Monday, 29 April 2013

Vegan Dining in Cork

Hello everyone :) I recently had some nice vegan food in Cork and thought I would share it with you. The first was in a restaurant that I blogged about before called Very Healthy Food. This is primarily raw vegan food but I actually got a tofu dog which was cooked. It was my first time having a tofu dog and I actually really liked it. This was served with a huge salad with hummus and lots of other nice healthy things.

I actually had a LivingSocial voucher (sorry the voucher is gone from the website now) which included a drink so I got a Super Green Smoothie which was delicious and super filling.

I also opted to try the vegan chili hot chocolate which was nice although very different from a regular hot chocolate and very filling so maybe it would have been better if I wasn't so full already. They have a massive tea selection so I think I am going to try that next time I'm there.

I also went to an event last week called 'Veg Out' which happens every Tuesday at Solidarity Books which is actually right across the way from Very Healthy Foods on Douglas Street. It is a vegan buffet where you pay by donation with suggested donation of €5. We started with a little sweet potato and coconut soup that was so delicious, you wouldn't miss cream at all...

I must have been too busy chatting to take pictures of the main course, but we got a nice vegetable stew and couscous. I actually didn't get to sample all the main course dishes as they had run out by the time I went up so go early if you want to try everything and if you want to get a seat! We finished off with a nice little cake filled with some fruit.

This is probably some of the healthiest food you are going to get for a fiver so I'd definitely recommend checking it out.

Christina, x

Beetroot Risotto

Hello everyone! I have posted before about my love of beetroot , I actually went a bit mad taking some arty beetroot pictures, prepare yourself........

 I recently made a really nice beetroot risotto. It is kind of a healthier version of risotto as I didn't put any Parmesan in it and just sprinkled a small bit of goats cheese on top. To make it here's what you need:

  • 4-5ish beetroots, depends on size really
  • Some arborio rice
  • An onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Goats cheese
  • A little bit of butter
Start by placing the beetroots with the stalk in a pan with water and bring to the boil.

Then bring it to a simmer and let it cook for around an hour. The beetroot is done when you can easily slide a knife through it.

Whatever you do don't throw out the water you cooked the beetroot in, it's what you use instead of stock for the risotto. Run the beetroot under cold water and rub the skin away with your finger.

Leave the beetroots to cool a little and then grate them. Chop the onion and garlic and fry in a little oil. Once they are golden add in the rice and fry until the rice becomes translucent.

Then start adding in the beautiful beetroot water, I wrote ages ago about the healthiness of water that vegetables have been cooked in and how I tried drinking beetroot water, you can view this post here, as much as I love beetroot you are better off using the water as a stock substitute in risotto than drinking it.....either way you definitely shouldn't throw it away!

Look how gorgeous it is....

Stir the beetroot water in to the rice.

Bring to the boil and then let it simmer away. The rice will take on a lovely pinkish/purply colour.

Keep ladling in the beetroot water until the rice has become nice and soft but still has a bit of bite in it. Once the rice is almost done start adding in the grated beetroot, this will make the dish become an even deeper purple colour.

When the rice is done add in a little butter and let it melt in.

Season to taste, scatter some goats cheese on top and serve....

This is such a nice and vibrant dish, you won't miss meat at all, try it today for a Meatless Monday........

Christina, x

West Cork Fun

Hello everyone! Sorry I have been absent for a few days, I was down in West Cork for a while and I was internet-less. I had a really nice few days and started re-reading all the of the Harry Potter books......

I think I may have got a little Harry Potter over-dose as I asked my mom to bring me down the fourth book and she accidentally brought the fifth one and I started screaming 'THAT'S THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX NOT GOBLET OF FIRE, YOU FOOL!'....So I took a break last night but I'm ready to lash in to Goblet of Fire now. I actually have brought my love of Harry Potter in to my cooking and made my own butter beer and cauldron cakes before and I will put recipes for these up soon :)

 I also spent my time in West Cork walking the beach and taking pictures.......

and cooking lots of vegetarian food.........................

Beetroot Risotto with Goats Cheese

French Toast with Carmelised Beetroot & Goats Cheese

Asparagus & Egg Salad

Aubergine Stuffed with Goats Cheese & Mushrooms

Stuffed Peppers with Smoked Cheese

Creamy Porridge with Carmelised Fruit

I will post up some of the recipes very soon, till then,

Christina, x

Monday, 22 April 2013

Why I Eat Less Meat

Hello everyone! Recently I have had a few people ask me why I only meat three times a week, I have also had people take the piss out of me for not being a real vegetarian  and although I do take that criticism I do believe that being a flexitarian is better than being my old carnivorous self and I would challenge some of those people to answer what exactly they are doing to be a more mindful eater. I decided that since a lot of this blog details my transition from the carnivorous eating meat three times a day person to the flexitarian only eating meat three times a week person it would be worth while to write a post about why I decided to eat less meat.

  I want to preface this by saying that I am not, nor do I claim to be, an expert of food systems or all environmental issues. I am just someone trying to do my best to eat in a way that is healthier for me and the planet, any suggestions and comments are welcome but I feel that sometimes people are almost too afraid to do anything because they may be judged as doing the wrong thing or judged for not doing enough.

 It all started when I was reading Michael Pollan's 'In Defence of Food' and I started to get a deeper interest in where what I eat comes from and how to affects me and the world around me. The more I learned about meat production the more I didn't want to know, from chickens with breasts so big that they couldn't walk around without falling over to cows being fed antibiotics so they could live off a diet of grain which they weren't designed to eat. I wrote about the conflicting feelings I had about eating meat or almost any animal product in an early post and how I was trying to reconcile these feelings with the foodie in me who wanted to be able to eat everything. Flexitarianism has provided me with a way to eat what I want and still lessen my impact on the environment, here are some of the main reasons why I don't eat a lot of meat:

  Firstly meat production is an ineffective use of resources, I was shocked to learn how how resource intensive meat production can be as I read 'Waste' By Tristram Stuart. Forty per cent of the world's cereals,  including rice, wheat and maize, are fed to farm animals. Roughly one third of the world's arable land is used to produce food that will be given to livestock and as the desire for meat increases throughout the world this proportion obviously continues to increase as well. In modern-intensive farming systems it takes about 10kg of cereal to produce one kilo of beef and 5 kg to produce one kilo of pork.  Chickens are a bit more efficient, it takes about 2 kg to get one kilo of chicken. If we needed to eat the amount of meat we do this would be justifiable, but we don't. In fact we eat so much that it actually makes us sick, just ask Bill Clinton who was basically told to change his Big Mac chomping ways if he wanted to see his grandchildren and he now enjoys a vegan diet. So our excessive desire for meat not only harms the planet but it also harms ourselves.

   Meat production has increased by more than two and a half times since 1970 and now the combined weight of cattle on the earth exceeds that of humans.  The UN estimates that if we took all of the food that we feed to animals and instead directly gave it to humans, we would have enough to feed three billion people. That is a staggering amount and even though some view it as a bit optimistic even if we halved that figure we could still have enough to feed all the hungry people in the world almost twice over.

   Moreover, meat production can be incredibly wasteful as we get more affluent and we only want to consume the 'good' cuts of meat. As we have turned away from eating offal (kidneys, liver, heart, brain etc.) we now waste between a third and a half of each animal we kill. Couple that with the fact that we want to eat meat all of the time means that we need to produce more meat which puts a greater strain on resources as highlighted above. I have previously written a post post dealing with offal which you can view here.

  From a health point of view, meat was definitely  pushing vegetables off my plate. Michael Pollan expresses in his books that vegetarians and vegans are on average are healthier than meat eaters. He postulates a few reasons for meat itself just unhealthy. This would appear to be incorrect considering that flexitarians are as healthy as vegetarians. It could also be that since vegetarians have made this committed choice regarding diet they are more likely to choose to be healthier in other aspects of life such as fitness. Or it may just be that our extreme love of meat pushes vegetables off the plate, I think for me it was definitely the latter. I have never eaten more vegetables and as much of a variety of vegetables since I became a flexitarian. Unless you want to live off grilled aubergine and sweet potato chips you are going to have to get more creative with vegetables, you may find you actually prefer them to boring traditional meat dinners. In this sense I also like flexitarianism as it is challenging me to try new things and try eating in new places such as vegetarian and vegan restaurants.

  Of course all meat is not created equal and all meat production is not bad for the environment, for example pasture grazing means that less cereal is needed to rear animals. If you have read 'The Omnivore's Dilemna' you will have come across the Polyface farm run by Joel Salatin that is grass based and employs a system of moving animals that is similar to a roaming pattern or as their website puts it 'mimicking natural patterns' . Therefore it would be easy to say meat is in and of itself bad but there are ways to eat meat that is in keeping with ethical and environmental beliefs. However, we do have to take more responsibility for where our meat comes from as a sign in a window of a butcher's I frequented recently proclaimed 'Stop Horsing Around-Support Your Local Butcher!'

  There is more to say but I know I am rambling at this point so I will just leave you with a challenge, try Meatless Mondays. Meatless Mondays is a global grassroots movement that advocates going meatless one day a week for your health and the health of the planet. I'll let Paul McCartney sing us out....

Christina, x

Homemade Brioche

Hello everyone! A couple of weeks ago I posted about the brie stuffed French toast that I made for brunch and how I was having difficulty finding a bakery that sold brioche. I ended up buying one from Aldi that is probably laced in chemicals as it still hasn't gone off even thought I bought it two weeks ago. I decided that this would be a good reason to try baking bread for the first time and I am so glad I did. Not only is making bread great fun as you are playing with a material that is alive but also the brioche just tasted so much better than the one I got in Aldi and also there was just great satisfaction in making it myself :)

 I used this recipe for my brioche and I was really happy with it as it wasn't too sweet like some brioche that you get. You need the following ingredients:

For the sponge:

  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons of active dry yeast
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups plain flour
For the dough:
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 ish cups of plain flour
  • 175 grams of unsalted butter
Start by warming the milk a little and then pour it in to the bowl of  heavy duty mixer along with the yeast and egg. Then sift in one cup of flour and mix all of the ingredients with a spatula until they are well combined. 

Sprinkle the remaining cup of flour over the sponge and leave uncovered for around 30 minutes until the flour has cracked, it should look like this:

Lightly beat the eggs. 

Then add the sugar, salt, eggs and one cup of flour to the sponge.

Then put the bowl in the mixer, attach the dough hook and mix on a low to medium setting for a few minutes until it looks like the mixture is is coming together. I used my mom's vintage Kenwood Chef, I have seen people online saying they did it by hand and if you want to do that then you have all of my respect as you are about to give your arms a serious work-out.

Once it looks like the mixture is coming together, with the mixer still on, sprinkle in the remaining half cup of flour. When the flour is incorporated bring the mixer speed up to medium and beat for around 15 minutes. A word of caution if you have quite a heavy duty mixer then be careful not to leave it too close to the edge of the counter. I was off reading about how to cook offal and the mixer almost mixed itself off the counter, thankfully I rescued it just in time. 

 The dough should come together and wrap itself around the hook and be slapping itself against the sides of the bowl, you should be able to hear it slapping against the sides. If it isn't coming together you may need to add a bit more flour, I added about two extra tablespoons of flour.

 Then you need to work the butter until it's the same consistency as the dough. You do this by as my recipe pointed out 'beating it in to submission'. I used a rolling bin to get out all my anger and beat the butter. You know that the butter has been beaten enough when it's smooth and soft.

Then add the butter into the mixer one tablespoon at a time, the mixer should be at a medium speed.  Adding the butter will make the dough fall a part a bit but it's supposed to do this! Once all the butter has been incorporated increase the mixer speed to medium-high for a minute then bring it back to medium and mix for about five minutes. You should again hear the dough slapping against the sides of the bowl. When  it's finished the dough should be sticky and cool.

Place the dough in a large buttered bowl.

Cover it with cling-film and let it rise at room temperature until it has doubled in size this should take about two hours. Then deflate the dough by placing your fingers under the dough lifting a section of the dough and letting it fall back in to it, work your way around all of the dough doing this. 

 Cover it with the cling-film again and place it n the fridge overnight, it should double in size again. Then remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a floured surface. I made one loaf of and some small brioche rolls, you can  make whatever you want really.

 Place the dough on a buttered tray. Remember to leave spaces between the dough as it will continue to rise. Cover the dough with cling film again and let it come to room temperature. It should double in size again and this will take around two hours. Pre-heat the oven to 180 Celsius with a fan. Brush the dough with an egg wash and then bake the dough for around thirty minutes, I actually left the little brioche rolls in a little too long but the loaf came out perfectly :)

Set the bread on a wire rack and try to wait patiently for it to cool. Once it is cool cut in to it and marvel at what a masterful baker you are becoming.....

Brioche is great on it's own or with butter, nutella etc.  or of course you can opt to make my favourite breakfast with it as I did.


Christina, x