Thursday, 5 November 2015

West Midlands vegan fest 2015

Our lovely Viva La Vegan T-shirts!

Last Sunday we drove over to Wolverhampton Civic Centre to check out West Midlands Vegan Fest. It was the first time we'd been to one of these (unless you count the mini vegan fayre in Moseley  the summer before last) but we felt we knew roughly what to expect from hearing about similar events. We were not disappointed by the amount of stalls and things to do, and managed to spend a good 3 or 4 hours browsing stalls and chatting to stall holders, trying free samples, eating a late lunch (and several snacks!) and even listening to some quirky but brilliant gypsy-inspired music from Preston vegan band Möbius Loop. Had we had more time, we could have also taken advantage of many talks and demos, and even entered the Vegan Bake Off. All in all, it was an impressively large event with plenty to do and lots to learn. Thank you to the organisers, Midlands Vegan Campaigns, for a brilliant afternoon!
There were just too many things to do, people to chat to, vegan delicacies to try, to take full advantage of everything on offer in the time we had, but here's the lowdown on some of the things we did:
We checked out the catering first, having come pretty much straight from a 10- mile run without our
lunch. We decided to buy from Change Kitchen3 bean chilli and rice for me and samosas and salad for my husband. It was nice to be able to sit down to eat at the seating provided on the stage.While not particularly special, the food was tasty, reasonably priced and certainly hit the spot, fuelling us up for a few hours of browsing. And browse we certainly did, for there were 100 stalls in the Civic Hall and the adjoining Wulfrun Hall., Peckish for something sweet, we homed in on some beautiful Turkish delight from a stall which also sold a delicious selection of olives. Close by, Hellas Farms
from Greece were selling some wonderful, quality organic produce from an co-operative;
we couldn't resist a small bottle of fragrant extra virgin olive oil and a bag of dried chamomile flowers. We also sampled some really nice low fat coconut milk and a coconut spread from Koko Dairy Free.
We browsed Lush, the Vegan Society and many other stalls, but were most attracted to the T-shirts  from  Viva La Vegan.... They were doing a buy one, get a second half price offer which proved irresistible. I went for a cropped black and white v-neck, while hubby went for a more conventional design with the message "cool fit vegan". The designer and business owner told us that the cotton organically grown, unbleached and the tees are made in Turkey, and while they don't have the official Fairtrade logo they are made by workers who do receive a fair price for their work and good working conditions. Oh, and the dyes used are water soluble and environmentally lower-impact than conventional dyes. It was really nice to get a free cotton bag as well. Having worn and washed our tees a couple of times now, I can say that they have survived well so far and are lovely and soft. See here for another review.
The next couple of hours saw us wandering upstairs amongst the artisan soaps, fairly traded crafts and one amazing seller who was making the best vegan shake I have ever had; and chocolates, too! Unfortunately I can't find the name of the stallholder in the programme.
Back downstairs in the Wulfrun Hall, we found Ananda Foods, who were selling vegan marshmallows. We bought a small packet each of strawberry and vanilla. What is all the fuss about with vegan marshmallows? I think people buy them because they either have unsatisfied confectionery  cravings or just because they can. I'm always a bit disappointed with vegan marshmallows and then I remember that I never really liked marshmallows anyway, so I'm definitely in the "Just because I can" category. I guess as vegan mallows go these were very good, as the rest of my family went wild for them!
We couldn't resist trying out something from St Best Caribbean foods, so we shared some fried plantain (a generous portion and cooked to perfection) while we sat awhile and listened to the live music. There was even a bar for those who wanted something a bit stronger than coconut water.
There were many organisations and charities represented, but 3 stood out for me: the Vegan Organic Network (growing your own stock free organic produce; something that's very close to our hearts), Sea Shepherd (I so am going to get out there and go somewhere like Taiji Bay one of these days...) and the Vegan Lifestyle Association, which I joined then and there, using one of the handy I-Pads  provided. I chose a sample packet of Pulsin' pea protein as one of my free gifts, which I used today in veggieburgers.
Reading back over this, it sounds like all we did was eat, but we did spread our snacks out over the afternoon and early evening. It was a brilliant time, and we spoke to so many lovely people. Next year we might well spend the whole 2 days as there's so much to see, do, eat and buy. If you have vegan-curious friends or family or you want to find out more about veganism for yourself, then I can recommend going to a vegan fest. So many kindred spirits under one roof creates a powerful vibe!

Friday, 16 October 2015

Mango coconut khir

Rice pudding is a much-loved dish in many cultures; you can have it hot from the oven and sprinkled with nutmeg or topped with jam in the UK, spiced with bay leaves, camphor or fragrant with cardamom or rosewater in India, or made with coconut milk in Thailand. In the Middle East it can be made with cinnamon and date syrup (doesn't that sound good?) and elsewhere in South East Asia it is made with bananas or coconut. You can eat it hot and gloopy, or cold and set, for breakfast or dessert. This rice pudding is a real blend of cultures; mango, coconut milk and coconut sugar from the tropics, damson jam from our garden and sushi rice from Japan. It works, though, coming together to make a seriously delicious dessert. I served it chilled, cos that's how I like my rice pudding.

Half a cup of sushi rice cooked in a cup of water, or however much you need for it to be all absorbed by the time the rice is cooked
The flesh of 5 medium- sized mangoes
1 can (400ml) coconut milk
3/4 cup coconut sugar

  • First cook the sushi rice until it's nice and soft and all the water has been absorbed.
  • Add the coconut milk and coconut sugar, mixing well over a gentle heat.
  • Blend the mango flesh to a purée and add to the pan.
  • Heat through and combine thoroughly; you may need to adjust the sweetness according to the mangoes you use.
  • Cool it down , then chill in the fridge to serve. Decorate with fresh fruit and / or add a swirl of jam; I used home made damson jam.