Sunday, 23 December 2018

Clotted Cream (the non-dairy version of course)

My Mum makes this by the massive bowl full, and every time she does the family attack it with dessert spoons regardless of whether they’re dairy-eaters or not.

Fluffy and moreish, it’s creamy and delicious with a fulsome mouth feel, but without the greasy after-taste of dairy cream left on the tongue. Once made it will last in the fridge and won’t need re-whipping!

Best served cold, but it tastes like a magical Angel Delight-type dessert when served at room temperature.

Serves 4-6 or approximately 3 in the real world.

3tsp fine cornflour / cornstarch if in the USA
150ml / 5fl oz / 2/3 of a cup unsweetened soya milk
1 vanilla pod
90g / 3.5oz / 7 tbsp soft marge (Vitalite or Pure will do the trick)
2-3 tsp icing sugar
A few drops of vanilla extract (optional)

Part I:

In a small bowl blend the cornflour to a paste with a little of the soya milk.

Put the rest of the milk in a saucepan with the vanilla pod and bring to the boil.

Pour this over the cornflour mixture, stir, and return all together to the pan.

Stir until the mixture thickens, then remove from the heat, and leave until completely cold.

Part II:

In another bowl, beat the margarine until it’s light and creamy, then gradually whisk in the cooled cornflour and milk mixture. (You can remove the vanilla pod and rinse it in fresh hot water, then leave to dry out and be used again.)

It’s important to add the cornflour mixture gradually, whisking well, as if making a custard, whisking well, to produce a beautiful yet light whipped cream.

Add the sugar towards the end, a teaspoon at a time, tasting the mixture till it’s just sweet enough for you.

The light vanilla flavour can be enhanced with an extra drop or two of vanilla essence/extract, or you could add some brandy/rum, depending on what it’s being served with.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Jackfruits Innit

This is how we make the sauce that turns plain old strange-lookin' Jackfruit into 

Tomato paste
Molasses (optional - makes it quite sweet)
Chopped red onion
Crushed Garlic
Black Pepper
Chillis, chopped
Smoked Paprika
Jackfruit pieces

Brown the onions and jackfruit in a deep drying pan in olive oil (a nt oil would work well too), add the garlic and cook till that's clear but not burnt.

Stir in the sliced or chopped chillis, black pepper and paprika, stir for a few seconds, then mix in the liquid ingredients. Cook till thoroughly mixed and keep tasting. Add more salt if you need to.

Cook gently to a chilled-out bubbling till the jackfruit's taken on all the flavours but is still really juicy.

And that's it. Serve! Either in a messy bun with vegan cheese, with chips, on spaghetti as a kind of jackfruitaise, or over brown rice or in taco shells! Or you could just scoop it up with some fresh-out-the-oven crusty bread...

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

The Original Solid Chocolate Egg since 2012 (and why we do it!)

In 2012, a chance comment by a friend triggered an idea: Easter eggs were always hollow, and as a child - as an adult, even - you still hankered after the fantasy that one day you'd pick one up and bite into it to find not more air, but more chocolate. A solid, filled, no-bubbles, not-in-chunks, not-full-of-truffles Solid Chocolate Egg.

So, as with many projects before and since, and knowing very little about Easter egg production, we went ahead and made it a reality. We had a history of creating chocolate products as giveaways, promotion and uprated business cards, so we commissioned 50 eggs from a local chocolatier, designed some robust, no-nonsense packaging and an appropriately working-class blocky logo for them, and sold the lot. To our delight, mates, colleagues and strangers alike thrust money at us in exchange for the childhood fantasy of this non-hollow egg. From idea to sold-out product in 5 weeks!

We initially gave no thought to doing it again, but six years on, Solid Egg is not so much a product as an annual event. We're quite good at events - Leigh and I were putting on events within the first few weeks of meeting each other - so treating it as such feels more native than 'selling a product'. The planning starts before Christmas and the packaging is designed, the ads are plotted and the eggs made as close as feasibly possible to Easter sales time, in order to keep them as fresh as possible. Then with eggs inside packaging and the web shop stocked, we're off, on around six weeks of mentally and physically challenging work on top of whatever else we're working on in the run up to Easter. The Internet can make selling look easy, but it's bloody hard work bringing a hand-made, personalised product to market and even harder actually persuading people to part with their hard-earned cash.

But, with a cult following worldwide, the eggs sell out every year, and we've sold them as far afield as Manhattan, LA, Canada, Korea, Japan, and all over Europe. Every year we're surprised at their geographical reach. The only thing that's stayed the same since 2012 is the logo; the eggs have increased significantly in weight and quantity, the packaging is re-designed every year, advertising routes and looks change; we've designed our own, bespoke moulds.

We've consistently had the eggs made in the UK, with ingredients chosen for their flavour, ethics and origin. People buy our eggs for far-flung relatives as Easter gifts; as thank yous, as presents for themselves; they hide them from their children, buy them for their children, treat their work colleagues with them and keep them on shelves for months, chipping away at a bit of Easter all year round (their average shelf life is around 16 months).

Of course, what happens when you do something that's popular and appealing? It gets copied. There's a big blog coming up about that happening in a much wider context - copying and imitation has been a growing issue in the last 18 months - but, in the time since we've been doing this, another bloke's come along and set up a company selling what he describes as 'solid chocolate eggs', complete with a logo described, when we sought advice on it, as 'uncomfortably close' (you'll see what I mean if your Googling is terrier-like enough to find it!) His egg is, in reality, an egg shape made up of lots of little bits held together by its plastic packaging - so purely in terms of physics alone, not at all solid.
There's room for all styles of chocolate egg in the world of course, and we even laughed and looked the other way when we realised he'd nicked chunks of our copy too (our assistant wasn't so chill about it, she had to be talked down with a nice cup of hot chocolate) and even kept our heads when we noticed he'd dissed our actual egg on his website. But. As long as we keep reinventing and making our egg better and different every year, we're happy to let him have his corner of the chocolate egg world. We know our market, and we know where the motivation for making it comes from - and it's not from the desire to make a few extra quid on Amazon. (There's also no plastic in our egg. Thanks Blue Planet II!)

The other thing we've always done is made vegan eggs. Way ahead of the massive surge in vegan eating, we knew there was a market for a big greed-based hunk of chocolate for people who happen to avoid dairy, and 'inclusive chocolate' was a thing we both sought out and pursued with our own products. As vegans since the late 90s, it would have been insanity not to. Since then we've made a gluten and nut free one too.

So it's all good, and we're quite proud of keeping this project running for all this time. But people still ask us why we do it, since it's hard work and a risky thing to do - after all, what if you don't sell through? There are only so many chocolate eggs you can eat*. The supermarkets are awash with less costly, pretty, or fancy, or character-led, decorated eggs; vegan eggs are even in Aldi now, and for the amount you spend on one of our eggs, you could go mental in Lidl's Easter aisle and still have change for a treat from the 'Seasonal Clothing Bargains' section.

We've come to think it's because people trust us, and the product, and our reasons for doing it. We're not quietly building up an egg-shaped retirement stash - a nest egg, if you will - but we do make a modest profit which is fed into other projects. We don't claim to make the biggest egg, or the fanciest, or the cheapest - it's what it says on the tin (and yes this year, the eggs are coming to you in tins!) - just a solid block of beautiful-tasting no-nonsense chocolate made with love and care. And heavy enough to break a window, or replace your favourite kettlebell.

You can keep track of this year's Solid Egg on EggstagramTwitter (chicks, baby hens innit) and Facebook.

*Theory yet to be tested.

And, you can buy them at

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

PANCAKES. Of course.

Of course vegan pancakes are possible, silly.

This is my preferred recipe. I can't take credit for it - it's based on legendary vegan-punk-chef Isa Chandra Moskowitz' recipe, with a couple of tiny tweaks developed through repeated makings.

it claims it makes 6 pancakes, but that depends how big you like them - I tend to double the recipe for Full Greed Mode.

They use only the kind of stuff that's knocking around in most reasonably practised vegan kitchens.

Here we go.

Tips to start:
~ Don’t use an electric mixer for the batter. Overmixed pancakes tend to result in a dense pancake. I just use a fork to get everything mixed.
~ You have to let the batter rest for ten minutes or so. The vinegar and the baking powder need to react with each other and the gluten needs to settle in and rest.
~ Don’t crowd the pan. Don’t make more than two pancakes at once. Seriously. Have a warm oven and a hot plate waiting for your freshly-cooked ones, if you're not shovelling them straight into mouths hungry-chick style.
~ Don’t use too much oil in the pan. It will result in a tough exterior. A very thin layer of oil is what you want and a spray can of oil works perfectly for this.
~ Preheat the pan for a good ten minutes. I use our wok, and put it on moderate low heat, but you will probably need to adjust a little to get the temp just right. Remember, the temerature is not set in stone. Lower and raise in tiny increments as needed. Even tiny increases can result in big changes.
~ Use a measuring cup (with a rounded bottom if possible) to scoop out the batter. And remember to always spray the cup between pancakes, to prevent sticking.
~ Once you drop the pancake in, refrain from fiddling with the batter too much. But don’t be afraid to delicately nudge the batter a tiny bit with your fingers to get a more circular shape and more even cooking. But the batter should spread a tiny bit and puff up all on its own. LEAVE THEM ALONE.
~ And DO stick to the cooking times - the system works!
You will need:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour~
(to make gluten-free versions, use the same quantity made up of equal parts of rice flour, coconut flour and teff flour)
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup almond milk or soy milk
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon cornmeal (or Teff flour for a browner, slightly more wholemeal taste)
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons oil - rapeseed oil is good
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a large mixing bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, salt and sugar. 
Make a well in the center.

Measure the milk into a measuring cup. Add vinegar and and use a fork to vigorously mix the ingredients until foamy. This will take a minute or so.
Pour the milk mixture into the center of the dry ingredients. Add the water, oil and vanilla and use a fork to mix until a thick, lumpy batter forms. That should take about a minute. It doesn’t need to be smooth, just make sure you get all the ingredients incorporated.
(Note: we like to add a vegan protein powder - like this one - instead of the cornmeal sometimes, for EXTRA GAINZ.)
Preheat the pan over medium-low heat and let the batter rest for 10 minutes.
Lightly coat the pan in oil. Add 1/3 cup of batter for each pancake, and cook for about 4 minutes, until puffy. Flip the pancakes, adding a new coat of oil to the pan, and cook for another 3 minutes or so. The pancake should be about an inch thick, and golden brown. Don't mess about with them too much; when you're hungry, 4 minutes can FEEL LIKE AN ETERNITY. We understand.
Rest pancakes on a warmed plate in a gently-heated oven until ready to serve. 
To reheat, place pancakes in on a baking sheet covered with tin foil in a  300 F degree oven for 5 minutes or so. Ha, like THAT'S going to be a scenario.

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