorizo, which I am really looking forward to.

Making Seitan is one of the things we just haven’t tried yet from the book – it took me a while to source the Vital Wheat Gluten, which is essential to the recipe – none of our local health food shops had it, so I had to resort to Amazon. While I was there I stocked up on some of the more unusual ingredients she mentions – I’ve listed them below to make it easy for you to find them. Any day know I’m going to get the time – and courage – to give it a go, and then I’ll report back . . .

Our favourite recipes

As with every recipe book, we have grown used to several of the dishes, and they get cooked regularly, with varying local tweaks:

Peanut Sauce – Salsa di Mani
This is a quick, simple sauce which makes an easy addition to steamed veg-and-rice. Loved by all the family.

Cashew Crema
Slightly less well received by the whole family, but one of my favourites. We’d use it more if you didn’t need to soak the cashews beforehand, as we’re always after creme fraiche.

Drunken Beans with Seitan Chorizo
I do this one all the time – albeit without the Seitan Chorizo, as I’ve only just got the Vital Wheat Gluten. Some point soon I’ll do the whole thing – it should be even more delicious.

And some recipes we’re keen to try

As well as regular favourites there are a few dishes that I somehow just haven’t got to yet, but which are definitely on my shortlist:

Seitan
Used in lots of vegan dishes – this is a meat substitute based on Vital Wheat Gluten. Getting the ingredients was the hard bit. Now I just need to find time to try making it.

Black-Eyed Butternut Tostadas
Crispy-fried tortillas stacked with toppings – what’s not to like?

Chocolate Chile Mole Sauce
I’d just love to see the kids’ faces when we serve them something covered in chocolate . . .

Mashed Potato Pancakes with Peanut Sauce – Llapingachos
These could be perfect for a VB6 vegan breakfast – and a perfect alternative to Bacon & Eggs!

And there are plenty more where those came from.

Essential Vegan store-cupboard ingredients

In addition to large bags of cashew nuts, peanuts, dried beans, brown basmati rice, and a garden full of vegetables, there are a range of interesting store cupboard ingredients we’ve bought to fill the gaps for our more unique Vegan recipes. Hard to find in your local supermarket, but surprisingly easy on Amazon:

Wheat Berries, a delicious wholegrain alternative to rice, perfect for VB6
Vital Wheat Gluten Flour, essential to make Seitan – the delicious meat substitute.
Liquid Smoke, for adding that essential barbecue flavour to Seitan.
Engevita Yeast Flakes for more meaty flavour.

That’s the update – even if you are a dyed-in-the-wool carnivore there are some great dishes for you to try!

At some point I’ll manage to document the roller-coaster ride that was our first go at Aquaponics. Suffice to say it was a mixed success – we got to eat lots of delicious trout, but lost quite a few on the way too.

After a major redesign to get the fish out
of the polytunnel we are finally ready to go again – the system has been split to allow for different sizes, and different species, so we’re now eagerly awaiting our first Carp delivery ….

Viva Vegan Cookbook

We’ve got far too many cookbooks, but there’s always room for one that changes everything! We know we need to eat less meat, but never seem to get around to it . . .

Sticking Viva Vegan on my Christmas list was a bit out of left field, but it has turned out to be fantastic. The recipes are really delicious Latin American staples with great Vegan twists, and there are some really interesting meat-substitutes that I can’t wait to try. As a bonus, most of the recipes can be made from store-cupboard ingredients – perfect for our collection of Resilient Recipes.

Now all that’s standing between me and some Seitan Chorizo sausages is finding some Vital Wheat Gluten!

I’ve got some Black Beans and Cashews soaking now for tomorrow’s dinner – I’ll let you know how we go.

I got it from Amazon, so if you can’t find it locally, here is the link –Viva Vegan, and the Trafford Eco House will get some money from your purchase (it won’t cost you any more).

cheese-waxI’ve been reading a bit more on waxing cheeses, so I thought it would be a good idea to re-invigorate this one of my early posts, It seems well preserved, but could do with some more links!

A little snippet here piqued my interest. I’m having a good think about food storage at the moment, to ensure year-round produce, and this is one of the classic methods of preservation. Not seen so much nowadays as everything is plastic-wrapped, but waxing a hard cheese allows you to keep it – unrefrigerated -for some time, possibly even years. The wax coating, when done properly, hermetically seals the cheese, preventing mould and retaining its moisture.

For more details on how to wax cheese (and why to do it), here are some great resources:

And some new links with more detail on how to coat the cheese with wax, and then how to store it:

Nearly two-and-a-half years ago I posted this video as an introduction the growing philosophy that we we’re going to use here at the eco-house. Since then we’ve been busy implementing it and we’re pretty impressed. We’re using John Jeavons’ GROW BIOINTENSIVE methods, with deep beds, lots of compost and really closely spaced plantings. In the beds where we’ve gone for it properly – like last year’s potato beds – we’ve had almost no weeding to do, and some reasonable yields in spite of our inexperience. Here’s the good basic video introduction to what we’re trying to follow:

Another of my wartime specials, this is a collection of Marguerite Patten’s recipes from 1940-1954, helping people to make the most out of the wartime and post-war rations. It ‘s full of fascinating insights as well as frugal recipes and is great at demonstrating alternatives to rationed foods. There are a lot of meat-substituting tricks, as well as recipes where the meat is padded out with cheap, easily available, extras. These are joined with a variety of amusing “mock” dishes: Mock Apricot Flan for example, where the apricots are replaced with carrots; or Mock Crab, Mock Duck,  and Mock Oyster Pie; as well as any number of eggless alternatives to traditional cookery.

It contains a good section on preserving, although I suspect it is well behind current thinking on food safety, so I’m not sure I’d use the recipes given for canning. I hope I never need the advice on stewing and frying Whale meat, but I’d be happy to try the Honeycomb toffee.

Overall it is a fascinating read for the frugal, alternative approach to living that we may be returning to. I think it’s a book to try out from a library first, and then buy if you’re enticed. I got our copy from the National Trust bookshop at Dunham Massey for less than a fiver, but if you can’t find it locally, here is the link to get it from Amazon –Victory Cookbook: Nostalgic Food and Facts from 1940-1954, and the Trafford Eco House will get some money from your purchase (it won’t cost you any more).

Having enjoyed learning about Scott McGuire’s Experiment in Backyard Sustainability You can imagine how delighted I was to see that Peak Moment had visited him again to see the results of four years of hard work. It’s fascinating to see how his dreams gave changed over those four years, and the result of all that learning: